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Customer Service

(finally) Defined
Ideas, Tips, Techniques & Skills
You Can Use Now & Forever

Nancy Friedman
The Telephone Doctor®

Telephone Doctor, Inc.

30 Hollenberg Court, St. Louis, MO 63044

Customer Service (finally) Defined
Ideas, Tips, Techniques & Skills
You Can Use Now & Forever

Nancy Friedman

Editor: Valerie Phillips

Publisher: Agatha Publishing
Printer: Minuteman Press, International
Cover: Kimb Williams Graphic Design – Canada
Copyright 2016 Telephone Doctor, Inc.
What’s new in customer service? I get asked that a lot.

The answer is pretty simple. Not very much. It boils down to the same old,
same old.

Be nice, smile and enjoy your job. And the old Golden Rule: Treat others
as you would have them treat you.

Not so sure why it’s so hard for some folks. Maybe read the article Let’s
Not Make Customer Service Harder on page 46 inside. That’ll help. It sure
got a ton of “likes” when it ran on LinkedIn.

The channels of customer service will continue to grow – absolutely. But

the common sense tips and techniques will remain the same for years and
years. Just as they have survived in the past.

So to make it easy for everyone, be nice, smile and enjoy your job. And
remember the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do
unto you.

Thanks and enjoy!


Nancy Friedman
The Telephone Doctor

Dedicated To:
Those who want to make customer service a better experience.

I No Longer
“I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I’ve become
arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not
want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me. I have no
patience for cynicism, excessive criticism and demands of any nature. I
lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not
love me and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me.

I no longer spend a single minute on those who lie or want to manipulate. I

decided not to coexist anymore with pretense, hypocrisy, dishonesty and
cheap praise. I do not tolerate selective erudition nor academic arrogance.
I do not adjust either to popular gossiping. I hate conflict and comparisons.
I believe in a world of opposites and that’s why I avoid people with rigid
and inflexible personalities. In friendship I dislike the lack of loyalty and
betrayal. I do not get along with those who do not know how to give a
compliment or a word of encouragement. Exaggerations bore me and I
have difficulty accepting those who do not like animals. And on top of
everything I have no patience for anyone who does not deserve my
patience.” – José Micard Teixeira

About the Author
Nancy Friedman, the Telephone Doctor, named one of Meeting Planners
FAVORITE SPEAKERS, 2015 in a national poll in Meetings &
Conventions Magazine is a keynote speaker and expert in customer

Nancy’s ideas, tips, techniques and skills have helped companies large and
small across the country and abroad.

She has traveled to Turkey, Germany, Jamaica, Canada, Australia and the
United Kingdom delivering her programs to associations and corporations
who wanted someone who could “nail” it and engage the audiences.

Her passion for delivering the best ideas and material is second only to the
fun she brings to those meetings. Always engaging, and always fun,
Nancy created a place in the business world she loves.

LinkedIn with her at /nancyfriedmanspeaker

Like /telephonedoctor on Facebook
Follow Nancy on Twitter @TelephoneDoctor

Dedication – I No Longer .........................................................................4
What’s Your R-T-C Factor .......................................................................8
Life’s Little Lessons at the Dinner Table ...............................................10
Four Useless Words ................................................................................14
How Many Times Should the Phone Ring Before It’s Answered ..........15
Beware! Caller ID Can Be Dangerous ....................................................17
Famous Last Words ................................................................................19
Negotiation Cliff Notes for Those in a Hurry .........................................21
Killer Words of Customer Service ..........................................................22
Top 30 Reasons Sales People Fail ..........................................................25
Seven Principles of Bad Customer Service ............................................27
Drama 101 ...............................................................................................29
Managing Workplace Conflict ................................................................30
How to Handle the Irate, Upset, Angry Customer ..................................35
How’s Your Marketing Going ................................................................37
Stop Telling Customers How Great You Are and Start
Showing Them .....................................................................................39
Three Secrets for Building Rapport for Those Who Are
Unable To.............................................................................................41
STOP! “No Problem” is a Big Problem ..................................................44
Let’s Not Make Customer Service Harder..............................................46
Five Ways to GET Good Customer Service ...........................................51
Eight Sinful Customer Service Actions ..................................................54
Do We Script or Do We Talk .................................................................57

Seven Yucky Email Phrases ...................................................................60
Costly Corporate Comments ...................................................................62
Why We Don’t Always Need to Agree with the Customer ....................64
What’s the #1 Trait Employers Want in an Employee ...........................66
Are You Really Engaged ........................................................................67
11+ Theater Skills That Play a Starring Role in
Customer Service .................................................................................70
Scattered Random Thoughts ...................................................................73
A Day in the Life of a Mystery Shopper.................................................76
Using Role Play in Customer Service .....................................................78
8 Tips on How to Handle Holiday Shopping Stress ...............................81
6 Cardinal Rules of Customer Service ....................................................83
Be a Little Kinder than You Have To .....................................................85
10 Secrets Your Customer Won’t Tell You but We Will .......................86
Do You Use ‘Carved in Stone’ Words ...................................................88
Apply These 10 Secret Techniques to Improve the
Top Ten Customer Service Mistakes ...................................................90
Don’t Forget This Critical Hiring Tip .....................................................93
How it All Started ...................................................................................95
Contact Nancy.........................................................................................97

What’s Your R-T-C Factor?

There are 3 valuable items customers want BEFORE the product or the
service. They boil down to three basic wants comprising of what we call
the R-T-C factor: Relationship, Trust and Consistency.

1. R - - Relationship

Building rapport is an overlooked art. Call many companies and the first
word shouted at you is: “Name?” No “nice to meet you by phone” or even
a “good morning.” There’s very little rapport building found in today’s
customer service. Relationship starts within the first 4 to 6 seconds of a
phone call or within 30 seconds for an in-person visit. That sets the stage
for the rest of the transaction. Plus, it lays the groundwork for possible
future business. Rapport building and relationships are vital to every
communication exchange. It’s a simple basic process. Yet not taught in
our schools.

2. T - - Trust

If the customer is unable to trust what you say, the relationship will melt
to zero. Gaining the trust of your customer is the KEY to a relationship.
From following through when you promise to call or fulfilling the
company’s guarantee statement, creating trust is vital. If those trusts are
broken, it’s a big fence to mend. Keep your word to gain the trust of your
customer. They need to know they can count on you. Before any sale, a
customer must buy YOU.

3. C - - Consistency

The McDonalds hamburger in Seattle, Washington tastes the same as the

one in Des Moines, Iowa. Why? Consistency. The taste will be the same in
each of the stores.

And your business needs to run with the same consistency. It shouldn’t
matter who the customer talks or interacts with on any one day.
Personally, I’m skeptical when someone tells me to “be sure to talk to Joe.
He’s the best there is.” I’d rather hear, “you can talk to anyone in our

The R - T- C Factor is what customers look for and deserve in their

transactions with your company.

Life’s Little Lessons at the Dinner Table

Let me introduce you to my mother, Esther. Or Lady Esther as one of my

friends named her. Probably because she was so very queenly. Esther is
long gone now, yet seldom has a day gone by without me having a thought
of her in my head.

Lady Esther was a quiet woman and while she smoked as I was growing
up, I never once heard her swear. (NOTE: This is NOT one of the things I
learned from her, unfortunately.)

She rephrased those “no, no” words into “Oh sit” instead of you know

And she rephrased SOB into “son of a bitz.” She never told an off color
joke. Laughed at them, but never told them. Sorry, again, I didn’t learn
from her in that area.

But here are some of the things I did learn around the dinner table and I
carry with me. I shared them with my daughter in the hopes she shares
with her daughter and so on. Now I want to share them with you. Read on:

1. “There’s very little new; just new people doing it.”

Man, this phrase has saved many a day for me. It’s kept my feet on
the ground and my head out of the clouds throughout my speaking
career. She seldom made ‘absolute’ statements; said it saved her
from being embarrassed many a time. It’s become one of my very
favorite lines.

2. “A little water never hurt anything.”

Fact: Growing up kids are clumsy. Right? Water was a staple at our
dinner table and easily once a night someone tipped a glass over
onto something. Then out came her famous line, no matter what the
water spilled on. One time we were at a lovely wedding. She was all
dressed up and a guest (adult) spilled water all over her. What did
she say to the person? Right. “I’m fine. Water never hurt anything.”
It always helped the situation.

3. “Put your husband first. Above everything.”

While she told me this in my teens, it obviously didn’t come into

play until I was married. I had been engaged before and when the
engagement was broken I realized I wouldn’t have been able to put
him first. Sage wisdom.

Putting your spouse first has helped make my marriage a solid one.
Whenever I was in a situation that put me between my family
requests and my husband’s, I’ve always taken my husband’s side -
at least in public. If I feel he’s wrong, it becomes a private issue.
Like management, praise in public, criticize in private.

Lady Esther told me she and dad would be gone one day and the
kids, my brother and me, would move out and find their own best
friend. Maybe even move away. We had a small family. She said if
I’d make my husband my best friend, my first priority, I’d reap the
benefits all through my marriage. You nailed that one Esther!

4. “Never talk bad about your mother-in-law. It’s HIS mother.”

That was hard. I wasn’t close with my husband’s mother (or father).
And I always wondered how my mother lived through her mother-
in-law coming to live with them. I never heard her complain. Not
once. Think about that. Two women in the same small apartment.
Two women in the same kitchen. Two women loving the same man.
Two women coming from different backgrounds and never a bad
word about her. My parents’ marriage was the strongest I’d ever
seen. She always said great things about her mother-in-law,
especially to my dad. Smart woman.

5. “Accept people with their faults and hope they’ll accept you
with yours.”

I heard this every time I complained about a friend in high school.

She does this or he does that. Faults I would find with someone and
out would come this mantra. What was funny is when I was a teen I
didn’t think I had any faults. It was like, “Those of you who think
you’re perfect aggravate those of us who are.” Now that’s my
mantra to my kids. I learned I had a few faults.

6. “Don’t brag too much about your kids. You never know what
they’ve done.”

One day while overhearing my mother talking with her friends and
playing cards I heard the ladies bragging about their daughters.
Esther was always quiet. I didn’t hear her brag about me. Nothing
about dates, being popular, good daughter, grades. Well ok, she
didn’t have too much to brag about on that end or anything. She just
listened to them blah, blah, blah.

So I questioned her that night. “Mom, this afternoon I heard the

ladies bragging about all my friends and you didn’t say anything
about me. Why?” “Because,” she said, “I’m not sure what you did
today.” And she was right again. One of the girls mothers who was
bragging so long and so hard about her daughter, who she thought
was so perfect, was dating a boy she wasn’t supposed to. Her
mother didn’t know that. Point was, those who brag so much about
their own kids can’t possible know everything they did that day and
most every kid does something parents aren’t supposed to know
about. (Yes, even yours.)

Right again mom.

While I hadn’t done anything wrong that day, there were things I
had done I wouldn’t be so proud of to have my folks find out. Not
that day, but it had happened. So rather than have her friends say,
“Oh Esther, you’re wrong. I know Nancy did such and such,” she

simply kept quiet. I do the same thing. I hear friends brag about
their kids and I know the truth. But they blindly blah, blah, blah on
about them.

7. “Maybe you’re right.”

It was the easiest to learn. This phrase normally stops any

argument. And the MAYBE is your protection. Really works in a
marriage too and often works well at work, with friends or pretty
much anywhere. Once you tell someone, “Well, maybe you’re
right” they really don’t have anywhere to go. I LOVE this one!

8. “I told you so.”

Admittedly, I need to bite my tongue on this one. I don’t like me

when I say it. It’s so easy to say. And yet it’s so nasty to say. We all
like to show and feel we were right. When my mother asked me not
to say it I really didn’t understand it. I was right. Why couldn’t I say
it? I felt like my freedom of speech was removed.

She explained if I were right, the right folks would know it without
me saying it; without putting it in their faces. ‘I told you so-ers’
were not very popular she said. So I stopped saying it. And what do
you know? I got more of, “Hey Nancy, you know, you were right”
comments. It felt good.

Keep your mother’s sayings. You’ll need them one day.

Four Useless Words

My mother lived with me in her last years. We enjoyed her sense of

humor. Here’s part of what made me realize how useless the phrase, “Hi,
how are you?” is.

The house phone rang. Esther answered.

The man says, “Hi, Mrs. Friedman, this is Dan from XXX. How are you?”

My mother says – without missing a beat: “I’m so glad you called. I have
a bad case of arthritis, a throbbing migraine, no appetite, my pacemaker is
running slower than normal and I have a bad rash. How are you?”

He said, “Well, compared to you, a hell of a lot better” and hung up.

Point being, “Hi, how are you” is semi-useless. Especially to those we

don’t even know. I’ve seen folks pass in the halls, in a mall, in an office,
everywhere. One says, “Hi how are you?” The other says, “Fine, how are
you?” No one stops, they’re still walking and nothing was accomplished.

I’ve removed “Hi, how are you?” from my vocabulary. It’s been replaced
with any one of these phrases and I share them with you:

Hi, you’re looking well.

Thanks for being here.
You look super.
Nice to hear your voice.
I’m glad you called.
Glad to see you.
You’re sounding great.

Remove “Hi, how are you?”

How Many Times Should the Phone Ring
Before It’s Answered?

It’s an ongoing question at most of my speaking engagements whenever

we cover phone topics: “Nancy, how many rings is proper?”

Naturally, I’ve heard it all. Answer on the first ring. No, no, no. Answer
by the third ring. No, no, no. My boss says … blah, blah, blah.

Not sure how many other folks giving out customer service information
have sat on the “other side” of the fence. Well, I have. I was a receptionist.
I was a secretary. I was an administrative assistant. I was a customer
service rep. All within corporate America and also in forming our
company Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training; corporate
America’s leader in telephone skills and customer service.

I’m also not sure who deemed the number of rings to be the right answer.
Obviously “someone” suggested on the first ring and someone else
suggested by the third ring. I’m gonna bet whoever suggested those never
sat on the other side. They never had to answer 6 lines or one line on the
other side of the room or even had to answer the phones.

There are simply times when a human being cannot get to a phone on the
first ring or the third ring and sometimes not even on the fifth ring. Deal
with it.

Had a young lady tell me one time, “My boss makes me answer by the 3rd
ring.” So I said, “Where is your boss?” She pointed over there. I went up
to Mr. Boss and asked where he got that information. He stalled and then
said, “Well I thought that’s what you should do.”

He’d never had to answer a phone other than take the call when it came to
him. He had NO IDEA. Just plucked a number out of the sky.

So what’s a person to do? Here’s the Telephone Doctor certified


While it helps to answer before the fifth or sixth ring, what matters MORE
is HOW the phone is answered. It’s that simple!

I’ve created a simple BUFFER when you feel the number of rings has
gone on too long. It works.

Rather than “Thank you for calling” (or whatever you use), insert our
BUFFER as you answer the call that rang too long in your opinion with:

“I’m sorry it rang so long, Telephone Doctor’s office. This is Nancy.”

While fortunately we haven’t had to use that buffer too many times, 100%,
yes 100% of the time when used the caller is relieved and so appreciative
that the number of rings was acknowledged. It appeases them. So stop the
nonsense. Stop the arguments. Answer as soon as you possibly can and if
you feel the phone has had too many rings, simply use the Telephone
Doctor buffer.

Apologizing for too many rings helps defuse the situation.

Beware! Caller ID Can Be Dangerous

If this hasn’t happened to you yet, my bet is it will.

You see the name or a number you recognize on the phone and pick it up
with, “Hi Joe” (or whoever it says).

And low and behold - guess what? It’s not Joe.

Ok, not terrible. A mistake. But picture this true story:

A former assistant’s desk phone rang. It showed the number of her

boyfriend on her caller ID. I won’t repeat what she said when she
answered. Suffice to say it was rather personal because she “thought” it
was her boyfriend.

An OMG moment. She came crying into my office telling me what

happened. Her boyfriend’s boss was using her boyfriend’s phone at work
and, of course, the boyfriend’s name came up on the screen. Yes, it can
happen to you.

Safest bet? Don’t look. Act surprised. Be great on every call. Or if you do
look, use your same great answering skills. Don’t discriminate!

Often I hear: Well, it’s JUST “Bob” and poor Bob gets a low grade
greeting. Not nice. Bob should get the same greeting as you’d give Taylor
Swift. (If she called you that is.)

I’ve been speaking on customer service a long time and I’m asking you to
believe me. It’s not worth it to discriminate on how you answer the phone.

Make each call GREAT! Treat each caller as though it was your favorite
movie star.

Even if you look and see it’s Bob Smith who you know and love, that call
should be answered normally. NOT “Hi Bob” or some other personal note.
Because it may not be Bob.

Example: One day a friend of mine called me about 4 times in a row in a
very short period of time. And each time I saw the name on my cell, I
answered as I always do; upbeat and with that eternal smile: “Hi, this is

Finally on the 5th call with her name popping up I said, “Now what
the #$*! do you want?”

Right, it wasn’t her. It was her friend using her phone, because my friend
couldn’t make the call.

So…final answer. Answer your phone the same way each time. With a
buffer, “Hi” and your name, “This is Bob.” (You, of course, use your
right name). Ha, ha.

Don’t let it happen to you.

Famous Last Words

“We’ll be right with you.”

“We appreciate your patience; someone will be right with you.”

“Thank you for holding; we are experiencing a longer than normal hold

Yada, yada, yada.

Agggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg; snoreville.

You get the picture. I stayed on HOLD the other day and because of what
I do for a living, I timed the length of the hold right after she told me,
“hang on just a sec and I’ll be right back.”

Liar, liar pants on fire; nose is as long as a telephone wire.

After 2 minutes and 32 seconds (yes I timed her) and MORE of “we’ll be
with your shortly” she finally came back on the line. And, there was no
“thank you for holding.” Nothing.

I lost count of the number of times “We’ll be right with you” came on
during that time.

As a keynote speaker at meetings and conferences around the world, we

help companies communicate better with their customers. Can’t make it
simpler than that.

If you’re using an automatic hold with a message, consider a positive

message that will interest and help the person on hold. Remember they’re
not always a customer. They can also be potential customers.

A few ideas, but not limited to, are:

1. Give some great points and values about your company, product or
service. Not a “we’re the best” commercial; use something they can
take away and use.

2. Have a new product? New Widget? Let us know about it.

3. If you can, and I’m not sure of the cost, advise of the wait time.
Callers normally don’t mind holding if they hear, “Your estimated
wait time is “X” minutes.” Of course this shouldn’t be repeated,
because as they’re on hold, the wait time is lowered.

4. Music is always a good choice. The concern there is YES someone

won’t like the choice you make.

5. Remember the old saying “Silence is golden?” You don’t HAVE

to have anything on the hold time.

If it were me and I had the problem, I’d really consider the idea of
recorded ‘talking’ to the person on hold. Give them some great ideas or
points of value (even humorously). Almost so they’d want to be on hold.

How’d you like to have someone call you and say, “Please put me on hold,
I love the message.”

I’m a bare bones, bottom line lady who brings ideas, skills, tips and
techniques to help corporate America through our online training or my
speaking engagements. Common sense sold here.

Being put on hold remains a big frustration.

Negotiation Cliff Notes for Those in a Hurry

Those of us who negotiate normally want short, quick tips to help us. So
here are some Cliff Notes to help you in those daily negotiations. And let’s
face it, we are always negotiating. Family, business, you name it. I’ve
even negotiated with a waitress. Long story. I’ll hold it for another time.
But it was negotiating.

So here are 8 tips to hang on your wall:

1. Don’t discount a price right off the bat.

2. Be strong and confident about your product and price. Your
opponent will be seeking price concessions if your delivery is weak.
3. Delay giving concessions until the end of the conversation. See point
8 below.
4. Have a “nice” way to reject an offer. There are always feelings
5. Never underestimate your strength in a negotiation. Your opponent
6. Negotiations begin at the beginning of the conversation. From hello
on forward.
7. Avoid ”goodwill” conceding. (i.e., Don’t give things away because
‘the opponent is so nice.’)
8. When you GIVE something, be sure you GET something back in
return. An order? A larger order? A longer contract period?

Yes, there are more notes. Saving them for another day; and love to hear
your ‘notes.’

When you give up something, get something in return. This is the way
to prevent an avalanche of requests for more concessions. If the other
person got a concession without much effort, why not ask for more?
But if they get asked for something every time it will slow or stop
requests for more concessions.

Killer Words of Customer Service

There are really more, we know that. But what we have found after a
survey from our clients is these five killer words always seem to rise to the

They are conversation diverters. Just as ALWAYS and NEVER are

conversation diverters, these five killer words will make your customers
and your potential customers veer away from the real point of your

So best we eliminate them from our routine and vocabulary. It’s not easy
to do. If it were easy to do, everyone would be doing it and we know
everyone isn’t doing it.

Remove these 5 killer words from your sales and service presentations and
watch the scene go smoother.

1. “It’s not our policy.” – Ouch! Okay, okay, most every company
has policies and it’s something we need to deal with on a daily
basis I’m sure. What we realized was it’s not necessarily the policy
that’s frustrating, it’s blurting out first and foremost, “It’s not our
policy” or in some cases it’s “their” policy.

The policy needs to be rephrased so that it starts off in a more

positive way. We like to say ‘rejecting gently.’ And rephrasing
policies are a good way to explain what’s not gonna happen.

Next time you find yourself saying, “That’s not our (their) policy.”
Stop. Regroup and reword. Buffer it with, “Let me see what we
can do. Normally the policy of the company doesn’t allow last
minute changes. (The request MUST be stated so the customer
hears that you’re going to go to bat for them.) However, we can
sure tackle this.”

What happens here is sometimes when we go back on behalf of the
client, it works. And then sometimes it doesn’t. But at least we
double checked. And we didn’t just slough it off with, “I’m sorry.
It’s not our/their policy.”

2. “Our computers are so slow.” – Big excuse. Everyone’s

computer runs slow every once in a while. When you complain
about your computer it’s as though you’re complaining about your
company. That’s how it’s perceived. And perception is reality.
Take the time to say, “This might take a bit longer than I’d like it
to. Tell me about…” and then ask a benign question that will take
time and let the customer talk.

While most people do understand slow computers, they don’t like

it. It kills the conversation.

3. “Calm Down.” – Oh man does that make the hair on the back of
their neck stand up. In any movie or TV show I’ve watched lately
when someone is told to “calm down,” the next words are, “Don’t
you tell me to calm down.”

Bill O’Reilly said that to a guest the other night. And the guest
slammed back at him, “Don’t you tell me to calm down.”

There are times when the client may need to vent. Your job is to
listen and come in at the appropriate time with sympathetic and
empathetic wording. Instructions on how to handle something is
one of the last things they need. Get rid of “calm down.” It’s
pouring gasoline onto the fire.

4. “No Problem.” – And they’re thinking, “When was I a problem?”

Believe we can thank the ‘islands’ for this one. When we take a
cruise and ask for anything, what’s the first thing the waiter says?
Right, “no problem.”

Well on the cruise it may be okay; however, back home it needs to
be “you’re welcome,” “my pleasure,” “happy to help,” and a host
of other ways to let the customer know you’re glad to do that.

No problem appears to be a big problem with your customers. Lose

it. It kills the conversation.

5. “Yes, but…” – Hmm what’s wrong with that? We all say it. Well,
what’s wrong with that is the minute we say “yes, but,” the client
knows something negative is coming.

If you have ever said, “I love you so much, but…” There’s a

condition coming, isn’t there?

Here’s one way to change that: “Yes, we can do that. There is,
however, a $50 additional fee.” Doesn’t that sound better than,
“Yes but…”?

Most people have phrases and sayings they don’t like or that aggravate
them. Keep a list of your killer words (along with ours) and avoid them.

Watch what you say to customers.

Top 30 Reasons Sales People Fail

We run a pretty good sales team at Telephone Doctor. Several team

members have been with us over 15 - 20 years. One even longer. Some
have left after 3 weeks. My guess is those that have left, left due to one of
these ‘reasons.’ Actually it’s not a guess. One of these reasons is definitely
why they left.

Like all lists, it’s not final. There are other reasons; however, I believe
you’ll agree this is a good start. Share with your sales team.

1. They don’t practice their skills

2. They’re not flexible
3. They’re not a team player
4. They don’t use their sense of humor
5. They don’t use their imagination
6. They don’t listen to management
7. They make no effort
8. They get too comfortable, too fast
9. They interrupt too often
10. They don’t ask enough open-ended questions
11. They make too many assumptions
12. They’re not sales minded in all areas
13. They’re not able to handle corrective criticism
14. They don’t have enough enthusiasm
15. They have poor time management skills
16. They don’t use their Saturday night personality during the week
17. They don’t have a “Whatever It Takes” mentality
18. They lose their focus
19. They’re not able to deal with personality conflicts
20. They don’t truly believe in their product
21. They don’t understand rapport building
22. They don’t understand ongoing customer service
23. They have too many unqualified leads
24. They lack confidence
25. They don’t have long-term commitments
26. They’re short sighted
27. Honesty is a problem for them
28. They don’t do any self-improvement
29. They refuse to follow scripts - even loosely
30. They don’t understand this list
31. Wanna add your own?

Do you have a reason of your own?

Seven Principles of Bad Customer Service

A few years ago we surveyed a group of folks on how they felt about
getting bad customer service. We found 7 common threads. We
labeled them the 7 Principles of Bad Customer Service. Here are the

Principle One: They’re Grateful for the Chance to Vent

Customers are always grateful for the opportunity to tell others how they
were mistreated. It’s pretty much cathartic.

Principle Two: Tomorrow’s Joke

Many people joke to vent their frustration about their bad customer service
experience and tell these “jokes” about it to pretty much anyone who will

Principle Three: The Memory of an Elephant

Customers often don’t forget. Lots of people quote the time elapsed since
the unfortunate incident. We had letters telling us “this happened 20 years
ago and I can recall everything that happened.” Bad customer service
leaves a real bad taste.

Principle Four: “You’re not going to believe this!”

Those abused by poor customer service can never seem to accept the fact
that it happened. They remain shocked, continue to agonize and happily
repeat the conflict. Each story was an “OMG, I cannot believe she said
that to me” or “I cannot believe that just happened.” Almost as though
they were in shock.

Principle Five: No Return, No Deposit

Rarely does a complaining customer indicate that he or she would return

to an offending store. Most folks feel there is always another place to take
their business.

Principle Six: Free Advertising – The Kind You Don’t Want

Customers will tell their family members, friends, and co-workers about a
bad customer service incident. Even strangers in an elevator have spoken
up loud and clear to others.

Principle Seven: Hell Hath No Fury Like A Customer Scorned

All the principles of bad customer service could be summed up in this

simple phrase. Hell Hath No Fury Like A Customer Scorned. It’s one of
our most popular onsite programs for conferences.

Bad customer service has a definite common thread.

Drama 101

If I ran the world, every student – in every grade – would get theatre
training. Not to be an actor or stage manager, but to learn how to work
with everyone, be on time, and know that everyone needs to work together
and to learn that the show must go on.

But Drama 101 is more than theatre, it’s part of customer service,
communication and sales skills, rapport building and life skills.

It’s learning how to react to people, things, problems, ideas, thoughts, and
anything else we might run into.

Drama 101 also allows you to learn how to “read” words and sentences.
Ever notice the TV reporters and how they dramatize the news…with
emphasis on certain words.

That’s what needs to be done in life. Monotone conversations are losing

conversations; they’re boring, uninteresting and won’t move the ship off
the dock.

Drama 101 is my name for practice what you’re saying. Learn how to
phrase a question so that someone will answer it.

Learn how to make what you say important so people will listen to you.

Drama 101 is critically important to be successful; even if you practice

with a short piece out of the newspaper. Make what you read exciting.
That’ll help you in conversations.

If you can take a theatre class (at any age) … do it. You’ll have more
fun than you can imagine. It’ll do more good for a student than
learning a topic or subject they’ll never use in their life (e.g.,
biology/philosophy/trigonometry). You get the picture.

Managing Workplace Conflict

Unfortunately, conflict between human beings is about as old as life itself.

Is there any doubt that early cave dwellers got in disagreements about
whose turn it was to go snag another wooly mammoth or who got to sleep
closest to the fire? They may have lacked the sophisticated swear words
we’ve developed, but the conflict was there nonetheless.

No matter the era, if you put two or more people in close quarters, sooner
or later you’ll have a conflict.

And so it goes in today’s modern office. Except that in the workplace,

negative internal relationships will severely impact how well your
organization operates. And ultimately, how well your external customers
are treated. We all know that it’s really difficult for people to concentrate
on providing high levels of external service when there’s conflict,
unhappiness or lack of respect within an organization. While it’s not
possible to avoid all employee conflicts, there are techniques to better
manage these challenging situations. When a major conflict erupts
between co-workers, it’s usually necessary to involve a manager to help
resolve it.

Here’s a process to help resolve internal relationship issues and possibly

prevent the need for management involvement. Used properly, this three-
step process will help maintain a positive, healthy workplace atmosphere.

We call it the B.I.F. Approach.


Let’s imagine there are two co-workers named Cynthia and Joe. They sit
near each other in open cubicles. During his breaks, Joe enjoys listening to
his favorite 80s hair band on his boom box. This music really disturbs
Cynthia and she has trouble concentrating while talking with customers.


Cynthia walks up to Joe and yells, “Hey Joe, do you have any clue how
loud that is? Turn it down, now!”

Joe will likely give an angry stare and either ignore her request or turn the
volume higher! Obviously, simply ordering Joe to change his behavior
isn’t likely to be an effective tactic.


Here’s a better way. Let’s examine the B.I.F. Approach letter by letter:

B – Behavior – First, describe the behavior. Use specific facts or an

objective description. It’s important to keep from asking questions that
will put him or her on the defensive and possibly start an argument all
before we even get to the point.

I – Impact – Next, tell the effects that the behavior is having on you. How
it is impacting your job or your performance.

F – Feelings – Lastly, relate how the behavior and impact cause you to

After that, you stop and let the other person absorb what you said. Often,
that silent period will result in the other person apologizing or suggesting a


Cynthia: “Excuse me, Joe. That radio is really distracting. It’s making it
difficult for me to hear my customers and concentrate. It’s embarrassing
for me because I just had to ask my customer to repeat herself a number of

Sentence by sentence that was:

B – Behavior “That radio is really distracting.”

I – Impact “It’s making it difficult for me to hear and concentrate.”

F – Feelings “It’s embarrassing for me because I had to ask my customer

to repeat herself a number of times.”

Then, Cynthia stops to let Joe absorb what was said. Cynthia’s tone of
voice is also very important. It needs to be even-tempered because a calm
delivery sets the tone of the conversation. If Cynthia’s tone is angry or
attacking, it’s likely Joe will mirror that tone and respond in the same
angry way.

Obviously, the B. I. F. Approach won’t work in every case. But in many

situations, it can help defuse minor workplace conflicts and reduce the
need for management involvement. Plus, you’ll know you handled the
situation professionally.

Give the B.I.F. Approach a try the next time you encounter a workplace
conflict situation.

That’s one way to handle a workplace conflict, but not the only way. Each
situation is different and obviously people are different. Feelings are
different, tone of voices are different.

Sadly, when there is a workplace conflict it’s too bad the individuals
involved aren’t able to sit down calmly, nicely and like adults to discuss
the situation. But it’s usually not the case. We normally need to bring in
the big guns. The folks who aren’t really involved in the situation and
work from outside in vs. the inside out.

Example: We had two co-workers a while back at Telephone Doctor that

were oil and water all the way around. It would have been funny if it
wasn’t so sad. We tried a number of things. And then we realized this may
not even be solvable. So we tried something we had never done before.

We brought the two involved into my office, sat them down and said we
needed to talk with them. I felt if they sat in a neutral room – with a
neutral person – they’d come out of the funk and talk. I felt that hearing
them out and hearing their feelings would bring some results.

And it did. Just not the kind we wanted. I started first and put it all on the
table. (NOT REAL NAMES) “Bob and Judy,” I said, “for lack of better
wording, I sense there might be something wrong here. Something that we
could talk about and help smooth over. It’s pretty obvious you two aren’t
interested in having lunch together…and that’s okay. But why the
interoffice negative feelings? What’s going on? What’s happening? I’m
interested in hearing your thoughts on why you feel your relationship isn’t
going well as co-workers. You’re two very intelligent people, good
workers, and good sales people and seem well educated. It’s obvious to
the others that you don’t talk to each other and, in fact, might even talk
about each other to the others. And that’s not right, is it?”

Nothing. Nada. Zip. Blank stare straight ahead. Oh my, I thought, this isn’t
going well at all.

I wasn’t going to let them disturb me or take the idea of a good ending
away. I was determined to find out what happened.

Well, to make a long story short and because I don’t recall all the gory
details, and I don’t want to ‘make it up,’ suffice to say it didn’t go well.

They simply wouldn’t talk. Then it dawned on me. This could be a

workplace conflict over my head. Nonrefundable. Was I trying to repair a
marriage? I wasn’t. Sure felt like it. And that’s when I realized I wouldn’t
try and be a marriage counselor – that’s not my expertise. Maybe I’m not
an expert in personal relationships. Perhaps it was larger than I could
handle and perhaps I should let it ‘die its own death’ which I was pretty
sure it would in a few more weeks.

So, I nicely told them if they didn’t want to share what’s wrong, what’s
going on, then I couldn’t fix it. The old “I cannot fix what I do not know.”
I told them to do the best they could moving forward and wished them the
best of luck.

End of story? Not really. Within 2 weeks Bob left. And shortly after that
Judy left. Both on their own. They didn’t want an exit interview and,
frankly, I was OK with that.

But here was a perfect example of a workplace conflict that was out of my
control. Not sure if I was right or wrong in trying to fix the problem. I’m
not an enabler. I do like a happy office.

They left and things went on quite well without them. Something didn’t
mesh between them and they sure didn’t want to tell me about it. Well I’m
not a dentist…I don’t pull teeth. And I wasn’t going to pull information
out of them. That was for sure.

In my mind it worked out all by itself. A happy ending.

Workplace conflict needs to be addressed.

How to Handle the Irate, Upset, Angry

If your job entails taking calls or walk-ins from unhappy, irate customers,
you’ve got your work cut out for you. Employees who deal with these
situations are especially vulnerable to outbursts from customers who are
going through an emotional, stressful time. Big to them; possibly small to
you. As a communication expert we have found ways to help you.

Handling this type of customer takes time and training, but it can be
accomplished effectively. Here are some of the Telephone Doctor’s best
techniques for turning unhappy customers into satisfied customers.
Improving customer service takes time and patience . . . and repetition.


Realize that upset, angry customers are not normally unhappy with you,
but with the situation. Don’t take their hostility personally. You are merely
the rod that redirects the violent lightning. You can do a great deal to
defuse the anger before you hear it. How? YEAH . . . by smiling. Yes, a
smile will help - not eliminate - the situation. And, yes, you can really
“hear” a smile over the phone. It’s very difficult to be rude to someone
who is warm and friendly and sounds and/or looks concerned.


There are four basic steps to handling an irate customer. Telephone Doctor
calls them our ASAP technique.

A - Acknowledge the person’s feelings and apologize for the

inconvenience the customer has encountered. Immediately. Don’t wait to
find out who’s wrong or whose fault it is. Apologize and acknowledge
immediately. Make an effort to be sincere. In today’s impersonal society,
it’s incredibly rare to hear the words, “I apologize for what happened. Let
me get the ball rolling to fix it.” A simple statement like that goes a long

way. You’ll probably spend about 80 percent of your time massaging the
customer’s feelings and 20 percent actually solving the problem.

S - Sympathize and empathize with the customer. Telling them “I

understand” is frustrating. That’s not a great one to use. Phrases like “I
can understand why you’re upset” can help soothe ruffled feathers. Then
get busy solving the problem. Explain what’s going to happen. Run them
through the process.

A - Accept 100 percent responsibility for the situation. This is probably

the toughest part. Chances are excellent that you had nothing to do with
the problem. However, if you took the call or got handed the customer, it’s
your job to take the responsibility and help initiate a solution.

P - Prepare to help. Immediately. Begin by re-introducing yourself.

Customers won’t usually remember your name. If you have a title, give it
to them. Status helps too. “I’m the Assistant Manager” or even length of
tenure helps. “I’ve been here 7 years and I know I can help you.” State
that you will be able to help. Use their name, if possible. This helps a bit
to defuse their frustration. A willing attitude is essential, because if the
customer senses insincerity or indifference, it will cause them to stay
angry. It’s exasperating to file a complaint with someone who obviously
doesn’t care.


It’s not a good idea to make an excuse to a complaining person. It will

only escalate the situation. No one wants to hear “The computer is down”
or “I’m the only one here.” That is your problem, not the customers. When
you give an excuse, the customer automatically hears “I’m not going to
help you, now.”

Empowerment plays a big part in helping customers. But that’s another

blog. Catch me next time.

In person or on the phone, the ASAP techniques work. Try it and see!

How’s Your Marketing Going?

Your company’s best edge to get new and keep the customers you have is
pretty simple.

It’s not all about Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Periscope,

Snapchat or any other social media. It’s about plain old better customer

Told you it was simple. That’s the nitty gritty of it. All the ads in the world
cannot fix poor customer service. Post any picture of your product
anywhere. When the call comes in for product or information, it rests
solely on “how am I being treated.” Do I want to continue here? True
there are those companies who have a monopoly; where competition is
rare or nonexistent. Think IRS. We can’t pay our taxes at Walgreen’s
(yet). Better customer service in monopolies would help eliminate the bad
reputations that sadly are there.

We all have choices (in most areas) when we go out to spend our hard
earned money. And while it’s a good fact that buyers research online a lot
before they buy now days, if and when they call you and it gets screwed
up, the customer feels all that research is wasted.

So what is a company to do? My suggestion? Get some customer service

training. As a keynote speaker one of my questions to the audience is
“how many of you have some sort of customer service program in place
now at your company?” I wish I could say I see a lot of raised hands. I
don’t. The majority of companies today do not have a customer service
program of some sort in place.

Oh sure. Disney, Nordstrom’s, the Ritz and a whole lot of the big guys do.
We can name the biggies pretty easy. I’m talking main stream America.
Middle America. Small business America.

Am I being self-serving because Telephone Doctor has one of the most

popular customer service training programs around? I don’t believe so. I
believe I’m educating people who are not aware there is help out there.
Affordable help. Help that shares the mentality, culture and philosophy of
companies for better customer service so it boils down to “how am I
treated.” What was the experience? Remember, I said it was simple.
Improve your customer service!

For those who may not be aware, Telephone Doctor has five full time
customer service divisions.

1. Online web-based training serving companies with 5 employees to

over 5000 employees with 10 different series and over 100 modules
of topics. Great for remote locations as well.
2. 18-module DVD library for those who like classroom training.
3. Small group classroom training workshops brought onto your site.
4. Large group programs for annual meetings, sales events, employee
kickoffs and more.
5. Telephone Doctor University. A 2-day full immersion into
Telephone Doctor training for clients who want to learn the
mentality, philosophy and culture of Telephone Doctor.

Which division would you like to start with?

The best competition, the best marketing you have against the big guy
(or anyone) is to improve your customer service.

Stop Telling Customers How Great You Are
and Start Showing Them

If you’re in the business of satisfying customers, the only thing that

matters is what you DO.

It’s almost a cliché to see and hear organizations advertise to prospective

customers about how great their service is. As if somehow, great customer
service were just that…bragging about how much you care. You see it all
the time, no matter if you’re at the car dealer, the bank or the grocery

We’ve all heard the sage advice that “It’s what you do, not what you say.”
“Actions speak louder than words.” “Deed, not creed.” “Talk is cheap.”

If you’re in the business of providing positive customer experiences for

your firm’s clients, this concept is critical to understand. So why do so
many businesses continue to make the same mistake?

What these businesses don’t realize is that today’s consumers are pretty
sophisticated operators and they see through such marketing noise for
what it is. In fact, if your business is bragging to customers about how
great your service is, but your staff doesn’t deliver to those promised
expectation levels, one could argue that such puffery actually does more
harm to your brand than never having promised anything at all! I can think
of plenty of times I’ve been frustrated at a service experience only to
notice some cheesy service promise on their literature or receipt about
(insert high pitched, whiny voice) “how valued I am.” It’s the definition of
irony. I assume some clever ad agency or marketing genius wrote the copy
without giving any thought at all about how an unhappy customer would
actually be insulted by it down the road.

The things which matter most in the customer satisfaction business are the
specific actions and techniques your organization employs to demonstrate
your commitment to your customer. Think about your situation for a
moment. How well do your daily actions demonstrate your commitment to

your customer’s happiness? Do you spend more time telling customers
how much you care? Or actually working to solve their problems?

For an excellent real-world example of this phenomenon, examine

Nordstrom. The Seattle-based retailer is on many people’s short list of
impressive service providers. Yet, when was the last time you saw or
heard an ad from Nordstrom gloating about how high their level of care
is? They don’t need to because they let their actions do all the talking.

Nordstrom has figured out one of the bedrock principles of winning the
customer satisfaction game: Invest very little in bragging about how good
you are and put lots of resources into demonstrating how much you care.
Because demonstrating how much you care is the only thing that matters
to your customers.

Sure, Nordstrom likely spends more than the industry average by taking
back merchandise that wasn’t bought from them or sending handwritten
thank you cards or tracking down far-flung merchandise requests that
other retailers might only laugh about. But in the long haul, they’ve
obviously found it very worthwhile. There are tremendous economic
payoffs with these acts. People are astounded by the service and they like
to tell other people.

Customers doing your bragging for you? Now we’re on to something


Three Secrets for Building Rapport for Those
Who Are Unable To

Rapport building is an art, not a science. Many of you reading this will
pass on this article. Why? Because you already know how to rapport build
with someone – client, friend, relative, even a stranger.

But as good as you are, you may know someone who isn’t that great at
rapport building. This is for them. So if you receive this blog from
someone, take it as a compliment. Not an insult. Take it from someone
who thought enough of you to think, “Hey, so and so is a great person and
good in many areas, but lacking in an area I’m pretty good in and I don’t
have the time right now to help, so I’m gonna let Nancy do it.”

And I’m happy to. My methods may not be identical to your methods, but
they’ll work. Not on everyone, but I’m pretty confident they will work
with those that are close to where they should be and you want to help
them get from there to where they need to be.

Think of it as ‘closing the gap.’ By the way, these secrets are for in-person
and phone. Don’t limit yourself.

Here we go:

Number 1: “Hi, how are you?” is NOT a rapport building statement.

It’s not a lot of things. Ok, Nancy, we know that, but then what is it? In
many cases it’s an annoyance. In some it’s a nervous saying. In others it’s
just an “I don’t know what else to say.” It’s just NOT a rapport building

Some to use are: “Great to see you.” “You’re looking super.” “Your voice
sounds good, have you been in radio?” “You’re looking well.” “So glad to
see (or talk with) you.”

The list is endless. And notice none of them have, “Hi, how are you?” in
it. We have an article on ”Hi, how are you?” and how useless it can be.

But I digress. A rapport building statement is similar to “Hi, how are
you?” but it’s BETTER. And that’s one of the secrets to rapport building.
Being better. So get to work on opening statements. We’ll work on follow
up shortly, but get “Hi, how are you?” out of the way. Bury it. Don’t use

Number 2: Since the art of rapport building isn’t taught in our

schools today and more often left to self-teaching and self-learned, it’s
something that’s not pushed other than, “Hey, you need to learn how to
rapport build more.” But how do you do that?

One way is to read, read and then read some more. There are dozens of
good books on this topic. How to Talk With Practically Anybody About
Practically Anything by Barbara Walters is a good one. You don’t need to
like her to learn from her. Don’t be like that. Search out the best. Ok, yes,
the cover is out is the Bible’s but it’s great information.
Remember, don’t judge a book by its cover. Pick up something and read
and learn.

Number 3: Rapport building starts with you and a few questions.

(Again, NOT “Hi, how are you?”) Pick up on something the person says
to you and build on that. That can get a conversation going further than
you thought. Example:

When a prospect calls in to ask me about speaking at their conference I

don’t say, “Hi, how are you?” The first thing I say to them is, “Well you
called the right place.” I put them at ease letting them know they are in
good hands. Then I welcome them into my office home and thank them
for calling.

If they’ve called ME, they probably have some information on me through

a friend, website or were referred by someone. And while knowing where
the lead came from is an important question, it’s not one to ask up front.
That’s asked later on throughout the conversation somewhere.

On a recent call, a gentleman wanted some information on me for an event

before he went on his vacation so he could study it as soon as he got back.

What do you think my next question was? Drum roll please.

A. Where are you going on vacation?

B. When will you be making a decision?
C. Where/when is the conference? How many people?
D. What type of meeting is this?
E. What’s your budget?

I could make you wait to give you the answer, but I will tell you 45
minutes later we finally got to Questions B, C, D and E. Yes, I asked him
where he was going on vacation. My first question to him. It opened up a
floodgate of information; a two-way wonderful conversation and warmed
the call and we built more rapport than ever imagined.

Important. There are some folks who don’t want YOU to rapport build
with them. And if you push your soft, fuzzy questions at them when
they’re in a hurry it will definitely hurt the situation. So you need
to listen to the tone of their voice, the speed of their voice and the cadence
of it as well. Those all fall into play; but now we’re back to our article
on listening skills in our 54 Golden Nuggets book.

Rapport building is a critical life skill.

STOP! “No Problem” is a Big Problem

Our best-selling program Killer Words of Customer Service is filled with

common sense tips, ideas, skills and techniques. Telephone Doctor is
known for the ability to take the common sense, things that you and I may
know, and bring it to the forefront to those who may not know about it.

I spoke at IFA (International Franchise Assn.) where we brought 90

minutes of those common sense ideas, tips, skills and techniques to over
300 SROs. Afterwards, one of the attendees asked me what I thought of
the phrase “NO PROBLEM.” He had wanted me to cover that ‘common’
phrase, used so often. Time had not allowed me to at the time. However, I
shared this article with him and wanted to share it with you as well.

One of the most common comments that bugs people the most is when we
are told, “no problem” after we say, “thank you” or make a request.

Instead of the genuine gold standard of “you’re welcome” or something

else that might be more appropriate, there are those who insist on saying
“no problem.”

When a customer has said “thank you” to you, the general public would
rather hear, “You’re welcome” instead of “no problem.”

It’s not a terrible thing to say to someone though it’s highly overused and
abused. There are some who don’t find “no problem” offensive. However,
based on our surveys, there are many more who do find “no problem” a
big problem.

It’s not a dirty word. It’s not a four letter word. It’s not a swear word. It is,
however, shall we say, an inappropriate, ineffective word.

Concentrate on eliminating “no problem” and share a few other phrases

that are more “customer friendly.” Let’s use words that turn people on
instead of turning them off.

Example: The other day in a restaurant I asked the waiter for water
without ice and I got the old “no problem” from the waiter. The person
with me said, “Why would getting you water without ice be a problem?”

Yes, I too, thought a more appropriate answer to my request for water with
no ice might have been, “Certainly. Happy to get you water, no ice” or
even mirroring my request like, “Water no ice? My pleasure.”

Next time you’re tempted to offer up a “no problem,” best you remember
the public would like a genuine and simple: “you’re welcome,” “happy to
do that,” or “my pleasure.”

Anything but “no problem.”

Can you remember that?

“No worries” isn’t too great either.

Let’s Not Make Customer Service Harder

In a society where poor customer service is rampant, a well-trained

company staff can shine if everyone adopts and commits to some simple
service approaches.

The result can mean not only keeping your customers happy, but also
keeping them period!

What is the biggest and most costly customer service mistake in business
today? My answer is simple – “We’re just not friendly enough.”

Customers should be treated as welcome guests when they call your

office. Instead, they’re often treated like an interruption or, even worse, an
annoyance. More than 90 percent of all customer service starts with a
telephone call. That said, customer service mistakes happen anytime and
in many ways.

Customers can communicate with your company through any one of the
six touch points of communication and any one of these touch points can
damage a relationship, often permanently.

 Email
 Voice Mail
 Snail Mail
 Phone
 Fax
 Face-to-Face

We left off texting on purpose. Let’s leave that out for now.

Two of these communication tools are what is known as “synchronous;”

the other four are “asynchronous.”

Synchronous is instant communication, when two or more people are able

to communicate immediately between each other, i.e., the telephone and in

Asynchronous is one-way information, with a lapse of time between initial
contact and the response, i.e., email, snail mail, fax and voice mail.

With synchronous communications, you can easily signal your

friendliness because you either have facial expressions or a tone of voice
with which to befriend a member. With asynchronous, these relationship-
building signals are not available, except perhaps for voice mail, when you
can hear a smile. Thus, in written communications you must be an
obviously friendly communicator. I’ll focus on the telephone for now, but
these tips and techniques are for all six modes of communication.

Over the years, Telephone Doctor customer service training programs

have been presented to many conferences. It doesn’t matter where I speak,
someone from the audience comes up to me afterwards and asks if I can
bring a program to their organization.

After a few needs analysis questions it is pretty obvious training is needed.

Personal Note: I was a longtime member of an association and eventually

became its president. Several years later, I decided not to renew. When I
called to cancel my membership, all I heard was the perfunctory, “Okay,
thanks.” No one called. No one wrote to ask, “Why?” I figured no one
cared – at least that’s what I perceived.

Ya know what? It is NOT “okay” for a customer to be unhappy; to leave

you without finding out WHY or what happened.

HINT: When someone calls to cancel an order or complain or not renew a

membership, it is not “okay.” It’s often a failure attributable to
disinterested treatment, rudeness, or generally poor customer service. I’m
not saying the entire staff is bad, rude, or unfriendly, but what I hear most
is that the little things – the things that customers expect (and rightfully
should get) are missing.

We need to feel a cancellation, non-renewal or a complaint is like a death

in the family.

Another common thread is the lack of an organized employee orientation
program on customer service and telephone skills.

The usual scenario is: interview, hire, then train using trial by error – or
worse, on-the-job training from someone else who may not have had any
customer service training.

Let’s dust off the Welcome Mat.

Here are some helpful customer service tips to help you start, or
benchmark, your own customer service training program.

Bring your staff together at a time when everyone can attend and talk
about any frustrating customer events. Discuss how they handled them
versus how it could have been done. The meeting can be (and should be)
short, maybe 15-20 minutes, and it doesn’t need to be daily, but it does
need to be done!

Not having a customer service training program in place can cost your
company revenue and obviously customers. Also, poor service creates a
negative image for the entire organization, no matter how wonderful the
programs, products, or publications are that you offer.

And if staff has the attitude that no competition exists for the customer to
go to, tell them that may be right, but if one customer tells another about a
negative experience and so on down the line, you’ll probably lose more
customers. Then staff jobs will be lost, and eventually, bang – no

Take heed, it doesn’t matter if the staff is large or small, they still need to
be trained.

Here are three of the biggest mistakes in customer service:


Solution: Smile! It sounds insanely simplistic, doesn’t it? We’re taught

early on, that a smile can get us a lot. This is true even as adults, especially
on the telephone. Since the telephone is the most commonly used mode of

communication, your staff needs to understand why a smile works –
because you can hear a smile. I recommend keeping a mirror by your
desk, so when you pick up the receiver, you remember to smile and you
can see yourself smiling.

Sometimes we don’t feel like smiling. Smile anyway. The caller doesn’t
care if you feel like smiling or not. At Telephone Doctor, smiling before
you pick up the phone is a condition of employment; not smiling is
grounds for termination, and, yes, I have exercised that option. With
customer service as our top priority, we simply don’t tolerate not smiling
before you pick up the phone. Frankly, I’d rather have the caller think
your office is closed than to have you answer the phone in a negative
mood. (YES, the caller CAN HEAR the smile.)


Solution: Rapid responses – RR. Use what we have called our ‘mental
stamp.’ That means ‘this request or piece of information needs an
immediate and rapid response.’ When we receive an email, fax or note, we
immediately send that back to whoever sent it with the words, “Received
and will handle.” That way the person who asked for the information
knows you got the request and everything is moving in the right direction.
And it’s good communication.

Another very good habit to get into is to ask the caller when they ask for
something is: “And when would you be needing this information Mr.

Our surveys found that when a caller is asked when he or she would like
to receive the needed information, 80 percent of time they did not
automatically respond, “I need it now,” as you might expect. Thus, you
don’t need to promise, “I’ll get that to you right away.” Often, callers
won’t need something until tomorrow or next week. Asking for a
timetable of delivery is good customer service. And remember, “as soon
as possible” is not a time. Confirm a date.


Solution: Be a “double-checker.” It’s so easy to tell people, “It’s too late,”

or “We ran out of that report” or “we’re out of widgets.”

Instead, try: “Let me double-check on that for you.” It’s a wonderful

way to defuse any disappointment about you not having what they called
for in the first place. This simple statement of double checking
immediately defuses some of the tension of not being able to fulfill a
request completely. And often when we do double-check, we find a way to
get what the person wanted after all.

You now have three techniques (simple as they are) to kick-start your
customer service training program.

Remember, the entire staff, from president to maintenance needs to

embrace the customer service program or it won’t work. Be firm. The
company’s entire image is at stake since it is unlikely to get a second

Don’t have time? Make time. What or who is more important than
customers? You’ll be surprised at how much fun it is to hear a caller
say, “Thanks, you’ve been super.”

Five Ways to GET Good Customer Service

Let’s start by putting the shoe on the other foot. There are hundreds (or
more) articles on giving good customer service.

But how do you GET it? What’s the trick, if there is any, to getting good
service when the situation calls for it? We’ve got a few ideas and they

Stories of poor customer service are legendary. It seems everyone has a

tale of woe. The clerk who doesn’t know and/or doesn’t care; the voice
mail system with endless hoops to jump through to get to a human being
(if you even can); the surly fast food attendant; part-timers who may not
be trained. You get the idea.

Understand that the playing field has changed. Just ask any employer
who’s trying to hire people. It’s a different world today.

As I’ve often said, sometimes we hire people because they’re breathing.

Even then, it’s harder than it’s been in many years to find good help. So
what can you do to help to get better service?

Here are a few ways to be a good customer and increase your odds of
getting good service.

1. Don’t be shocked or get angry at less than great service. You’ll

probably make it worse. Be realistic. You may be dealing with a new
hire that probably has had very little training and perhaps no
experience. But there’s hope.

And by the way, it really helps when the “NEW” employee wears
that “I’m in training” button. We as customers tend to have a bit
more patience when we know ahead of time that someone is in
training. Yelling, screaming and demanding things just make you
look bad.

2. You, as the customer, can actually influence the type of customer
service you get. Just as an angry customer often has negative
emotions mirrored by the salesperson, so will a good greeting from
you, get better results. We use this approach a lot.

We were in Las Vegas and walked into a restaurant and right into a
rushed, harassed, upset hostess who clearly wasn’t into giving good

Instead of being insulted, demanding, or giving her back the cold

treatment, we said to her with a big smile: “Great, we’re getting a
cheery hostess who’s going to take very good care of us.” She took a
deep breath and we were rewarded with a big smile and gracious
service. She knew we understood. She may have just had the
customer from hell. But she wasn’t going to take it out on us. We
weren’t going to allow it. Kill ‘em with kindness works sometimes.

3. Plan how to win them over. I know, I know, it should be up to the

help to woo and win over the customer. And you’re right. That may
come back some day, but for now, the tables are often turned. You
may need to exert some effort if you want a pleasant experience.
Plan for it.

4. Sometimes it does take a second effort. The last few experiences the
other person had may have been brutal. Do what you can to establish
a friendly atmosphere. Smile and be in a good mood. Take control of
the situation. By the end of the transaction, you’ll probably be
having a far more positive relationship. Be obviously friendly and
smiling. It is contagious.

5. Accept the occasional situation where nothing works. Don’t take it

personally. And try not to get frustrated. Don’t YOU be the bad guy.
That salesperson or employee will be abrasive to the customers that
follow you as he was to the ones before you. If you want to enhance
the MAJORITY of your customer service experiences, you can.

It rarely does any good or has any value to be the complainer, the
bad guy. Best case, if it’s unsolvable, as my husband says, “Spank
‘em with your wallet.” Just don’t go back.

As a consumer, take more responsibility. Radiate your own good

mood and attitude and see if you’re not treated better. As my mother
used to say “couldn’t hurt.”

Eight Sinful Customer Service Actions

This is not MY list. These “sins” are from my audiences who share their
views when I speak at conferences across the country. We survey the
groups to find out what bothers them from companies.

And man, how they love to vent. And they love to let me know what bugs
them, what frustrates them, how they want to be treated as a customer.
Usually a freewheeling discussion and one that gets my attention a lot. It
should get yours.

So listen up. Your customers are talking to you. And customer service
training can help you.

Drum roll please…in no particular order. By the way, these go for on the
phone or in person. As a matter of fact, all 6 touch points of

Sin #1 – Not smiling

Man is that important. Our Telephone Doctor motto: “A phony smile is

better than a real frown” would have helped the gal who was trying to
help me one day. What a poopy face she had on her. I refused to let it get
me down or let her infect me at all. I smiled all the way through our
conversation. Am pretty sure it aggravated her. As my husband says, “Just
be glad her head isn’t on your body.”

Sin #2 – Co-workers talking to each other; ignoring the customer

That’s an OMG! Stop talking to ‘each other’ when a customer walks into
the store. Immediately. Talk with them! Wave to them. Smile at them. If
you’re talking with another customer, they’ll see how nice you
acknowledge all the others.

Sin #3 – Not caring

Your customer can tell, immediately, if you ‘care’ or not. Right. The
immediate interaction retailers make with the customer needs to be a
‘caring’ one. Your facial expressions, your tone of voice, your listening
skills. They can tell if you judge them as an annoyance or not. It’s usually
written all over your face. It’s the old saying “the customer doesn’t care
how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

Sin #4 – A poor attitude

There are dozens, ok hundreds, of articles on how important ATTITUDES

are in connecting with customers. Almost everyone in customer service
has written one. But it’s not something you can easily, if at all, teach. The
difference between attitude and moods? Attitudes are permanent. Moods
are temporary. Find staff with permanent good attitudes and you’ll have
less bad moods, because those of us with a great attitude don’t like to
wallow in the bad mood department. It’s not rocket science. It’s not brain
surgery. It’s plain old common sense.

Sin #5 – Rushing the customer

Everyone is busy. Ballgames to go to. Appointments to make. Things to

do. Yada, yada. The answer to that? Thank God we’re busy. We should be
thanking our lucky stars we’re busy. But being busy does not give you
carte blanche to rush folks. An easy, fresh smile to the person who’s
waiting will go a lonnnnnnnng way! Count on that.

Sin #6 – Not listening

Listening skills, my friends, is the number one skill or trait our customers
want from us. Time after time that trumps the list of ‘what do I want.’
Listen to us talk; to our questions. Listen to our requests.

Sin #7 – Don’t point – take them

There are a handful of stores that when you ask them where something is
will take you to the spot. There needs to be more stores like that. Nuf said.

Sin #8 – Pushing customers off to the WEBSITE because you’re busy

or you don’t want to help

Customers are pretty smart. If they want your website, they normally can
find it all by themselves. Pushing them to the website because you’re too
busy or don’t feel like helping is a major sin. It’s like asking them to leave
your house.

Be more responsive. Interact with the customer. Don’t push them to the
website at the first chance. Chances are they’ll find a competitors site first
and never see yours. Bingo – lost a sale. If you ‘have’ to get them to your
site, you might consider going with them and helping them along.

It was a long list; I shortened it.

Do We Script or Do We Talk?

For years, I have been working with companies to upgrade, tweak, and
help with scripts for their sales and/or customer service reps.

Fast forward. Now, we’re trying to get our clients who ask for help with a
script to CONSIDER going to conversations with aided recall. There is
danger and pitfalls to both scripts and conversations, though. Let me

Scripts were designed for actors. Actors know how to read a script. Most
folks don’t. It’s that simple. When you give a person a script they tend to
‘read’ it. Well what’s wrong with that, Nancy? Aren’t you suppose to read
a script?

Yes, but it’s the old HOW you read it that counts. We have all been
accosted by a phone call and someone poorly reading their script. Yawn,
yawn or worse.

And in professional scripts, there are words for everyone (all actors) to
respond. In your business script, there’s normally only words for what the
rep is saying. There are no words for the customer - the responder (the
other actor). Oh, there may be some things like ‘if the customer says this;
you say that. If the customer says that; you say this.’ So what happens if
the customer says something that makes the rep go off course in your
script? Do we say, “Excuse me, sir, that’s not in my script?”

Here’s a big time tip: If you want to continue using scripts, that’s fine;
however, I suggest you have the person who will be reading the script
READ it to you, or better yet, over the phone to you, as well. How does it
sound? Tape it. Let them hear it too. (Let them go to another room and call
in on your cell or another phone. It’s not a big deal.) The best place to do
this is in the initial interview.

But what happens if you already have them on board? And now after
reading this you realize they’re just reading the script blah, blah, blah. We
can lose a lot of business that way or you can do our DRAMA 101.
That’s when you have someone you really want to hire, (or is already on
staff) but you’re not happy with the ‘read’ or the audition.

DRAMA 101: Bring in a newspaper or magazine article. Tell them they’re

being interviewed for FOX News or CNN and have them read the article
as they would on the air. It’s very sobering.

Scripts are ok and if used right, even great. But those that use scripts need
to be great IMPROV folks. Improv is not easy. But it’s a good exercise in
having a conversation. Some of us are good at it, some are not.

Let’s face it. The folks coming into the work place today, the millennials
and such, aren’t very versed in ‘conversations.’ After, “Hey, how ‘ya
doing?” or “Hey, what’s up?” there’s not much else. So we’re going to
need to teach them; show them; help them:

A. How to read a script or

B. How to handle and interact in a conversation.

Believe me, neither is a piece of cake.

One other thing about scripts. I’m a professional actress and have worked
with some big names over the years. We all memorized a script. What you
find when you read a script is a possessiveness from the author. Anyone
who has written a script doesn’t like you to change the words. And you
shouldn’t. They were written with a reason.

Take Neil Simon, the brilliant playwriter. If we changed his words we

might not get the same laughs, the same reaction. So when you’re given a
script and you want to change stuff ASK about changing words before you
do it. Changing authors words without permission could cause collateral
damage. Like your job!

I’ve given you a few quick tips on how to work with the scripts. Now
here’s some for ‘conversations.’

Some of us can have a conversation with a tree and come out looking
good. We understand a conversation. We know how to ask questions.
We’re quick on our feet. We turn on a dime. But we’re not all the same.
Some of us need a bit of help. Okay, most. Think about having the staff
use some sort of aided recall.

AIDED RECALL. These are ‘bullet’ points that will help guide the
conversation along. They allow the person to handle a conversation better
until they ‘get it’ and perhaps stand on their own. (Which sadly, they may
never.) You need to understand that. It’s sort of a ‘cheat’ sheet, if you will.

Aided recall bullet points are words or short phrases that will help the rep
remember the entire phrase.

Example: If we wanted the rep to say: “I’m calling for a donation. You
made a $50 pledge last year and we hope we can count on you this year.”
The bullet point might be “donation/thank you/again? Please.”

You see, it’s key words that make the conversation good. And bullet
points help.

So unless you’re hiring Matthew McConaughey who can read the script
right, try some of our tips.

Did you ever notice on some of the talk shows how some of the famous
folks can’t handle a simple conversation? That’s because they can only
handle a script. The words need to be written out for some folks. And
some folks can turn on a dime.

So as I say, there are pitfalls to both the script and the conversation. Make
sure you know what your folks are best at doing.

Be sure you hear them on the phone with you before you put them on
the phone with your customers! Remember most folks taking or
making calls for you are not seasoned sales people or actors. They’re
good hard working folks who can scare the lead away.

Seven Yucky Email Phrases

We did a survey a while back at one of my speaking engagements. I

wanted to know what really bugged folks about emails they receive. The
top 3 were:

* Poor spelling and grammar (Your, you’re; there, their; here, hear; to,
too, two; and many more.)
* Email that are too long
* Wrong subject lines

There were many more, but these rose to the top. Now I’m about to share
the phrases used in emails that are not very effective. They are not bad;
simply useless, unnecessary and not needed. When these phrases are
eliminated, the emails usually read better.

Here we go:

1. “Just a note to let you know…” or “Just wanted to say…” or

“I’m just checking back to see where we are on the order.” JUST
is a weak, wimpy, word. Not necessary. In fact, pretty lame and
useless. Eliminate the word JUST in your sentences. Read those
sentences without the word “just” and see how much stronger they

2. “As I (or you) mentioned on the phone” or “Pursuant to our call

(conversation, whatever).” Double work, not needed, not
necessary. Confirm the statement instead, with: “Glad you liked the
proposal” or “Enjoyed our call” or “Here’s a handy recap of our
call” or “Good call and excited we can make ‘X’ happen.” Email is a
time to use your personality. Formal sayings, unless you’re a lawyer
(sorry), aren’t normally needed.

3. “Please let me know if you have any questions.” You gotta be

kidding me! Hard to believe folks still use this, but they do. Most
folks will let you know if they have questions. That’s a real junior
4. “If there’s anything else I can do, please let me know.” This one
goes with #3. Seriously? That’s a real ‘get rid’ of line. It’s normally
OUR responsibility to follow up. So a better phrase would be: “Trust
me to follow up to handle your questions.”

5. “Thank you for supporting us.” or “Thank you for your

support.” I admit, I used this one for a while until I realized, “Thank
you for your order” or “Thank you for your business” or “Thank you
for being a loyal, valuable client” was more effective.

6. Long rambling emails. Not a phrase, but an annoyance. Sales

people tend to want to give the client alllllll the information. But
today we get emails on our iPhone, iPad, and who knows where else.
Some even on the new Apple Watch. Not too much room for a long

7. Keep your subject line accurate and interesting. Topics change

within the email. Keep up with the subject line. Make your emails

Remember, less is more. Long, rambling, wordy emails aren’t

normally necessary. And watch your spelling and grammar. Use your
personality. Personalize the email. Keep it interesting. Avoid the
YUCKY phrases.

Costly Corporate Comments

We have all said them. We have all heard them. They aren’t dirty. They’re
not 4 letter words. They’re not bad.

They are comments that can and do cost your company time and money
each time they are said. Why? Because normally they stop the
conversation and divert it to something non-related to what’s really at
stake or what you’re talking about.

These are the top costly corporate comments. Yes, there are more. And
they can be said to anyone. Clients, co-workers, and family as well.
They’re not in any special order. Recognize them?

* “I willllllll!”

* “I’ll try.”

* “I thought I did.”

* “I usually do.”

* “I just was going to.”

Let’s talk about them.

1. The “I willlll!!!!!” is usually dragged out and often in a very

squeaky tone. And usually dragged out enough to annoy the other
person – a lot. It’s normally said because the person ‘forgot’ to do
what you asked.

2. “I’ll try.” You know what? I expect you to try. That’s a given. And
frankly, insulting to me. It’s as though you’re telling me, “Gee you
asked for the moon.” Most customers don’t ask for the moon. They
simply ask for what they need. “I’ll try” is really pretty useless.
Best to avoid it.

The other phrase that’s close to this one that frustrates folks is: “I’ll
try my best.” OMG! Well, if you’re going to “try,” of course I’d
expect you to do your best. My goodness. When someone asks you
to do something, it should either be a yes or no. If it’s not feasible,
you can say, “Mr. Jones, I double-checked and unfortunately, the
widget you need is not available.” (Or whatever the inserted word
should be.)

“I’ll try” or “I’ll try my best.” USELESS!

3. “I thought I did.” So of what value is that? “Let me double check

that for you, I may have forgotten” is far better than “I thought I
did.” Yes, we all forget things. That’s a given. But starting with a
positive is much better than offering a negative. Telephone Doctor
is a language of positive statements at the top of the conversation.
We’re all about starting with a positive vs. starting the conversation
with a negative.

4. “I usually do.” Well, yeah, but you didn’t. That’s just a big old
excuse for “I forgot.” Better to say that! “I usually do” means you

5. “I was just going to…” Another loser statement. Normally said

when a deadline was missed or you forgot to do something.

Costly corporate comments are time wasters.

Why We Don’t Always Need to Agree with the

As most of you are aware, all the stories we share with you at our onsite
programs and in our newsletters, blogs, etc., are true. Nothing is made up.
They either happened to me personally, I witnessed them, or I verified the
information if I am going to share it. Credibility is key to Telephone

We don’t make anything up. That being said, I want to share a story that
happened to me a while back. It’s a clear example of WHY we don’t need
to agree with the customer all the time.

I went into my bank prepared to make some minor changes to a few

accounts. It was a Saturday and the only other folks in the bank were the
teller and the one lady (who never gave me her name and had no badge)
who tried to help me.

I say ‘tried’ because it was a comedy of errors. Now, please know, just
because I’m the Telephone Doctor I do not make a big deal out of poor
service. I don’t try and teach the person what to do on the spot when I
don’t agree. If they’ve done something not customer friendly I usually
spank them with my wallet and go elsewhere. Very few people appreciate
on the spot training. So I just take notes.

Anyway, after many faux pas in her service I get up to leave. I turned
around to her and said (with a smile), “Oh, by the way, you’re online
banking stinks. It’s not very user friendly.”

Drum roll please.

Without missing a beat she says to me, “Oh yes, we hear that a lot.”
(Almost as though she was proud of it.)

All I could muster up was a blank stare. I released my shock and said,
“OK, have a nice day.” I got the same back.

While I didn’t tell her what to say, I will tell you, our readers.

 She never introduced herself. (I should have asked but I waited to

see if she would.)
 She didn’t ask for my name; just my account number.
 She rarely smiled.
 At the end when I said, “I wonder, could I have done this over the
phone?” She nicely said, “Sure you could have.” (Why didn’t she
tell me that first?)

So again, I didn’t try and ‘fix’ her on these points. But when I told her
how bad the online banking was and have her tell me, “Yes, we hear that a
lot” it floored me.

Where was: “Oh my goodness, tell me what happened.” Where was a pen
and paper to jot my notes down as I told her my concerns about their
online banking so she might share with whatever department to fix it?
Where was some sympathy? Had she ever had the same problems?

Why didn’t she let me know, if this ever happens again, we can make it
easier for you on the phone. You wouldn’t need to make a special trip.

Where was her training?

Sorry folks, this is basic Customer Service 101.

Listen to the customer. They aren’t always looking for you to agree
with them; sometimes they just need you to help them. To hear them,
to see them, to listen to them.

What’s the #1 Trait Employers Want in an

Engage with me. What top trait do YOU want in your employee?

One of the questions we ask in our keynote or workshop presentations is

“What is the number one trait an employer wants in his employees?”

And, as you might imagine, we get all sorts of answers like: Attitude -
Honesty - Smiles - Courtesy - Be on time - Personality - Friendliness and
the list goes on.

You know the routine. You probably have a list of your own. However,
the one trait that keeps rising to the top in all of our surveys is seldom
mentioned within the top three.

It’s Responsibility/Ownership/Accountability and yes, stepping up to

the plate. No complaining, blaming or passing the buck.

Responsibility is living up to a previously agreed upon commitment. “It’s

not my fault” and those other useless phrases are X’d out of the

Follow through and dependability demonstrate a service mentality of

responsibility. Likewise, living up to previously agreed upon
commitments to our customers like call backs and follow ups are
behaviors that demonstrate responsibility as well.

Ownership – hands down! Learn to step up to the plate.

Are You Really “Engaged”?

A short, but ongoing course. Are you really engaged? Do you and your
staff really know how to engage and interact with the customers? Do they
even know what it means?

Seems as though every year there’s a “new” word in customer service.

And this year it’s been “engagement.” Engage the customer.

What’s it mean? Or better yet, what does it NOT mean?

The answer to what it’s NOT is it’s NOT the customer service experience.
Don’t confuse the two. They are quite different.

It is just as you might imagine, when you might have popped ‘the
question,’ (or said “yes” if you were the one being asked), you normally
went into what is called an ‘engagement’ period.

That’s the time before the marriage. Time to better know and understand
someone you’re supposed to spend a lifetime with. Sometimes it’s short
and sometimes it’s a longer period of time. But usually there’s an
‘engagement’ period.

And so it is with our customers. Before they can BUY, before they can
become our customer (before we ‘marry’ them), we need to get ‘engaged.’
Make sense? Or starting to?

Right, you don’t just walk up to someone and say, “Hello” and then head
for the altar. It’s the same idea in the sales and customer service world.
There’s an old sales saying: “The customer has to buy YOU first, before
they buy the product.” And it’s true.

You need to spend a bit of time ‘engaging the customer’ before they buy
or use your services. The engagement is the time to wine and dine the
customer; not physically, but mentally and emotionally. Yes, to be on your
best behavior. And you usually are. But as in marriage, it need not, and
should not, must not, stop there.
I’ve never considered divorce (murder yes, not divorce). However, those
who have been through divorce coincidentally all shared a similar story to
me. “They changed” I’ve been told. “They were so nice during the
engagement period, but afterwards, it all changed.”

I have always wondered why. Why be one way to get the customer and
then another way after you get them? No wonder customers get upset. And
when you think of it, in an engagement, you are each other’s ‘customers.’

So to make it a bit easier for you to learn how to engage a customer, below
are a few (and only a few) ideas to ‘get engaged’ with your customer.

A reminder “Hi, how are you?” is not an engagement line. Nor is “Hi, can
I help you?” Those are as we say, semi-useless phrases.

To ENGAGE the customer one simply needs to follow these engagement


* When a call comes in or a customer walks into your location, let

them know they called or came into the right place! This is not
brain surgery; just use those exact words.

* Names are critical of course. To gain a customer’s name, you need

to introduce yourself first; then ask theirs.

* Smiling is a condition of employment and grounds for termination.

Can’t make that strong enough! Not smiling is not an option.

* We need to remember, the customer is NOT always right; they

always THINK they are right. Deal with the situation that way and
it’s much easier to handle.

* Don’t argue with the customer. You’ll lose every single time. You
will never win.

* Watch out for ‘Killer Words.’ These are words that will stop a
conversation or even kill the conversation. A few killer words to
beware of from our surveys are: “No problem,” “It’s not our

policy,” “You don’t seem to understand.” We have plenty more of
them to be sure. These happened to have gone right to the top.

* Be a double checker. No one likes to hear, “I don’t know” or “We

don’t have that.” Learn how to create the Telephone Doctor
language of “positive statements at the top of the conversation.”
Once you do, the engagement period can start to move along.

* Please, thank you and you’re welcome will never go out of style.

It’s still not time to put the ring on the customer’s finger, but you’ll be
headed in the right direction with these steps or ‘Rules of Engagement.’

You can be engaging if you try.

11+ Theater Skills That Play a Starring Role
in Customer Service

What type of theater experience have you ever had?

Why do I ask you that question? Because if you have ever been on stage,
in a play, part of a band, chorus, dance group, stage manager, grip, sound,
prompter, make up, lighting, director, or any form of theater where the
audience and other co-workers are depending on you, then you probably
already know the answer to why I ask.

And you probably have a great background for customer service!

I have a professional theater background and it has helped my career

thrive immensely in the customer service arena. Now, it doesn’t mean if
you don’t have a theater background you won’t be good in customer
service, it just means you’ll understand the mentality of customer service
faster and perhaps better.

Theater 101 as I call it is a perfect precursor to being in customer service.

It prepares you in the best way for all these topics and many more. I
fibbed, there are more than 11 skills. That’s a good thing though. Here
they are:

* Interacting with others

* Being on time
* Knowing priorities
* Learning how to say something even when you forget your lines
* Knowing how to have a phony smile even when you don’t want to
* Understanding your problems are just that: your problems
* Learning to work well with others, even if you don’t like them
* Understanding how it all ‘comes’ together
* Helping others when they forget or don’t know what to say

* Learning the ‘show must go on’ mentality
* Learning how to read a script without sounding like it
* Knowing the applause is for everyone
* No complaining
* Keeping your lines sounding fresh no matter how many times you’ve
said them
* Getting it right ‘the first time’
* Practice, practice and more practice
* Learning to go with the flow

Here’s a real life example of “The Show Must Go On” skill.

On the day of one of our Saturday performances (we did a matinee and
evening show) I got a bee sting on my foot. It swelled up and I couldn’t
put my shoe on that foot.

I had a show to do at 2 pm. What to do; what to do? Sure, I could go

barefoot, but that might ruin the show for the others. And certainly for the
audience. Theater minds do not want to do that.

So the theater mind in me said, “Figure it out, Nancy. Do something. You

need to be at the theater in 1 hour and 45 minutes.”

Theater minds are not necessarily logical minds. However, we are

spontaneous. We are quick thinkers. We know something has to be done
and we figure out how. My husband has a bigger foot than I do but that
wasn’t going to look very good if I wore his shoes. (Didn’t go with my
outfit anyway.)

What to do; what to do?

I believe I did what most fellow actors would do. I thought of something.
The stinger of the bee was removed. I took two aspirins and took my own
shoes for the show with me to the theater. I got to the theater in time for

the 30 minute call and told the stage manager (theater translation: The
Boss) what happened. “However,” I said, “I’ll be ok. It feels a little bit
better and I can squeeze into the shoe.”

So that’s what I did. I squeezed into the shoe and the show went on. The
performance was great. The audience never knew anything was wrong.

Was I in pain? Yes. However, I knew I had a job to do. I wasn’t going to
let the other actors down and I certainly wouldn’t let the audience down.
In essence they were all my customers. They were depending on me.

QUESTION: If you got a bee sting on your foot, would you go to work?
Would you be able to talk with customers and not let that effect you?
Would you complain about it, talk about it until others were sick of
hearing about it?

The theater mind is one that thinks of the audience before themselves.
In reality it’s the same with your customers. Think of them, before
you. Remember, customer service is the ‘stage;’ the customers are
your ‘audience.’ Make yourself a STAR.

Scattered Random Thoughts

As an admitted ADD, I’ve always wanted to do an article like this; sharing

thoughts that randomly come into my mind. Some are business thoughts
and some are personal. Enjoy.

* I really have a hard time with the person who says, “Oh, ok” when
I’ve just logged a complaint. It’s as though they didn’t hear me.
That’s not the right thing to say when I’m not a happy camper.

* Don’t you hate it when you let someone in front of you in traffic and
they don’t wave a thank you?

* Forrest Tucker of F Troop, for those who remember, once told me,
“Some folks get overcome with the smell of their own perfume.”
Great statement when you realize what he meant.

* Why does the nurse say, “The doctor will be right with you” and then
they don’t show up for 45 minutes.

* How about the person who takes the last cup of coffee from the pot
and doesn’t make more?

* Ever wonder why some folks aren’t able to laugh at themselves?

* Someone once told me, “Grow old with your audience.” So I update
my press picture every 2 years. Makes a big difference.

* It really bothers me when a customer service rep “reads” their

message. All it would take to personalize it, and have it sound more
natural, is a few rehearsals. It would make a big difference to

* Most people aren’t aware you are not married to the voice that came
with your automated attendant. You can do it yourself or bring in a

fun voice. We find that it’s not always the AA that is the problem; it’s
the blah, blah robotic voice folks object to.

* And speaking of automated attendants, are you as frustrated as I am

with the “voice recognition” machines? OMG! They seldom
recognize anything I’m saying.

* I personally don’t believe there is a generational issue out there.

* When I am having trouble on the phone with an accent from another

country, what I tell them is a far cry from what I’m actually thinking.
(The old “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”)

* I can’t get my teeth cleaned at the dentist without the gas that puts me

* Why do people put “I’ll call you back as soon as possible” on their
voice mail message and then don’t?

* If chocolate only came in milk chocolate I’d be so thin. Only like


* Am I the only one who dislikes it when the person helping me on the
phone (or in person) is chomping on gum?

* I really wanted to meet Johnny Carson and Johnny Cash.

* When you call to sell me something, why don’t you ever ask if it’s a
good time to talk?

* Ladies Only: When my mate/partner/whatever tells me I look “fine,”

why doesn’t that sound good enough?

* Why don’t people know the difference between their, there & they’re
and you’re and your?

* Why don’t some people wash their hands when leaving the restroom?
Don’t you just want to yell out, “Hey you, come back; you forgot to
wash your hands”?

* I wonder why owners and managers don’t call their own companies
to see how their customers are handled.

* Men Only: What’s with the not asking for directions? Who started
that one? That’s sad. You’d get here twice as fast if you’d ask.

* Why do they ask, “Can I take a message” and you say, “Yes” and
start talking and they say, “Wait, I gotta get a pencil.” Duh!

* If you haven’t seen Jersey Boys yet, add it to your wanna do list.
Great show!

* Do you agree with me? Common sense isn’t so common.

* Why don’t people send handwritten thank you notes anymore?

* How come no one ever thinks ‘they’ are rude?

* Why don’t you leave your phone number TWICE and SLOWLY on
voice mail instead of rattling through it?

* I miss Simon on American Idol.

* Are you noticing it’s not just the kids who walk and text and don’t
look where they’re going? The big folks are just as guilty.

Hey, wanna go for a bike ride?

A Day in the Life of a Mystery Shopper

Since customer service is my job, every once in a while I do my own

mystery shopping.

A while ago, I had kept a diary of the places I called and shopped at for
one single day. The customer service rating went from zero (being none
was there) to a ten (being great). Here’s an entry from my diary from a
Monday a while back.

After work I stopped at my regular grocery store. Just needed a few items.
And, as you would imagine, I came up with far more than I came in to
purchase. I was very lucky. I saw an empty lane and went directly to it.
Mind you now, I’m a regular customer. Three to four times a week, for
many years. In fact, this particular lane had someone who had helped me
many times before.

Well, there was no smile. No recognition whatsoever. So I looked at her

shirt, which had a “YOU CAN COUNT ON ME TO HELP YOU” button
(or something to that effect). I don’t recall the exact words. They,
however, became useless words.

Without a “hello,” “good to see you,” or anything else, her first words to
me were, “Any coupons?” Gee, I said (as I have 1,348 times before
because I’m not a coupon user) “not tonight.” No response from the
woman on that.

Throughout the encounter, she yawned right in my face without covering

her mouth a minimum of four times. I usually say something about that
(like COVER YOUR MOUTH!), but I also usually embarrass my husband
who was with me, so I didn’t say anything. I wonder if I had asked her to
cover her mouth when she yawned if she would have. Someone needed to
tell her. It was disgusting. She finally did tell me after the fourth yawn, “I
am so tired.” No kidding, I thought. I could hardly tell. I only worked 12
hours that day myself. I didn’t have much pep, but I didn’t yawn in her

After the inevitable “paper or plastic” question which I’m constantly
wanting to feign indecision on “Good Lord, choices, choices.” (But again,
it would embarrass my husband), I smiled and said, “Let’s do the old
plastic.” (Sometimes I ask the counter person to help choose for me. Then
they look so mystified!)

Time to pay. I heard the amount, gave my card, got to punch in my secret
number. “Any cash back?” she asked. She finished the encounter and I got
a perfunctory, “Have a nice day.” (Actually she said that to the floor, not
me.) Not exactly “The Friendliest Store in Town.”

Why should these few things bother me? Well, they just happen so often!
And I would be willing to bet that the things that bother me bother most
customers. How ‘bout you?

Yawning with your mouth wide open and not covering it is rude and just
plain bad manners. I don’t think I want to go through her checkout line
again. Plus, when I gave her my credit card with my name on it, shouldn’t
she use my name? Why should I feel like a stranger in a store I frequent
three or four times a week?

While this happened at the supermarket, it could have been any type of
department store, or utility, or government, or flower shop, or whatever.

And this was only the first day in the week of the “mystery shopper.”

Customer service training should be a part of your new employee

orientation program. Is it?

Using Role Play in Customer Service

It’s plain old theater folks. Some like it; some don’t. While we cannot
defuse false anger (Nancy circa 1990), there are those who like to role
play and feel it’s one of the more successful techniques in customer
service training. I’m not a big fan of role playing; however, there are those
who are and I do want to give you some ideas for those that do enjoy role
playing in their training.

The process involves the trainer presenting the role play scenario and
asking for volunteers to play the roles. (Volunteers meaning YOU.) The
trainer provides the ground rules. Then selected trainees act out the
scenario and the entire class analyzes the role playing.

Consider two approaches:

In the first, the players can attempt to think, speak, and behave like
someone else. Being an irate customer is a natural role play for customer
service training. This can teach the trainees to identify with other people
and their problems, and to appreciate different perspectives. But again, it’s
very difficult to defuse false anger.

In the second approach, the players are themselves and report a

particularly frustrating experience they have had as customers. This makes
it more ‘real.’

While role playing can be conducted in pairs or small subgroups, the

procedures are quite effective when staged in front of the entire class.
(Yes, scary if they’re not use to it, but get a life.) All trainees can
normally, therefore, find ways to handle the roles. Alternative solutions
can be tried which reflect company policies and various methods of
dealing with customers.

To enhance role playing, use probing questions during the analysis of the
scenario to guide trainees to arrive at workable solutions:

How well can you predict the reactions of the irate customers?

How else might the situation be managed?

What are effective approaches you have used?

In summary, what have we learned from this?

A ready list of subjects about customer problems from which the players
can choose for role playing and discussion is helpful. Here are a few both
in person and on the phone.

 The store employee has just told you the item you want is out of
stock. That’s all they said. Play the scene out.

 In calling a company, you’re trying to reach a human being and all

you get is the automated attendant. Finally, someone answers. You
want to know why you were not able to reach a human more

 You’re trying to purchase an item and the person assisting you

only gives one-word answers.

 You need someone to help you. After waiting in line for several
minutes, you see that the clerk is fiddling with some paperwork,
ignoring you. When asked if you could be helped, you’re told to
“hang on a sec. I’ll be right with you.”

If these role playing scenarios seem close to home, it’s because most of us
have experienced them. It brings everyday occurrences to the customer
service training class. It’s a way of making the training realistic.

Role playing demands some skill and practice on the part of the trainer.
Deft handling of participants is needed. But you’ll feel an enormous sense
of accomplishment when you get an attendee, who may not have wanted
to role play, up in front and being excited about pretending to be a

There are those who might refuse or feel uncomfortable about role
playing. If that’s so, they may feel odd about handling a service
‘experience’ as well. Just saying.

8 Tips on How to Handle Holiday Shopping

Crowds, complaints, confusion. Yes, these are the big three this time of
the year and add in one big “S” for stress.

The good news is there are ways around all of them.

1. Learn how to be a good customer, and learn how to make a

good complaint. Mom said it best. “You get more with sugar than
you do with vinegar.” She was right. Hold the temper. No
swearing. And, yes, smile. Facial expressions mean so much,
especially at this time of the year. Often more than words whether
you are on the phone or in person.

2. Sympathize with the one helping you. Yes, this helps since they
get hit with a lot of B.S., grumps, crazies, goof balls, and all
sorts. You be the good one. A bit of sympathy and empathy goes a
long way with the person helping you.

3. Ask about return policies in advance or at the time of

purchase. Don’t let it be a surprise two months from now. No
returns allowed? Might not want to get the item there. Knowing
these matters in advance helps a lot. Some places allow exchanges
versus returns.

4. Save receipts. Make notes on them. Make sure you save who you
worked with including names, dates and times. Staple the receipt to
a large sheet of paper. Keep them in a file – until June.

5. Stay calm, cool and collected. Rage, anger and loudness won’t
help the situation. It only worsens it.

6. Be Prepared. You’ll often meet up with temporary holiday help,

or sadly, those who don’t care. To them it’s just a ‘job’ at the

holiday. Realize in advance this can happen. It will help keep your
blood pressure in check.

7. Remember, when you’re making a return or have a

complaint, the person you’re working with in all probability is
not the person who caused the problem. Why take it out on
them? Avoid “emotional leakage,” getting mad at Peter and taking
it out on Paul. It is not fair, not right, and definitely not fun.

8. Finally if you leave an anonymous complaint, either on the

phone or online, keep in mind they cannot fix what they do not
know. Blasting some company online is only a form of ‘bullying.’
Not a good approach.

Remember what your mother told you, “If you can’t say anything
nice; don’t say anything at all.”

6 Cardinal Rules of Customer Service

FACT: The best weapon for a successful business is customer service.

It’s that simple. We will pay more for better service!

So whether you’re a small business owner or Hewlett Packard or only

looking for ways to improve, read on. We believe in helping businesses
get better at communicating with their customers.

To get off on the right foot with your customers whether it’s via phone or
face-to-face, or any of the other touch points, here are the Telephone
Doctor’s six cardinal rules of customer service.

Adapting these easy steps will make your day, and more importantly,
make the customer’s day a better experience for you and your company.

Cardinal Rule # 1 – People Before Paperwork

When someone walks into your place of business, or calls you while
you’re working on something, drop everything for that person. Remember,
paper can wait, people should not. We’ve all been abused when we go
shopping and been ignored and we know how that feels. Let’s not abuse
our own customers. Remember: People before paperwork.

Cardinal Rule # 2 - Rushing Threatens Customers

Sure, you may understand something real quick, but rushing the customer
along will only lead to them feeling intimidated and you won’t see them
coming back to you. Take it easy. Remember, speed is not success! Trying
to be “done” with a customer as quickly as possible is seen as being rude
and uncaring. Take your time with each and every contact.

Cardinal Rule # 3 – Company Jargon

Ever get a report from a company and not understand it? Some companies
have company jargon that makes the CIA wonder what’s up. Be very
careful not to use your own company jargon on your customers. You and
your employees may understand it very well, but the customer may not.
And you’ll only cause a lot of unnecessary confusion. Spell things out for
your customers. Don’t abbreviate. Remember our motto: don’t use
military language on civilians.

Cardinal Rule # 4 – Don’t Be Too Busy To Be Nice

Hey, everyone’s busy! Bad excuse. Being busy does not give you carte
blanche to be rude. Remember, you meet the same people going down, as
you do going up. They’ll remember you. (What’s worse than being busy?
NOT being busy.)

Cardinal Rule # 5 – “Uh huh” is not ‘Thank You’ — “There ya go” is

not ‘You’re Welcome’

How often do you hear these slang phrases? We need to remember ‘Thank
you’ and ‘You’re welcome’ are beautiful words. The customer cannot hear
them too often. However, if you’re telling your customers to “have a nice
day,” please say it with meaning! I recently had a checkout clerk tell the
FLOOR to have a nice day. She never looked at me. Make eye contact
when you’re saying something nice.

Cardinal Rule # 6 – Be Friendly BEFORE You Know Who It Is

There’s a good lesson to be learned here. The Telephone Doctor motto:

SMILE BEFORE you know who it is. It will earn you many classic
customer service points. The customer needs to know you want to work
with them, no matter who they are. Remember, sometimes it’s way too
late to smile and be friendly after you know who it is.

Any one of these tips can boost your customer service!

Be A Little Kinder Than You Have To

I used to work at a major TV station in Chicago and worked with a

gentleman who soon became CEO of same. We remained friends until his
untimely passing.

Within those years I learned a lot from him and one was the title of this

We were having lunch at the infamous Wrigley Building Restaurant when

a competitor came up to talk with him. I watched quietly as the
conversation was filled with handshakes, smiles and complimentary

When the competitor left I said, “Wow, that was odd. You were so kind
and nice; and I know he’s not one of your favorites.”

“Right,” he said, “but he’ll never know it.”

Then I saw a sign on my daughters Facebook page with those words on it,
talking about the BULLY PROJECT.

I thought, I’m gonna take that to heart. There’s no reason to be mean to

someone just because I don’t care for them. They hadn’t hurt me or my
family. Merely an irritant to me. Could I ignore that and them and be a
little kinder to them?

I tried it and it’s working.


everyone. It will do you a world of good. Start now . . . let’s do it all
year round!

10 Secrets Your Customers Won’t Tell You
but We Will

Most business owners know that customers will walk and take their
business elsewhere if they’re not treated as they’d like to be. But how does
a business owner find out what the customer really likes or dislikes?
Surveys are “OK” but in my opinion, not 100% on target.

Your customers have told Telephone Doctor what they won’t tell you.
Here are TEN things only your best friend will tell you. (By the way, that
would be us).

Dear Telephone Doctor –

1. Nobody greeted me when I walked into your store. No one said,

“Hello,” no one asked if they could help me, and no one said
goodbye when I walked out. Well, at least I wasn’t any trouble.

2. Your sales staff looked tired. Yea, they did. Otherwise why
wouldn’t they greet me with a big smile and some enthusiasm? It
didn’t look like they even wanted me in the place.

3. I bought a lot of stuff. I couldn’t believe no one said, “Thank you.”

No one told me to enjoy my purchase. I did get a luke warm, “Have
a nice day.” But it was said so routinely, it didn’t mean anything to

4. When I phoned for some information, my call was treated as an

annoyance. I sensed very little desire to be of any real help. Know
what I did then? I called a few more places until I found one who
sounded as though they wanted my order.

5. Whoever answered your phone never identified themselves. I

happen to like to know who I’m talking with (they sure wanna
know mine) and when I don’t, it hurts any trust I might give your

6. During the phone call, the voice of whoever answered sounded
aggressive and challenging. I didn’t feel very welcomed.

7. When I walked in, all your employees were talking and laughing
amongst themselves and ignored me until I asked a question. And
then it was as though they were upset; as though I interrupted them.

8. There was no management around. Remember the old saying,

“when the boss is away, the mice will play.” Guess what? They do.

9. When I told your staff about my problem, which was important to

me, no one sympathized with me. It was ‘business as usual’ for

10. Everyone looked angry. No one was smiling. Remember,

sometimes it’s the things you ‘don’t do’ that make me want to go

Thanks for listening.

Your Customer

We all know these are basic common sense topics, but we also know
that basic common sense isn’t too common.

Do You Use ‘Carved in Stone’ Words?

Always, never, I’m absolutely sure, and I’m positive. Challenging words.

Ever get caught in a dilemma where you mean well and the other person
derails you because of one simple little word?

Yea, it happens to us all. Or should I say many of us.

Small changes can help with staying on track so you don’t get derailed.
And these changes are useable in all 6 touch points of communication.
Email, voice mail, snail mail, phone, fax and face-to-face interactions.
(OK probably in TEXT too.)

If you use “I ALWAYS” do this, or worse, “YOU always” do that, we

have the chance of the other person showing you that you are wrong.
DEAD wrong. And the conversation goes sideways. While we certainly
like to think we ‘always’ do something this way or that way or the other
person ‘always’ does as well, it’s rarely true. And they’ll go out of their
way to prove you wrong.

We can replace ALWAYS with “I USUALLY do” or “It seem as though

you OFTEN…” These small changes can save lots of frustration, hurt
feelings and embarrassing moments.

The same goes with “I NEVER” do that. Or again, worse “YOU NEVER”
do this or that statements. Those are the gateway to arguments. And way
too confrontational. Too accusatory.

Other words that could help might be “Are you aware sometimes (or
often) you do this?”

Using CARVED in STONE words are guideways and pathways to

arguments, diversions and miscommunications and sidelines the
conversation and point you’re trying to make.

It’s not easy to make these changes as we talk because most often we
don’t THINK before we talk; however, they are so worth the effort.

One of the true crime TV programs I watch, Investigative TV, ‘often’ has
shows where a person is identified as the perpetrator in a lineup or from a
picture and tells the officer, “This is the man. I’m positive.” And, of
course, at the end of the show they find that’s not true.

Then in the next scene it’s proven the person who was ‘so sure,’ so 100%
positive, was wrong. Costly comment.

If you choose to use ‘always,’ ‘never,’ ‘I’m sure’ or ‘I’m positive,’ be

150% sure of your claim. Be able to back it up, because when you are the
‘accuser,’ trust that someone will find a way to make you wrong.

What other words can you think of that undermine the conversation?

Apply These 10 Secret Techniques to Improve
the Top Ten Customer Service Mistakes

What are the best customer service tips? Change it UP.

Recently someone asked me about the worst customer service mistakes?

So, to make it even, we’ve compiled the ten worst customer service
mistakes. Take note . . . and don’t let these happen to you!

Not Being Friendly Enough

Without exception, not being friendly is the number one customer service
mistake. Customers should be treated as welcomed guests when they call
or visit your company. As we’ve all experienced, sometimes we’re treated
as an annoyance or an interruption. The Telephone Doctor motto: “Be
friendly before you know who it is” is one way to eliminate this mistake.

Poor Eye Contact

Heads that twirl on a spindle when you’re working with a customer is a

big mistake. Keep your eyes on the customer. It’s a sure sign the person
you’re talking with isn’t holding your interest when you’re glancing all
around. And they’ll notice it quickly. Obviously, Telephone Doctor
understands making good eye contact on the phone is a bit difficult, albeit
impossible. Therefore, when you’re on the phone you need to be
completely focused on the call and the customer. Don’t type, unless it
pertains to the call, don’t read something else, don’t do anything but listen
to the caller.

Talking with Co-Workers and Ignoring or Not Acknowledging the


This customer service mistake unfortunately happens a lot. Seems as

though it’s more important to continue talking with a co-worker than
establishing immediate rapport with the customer. Drop the internal
conversation as soon as you see the customer. Carrying on a conversation

with someone in your office while you’re talking with a customer on the
phone is a real no-no!

Being Rude

No one thinks they’re rude; certainly not on purpose. However, the

customer can perceive many things you do as rude. And as they say,
“Perception is reality.”

Poor Product Knowledge

When working with a customer, if you’re not familiar with the products
and services you offer, you’ll be making a big mistake. Take the time to
learn about your company. Know what’s going on. If you’re temporary, or
are new with the company, it’s not enough to use that as an excuse.
Customers don’t care if you’re new, working on a temporary assignment
or if it’s not your department. All they want is help and information. Ask
to be trained. Ask for more information from your company.

Telling a customer, “I’m new” or “I’m just a temp” only adds fuel to the
fire. You can explain that you will find someone to help them as you are
“not familiar” with the situation. That at least shows you’re going to help

Leaving a Customer without Telling Them Where You’re Going and


It’s a very good idea to explain to your customer, in person or on the

phone, what you’re going to be doing for them. It helps them a lot, and
gives them a lot of patience. If you need to go “in the back” to get
something it’s easy to say, “Mr. Jones, the Widget you’re looking for is in
the stock room. Let me go get it for you. I’ll be a few moments.” The
same procedure should apply on the phone. Never tell the caller, “Hold
on.” Let the caller know where you are going and approximately how long
you think you’ll be. This will make working with the customer easier for
both you and them.

Blaming Others

It’s not the person you blame that will look bad . . . it’s you. Don’t blame
(or knock) the company, its policy, or any member of the staff. Customers
don’t want to hear about whose fault it is, they just want the situation
fixed. Take full responsibility of the situation on hand.

Not Double Checking

When a customer wants something and it’s not available, it’s how you
reject them that’s more important than the fact that you are rejecting them.
The process of double-checking should become habit forming. It should
be a standard operating procedure. It feels so good when you tell someone,
“The last time I checked we were out of stock, but let me DOUBLE
CHECK for you to be sure.” I personally can think of dozens of times
when I asked the person to double check after they told me they were out
of things, and what do you know . . . someone had reordered and the
person didn’t know about it. It’s a big mistake to not double check.

One Word Answers

We’re taught in school that three words make a sentence. Don’t answer
with one word. Even yes, no, and OK are perceived as rude and uncaring.
A Telephone Doctor reminder – use complete sentences for your

Head Shaking

When a customer asks you for something, give them a verbal answer.
Shaking your head up and down or back and forth is NOT an appropriate
answer. They can’t hear your head rattle.

Fixing these customer service mistakes will enhance your ability to

work better with customers. Remember, it’s the SLD’s (subtle little
differences) that make the big difference.

Don’t Forget This Critical Hiring Tip

I won’t use names, but a few years ago while presenting a customer
service training program at a rather large communication company with a
director who had a lot of issues with his team, hiring practices came up for

He had a lot of issues with customer service and a lot of complaints about
his team. Customers were complaining.

So I said, “First, explain to me how these folks are hired? Walk me

through the hiring process.”

The list of tests they gave the applicants were long and involved. The
normal and obvious ones were there as well as some I’ve never heard of.
All “OK” and he got a lot of the information he needed about their
personality, skills and such.

When he finished how they choose someone to come on board I asked a

simple question, “How do you handle their voice?”

“What do you mean,” he asked.

“I mean how do you know if they have a pleasing voice; speak proper
English; can be clearly understood; and more.”

I got the deer in the headlight stare. After 45 seconds of thinking, “What
should I say to Nancy?” he admitted they don’t do any voice test.

So here was a manager at one of the largest communication companies in

the world and when they hired folks to communicate with their customers
they had NO VOICE TEST.

Yeah, I was shocked too.

Yet still, in today’s world, when I ask that question, if even in casual
conversation, most of the folks tell me they don’t give the person applying
for the job a voice test; even secretaries, sales folks, and other jobs where
you hold a phone to talk.

And you wonder why we as customers get annoyed? Why we’re

disappointed? Words are slurred, mispronounced, voice patterns are too
fast, too slow, too nasal, too squeaky, too loud, too soft…yada, yada.

Do a phone voice test on all interviews.

This is how it all started:

“Your people stink!”

With those succinct words, Telephone Doctor history was born.

Many years ago, I called my insurance agent after being treated rudely by
his staff. I told him, “Your people stink!” He asked me what happened and
I told him.

“They’re so rude, so abrupt, so unfriendly, so unhelpful; I don’t want to do

business with you anymore!”

“You know Nancy, you’re right” he said. “When I call your office I’m
treated like a king and I’m not even a customer.”

I told him we treat our wrong numbers better than he treated his

He asked me to come over and show his staff what we did at our office.

I went to the agent’s office and stood in front of 10-12 people. Their pens
and paper were ready for some scientific strategy on how to be nice to
people on the phone.

Would you believe, when I told them at our office we say please and thank
you, they stopped to write down those words? That’s right. They thought
please and thank you were great ideas!

I spoke about 20 minutes, thanked them and started walking out the door.
The president of the agency stopped me and said: “Thank you Nancy, we
really learned some new things!”

When I got home I told my husband, Dick, what happened. I said, “The
president of the insurance agency told me that he really learned some new
things; things you and I do like breathing in and out. Dick, I don’t
Dick’s reply: “Don’t ever be surprised Nancy. Nobody’s ever shown

At a business dinner that night, I mentioned this story to the general

manager of a newspaper in Davenport, Iowa. The next day, he called me
and asked me to come up to his newspaper and train his people. He said,
“If there’s a telephone on anyone’s desk, they should be trained!”

So I sat down and wrote a half-day program, flew up to Davenport, and

delivered the four programs. The first was to his management only,
because as Bob, the general manager said, “If this program is to work, and
I want it to, it must start at the top. It must dribble down. It cannot dribble

After the first program, the newspaper’s editor came up and told me,
“Nancy, that was fabulous. You’re very good. You sure have all the cures,
don’t you?” He snapped his fingers, pointed at me and said, “I’m gonna
call you the doctor…you’re the Telephone Doctor.”

I told my husband I had been dubbed the Telephone Doctor. “What do you
think?” I asked.

He said, “Let’s get it registered … we’re gonna have some fun.”

And fun we’ve been having, running around the country, the world if you
will, helping companies communicate better with their customers.

Nancy can be reached at:

Telephone Doctor
30 Hollenberg Court
St. Louis, MO 63044


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