Volume 15, Issue 5- September/October 2013

Customer Service
tips for quality service

The Little Things that Mean a Lot
by Carl Tompkins

I remember attending a conference during which guest speaker, Tony Campolo, an author, sociologist, pastor and former spiritual advisor to President Bill Clinton, stated that he was consumed by his mission to “save the world!” Then on a particular day, his wife apparently asked, “Did you remember that it’s your mother’s birthday?” Oops! Tony went on to share the critical nature of managing our lives by excelling at the “little things,” that often end up meaning more than the “big things.”

Let’s start with something as small and seemingly insignificant as the telephone:
A. Record your electronic greeting daily. The most blatant error in excellent customer service by business people who utilize cell phones is not updating their greeting on a daily basis. This is a missed opportunity to demonstrate that you’re:
• Picking up all messages at least once per day;
• Alive and well for the day at hand;
• Current and know what day it is;
• Willing to explain why you may not be able to take the call; and
• Assuring each caller that you will return the call by a certain time. Think about how you have felt when calling the same person day after day, never receiving a return call, but hearing “Hello, you’ve reached the cell phone of Bill Smith. I can’t take your call right now but leave message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.” From my own assessment, this situation demonstrates a lack of interest and concern for callers and an inability to manage details.

B. Use the same greeting as you do when picking up the call live. So, how do you answer the phone? If you start with the greeting, “Thanks for calling … ,” then record your greeting the very same way, using the same words. This demonstrates a consistent and professional level of attention to detail.

C. When stating a phone number, repeat the number at least once with a little jingle attached. When recording a phone number within a phone message, apply a little sing-song to it, noting that such jingles really improve a person’s ability to restate the number accurately. Then, following a reasonable pause, repeat the number using the same vocal emphasis in the jingle.

D. Keep your commitments. Whatever is promised within your recordings, make sure it happens. If you promise to get back to the caller within a certain period of time, which I recommend, then do so!

E. It’s never customer service until people are involved. Recordings are a must because in the world where multi-tasking is the norm, we are not always available to pick up the phone. Consider your phone message greetings as a courtesy to earn a little time by the caller, but never a crutch to excuse returning calls. Return all calls as soon as possible.

F. Reference others if you’re going to be away an extended period. If you’re going to be away from your phone for more than a full day, or unavailable to return calls over extended periods of time, be sure to record this fact and add in the name of a person, their role and their phone number for emergency contact. There can be the situation where a customer requires immediate attention and cannot wait for your return call. Make sure that such additional contact people are aware of your recording and that they will be available during the time you are not.

G. Use good time management skills. Those who manage daily details are those who plan time frames to check messages and return calls. At minimum, schedule both a morning and afternoon or even time slot to check messages and return calls.

H. There are times and conditions when recorded phone greetings are not acceptable. Never should a corporate office, having multiple employees, ever cause a person to hear a recorded message that states no one is available to take their call … leave a message. Companies having multiple employees have the ability to respond to all incoming callers live. Before and after business hours are a different situation, and recorded messages are fine. In addition, an electronic greeting followed by an easy-to-understand menu of department/service selections is fine, as long as only one key punch is required by the caller to next hear a live voice. The more selections that are required for consideration, the more negative the attitude of the caller, who may have began by thinking pretty nice things about your organization.

Manage these simple little things and you’ll set a great stage for many much bigger things to come your way. And above all, don’t forget your mother’s birthday!

Carl Tompkins is the global marketing resources manager for SIKA Corp. in Madison Heights, Mich., and the author of Winning at Business. He is based in Spokane, Wash.

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