Could Your Morning Coffee Lead to Poor Customer Service?

My eighth grade science project focused on caffeine.

Specially, I wanted to study caffeine’s addictive qualities. What would happen if someone with a regular caffeine habit suddenly went cold turkey for a day?

The experiment required a group of people to agree to participate. I turned to the only place I could think of where I had easy access to a bunch of coffee drinkers. 

School.

That’s right. I somehow convinced most of the teachers and staff at my junior high school to stop drinking coffee for a day. Yikes!

Most of us know what eighth grade me discovered. Going without your morning coffee (or Monster Energy Drink, or Red Bull, or whatever) is a recipe for a bad day. 

Typical withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Sleepiness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability

These symptoms may seem ironclad proof that your morning coffee is an important, perhaps necessary, part of your work day. It’s certainly a part of mine.

We might be wrong.

coffee.jpg

Is Coffee Really Bad?

Travis Bradberry recently wrote a blog post called Caffeine: The Silent Killer of Success. In it, he identifies several ways that our caffeine habits can hurt our performance.

The first is addiction. 

That feeling you have each morning before the caffeine kicks in? Bradberry cites new research that shows those are really caffeine withdrawal symptoms. We wouldn't feel that way in the morning if we didn't have a caffeine addiction in the first place. 

Pity the poor customer or co-worker who encounters us before we start the caffeine infusion.

The second is adrenaline. 

Caffeine causes our bodies to produce adrenaline. That’s what causes that amped up, alert feeling. Unfortunately, adrenaline also amplifies our edginess and makes it harder to control our fight or flight response.

The fight or flight response is an instinct that’s really bad in customer service situations.

The third is sleep.

We don’t get enough sleep. Caffeine makes this worse. Bradberry cites research that suggests it takes 24 hours for caffeine to completely work its way out of our systems. That means your morning coffee is still jumping around in your system when you go to bed.

It’s hard to be at your best when you’re sleep-deprived, and that includes serving customers.

 

The Chronic Cycle

Bradberry’s article suggests that coffee contributes to a chronic cycle of habitual behavior that makes it hard for us to focus on our customers.

We start our day with coffee or some other source of caffeine. That makes it hard to focus. 

On top of caffeine, we’re also addicted to multitasking. We can’t stop jumping from one task to another. Customer service jobs fuel this, with the latest estimates from ICMI indicating that the average contact center agent must use seven different software programs to serve customers.

The chronic multitasking leads to a condition called Directed Attention Fatigue or DAF. As the name implies, people experiencing DAF have a hard time paying attention. Psychologists have said the symptoms mirror those of ADD.

 

What You Can Do

You’re probably thinking, “That’s interesting, but I’m not quitting.”

I’m right there with you. Coffee is too delicious to give up cold turkey. And decaf? Don’t even get me started on decaf.

What we can do is be aware of the problems caused by caffeine and try to address it without going overboard. You might start by figuring out just how much caffeine you’re consuming on a daily basis. Here’s an article listing the caffeine content for many sources. 

For many of us, that means cutting back a little bit. Most of the articles I read, like this one, suggest doing this gradually to minimize the symptoms. 

I’ve also found that drinking more water and trying to be more physically active in the morning helps. 

Whatever you decide, try to be mindful about the impact caffeine can have on your day. And, on your customers.

Why Your Twitter Care Strategy Shouldn't Start With Twitter

Angry Tweets scare customer service leaders.

Bad things can happen when someone complains on Twitter. It might scare off potential customers. The CEO might see it and go berserk. It might go viral.

Here’s an example of a customer service nightmare. Iggy Azalea sent this Tweet to her more than 4 million followers earlier this month, after a Papa John's delivery driver allegedly gave out her cell number.

Ouch.

It earned thousands of retweets and favorites, and was covered by major news outlets like the Huffington Post. 

It’s a smart move to prevent this type of fiasco. The counterintuitive secret is you shouldn’t start with Twitter.

Image source: Twitter

Image source: Twitter

A Few Twitter Stats

Let’s start with the obvious fact that most of your customers don’t have 4 million followers. So, how many followers do your customers have?

This data is a little hard to find, but we can make a few educated guesses.

A 2013 study by O’Reilly Radar revealed the median Twitter account has 61 followers. That includes anyone who has Tweeted within the last 30 days. 

Your customers might be a bit more active than that. After all, the people who use your product or service are on the cutting edge of being smart, sexy, and sophisticated, right?

OK, so let’s say your average customer is in the top 90 percent. That number?

458 followers

But wait! Just because it’s Tweeted, doesn’t mean it’s read. Marketing Land estimates the average Tweet is read by just 2 percent of a person’s followers. 

So, a hypothetical angry Tweet sent by a customer with 458 followers would be read by 9 people.

Suddenly, Twitter’s no scarier than any other customer service channel. But wait, there's more.

 

Twitter is a Second Channel

Here’s the key to your whole Twitter strategy: Twitter is a second channel.

That means those angry Tweets are usually issues that started somewhere else, didn’t get resolved, and then got escalated to Twitter.

Here are a few more stats with links to the references:

These stats tell us that the key to preventing angry Tweets is to provide better service via the first channel.

Azalea’s Tweet to Papa John’s presumably started because a delivery driver gave out her cell phone number. If the driver doesn’t do that, the angry Tweet doesn’t happen.

This principle isn’t just true for celebrities with enormous amounts of followers. It holds for customers with more average levels of social clout.

Hotels are a great example.

The Cornell Center for Hospitality Research estimates that an average 250 room hotel has 5,000 guest interactions each day. This includes valet, door, bell staff, reception, restaurants, housekeeping, engineering, PBX, and many other functions. 

If I’m managing that hotel, I’d spend a lot more time worrying about those 5,000 daily guest interactions than I would Twitter.

Here are some other examples:

  • A typical flight might have 150 passengers and 4 flight attendants.
  • A coffee shop barista might serve 25 customers (or more) per hour.
  • A contact center agent might talk to 10 (or more) customers per hour.

These impressions are all opportunities that could result in good or bad service. 

 

Fixing Broken Channels

People take to Twitter when the first channel is broken. 

The last thing you want to do is train customers to Tweet their complaints because they can’t get service any other way.

A good Twitter care strategy starts here. Fix the broken channels and your Tweets will be more praise and requests for information, and less of the “I hate your service” variety.

How do you do that?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Hire employees who fit your culture
  • Monitor your person-to-person interactions with the same rigor as social
  • Give agents for all channels the same empowerment as social
  • Map your customer's journey and look for trouble areas
  • Respond to complaints in a timely fashion
  • Fix problems on the first try
  • When you do see a complaint, look for icebergs

Finally, make sure all of your customer service channels have a similar personality that fits with your brand and matches your customer service vision. There's no sense in being nice on Twitter while employees are jerks on the phone and in person.

Introducing the Inside Customer Service Blog

This is a blog for customer service leaders.

Not the average ones, the bad ones, or the complacent ones. This blog is for the elite few who are constantly trying to be better.

Like you, I’m constantly trying to evolve. It’s now time to refresh this blog.

My first blog post was written way back in December, 2007. It was basically a gripe piece about bad service on a road trip through West Texas. Reading it now, it’s endearing in a “look at me in junior high school” sort of way. 

Hopefully, you'll agree that the content and writing have both improved. 

The name of the blog has changed over the years from Next Level Customer Service to Next Level Performance and back to Next Level Customer Service. 

Now, it’s time to change once again. The new title is Inside Customer Service. Or, Inside #Custserv for the hip, hashtag set. 

(Yep, I snagged the www.insidecustserv.com domain.)

I’ve added a snazzy new splash page with a picture of one of my favorite places. Bonus points if you contact me and correctly identify where this is. 

Photo credit: Jeff Toister

Photo credit: Jeff Toister

Readers have told me there are a few types of posts they value the most.

  • Analysis that reveals new perspectives.
  • Tips that go beyond the usual pithy advice.
  • Trends that aren’t getting a lot of coverage in other places.

In other words, inside stuff that few people are talking about.

The Inside Customer Service blog will deliver that inside scoop. I’ll share analysis, tips, and trends that can help you unlock your customer service team’s hidden potential. 

The focus is on people, but I’ll also explore how systems, processes, and products influence employees’ and customers’ actions.

Here are a few of my posts that best fit the blog’s focus:

Analysis

Tips

Trends

You can make sure you never miss a post by subscribing via email. As an added bonus, when you sign up you’ll receive a copy of my workbook, 10 Customer Service Activities to Supercharge Your Team.

I’m working on some new posts that I’ll be excited to share with you in the coming weeks. 

Some topics include a service failure threat that’s scarier than an angry Tweet, secret ways that customer service surveys influence behavior, and reasons why executives don’t understand customer service.

In the meantime, please feel free to drop me a line and let me know what you think about the updated blog.

Thanks for reading!

~Jeff

Behind the Scenes: Filming Training Videos at Lynda.com

Last week, I traveled to Carpinteria, California to film my latest customer service training videos with lynda.com.

Many friends and colleagues have asked me what it’s like to create a course with lynda.com. My friend, Trish, suggested I blog about it, so here goes.

Before diving in, here are a few things to know about lynda.com:

  • It’s a subscription-based library of video-based training courses
  • Subject areas include business, software, technology, and creative skills
  • You can access lynda.com training on your computer, tablet, or smart phone

Their huge collection of training videos are also ideal for accelerating training with a flipped learning approach.

I'm looking pretty serious as I try to hold still while a few last-minute adjustments are made.

I'm looking pretty serious as I try to hold still while a few last-minute adjustments are made.

Development

The first step is developing the course concept. A lynda.com content manager guides me through this process. 

This is where a course description is created, learning topics are identified, and a rough outline is developed. 

 

Script Writing

The next step involves writing scripts for the course. 

The project is handed off to a producer for this phase. The producers I work with have a lot of experience with creating training videos, so they can offer some great guidance. 

Each course is typically broken down into a series of modules that are three to five minutes long. I write a script for each module while linking them together in a logical narrative.

This presents an interesting challenge because each script has to stand on its own while still being a part of the larger course. It’s similar to a television series, where some viewers may never miss an episode while other viewers may only watch a few.

 

Filming

All of my courses have been filmed at lynda.com’s studios in Carpinteria, California. Most of the filming is done in a green screen studio. My scripts are displayed on a teleprompter and I deliver them into the camera.

A small crew is on hand to make it all happen. Here’s a picture from my latest shoot.

From left to right are Zach Bobbit (Production Support), me, Tony Cruz (Live Action Director), and Carlos Alfaro (Associate Content Producer)

From left to right are Zach Bobbit (Production Support), me, Tony Cruz (Live Action Director), and Carlos Alfaro (Associate Content Producer)

Some of my courses feature scenes with actors. 

Here’s a short video from my course on conducting a Training Needs Analysis. The video starts with me in studio explaining the importance of involving key stakeholders at the start of a project. Later in the video, you see me and an actress act out a scene where I meet with an executive to discuss a training project.

Post Production

A lot still needs to happen once a course is done filming.

Graphics are created to highlight key concepts. Editors put everything together to assemble the finished modules. Beta testers review the course to spot any errors and make sure the key learning concepts are communicated clearly.

The course is in the hands of lynda.com’s experts at this stage, and they do a tremendous job of making the finished product look great!

 

Release

The course is finally ready for release. You can see previews of a few of my courses below:

You’ll need a lynda.com subscription to view a course in its entirety, but you can get a free 10-day trial that let’s you check them out.

10-day free trial

You can also check out this short video that gives you a look at lynda.com’s course creation process from their perspective.

Why Customers Don't Care About Channels

Chances are, you’ve spent a lot of time worrying about customer service channels.

Multi-channel was the big buzzword for awhile. Now, it’s omni-channel. The questions remain the same:

  • Which channels should your company use to serve customers?
  • How should you manage, staff, and train for various channels?
  • Which department owns each channel? (Marketing? PR? Customer service?)

Unfortunately, your customers don’t care.

Customers care about something much simpler, yet much more difficult to achieve. They want a seamless experience.

How Omni-channel Fails

Omni-channel experiences end up in service failures when there isn’t a seamless handoff from one channel to the next. 

You may have heard agitated customers ask:

  • Why do I have to DM my information when I Tweet a complaint?
  • Why do I have to remember my confirmation number?
  • Why don’t you already know what the last employee told me?
  • Why can I do some transactions online, but not others?
  • Why do I have to give you the same information I just entered into the IVR?

The list goes on.

Behind the scenes, these questions arise for a variety of reasons. 

  • Technology used to manage different channels might not be integrated.
  • Different departments might manage different channels.
  • Companies might be blind to their customers’ journey

 

How Customers Think

Customers don’t think in terms of channels. They think in terms of convenience.

A great example is to look at how you communicate with your own friends. Chances are, you seamlessly communicate over multiple channels without ever losing the narrative.

I took this exercise a step further and asked some of my omni-channel friends how they communicate with me. Their responses were illuminating.

My friend Amber responded quickly to my email. She said:

My decision on how to contact people depends on my relationship with them and what the communication is regarding. If it’s personal, and just something to share, I’ll use social media. If it’s personal and I want a response, I’ll text. If it is business and I want a response but it’s not urgent, I send an e-mail. I’m not a phone person -  as a Gen X-er I use phone calls as a last resort – when it’s business related and I need a quick answer.

My friend Jeremy is my most omni-channel friend. I counted ten different channels we’ve used to communicate over the past several months:

  • Office phone
  • Cell phone
  • Text
  • Email
  • Facebook
  • Disqus (comments on my blog)
  • WordPress (comments on his blog)
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Face to Face

Here’s what Jeremy said:

My initial thought is that I communicate over the channel that requires the least time and emotional investment. That means email or text because I can very quickly send it and forget it. There’s no substitute for phone and face to face for cultivating a more dynamic relationship with another person though. The most profound thing for me when I see this list is the relationship. Regardless of the channel, that is the underlying theme. The channel is secondary and determined based on the circumstance.

My friend Larry is most likely to initiate a multi-channel conversation. He might ping me on Facebook and then send a Direct Message on Twitter when I respond. Here’s what he said:

With so many channels available to connect with each other it is important to be aware of what works best for the person in which you are trying to communicate. I have found that the best way to reach you Jeff, is to use e-mail. I know if it is not important or an FYI that you are on Twitter, I know you are active on certain tweet chats, I follow you on Facebook as well. But when I know I want to share something with you that I expect feedback, e-mail is the way to go.

Unscientific? Absolutely.

But, there are some consistent themes that guide how my friends communicate. I suspect you’ll see similar themes if you do this exercise too:

  • What works best for the message?
  • What works best for the audience?
  • Can the conversation continue seamlessly across channels?