Customer Service Training

What does “Internal” Customer Service Really Mean?

Customer ServiceMost people understand that “customer service” refers to serving those who purchase a product or service. That’s “External Customer Service”. But what about “Internal Customer Service”. What is it, and what happens when things break down on the inside of a company?

Internal Customer Service refers to the interactions between all the employees who support the company and those who work on the front line with “The Customer”. Regardless of the department – whether marketing and sales, operations, legal, human resources, I.T., or any other department – the way that these employees treat each other and work on solutions internally actually affects the customer and the bottom line.

Although you may think the customer doesn’t see it, I guarantee that if internal customer service is breaking down, your external customer service feels the hit eventually. This not only dilutes your ability to attract new customers; it also affects how you retain customers. If internal customer service is suffering, a large marketing budget can be wasted expense.

Sample Breakdowns of Internal Customer Service

The following examples show how problems internally can have external effects:

  1. A payroll person makes an error on someone’s pay check, the employee can become frustrated, and the customer notices the indifferent attitude of the employee.
  2. Inadequate or frayed order entry processes delay delivery of products or services. The customer service representatives who are trying to deliver the product or conduct the transaction are constantly trying to appease the customer, often with costly ramifications both in reconciliation and time. Those who understand the complications of supply chain management can prepare customers, seek alternatives (3rd ways) to the customers’ immediately problems, lessen the impact and stress on colleagues and their customers.
  3. Two employees are not speaking to each other or are blaming each other’s departments. When two people ignore, avoid or blame each other because they don’t have the tools to resolve issues, there are service breakdowns internally and further along the line. Honest communication is key, and working towards “resolve” and how to fix things without ill feelings will always catapult an organization forward.

How to Improve Internal Customer Service

Let me help work with your organization with my “I Can Fix That” programs. Your attendees will learn that the focus should be on recognizing their internal service breakdown without blaming and working towards resolve. I’ll help reprogram their thinking to focus on problem solving. In the interactive keynotes and workshops, I teach a variety of techniques so they realize the only thing that counts is fixing the problem. Both employees and customers benefit from these key learning’s, and the behaviours are often enacted the next day.

Email me today to see how we can help improve your Internal Customer Service. or visit my YouTube Channel:

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In Customer Service Does the Second Impression Count as Much?? Sir Richard Branson Says Yes!!

Sir Richard BransonSir Richard Branson (of Virgin) says that although the first impression counts in customer service, so does the second one — and the second one is when the customer is calling his company because of a problem!

Are your staff trained to handle issues especially when things don’t go as planned? I’ve worked with airports for many years and, as a former flight crew member, know that this environment is prone to things going wrong. There are just too many different companies involved in making an airplane park, pull up to a gate, unload, load and then soar off again. Sometimes 20 different stakeholders with competing agendas must cooperate to make it happen. Unfortunately, the customer always gets the brunt of the service breakdown, regardless of who caused it.

Whether the issues are mechanical problems, baggage belts breaking, power outages, bad weather, shortage of supplies or cost-cutting measures – everyone gets grumpy, both employees and customers. The more people feel they can’t do anything about things, the more frustrated everyone becomes — and believe me, the customer won’t come back. How an employee effectively and positively handles the day-to-day “oops” (regardless of who caused it) always leaves a better impression than if everything had worked as planned. This is called the Second Impression that a customer has of your company and if it is handled well – they give your organization an instant testimonial.

How Does a Company Create the Wow Factor?
Companies come to me all the time asking, “How do we get our staff to create magic moments, go the extra mile, WOW them, or – as said in a famous training video – Give em the Pickle™.

One of the best ways to create this magic is to get your employees focused on making a great Second Impression by finding “3rd ways” to solve the problem. Even if you can’t wave a magic wand to make it happen, there is always something else that can be done.

Take airline delays for example: I witnessed one smart customer service airline employee make an announcement by asking how many people “wished they had more time to read?” (It was done with fun in mind and to try to change the mood of the delay). He then simply said that this delay gave them the gift of having more time to read, and then he let them know the book store was just down from their gate (he created a third way to solve the problem). He also mentioned that the newsstand had Nicorette™ gum for those who could not get out of the airport for a cigarette. The customers actually complied and went to the stores, and I’m sure the retailer was very happy.

How are your staff handling the oops situations? Do they know how not to say “No” to a customer; but always think “what else” or “what other options” could I suggest with this predicament? Can your staff think creatively?. This is a culture that can be taught to your employees, and there are many training techniques that can be used to create this culture.

If you’d like more information on how to create a great Second Impression or to bring the “I Can Fix That” keynote to your upcoming meeting or conference, contact me today:

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Is The Apple Store Customer Service Secret Really Out?

Apple Customer ServiceIt was so simple when I read it. In fact, it was such “primary” introductory Customer Service Skills that I couldn’t believe they even used the acronym and got their staff to buy in without rolling their eyes in the classroom. But if this is such common sense for customer service delivery, why is it still not common practice elsewhere?

Apple’s customer service secret to success is:

Approach customers with a personalized, warm welcome.
Probe politely to understand the customer’s needs (ask closed- and open-ended questions).
Present a solution for the customer to take home today.
Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns.
End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.

I truly believe the secret is NOT just in “training staff in customer service”. The secret is getting your staff to consistently deliver it by buying in to your culture of care.

What is your “customer service culture”? Do you even have one, besides a page in your orientation manual? Without a strong customer service program, you won’t keep customers in today’s competitive environment. If you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business and therefore no need for marketing, human resources, operations, or accounting departments.

Guess who a Customer Service culture starts with? You guessed it: the leadership, and more specifically, the CEO and/or the owner of the company with their senior team. One has to take the time to have a vision, gather commitment and define the scope of what your Customer Service and Culture of Care looks like. I help organizations all the time define why they exist. Why does the customer show up, buy from you and continue to tell everyone about you?

6 Ways to Create Your Culture Of Care

1) Define why your company exists in 3-5 words. Ask, what are the top things your customers absolutely require and expect from you? For example: McDonalds = Consistent, Affordable, Clean and Efficient. Their employees know the decisions they make are based on these 4 words and the importance of the delivery systems in place.

2) Design and deliver Customer Service Training that is customized. These include your typical touch points to deliver excellent service as well as where to up-sell additional products and services.

3) Ensure that training is designed with exercises that are based on “your” customer interactions with your key messaging, brand and culture around your 3-5 words and other areas you want to embed.

4) Train your leaders in programs that are customized specifically for you. Include leadership and supervisory skills that are based on your own company’s culture of customer service. Sending managers out to other generic supervisory and leadership courses often end up with just the “flavour of the month”.

5) Train all your staff to be solution oriented, internally and externally. If you trace service breakdowns that are happening in the accounting department, you will see the customer (external) is probably also suffering from the effects of the breakdown (internal). The keynotes and a large component of my Customer Service Training is focused on leaving participants with an “I Can Fix That” mindset. We’ve found that the company or organization can soar when everyone is “Finding 3rd Ways”, troubleshooting service breakdowns and ensuring that problems are resolved, especially when things don’t go as planned on a day-to-day basis.

6) Lastly, don’t forget to celebrate, share and reward success as your scores improve.

If you always remember to fix the customers’ problem(s), and you do this on a consistent basis, you will easily beat any competitor and have customers coming back and referring you for life.

The difference is in the way you set up your standards and not only teach in initial training and orientation, but also bring them in for refreshers to deal with service breakdowns and generate possible solutions. Your staff actually know what could be done, but often don’t tell management; they just get irritated and often stay stuck. The sessions I customize for clients generate a plethora of ideas and solutions for “3rd ways” to fix customer challenges. Some are so easy and immediate that you wonder why you never thought of them.

APPLE went much further than these elementary skills — just ask any business, teenager or the parent who is buying these little expensive computers for them to carry around. Most kids insist on having an Apple device these days (witness the soaring sales of iPhones and iPads). Apple – as many now know – searches websites, blogs, and comments on social media to learn what people dislike about their devices, what they want and then SOLVES those problems in their products. They then market the solutions to these problems. After you buy; they want to continue to solve your problems. They know that, in this competitive environment, the cost of not creating a culture of care through training and leadership is far more expensive than the cost of implementing it.

What is your Customer Service or “Culture of Care”? If you need help in getting started, revising your existing plans, or just to enhance your customer service levels, call or email me today to find out how our customized consulting (facilitation, needs analysis, summary and reporting), keynotes or training services can help you move to the next level:

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What Colombia taught me about transforming a “Culture of Care” and Customer Service


I had the honour of speaking in Bogota, Colombia, last week to approximately 200 business leaders. I decided to add some extra days to my travel and venture to Cartagena as well. Everyone I spoke with said, “Be careful … are you sure you want to go there? … It’s not safe”.

The good news is I felt safe the entire 8 days of my trip. The feeling lasted until I had to depart on a Canadian airline flight back home to Canada. At the boarding lounge, I was told by the airline that my suitcase in the luggage hold would be inspected by the Policia. Now, being in a foreign country where I did not speak a word of the language (something I’m planning on correcting), we could not communicate well enough for me to completely understand why I was holding up the entire aircraft full of people. Did this happen often? Were people regularly left on the plane for an hour or more?

I’m still amazed that neither the airline agents nor the Police were upset with me as I became a little more panicked as the minutes ticked by. (My travel companions were already on the flight as I had insisted they go ahead. Little did I know that they were at the front of the aircraft with the pilot refusing to fly if I did not get on.) The interesting thing is that both the airline representatives and even the Policia used the international language of smiling and nodding to calm me down while waiting for my suitcase to come up to the bridge — which took about an hour!

After a very intense search of every seam in my packed clothing (including the bag of Juan Valdez coffee beans), I was allowed to get on the bus that took me over to the aircraft and I arrived to cheers as I boarded the flight. No one seemed upset that I’d held up the plane, and my travel companion was delighted to see me come down the aisle.

I thought deeply on the flight home, “What was different here?” I’ve traveled almost the entire globe as both an airline crew member for seven years and as a professional speaker for the past 13 years. I’m on airplanes or in an airport sometimes up to nine times per month, so I constantly assess the level of customer service at each hotel, airline, airport, restaurant, retail chain etc. I teach, train and help organizations transform teams into a culture of care, especially in the travel industry.

Why was everyone I met in Colombia friendly, helpful and even seemingly delighted that we were visiting their country? Why were there so many police around the city, at entrances to the hotels, tourist areas, on the streets, in the airport? (We even got stopped by the Policia while in our taxi.) At first, I was startled by the amount of security forces I saw; but I soon realized that this is a country that is desperately trying to change its reputation and brand as a safe place to do business and travel to. I thought, Wow! Am I right in the middle of the transformation? Are they truly trying to create a sense of safety (and yes, actually succeeding in making it safer)? Is it perfect? Maybe not, but I could sense they (the government, businesses, the people) are seeing hope and trying. It appeared to be a country dedicated to changing its reputation to a culture of care. It confirmed to me there are economies that are coming out of the ashes globally and they are working hard to catch up.

With the vast amount of natural resources now becoming accessible (oil, mining, agriculture), along with a country that is trying hard to change, investors from around the world are flocking there to not only get a return on their investment, but also to help put in much-needed infrastructure (roads, bridges, water/sewer and gentrification of neighbourhoods). With this objective, they are bringing jobs to a population that has been riddled with high unemployment and political strife. I believe there is a culture of care embedded in the people of Colombia, but it will continue to take the right leadership to ensure the hope and safety of both visitors and its own population takes hold.

I often ask readers who care about customer service and creating a “culture of care” in their environment: Has a transformation happened, is it happening, or does it need to happen? What would you have to do if you wanted to improve, and how long do you think it would take to achieve the next level of service to continue to hold or gain your market share?

How long will it take to fully change the culture of Columbia and ensure the world knows about it? We’ll be watching carefully.

By the way, if you are going to Cartagena, stop by this restaurant. We stumbled upon it in the old historic town, left at the bottom of the stairs of the Cafe del Mar. It’s called Salou, and we had a beautiful Sea Bass and Coconut Rice dish (specially made in Cartagena) that was to die for. We learned the owner and head chef was trained in my home town of Vancouver, British Columbia. Visit:

To book safe and great customer service tours while in Cartagena, use Gema Tours (American Express Travel Services). Visit:

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Never Reprimand Your Customer

Teach Them By Using The “Knock It Off – Nicely” Technique™

One of the hardest things a company has to do is train their staff to deal with customers who don’t know how to use their product or service in the intended way. If the staff don’t know how to correct the customer eloquently, they actually appear to “reprimand” the customer. It typically happens when the customer is new to the service or product. The product or service may not be new, but it is new or unfamiliar to the customer somehow. I’ve seen many service providers (staff) who hate “stupid” customers and have a tendency to handle them by showing frustration. I always teach that there is no stupid customer, just a skill or information gap. A customer service expert finds out what the gap is, then reaches out to help or teach them. I often see staff members scold (tell them sternly how it should be done or just why it doesn’t work that way), or chastise or even use sarcasm to get their point across. All this does is ensure the customer leaves angry and often never comes back, which is very costly. Even if the customer figures out they were wrong, the emotional damage to the customer experience is in most cases unforgivable. (Who wants to use a company where their staff embarrassed you, even if you were wrong?)

Every company has instructions, menus, rules, regulations and a particular way to use or order their product or service. Here are some examples I’ve witnessed in the last three months.

1. Example of air travel restrictions. I witnessed security guards at airports “instructing” (actually, using sarcasm) towards a person who had not flown since the rule changed years ago about allowable volume of liquids and gels (less than 100 ml, 100 grams , or 3.4 oz depending on which measurement system/country you use). And the containers also have to be readily accessible in a clear 1-litre bag. That is a lot of information to teach the millions of people who travel every day. Just check out the CATSA or TSA website; you have to read virtually a manual just to figure out what you can and can’t fly with. (In the incident I saw, the customer had an expensive bottle of duty-free alcohol purchased earlier in his travels and he was now connecting to another flight. Boy, did he get in trouble from the officer who promptly took it away, and not without a fight – no options were offered.)

2. A coffee shop employee instructing a customer what was a “tall” versus a “small” didn’t go well. The unfortunate senior gentleman was so confused about the size; in the end he just wanted a cup of coffee.

3. The best example of poor instruction (a reprimand) was a flight attendant actually yelling at a customer that his bag would not fit in the overhead bin. After much fuss – and the passenger becoming red in the face trying to push it in – she finally let him know sarcastically, if he “just put the wheels up and in backwards, it would fit”. I thought, why did she not just let him know this in the first place instead of getting in a tussle? It would have been much easier for everyone if she had simply made an announcement to explain how bags would best fit for this aircraft type. Instead, now all the passengers in the surrounding rows were mad at the flight attendant and the entire airline; they felt like no one cared. (Heck, customers are still mad about paying for a checked bag so they now bring it on board and we all take the delay, but that’s a topic for a different article.)

So how do you teach your customers what you need, without reprimanding them? Let’s help put your staff at ease with a technique, and your customer will actually feel cared for even when they are doing something wrong. I call it the “Knock It Off Nicely” Technique™. It goes like this.
1. What: explain what the issue is.
2. Why: share the reason why it is a problem for them.
3. How: teach what other options might work (try not to use can’t, no, won’t or don’t).

Using our first example about air travel restrictions, here’s how to use the technique:
1. What: “Unfortunately, since 2006, there has been a restriction on liquids and gels over 100 ml in carry- on luggage.”
2. Why: “This was due to increased security threats.”
3. How: (Teach what a customer CAN do instead of telling them what they can’t). “The options are to discard the item(s) here, try to re-check them with the airline (a knapsack can be purchased at newsstand), store it in the Baggage Storage area if you are connecting back this way, or donate it to someone in the airport (perhaps the person who dropped you off).” When I worked with security screeners in the past – they came up with about 12 different options.

There are a couple of main points when you are correcting customers:
• Rule #1 – Don’t use the word “you” (focus on the problem, not the person); and
• Rule #2 – ensure customers are informed about the issue (the what), why it is a problem, and teach by suggesting (options) how the problem could be fixed. If you do this, you are teaching. If you miss the why and the how, you are just reprimanding.

Have your teams face the challenge of “teaching” where you see customers just not understanding. Write your own scripts to fix the problem.

If you feel your staff would benefit from learning this technique and many other skills we offer, which help organizations become #1 in Customer Service, turn staff into Customer Service Experts and transform teams into customer care crusaders, contact us today regarding our customer service training programs:

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