Great Service Story – Google Fiber

We recently had Google Fiber installed in our house. As a little backstory, our house is about 30 years old and has seen at least three different cable companies come through and run cables. To say our cabling was a rat’s nest is probably an understatement. The Google Fiber installation tech came in and quickly realized he needed some help. Instead of rescheduling, someone showed up within 20 minutes to help him. Both were extremely polite and professional. Did I mention that neither of them were an employee for Google? They were subcontractors and really represented Google in a professional way. Once they were done, the technician walked me through everything and made sure I knew how to use all of the new equipment.

Shortly after they left, I realized that one (out of many) of the network cables was not connecting. Not a huge deal since 99% of the house would be using the blazing fast wireless network. However, we do have an office that used a switch to connect equipment. I’d prefer for that part to be wired. I was not upset considering the mess the technicians had to work with for the installation. I scheduled a follow-up visit to get my issue resolved.

The second crew came in a few days to fix this issue. I was surprised when he said he was going to go through my whole cabling setup to confirm everything was good and to see if he could improve the initial setup. Again, very professional and courteous the whole time. While he worked on that, the other technician fixed my wired setup issue. Usually in these situations when a follow-up crew fixes a problem left behind by another crew, the “clean-up” crew may say some negative things about the first crew. Not these guys. They were very complimentary of the first group and really spoke positively about everything. They were excellent ambassadors for Google. I continued to get more impressed.

Later that night, we received an email from Google saying they were going to credit our account for the time we were without some of our service. I was astonished. An unsolicited credit to compensate for our problems. Frankly, since our wireless worked the whole time, we really were not inconvenienced by the issue. This is a great example of how a company can, and should, handle unfortunate situations that arise. Google really impressed me, especially for a company of their size. They have a great product, really strong ambassadors for their company, and, at least for us, very loyal customers.

This was a great lesson for me, as a business owner, on how to effectively provide a valued service, find the best ambassadors, and treat customers appropriately.

Want better customer service? Be a better customer.

A few weeks ago I received a disconnect notice from my internet service provider for my business. We had an issue with a payment being applied to the wrong account (my fault) a few months before and, for some reason, they could not get it resolved. Because of this, my account goes into a delinquent status and I get this notice every month. I’m not sure about you, but I prefer not spending my time trying to resolve ongoing issues that should have been fixed. Having a little bit of a type A personality probably does not help this situation and being wired as a problem-solver really does not help. As I was dialing their customer service number I started getting into battle mode. What I was really doing was ensuring that this upcoming experience had very little chance of succeeding.

As I mentioned before, I tend to be a problem-solver. In this situation, I realized that if I started the conversation in a negative and defensive manner, it would force their customer service representative to react in a certain way. They would be trying to defuse my behavior as much as trying to defuse my problem. However, if I started out in a positive, problem-solving manner, it would allow us both to focus 100% on fixing the problem. If both sides are focused 100% on fixing a problem, the chances of success are much higher.

For most of my career, I have been deeply involved in service-oriented industries where excellent customer service is the standard. From firsthand experience I know agents will take the extra step or give a little more effort to customers that are positive and willing to work with them. I wish I could say that I take this positive results-oriented approach every time, but occasionally I let my emotions lead the way. I will say that the times when I create a positive mindset prior to engaging a customer service agent, my outcomes almost always are positive – for both sides. For me to expect excellent customer service, it’s only reasonable that I am an excellent customer.


Leadership – Is Magic Your Strategy?

I saw this cartoon and chuckled to myself. I instantly thought of multiple situations where this brand of leadership occurred. A group of leaders sitting around their conference table trying to fix a difficult situation or turn the company around without any solid solutions on how to fix it. I often wondered if anyone actually thought or wished that something would just magically happen to fix their problem. Is hoping for magic to happen the same as hoping that time will allow a difficult situation to resolve itself? Is that what the ostrich is thinking as it sticks its head deeper and deeper into the dirt? I guess if things happen to create a difficult situation, is it so unreasonable to sit back and let things “unhappen”? Yes, it is unreasonable.

Employees Count On You

No matter how big or small your company is, if you have one or more employees, you have a duty to do what is best for the future of the company. Employees generally take a leap of faith when they join your team. More than likely, they are looking for something beyond just a paycheck – especially the newer generations. They are looking to be part of something growing or moving in a positive direction. If their leadership team is sitting around the table hoping for something magical to happen, how committed do you think employees are to that team? On top of that, employees have expectations that their leadership team will have the capacity to work out solutions for these difficult situations or connect with outside experts that do have the expertise. Here’s a little insight – employees don’t mind if solutions don’t work every time. They mind when there are no solutions.

Customers Count On You

Your customers use your services and/or products because they provide value. They want to keep a relationship with you as long as you are providing positive value. As a customer, it is much easier to keep going to the same company than finding a new company. If customers gets a sense that your company is not capable of solving problems or adapting to difficult changes, they will quickly translate that to thinking your company is not innovative and will not keep up with the trends. They may not jump ship immediately, but be assured they are looking to do so.

Competition Loves This

How do you think a competitor reacts when they hear a leadership team in their industry is hoping for magic? Some may celebrate; knowing that they soon may get more customers coming their way. Others may focus on how they can be opportunistic and take advantage of this situation. How many competitors, do you think, will reach out to the struggling company and offer some free assistance?

Unfortunately, unless you are a professional magician, magic is not going to solve your problems. If you are in a leadership role at an organization, there are times when you are going to need to make some extremely difficult decisions to handle extremely difficult situations. Hoping things work out all by themselves is actually a decision – usually a bad one.

If your group is having a hard time finding a workable solution you have three options: change the makeup of the group, expand the group, or bring in some outside expertise to help facilitate the group. All three of these are better options than hoping for magic.


Want to Improve Your Listening Skills? Leave the country!

Mexico Trip - Listening SkillsI recently went on a vacation to the Riviera Maya with my wonderful wife for a much-needed vacation. We stayed at the El Dorado Casitas Royale and would highly recommend it, especially if you enjoy great service, delicious food, and a relaxing atmosphere. We love to go to Mexico because it is usually pretty easy for us to fly there and the prices are very reasonable. My wife and I both took Spanish in high school and I even took a little in college, but that was so long ago we struggle to keep up with some of the conversations.  Luckily, almost all of the employees are fluent in English.  Every now and then we would attempt to have a conversation in Spanish, but would quickly retreat. I’m glad everyone was patient with us as we tripped over their native language. Also, even though they were proficient with English, accents sometimes made understanding a little difficult. I realized that this was a great opportunity to work on my listening skills, whether I wanted to or not! Here are a few of the things that I focused on during my trip to improve my listening skills.

  • Be an active listener.  Due to the accents and a lot of background noise from the ocean, swimming pool, and other vacationers, I really had to concentrate on what the speaker was saying. This included watching their body language and anything they may be referencing with their eyes or hands. I didn’t want to miss out on any verbal or visual clues.
  • Be a patient listener. I could not start talking before the speaker was finished. I had to wait until the last word was spoken and their side of the conversation was over.  Otherwise, I may miss something critical in their message or rudely interrupt them.
  • Ask clarifying questions. There were times when I didn’t totally understand the message. Instead of making assumptions that may be wrong, I asked a question or two to get more information or simply let the speaker know I didn’t quite understand what they were saying.

While I realize that not everyone can just pick up and go to a foreign country to improve some of their listening skills, I found it to be a great refresher course for things I’ve learned over the years, but have become lax at doing. I have challenged myself to keep focusing on these three areas of listening and make them part of my every day habits – hopefully this time it sticks.

The reality is you don’t need to travel outside the U.S. to work on communication skills – you just need to decide to do it.