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Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we talk about embracing humanity in the workplace. I’m JoDee Curtis, and with me is my co-host Susan White, a national HR consultant. I’m the owner of Purple Ink, an HR consulting firm, and author of “JoyPowered®” and “The JoyPowered® Family.” Susan and I recently released our newest book, “The JoyPowered® Team,” with five other authors. In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about instilling a culture of customer service. Susan, have you ever had your clients ask you about how they can create the best customer experience within their companies?
I have, and you know, it’s interesting. Some of our clients are interested in trying to figure out how do we make everyone in the company really client focused, you know how do we make customer service the core of what we do? I’ve had other clients ask me, how can I help all of the people inside my company who never get to touch the customer, how can I get them to be more customer service oriented with each other? For example, people in IT, even though they don’t ever talk to the outside customer, how can we make sure that they have a customer first focus with all the people inside the company who need IT services?
Right, right. Yeah, I think it’s important for us to recognize that we think of customer as being an external term, but this also applies to our internal customers, or customers might sometimes be our vendors, right? Or just anyone that we’re working with. Contractors, people that we’re working with on a regular basis can also see us as, as, us being their customer or them being our customer. Purple Ink is a small company with only 12 employees and I still can see how it can be difficult to, to provide individual clients good customer care and give them personal attention, so I wonder sometimes for larger organizations, how they can possibly scale this culture of providing good service to hundreds or even thousands of different customers. And sometimes those are worldwide as well, right? Not just locally. But according to a Forbes article, which was titled “How Big Businesses Can Care at Scale,” they talk about the need to implement policies and standards to focus on the customer from start to finish. In other words, companies need to create trust between the customer and themselves. Again, that might be internal and there might be external. So how did they do this? How did they create this trust? Well, David Tal, who’s the co-founder and CEO of Agentology, says there isn’t just one single thing that creates this trust, but it encompasses everything they do. He’s specifically quoted as saying, “trust equals consistency multiplied by time.” I love that. I’m gonna say that again, “trust equals consistency multiplied by time.”
So it’s kind of like do what you say you’re going to do every time.
That builds trust.
And repeat, repeat, right? He goes on to discuss how he has made the mistake in the past of putting profits over customers at times, which he says only results in short-term gains and customers lost trust. And worse yet, once they were gone, it was nearly impossible to ever win them back. It always makes me think of the term that we we might win the battle but lose the war, right? We’re looking for the short-term, not the long-term. David also is quoted as saying whoever cares the most for their customers wins. It’s that simple. Most businesses haven’t focused on customer care to the extent they would like to. Consequently, we have invited a subject matter expert to today’s podcast to help us to take our customer care efforts to the next level. I’d like to introduce Amy Woodall, who brings professional experience when it comes to the topic of customer care. She helps companies develop sales and service driven cultures by focusing on an attitude of leadership rather than just emphasizing technique. Amy is not a therapist by trade, but she does a deep dive into the source of issues holding companies back from the results they desire. She hits audiences with realization and appreciation of each individual’s striking difference. Amy, thank you so much for joining us. I’m really thrilled to have you on our show. And tell us more about your background and experiences.
Yeah, so thank you for having me here. I was really excited when you reached out and asked if I’d be a guest that I jumped at the chance, because I have heard nothing but great things about you and Susan. And so about me. So Sandler Training, a lot of people know Sandler Training, or maybe they’ve heard of Sandler. Sandler is the world’s largest sales training organization, so we’re in, you know, multiple countries, you can go through our training, it is in several different languages. And at one point in time in my career, I was just sort of sitting back saying, okay, we can get them really skilled up and, and trained well in sales, but then what happens to the rest of the organization? How does the rest of the organization manage those relationships? How do they deal with difficult people? And that’s when my wheels were turning, and I picked up the customer care program that was sort of the underdog program in Sandler, and since I have sort of unofficially become the face of customer care for Sandler Training. I train it all over the world. I train other Sandler trainers’ clients, and then I’ve also helped develop the program “Dealing with Difficult People,” and so it’s, it’s been a little bit of my jam to say, okay, now that gap between sales and service, how do we help organizations fill it?
So important, really. Amy, what are the biggest misconceptions when it comes to customer care or customer service?
So I, one of the things that really is my pet peeve is when people refer to it as a department, because customer service is an attitude. It is not just a department that tends to field calls, and not everyone is really in tune with how every interaction that they have plays a role into client satisfaction. So one of the frustrations I hear from companies all the time is that sales will go out and promise the world so they can get the job done, and then operations and customer care is left scrambling trying to fulfill those promises. And so I love being able to even teach sales teams how they play an important role in client satisfaction and loyalty. And you can go out and close new deals all day long, but if you’re not retaining the ones that you bring in, it’s really like carrying around a bucket full of holes, you know, you’re not getting anywhere. And so I think that one, that’s one that really gets under my skin. I say, no, it’s not just one person’s job or one department’s job. It’s an organizational attitude.
Right. I love that. As HR professionals, I always think of recruiting as being everyone’s job, not just the HR department, but I’ve never heard that articulated like that as customer care. And so true.
Everyone’s job is retention of those employees, I think, right? I used to work in a large bank, and we used to have a really strong sales program, and we finally realized that we were bringing loads of people in the front door, but they were leaving out the back door because we weren’t doing a good job of the customer care.
Yeah. And the other piece of it that I find is missing is that customer service is also an internal opportunity and an internal role where if you’re not communicating effectively with your internal customers, your external customers will know it somehow or some way, and so customer care is a two way street. It’s not only how we communicate outwardly, but also how we’re communicating inwardly as well.
Absolutely. What is the difference, you think, Amy, between customers who are good and exceptional with their client experience?
You know, I think it’s the difference between proactive and reactive. I mean, in general, customer care, client satisfaction, that whole customer retention piece can be very reactive, which is how well do we put out the fire when you bring it to us or how quickly can we solve your problem when you bring it to us? But the ones who tend to be excellent at it, that just have very high retention rates, they understand how to manage expectations early and often. They understand how to stay in front of the customer, even when they don’t need you. And I think that’s a big key, is that we don’t want to wait for our customers to need us, to see the value that we bring to them, and just those small pieces, just those two little things, that makes a big difference in moving from from good to great, if you will.
Can you give us a couple examples, maybe, of some well known companies that are really good being proactive at this?
I find that here locally, Salesforce is one that even nationally they have developed specific departments where their role is really to make sure that the onboarding experience for customers is is done well, and so they tend to kind of hold the hand and walk people through. I think a lot of tech companies tend to be on the forefront of how that operates. I’ve had the great luck of working with some other great local businesses, Business Furniture, for example. They are a furniture dealer here in Indianapolis, and they do a wonderful job of just making sure that once something is sold, how do we manage the expectations of the customer? I have this saying that the customer is not always right, but it’s usually our fault when they’re wrong. Because they have they have unrealistic expectations, as they will, because they don’t live in that world. And so, you know, their expectations are going to be out of alignment with what you can bring to reality. So it’s our job to have tough conversations, or realistic conversations, early and often.
Somebody I – a group that I have personally always found to be exceptional customer care is Best Buy. I feel like just by having someone, they have someone at the front door that asks you what, when you walk in, like, what are you looking for? What can we help you with? And many times I’m just running in there to pick up one thing, so I appreciate just knowing go to go to aisle eight.
Yeah, over here, right? There’s also this… when you can find individuals or even companies who are willing to do it, who identify typical challenges that customers have and help them problem solve before they have the challenge. So I’ll give you an example. I was in Orlando for a conference a few weeks ago, and I had to check my luggage, you know, with the hotel, as, as that happens when you need to check out, and the bellboy, Santiago was his name, he handed me my ticket and he immediately said, will you do me a favor, will you get your phone out and take a picture of that ticket, and that way if you happen to misplace it, we’ll be able to find your bag, and that was an instant, a genius idea of saying that’s taking it to the next level, because he probably recognized the biggest challenge I have in my job is when people lose their tickets, so how can I train people beforehand? And that’s working proactively, and I love that. I actually said, can I get a picture with you? I’m going to share this story, you know, as I’m moving around doing speaking engagements and training clients, and I get to share it with you ladies. And so those small pieces, if you can train an entire organization to think that way, to think strategically on behalf of the customer, that is an amazing experience to have.
Well, I love that, when… especially because I was at a conference just a few weeks ago where I had to check my luggage and, and went back at the end of the conference and said, I can’t find my ticket.
I have done that more times than not.
So that’s good personal advice for me.
That’s great. Amy, what advice do you give clients when they’re dealing with difficult people or situations?
I have a phrase that I have been using a lot lately, which is you are 50% of every problem or solution. And so when they’re coaching people through dealing with difficult people or situations, or when they face it themselves, what we often do is we give 100% responsibility to that other person, so it causes us to feel a little bit like a victim, a little bit like we have no power, and so own your 50. And when you own your 50, then we can start to see options of how we can communicate more effectively and really put yourself in their shoes. Typically, bad behavior is a signal of fear or frustration, so if we can understand where the fear and frustration lies, we can work more effectively to solve it. What ends up happening when we’re dealing with someone that’s difficult is that both parties end up being in fight or flight mode, and so we’re in the emotional brain. You cannot think strategically, you cannot help that person, even, you know, cognitively process information until we can move them to the prefrontal cortex. And so for the person who’s dealing with them to stay calm, to not take it personally, to own their 50, to make it their mission to make the other person okay, so that that person can then listen to what’s the logical information or what’s going to help solve this problem here.
It takes a lot of maturity to own your 50, doesn’t it?
It takes a mentality of ownership, and that is something that can be taught. I mean, there’s times when I’m hired in by clients, and they say, well, we want you to, you know, teach us how to be better with people. Okay, but the step, step number one is I have to teach people how to be better with themselves. Because if we can’t accomplish that, then nothing else is really, it’s all gonna be sort of a waste of time. They might pick up one or two nuggets, but you become more effective when you can really, you know, take extreme ownership.
Something I hear a lot from, especially on the phone from customer service reps, but I, but I’ve had this in, in live situations, too, where the customer service person will say thank you for your patience, and I always want to say, I don’t have patience, so don’t thank me. Is that something that they’re taught? Or is that… do you ever get that question? Because it really bothers me when they thank me for my patience.
Yeah, I think that’s assuming. And customer service in general, I work with some call centers, they’re mostly B2B, but a lot of my clients are, end up being engineers and technically driven people and people who are communicating often with clients, but may be more task oriented. But when it does come to call centers, a lot of times the focus is just, you know, call volume and let’s get them on and off as quickly as we can, and therefore, that’s a very much a catch 22. Therefore, they’re going back and having to touch the same problems over and over again. But to your point, when people say things like, you know, thank you for your patience or things that are just assuming, that can definitely push people’s buttons.
Yeah, it does mine.
It can be a trigger where it’s like, well, you’re assuming I’m a patient human being. And so instead to say something like I, you know, I really apologize for keeping you waiting.
You – that’s them owning their 50 and not sort of assuming anything on your part.
Right. Right. What… How can companies become more customer centric? Do you have some ideas for…
A good place to start is by collecting and appreciating negative feedback. A lot of times we get our ego involved when we get negative feedback and we want to justify or we want to blame, we want to point fingers, and we’re missing a great learning opportunity. Because when people complain, they’re giving us a chance to fix and make it right, and they’re also telling us that there was a gap in their expectation and their delivery. So that either tells us, hey, we have an opportunity here to set realistic expectations early or we have an opportunity to maybe change some things operationally and/or internally to better fit the needs of our customer. So If you want to move towards that, create an attitude of excitement when someone decides to complain, not that you actively are like, oh, we want everybody to complain, but you can’t change what’s not acknowledged.
I had an experience yesterday I was, happened to go to a spa to get a massage. JoDee’s very familiar with, one of my favorite things to do. And in the dressing room, we’re putting our clothes back on. The two people were talking, one of them really had a bad experience. She didn’t like the masseuse, she didn’t like the pressure, and none of those things. I was looking at her thinking, how could you not be in heaven? Somebody just worked on your body. But we went out there and I was paying and they were paying next to me and they were talking about they had a bad experience, they didn’t enjoy it. The person behind the desk took it so gracefully and said we need to know that, we thank you, and then they gave her her gift card, right there next to me. I’m thinking, now why was I so darn happy? But I just couldn’t get over it because I don’t like the negative feedback, so I need to work on, recognize my 50. They just did a beautiful job.
I think what a lot of people won’t say anything, a lot of people will… And we – those are called the “never never customers,” they never complain, they never come back. They will just sort of tell their friends quietly. And so if someone has the courage or guts to, to actively complain, they’re saying I’m giving this to you. There was a book written about it many years ago called “A Complaint Is a Gift,” which they said if we could, you know, shift the response in our brain, if we could rewire the response to complaints, and instead of us having this immediate pushback, saying, oh, no, don’t bring that to me, that’s bad, we instead saw it as a gift, because nobody ever gets mad for receiving a gift. You’d be like, oh, thank you very much. So it sounds like that she she took that action, and it’s really helpful.
What support resources or other tools do you recommend to leaders, they’re trying to get good at this customer service?
Surround yourself with other people that you appreciate their approach to service. I think we become like the people that we, you know, hang out with and the people we spend time with, so that you can glean some insight from people that you, like, know about. Appreciate, there’s, you know, great podcasts out there, there’s so many good books that you could take, and then courses. I mean, the good thing about Sandler in general is that we are pretty much in every market. There’s somebody in every single state and, and I do have, I have other Sandler trainers who call and say, hey, Amy, can you train, you know, can you train customer care? So there are some folks in there. Now, regardless of what you’re looking into, if you’re just, you know, sort of googling any level of training people, you tend to see a higher retention rate when people are being invested in, it’s really an interesting thing. And, and if it’s content that they appreciate, that the approach, you’ll find, you’ll find that people tend to stay longer, so any investment is better than no investment.
So I think what she’s saying, Susan, when she says surround ourselves with people who do this well, is that we should get more massages.
That’s right. Good business expense.
Yes. And what… Amy, I’m a big reader and always looking to share good book ideas. Do you have any particular books you recommend?
Some of them that my clients, you know, they, they just have kind of ended up in the hall of fame of customer care. As I mentioned, “A Complaint Is a Gift,” is a really great one. “Raving Fans,” is another good one, a big one, “The Fred Factor,” that’s an oldie but goodie. And then some other ones that are not specifically customer care related, but “Extreme Ownership,” or any books relating to ownership. If you can teach an organization how to have ownership, in turn, you will have happier customers, in turn, you will have less conflict and better internal customer service. I mean, all it’s sort of a domino effect.
Are there any particular philosophies or rules that you suggest companies teach or adopt?
You know, I mean, from a leader’s perspective, one thing that I see leaders do consistently which ends up adding to the madness is they rescue. And so instead of when a problem comes in, and especially people like to play hot potato with negative situations or negative people, instead of rescuing right away, because that develops learned helplessness, instead bury your feet. in. There’s another book I love called “No Ego,” by Cy Wakeman, and she gives an example, some examples in that book of when things aren’t going the way that you want, here are some effective questions that you can ask. One of those questions that she states is what does great look like from here. So we’re forcing people to use their strategic brain to problem solve, because they have the ability, but sometimes they lack the confidence in order to problem solve on their own. And so resist the urge to rescue. That’s certainly, you know, one of the philosophies that I would, I would put out there. Another philosophy is everyone internally is a customer as well, and it’s really hard for people to wrap their egos around it, because, or their brains around it, because the egos are in the way. And I’ve done customer care training for purchasing agents, purchasing agents never talk to a client. There’s never client interaction, but the way that they behave plays a role in whether or not the client is satisfied. And so pay as much attention to those internal customer, you know, customers as you would the external. Those are some of the philosophies I find to be very important.
I think HR historically is really good at looking at everybody who works in a company as their customer, but I think it’s pretty unique for HR, I don’t think most areas like purchasing looks at it that way.
Well, they don’t know. And one of my favorite questions to ask when I’m in training is, especially if we have multiple folks that are in the room, I sort of joke and say I get paid to stir the pot for a living, is to ask, and this is a great question for, you know, owners to ask their folks is what do other people do that make your job more difficult? And know that they do it unintentionally. And the answers that you get from that are, it’s interesting and to see the reaction of other people saying, oh, I didn’t realize that that made your job harder. And the more the more difficult conversations that you have, the better information that you’ll get and then you can get on a new path of how you communicate and behave to make sure that that organization is running seamlessly.
Right. Right. Amy, you’ve talked about a few mistakes that you’ve seen companies make. Any other mistakes that we haven’t talked about?
Yeah. I mean, leading with ego, I know, I’ve mentioned ego lots of times, I really think that that’s what’s get… what gets in the way. And not ego in terms of saying, I’m the biggest and baddest in the land, right? But just ego is whenever we refuse to change, and we’re so addicted to our comfort zone. And also a phrase that I’ll throw out there is expect what you tolerate. And so if we have leaders that come to us, and there’s like, these complaints and complaints of, of XYZ, and these people do this and, and we just I’ll just sort of say expect what you tolerate. If it’s something that’s tolerated on a regular basis and not addressed in, in a way that’s kind and consistent in a coaching, then that’s what you’re going to get.
Yeah, good advice, good advice.
Anything else our listeners need to know?
When it comes to customer care, I think the best thing that you can do is, you know, just give bad news early and often, be upfront and honest, ask a lot of questions, and be curious. When you problem solve too quickly, we tend to elongate problems. When we rush through things, we tend to, you know, elongate problems. And so if we just take a step back and take a deep breath and recognize that you’re the expert, and they need your help, and you can, you know, take that mentality so that you can guide, you know, someone through the experience and, and I’ve mentioned often, you know, get, give bad news early and often. I, I will use the example of a flat tire. If you’ve ever gotten a flat tire out of the blue, it is so frustrating. You are stranded on the side of the road, you are thinking do I even know how to change a tire? Do I have a spare tire? What, you know, I have to text everyone and tell them where I’m at. I mean, you’re really thrown off. But if you if somebody were to give you a warning and say hey, JoDee, on your way to work tomorrow, you’re going to have a flat tire, the flat tire is still terrible, but it would change the way you behave with the information I have. And so you would take a different route, you might slow down, it would change how you behave. So when it comes to client interaction, if instead of over promising, which I think we do often because we’re trying to keep people happy and tell them what they want to hear, under promise. Under promise, so that you can set yourself up to over deliver. If you’re promising a shipping date, you know, of tomorrow, and there’s a chance that might not get there for two more days, tell them that. If there’s a chance that it’s not right the first time, tell them that. I mean, you know, be as honest as you possibly can be, because when it happens, they’ll expect it. When it doesn’t, you’re a hero.
Yeah, yeah. Great advice. Well, Amy, how can people get in contact with you if they’re interested in learning more about customer care?
So I’m on LinkedIn a lot. I actually try and post a video once a week that’s pertaining to, you know, sales or communications or customer service, and so they can find me at LinkedIn under Amy Woodall, that’s probably the best way. I’m on Twitter, I think it’s @AmyWoodall. That should tell you how often I’m on Twitter.
And could you spell your last name for our listeners?
Yes, it’s W-O-O-D-A-L-L. Our, our website if you’re curious about finding us here in the Indianapolis market is the trustpointe, with an e, dot com. Or you can email me at email@example.com.
Nice. Amy will also be a speaker, if you’re in the Indianapolis area, at the HR Indiana Conference in August, along with, in a separate session, Susan White, who will also be a speaker at the HR Indiana Conference, so you can see both of them there.
Great. Amy, thank you so much for coming today. Really interesting.
Thank you ladies.
The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast is sponsored by our new book, “The JoyPowered® Team.” JoDee and I wrote this book with five of our colleagues and we can’t wait for you to read it. “The JoyPowered® Team” challenges you to choose joy for yourself and your teammates. Learn how to build inclusive teams, navigate workplace challenges, revitalize teams who falter, and thrive as teams evolve. Joy starts with you, whatever your role, industry, or area of expertise. Learn more about our new book and how to buy it at www.getjoypowered.com/books. That’s W-W-W dot G-E-T J-O-Y-P-O-W-E-R-E-D dot com slash B-O-O-K-S.
So JoDee, we have a listener question today from Shelly in Illinois. “How do you choose the best HR technology?”
So a little broad question, Shelly, but we appreciate you reaching out to us with your question. I think a couple of thoughts that I feel pretty passionately about that I – and ironically, I just had this conversation with a vendor myself, that we, I think many times are looking for one solution that has lots of different options, right? We’re looking for a payroll company that can do, be our HRIS system, that can be our applicant tracking system, that can be our background check provider…
Our learning management system, our succession planning system. Right?
Right. And we’re looking for one solution that will do all of those things for us, because we think they’re all connected. And the reality is that typically, a system was designed for one purpose. Maybe they were designed for payroll, or they were designed for an applicant tracking system, and then they added on other modules later. So I think it’s easy to fall into that trap of thinking, oh, I’ll just look for one solution and it’ll be so much easier for me, and I think we really have to kind of look into each of those services and getting the best of what we need. There might be some modules that, sure, if it does this, and we don’t have a system for that, that might work as well, but otherwise, I always recommend looking individually at what, what solution, what issue are you trying to solve, and what might be the best answer. And that might not necessarily mean it’s more expensive either, just because you’re you’re looking at different systems. And also, so many systems integrate now with each other, too, that it doesn’t even necessarily mean you’re going to be re-entering data to provide it.
Sure. And Shelly, the only thing I would add on is that I’m sure you’re going to do RFPs, you’re going to want to look at a wide array of particular vendors. If you have a small HR team and don’t feel like you’ve got the time to do the real due diligence that you need to do before you build the business case for your leadership as to which, you know, technology platform you want to use for what, I really think this might be a good time to use a consultant, somebody who does this all the time, who really can come to you with their experience in having helped other companies select and implement different platforms, this might be a really good investment of your dollars to have a consultant help you through it.
Right. I totally agree, and at a minimum, or even in addition, to reach out to other people, right? Reach out to other HR professionals or ask your local SHRM chapter for input on what what they’ve seen work for them. Look for a link in our show notes to a previous podcast around HR technology as well, and thanks for reaching out, Shelly.
In our in the news segment today, we’ll talk about the EEOC and applicants’ religious beliefs that must be considered. A recent settlement agreement between UPS and the US Equal Opportunity Commission, better known as the EEOC, serves as a reminder that accommodating job applicants’ religious beliefs supersedes an organization’s appearance policy in most cases, even when the job’s role is public facing. The EEOC has been aggressively making good on the promise made in its latest strategic enforcement plan to focus on class based recruitment and hiring practices, and that was said by Aaron Gelb, a partner in Conn Maciel Carey’s Chicago office. The agency’s plan includes eradicating religious barriers to employment. While many employers readily understand the need to reasonably accommodate disabled applicants and employees, it seems that some employers fail to grasp that they might also have to accommodate religious beliefs and practices of applicants and employees. And if you listen to our earlier podcast on hiring people with disabilities I’m not even so sure I would say I think that we’re all so good at that one either.
We need to get better, for sure.
Right. We have a lot of improvement to do around that. And then, if we add on top of this making sure we’re accommodating religious beliefs and practices as well. But this is a reminder for all of us to review our dress and appearance policies periodically, and consider inserting language affirming the organization’s willingness to consider accommodations for sincerely held religious beliefs. The EEOC encourages employers to engage in an interactive dialogue with applicants when evaluating reasonable accommodation requests.
Please tune in next time. Thank you for listening today. If you’ve missed any of our podcasts, you can catch all episodes for free on iTunes, Google Play, Podbean, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts by searching on the word “JoyPowered.” If you like our podcast, be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any upcoming episodes. And we’d love for you to rate and review us on iTunes. It helps people find our show. If you have any questions on any HR topics, you can leave us a voicemail at 317-688-1613 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re also on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter @JoyPowered. We welcome listener questions and comments.