Tag Archives: customer interaction

How Mystery Shopping Can Help You to Feel the Customer’s Experience

female detectiveI am a true believer in learning by observing the “real” world. That is why, last week, I spent a full day mystery shopping at 4 branches of a bank in a European country. My goal was to find out how well they could identify my needs and how eager they were to open an account with the products I needed. Let me share my experiences.

The bank is the number one bank in that country, and my expectations were high. My first impressions confirmed my expectations. I noted that the staff were all “very friendly people and willing to help me without making an appointment first”.

I dropped the clue that I want to open a current account to start with and, surprisingly, 3 out of the 4 advisors immediately started to explain to me their common current account. They printed out the information and/or handed me their brochures. No questions or financial details were asked to find out if this was the right account for me. The only question they asked me repeatedly was “What more information do you want?”

To help them out, I dropped some more clues, but each time the advisors only addressed the obvious question. When I said that I wanted to discuss it with my husband first, none of the advisors asked to schedule a next appointment or noted my contact details.

The following questions kept me awake that night:

  • Is excellent service only about being friendly to a customer?
  • Is pro-actively asking the right questions to identify the needs of a customer and, therefore, being able to offer the best solutions, considered being too pushy?
  • Would a customer feel irritated if they were offered a next appointment and/or asked their contact details for a follow-up?

My answers to those questions were definitively no. What I learned from Marty Cohen and Ed Brown is that Sales and Service are intertwined. And guess what, they really are. As a customer, at first I felt welcome because the employees were very friendly and willing to help me. But from the start of the conversation to the end, it became obvious that the advisors were not listening to me and didn’t recommend the right account for me. I felt I was not being taken seriously.

That day I learned a lot about how a customer must feel sometimes and what we all could do to train, coach and support employees to improve their Service and Sales skills for the benefit of the customers. It was a well spent day, and I recommend you do some mystery shopping yourself or do it more often.

Let me know what you discover!

Brenda Schäfer is a Results Consultant for Cohen Brown Management Group, Inc.

It’s Service Malpractice

Recently we called a contractor to evaluate a leak in our house.  There was an obvious crack on an interior wall, and we suspected the leak was coming from the roof or the siding.

When the contractor came, he said that our downspout was not connected properly, and he could fix it. That was a big relief.  However, this was the same company that installed the downspouts and gutters, so I was curious why he now felt it important to change the direction of the downspout.

What he said next stunned me. He explained that when they put in the downspouts and gutters, they had asked my husband and me how we wanted them to be attached. Why did they ask us in the first place? We’re not the experts!  If they had counseled us on what they usually do and why it is important, we would have followed their recommendation, because who wants to tear out part of an interior wall and fix it!  We couldn’t remember who we talked to when this was installed, but I don’t remember them sharing their knowledge, expertise and best practices with us to persuade us how it should be done.

I consider this service malpractice.  When your team members talk with your customers, are they confident in their expertise in your industry, and are you confident they are truly helping customers?  Don’t take your expertise for granted. Give your customers the full advantage of what you know about your products and services, because they don’t know unless you help them.

Your thoughts?

Johanna Lubahn is Managing Director of Call Center Services for Cohen Brown Management Group, Inc.

Are Your People Robots or People?

I am an on-line shopper out of necessity. I really like to go “shopping” into stores and malls, but I am time-poor, so it’s shopping on-line a majority of the time.

Recently, I purchased a large item from an on-line retailer and was not satisfied when I got it. They make the return very easy and ask you to complete a lengthy satisfaction survey about the product: Will you shop with them again? Will you recommend them? Was the experience fast and efficient? Did you encounter any challenges?, etc. I completed the survey and was quite happy with everything until I had to call. That’s when this experience “went South”.

Because of the extensive survey that I completed and the ease of ordering and returning, I was expecting a great phone experience. After all, they look for customer satisfaction in the survey and ask a number of questions around it. So, I was very disappointed when I encountered an uninterested and bored person at the other end of the phone. What happened to all the hype? Was this only the marketing department creating a great website with exciting phrases and cute slogans? Where was the enthusiasm for helping me figure out the return process with a large item?

I knew she was bored, because I could hear it in her voice. We always say, “It’s what you say and how you say it.” And this couldn’t be truer in today’s electronic world. When you do have to speak to a person, wouldn’t it be nice if they were engaged, excited to speak to you and help you? I think so.

If you manage people, listen for how they interact with your customers. Do they take the opportunity to fully engage customers with their tone and their own personal style, or could they easily be mistaken for robots? This can be a very subjective area, but it’s one that can set your organization apart, one conversation at a time.

Listen to yourself, too. Are you smiling when you talk in person or on the phone? Do you put some enthusiasm into your voice, no matter what conversation you are in? Or could you be a robot?

Your thoughts?

Johanna Lubahn is Managing Director of Call Center Services for Cohen Brown Management Group, Inc.

Breaking the ‘Telephone’ Barrier through Communication Arts & Skills

I have never been a big fan of talking on the phone.

The actual phone itself has always felt like a barrier to me. When Bell invented it, of course, there was nothing like it…but now with the advent of telecommunications, such as Skype or iChat, video conferencing, or Facetime, why bother with the old-fashioned, traditional phone at all?

Well, if your job entails using the phone, such as in a contact centre, you don’t really have a choice. Although we have come far with technology, contact centres still conduct calls the old-fashioned way. Plus, most of my colleagues, including me, who work from isolated home-office environments, may not always like to be caught off guard by video. The phone, as traditional as it is, without a doubt, is still a major communication tool for clients, and increasingly so.

Therefore, how can we, as Teleconsultants or Contact Centre Professionals, utilize the phone in such a way that it no longer acts as a barrier between us and the other party, whether it is a Client, Prospect, Colleague, Direct Report, or our Boss?

Acquiring the communication arts and skills that Johanna Lubahn, our MD of Contact Centres, references so many times in her White Papers is a great place to start. Just like any new learned behaviour, new skills will take effort to put into practice on a consistent basis.

No matter what your view is on spending the time to enhance yours or your employees’ phone skills, there is one thing no one can argue with: when we have a call, whether it’s personal or business, and the other party really listens to us, smiles when they speak with us (although we can’t see them), asks us relevant questions and is truly focused on us, my gosh, what a difference that makes. It is so refreshing to have a call after which you hang up feeling like you have actually come as close as possible to spending face-to-face time with the person on the other end of the phone.

If it’s possible to meet someone in person and still feel disconnected, then isn’t it also possible to have a phone call that feels just like meeting someone face-to-face?

If communication arts and skills are of interest to you or anyone you know, do take time to review any one of Johanna Lubahn’s White Papers: Call Center Cinderella, Call Center Cinderella Part II, and Rushed, Routine & Robotic…and share your point of view.

Neda Bayat is Global Business Consultant for Cohen Brown Management Group, Inc. and Breakthrough PerformanceTech, LLC. 

One Simple Behavior; One Giant Impression

canstockphoto10405518My husband and I traveled to Moscow last week—a long way from our South Florida home and a long journey through multiple airports. We travel extensively, but this time we were struck by the service we received from airline personnel at all the different touch points—airport check-in, lounges, gate team, and in-flight crew.

I had lots of good experiences on this trip, but one thing stood out. This airline, perhaps in part because of all the security requirements, unfailingly used our names. But it wasn’t robotic and it definitely made an impression. In each case it seemed a sincere effort to build rapport and make our journey pleasant. Yes, I was traveling business class, but my husband wasn’t and the first thing he commented on when we deplaned and reconnected in the terminal in Moscow was the friendliness of the staff along the way and their use of his name.

One simple behavior demonstrated across the organization made a very big, very positive impression. In our minds, it’s now part of this airline’s brand and reputation.

This got me thinking…If I had to choose a single behavior or activity that, if performed consistently with a high degree of quality would have a lasting positive impact on my customers’ experience, what would I choose? And, how would I make that activity part of my company’s DNA—something everyone in the organization understood as vital to providing world-standard service? What level of commitment, focus and follow-up would it take to cascade just one behavior through an entire organization?


Cynthia Leverich is Director of Global Business Development for Cohen Brown Management Group, Inc.

Anxiety Is the Price You Pay

Although many people will tell you NOT to discuss religion and politics in public, my family has always been very open in these conversations, so my sons have never been afraid to express their opinion on either subject. One night I received a distraught phone call from my 21-year old who had offended his dear friend’s mother during a debate on one of the “banned” topics. He wanted to call her in the morning to apologize but what should he say?

My advice was to put it in writing so that his words would be well chosen, hopefully well received, and he could stay focused on the apology.

This is the same advice I would give to anyone communicating with a client or employee. Put it in writing so your words are well chosen and you stay focused on the topic.

Getting started is sometimes the hardest part of scripting. Try these steps to simplify and create a compelling script.

  1. Jot down all the ideas or concepts you might want to incorporate into your script.
  2. Narrow the ideas down to the five most important.
  3. Include specific examples to prove the points you’re making, using words or phrases such as “which means,” “therefore,” and “for example.”
  4. Utilize the Litany Technique to allow the listener to concentrate on your points. This is where you say, “The number one reason I believe this is the right choice for you is… Secondly, I feel… My number three reason would be…”
  5. Now write the script in the first person, meaning that you write it exactly how you would say it to the listener.

Try it, it works! Then, let me know how it worked for you.

Cynthia Whitmer Griffith is a Performance Results Network Results Consultant for Community Banks and Credit Unions at Cohen Brown Management Group, Inc.

Are You Ignoring Your Biggest Sales Engine?

While everyone is running around in a panic about generating new sales, some organizations completely overlook the gold mine they already own, up and running but ignored, the call center. Now, this doesn’t apply to all organizations. Some new entrants to the financial sector have figured out that call centers are the ONLY way to go for sales and customer satisfaction.

With the explosion of cell phones around the world, why would some organizations limit the capabilities of their call centers by insisting that anything to do with sales has to be done face-to-face? This is 2012, and people are shopping, trading, doing almost everything over the phone, so why the restraint on internal call centers?

You can argue that it’s because of identity protection, but if that is the case, why are the new on-line banks and organizations making it big with sales and customer satisfaction? I think the reason is because it’s hard to disinvest in a physical network once you’ve established it. So, to justify the physical network, some organizations mandate that customers visit a branch/office to complete a transaction.

Do the math: a typical call center in an organization can generate up to 50% of the sales and, if staffed properly, can equal the efforts of physical branches/offices. They can also do this with a 10th of the staff and at a quarter of the cost. So, if your organization is focused on cost-cutting and efficiencies through the call center, think about how business is really conducted. It’s on the phone. Don’t ignore your biggest sales engine—the call center—because the opportunities are enormous!

Your thoughts?

Johanna Lubahn is Managing Director of Call Center Services for Cohen Brown Management Group, Inc.