Monday, November 23, 2015

14 Techniques to Improve CSR Performance

14 Techniques to Improve CSR Performance

The first point of human contact between your company and your prospects and customers is your customer service representative (CSR).  The CSR sets the tone for everything that happens.  Good CSRs close more calls while bad CSRs drive away business.  Here are 14 actions your CSR can take to improve performance.

1.     Give Choices

Giving customers choices between something and something, instead of something and nothing is not new.  It is effective.  Instead of asking if Monday is good, ask whether Monday or Tuesday would be better.  Instead of asking if the customer is interested in a service agreement, ask if the customer would rather pay regular prices or the discounted prices service agreement customers pay.

2.     Assume Yes

As Charlie Greer likes to say, people do not call just to chat someone up.  They call because they have a need or problem they believe the company can solve.  Assume a serviceperson will be dispatched and proceed accordingly.

3.     Say What You Can Do

CSRs should banish the words, “no,” “can’t,” and “won’t” from their vocabulary.  Tell people what can be done, not what cannot.  Instead of saying, “We can’t/don’t/won’t do that,” say “Here’s what we can do.”  Or better yet, “We can do X or Y.  Which would you prefer?”

4.     Take an Acting Class

Once we hired an unemployed professional actor to work in our call center.  Rejection never bothered him.  Angry or abusive customers never bothered him.  He was nonplused no matter what the customer said or did.  I finally figured it out.  He didn’t see himself making calls.  He saw himself playing a role.

Take an acting class from a local community theater.  The skills and techniques used in acting will serve you well when you are on the phone.  Moreover, it makes it more fun.

5.     Stay Calm

When a caller seems upset, the CSR is not the reason for the rage, only the recipient.  This is why acting classes can help.  Let the anger wash over you without taking it personally.  While CSRs should not make light of any situation that has a customer upset, it’s okay to see the humor in it, especially if that helps in keeping calm.

6.     Install a Smile Mirror

People can hear a smile through the phone.  CSRs should put a small mirror next to the phone and tape the word, “smile” at the top to serve as a reminder.

7.     Be Prompt

The CSR’s role is critical.  The whole day breaks down when the CSR is not on station and ready to go when the phones go live.  CSRs should plan on arriving a little early, every day.

8.     Take Breaks

Let’s face it.  Managing the phones and dealing with customers can be a beat down.  It’s important to take breaks, to decompress.  If the company only has one CSR, someone else in the office should be cross trained to provide back up and be able to spot the CSR several times during the day.

9.     Ask Questions

The art of customer service starts with asking the right questions.  When someone calls and asks for a price, ask questions.  Probe.  Find out more about the prospect’s situation and the reason for the call.  Then, ask the customer what day or time would be better to send someone out.

10.  Take Good Notes

Hopefully, the computer system allows CSRs to add notes to each customer’s file.  Write lots of notes.  The more the better.  Capture details (especially the address) and make relationship notes.  For example, if a customer says something about the dog, write it down.  The next time the customer calls, the CSR or another CSR can scan the notes and ask about the dog, making the relationship between the customer and the company feel more personal.

11.  Repeat For Accuracy

Especially when it involves and address, contact information, or a problem, record what the customer says and repeat it to ensure you have accurately captured the information. 

12.  Be Proactive

When the phone isn’t ringing, be proactive.  Make happy calls.  Call customers who rejected a serviceperson’s recommendation in the last three months to see how they are doing and if they have rethought the need to proceed.  Call customers nearing the end of their warranty to ask if everything is performing well and reminding them that the warranty will soon expire.  Often, this leads to more work.

13.  Set Performance Goals

Even if the company has performance goals for CSRs, CSRs can set their own.  Theirs can be higher.  Or, they can be different and more detailed.  Make it a game.  Make it fun.  Track your performance, whether it’s service calls booked, inbound calls taken, outbound calls made, percentage of calls converted, or some other measure.  Your performance will inevitably improve.

14.  Remind Yourself Every Caller is a Person

Every person who calls is a wife or husband, mother or father, son or daughter.  Everyone who calls is a person with hopes and dreams, fears and anxieties.  The CSR is in a position to calm at least some of the fears and to sooth some of the anxieties.  The CSR is in a position to make a difference for the person calling and for the company. 

Do it.  Make a difference today.

©2015 Matt Michel

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Should You Share a Brand?

One morning you are catching up on the news online and stare open mouthed at a headline on Drudge accusing your company of refusing to serve police officers.  Within minutes the phone starts ringing with angry customers.  What is happening?  It is a nightmare.

You fight down the panic long enough to plunge into the story.  You hit Google to find other stories.  The story is spreading like wildfire across the Internet.  As you dig in, you realize that the story is not about your company per se.  It is about your brand.  It was the action of a knucklehead employee of a fellow franchisee.

If you think it is bad enough riding herd on your employees, imagine getting tarnished by people who do not even work for you.  This is exactly what happened to a local fast food franchise.  This is the risk of sharing a brand with other contractors.  No matter how stellar you and your team act, in only takes one knucklehead across the franchise system to stain everyone.

It could be much worse than a knucklehead.  Imagine a guy showing up in a brightly logoed company truck and murdering a pair of coeds in their apartment.  It happened.

Fortunately, murder and violent crimes are rare.  Bad service experiences, however, are far more common.  According to the Census, 40 million Americans move annually.  Nearly half move to a different county or state.  Newcomers who arrive in your market bring the biases from their past experiences, which admittedly can be good or bad.  Nevertheless, by sharing a brand you are giving up part of your ability to shape public perception.

The problem of shared brands is broader than franchise organizations.  A growing trend among local churches is to stand independent of the denominational brands, which can be affected by events beyond the local church’s control.  For example, 16 of the 20 largest churches in the Southern Baptist Convention do not use the word, “Baptist” in their name.  These churches are not running from their denomination, only from the shared brand.

You may have heard the term, “brand equity.”  According to, this is “a brand's power derived from the goodwill and name recognition that it has earned over time, which translates into higher sales volume and higher profit margins against competing brands.” 

If you build equity in a brand you own, you can enjoy the benefits forever, such as higher margins and ultimately, a higher sale price for your business.  Building equity in a brand you do not own is like depositing money in someone else’s bank account.  It may not be there when you want to withdraw it.

So what’s the lesson?  Simple.  Build your brand and no one else’s.  Do not rent a brand.  Do not license a brand.  Do not share a brand.  Own a brand.  Own and build a brand that is yours exclusively.  Make it valuable and enjoy the benefits.

© 2015 Matt Michel

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Make Yours Outrageous

You would think that delivering great customer service would be top of mind for anyone who needs to make a living.  You would think. But you would be wrong.

You might also think that the guy who has spent a lifetime preaching Positively Outrageous Service would be hypersensitive to the nuances of loving on customers.  You would think.  And again you would be wrong!

Yesterday I called the dentist who we had been seeing for years and canceled an appointment.  My wife asked, “What made you decide to do that?”

Rather than answering her question, I have a few questions for you. The answers might help you in two ways. First, you might pick up more customers than ever through positive word of mouth.  Second you might lose fewer customers like me who without thinking had just canceled a long term customer relationship almost without conscious consideration.

Here are your questions:

  • Are you confident that everyone in your company will deliver a Positively Outrageous Service experience when left on their own and do you know when they don’t?
  • Do you know what your customers really want and are the people you hire capable of delivering?

I’m looking forward to keynoting Service Roundtable where we’re going to answer those questions and more!  See you in St. Louis!


     - T. Scott Gross, Author and upcoming Service World Keynote

Service Roundtable members get the lowest rate available anywhere. Call us today at 877.262.3341 to join. Or click here

Monday, June 22, 2015

Please Don’t Leave Me!

When the heat is on in the HVAC industry and the phones are ringing non-stop, nobody cares about the need for leads.  Contractors have more leads than they can handle.  They care about getting the work done and keeping their people theirs.  In other words, they worry about competitors poaching technicians and installers.  Here’s how to stop them.

Pay Well

If you are not paying top wages for your market, expect to lose good people to companies who are compensating people at the top of the market.  And yes, paying well means pricing at a level that supports your payroll.

Offer Good Benefits

Young, single technicians are immortal and invincible.  They care about pay, not benefits.  Older, married technicians are a different story.  Being a little generous in benefits can have more impact than added pay.  What is the difference per hour between 100% and 80% company paid healthcare?  Spread it by hour and it’s not much, yet it’s perceived to be incredibly generous.  If you do not offer them, consider dental and low cost term life insurance.

Acknowledge the Spouse’s Sacrifice

Long summer hours do not affect the technicians alone.  They also affect wives and kids.  There may not be an option to work less, but you can show the family you understand the toll they pay and find ways to lessen it.  Send a note or thank you card expressing your understanding of the added burden the summer places on the family and your appreciation of their support.  Include a gift card for a nice restaurant, movie tickets, water park passes, and/or a spa treatment.  Send one in June and another in July.

Pack a Lunch

Your technicians may prefer their own lunch choices, but consider packing lunches for them in the summer with a choice of drinks in a cooler.  Work an arrangement with a local deli to prepare the sandwiches and a competitive price. 

Visit Your Installers

Sometime during the day, take some water or sports drinks to your installers.  If gives you a chance to check on the job, ask how things are going, and show how much you appreciate them.

Stock a Refrigerator

Keep cold drinks and frozen snacks in a refrigerator in the shop for your technicians.  It’s an inexpensive thank you and something to look forward to at the end of the day.

Have Fun

How can you make work fun?  When Service Nation Alliance Vice President of Programs, Bob Viering worked for a Dallas air conditioning contractor he created a contest that involved everyone in the company.  Office staff were teamed with field personnel to offer support, encouragement, and all-around cheerleading.  Bob produced a daily “sportscast” of how the teams were doing with the score and statistics measured by team sales, average ticket, and other measures.  Everyone had fun and it got the competitive juices flowing.  Plus, when the contest concluded, the winning team was treated to a steak dinner at a nice restaurant, while everyone else was served baked beans.  Members can download a copy of “The Great Steak and Beans Contest” from the Service Roundtable if they want to create their own contest.

Give Random Rewards

Get to know your people personally so that you know what some of their personal desires are.  One Service Nation Alliance Member surprised a technician with basketball playoff tickets.  Other technicians might be given weekend use of a lake-house and boat.

Say Thanks – Say It A Lot

Every employee survey shows that people leave over a lack of appreciation more than any other reason.  For those who are money motivated or task driven, it’s hard to imagine the need for, and power of a little heartfelt appreciation.  Say thank you.  Often.  Applaud good work.  Complement people in front of others.  This may be more powerful than anything else you do.

© 2015 Matt Michel

Friday, May 8, 2015

Climbing to the Top

Recently, I had the opportunity to climb Camelback Mountain in Phoenix.  I couldn't help but notice the parallels between making the climb and building a business.

At the foot of Camelback, it doesn't look too difficult.  The trail only ascends 1280 feet.  It starts with a well-maintained, graded path that is steep, but not too strenuous.  Nevertheless, I felt it.  I was slightly out-of-breath and sweating by the second switchback.  Pretending to enjoy the view, I stopped to catch my breath.

After ascending 240 feet, a sign on Echo Saddle warns climbers against proceeding further.  The trail rating so far was moderate.  After the sign, the trail rating to the summit was given two black diamonds and declared to be “extremely strenuous.” Climbers were warned about the potential for “broken bones, heat stroke, heart attack, or even death.”

No worries, I thought.  I can handle it.  I couldn't imagine stopping only a short way into the climb and imagined few did.

The trail did change after that.  The climb became less walking along a trail and more, scrambling over boulders, and steep climbs.  At a couple of the steepest points, handrails were present.  I wasn't ashamed to use them.

I wasn't always sure where the trail went.  I watched other hikers, paying special attention to the climbers who looked like they climbed the mountain regularly. 

When viewed from a distance, Camelback looks barren.  While climbing it, I noticed lots of flowering vegetation and wildlife, ranging from lizards to birds to chipmunks.  And of course, bees.  More on the bees later.

As I climbed, I found I needed to stop and rest more frequently.  It was irritating that far younger and older climbers seemed to fly effortless past me, up the mountain.  My irritation felt shameful when some of these same climbers offered me words of encouragement.

When I stopped, I would look down to see how far I’d come.  Each time it seemed amazing how much progress I’d made and the last time I stopped and what had seemed incredibly high a few minutes before, no longer seemed high at all.

Several times, it looked like I was about to crest the summit.  I’d push a little harder only to find the trail continued up, but I couldn't see the next rise from below.  Finally, I crested the top and gasped at the view.  Well, I gasped in general.  It was a remarkable view of the Valley of the Sun. 

Then, the bees arrived.

A sign at the bottom of the trail warned of bees.  Okay, I thought, there are a few bees around.  Why the sign?  At the top, we found out.  A swarm swept across the peak of Camelback and I discovered I had a lot more energy than I thought as I rushed down the mountain to get out of their way.

Going down the mountain proved more difficult for me than climbing up.  I had to be careful not to slip.  The handrails were even more helpful on the climb down.

So why is this like building a business?

·       Like climbing a mountain, building a business seems a lot easier before you start.

·       Like the sign on Camelback warning you of the dangers of proceeding, there are always naysayers who will tell you why you will fail and why you should give up.  The only sure way to fail is by listening to them.

·       On a mountain and in business, there are times that are far more strenuous than others.  There are times when you need to take a break, catch your breath, and pause so that you can climb even faster.  Stephen Covey called this “sharpening your saw.”

·       The path up a mountain or in business is not always clear.  There is often more than one way up.

·       Like watching other climbers for clues about a faster way to the top, it helps in business if you can learn the easier path from other business owners and avoid mistakes they made in the past.
Matt Michel at the top.

·       If other climbers scaled Camelback faster than I did, it didn't hurt me.  It also doesn't hurt you when other businesses around you, grow faster.  I climbed at a pace I could manage.  Likewise, you grow a business at a pace you can manage. 

·       Like climbers seem to feel a camaraderie, business owners relate to each other.  They encourage each other.  They know what you are going through.

·       Like Camelback, the opportunities for your business may seem barren, but if you look, you will notice rich opportunities others cannot see.  Even for you to see them, you need to pause from your struggle for a minute or two and take a look around.  It’s amazing what abundance surround every industry and business.

·       The view from the top is always better and more satisfying, and at each stage of your business’ growth, your earlier milestones seem almost trivial.

·       It’s also a lot more fun climbing up a mountain than going down.  Similarly, running a growing business is more fun than a shrinking one.

·       If you’re climbing Camelback, you need to watch out for the bees.  If you’re running a contracting company, watch out for the stings.

© 2015 Matt Michel

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Two Kinds of People
 By Guest Writer, Doug Hanson

You may remember I have a simple philosophy that guides my thoughts and actions about people.

"There are really only two kinds of people.  Those that brighten the room when they walk in, and those that brighten it when they leave!"

It is a simple statement that illustrates a powerful principle.  People would prefer to be associated with and do business with people who brighten their life.  People that always have something good to say, that make us feel important and appreciated, and that have a positive outlook on life.  
 The next thing you may want to consider is "Which one are you"?  Do people describe you as someone that brightens the room when you walk in?  Or, do they have less than favorable feelings toward you.  The good news is that regardless of your answer, you can change starting right now.  Being a source of energy and enthusiasm will pay dividends in every aspect of your life, especially in your career, in your marriage, and with your family.

It is important to notice that this principle has nothing to do with knowledge or skill.  You could be the most experienced or knowledgeable person on your team and still be the one that stifles everyone's energy.  In fact, this is the trap that most people fall into.  They think their IQ (Intellectual Quotient) is more important than their EQ (Emotional Quotient).  Often times we evaluate our overall value by how much knowledge, skill, or experience we bring to the organization when in reality, your spirit is your real contribution.

A recent study in the Wall Street Journal stated that hiring professionals ranked interpersonal skills such as communication and the ability to work well with others, significantly higher in importance (over 20% higher) than cognitive attributes such as strategic thinking and specific knowledge.  Obviously, we have to be competent in our professions but the study reveals what most managers are thinking, "It is far easier to teach someone new skills than it is to improve their attitude or personality".

In other words, if you want to get ahead, you have to be liked and be likeable!  There are few professions where your personality isn't important.  I guess if I needed brain surgery I wouldn't care if my brain surgeon had a personality or a positive disposition.  Just fix my brain, man!  But even a brain surgeon has a brighter future if he can learn to brighten the room when he walks in.  You may not like it but the truth is, your people skills and personality are important.

As this point illustrates, if you don't master the skill of brightening the room when you walk in, you force yourself to be so highly skilled and qualified, that people hire you and work with you solely for your intellectual contribution, your IQ.  

Have you ever approached a depressed, withdrawn, bitter person and said, "Give me some secrets to a happy and successful life?"  Of course not, it would be ridiculous.  Yet that's what many of us expect our children to do.  We walk around unhappy, with a scowl on our face, criticizing everything from the government to our jobs to the traffic to and from work, and then wonder why our kids won't listen to us.  Why should we expect our kids to embrace our advice if we are living a life of misery?  It reminds me of quote I often repeat to myself when I'm with my kids, "What you do speaks so loudly I can't hear a word your saying". 

If you want your kids to respect you, to enjoy spending time with you, and to seek your council, the best way is to be someone that brightens the room when you walk in. 

The same holds true for your spouse.  Think about how much energy you put into courting and impressing your spouse when you first met.  Do you put that much energy or thought into that relationship today?  Would your spouse describe you as someone who brightens the home?  If not, take some steps today to change that.  You'll find your spouse spinning with curiosity, wondering what's going on.  In fact, I think your goal should be for your spouse to ask you by the end of the week, "What's gotten into you?"   

Have you ever considered all the ways we "categorize" people?  The minute we meet someone we ask questions about their profession, where they are from, or what church they attend.  We ask about their background, their lifestyle, where their kids go to school, and their position on local or national politics.  Such questions help us find areas we have in common and therefore serve as a basis for a stronger relationship.  This naturally occurs because in most cases, we are initially attracted to people that are like ourselves. Conversation is effortless if you have something in common.  Unfortunately, if our interests are guided by a negative bias towards life, our curiosity and search for information can also work against us.  As it turns out, the more you learn about someone, the more likely you will eventually find something that is different and uncomfortable.

This is where my simple "brighten the room" philosophy can benefit your life again.  I realized at one point in my life that I had somehow developed a bitter attitude about people in general.  If I met someone who had ten things in common with me and one characteristic that was different, I would only focus on the one and often move away from developing a relationship.  Ultimately, I would find something different about everyone, so I found myself with fewer and fewer relationships.  In other words, I didn't like anybody!  That's a terrible way to live life.

So I decided to live by the philosophy that there are only two kinds of people, those that brighten the room when they walk in and those that brighten it when they leave.  I no longer focused on their profession, or the religious persuasion, or their political views.  My philosophy became very simple.  If you brighten the room when you walk in, I want you in my life.  I am still amazed at how much this improved my quality of life.

Here are a few ideas for things you can do to brighten the room when you walk in.  Once you get some momentum, it will change your personal identity and your sub-conscious habits forever.
  • Put a smile on your face.  This one really freaks people out!
  • Have a kind word to say to everyone...   Yes everyone!
  • Give without remembering and receive without forgetting.
  • Develop an attitude of gratitude.  Be thankful for everything - your health, freedom, friendships, employment, skills, hobbies, finances, challenges, ... everything!
  • Wake your kids with upbeat or spiritual music that energizes them.
  • Set the CD player in your spouse's car to play a special song when he/she starts the car in the morning for work.  It could be a song you both remember from when you were dating, or it could be their current favorite song (they will probably be most impressed that you really know their current favorite song!).  Adding a personal note makes this gesture extra special.
  • Subscribe to an on-line "joke-of-the-day" service and share the good ones with your friends, family, and co-workers on a regular basis.
  • Every day tell your loved ones (kids, parents, spouse, etc.) what you are most proud of them about, or what you feel their best qualities are, or the positive things other people say about them in the community and how that benefits the entire family.

I hope these will get you started.  If you'll try some of these you'll soon realize that there are literally thousands of ways to brighten the room.  The key is in your personal effort and presence.   If you get a chance, please share with me some of the most effective ways you are brightening your world so I can share them in future writings.
Until we meet again, Play Full Out!  Your friend and Transformation Coach!

Doug Hanson (
Printed with Permission
© 2015 Doug Hanson

Come experience Doug Hanson in person at the International Roundtable in Phoenix, April 14-16. Get the inspiration and information you need to grow your company faster. For more info, just go to 

Friday, March 20, 2015

What's Special About a Doughnut?

“Ohhhhhh”, exclaims Homer Simpson simply at the sight of the fried dough seen on every street corner in America. So what makes donuts different? You probably don’t go to a specific donut shop…you just go to the closest one because they’re all the same. Right? Might have different sugar or decoration or be cake or “regular”…but your choices are pretty much the same no matter where you go.

Enter Voodoo Doughnut. Branded with old wood and bricks, a guy with a funny hat and a scary face, and a tagline that stages “The magic is in the hole”. The entire website is funky, freaky and oddly fun. Even the “about” section is written and presented like the brand is from some crazy warehouse in Portland. Oh wait…it is.

At Voodoo Doughnut, you  can get married. Yep….legally. On a recent trip to Voodoo Doughnut in Portland at 10:00PM at night…there was a LINE AROUND THE BUILDING.  You can buy t-shirts, water bottles and even sunglasses with donuts on them – you can see out, but no one see in.

So can you take some lessons for your service  company from this? How can you brand yourself uniquely? Every contractor states they offer “fast, dependable” service. Yawn…..

Spend some time with Voodoo Doughnut. I’m not suggesting you implement weddings…or sell branded underpants….but I am suggesting you figure out what makes you unique. Can you rebrand yourself? Can you immerse your company in that brand? And can you offer “extras” that that align with your brand?

© 2015 Robin Jones 

Robin Jones
VP Marketing
Service Roundtable