Unfriendly Signs Are Bad For Business

Imagine you stroll into your local self-serve frozen yogurt shop and see this sign:

Image credit: Jeff Toister

Image credit: Jeff Toister

The business hung the sign because a few people would come into the shop, load up on samples, and then leave. This sign was the response.

But what does this sign really say?

It’s unfriendly. It discourages you from lingering. It almost feels threatening, as in “You’d better find a flavor you like or we’ll charge you!”

There’s a better way to handle this.

  • Do nothing. What’s really the cost of a few free samples?
  • Talk to people who abuse sampling on an individual basis.
  • Have employees give out sampling cups to encourage friendly interaction (and sales!).

I’ve previously written about unfriendly signs here and here. These were two places I haven't returned to. 

These signs usually point to a bigger problem. A lack of trust. Poor customer engagement. And lost business opportunities.

It’s a self-serve yogurt place, so the cashier usually stands behind the register waiting to ring up customers. There’s typically a lot of downtime in between. 

Why not encourage sampling?

The cashier could suggest a new flavor or recommend toppings. He could do a lot of things to engage with customers. This might actually justify the tip jar that otherwise inexplicably sits in front of the register.

Shep Hyken recently wrote about a similar experience on his blog. He made this excellent suggestion for business owners:

Don’t make a rule because just one or two customers (out of hundreds or even thousands) abuse your system. In other words, don’t penalize all of your honest customers for the sins of a few.

ATD 2015 Conference Re-cap: Training is Changing Fast

The Association for Talent Development’s 2015 International Conference & Exposition may have finally caused a tipping point in how we train employees. 

I’ll address this more in just a minute.

But first, here’s an overview of the conference in case you missed it:

The conference was held in Orlando, FL and featured nearly 10,000 training professionals from around the world. There were keynote presentations, breakout sessions in 10 topical tracks, and a massive expo hall with more than 400 exhibitors.

You can read more here:

Image courtesy of ATD

Image courtesy of ATD

Training is Changing

Rigid, formal training will soon be a thing of the past. The classroom may soon be gone or at least unrecognizable. E-learning may look very different.

In it’s place? Problem-centered, self-directed learning where participants train themselves.

In customer service, this has huge implications on the way we deliver training over a number of topics:

  • Training new hires
  • Developing customer service skills
  • Product knowledge training
  • Educating customers
  • Developing customer service leaders

I’ll dive deeper into the how and why over the coming weeks. In the meantime, here are a few resources to start exploring.

On a personal note, I was one of nine recipients of the CPLP Contributor Award, which recognizes holders of the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance credential for outstanding volunteer efforts to support, promote, and advance the CPLP program.

Webinar Re-cap: Five More Obstacles to Outstanding Customer Service

On Tuesday, I hosted a webinar called Five More Obstacles to Outstanding Customer Service.

The title was a riff on a session I facilitated at ICMI’s recent Contact Center Exposition & Conference called Tackling Five Hidden Causes of Poor Customer Service (see a conference re-cap here). 

The webinar revealed five additional obstacles that I’ve uncovered through my research. Below are links to additional information on each obstacle. You can also watch the webinar here

Obstacle #1: Too Much Feedback

We often think that employees don’t get enough feedback on their performance. A few studies suggest that employees might be getting too much!

Even worse, all that feedback is hurting their performance. The short version of the story is excessive feedback gives people too much to think about.


Obstacle #2: Fight or Flight

“Don’t take it personally,” might be the worst advice you can give to a customer service employee.

The advice is well-meaning. We don’t want employees to get into an argument with a customer or do their best to just get away.

Unfortunately, taking it personally is an instinctive reaction called the Fight or Flight response. We’re hard wired to do exactly what we shouldn’t do when we’re faced with an angry or upset customer.


Obstacle #3: Caffeine

Most of us have a caffeine habit. 

One or two cups of coffee in the morning (or energy drink, soda, etc.) followed by a pick-me-up in the afternoon. 

You probably already know that caffeine can be addictive. Studies show that the problem might be worse than you think. That daily caffeine habit might be the root cause of a lot of poor customer service!


Obstacle #4: Empowerment

Employee empowerment is often viewed as a panacea for a lot of problems.

The truth is not many employees are being empowered. A recent study from ICMI found that 86 percent of contact centers don’t fully empower their employees.

Real empowerment is scary. It turns out there’s a whole host of things customer service leaders worry about when it comes to employee empowerment. We ran a poll in our webinar and discovered the number one concern: consistency.


Obstacle #5: Learned Helplessness

Employees may eventually stop trying when they aren’t fully empowered.

This is a condition psychologists called learned helplessness. It happens when a person believes that any effort to change things is futile. The result is they stop trying.

Engaging employees in problem solving can help. Customer service employees love to help their customers, but they often perceive obstacles in their way. Help your employees take ownership of tough situations and you’ll see motivation soar.


More Obstacles

Customer service isn't easy.

These are just a few of the many obstacles customer service employees face on a daily basis. You can read about ten more ways that customer service is hard in my book, Service Failure.