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When you think about great customer service...

“Customer-facing jobs are hard,” reads a recent Zendesk blog. And no one knows that more than leaders in customer service. But while customers may not always be happy, technology may not always work right, and processes won’t always deliver as intended, the role of customer service is immensely satisfying. Here’s how one leader—Nate Brown, brings important customer experience initiatives to life in the UL EHSS contact center. (Thanks to Zendesk for collecting the quotes and inspiring our Monday motivation.)

“When I think about great service, it’s about how you take every interaction you have with the customer and use that as a way to improve their perception of your organization.” - Jon Herstein, SVP of customer success at Box

It’s pretty easy to tell when you have an agent on the line who is underwater with volume. Focusing on quality is nearly impossible when people are forced into survival mode. The type of service Herstein references requires a significant investment. Agents must be awarded the time, resources, and emotional bandwidth to actually make great customer service happen. In years past, many agents in our contact center We gave lip service to improving customer perception, but in reality, we were just trying to make it to 5:00 pm without setting anything (or anyone) on fire. The past several years have been a mini-renaissance focused on quality, and it’s still going strong. Customers have taken notice, and we receive great feedback as perception changes for the better. The benefits far outweigh the cost!

Many agents in our contact center were “victims of volume.” We gave lip service to improving customer perception, but in reality, we were just trying to make it to 5:00 pm without setting anything (or anyone) on fire.

“Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you into the game. Service wins the game.” - Dr. Tony Alessandra, author and business expert

This quote makes me think of the book The Discipline of Market Leaders. The authors suggest you focus on operational excellence (price), product leadership (quality), or customer intimacy. While it may be impossible to have laser focus on all three, I agree with Dr. Alessandra that service must play a key role. At UL EHSS, we’ve established ourselves as product innovators, but have simultaneously invested greatly in customer experience. The challenge is bringing the concepts together, allowing CX to shape the future of the product. While it sounds operational, this is actually more of a culture change than anything else. And we all know how easy it is to change culture

“Customer service shouldn’t just be a department, it should be the entire company.” - Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos

Ah yes, the legendary quote from Tony Hsieh—read using my best “In the Cage with Nicolas Cage” voice. I love Hsieh’s concept as well as the philosophy behind it, but I’m still struggling with how to make this a reality all the time. Most folks either have “the customer gene” or they don’t. I find it’s rare that someone develops empathy for the customer. I believe the best way to build the type of culture revered at Zappos is to focus on the hiring stage. Interestingly enough, many of our best technical support agents have come from a hospitality background. We can teach technology all day;

“There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.” - Roger Staubach, NFL Hall of Famer

This quote really hits home with me. One of the major things we are doing in our contact center is focusing on what The Effortless Experience calls next issue avoidance. There is a huge difference between answering the surface-level question a customer is asking, and taking the role of a knowledge consultant. We work hard to equip customers for success both presently and into the future. We’ve created dozens of brand advocates by asking the questions our customer didn’t know to ask, ultimately making their jobs easier. By the way, it’s very hard to encourage reps to go the extra mile if you are still pushing unnecessary metrics like Average Handle Time (AHT).

“Success is not defined by the ability to have no complaints, it is defined by the ability to deal with them.” - Mikkel Svane, founder and CEO of Zendesk

If you have literally no complaints, you’ve probably been stuck in a rut for a very long time. As long as you are innovating and evolving, there will be the occasional complaint. In my case, it helps me to stay grounded. Being accountable to the customer ensures we constantly communicate and resist any urge to make changes too quickly. As far as handling complaints when they do come in, there is one thing we do well and one thing we’re working on. We are great at quickly getting on the phone with a customer to make the situation better. Having an actual conversation is always

As far as our improvement opportunity, we’ve historically struggled when apologizing via the written word. Leslie O’Flahavan has a fantastic talk on how to apologize like you mean it, which was a game changer for us. Go ahead and kill the “we apologize for any inconvenience we may have caused” line in your global templates. Simply say you’re sorry, be honest about the impact, and communicate what you should have done.

Go ahead and kill the “we apologize for any inconvenience we may have caused” line in your global templates. Simply say you’re sorry, be honest about the impact, and communicate what you should have done.

“To be great at something, you have to come at it with passion, or not at all.” - Peachy Garcia, Senior Customer Advocate at Zendesk

First, how cool is the name Peachy Garcia? This quote may appear simple on the surface, but a second glance reveals hidden complexity. Customer service roles generally attract two types of candidates—those looking for a stepping-stone to another role, and those who love helping customers as a career. Those seeking a 12-month home from the start can provide great service, but will usually lack the passion to provide exceptional service.

As a leader, we can't accept mediocrity, instead, we must channel the passion of employees in meaningful ways. Within UL EHSS, we work to fan the flames of creative energy by encouraging forward-thinking group projects, learning together through customer service books, and using low-tech gamification techniques geared towards creating an innovative atmosphere. These tools help set the stage for great customer service.

About UL EHSS: The contact center of UL EHSS is an award-winning team of service professionals. Our service vision is “supporting customers and each other in a manner that is effortless accurate, and friendly.” We place a large premium on developing positive relationships across the department, as well as focusing on an effortless experience for our customers.

Nate Brown is widely known as “The Best Dressed Man in Customer Service.” Okay, no one has actually said that, but a guy can dream. When he is not leading the contact center for UL EHSS, Nate can be found seeking adventure with his family around Nashville, backpacking somewhere in the Smoky Mountains, or fishing on his kayak. Nate is the founder and primary author for the customer service blog as well as the VP of Communication for the Music City HDI Chapter.