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FREE Customer Service Training Guide

Learn How To Deliver Exceptional Customer Service

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 A word about time management and organizational skills

It seems we never have enough time whether in business or in life.  There is not much we can do about the many unforeseen events constraints hardships and other demands on us but what is in our control is our reaction or response to such events and the way we organize our time activities and ultimately our life.

The old farmer said "Make hay while the sun is shining".  What that means speaks directly to time management and organization and to thus the amount of time that we have to spend doing things we really want to do.  What you choose to do during the time that you do not have to deal with outside influences or constraints or other unforeseen events.  In other words your time is your time to do what you want with and choosing to be organized and making full use of your time will determine your happiness and quality of life.

Just one simple exercise of getting more organized and combining shopping trips with bank errands will not only save you time but will save you gas and wear and tear on your automobile.

Simply put time spent in thought and organizational activity before embarking on errands can pay big dividends like having more time and money and we can all use more of both.

Read the Free time management and organization skills training guide in it's entirety and then take the next step and apply the time management and organizational tips to improve your life and have more quality time to do what you want

Scott Alliy

Amazing Profits - The Power of Good Customer Service
If owning my own business has taught me one thing it is this: "the customer is always right, even when she's wrong." When I first started in sales I can remember a handful of times where I would argue with a prospect, tell a customer that he or she didn't have their facts straight, or get steamed about a prospect airing the same objection for the fiftieth time. I took these matters serious and my sales suffered. Zig Ziglar has called sales "The Proud Profession," but being proud of your profession and letting your pride get in the way are two completely different things.

I'm writing this article because in the last two weeks I have been in three situations from the other side of the counter, where I was the customer, and I was treated rudely on three separate occasions. Perhaps I am totally to blame, but I seriously doubt it. Ultimately it will be those businesses that will lose out, a veterinarian's office, a satellite installation company, and a custom car customization shop. All local businesses who offered me terrible customer service; hence, businesses I will never recommend to any friends or business colleagues. And ones I WILL speak I'll of to anyone who will listen.

All of this could have been avoided if these businesses remembered the golden rule of customer service: "the customer is always right." Say your business failed to disclose a key point of a sale; a point that ultimately cost the customer (me) an extra $200. Or say an appointment time that was made for your customers dog to have a tumor removed from it's foot was forgotten by him or your secretary. This confusion causes your customer to come into the office at the wrong time on a busy day for your business. And your secretary proceeds to yell at him for not being on time. Or suppose your business ordered the wrong camper shell for a pickup. Upon installation, in order to get the tailgate to shut, the installer, rather than realizing it was the wrong shell and ordering a new one, grinds the brand new shell to fit the truck bed? Would I blame my customer for any of these things? Absolutely not, right? Well in each of these cases I was the guy that got blamed, in the case of the camper shell they tried to convince me that it was the right shell even though it was hanging over the bed of my pickup by a full inch!

Give your customers what they truly want: respect. As long as you ultimately make it easy and beneficial for your customer to do business with you they will continue coming back to you, even if you screw up once or twice. What is the lifetime value of a customer in your business? For many businesses it is the price of the first sale minus the profits lost because of that person telling his friends etc. that your service or company sucks. Businesses that struggle tend to have the worst customer service, businesses that succeed the best. What side of the fence does your business sit on?

Jesse Boland lives in North Idaho with his son and dog, when he's not building infoprenurial websites, he finds time for flyfishing, hiking and skiing--all of which are prime topics for an infoprenurial website as is one on lousy customer service.

For more information on a powerful way to integrate your passions into informational websites check out: Do You Know That The Net WANTS?

Or take this Free Master's Course on how to sell any product on the web.

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Five Tips to Industrial-Strength Customer Service

The most valuable thing that you give to your customers isn’t a product. It’s the service they get when they call or visit your place of business. You could have the most valuable product in the world, but if you don’t have customer service to match, you’ve got nothing.

American Steel Buildings of Tulsa, Okla., has been setting customer service records for years, and this year reported first-quarter records for moving self-storage steel. We credit our ability to set records to our ability to help customers. Here are a few tips we’ve picked up on the way.

1) Who you hire is just as important as who you target.

When you’re hiring employees, it’s all too easy to find somebody who will just meet the bare minimum requirements. Look for potential employees who have a service attitude, who want to go above and beyond for the customer. Not only will they make good salespeople, but they'll be excellent representatives for your company.

2) Keep your employees in the know.

Knowledgeable employees are helpful employees. Update your employees regularly on anything and everything happening at your business, from new products and featured advertisements to new branch locations and renovations. The more informed they are, the more they'll be able to help your customers with all their questions.

3) The customer’s time with you should be an experience, not a trial.

Whether you’re on the phone or in person, you should make every effort to make the customer’s time with you an experience they’d want to relive. You've only got a few moments to make a good first impression. Think about what could make the customer's experience better. Having a positive, helpful attitude without being overbearing will go a long way in ensuring the customer has a good experience with you and your business.

4) Think “customers first.”

With every business decision you make, you should be thinking about how it will affect the customers. Looking at a new promotion? Ask yourself how it would benefit the customers. Tossing around the idea of renovating the office? Consider whether the new digs will be worth the temporary inconvenience to the customer. Make customers an agenda at every staff meeting, and encourage employees to think of ways that you can better serve the customers.

5) Push to do better.

Don’t let your competition leave you behind. The most successful athletes and businesses are the ones that are always seeking to improve. Visit your competitors, see what they're doing and see how you can do it better. Keep raising the bar. Let your customers know that you won't be outdone.

To see good customer service in action, call American Steel Buildings at (918) 369-4044 or visit them on the Web at

American Steel Buildings designs and distributes quality pre-engineered commercial steel buildings, including mini-storage/self-storage buildings, offices, shops, retail businesses, warehouses, churches and agricultural buildings. American Steel planted its roots in the heart of America in the 1980s. American Steel offers service and quality products to a growing customer base that now spans the entire United States.

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From Loyal Customer to Loyal Advocate
Recently, I had my carpets cleaned by a new company I had never used before. This is a new company and the owner himself showed up to clean my carpets. It took him 3 hours to do the stairs, hallway, family room, living and dining rooms. But, when he was done, they looked TERRIFIC and I was “sold” on his company.

When we hold a workshop, make a sale from our site, create a custom album, etc. we hope that the customer will come back and buy from us again because they had a good experience. We want loyal customers who appreciate our work. But, loyalty isn’t the highest level of satisfaction you can you can achieve from a customer, ADVOCACY is. That’s what will help your business grow.

One definition of an ADVOCATE is: To speak, plead, or argue in favor of something. Do your customers do that? When the carpet man left yesterday, I told three neighbors about him and said they’d be THRILLED if they used him. I don’t get any perks for this—just the satisfaction of helping a new company with a great service and a fantastic owner grow. As he left the other day, he asked me for a “testimonial” for his site. He’s new and needs comments from customers in his area. I agreed that I would email him something (NOTE: He ASKED for it). He also gave me a handful of cards (NOTE: HAND OUT YOUR CARDS!!!). Then he said, “If you see that in a couple of days that it doesn’t look right, call me and I’ll be glad to come back and get the spots.”

I am not just his new customer, I am his new advocate and will tell me neighbors what a great experience I had with his carpet cleaning company. A few weeks later, I got a coupon book in the mail from one of those ad companies and in it was a coupon for this carpet cleaning company and there was my testimonial. He not only asked for it, but he jumped on it and used it.

So, how does a person go from “customer” to “advocate”? Well, first, they fall in love with you through your service and then they keep getting “courted” by you with special treatment. You have to set out to make them your advocate – not in a contrived way, but just by giving them your best efforts to make them happy. Not every customer will become your advocate, but if you pay attention to the loyal ones who keep coming back, you can lead them down the path of advocacy with a few suggestions:


  • Give your best customers advance notice of EVERYTHING. If you get new products in, let them know a day ahead and let them know that they are getting SPECIAL ADVANCE NOTICE.
  • Give them a perk such as free shipping on a lower dollar amount or 13 custom pages for the price of 12, or an extra embellishment in their kit. Make sure they know that this perk is ONLY for your BEST customers.
  • Invite them to offer you input on new products - make them feel special and connected to your business.
  • Send them free gifts or samples at unannounced times. Don’t just send them a birthday gift, send them a HAPPY SPRING gift or a sample of a new product. Some scrapbook vendors send samples with every order and their customers are surprised and delighted with each order they get. It costs them just pennies but makes a big difference to their customers.
  • Give them extra service—offer to wrap a gift, wrap up their custom album before you drop it off. Thank them for being one of your BEST customers.
  • Make sure you know who they are. If they are getting your highest level of service, remember that and don’t mistakenly drop them off their pedestal or you may pay a price.
  • Put a free "thank you" gift in every one of their orders
  • upgrade something for them in a custom scrapbook - the album, cardstock, etc.
  • offer the special shopping times or hours


How much would all of this cost you vs. how much you would gain?

Surprise and delight your loyal customers with the unexpected perk “for our BEST customers only”. Pretty soon, they will not only continue to buy from you, but they will be telling their scrapping friends to buy from you also. That’s what turns a customer into your advocate which then keeps them coming back, only instead of coming back on their own, they bring all their friends with them!

Kim Guymon is the founder of ScrapBiz and is considered one of the foremost experts on starting and running a business in the Scrapbook Industry. Since 2001, she has helped hundreds of entrepreneurial scrappers realize their dream of owning a scrapbook business. She has also introduced the wholesale side of the industry to the idea of non-traditional retailers. Kim can be contacted at or you can view her website at or her business blog at

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More On Customer Service

It would seem that the topic of customer service has been beaten to death. I mean, everyone has great customer service, don’t they. You’d think so with all that advertisements asking to choose a business because they have better customer service. The problem is that I don’t think most companies, businesses, organizations or people in general really understand what good if not great customer service means.

My strong opinion is that in order to provide good customer service you must have good systems and processes in place. And, those systems and processes must be engineered to a specific business. Then, once you have your systems and processes properly engineered and in place, you must ensure that they are consistently followed. That is the big component that often gets overlooked – consistency.

Now when I talk about systems and processes I’m not just talking about the people who have direct contact with the customers, these must also include every aspect of the business. The best example of this are franchised businesses. Now I prefer to patronize the local places when I can, but these locally owned businesses could learn a lot from how the franchises operate.

Everything that is required to run the franchised business is documented; everything from how to cook the hamburger to how to assemble it and wrap it. This is all in addition to how and when to greet customers. Although there are many companies that do this reasonable well, there are many more that just don’t get it. Some of them once got it, but forgot to take a step back and look at how consumers have evolved and their systems are no longer effective.

What brings this up today? It all comes back to something as simple as take-out pizza. There’s a place here in Colorado Springs that I thought was going to a great new local business where I could get a good pizza pie. The first time I went there it was great. It was a great pizza and there were great people. The second time wasn’t as good, as there was a discrepancy in the price and how the pizza turned out. The third time there was a “problem with the oven” and they had to remake my pie. It was inconvenient but I was given the pizza for no charge. Huge gesture and it maintained my loyalty.

Over the next three weeks I ordered a pizza a week. Each time the pizza came out different. It either had too much cheese or the crust was too thick or it was too thin. It wasn’t the same way twice. I took a few weeks off in hopes that they were having a bad patch. So a few days ago I went in again. There were new faces. Not as friendly as before, and when I returned home, the pizza wasn’t that great. Again, not the same as the first time I went in.

Inconsistent is all I can say about the place now. So, will I go back? I’m not sure. There’s something to be said about a franchise pizza. It’s not the best, but at least I always know what to expect. I get the same product each and every time. And that is a big part of good customer service.

Find the most recommended locally owned and operated businesses at

Tony Rose, MBA, is the owner/founder of, the user-driven web site that links to the most recommended locally owned and operated businesses throughout the US. Tony has been a successful business owner in the fields of Real Estate, Development and Web Development for over twenty years.

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How To Take Care Of The Ridiculous Customer

In an article also appearing on this website, I spoke about how to handle the upset, or angry customer. Here's a review for helping upset customers.:

L - Listen and don’t interrupt
E – Empathize with something like, “I can understand why you’re upset. I would be upset too.”
A – Ask – What can I do to make you happy?
R – Resolve – Unless it’s ridiculous – do it

The question came back to me, “How should this empowered manager handle the ridiculous request?” Here’s my reply.

As the owner or general manager of the business you’ll need to decide just how much empowerment you'll give each person in your management structure.

Let's assume you have 3 levels of personnel in your business. Front Line, Manager, and You. You may give the front line person the authority to give a $100 (or whatever) credit as long as the customer isn't ridiculous - and up to a $50 credit if the customer is ridiculous.

You may give the manager the authority to give up to a $300 credit even if the customer is ridiculous - and a $1,000 credit otherwise.

And for credits over this, you may need to give personal approval. You'll need to determine where these levels are and put them in writing. But as important as where the levels are, is how everyone is trained to handle the ridiculous customer.

In our company NO ONE is authorized to say NO to a client other than me - and I never have. If our people think the client is ridiculous, or the amount is more than they are comfortable with, they are trained to pleasantly stall for time and refer it to me with something like, "I'm sorry, I'll need to talk with Keith, the owner, about this. I'm sure he'll be getting back to you before noon tomorrow. And if he can't I'll be sure to call you. Can I get your phone number?" Then be absolutely certain to get back to the client before your associate said you would.

So the next question is, where do you draw the line? Again that's up to you. My line is very, very high – as I said, I haven’t reached it yet.

In my advertising - especially to prospective clients, I love to talk about our "Make-You-Happy" Guarantee. Here it is:

"If we ever let you down we'll ask, 'What can I do to make you happy?' In 34 years we've never refused a clients request to make it right."

This is why no-one at TMS is authorized to say no to a client. If a client ever asks for something so unreasonable that I'm willing to give up my guarantee statement in future advertising - I will make that decision - no one else!

So what about that customer that is unreasonable? Do you let them come back time after time to steal from you? Here's our plan for handling that situation. We've only gone through the entire plan one time at American Retail Supply.

We find that customers are very seldom unreasonable. If someone is unreasonable, we do what they ask and then we put a code into the computer that says "we fulfilled clients unreasonable request". Then, if the client is unreasonable again we do what they want - we Make Them Happy. And then I send them a letter telling them that we don't seem to be able to give them the service they need and that we therefore won't be able to sell to them any more.

With this I am still able to say "we have never refused a clients request to make it right" in our advertising. Again, in 25 years, I have only had to do this once.

Keith Lee is the creator of the "Don't Let Your Business Ruin your Life - Yes, You Can Have It All, Make-You-Happy Management System." Keith developed the system in 1991 when he was burnt out from all of the stresses and time issues involved with running his business. The system creates happy customers, happy employees, but most of all gives you back you life. For more information and articles visit

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Let Your Client's Know Your Customer Service Expectations
At American Retail Supply, we make mistakes. We spend lots of time and money to make our procedures as efficient and foolproof as possible, but we still make mistakes. So, where do I get off writing these columns that so often highlight the need for Exceptional Customer Service?

While nobody likes to be at the receiving end of a mistake, we all know that people make mistakes. Exceptional Customer Service requires that we learn from these mistakes and take action to reduce or eliminate them, but what really brings customers back is your response when you mess up.

Here are a few points to consider as you examine your customer service. Can your front line people solve the huge majority of your customer’s problems?

You’ve heard it from me before and if you read this column you’ll hear it again. People don’t want hassles and very few are out to take advantage of you. I believe the true test for Exceptional Customer Service is, Can the first person your customer talks to solve the problem?

Do your customers know that Exceptional Customer Service is what they should expect from you?

I get a few phone calls each year from customers who don’t think they are getting Exceptional Customer Service from us. Almost all of these calls start with, “I read in your newsletter that customer service is important to you, I don’t think I’m getting very good service at all...” or “A few months ago when I was on hold I heard that you wanted me to call you if I had a problem that wasn’t being taken care of.” Sure nobody likes getting calls like this but in another way I LOVE GETTING THEM!

What’s the alternative? For most businesses it’s a customer who really doesn’t want the hassle of complaining. The customer who goes to the competition and not only doesn’t recommend you to others, but maybe even bad mouths you. I love customers who give us the opportunity to MAKE THEM HAPPY. Find a way to tell your customers that you want to know if they are not happy.

I stole an idea from Stu Leonard’s Supermarket in Connecticut. He has a big sign with his picture that says, What Do You Like? What Don’t You Like? I’d Like To Know. Every invoice we send out at TMS has a flyer that asks the same questions Stu Leonard asks. While it is redundant to send it out with every invoice, we do. I want to be sure that every customer knows that they should expect Exceptional Customer Service and that I want to know if they don’t get it.


The video, In Search of Excellence, says most suggestion boxes get little to no use. They say the reason is customers know that their suggestions will get no action. Stu Leonard’s box is filled, mostly with good comments, every day. Why do people take the time to write? The video says it’s because they know something will be done. If customers take the time to contact you, take the time to let them know what you are doing.

Every customer who writes to us at TMS, whether its a good comment or a complaint, gets a response.
Keith Lee is the creator of the "Don't Let Your Business Ruin your Life - Yes, You Can Have It All, Make-You-Happy Management System." Keith developed the system in 1991 when he was burnt out from all of the stresses and time issues involved with running his business. system creates happy customers, happy employees, but most of all gives you back you life. For more information and articles visit

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How to Build Your Business by Providing Sincere Heartfelt Service- When it Shows the Business Grows
I remember a six-year old boy saying to me at the front entrance of Walt Disney World in Orlando, "lady, is it your job to tell everyone to have a nice day?"-" No, I said, it's my job to make sure that you do." It's your job to make sure your customers have the best, sincere service you can provide. They'll not only be happy, they'll love you for it.

We are all consumers of products and services and we are bombarded with choices. Nowadays we can shop online and avoid human contact, or we can shop at stores and transact face-to-face. When employees work, they usually want to get paid, unless they are volunteers, but that's the exception. In our fast-paced world of instant gratification and expectations we are losing are patience with others and it shows. It shows in our businesses and in our bottom-line results.

Employers should take care to find employees with a genuine interest in serving the customers. When service is provided from the heart it will show. You'll notice the signs such as an employee smiling all the time or most of the time and the customers smiling back. You might see the customers give the wonderful employee a hand-shake or a hug after exceptional service has been provided. If the customer is happy about the service you might hear a thank-you or even receive a complimentary letter from the satisfied guest.

When service is provided from the heart, there's great word of mouth from the customer to others and it's not surprising if the business gets busier than previously. Have you ever gone into a restaurant and wondered why it was pretty empty? That's a sign from the guests that either the food is better somewhere else, the prices, or the service are not worthy ot them standing in line, needing reservations to get in, or of being unable to find a parking space in the restaurant parking lot because the place is phenomenal.

Here's the good news, we can exceed guest expectations every day without fail, no exceptions if that's what we set out to do and set the examples with all of our employees and customers. Please don't leave the customers scratching their heads trying to figure out your business and unattended. Pay attention to your customers and serve them and be wildly delighted to have them. You customers could easily go somewhere else, without you.You need them. Love them.

Customer service provided from the heart makes the customer feel not only welcomed, but special.We all want to feel special. Let your staff know how they are doing and what results you are having from all their customer service. Take time to ask the customers how they feel even before they leave your store or business so you know if you have provided the service they were expecting.

Lori Wilk, MBA, is a Las Vegas Strip Performer, not a stripper. She makes daily humorous vacation ownership presentations on the Las Vegas Strip. She's is an author of business and self-help books including "Without Me You'll Be Eating Out of Garbage Cans," and host of the internet talk show "Successipes" at . Lori looks forward to meeting many of you soon at Successipes2008 in Las Vegas. If you enjoyed this article go to

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9 Easy Steps to Implement Customer Service Policies that Decreases Risk

Everybody loves good service. It makes us feel appreciated when patronizing a company that meets our service expectations.

Businesses understand the need to satisfy their customers and take great strides to provide helpful, friendly service.

However, not only is implementing structured customer service practices smart business, it has the potential to reduce risk management issues.

By putting the following 9 steps into action, it’s possible to improve customer service and reduce costly mistakes and accidents. Customer service practices can be woven into policy and procedures so that good customer service is achieved when following company policy.

Step 1. Identify areas of service that need improvement as well as potential risk. Implement policies that address these issues. Ask for the input of management and staff to create an atmosphere of teamwork.

Step 2. Create a policy and procedure manual that is easily read and understood. To encourage employee interest, be sure to explain how the procedures will benefit employees. Distribute the manuals to each employee or department manager. Ensure all management is committed to the education of their department.

Step 3. Hold staff meetings to discuss the new policies and customer service expectations. Make the meetings a positive experience and reinforce the benefits of implementing the policies. This may be as simple as giving certificates of recognition or as valuable as a raise (an idea to increase the perceived value of certificates of recognition is to allow employees to accumulate and trade them for gift certificates).

Step 4. Create a culture in which employees and staff show the same helpful respect to each other as they do customers (teach that we are all each other’s customers). Empower staff to nominate each other for certificates of recognition. Invite customers to do the same.

Step 5. Ensure that each employee has read and understands the policy manual. Encourage its importance by having each employee take a written test and go over the results to fill in any gaps in understanding. Have the employee sign it and keep the results in the personnel file.

Step 6. Continually educate staff on the importance of each department and teamwork. Each month, choose one staff member to learn something new about another department and give a short inservice to the rest of the team (for example, have a payroll clerk take a couple hours to learn and share something about the shipping department). If employees have some understanding of the business processes, it will help staff identify ways they can indirectly help their co-workers in other departments.

Step 7. As time passes, continue to reinforce policies and good customer service practices. Look for ways to continue to involve staff (for example, form teams to create a new system, implement a new idea, solve a dilemma, etc.).

Step 8. Replace employees, according to termination guidelines, who continue to refuse to follow procedures. This will show your existing staff you are serious about the policies and you will help your staff by hiring employees that want to be part of the team.

Step 9. When hiring new employees, stress the value placed on teamwork and following procedures. Start during the interview process and make it a positive experience. Look for someone who can fill the position and is eager to learn. It’s easier to train someone that it is to change someone.

A few of the benefits of implementing these steps are:

Better Service: Employees who are knowledgeable about their responsibilities and follow company procedure are better equipped to serve customers and each other (thus improving the bottom line).

Loyalty: Employees who are empowered to teach and help implement procedures feel that their efforts are worthwhile and that they are part of the team (this encourages loyalty, improves job satisfaction and less employee turnover).

Financial Rewards: Employees who understand that by following procedures, decreasing risk, and improving customer service, financial goals will be met and have a positive impact on their payroll and benefits.

The implementation of simple procedures can have a major impact on customer service, improve the workplace culture, and decrease mistakes and accidents. By fostering a knowledgeable team atmosphere, employee accountability and awareness will improve.

Keep the procedures simple and easy to follow so they can be remembered. Don’t overload employees. Think of policies and procedures as guidelines. Hire someone to review your current policies and procedures and write a fresh manual that will speak to your employees and motivate them to follow procedures.

Company rules should be included and include employment/labor law, minimum wage laws and hours, State and Federal guidelines, safety issues, harassment issues, privacy issues and industry specific regulations. Purchase and post the mandatory employment posters and consult an attorney when in doubt.

Appreciate your customers and staff and watch for better service to bloom, less risk and an increase in the bottom line. For more information about policy and procedure manuals, contact or call (512) 508-0044 for more information.

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How to provide Superior Customer Service
As many of you know, I have made it my mission to change the world's view point of customer service. Too many people today have just accepted the fact that no matter where they go, they will receive less than acceptable customer service. THAT'S NOT ACCEPTABLE!

When we work so hard for the money we have, why spend it at a business establishment (no matter what type of business) that provides you less than superior customer service? Does it really make sense to hand your money over that way? Still not clear... okay, let me present this to you in another way. You go to a restaurant and ask for a steak. The waitress brings you out a piece of chicken. You shrug your shoulders and say, "okay, that's fine." Furthermore, you eat the chicken and still leave the waitress a tip...would you really accept that? No, of course not! But that is the type of unacceptable customer service we are receiving in other places of business and just nodding our heads, and saying okay! STOP THE MADNESS PEOPLE!

For all you customers out there (which means everyone), it is time to reclaim your God given right to receive Great Customer Service. It's called Free Will people, and I'm going to use my free will to change the world's view on customer service. One of the ways I plan on doing this is by refusing to do business anywhere that I receive poor customer service. Are you willing to help me in this mission? All you have to do is this: stop doing business in places that don't appreciate your business. And, let them know that you are no longer going to do business there and why. Sometimes business owners or managers do not know there is a problem until you let them know, so make sure you tell them. Once we start changing our views on what we accept as customer service, the businesses will adapt to start pleasing us better. It makes sense, doesn't it!

As for all of you employees and employers out there, there are certain steps you can take to make sure your customers receive the best customer service around. And, when you start providing that type of customer service, your customers will keep coming back for more. In fact, if you provide them with the best service they can get anywhere and with a little flair, they will come back more often because they can't get enough of it.

So, what are the steps? Follow these certain steps to assure your customers will be coming back for more: (I have broken this down into two stages. One for employers and one for employees please read both!)



  • Provide training to your employees on how to treat your customers. If you are unsure of how this should be done, please visit my blog at and email me and I will set up a training class for you. Think of it this way... what do your customers' expect to get from your business. This is obviously different for every business and also depends on the type of business you have. But put yourself in your customer's shoes...If you were the customer, what would you expect to see in terms of customer service? Once you have clearly defined that, you can then train the employees on how to provide it.


  • Set the standards high for your employees and make sure they stick to it. However, don't just use this as a tool to "write up" or "fire" your employees. Let me be clear... if you have an employee who you need to fire then by all means do so. But I don't believe in the type of management that only uses negative reinforcement. I believe that you should also use positive reinforcement with your employees as well. In fact, you'll find that the more positive reinforcement you use, the more you'll get out of your employees. Don't use fear management. It breeds negativity and bad morale and eventually your customers can feel and sense it. This will only further lead to poor customer service.


  • Having Mystery shops of your business is a great way to find out how your employees are doing. Now, having said this again I go back to my last point, do not use this as a fear management tactic. I have worked for a business that did this and believe me it only breeds negativity and poor morale and again only leads to poor customer service because the customers sense the tension with your employee. Now, if you do not know what mystery shopping is, let me clear it up for you. Mystery shopping is where you have someone pose as a customer or potential customer to see what kind of customer experience they receive when they come to your business. Again, the standards that are in place all depend on your type of business and what you have trained your employees to provide to the customer. Obviously if you haven't trained them yet, do not do this until you have. Now, mystery shopping can be done in several ways. You can hire a company to do this for you. You provide the company with the criteria that your employees should meet and what you want the mystery customer to do and say. Then, they will hire a mystery shopper to come in posing as the customer and the mystery shopper will report back to the company you hired on how your employee did with full details on each of the criteria and an overall grade. The company then gives you the details on the mystery shop. It is a great way to test your customer's overall experience and further train your employees. Now, a few things I recommend. Do not tell your employees that you are doing this. If they know, they will be nervous and treat your customers differently. It is more natural if you just have them doing what they always do to grade the normal customer experience. Once you have received the feed back, use it as a training tool for not just that employee but all of them so everyone is on the same level. And reward the employee for a job well done. If you don't want to hire a company to do the mystery shopping, you can ask a friend or family member to pose as the customer and grade the experience. Or, survey your customers on how well they thought their overall experience was, what they liked about it, what they didn't like about it, and what they thought you could do differently!


  • Lastly, and I can't stress this enough, the only way to provide great customer service is to have a customer service standard, have a plan on how your employees will deliver your standards, and test the standards. Also, pay your employees what they deserve and provide them rewards for going the extra mile. If your employees are making minimum wage and not getting any incentive to "go the extra mile", then you won't get anything extra from them and neither will your customers. Your employees are the face of your business. The service your business receives comes directly from your employees, so make sure your employees are getting a fair deal.



  • First of all, when you are working with customers, no matter what your occupation, think of it this way...How would you want to be treated if you were that client?


  • If you are unhappy about your current job, don't take it out on the customer. Remember, it is not their fault that you are unhappy with your job and it's not their fault that you're in the situation you are in, whatever it may be. Again, remember, what would you expect if you were the customer?


  • When talking with a client, first of all, smile! Say Hello, how can I help you? If you are not behind a counter of some kind, shake their hand, introduce yourself and ask their name. Then, ask them how you can be of assistance.


  • If your employer has a standard for customer service, make sure you know what it is and abide by it. And, at the end of the year, when you get your annual review, make sure you remind your boss in writing how you met that standard and ask that it be added to your annual review.


  • If you work in a store of some kind, like a grocery store, department store, etc...why do you ignore customers as they walk by you? Why do you try to run them over as you are wandering around the store? When you go into a store do you expect to be run over, run down, or ignored? And when you are, does it bother you? Here's my point - it should not matter where you work, you should never ignore a customer walking past and you are never more important than a customer. This is a valuable lesson to learn. No matter who you are or where you work, you have to learn to appreciate your customers! Think of it this way - not only that you could be that customer getting the poor service but more importantly, if it wasn't for that customer, you wouldn't have a job! Remember that the next time you ignore a customer.

The fact of the matter is that customer service is ignored or takes second place to growing a business and increasing profitability. When in fact, great customer service will do just that, grow your business and make it more profitable.

If you survey a room of 50 people, 94% of the people in the room would tell you that they have not received good customer service lately. Furthermore, they would tell you that they have received extremely poor service recently, more than they wish to recall.

I believe that together, we can change the way we are treated as customers and the way we treat customers. If we all work together to change the view point of everyone, then maybe we can bring back the days in which customers were respected and could recall more examples of "Great Customer Service" rather than poor customer service.

Please feel free to email me. In order to email me, you must visit my blog at and then find my email link. I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments not only about this article but examples of customer service you have received lately. Thank you in advance for assisting me in my mission.

Amy Rodgers is an independent writer who writes to help people and for the pure joy of writing. She has also made it her mission to change the world's view on customer service. For more customer service information, visit her blog at For more articles writen by this author, visit her article site at Amy's Articles.

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What Is The Question To Start Asking Questions?

I love asking “What If”. It is the biggest door opening question ever conceived. Yesterday, whilst I was at a Toastmaster’s meeting, I had a one of those “flashes of brilliance.”

It started with me thinking that a lot of people may be feeling that they have been “sentenced” to spend their life in Customer Service. And I started thinking “How very sad for them” that they don’t see the real potential there is for a lifelong career and how rewarding that really is.

Now, some of you that know me would say that there were several times in my life that I did not see it that way at all. Yep, it happened to me too. I lost my objectivity.

There were also moments that I questioned my sanity, and I was sure that the root of all evil had to be the Customers and Employees I was working with.

I became a serious Schleprock. If there was a bad experience waiting to happen, all I had to do was show up, and it was sure to find me. As far as I could see there were nothing but idiots and morons and they were all trying to ruin my day.

Not what has this got to do with anything you might ask? Hmmmm?

It just that as a recovering Schleprock, (the steps are the same, starting with acknowledgement), I had to learn a few new skills to help me get through each and every day. And it starts with asking “What if” questions.

Let me illustrate.

“What if this upset Customer that is standing in front of me has only one experience this day with a human being, and that person is me?”

“What if I have only one chance to make this person my friend, what will I say and how will I act?”

“What if there were no tomorrow for me, would I look back on how I have served in this position with pride?”

“What if the next time I see this employee/customer/friend/person and his/her family I am standing next to them at his/her gravesite?”

“What if I was to listen to this person completely, without judgment and filters, could I really understand what they are trying to say?”

“What if I did give this person a raise?”

“What if I were to train everyone in basic skill sets, would I see an increase in Customer Satisfaction? And just as importantly, would I see an increase in Employee Satisfaction?”

“What if I really applied myself and learned everything I could about what I do, and just adopted one new idea a month?”

“What if I was to sit down with everyone who is responsible for taking care of the assets (our Customers) we worked so hard to get, and asked them what they think?”

“What if I followed through on action statements, recommendations, mission statements and promises? What would my career look like? What would my Department look like? What would my life look like?”

“What if I were to greet every person I meet for one full month with a smile, and a warm greeting?”

“What if I am that person’s only interaction with another human being for a whole week? What would I like them to remember about me?”

See, here’s what happens when you start asking “What if.”

You start thinking about the possibilities and not the limitations.

Without “What if” there can never be a “What is.”

This also helps you focus on the other person, not yourself.

You can apply this question to any part of your daily life. And once you do, your mind begins to open doors that were previously closed.

Now, with anything there is a risk. You may ask the question and still have an unpleasant experience or result regardless. So what.

You would have anyways.

Think of it this way. If you are not asking “What if”, what are you asking?

Maybe “When am I ever going to get out of this” or “Why is everything always happening to me” or “How come everybody else…..?” Sounds a little like someone is calling the waaaaaaambulance doesn’t it?

So, get your head on right. Make a decision to start doing something about it. 1. Start by asking “What if” about everything you do. 2. Take note of what does and does not work. Not every idea is brilliant. If it works, keep doing it until it doesn’t. 3. Be willing to take a little risk. If you are always playing it safe, you will never score and always be dependent on someone else to help you.

And if you still feel like you have been sentenced, parole yourself. If you don’t like Customer Service, get out of it. Stop wasting everyone’s time including your own, and find something that you want to do. You will be a better person and have a better life.

Me, Glad to be here! Hope you are enjoying the articles.

Leonard Buchholz is a Certified Trainer, Author and Speaker. He leads seminars in Customer Service, Communications and Management. He believes in the simple concept of Hire Friendly, Hire Trainability and Hire Competency when building a Customer Service Team. He is available to provide coaching and consulting in Customer Service and Management. He resides in Southern California and you can reach him at 760-529-5635 or email him at

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Top 10 customer service tips

1. Hire people who have a service attitude. Some people simply enjoy serving others, their organizations, and even their communities. The spirit of service dominates their personality. This attitude of service has nothing to do with money or background, and people who have this attitude are not necessarily the most outgoing or bubbly. This type of person will move your business forward. These people make the best salespeople as well.

2. Make the customer's time with you an experience. You have but a few short moments with customers. You don't have time to complain about your day or anything else. Ask yourself, "How can I make their experience better?" Can I refer to them by name and how can I ask without being too aggressive? How can I control the environment in this company? How am I affecting their 5 senses? Exceed their expectations just a little with their senses and with your attitude to serve and please, and you will have created a memorable and compelling experience. Of course, all you really have to do is visit your competition, see what they are doing and then top them. But would that be cheating? No, that's comparative shopping.

3. Regularly inform all your employees about what's going on in your company. Employees need to know what's happening. What new products are you offering? When will they be available? What kind of advertising will take place in the next month? Will any physical changes be happening in your offices? Will new branches be add? The more they know, the better they can serve your customers.

4. Make every decision with the customer in mind. Ask yourself questions such as, "Do our customers like what we're doing?" and "Would our customers like this type of promotion?" Change the way you look at things from having it centered around you to focused on whether the customer would approve.

5. Make the customers an agenda item at every staff meeting. Present their point of view and ask these questions: What would the customer think of this? Would this move be fair to them? How can we serve our customers better or differently?

6. Empower your employees to do the right thing. And don't hold it against them if the situation doesn't turn out perfectly. That means giving employees the power to do whatever has to be done to make a customer's experience a WOW experience. They will make mistakes, but each time they will learn – with your help.

7. Continually ask yourself how you can improve and add value. If you don't keep asking and pushing yourself, you'll start to slip behind the competition. Customers have more than one choice and your competition is aggressively marketing to them. They know what is being offered by others. Be ahead of the curve by asking what you can do to add value to your customer’s experience with you.

8. Create an atmosphere of excellence. Let it be known that everything you and your employees do has to be the best, and you won't accept less. Remember that winning organizations are always raising the bar. If you aren’t pushing to do better than yesterday, you will be left in the dust of your competition.

9. Continually do the unexpected. Have the reputation for doing the unexpected, and customers will always expect something different and exciting from your company. This doesn’t mean that you have to have dancing clowns in your lobby, but having the same lollipops that everyone else gives out is not at all unexpected. Do something different. These are the things that customers talk about.

10. Never let an untrained employee have customer contact. Your employees represent you, your company, and your brand. Working with customers is the most important thing they will do. Give them the tools necessary by giving them adequate training to handle customers.

Margo Chevers, author of the book STOP the BS (bad service), has been providing sales and customer service seminars and consulting to a diverse cross-section of industries for the past 15 years. To receive her free 10 top tips for exceptional customer service email

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10 Customer Service Quality Statements to Measure up Against

It might sound quick and simple, to say how well your business does in satisfying it's customers. Hearing such as:-


"We're increasing our turnover by 14% year to date"

"Our customer complaints are now less than 4% or our transactions"

...might sound like music to your ears, but that's just the time you need to be very careful.

A regular measurement of where you are as your organisation, not depending on some of the easy-to-fake figures, might just make the difference in how well you are doing now, and into the future.

Try these quality statements and set up a mechanism whereby you review them monthly - yes, that's right, monthly. This needs to be thorough and objective. And maybe even the scores made by a cross- section of your people in all areas of your business - then you get objectivity and a true picture of how you are scoring. It is a great activity to score each of these out of 10, make a tracker month by month and each time you review, ask yourself the question:-


"What would we need to do to move our score up by 3 points"

Do it point by point and then, after you have that 3-point question, work out a monthly action plan, so that step-by-step, you gradually improve. (Note:- If you are too near a score out of 10 to have three points to go - upgrade your statement!).

Then and only then will your improvement be sustainable and you can reset the questions over time to a higher standard. Then you truly will be The Best in class!

The Quality Statements:-


  1. We use a variety of staff to monitor customer service on a regular and consistent basis

  2. We know and can clearly state our customer groups

  3. We listen to customers about our products and proactively seek to redress issues

  4. We notice and congratulate our people and teams when they perform well

  5. Senior management are fully and visibly engaged in customer activities

  6. Our people enjoy the challenge of changes

  7. Our organisation and our people have aligned values

  8. Our customers find working with us easy and pleasurable

  9. We know how our people feel about working here and always respond to make it better

  10. We have teams and individuals who can respond quickly to changes circumstances, whatever they are

Keep a track of these - visually represent it somewhere very publicly for your people. Involve many of your them in monitoring, finding solutions and taking accountability for change, where needed and your business, your people and you will thrive.

One final point. Starting is good, being able to demonstrate your success in 12 months is another thing - as is still doing this review at that time.


Martin Haworth is a Business and Management Coach. He works worldwide, mainly by phone, with small business owners, managers and corporate leaders. He has hundreds of hints, tips and ideas at his website, (Note to editors. Feel free to use this article, wherever you think it might be of value - it would be good if you could include a live link)

...helping you, to help your people, to help your business grow...

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Internal and External Customers

External customers are the company’s clients. They are people who purchase the products the company produces. They are of a great importance to the organization. There are also internal customers. They play an important role in the organization’s success as well. Internal customers are the staff that the company hires.


The Internal customer e.g. your staff, will benefit significantly by good customer care. More effective management will lead to a more motivated workforce. It will also give you improved co-operation between your departments. Your staff will welcome the fact that you are willing to invest valuable time and money in them as individuals as well as a team, and will have more job security.


Your External customers e.g. the members of the general public are the most important people to your organisation. Without these people coming into your shop and buying your furniture your business would not succeed. If a customer feels like she is interrupting your staff she will shop elsewhere in future, which will only result in a lost sale for your organisation. It is vitally important to make your External customer feel valued at all stages of the sale, Pre-sale, during sale and after sale. If your customer enjoys her experience and has a good time under your staff, then certainly she will use your organisation again.


Every business wants to be successful. Otherwise why would you go into business in the first place? If your Internal customers are contented in their workplace and have good quality customer care training they will feel more motivated and confident. Also it will lower staff absenteeism and turnover of staff. In reality why should the staff want to leave a job they feel confident and secure in!

The same good customer care given to your External customers will lead to success in your company. Your customers not only demand and expect your furniture to be of the best quality but also from the level of service they receive from your staff. Satisfied customers lead to fewer complaints for your staff to deal with, freeing up valuable time your staff could be more industrious in. The word of mouth recommendations your External customers will voice is in effect free advertising and this will without a doubt lead to improved reputation and most importantly to increased revenue.

It is essential to identify the considerations prior to development of an effective customer care strategy. To provide a positive approach to customer care it is important to follow the main key issues.

Identify customer's needs - Knowing what your customer expects and wants from your organisation.

Developing the right products and services - Once you discovered your customers needs it is then vitally important that you develop your product so that it will match your customers expectations.

Measuring customer's satisfaction - This requires constant and ongoing improvements, due to the changes in customer's demands.

Developing Internal systems - Providing your Internal customers with appropriate customer care leads to co-operation and support from all departments, which leads to the overall success of your organisation.

Staff Training - It is essential for successful customer care that all staff is included in the training. It is vital that all the staff from the Cleaner to the Managing Director feel that they have an important role to play in the satisfaction of the needs in addition to wants of your customers.

Mary Anne Winslow is a member of Essay Writing Service counselling department team and a dissertation writing consultant. Contact her to get free counselling on custom essay writing.

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1. Stay in contact with customers on a regular basis. Just
as it is bad news to send out too many emails to customers,
it is just as bad to not stay in contact with them.
Customers don't want to feel abandoned.  So don't.

Here are three things to help you stay in touch.

(1) Offer them your ezine subscription at least once a
(2) Ask customers if they want to be updated by e-mail when
you make changes to your Web site.
(3) Follow-up after each sale to see if they are satisfied
with their purchase.  Send an e-mail out a few days after
their purchase, another in a week or two, and then another
in a month.

2. Create a customer focus group by inviting 10 to 20 loyal
customers to meet regularly. Alternatively, send out a
monthly survey to this group asking for ideas and input on
how to improve your customer service. Give them a reward.
Pay them, give them a gift certificate, or send them free

3. Have a web site that is easy to navigate.  Add a
frequently asked question's "FAQ" page and explain anything
that might confuse your customers or visitors. Follow-up
with an electronic survey with questions on how to increase
your site's user-friendliness.

4. Resolve customer complaints quickly and completely.
Answer all e-mail and phone calls within a few hours. This
will show your customers you really care about them.

5. Don't make your customers or visitors hunt for your
contact information.  Make it easy for them to contact you.
Offer as many contact methods as possible.  Hyperlink all
your e-mail addresses so they don't have to find or type it.
Offer a toll free number.

6.  If you have strategic alliances or employees, make sure
they are familiar with your customer service policy. Give
your employees bonuses or incentives to practice excellent
customer service. Tell employees to be flexible with each
individual customer, each one has different concerns, needs
and wants.

7. Give your customers more than they expect. Send thank you
gifts to long time customers. E-mail them greeting cards on
holidays or birthdays if you have their address or online
cards if you only have their e-mail address and name. Give
bonuses to your customers who make a big purchase or
multiple purchases.

8.   U-welcome, please, and thank you and can never be over
used. Be polite no matter what. Admit and apologize for
mistakes quickly and make it up to them in BIG ways if you
want them to continue being a customer.

9.  Reward in points -- give customers a point for every
dollar they spend. Set up a points-earned sheet.  E-mail the
customer an update monthly. If they send you a referral they
get 10 points, if they buy something add 10 more points.

10.  If your business is local, invite customers to your
office for lunches, parties, barbecues, dances, seminars or
other special events.

It isn't what you perceive as valuable but what customers
see from their eyes.  Yet, sometimes, you just can't please
some folks.  If that occurs, do you best and then let it go.
You don't want them for clients anyway.

Catherine Franz, a Certified Professional Marketing &
Writing Coach, specializes in product development,  Internet
writing and marketing, nonfiction, training.  Newsletters and
articles available at:

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8 Critical Steps to Establish a Customer Service Culture

“Every company’s greatest assets are its customers, because without customers there is no company,” --Erwin Frand

During our recent weakened economy, many businesses have seen declining revenues and declining budgets. Declining budgets often lead to reduced staff levels and diminished services. To me, this does not make sense. I believe that it is during the down times, when service should be at the forefront and retention of loyal customers even more of a focus.

When price wars fail to drive revenues, businesses often look to service to give them a competitive advantage. Many big business marketers are returning to a “service sells” mentality, however, many sell great customer service and few deliver. The problem is that few marketers have ever truly served a customer.

Throughout my years in business, I have had the opportunity to interact and develop a customer service philosophy. It is inherent that when you are in a service-based business, there will be times when your customer is compelled to offer you their feedback. It is what you do with this feedback that will shape the future and their impression of your business.

Upon reflection, most all of my interactions with displeased customers were not the result of a poor product, but rather a disappointing customer experience. Why is that? Because, product is not personal, customer service is. Briefly, I would like to share with you eight critical steps to establish a customer service culture.

1. Customers are the reason for work, not an interruption of work

This sounds really obvious doesn’t it? How many times have you gone into a business only to wait while someone is on the telephone or busy doing some “non-service” task? Employees often lose sight of the importance of the customer and get consumed in lesser day to day tasks. Sure, there are tasks that need to be accomplished, but you cannot afford to sacrifice service to get them done. Good customer service must be a priority for you and your team. Without your customers, you have no company!

2. Train, train, and continue to train.

• Cross train your entire staff to be able to assist a customer regardless of their department. When a customer becomes upset they want their problem solved not to be shuffled between employees that are not empowered or enable to assist them.

• Offer continuous customer service training for your staff and once they are providing good service, continue to train them.

• Utilize role play situations to assist your staff in recognizing and experiencing both easy and difficult service opportunities. If an employee has a level of comfort with a difficult situation, they will be able to better handle it.

3. Empower your staff to serve

• Establish a system of resources for your staff to serve the customer. Allow them latitude to take the necessary action to provide exceptional service and resolve any issues should a customer become disgruntled. Create a structured system to allow your staff to serve customers.

• Establish a discretionary budget that an employee may access to recover a customer before you lose them. I recently learned that a major hotel chain has a monetary fund available per year and per employee enabling them to go above and beyond to ensure exceptional service. This empowers the employee to right a wrong or create a “memorable” customer experience. I am not advocating large sums of money, but with regards to customer service, a small gesture can go a long way.

• Ask your staff what tools would enable them to provide better service. You would not send a fireman into a burning building without the proper equipment. Failing to empower and enable your staff with the necessary tools to serve you customer leaves you with few options other than poor service.

4. Make service personal

• Greet repeat customers by name, if possible.

• Offer a handshake and introduce yourself. Creating service that is personal will not only retain customers, but help diffuse difficult situations should they arise.

• Thank your customers for their patronage. It really does make a difference.

5. It is ok to say “Yes”, even when you should say “No”

• Support your staff when they make customer service decisions. In my business, it is my policy that an employee can act without concern for repercussion, as long as they are meeting a customer’s need. I have found this creates a greater willingness to serve the customer.

• Often times you could say “no” to a customer, however, “no” can have huge implications on your business. Ask yourself, “Am I willing to potentially lose 10 customers as result of this interaction?”

6. Offer a solution

• Shift from the problem to the process for resolution.

• Offer a choice between several options.

• Put yourself in their place.

• Involve the customer in determining the solution.

• Clearly explain any limitations that exist.

7. Recognize your staff members for outstanding service

• Implement a customer service awards program that recognizes employees for exceptional customer service. Maybe you have tried these without success and do not believe that they work. I would tend to agree if the program were like most I have seen. Try something different; break the mold. One of my most successful clients offers spa treatments for his female employees if a customer goes out of their way to recognize them for great service. Another client provides his employees with a “day off with pay” incentive for every five unsolicited, positive customer comments that he receives. These are just a few examples that are “outside the box.” Be creative and generate a little excitement in your staff for customer service.

• Take the time to acknowledge employees at staff meetings. People want to leave their mark and feel that they matter. Taking the time to recognize them in front of their peers can make a real difference.

8. Ask your customers what they think of your service

The best way to find out if you are satisfying customers is to ask them. Formal efforts could include customer surveys, questionnaires, interviews or comment/suggestion cards. Informally, get out and talk with your customers and your staff. Ask them how they feel about service you are providing. Ideally, use a combination of both methods.

You may be thinking, “Why should I go ask for trouble? Who knows what I might hear if I ask?” That is the point. As you will see in the statistics below, most customers will not voice their disappointment with your service levels. They will simply leave and never return. If you do not ask about the quality of your service, you might make the wrong assumptions and feel that you can reduce service levels because you get few complaints and lead your organization into areas that turn off your customers or cause problems that you never intended.

On the other hand, asking your customers about their satisfaction sends a message to them that you care about your business and about them. While you might hear some criticisms, you might also learn what you are doing right and see what you should modify.

In addition to the information, you will benefit from the interaction. Every interaction is a customer service opportunity. Make the most of each and every one.

Most of us continue doing business with people and businesses who give good service. We might not say anything, but we reward good service providers by continuing to do business with them. If the service is outstanding, we will probably tell our friends and colleagues about it. Likewise, when we receive poor service most of us vote, not with our voice, but with our feet—we just leave.

In the 1980’s the White House Office of Consumer Affairs commissioned a report called the TARP study. The report revealed the following facts about unhappy customers:

96% of dissatisfied customers do not complain directly.

90% will not return.

One unhappy customer will tell nine others.

13% will tell at least 20 other people

Superior customer service is one of the most difficult deliverables facing the business world today. Selling service is the easy part, delivering on that promise offers a tremendous challenge. So I ask you, what can you do to improve the service you provide? Implement these eight steps and begin to excel at providing a superior customer culture today!

©Anthony Mullins - Elite Coaching Alliance 2005

Anthony Mullins is the President and Coach for The Elite Coaching Alliance. He specializes in leadership development, business coaching, strategic planning, 1-on-1 coaching, facilitation and inspirational speaking. He is the author of the upcoming book "Leadership Links." Anthony can be reached by e-mail:

Visit his website @

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The History of CRM -- Moving Beyond the Customer Database

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is one of those magnificent concepts that swept the business world in the 1990’s with the promise of forever changing the way businesses small and large interacted with their customer bases. In the short term, however, it proved to be an unwieldy process that was better in theory than in practice for a variety of reasons. First among these was that it was simply so difficult and expensive to track and keep the high volume of records needed accurately and constantly update them.

In the last several years, however, newer software systems and advanced tracking features have vastly improved CRM capabilities and the real promise of CRM is becoming a reality. As the price of newer, more customizable Internet solutions have hit the marketplace; competition has driven the prices down so that even relatively small businesses are reaping the benefits of some custom CRM programs.

In the beginning…

The 1980’s saw the emergence of database marketing, which was simply a catch phrase to define the practice of setting up customer service groups to speak individually to all of a company’s customers.

In the case of larger, key clients it was a valuable tool for keeping the lines of communication open and tailoring service to the clients needs. In the case of smaller clients, however, it tended to provide repetitive, survey-like information that cluttered databases and didn’t provide much insight. As companies began tracking database information, they realized that the bare bones were all that was needed in most cases: what they buy regularly, what they spend, what they do.

Advances in the 1990’s

In the 1990’s companies began to improve on Customer Relationship Management by making it more of a two-way street. Instead of simply gathering data for their own use, they began giving back to their customers not only in terms of the obvious goal of improved customer service, but in incentives, gifts and other perks for customer loyalty.

This was the beginning of the now familiar frequent flyer programs, bonus points on credit cards and a host of other resources that are based on CRM tracking of customer activity and spending patterns. CRM was now being used as a way to increase sales passively as well as through active improvement of customer service.

True CRM comes of age

Real Customer Relationship Management as it’s thought of today really began in earnest in the early years of this century. As software companies began releasing newer, more advanced solutions that were customizable across industries, it became feasible to really use the information in a dynamic way.

Instead of feeding information into a static database for future reference, CRM became a way to continuously update understanding of customer needs and behavior. Branching of information, sub-folders, and custom tailored features enabled companies to break down information into smaller subsets so that they could evaluate not only concrete statistics, but information on the motivation and reactions of customers.

The Internet provided a huge boon to the development of these huge databases by enabling offsite information storage. Where before companies had difficulty supporting the enormous amounts of information, the Internet provided new possibilities and CRM took off as providers began moving toward Internet solutions.

With the increased fluidity of these programs came a less rigid relationship between sales, customer service and marketing. CRM enabled the development of new strategies for more cooperative work between these different divisions through shared information and understanding, leading to increased customer satisfaction from order to end product.

Today, CRM is still utilized most frequently by companies that rely heavily on two distinct features: customer service or technology. The three sectors of business that rely most heavily on CRM -- and use it to great advantage -- are financial services, a variety of high tech corporations and the telecommunications industry.

The financial services industry in particular tracks the level of client satisfaction and what customers are looking for in terms of changes and personalized features. They also track changes in investment habits and spending patterns as the economy shifts. Software specific to the industry can give financial service providers truly impressive feedback in these areas.

Who’s in the CRM game?

About 50% of the CRM market is currently divided between five major players in the industry: PeopleSoft, Oracle, SAP, Siebel and relative newcomer Telemation, based on Linux and developed by an old standard, Database Solutions, Inc.

The other half of the market falls to a variety of other players, although Microsoft’s new emergence in the CRM market may cause a shift soon. Whether Microsoft can capture a share of the market remains to be seen. However, their brand-name familiarity may give them an edge with small businesses considering a first-time CRM package.

PeopleSoft was founded in the mid-1980’s by Ken Morris and Dave Duffield as a client-server based human resources application. In 1998, PeopleSoft had evolved into a purely Internet based system, PeopleSoft 8. There’s no client software to maintain and it supports over 150 applications. PeopleSoft 8 is the brainchild of over 2,000 dedicated developers and $500 million in research and development.

PeopleSoft branched out from their original human resources platform in the 1990’s and now supports everything from customer service to supply chain management. Its user-friendly system required minimal training is relatively inexpensive to deploy. .

One of PeopleSoft’s major contributions to CRM was their detailed analytic program that identifies and ranks the importance of customers based on numerous criteria, including amount of purchase, cost of supplying them, and frequency of service.

Oracle built a solid base of high-end customers in the late 1980’s, then burst into national attention around 1990 when, under Tom Siebel, the company aggressively marketed a small-to-medium business CRM solution. Unfortunately they couldn’t follow up themselves on the incredible sales they garnered and ran into a few years of real problems.

Oracle landed on its feet after a restructuring and their own refocusing on customer needs and by the mid-1990’s the company was once again a leader in CRM technologies. They continue to be one of the leaders in the enterprise marketplace with the Oracle Customer Data Management System.

Telemation’s CRM solution is flexible and user-friendly, with a toolkit that makes changing features and settings relatively easy. The system also provides a quick learning environment that newcomers will appreciate. Its uniqueness lies in that, although compatible with Windows, it was developed as a Linux program. Will Linux be the wave of the future? We don’t know, but if it is, Telemation’s ahead of the game.

The last few years…

In 2002, Oracle released their Global CRM in 90 Days package that promised quick implementation of CRM throughout company offices. Offered with the package was a set fee service for set-up and training for core business needs. .

Also in 2002 (a stellar year for CRM), SAP America’s mySAP began using a “middleware” hub that was capable of connecting SAP systems to externals and front and back office systems for a unified operation that links partners, employees, process and technologies in a closed-loop function.

Siebel consistently based its business primarily on enterprise size businesses willing to invest millions in CRM systems, which worked for them to the tune of $2.1 billion in 2001. However, in 2002 and 2003 revenues slipped as several smaller CRM firms joined the fray as ASP’s (Application Service Providers). These companies, including UpShot, NetSuite and SalesNet, offered businesses CRM-style tracking and data management without the high cost of traditional CRM start-up.

In October of 2003, Siebel launched CRM OnDemand in collaboration with IBM. Their entry into the hosted, monthly CRM solution niche hit the marketplace with gale force. To some of the monthly ASP’s it was a call to arms, to others it was a sign of Siebel’s increasing confusion over brand identity and increasing loss of market share. In a stroke of genius, Siebel acquired UpShot a few months later to get them started and smooth their transition into the ASP market. It was a successful move.

With Microsoft now in the game, it’s too soon to tell what the results will be, but it seems likely that they may get some share of small businesses that tend to buy based on familiarity and usability. ASP’s will continue to grow in popularity as well, especially with mid-sized businesses, so companies like NetSuite, SalesNet and Siebel’s OnDemand will thrive. CRM on the web has come of age!

This article on the "The History of CRM" reprinted with permission.
Copyright © 2004-2005 Evaluseek Publishing.


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