JJ's (Mar '05) Tips in this issue:

1. Giving Mixed Messages?
2. JJ's Favorite Quotes
3. Tele-Coaching & Tele-Mentoring

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Use the following tips as training tools.

Present this situation to your group and brainstorm solutions together, or submit your own situation question to be answered in an upcoming newsletter.

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SITUATION QUESTION:
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Something seems to be missing in our customer service because the surveys are showing that our customers are confused and not aware that we care about them. What can we do to improve our service so we can retain our customers?

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SOLUTIONS:
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MIXED MESSAGES:

Ask your customers for specific suggestions and examples of how they are confused and why they assume that your company does not care. This can be done in focus groups of customers who have answered your surveys and are complaining, or at random.

Regardless of what they say in response, always say to them, "Thank you for telling us. This is one of the ways we can improve our service when we know what needs changing." Don't make excuses, just listen and take notes.

When the changes are made, personally thank those customers for their suggestions and feedback. Then they will know their time was well spent and they did make a difference. They will become your greatest supporters.

Your company and employees might have great service intentions (caring from the heart), but your customers may be getting the opposite impression. These are probably coming from your mixed messages.

Whether you are selling, serving or both, ask questions and get in your customers' shoes to learn their needs and desires. This conveys a single message that your customer is King and you are working to meet their expectations, and occasionally, you'll even exceed their expectations.

To prevent giving mixed messages and ending up with unmet customer expectations, look at your company vision and mission statements. Has your management team been able to filter those hopes and dream down through the ranks to the front line staff in tact?

If not, you'll have inconsistency, duplication of effort, lack of solid teamwork, them-or-us finger pointing and lack of genuine customer focus that sends mixed messages to your customers.

There are two ways to check how well the filtering down of values has been in your company.


1) Have upper management listen to interactions with customers on the phone and in person. The soft skills they observe will give them the answer to how many of their values (from the vision and mission) were successfully filtered down to the front line.

2) Encourage upper management to ask employees at random, "What is your main job here?" Then tell them to wait for an answer, and if the employee says anything other than something about customer service or customer satisfaction, you do not have a customer-focused organization. This strong focus should be coming from management as a way of life in their company.

When VIP's in the company interact occasionally with front line staff, their customer focus message is more readily heard and implemented.

If you are in lower management, do the same two tests, and if the results are not positive, establish a customer focus daily theme in your department NOW. Eventually you can influence others in the company to adopt and adapt the theme too. It's a slower process upward, but well worth the effort.

Many supervisors and front line managers have elevated in their companies by using these suggestions. They had the courage to champion their customer focus cause, and their companies benefited in increased service and sales.

SENSE OF URGENCY

Watch for your customer's sense of urgency and communicate it to others working with you so everyone in the company meets the customer's expectations.

Here are two examples:

1) My accountant of 26 years retired this year so I'm dealing with a new corporate accounting firm. The owner is the head person who oversees all the work, and his son deals directly with the client until the work is ready for the owner's approval. Then it is sent to the client.

Since my corporate income tax return was due on March 15th, the son completed the work a week and a half before the deadline and told me as soon as it was approved by the owner, it would be sent to me. The son said to call if I had not received it by the end of the week.

On Friday, I called and the son was surprised that the return had not been received. When the owner called on Saturday, he apologized for not following through on his son's promise. He took full responsibility for the situation. Since our personal return and two other trust income tax returns (with April
15th deadlines) were also being done by the firm, the owner elected to finish all of them before sending them to us. He was obviously not aware of my sense of urgency on the corporate return.

I received mixed messages even though the intentions were good. If the son had stressed my SENSE OF URGENCY to the owner, he would have sent the corporate return as promised. It appeared the right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing.

Keep others you are working with IN THE LOOP on your client needs to prevent over promising and under delivering.

2) In another company, the admin to the help desk manager promised to keep me up to date on a number of changes they were implementing. It appeared she had forgotten or was not going to follow through after all. Long after the changes were to be completed, she finally contacted me. I was surprised to hear from her by then and had written her off as a poor admin.

She explained that she didn't contact me sooner because she didn't have all the details on every change perfectly in place yet. She thought perfection was the objective instead of communication on the progress. Her manager may have given her mixed messages about how to keep me informed.

Make your intentions and directions clear to the receiver (without mixed messages) so they follow through to meet everyone's expectations.

TREAT THE CUSTOMER LIKE YOUR BEST FRIEND!

Most of you have heard me say in seminars to "treat your customers like they were your best friends." With your best friend, wouldn't you really listen to them and care how they felt afterwards? Wouldn't you consistently work to give them a single message, one that says you CARE?

This "Friend" story was forwarded to me last week by Ian Jacobsen of Jacobsen Consulting, one of my fellow CMC (Certified Management Consultant) colleagues. I felt it had value personally and professionally, even if it is not your first time to read it.

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One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class was walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books. I thought to myself, "Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd.

I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friends tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on. As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him. He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes. My heart went out to him. So, I jogged over to him as he crawled around looking for his glasses, and I saw a tear in his eye. As I handed him his glasses, I said, "Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives. " He looked at me and said, "Hey thanks!" There was a big smile on his face. It
was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude.

I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before. He said he had gone to a private school before now. I would have never hung out with a private school kid before. We talked all the way home, and I carried some of his books. He turned out to be a pretty cool kid. I asked him if he wanted to play a little football with my friends. He said yes. We hung out all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him, and my friends thought the same of him.

Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again.I stopped him and said, "Boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books." He just laughed and handed me half the books.

Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends. When we were seniors, we began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown, and I was going to Duke. I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem. He was going to be a doctor, and I was going for
business on a football scholarship.

Kyle was valedictorian of our class. I teased him all the time about being a nerd. He had to prepare a speech for graduation. I was so glad it wasn't me having to get up there and speak graduation day. I saw Kyle. He looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses. He had more dates than I had and all the girls loved him. Boy, sometimes I was jealous. Today was one of those days. I could see that he was nervous about his speech. So, I smacked him on the back and said, "Hey, big guy, you'll be great!" He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled "Thanks," he said.

As he started his speech, Kyle cleared his throat, and began "Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach...but mostly your friends... I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I am going to tell you a story." I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told the story of the first day we met. He had planned to kill himself over the weekend. He talked of how he
had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn't have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home. He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile. "Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable." I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment. I saw his Mom and dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile. Not until that moment did I realize it's depth.

Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture you can change a person's life. For better or for worse. God puts us all in each other's lives to impact one another in some way. You now have two choices, you can:

1) Pass this on to your friends or
2) Delete it and act like it didn't touch your heart.

As you can see, I took choice number 1.

"Friends are angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly.
There is no beginning or end.. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is mystery. Today is a gift."

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Thanks Ian, for the reminder to show our friends and customers how much we care. Our extra attention to them CAN make a difference.

Remember, what you THINK and what you SAY should be the SAME, otherwise your body language and tone of your voice will cause you to give MIXED MESSAGES to others.

An example would be, if you are telling your employees that you are empowering them to handle situations on the spot, but you are not really ready to give up your power to them. The employees will receive mixed
messages from you.

Be honest with yourself and strive for a single message to others.

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JJ's FAVORITE QUOTES:
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"Don't try to become some kind of 'presidential' persona. People want you to be yourself."
-Brian Ascher, Product Manager, Intuit

"Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending."
-Carl Bard"

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Tele-COACHING & Tele-MENTORING
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EVALUATION OF YOUR ENVIRONMENT:
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http://www.jjlauderbaugh.com/about.html

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ABOUT JJ:
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JJ Lauderbaugh, CMC
408 445-1590 or 800 500-9656, 1716 Husted Ave., San Jose, CA 95124.

JJ works with companies that want to give exceptional customer service to increase sales, and with Directors and Call Center/Help Desk Managers who want to improve human performance.

She's an international speaker, trainer, facilitator and certified management consultant (CMC) on customer service management, specializing in performance improvement, call centers, up/cross selling and outbound
calling.

For training resources, free articles, tips and streaming video, go to our web site at http://www.JJLauderbaugh.com

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Copyright and Reprints:
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Reprint permission is granted when the following credit appears:

JJ Lauderbaugh, CMC, Lauderbaugh & Associates, Inc., 2004. Reprinted with permission from JJ's Tips, a monthly internet newsletter. For your own personal subscription, email jj@jjlauderbaugh.com.
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Thanks,

JJ