A few years ago, I was working with a company doing support for tax software.  The tax deadline was looming and the IRS decided that it was a great idea to shut down the computer system for the weekend for updates.  Customers were calling in right and left panicked because they could not electronically file. Everything was bottlenecked, phone queues were exploding despite the messages across the company website and on the phone tree when customers called in. At the end of the day, all of us were tired and stressed. The elevator was full when I left, but the trip to the ground floor was the quietest elevator ride I have ever been on.  As the doors opened one of my co-workers turned to me and commented, I heard you laughing all day, what was so funny? I just shrugged, I wasn’t sure how to explain.

The joke wasn’t the important thing, what was important was getting the customer to laugh. 

Later when looking at my stat scores, my Customer satisfaction scores had not dropped. Where the company average had. In looking at the numbers, you would think I was one of the senior reps, with awesome program knowledge and skills.  The truth was, I was working with a program that I normally did not touch the rest of the year, and had to refer to the team a lot for answers.  I was called in as the overflow team. What did I do different from my other co-workers?  I found something that made my callers laugh. Usually it was some lame joke about the mythic of governmental logic having gone the way of the Unicorn. The joke wasn’t the important thing, what was important was getting the customer to laugh.

Customer Service isn’t much different from any other profession. Society, and the way people interact is always a dynamic issue. Language and communication styles change, and as they evolve, the etiquette for how to best interact is also evolving.  

Customer service is ultimately about dealing with people, as if they were individual people with worth and value, no matter their background, creed, or color. It is about teaching everyone with respect.

These are resources that have helped me with customer interactions through the years.

1 The Telephone Doctor: This is a DVD series that teaches people how to talk on the phone.  A lot of what Nancy J. Friedman teaches deal with the soft skills of customer service.  

2. FISH Philosophy: This is based on the training program developed by Pikes Place Fish Market in Seattle Washington.  The basis of the program is that happy, alert, and active employees create positive energy that gets passed onto the customers.  On the whole, people love playing, and what is more important is they like to be around other people who are having fun. This works in customer service as well.  Positive energy attacks positive energy.  

3. The Greatest Salesman by Og Mandino: This is an older book, originally published in the mid 1960’s.  This was my first Customer Service book given to me by my Grandfather.  It is a story about a small camel salesman and the difference he made in his corner of the world. This book is about learning how to take bad circumstances and making them work for you. You get further by fulfilling the needs of others.

4. How full is Your Bucket? By Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton:   You won’t have the energy to help others if you are not first taking care of your own energy levels.  This book talks about the importance of controlling the people and things that drain energy from your life, and balancing them with things that provide energy.  A wall switch can’t turn on the light if the power source is depleted.

5. Who Moved My Cheese: Yes, this book has been around the block a few times, but in customer service, you need to be flexible. Goals and guidelines change, You have to think on your feet.

6. The Dance of Anger:  While this book deals more with personal relationships, it has some key points to make about dealing with the causes of what makes people mad, how to identify the source of that anger and address it.

7. Servant Leadership:  This book was a little harder to read because it was very religious based, but it had some very strong points.  The Servant, (or advocate if you prefer) leader looks to the team first. When the team’s needs are addressed then they have the ability to focus their energy on the customer. 

8. Screw Business as Usual, by Richard Branson:  Actually anything by Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Airways. Ok, so I will admit to being a bit of a Richard Branson fan, this man has successfully built a business that is based on positive personal interactions.

Most of the resources I end up going to, that work the best deal with identifying customers as individual people instead of a lump demographic percentage. While in marketing I understand that demographics are important, and so are statistics.  Nobody likes to be considered a percentage, when it comes to dealing one on one, each person has their own unique reasons behind their needs.  It does not matter how many of them have the same needs.  Ultimately, when asked what my number one tool for customer service is. It is humor.  If you can get the customer to laugh, then they naturally destress, and you have a better chance of connecting to them.





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