How to Solve the Biggest Problems with Coaching Employees

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Espresso for Writing

 

I’m sitting in my office sipping bold Ethiopian espresso, my favorite, and doing a run-through for this week’s big training event. The big event? We’re calling it:

“How to Solve the Biggest Problems with Coaching Employees.”

If you’re a Member of my Full Access program or you registered for this event, your handouts were sent to you last night, so be sure to check your email for the packet.

It’s a fact. Most managers don’t give employees the constructive feedback they need in order to develop and grow. Some managers shy away from conflict. Perhaps they hope the problem will correct itself.

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Many fear getting a difficult to handle response from the employee. We never want to admit it, but some managers want to be “friends” with their employees and this “friendship” keeps them from the giving the constructive feedback their employees need. And then there are those who just wait until the annual performance review to lay it all on the employee.

Why are managers so ineffective when it comes to giving constructive feedback?

It’s simple really. Managers never learned exactly how to assertively address unacceptable performance. And let’s face it; giving constructive feedback about a person’s performance can be a little intimidating.

Join me for a 60-minute discussion on Wednesday, February 10th at 1:05pm ET where I’ll share:

  • 4 Pain points of coaching agents and how to handle them.
  • The Manager-Tested-and-Proven 6-Step Strategy for Addressing Unacceptable Employee Performance that Myra has taught managers in Fortune 100 companies, contact centers, government agencies, school systems, a spa and a plumbing company.
  • How to avoid sounding critical and nitpicky, yet still get your point across.
  • 3 Keys for coaching underperforming employees.
  • Special take-away packet: A powerful 9-step coaching strategy for coaching calls in contact centers. +++ Get a sneak peak at Zappos monitoring form.
  • How to get employees to take ownership for performance improvement using a super-simple 4-step Coaching Through Questioning technique.
  • 3 Techniques everyone who coaches contact center agents should be using.
  • Myra’s KFD principle for how to fully prepare for constructive feedback discussions with employees. Using this principle, you’ll be prepared and confident!
  • A 2-minute exercise that you can do at your desk that will instantly boost your confidence by boosting your testosterone levels (this works for women too) and lower your cortisol (stress hormone). Do this quick exercise right before having high-stakes conversations and you’ll have the confidence of Olivia Pope.

Sneak Peak at what we’ll cover in “How to Solve the Biggest Problems with Coaching Employees.”

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After our discussion I will give you:

  • Full webinar digital recording
  • Unlimited viewing within your organization with no expiration
  • Rights to download and save webinar video
  • Rights to incorporate webinar within your Learning Management System (LMS)

How to Solve the Biggest Problems with Coaching Agents

February 10th, 1:05pm – 2:05pm ET     $299 per organization

Register now

Keeping the Customer Experience Fresh Through Responsiveness (How Hello Fresh delighted me by keeping me apprised)

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Mature businesswoman smiling

On Sunday I had to reach out to my grocery delivery service for help. I sent an email and almost immediately I received an automatic reply. The reply was simple, just letting me know that my email had been received.

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Hi there,

Thanks so much for getting in touch! 

We have received your email and will respond shortly.

While you wait, take a look at our FAQ’s at http://www.hellofresh.com/faq/, in case your answer lies there.

Lastly, if you need to make meal choice, update your payment details, cancel or pause your account, please login https://www.hellofresh.com/customer/account/login/.

Talk to you soon,

The Friendly Freshers

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I appreciate getting an immediate response to my query, even when I know this is an automated computer generated response. It lets me know my email successfully reached the company. It puts me at ease.

When I’ve contacted this company over email in the past, the response from a service rep is pretty fast, usually within 1-2 hours. But nearly 24 hours had passed and I hadn’t heard back from the company. It was Martin Luther King Day and I thought perhaps they were short-staffed with people taking the day off. My kids were out of school and my husband and I had also taken the day off. But, to my delight, exactly 24 hours after my initial email, I got a second automated email from the company.

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Hello, Myra,

We’re sorry we haven’t gotten back to you yet. We have received your message and will respond to you very shortly. Thank you for bearing with us.

If you have anything else to add, please just reply here http://hellofreshusa.zendesk.com/hc/requests/854899 and we’ll get back to you shortly.

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I loved this second email, so much so, that I took time out of my holiday weekend to sit down and talk to you about it.

Hello Fresh normally replies to emails within 1-2 hours. But this time they didn’t, but they proactively updated me. This little update, timed perfectly at 24 hours after my initial communication, assured me that my email did not get lost and that they were on top of things. This update kept me from losing confidence in the company and it took away any need for me to reach out again by email or telephone. It protected me from becoming upset or even worse; it protected me from defecting.

Keeping customers apprised via automated emails is brilliant. It puts customers at ease, helps customers feel confident that the company is working on the problem, and it keeps customers from feeling they need to reach out to the company a second time.

The customer experience needs to reduce customer effort, keep customers apprised and it’s a treat when the experience can delight customers. Hello Fresh did each of these things by simply having an automated response built in to launch 24 hours after my initial email.

When you don’t immediately acknowledge a customer a customer’s inquiry, they may wonder if their communication even reached you and this may prompt follow-up communication that cost you time and money. Failing to acknowledge customer inquiries and not providing updates can result in losing customer confidence and trust.

What You Can Do

Review one aspect of your customer experience and explore how you can reduce customer effort and keep customized apprised. If you’re feeling really creative, consider how you might add surprise or delight to this aspect of the customer experience.

The Bottom Line

 

The outcome of an automated customer apprising strategy is customers who are updated and less likely to have to follow up to check in, and your organization will build customer confidence and trust through proactive communication.

Myra Golden is a customer experience keynote speaker and trainer who travels North America looking for great stories to share, and new ways to help her clients deliver the best possible customer experience.

4 Pain Points of Coaching Employees and How to Handle Them

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As I sit down to write this, I have an unsightly burn on my right hand. Before my keynote tomorrow morning, I’ll have to find the nearest drugstore and buy a discrete looking Band-Aid to cover the sore. Perhaps the front desk of this lovely bed and breakfast has Band-Aids. I’ll check there first. But not before I talk to you about hot stoves and pain points to coaching your employees.

My children and husband love my homemade bread, so before business trips I try to make a fresh loaf and leave it for them to enjoy. In addition to my basic white bread, I made a dessert bread for my daughter, Key Lime Bread.

It was my first time making this dessert bread. I did the toothpick test to make sure it was cooked nicely all the way through. When I removed the toothpick from the bread, I bumped my hand on the top of the inside of the hot oven. It immediately stung. I stood in front of the open oven, toothpick in hand, for a couple of seconds wondering how I could have been so careless.

Two days later in a bed and breakfast in Ohio, I have an ugly sore on my right hand. I talk with my hands, so this a problem on the big stage. I’ll definitely get a Band-Aid for tomorrow.

I was careless and I got burned. The oven is impersonal. It didn’t care that I was baking bread as a loving gesture for my family. I touched the hot surface, so I got burned. The sting of the burn was immediate. If I went back and touched the inside of a hot oven again, say in two weeks, I’d still get burned. I knew the oven was hot, so, the heat was foreseeable. If you touch the inside of my oven while it’s hot, you, too, will get burned.

Giving feedback and addressing unacceptable performance with employees should be like an oven throwing off heat. The feedback should be immediate, impersonal and consistent. Consequences for not making corrections after receiving feedback should be foreseeable.

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It’s what Douglas McGregor, management consultant, calls the Hot Stove Rule.

Feedback to employees should follow the Hot Stove Rule.

 When we fail to follow the hot stove rule, we make coaching harder for ourselves; we’re unfair to our employees; we may put our companies at risk for litigation.

1. Immediate – Unacceptable employee performance or attitude needs to be addressed immediately. Not after things have built up overtime, not on the annual review; immediately. I felt the burn immediately. Your employees need, and deserve, immediate feedback on their performance.

2. Foreseeable – I knew my oven was hot. I simply got careless and allowed my bare hand to come in contact with the metal surface. The potential for injury was foreseeable. I turned the oven on, I let it preheat, I felt the heat. Any disciplinary action you take on an employee; verbal warning, written warning, probation, etc., must be foreseeable. Your expectations must be clear. Consequences for failure to meet expectations must also be clear. Constructive feedback and discipline should never be a shock to your employees.

3. Consistent – If I go into my kitchen next week and touch the oven while it’s hot, I will get burned. Again. The oven is consistent in delivering its consequences. Feedback, coaching and discipline are to be consistent if they are to be effective in ushering in change. You can’t ignore a variance today and then stand firm against the same infraction 6 months from now. You must consistently address unacceptable performance and poor attitudes. You must consistently offer support, coaching and counsel.

4. Impersonal – I touched the inside surface of a 375 degree oven. That is why I got burned. It was not personal. The sting and ugly sore are the consequences I must endure because I touched a hot oven. The burn had nothing to do with my years of experience in the kitchen, or lack thereof, professional title, or how the oven felt about me. It was impersonal. Your feedback and discipline must be impersonal too. Consistently give the same level of feedback, coaching and discipline to any employee who fails to meet expectations.

The bed and breakfast does not have Band-Aids, but there is Target 3 miles away. I can cover my mistake with a bandage. But it’s not that easy for you. You have a professional and ethical responsibility to coach your employees fairly and to give them every possible opportunity to deliver their best performance. You do this by ensuring that your coaching and discipline is immediate, foreseeable, consistent and impersonal.

 

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We Need to Talk About How You Coach Your Employees

Live Webinar with Myra Golden

This new program contains a step-by-step approach to coaching agents to deliver the best customer interactions

And right now, you can get a special $50 discount when you use code COACHBETTER2016, but only if you hurry.  Go to:

http://myragolden.com/webinar_WeNeed2Talk.php

You’ll gain a new sense of confidence, satisfaction and pride in your quality assurance efforts and lower your stress level.

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What Gets Measured Gets Improved (Contact Center Monitoring + Includes Sneak Peak at Zappos Monitoring Form)

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What Gets Measured Gets Improved

In 2015 I lost 22 pounds. While working on getting my weight down I hopped on the scale every morning. Many would say that weighing daily can discourage you or that it’s just not a smart approach to weight loss. I disagree.

My daily weigh-ins allowed me to celebrate my weight loss when I was on track and immediately know when I needed make a change in my caloric intake and/or exercise when I wasn’t losing weight.

It was Peter Drucker who said what gets measured gets improved. He was right. Measuring (daily) helped me improve my weight. And it can help you improve your customer experience.

I am not suggesting you measure your agents or your customer experience daily. So you can relax. I am saying that you need to measure agents and your overall customer experience. And you need to measure often.

One of the “scales” for your customer experience is your monitoring form.

The scale that helps you measure and make real improvements is your monitoring form. A well-designed monitoring form, combined with courageous and consistent agent coaching, helps you improve your customer experience.

Pull out your quality monitoring form this month. Carefully review the dimensions you’re measuring. Ask yourself the following questions.

  • Are there things we should be measuring that we aren’t currently measuring?
  • Are we measuring things that don’t truly impact the customer experience in ways that matter?
  • Do the ratings assigned to customer experience dimensions correlate to the value of the dimensions? For example, is empathy critical to your overall customer experience, yet it carries little to no weight on your form? Is empathy even measured on your form?
  • Is the form concise and clear, clear enough for agents to truly understand your evaluation of their performance?
  • How often do we monitor calls and give agents feedback? Once a quarter is not enough. Neither is once a month. Quality assurance monitoring in a call center needs to take place a minimum of weekly.
  • Do we simply “coach the numbers” when discussing the monitoring results with agents? The goal, of course, is to improve performance. Numbers matter, but they are just a tool to guide you in feedback discussions. Rather than focusing on a score, focus your conversations on how to help agents improve their interactions with customers.

If I’m supporting your customer experience in a consultative relationship, chances are excellent that I have already reviewed and ripped your quality monitoring form and given you a new form that measures what matters.

If I’m not working with you and you want a great example of a monitoring form that is strategically designed to measure what matters, take a look at Zappos’ Monitoring form.

What gets measured gets improved. Whether that is weight loss or the customer experience, this holds true.

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We Need to Talk About How You Coach Your Employees

Live Webinar with Myra Golden

This new program contains a step-by-step approach to coaching agents to deliver the best customer interactions and designing (or re-designing) a monitoring form that improves agent interactions.

And right now, you can get a special $50 discount when you use code COACHBETTER2016, but only if you hurry.  Go to:
http://myragolden.com/webinar_WeNeed2Talk.php

You’ll gain a new sense of confidence, satisfaction and
pride in your quality assurance efforts and lower your stress level.

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2 Reasons Your Employees Are Failing at the Customer Experience

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You know your customer service is not where it needs to be. You know your employees aren’t delivering the level of service your customers expect and deserve. And this is keeping you up at night.

There are 2 reasons why your people are failing at the customer experience.

They aren’t establishing rapport with customers. And this is a big one. And, they aren’t in harmony with what your customers need and expect. Let’s take a look at the reasons agents fail at the customer experience, and explore what you can do about it. 

  1. They aren’t establishing rapport with customers

This morning I was monitoring calls for a contact center client; something I do often. Here’s how the Agent opened the call.


Customer: “Hi Bill. My name is Marley Robbins (not her real name), how are you?”

 

{Dead silence followed. Bill did not respond to Marley’s greeting. At all.}

 

After exactly 6 seconds, the customer picked up the conversation. Not the employee, the customer.

 

Customer: “I’m calling about…..”


 

Do you see the problem with this call? The Agent failed to acknowledge the customer; he failed to simply answer the question, “How are you?”

The customer was stunned. I could hear her shock in her silence and in the tone and guarded way she spoke for the remainder of the call. Not surprisingly, the call didn’t go well. Bill was rote, defensive about company “policy” and the customer became argumentative and eventually requested to speak with a supervisor.

 

How did we get to a place where exchanging a simple pleasantry is “too much” for an employee?

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Bill could have simply said, “I’m well. How nice of you to ask. How may I help you today?” Or something similar. A response like this would have completely changed the feel and outcome of that phone call.

What Bill failed to do, what Bill needed to do, was establish rapport. There are many elements to creating rapport; most of them incredibly simple to pull off, but one key way to create rapport is to engage the person in conversation.

You create rapport by having conversations with people. Not by having rote exchanges that could be done better by an IVR. If someone says hello, say hello. If someone asks you how are you are doing, for goodness sakes, answer the question!

 

  1. They aren’t in harmony with what the customer needs and expects

 

Bad Customer Service Makes You Sick

 

A great customer experience must meet 3 criteria.

  • Meet needs. The customer’s need(s) must be met.
  • Easy. You must be easy to do business with.
  • Enjoyable. To get to the level of great experiences, the experience must delight customers in a meaningful way.

 

A couple days ago I went to a grocery story to get fresh Brussels sprouts. That’s all I needed. I went to the produce section and I didn’t see Brussels sprouts. I asked an employee who was working in produce where I could find Brussels sprouts.

You know what she said to me? “If they’re not out here, we don’t have any or we haven’t put them out yet.”

And she turned around and continued to stock fresh corn on the cob. No friendliness. No offer to help me look for them. Certainly no intention on going to the back to see if they, indeed, had fresh Brussels sprouts.

“If they’re not out here, we don’t have any or we haven’t put them out yet.”

I literally had to pause and compose myself so that I would walk out of the store like a patient and dignified woman. But I was thinking, well, never mind what I was thinking.

This is a perfect example for harmony. Again, the 3 criteria for being in harmony are: Meeting needs, being easy to do business with and providing an enjoyable experience. Here’s how this store measured up:

Meets needs. Nope. I had one need. Brussels sprouts. I’ve gotten them at this store before, but this day they were out. My needs were not met.

Easy. Parking and getting into (and out of) the store was easy. Finding an employee was easy. So, yes, the experience was easy.

Enjoyable. Uh, no. The one interaction I had with an employee made me pause and think negative thoughts. I didn’t enjoy an employee not making an effort to look for Brussels sprouts. She didn’t smile at me and she didn’t seem concerned about my needs. She didn’t even pretend to care. This was not enjoyable.

This grocery store was not in harmony. You have to meet at least 2 of the 3 criteria to be a candidate for harmony. Obviously, the goal is to meet all 3 of the criteria for harmony.

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(I went to a natural grocery store and got my Brussels sprouts.)

 

You can fail to meet a customer’s needs and still provide a great customer experience. Whole Foods did this for me.

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Right before Thanksgiving I was looking for Arrow Root Powder. I went to Whole Foods. I thought Arrow Root Powder was a spice, so I went to the spice aisle. The story was crazy busy. Employees were running, serving and working. There was a man on a high ladder on the spice aisle. I couldn’t find Arrow Root, but I didn’t dare ask him for help because he was 15 feet in the air.

After a few seconds, though, the man looked down from the ladder and said, “Can I help you find something ma’am?” He then climbed down from the ladder and helped me look. When we couldn’t find it, he took me to not one, but two other sections in the store. We still couldn’t find it. He urged me to come back tomorrow afternoon, as a truck was due to arrive later that day.

I didn’t get my needs met that day at Whole Foods, but the experience was enjoyable, because one employee took the time to talk to me and try to help me. The experience was also easy. Whole Foods was in harmony, by meeting 2 of the 3 criteria. I give Whole Foods an A+ for the customer experience based on the one employee I spoke with.

Note: It turns out Arrow Root is a powder and it is in the baking section. I discovered that on my second visit. Now I know.

Position your employees to create rapport with customers through conversations and engagement. Fiercely focus your customer experience on meeting needs, being easy and enjoyable. When you do, your company will be well on the way to delivering consistently great customer interactions.


 

Want Better Customer Service Over the Telephone?

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On Demand Webinar – A video recording that you can download immediately and have forever.

How to Talk to Customers: Empathy, Tone and Making Personal Emotional Connections

The biggest problem with the customer experience in most companies is how employees talk to customers. All too often, employees come across as indifferent, cold, uncaring, rushed or rude. This employee “attitude problem” can be the tipping point that sends customers to the competition. This attitude problem is what drives customers to tweet and blog about a poor customer experience. The great news is, with the right training, monitoring and coaching, employees can learn how to soften tones, truly convey empathy, make customers feel taken care of and even make memorable personal emotional connections with customers.

In this extended training event, Myra shows your employees, step-by-step, how to talk to your customers. You’ve gotta read this outline!

View outline/download

Playing Hooky (The case for a mental health day)

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Hooky

I played hooky today. I’m not sick. My kids are fine. I had no doctor’s appointment. I didn’t have to go to the dentist. I didn’t even have a school event or PTA board meeting to attend.

I simply played hooky. I played hooky and I feel great about that. I decided on November 21st that I would play hooky. Today is December 8th. So my hooky was pre meditated.

We all need an “Ah shit” day

One of my former colleagues, Ligea, used to say we all need an “Ah shit” day. A day where we wake up and say, “Ah shit, I don’t feel like going in.” My friend Kendra would say that everyone needs a “Mental Health Day.” Similar to sick days, mental health days are taken to preserve and nurture our mental health.

This hooky playing was essentially about nurturing my mental health. It’s been such a busy time for me. I just wrapped up several back-to-back keynotes on the road.

I’m a woman. A wife. A mother. A keynote for me is more than just a presentation on the big stage. My husband works nights so when I travel I have to plan for a caretaker (my gracious mother) to stay with my kids overnight and to get them to school daily. I have to prepare meals ahead of time and lay out my son’s clothes. I have to clean my house so that I look like I have it all together when my mother stays overnight.

And then, of course, there’s the keynote.

One of my keynotes was to an audience of 1100. The largest contact center annual conference in the world. I spent 9 months designing and rehearsing that keynote. It took me at least 3 months to select my outfit and shoes for the big day.

Myra Golden Keynote

Shortly before my Keynote address at the ICMI Contact Center Demo & Conference in Las Vegas

That keynote was in Las Vegas. My husband and I just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. But I was in South Dakota on business and we didn’t get to celebrate the big 20. So, hubby joined me in Vegas and we had a wonderful 5 days of bliss after my keynote. I loved it. I really did. But my mind was often back home with the kids. Was Warren okay riding with another father to and from football practice? Was Lauren staying on top of her geometry and chemistry homework? Was mom really okay giving up nearly a week of her time to help us out?

Immediately after my Las Vegas keynote I had to gear up for a keynote in Pennsylvania and then right after that, I spoke at a conference for a new client in an industry I am still learning. Insurance. In New York. I wore the same dress I wore in Vegas. I killed it. The keynote in this fairly new industry was truly one of the best I have ever delivered. God was with me. He anointed me and I am still in awe of that favor.

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The auditorium an hour or so before attendees arrive for a keynote in Tulsa

But there was little time to relish the greatness of my New York keynote because Fairfield County Ohio was just days away. A board meeting and two local training sessions in between didn’t allow for any downtime. I was exhausted, but this annual meeting of about 130 wonderful people expected me to be at the top of my game.

Travel into Columbus was a hassle. Delays. Long, long day. 45 minute drive to my bed and breakfast.

Yes, a bed and breakfast. I stayed at a lovely historic bed and breakfast, Shaw’s, where I enjoyed a clean vegan meal and extraordinary customer service. I got up the next morning and delivered a pretty fantastic keynote to some of the best people I have ever met in my life! It was awesome. I loved, loved, loved the people I met in Ohio.

 

Green Room Myra Golden

Taking selfies like a teenager in the Green Room right before my keynote at a public library annual staff development day. 

And when I got on the plane after the keynote, I nearly collapsed. From exhaustion. And that brings me to November 21st.

When I returned to Tulsa, I resumed reading my daybook, Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnauch. I’m reading this book for the third time. The November21st meditation is entitled “Playing Hooky.” Breathnauch encourages women to find a day where it won’t be catastrophic of us to miss work and to call in and play hooky. A mental health day, if you will. And she suggests we spend the day however we want. Going to the movies alone. Having lunch with a girlfriend. Shopping. Reading a novel in one sitting.

Sitting on my couch that day, I picked up my iPhone, pulled up my calendar and found the first day that I could play hooky without the world falling part. That day was December 8th. And I did it.

I took the kids to school, like it was a normal day. Then, I came home, lit a fire, made a latte and started reading a new novel.

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I heated up leftovers for brunch. At noon I poured a glass of red wine. I had a sugar cookie when I wasn’t even hungry. All day I sat in front of my fireplace reading.

Fire Place Myra Golden

My reading room (Living room) – I literally spent my entire day on my couch in front of my fireplace. 

I didn’t go into my office. I didn’t reply to any emails. I didn’t clean house. I just read. And I read the entire book before it was time to pick the kids up.

It was truly the perfect day. I needed this day. I loved this day.

Drink Think Relax

Take Sara Breathnauch’s advice. Carve out a day just for you. Play hooky. Do whatever you want. Shop. Nap. Go to the movies. Visit a museum. Treat yourself to a spa day. We all need a mental health day or an ah shit day. Treat yourself and comeback refreshed my friends. You deserve it!

 

Get Your Horses Going in the Same Direction (How to Get More Done)

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I think of people as having horsepower, much like cars have horsepower.

Let’s say, for example, that you as a business leader have 20-horse power. If all of your horses are going in the same direction, that gives you tremendous speed. That is, you’ll work with creativity, momentum, focus and you’ll be supremely productive.

But if your horses are not going in the same direction, you won’t be as productive. If you have 7 horses focusing on your customer experience culture, 5 horses dealing with technology upgrades, 4 horses always stuck in meetings, 3 horses emailing colleagues and employees, and 1 horse whiling time away on social media, you aren’t able to fiercely focus, you can’t move swiftly and you aren’t progressing. In other words, you’re distracted and busy, but not productive.

But if most of your horses were running in the same direction, you would progress and you would progress quickly. So, the challenge for business leaders, then, is focus.

How, then, does a businessperson focus and get all of her horses running in the same direction?

The focus strategy I have been sharing with my clients and mentees over the past couple of years, and the strategy I personally use is to identify 3 high-levels projects you need to be focusing on and apply most of your horsepower to those 3 projects. Everything else is re prioritized or delegated.

If your horses are not going in the same direction, you won’t be as productive

Glenda was overwhelmed trying to tackle several aspects of her contact center. She was designing a new monitoring form and revamping her quality assurance process, researching technology for a phone upgrade, implementing new CRM software, picking out colors for the new wall paint, and trying to boost morale, among many other things.

That’s a lot. And yet, Glenda’s project list probably looks a lot like yours in terms how much she’s juggling. It’s not only a lot; it has her horses going all over the place. Your horses may be all over the field too.

Identify the top 3 projects you need to be focusing on right now

I had Glenda identify the top 3 projects she needed to be focusing on right now. I convinced her that she’d be far more effective if all of her 20 horses could push the top 3 projects. This would allow her to fiercely focus, progress quickly and bring these projects to closure.

Glenda re prioritized the projects that didn’t make the Big 3 and she delegated some of the tasks. Glenda was free to focus. I checked-in with Glenda a few weeks ago and she is making impressive progress on her 3 focus areas.

The Bottom Line:

Get your horses going in the same direction by focusing on 3, no more than 4, high-level projects at a time. Get comfortable re prioritizing and delegating. When you do, you’ll move more swiftly, experience less stress and bring projects to closure on time.

These 3 Tips Will Help You Get Over Your Fear of Public Speaking

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Customer Service Keynote

I recently hosted a Train-the-Trainer session with one of my long-term clients. A new trainer will be delivering training courses I designed for the company. I knew her first half-day training session was today, so I called her up to see how her very first training session went. 

“Myra, I was so nervous! My voice quivered and my legs and arms shook. It was obvious to everyone that I was nervous. Can you help me with this?”

That took me back to my very first speech. It was 8th grade Civics class. Mr. McGinty was my teacher. I had to give an 8-minute speech. I was allowed to use up to 5 index cards. I used all 5 all right, front and back. My entire 8-minute speech was written out word-for-word on those cards. I read the speech and nearly died. My hands shook as I held the cards. My voice quivered something terrible. I remember my left leg just would not stop moving.

I assured my client that nervous energy is normal and that most people have a real fear of public speaking. And yes, I could help her with this.

Tips like picturing the entire audience in their underwear usually don’t help with the nervous jitters. What does help? Feeling confident and powerful helps you not feel nervous. But how does one manifest confidence and power?

Here are the 3 things I do to feel confident and powerful in front on an audience, the 3 things I shared with my client when we spoke today.

1. It’s about the audience, not you. When I first started out as a keynote speaker and trainer, my focus was on me. I had to have the perfect PowerPoint. Great energy was spent on having just the right outfit and accessories. I’d always get my hair and nails done before big events. It’s good to look good, but that’s not the point.

Your focus needs to be on your audience. Focus on being fully present with your audience. Deliver value. Engage your audience with stories, small group discussions and humor. When your focus in on your audience, there’s no time to consider yourself and there’s little room for nervous energy. When I changed my focus from me to my audience, my confidence soared.

2. Preparation is everything. The more prepared you are, the more confident you are. I literally rehearse my stories and my full keynotes aloud and I rehearse over and over. Right now I am preparing to deliver a brand new keynote topic in front of an audience of thousands. I have been researching and crafting this keynote for about 10 months. I have reserved the last 60 days before the keynote for nearly daily out loud rehearsals. In the weeks leading up to the event, I will do dress rehearsals with my slide deck. This level of preparation gives you confidence. Confidence is power and keeps you from feeling nervous.

3. Try the Power Pose. I just discovered the Power Pose earlier this year and now I do it before every keynote, training session or important meeting. Amy Cuddy, researcher and professor at Harvard Business School, has discovered body language techniques that make people feel more powerful.

In Cuddy’s research she found that if people stand like Wonder Woman for two minutes, their testosterone (in men and women) increases significantly and their cortisol (stress hormone) drops significantly. What is standing like Wonder Woman, you ask? It is to stand tall with your chest out and your hands on your hips. The Wonder Woman pose, referred by Cuddy as a Power Pose, makes people feel more powerful. People who do the Power Pose for just 2 minutes are more risk taking, think more abstractly and are more likely to do very well in stressful situations, like public speaking.

My client loved the Power Pose idea and she committed to putting her focus on her audience. She felt prepared and when she combines preparation with power and audience focus, she will be amazing. If you get the nervous jitters before public speaking, try these 3 tips and you too will be amazing.

Myra Golden is a customer experience keynote speaker and trainer who travels North America looking for great stories to share, and new ways to help her clients deliver the best possible customer experience.

Details Matter In the Customer Experience

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I don’t like shopping. Yes, I’m a woman and I don’t like shopping.

I should clarify. I don’t like getting out in malls and retail shops, but I do love buying new things. Hence, I do a lot of my shopping online.

I bought the dress, shoes, belt and lipstick for next big keynote online. I get my groceries delivered to my front door. My MacBook was an online purchase. I order a lot of things online.

And I notice things. Like, was the shipment delivered on time? Did the merchant send shipment confirmation? Was my item damaged in shipment? Was shipment fast? Is customer service easy to reach? How helpful is the online FAQ section?

Last week in my grocery order, my can of whole tomatoes was smashed and split wide open, making the tomatoes unusable. These little details, on time or not on time, confirmation sent or not, or damaged goods all makeup the customer experience. Every detail matters.

So, when I got a special delivery on my porch from Williams-Sonoma today, I was surprised and delighted to see how carefully my order was wrapped.

I ordered Pumpkin Bread mix and Pecan Pumpkin Butter. Yummy! I bought these special items for a fall dinner I’m hosting in my home in a few weeks. I opened the box to find my Pecan Pumpkin Butter nestled safely in airtight bubble wrap.

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My eyes lit up and I just had to take a photo. The glass jar was perfectly intact. More than that, I was so delighted that Williams-Sonoma had taken the time to carefully secure my glass jar so that I can impress my family with a unique and tasty bread spread during my fall dinner. If only the merchant who sent my canned tomatoes had taken such care.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to the customer experience, details matter. Take the time to identify customer pain points and have an answer to the pain points so that your customers get the best possible customer experience. Also, try to anticipate questions your customers will have and answer those questions proactively. When you do, you’ll surprise and delight your customers and you’ll develop a reputation for a great customer experience.

4 Things Your Agents Can Do To Preempt an Escalation

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Your escalations have gotten out of hand. Agents are frustrated and are sometimes happy to hand calls over to supervisors. Customers feel that the only way to get the answers they seek is to speak to a supervisor. Meanwhile, supervisors are frustrated, backlogged and overwhelmed because all they do is handle escalated calls.

Sound familiar? Yeah, I know it does. Well, I have help for you.

Customers escalate to supervisors for 4 reasons:

  • They think they’ll get help faster/better if they speak with a supervisor.
  • The customer does not feel the agent is knowledgeable or capable of helping them.
  • Customers feel the agent isn’t listening or doesn’t understand the problem.
  • Agents lack confidence to assertively control the call by being direct.

If the goal is to reduce escalations, and certainly it is, we have to position agents as confident, attentive listeners who are knowledgeable and capable of serving customers. In this article I have 4 ways your agents can do just that.

1. Reflect the Brand Promise

I was working with a client recently where agents are put in the position to have to occasionally deny claims. Customers don’t want to hear that their claim is denied and denials are one of the key reasons calls escalate in this call center. I encouraged the agents in a recent training session to start the denial discussion off by explaining what the protection plan does cover and to convey to the customer just how valuable their protection plan is.

Instructing the agents to start off by discussing what the plan does cover and reiterating the plan value ensures agents reflect the brand promise. In order to de-escalate calls, agents have to establish trust with the customer. Reflecting the brand promise helps agents establish trust.

2. Don’t Push

Last week at a Leadership Retreat I asked all participants to choose a partner. I had one person be Partner A and one was designated as Partner B. I instructed partner A to push their palm against the palm of partner B. I did not give partner B instruction to push their palm.

After a few seconds I asked, “How many of you who were Partner B pushed against Partner A’s palm?” Nearly 100% of the people who had the role of Partner B said they “pushed against Partner B.” Then I said, “I asked A to push, not B. Why did you push?” The unanimous answer was, “Because A Pushed.”

Here’s the thing. When we are pushed, the natural response is to push back. As customer service professionals, we have to make sure we don’t push in any way, because if we do, customers will push back. Customers often push back by escalating to a supervisor. That, or they yell, cuss, etc.

How might you be perceived as pushing?

  • Saying “There’s nothing else I can do for you.” This builds resistance and the customer feels they have to push to speak to someone else who can help them.
  • Speaking with a tone that comes across as defensive, irritated or unhelpful is a push for customers. They’ll push right around you to speak to someone they think will be more helpful and pleasant to deal with.
  • A statement like “Look, a supervisor will just tell you the same thing.” This sounds defensive and it is another form of pushing. Not only that, but you’ve planted the seed in the customer’s mind that a supervisor is standing by. The customer will often push back and simply request to speak to a supervisor because the agent has mentioned the word “supervisor.”

3. Be Regretful and Direct

People respect confident people. If a customer respects an agent, the agent is perceived as believable and credible and the call is less likely to escalate. When you have to refuse a customer’s request, do so confidently. Refusing a request directly and with an expression of regret helps you come across as both confident and credible.

Don’t waste time or words, get right to the point, and yet be gentle in your communication. Here’s how I encouraged my client to deny claims directly and with regret:

“I know this is upsetting for you. [pause] I wish there was something we could do. We have to honor the terms of your protection plan. There’s simply no way around this.”

4. Demonstrate That You Are Listening

When customers feel misunderstood or that the agent is simply not listening, they will nearly always attempt to escalate. Be careful not to cut the customer off mid-sentence to tell them what you can’t do or to ask questions. Interrupting customers shows you are not listening. Customers need to be heard and to feel understood. Allow customers to explain their situation to you. When it’s your turn to speak, demonstrate that you are listening.

Here’s an example of not demonstrating that you are listening.

Customer: “I sent in documentation and evidence to prove my case in the dispute, but then today I got a letter in the mail saying you are moving forward with the charge in favor of the merchant!”

Employee: “What’s the claim number associated with this charge on your debit card?”

In this example the employee fails to acknowledge the customer’s emotion, gives no evidence that she’s listening and she jumps right to questioning. The statement is rote and robotic. This pattern of response makes it very difficult for the agent to establish rapport, build trust and to control the call. If customers don’t feel a sense of rapport and trust with agents, they are more likely to escalate. Listening helps agents create rapport and trust.

Here’s a perfect example of demonstrating that you are listening.

Customer: “I sent in documentation and evidence to prove my case in the dispute, but then today I got a letter in the mail saying you are moving forward with the charge in favor of the merchant!”

Employee: “I realize that must be frustrating for you. Let me take a look to see what’s going on here. Do you happen to know the claim number associated with this charge?”

Here the agent uses a statement to acknowledge the customer’s frustration. It’s quick and simple. This acknowledgment allows the agent to begin establishing rapport and it positions the agent as confident and empowered. The customer is more likely to trust the agent and in turn, the agent will have much more control over the call, reducing the risk for escalation.

The Bottom Line

Position your agents to reflect your brand promise, ensure they don’t inadvertently push customers, coach them to speak directly and with regret and get them on their A-Game when it comes to listening. When you do, you will find that they are preempting escalations and your supervisors will love you for this.

How to Talk to Customers: Friendliness, Tone and Connection

*Professional Development Opportunity*

The biggest problem with the customer experience in most companies is how employees talk to customers. All too often, employees come across as indifferent, cold, uncaring, rushed or rude. This employee “attitude problem” can be the tipping point that sends customers to the competition. This attitude problem is what drives customers to tweet and blog about a poor customer experience. The great news is, with the right training, monitoring and coaching, employees can learn how to soften tones, truly convey empathy, make customers feel taken care of and even make memorable personal emotional connections with customers.

Learn more about this training video.

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