Introducing My New Book: Customer Service Tip of the Week

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Thousands of customer service professionals around the world subscribe to the Customer Service Tip of the Week email. Now you can get over 52 of my favorite tips in one book!

Introducing the Customer Service Tip of the Week book. 

It's a sourcebook full of tips and reminders to help keep your skills sharp. Use it to discover new ideas or reinforce the concepts you learned in training.

Cover image of the Customer Service Tip of the Week book.

How to Use the Book

If we're honest with ourselves, there are certain aspects of our service skills that can get a little rusty if we don't work on them.

Bad habits can get formed. Other priorities get in the way of our development. Sometimes, we're all guilty of a little overconfidence.

That's where the weekly tip comes in.

It allows you to stay sharp by focusing on just one simple thing. You can rebuild your skills over the course of the week in that area and then move on to something else the following week.

The book makes finding tips easy.

  • Browse tips by category

  • Find tips by the specific issue you are trying to solve

  • Go in order, starting with #1

Special Features

The Customer Service Tip of the Week book has a few special features.

On the back cover and scattered throughout the book, you'll find quotes from frontline professionals and customer service leaders who use the tips on a regular basis.

Pages 12-13 contain a grid listing 10 service challenges and suggest tips to help solve them. These challenges are the top issues shared by weekly email subscribers.

The book is only available in paperback. I tested an e-book version and couldn't get the user experience right. After all, it's designed to be a quick reference guide that you might keep on your desk.

Obviously, an audio book was out of the question for a quick-reference type of book!

I recognize many customer service teams have limited budgets, so I managed to keep the price point low. The book retails for just $9.95 and quantity discounts can get the price down to just $6.96 per copy when you buy 25 books.


Get It Signed!

You can easily turn your book into a signed copy.

  1. Buy the book

  2. Email your mailing address to me: jeff [at] toistersolutions [dot] com

  3. I will send you an autographed bookplate


New Training Video: How to Get Great Customer Service

The lightbulb moment happened in a convenience store.

I had gone in to buy a Coke on a hot summer day. As I approached the counter, I noticed everything about the cashier's body language suggested he didn't want to be there. His shoulders were slumped forward, he looked disheveled, and had a bored expression on his face. 

The cashier was ignoring customers as he heated a burrito in the store's microwave.

You've probably experienced this same scene yourself. What the cashier was doing versus what he ought to have been doing was easy to see. But that won't change the basic fact that the cashier wasn't acting like Mr. Customer Service.

My lightbulb went off when I realized he probably felt exactly like I did—tired, hot, and a little unhappy to be there. 

We've all been in that position. Sometimes, a little jolt is all we need to get back on track. That's why I was buying that cold, refreshing Coke. I decided to give the cashier a jolt as well.

I put on a big smile and greeted the cashier in my friendliest voice, "How's it going?!"

Customer giving a thumbs up and a five star rating on a survey.

Service Tips for Customers

The cashier's demeanor instantly changed.

He looked as if a weight had literally been lifted off his shoulders. He approached the cash register, broke into a smile, and greeted me in return. The rest of that very short transaction was pleasant.

The experience helped me realize that customer service works best when both the customer and the employee are on the same wavelength. Sure employees are supposed to be friendly and helpful, but they're also human. 

And humans sometimes have bad days.

It occurred to me that we could get better customer service if we used some of the same skills we want customer service professional to use. So I created a series of exercises to test this out.

  • Make the first move (what I did in the convenience store)
  • Introduce yourself to share your name with people who serve you
  • Empathize with the people who serve you

I started to try out these techniques and they worked! Employees were friendlier, I started getting "extras" more often, and problems become easier to solve. These techniques don't work 100% of the time, but I noticed I received good service more often.

 

The New Training Video

Many years later, I now have the chance to share some of my favorite techniques in my new LinkedIn Learning training video. The course reveals essential skills you can use to get great customer service.

The content is broken down into three main categories:

  • Build relationships
  • Earn extraordinary service
  • Solve problems

Best of all, you can build your own customer service skills while completing these exercises. Here's a short preview:

Additional Resources

You'll need a LinkedIn Learning or Lynda.com account to access the full video. If you don't already have one, treat yourself to a complimentary 30-day LinkedIn Learning trial.

The new course marks the release of my 19th training video. You can access all of those courses on LinkedIn Learning or Lynda.com or learn more about how you can leverage the power of training videos here.


7 Customer Service Tips You Can Use Right Now

Let's be honest with each other for a moment.

We rarely take immediate action when we read blog posts. Most of the time, we read something, decide if we like the idea or not, and then move on. The most many of us do if we're really inspired is share the post with someone else.

I hope this post is a little different. Here are seven simple customer service tips you can go use right now. Your challenge is to pick one and try it.

Sign promoting helpful tips

Tip #1: Visualize Great Service

Successful people in many professions—from business to sports to music—prepare themselves mentally by visualizing themselves succeeding.

Here's how you can do it, too:

  1. Write a short thank you letter to yourself from an imaginary customer.
  2. Read your letter every day for 21 days. (Get daily email reminders.)
  3. Try to receive customer feedback that matches your letter.

Here's what I wrote when I recently did this exercise:

Thank you for helping us get our employees obsessed with customer service.

Here's an actual message I received via email a few days later:

There is no question in my mind that we are becoming a better company in part because of your teachings. Thank you very much.

 

Tip #2: Break the Ice with the Five Question Technique

We know a little small talk can help put customers at ease, but many of us are not natural conversationalists.

The Five Question Technique can help change that. Just think of five different questions you can use to break the ice and possibly learn something about your customer that could help you serve them better.

Here are the five questions I created before I recently facilitated a two-day workshop. I used the questions to break the ice as I greeted arriving participants.

  1. What brings you to the workshop?
  2. How did you discover this program?
  3. What is the biggest challenge you are working on?
  4. In what city are you based in?
  5. What do you do for your company?

The questions helped participants feel more comfortable talking about themselves and the answers told me a little about their needs.

 

Tip #3: Listen for Emotional Needs

Customers often have underlying emotional needs that need to be met for them to feel they've received extraordinary service. 

For example, a customer may describe a problem they've had with your product or service. A good customer service rep will try to fix the problem. An outstanding customer service rep will understand the customer also has the emotional need to be acknowledged for the time they've wasted and the disappointment of experiencing the problem.

You can uncover emotional needs just by listening carefully. The next time you serve a customer, pay careful attention to how they are feeling and try to identify the emotions they are expressing.

Understanding someone's emotions can lead to far better service. 

 

Tip #4: Give "Preferential" Treatment

Repeat customers like to be acknowledged. One way to do this is by learning their preferences and incorporating them into your service.

For example, I often go to the same local coffee shop. Lupe is usually at the register taking orders in the morning, and it seems like he knows everyone's name and regular order. His knowledge speeds up the line while still making every customer feel special.

You can start learning about your customers' preferences by observation. Take mental notes about what your customers like. If you use a customer relationship management (CRM) system, you can even record those preferences in the computer so they're easier to remember.

 

Tip #5: The Partner Technique

You'll have better luck serving angry customers if you make them feel like you're on their side. This is called the Partner Technique.

Here are some examples of using partner behaviors:

  • Shift your body language so you're both facing the problem together
  • Listen carefully to customers so they feel heard
  • Use collaborative words like "We" and "Let's"

It's hard to be upset at someone who wants to help us. Most customers naturally calm down when they realize you are listening to their issue and trying to be helpful.

 

Tip #6: Take a Deep Breath

We experience an instinctive reaction to angry customers.

Called the fight or flight response, we either naturally want to argue with an angry customer (fight) or try to get away from them (flight). The trouble is we aren't supposed to do either.

You can counteract this natural instinct by recognizing the symptoms and then taking a deep breath. That deep breath gives you just a moment to pause and make a better decision.

 

Tip #7: Give it Some Extra Shine

I learned this tip from one of my clients, a plumbing company whose plumbers use a very effective customer service technique. They always take care to clean up the area surrounding their repair work so it has a little extra shine. This small step creates a positive impression for three reasons.

  • Plumbing repairs are often necessary because of a leak or some other mess, so this extra service saves their customers some effort.
  • Plumbing problems can be very stressful, so putting some extra shine on the repair helps the customer quickly feel better.
  • Cleaning up the area spotlights the plumber's high level of workmanship, giving the customer the confidence that the repair was done correctly.

Not all of us regularly clean up messes as a part of our job, but there are ways we can put some extra shine on the work we do. Find that opportunity and you'll stand out too!

 

Take Action

Now it's time to pick at least one of these tips and try it! Please let me know how it goes. You can leave a comment or contact me with your feedback. 

You can get more tips like these by signing up for my Customer Service Tip of the Week newsletter. It's exactly what it sounds like: one tip via email, once per week.


How to Share the Customer Service Tip of the Week

Each Monday, I send out an email with a weekly customer service tip. I call it the Customer Service Tip of the Week and it's available to anyone who subscribes.

One of the things I like best about it is the direct connection with subscribers. Anyone can reply to the email and their response goes directly to my personal email. People send me questions, share successes, and even pass along interesting or unusual stories. 

I recently asked my subscribers to tell me how they share the weekly tips with their teams. Here are a few of the responses I received.

Ariana Wharton
Customer Operations Manager, AVOXI

"We meet weekly with our CSR team to train on new processes and review existing processes. In that training, we always include a ‘soft skills’ portion and a team building section. Frequently your weekly tip is what we train on for our soft skills, and the activities you mention are also really great to tie in to our team building section as well."

My take: It's a best practice to have regular team meetings like Ariana does. The Customer Service Tip of the Week is a great way to generate discussion topics.


Mélanie Sprague
Technical Support Manager, Everbridge

"I am in charge of a technical support team (no face to face support). I forward your emails to my team when I feel the topic is relevant and when I feel it would be useful to them. You have a lot of great tips but they don’t always translate well to phone support with agents who have no authority to issue refunds or anything of that nature. If I forward your email, I often follow up with my team during our team meeting to see who has read it, what the post was about and how it can help them provide better support."

My take: We can easily get overwhelmed with information, so I like how Mélanie curates the most relevant tips for her team. The follow-up discussion also make the tips extra meaningful.


Amy
Vice President, Client Service Management

"I run a Service Management Team for a Financial Services Technology Company. My mission is to keep 'service' in the forefront of every associates' mindset regardless of their role within our company. We use SalesForce and within SalesForce, there is a tool called Chatter, which I use your weekly updates to share with all associates.

My take: A number of leaders have told me they share updates via Chatter, Slack, and other internal communication tools like Amy does. The advantage here is it allows for comments and discussion.


Carmen Gass
User Services Training Coordinator, Penn State University Libraries

"I share some of your customer service tips and blog posts in Pennsylvania State Universities' weekly blog posts and training emails."

My take: It's hard to come up with relevant content on a regular basis, so I really like Carmen's resourcefulness. You are free to use my weekly tips in your internal newsletters, blog posts, etc. All I ask if you attribute them to me or Toister Performance Solutions.


Marissa Franz
Visitor Services Manager, Muhammad Ali Center

"I usually forward the emails to my team and have them respond with one strategy they will incorporate into their workday."

My take: This is another great example of turning a piece of content, the weekly tip, into an opportunity for dialogue with the team.


Take Action

Warning: if you use your email software to forward the email and the recipient clicks "unsubscribe" they will be unsubscribing you!

It's an anti-spam feature that admittedly can make forwarding the email take a little extra effort. You can avoid this by using one of the special forward links in each email. There's one at the top:

There's also a special link at bottom of each email:

forward2.jpeg

You do have the option of having employees subscribe to the Customer Service Tip of the Week themselves so you don't have to use the special link each week.

I've gotten a mixed reaction from customer service leaders on that topic. Some feel employees already get a lot of email and might ignore it if the leader doesn't forward it or prompt some form of discussion. Others think it's helpful to have employees get the tip directly so forwarding the email becomes one less thing they have to do.

The key here is to do what works best for you and your team. 


How to Share Customer Service Tips with Your Team

A customer service leader recently asked me for some best practices for sharing my Customer Service Tip of the Week with her team.

If you aren't familiar with this, the Customer Service Tip of the Week is one tip sent via one email once per week. Here's an example of one tip, The Five Question Technique.

The customer service leader shared a few potential challenges:

Her intended audience was too large to use the "Forward to a Friend" feature that's included in each email.

She thought about having employees subscribe themselves to the tips, but worried that many wouldn't read them.

Does this sound like you?

I shared a few suggestions and I think she ultimately came up with a good plan. Here's what I shared with her plus some additional ideas I've received from other customer service leaders.

Ask Your Employees to Subscribe

People are more likely to pay attention to something when the same message is reinforced in multiple ways.

So a natural starting point is to ask employees to subscribe themselves to the Customer Service Tip of the Week email, even if you plan to share it with them as well. It's fast, free, and easy.

How easy? Just click here.

You can also ask your employees to visit www.toistersolutions.com/tips to sign themselves up or go to the website yourself and do the sign-ups for them.

Will everyone read every email? Probably not. But many employees will read many of the weekly tips, and that's a good start.

 

Discuss the Tips in Team Meetings

Many customer service leaders have daily, weekly, or monthly check-in meetings with their teams.

Customer service leaders often tell me the Customer Service Tip of the Week makes a great discussion topic. Here's how it works:

  1. Introduce the current tip.
  2. Lead a conversation to discuss how it can be incorporated.
  3. Review success stories at the following meeting.

Discussing the Customer Service Tip of the Week with the team makes the weekly email more valuable to your employees. 

They're more likely to read it before the meeting if they know it's going to be a topic of conversation. They'll also be more likely to reference it throughout the week if they know you'll be looking for success stories at the next meeting!

 

Share Tips on a Case-by-Case Basis

Let's say you've been coaching an individual employee on rapport-building skills.

Can you keep a secret? My weekly tips have a pattern that rotates every three weeks:

  1. Week 1: the topic is rapport
  2. Week 2: the topic is exceeding expectations
  3. Week 3: top topic is solving problems

That means every third Customer Service Tip of the Week focuses on building rapport! 

So you can wait for the next relevant rapport-building tip and use the "Forward to a Friend" link in the email to send the tip to the employee along with some of your own suggestions and commentary.

What if the employee receives the tips already? No matter. Your additional email reinforces the concept.

Tip from the pros: Never click on "forward" in your email client (Outlook, Gmail, etc.) to forward a Customer Service Tip of the Week email. 

Why?

Because each email contains an active unsubscribe link that's attached to the original recipient. That means your recipient can unsubscribe you from the email by clicking that link. 

The "Forward to a Friend" feature in every email eliminates this problem.

 

What Did the Customer Service Leader Do?

She asked me if she could include my weekly tips in her division's monthly newsletter. 

Of course I said yes and simply requested that she cite my company, Toister Performance Solutions as the source and include my website (www.toistersolutions.com/tips) in the newsletter as well.

You can do the same thing to if you'd like to share these tips with your employees!


Six New Customer Service Tips to Share With Your Team

Each week, I send out a Customer Service Tip of the Week email to my subscribers. (Not a subscriber yet? Get it here.)

It's usually a reminder. The idea is to reinforce good customer service skills by starting each week with a specific tip to focus on. Eventually, the tips cycle through and start over again.

I'll occasionally add some new tips to the mix. Starting November 28, subscribers will see six weeks of brand new tips.

Well, they may not be entirely new. They're just good reminders that are new to the list. In any event, you can preview them here now.

Let's Get Quirky

We all encounter the occasional customer who is a lot of fun to serve. Why not allow yourself to be a little quirky so you can join in on the fun?

Here are a few examples:

  • Richard from LEGO wrote this amazing letter to a boy who had lost an action figure.
  • Michael from Netflix got into character in a customer chat session.
  • Jenny from DMV.org exchanged songs on YouTube with one of her customers.

You can make a big impression by connecting with your customer in a meaningful way.

 

Cut Afternoon Caffeine

The afternoon comes and you're dragging. Naturally, you turn to a cup of coffee or some other caffeine source for a quick pick-me-up.

That pick-me-up helps you concentrate on serving your customers better. But, it also sets off a chain reaction that ultimately makes it harder to focus.

That's because caffeine takes about 24 hours to work its way out of your system. So, your afternoon caffeine is still buzzing in your veins when you try to sleep that night. Your sleep quality declines as a result which leads to more fatigue the next day.

That leads to, you guessed it, that familiar sluggish feeling the next afternoon.

Skip the caffeine the next time you feel tired in the afternoon. Try some light exercise instead coupled with a healthy snack. Bake that into your routine for a few days and you might be surprised at how much more energy you have!

 

The Partner Technique

You'll have better luck serving angry customers if you make them feel like you're on their side. This is called the Partner Technique.

Here are some examples of using partner behaviors:

  • Shift your body language so you're both facing the problem together
  • Listen carefully to customers so they feel heard
  • Use collaborative words like "We" and "Let's"

It's hard to be upset at someone who wants to help us. Most customers naturally calm down when they realize you are listening to their issue and trying to be helpful.

 

Build an Interest List

How well do you know your customers on a personal level?

For example, I know that one of my clients is obsessed with crossfit. Another client is a huge fan of 80s and 90s heavy metal. Still another client is an avid outdoor enthusiast who enjoys hiking and camping.

This information helps build rapport. Learning a little about your customers' interests, their families, and other things that are important to them allows you to demonstrate genuine caring on a personal level.

Customer service gets way easier when your customers like you!

You can track this information by building what I call an interest list. It's really just a collection of notes about your customers beyond the normal name, email address, and phone number in your contact database.

You can see a great example from Harvey Mackay with his Mackay66 questionnaire.

 

Find Your Lagniappe

Marketing expert Stan Phelps wrote about the concept of a lagniappe in his book, The Purple Goldfish.

Technically, "lagniappe" means a small gift given to a customer at the time of purchase. Phelps broadens this to mean an "unexpected surprise that’s thrown in for good measure to achieve product differentiation, drive retention, and promote word of mouth."

Here are just a few examples:

  • Customers at Jason's Deli can always treat themselves to free ice cream.
  • Any part under $1 is given away for free at Zane's cycles.
  • When you buy a suit at Men's Wearhouse, you can always get it pressed for free.

So, what low cost and simple lagniappes will delight your customers?

 

The Good Cop, Bad Cop Technique

A big challenge can occur when a customer's frustration connects you to the problem. It doesn't matter whether or not you caused it, the customer can't get over their anger.

One way to overcome this issue is the good cop, bad cop technique. The customer is angry at you, which makes you the bad cop in this situation. All you have to do is introduce a co-worker or a supervisor to take over the interaction who can act as the good cop.

I've seen this get great results time and time again. A new person on the scene helps the customer instantly calm down and accept the assistance being offered.

This is a tough technique for some people because they confuse being the bad cop with being bad at service. This isn't true at all. Using the good cop, bad cop technique takes an advanced professional who is able to help a customer feel better even if it means getting someone else involved.


How Regular Reminders Can Reinforce Outstanding Service

I've decided to take a two week vacation from blogging, social media, and writing. You may not be taking a break at the same time, so I'm running a few best-of posts while I'm away. Look for a brand new post from me on September 13 when I return to my normal writing schedule.


A lot of customer service training gets lost in the land of good intentions.

The employee might think, "I learned some great skills. I'll set aside some time on Friday when it's slow to go over everything."

Friday comes along and it's not slow. In fact, it requires a whirlwind of activity just to keep up. The employee thinks, "I'll catch up today and then work on those new skills next week."

Ooops! Next week comes around and it's crazy! The week starts insanely busy (just like every other week). So, the employee thinks, "I'll just grind through the next couple of weeks and then I'll work on those new skills."

You can guess what happens. Nothing.

That's why I created the Customer Service Tip of the Week email. Each weekly email contains one simple tip that reminds employees to practice a specific skill.

Here are a few guides that explain why reminders are important and how to use them:

You can sign-up to receive the Customer Service Tip of the Week or visit this resource page for even more info.

Five Ways Weekly Customer Service Tips Can Boost Your Team

You can get a lot of great ideas from listening to customers.

A few years ago, I met a client for coffee. She had sent her entire team through my Delivering Next Level Service training program and the results were looking good. Still, my client was worried.

"I want to keep my team sharp by continuously reinforcing the skills they learned in training," she said. "My challenge is I don't always know how to do that. I wish I had an easy way to remind them... and to remind me."

We brainstormed a little until we hit upon a simple solution. 

I created an automated system that emailed one customer service tip per week to each person on her team. My client would get the email too so she could follow-up with them.

My Customer Service Tip of the Week email is now available to anyone. Here are five ways you can use it to boost your team's customer service:

#1 Team Meeting Topics

Many customer service teams have regular meetings. You can use the Customer Service Tip of the Week to generate discussion topics to share with the team.

Let's say the current tip was Use Positive Body Language.

You could lead a discussion with your team to brainstorm ways that body language can positively impact your customers. Then, at the next team meeting, you could ask for people to share success stories and challenges they experienced when being mindful of the body language they displayed.

 

#2 Address A Specific Need

You can also use the tips to address a specific need. My Customer Service Idea Bank page allows you to search for tips by category or keyword. 

For example, you could search the Solving Problems category to come up with a list of tips that were useful for working with upset customers.

Clicking Solving Problems will bring up a list of tips in that category. You could then select three to five tips that were really applicable and share them with your team.

 

#3 Generate New Ideas

The tips are designed to be reminders, but many of the tips contain helpful new ideas that your team can use to elevate their service.

For instance, the Five Question Technique is a terrific way to build rapport with customers while simultaneously identifying additional ways to serve. Best of all, even introverts can use this technique to become skilled conversationalists.

 

#4 Reinforce Training

The tips were originally designed to reinforce concepts taught in my customer service training programs. The reminders help participants retain what they learn long after they attend the training.

These reminders work well whether you're team attended one of my onsite training courses, live webinars, or even took one of my courses on Lynda.com. The reminders can also be used to reinforce other training programs because many are so general in nature.

 

#5 Feed Your Curiosity

Some people just want to know the most cutting edge ideas in customer service. That's why most of my weekly tips contain a link to a blog post or a helpful resource.

One of my recent tips was Tell The Truth. The email contained a link to a bonus blog post that detailed how a service failure and a lie created a customer service uproar that briefly grabbed national headlines.

 

Sign-up

You can use the form below to sign-up for my Customer Service Tip of the Week email. Or, pass this blog post on to your team and have them sign-up too.

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The Partner Technique

You'll have better luck serving angry customers if you make them feel like you're on their side. This is called the Partner Technique.

Here are some examples of using partner behaviors:

  • Shift your body language so you're both facing the problem together
  • Listen carefully to customers so they feel heard
  • Use collaborative words like "We" and "Let's"

It's hard to be upset at someone who wants to help us. Most customers naturally calm down when they realize you are listening to their issue and trying to be helpful. 

One final note: Being on the customer's side doesn't necessarily mean you aren't on your company's side. It just means that you are making an effort to understand your customer and help them succeed.