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Business Operations

Excellent customer service starts with your employees

October 11, 2010
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Whether prepping or drying a car, answering the phone, fixing a problem, selling a retail product or reconciling an unpaid invoice, the quality of the interaction between one human being and another is what will be judged by the customer to determine how much you care about them and their business.

If the state of your relationship skills (and those of your staff) do not equal or exceed your sales and marketing skills, your “lifetime value” relationship with your customer is in danger. The “customer experience” is the sum total of the feelings you evoke as a result of any interaction that takes place at any touch point in your organization. Anywhere along the line, and yes, even in the tunnel, a customer can experience a moment of truth where they have the opportunity to make a judgment about the quality of the service you are delivering.

As a manager you should know that survey after survey reports that people prefer to do business with a positive, upbeat person. As a customer, you instinctively know that people want to do business with people who enjoy what they are doing, are having a good time doing it and genuinely care about being able to help you solve your problem, or achieve your goals. So, here are some tips on creating a more positive, up-beat, can-do workforce.

1Remember, the best teacher is a good example. First examine your own behavior. Are you talking the positive talk or are you mumbling beneath you breath “three more days ‘til Friday.” Take great care to listen to your own language. Do you frame things in the positive, or do you often start your sentences with “No.” Do you say “Yes, but..” negating the first half of your sentence with your last? If so, purchase a copy of “Learned Optimism” by Martin Seligman for your corporate library and inhale it. Then pass it on.

Optimistic people adapt easier to change, are more creative, have more fun and are healthier then pessimistic ones. Think about it, looking for innovation? Think optimism, that’s one way to get there.

2Learn (and teach) the power of positive self-talk. Often our internal chatter is negative. Reprogram your own chatter first and then listen carefully for signs of it in others. When you hear someone saying “boy am I stupid” gently coach them away from that attitude by replying with “don’t be so hard on yourself, you’re not stupid. You may have made a bad decision, we all do, from time to time. Lets talk about that, what you’ve learned, and how to avoid it in the future.”

Our body responds to our self-talk, if we tell ourselves we are disorganized, we behave just that way. Tell yourself, with conviction, you are an organized person, and the behavior will begin to change. Our brain responds literally, like our computers. Learn to replace negative programming with positive.

3Ban whining. One whiner in the group can bring everyone down. A whiner is like an infection — it spreads. Put one strong whiner in a room and they can turn it into a pity party. Stop it at the source. Learn to spot them during the interview process. Don’t hire them in the first place, unless you are prepared to keep vigilance over their behavior and attempt to change it. Good luck. Whiners love whining. Put a “No whining” sign on your office door.

4Teach the art of “win/win.” In our competitive society we have a win/lose mentality. It may be a good strategy to fill a sports stadium, but is a good way to run a company. Help people to understand that thinking “win/win” opens up the possibility for new solutions.. Remember, in the 21st century, it’s innovation and creativity that will give us the edge, innovation comes from open minds and “possibility thinking.”

5Dump the drama. Melodrama sells tabloids, and gets people to watch shows like Fear Factor but it’s something you don’t need in your company. It saps valuable creative energy. If you’ve been using “crisis management” as your modus operandi, get out of the office, read a few good books, (like Steven Covey’s), benchmark yourself with “new thinkers,” and learn a new style. Crisis management is passé, wasteful and destructive.

6Learn, teach and reward stress management techniques. A Harris poll says that 90 percent of all Americans live in a state of chronic stress. YIKES!!!! No wonder customers get treated so poorly. Make sure people understand the role they play in controlling their own stress. We don’t have control over every circumstance; we do have control of how we perceive them. Take a deep breath, count to 10, walk away (physically or mentally) when you have to and call a “time-out.” Short circuit stress on the way in. Learn it and teach it. Reinforce it. “Bob, I noticed how well you reacted with that angry customer yesterday, I was glad to see you take a deep breath and not react defensively — good job — you saved a valuable customer, and your own health as well. I’m proud to have you on the team.”

7Encourage people to live in the “now.” Dwell on the past only long enough to figure out what you want to learn from it, then move on. Stop talking about “the good old days.” What is important is what is going on right now. Give your fullest attention to exactly what you are doing now. Do it well, do it right and enjoy it. Customers can always tell if you are giving them your undivided attention, and they really appreciate it.

8Start a list. Title it “The 10 Best Things about Working Here.” Let people add to it and watch it grow. It’s fun, positive and a great way to focus on what’s right with your business. After the list is finished start one called “Ten More.” Remember you get more of what you focus on.

9Get psyched! Recognize that almost 80 percent of what the average person takes in is negative. You’ve got a job to do. Create a positive sanctuary in your workplace. Develop a corporate library that includes all kinds of motivational literature, audio and videotapes. Play audio tapes and video tapes in lunch rooms, keep inspirational books around and start discussion groups. Create positive energy; people inside and outside the company will feel it and want to come back for more.

10Don’t worry, be happy. Playing upbeat music helps lift your spirits. Challenge the staff to develop the “happiest” of happy music tapes, a collection of tunes that will keep people smiling and whistling while they work. (They make great coming to and going home from tapes too).

11Smile. When you activate the smiling muscles in your face, you activate the “happy” brain chemicals that help you feel good. You can’t be depressed when you are smiling, and smiles are contagious. So, smile.

As a manager, as a leader, it’s your responsibility to help to create an experience for your customer that has the word “value” written all over it. Customers respond better to a company that provides them with a quality product at a fair price when it’s served up by positive, upbeat, can-do people. Really, who wants to do business with a grump?

JoAnna Brandi is publisher of the Customer Care Coach™, a weekly training program on mastering “The Art and Science of Exquisite Customer Care.” She is the author of several books, including “54 Ways to Stay Positive in a Changing, Challenging and Sometimes Negative World.” To receive her free e-mail tips, visit

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