Composting The Old, Growing The New

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Jeremy- As we turn the corner into 2013 it’s a great time to reflect on the year that was and talk about our goals for the new year.  As an aspiring gardener, I’m a fan of a good compost bin even though critters eat 70% of what I put in there.  I like this analogy applied to our customer service culture though.  While I think 2012 was a fantastic year that are some things we need to send to the compost bin and in their place grow new habits leading to a better culture.  These new habits grow over time and they are diligently cared for.  So Jenny, I ask you this question.  What is one thing about our customer service you want to send to the compost bin?

Jenny– Easy, I’d want to throw the word “No” into the compost bin. Ok, so we all know that sometimes there are things we cannot do for our customers. But, how can we turn that NO into a something more positive? Example, a customer wanted to port a phone number to our company but we cannot support it in our rate center. I explained to him why we cannot port it to us. I didn’t let the buck stop there, though. I then took time to call not one, not two but five different VoIP providers to see if someone could help him. One out of the five was a winner, so I directed him over.

Jeremy, what is one thing about our customer service that YOU want to send to the compost bin and why?

Jeremy- Good composting Jenny and I agree with you wholeheartedly!  For the sake of being different I’m going to throw bad attitudes in the compost bin.  One thing I have certainly learned over the last year is that a bad attitude does no one any good and only makes the day and the calls that much longer.  I love this Shep Hyken (@Hyken) quote when he says “The customer is NOT always right but they are always the customer.”  In this situation, that totally applies.  I’m not always going to like what the customer says and I certainly won’t always like their attitude but I need to be willing to accept the challenge of making the customer’s day be it great or small.

Ok Jenny, are you ready for part two?  What’s one beautiful thing you want to grow out of the yucky compost?

Jenny-Wow, nice point about the bad attitudes, Jeremy. This compost pile is really filling up with some serious negative behaviors. We’re going to build one awesome garden!

There are so many elements I could address to what beautiful thing I would want to grow, but in  keeping with my original “No to Yes” answer earlier, I choose:

  • Possibility
  • Encouragement
  • Positivity
  • Trust

I think the above can all be grown strongly when you say “Yes” instead of “No”. Not everything will be possible for every customer, but instead of closing the door, you examine other available options (possibility). You provide encouragement and positivity for both the customer and yourself (sometimes, you’ll find things that YOU didn’t even know were possible). In the end, this all builds trust within the customer (and yourself). If we all did this, we’d have one heck of a garden.

Jeremy, you brought up critters earlier. So, let’s say we have our beautiful “Customer Service Garden” growing strong and healthy from the compost, but the little critters continue to dine in with us. How do you keep the pests minimal while still keeping the garden green?

Jeremy- Great insight Jenny and I think those are some wonderful things to grow.  One thing we must never forget as managers that we are ALL in customer service.  The way we treat employees and coworkers IS customer service.

You are totally right that our compost is not complete if the critters eat 70% of what we put in there.  Here are some ways I plan to keep the critters out:

  •  First of all I will continue the work of building a positive culture.  It starts with me providing the best customer service I can provide, showing appreciation often and keeping the environment light and fun.
  • The second think I want to grow is a LISTENING  environment.  I want our employees and customers to feel listened to and understood.

That’s some major fertilizer in growing our garden.  Ok, I think we’re taking this analogy too far.  Thanks for the lively discussion Jenny.  Readers, what are some things you are composting this year and planning to grow in its place?

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR, the premiere provider of outsourced call center and business process solutions. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service and experience professional. He is co-founder of the Customer Service Life blog and a regular contributor. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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