In this #SmallBizCX19 session, Kate Nasser explains what magical customer service and teamwork is and the essentials you need to make it happen.
Alright. For everybody tuning in, we're here with Kate Nasser. We gonna talk about people skills and magical customer service. So, Kate Nasser is the wonderful keynote speaker and a coach, specializing in people skills. But I'd like you to talk more about yourself and about what people skills are?
People skills, you know, people say to me, "Well, what are people skills?" Well, for years, they called them soft skills, but I hate that word because there's nothing unimportant about people skills. People skills are how we interact with each other. Right? They start with respect, basic human respect, and civility. I mean, we've lost a lot of it over the years and it's more than time to bring it back. And even in difficult moments, you know, you picture yourself everybody knows, "Oh, we have some difficult customers." And when we call them difficult customers, even to ourselves, you know, with our teammates, whatever, the problem is that we are solidifying in our mind a negative view of those people. People's skills start with a positive view. They start with a concept that if you listen, if you're willing to adapt, if you treat people with respect, you will get respect in return. And that this magic happens because people feel honored by the way we speak and the way we interact with them. And in customer service, let's be honest, it is we are there to serve them. And then when we are customers, we go to a restaurant we go to a, you know, a store, whatever, then we get the special treatment. But if you're gonna be in the field of customer service, your people skills mean that you are doing more of the adapting. It is not a 50:50 relationship.
"Well, I'll treat them well, Kate. I'll treat the customers well if they treat me well." That's not customer service. We have to assume that we have those special steps, the techniques, everything, the attitudes to deliver great customer service, even in difficult moments, and it is very possible. I've been doing it forever and ever and I've been teaching it, people send me their success stories. It's very exciting, actually, I've enjoyed and I still enjoy the work that I do very, very much.
Okay, so it's just about 12:30, so we're gonna get started. For people just tuning in, again, we're here with Kate Nasser. We can't see her today, unfortunately, but we can hear her wonderful voice.
Thank you. [laughs]
And we will just concentrate on that and we're ready to learn. So, my first question is what is magical customer service and what truly makes it magical?
Okay. So, magical customer service is the all-encompassing attitudes and actions that we do that show we care about the customer. It's all about the caring. What makes it magical? How can we have this every single day? We go to work, right? It's, you know, 8 to 10 hours a day or whatever, it's five days a week, 50 weeks a year. How can we be magical all that time? And it comes down to one basic attitude, it starts with an attitude, and that is that life is about serving others and doing good, which is Aristotle said that. So, we're going way, way way back, right, but it's the essence. What it is exactly? "Okay, Kate, you know, you're saying it's about caring" Yeah. So, what is magical customer service do? It takes a sort of routine humdrum or even difficult challenges or interactions with the customer, and it turns them into easy, obstacle-free, uplifting aha moments. You know it when you're getting it.
I've been doing this for 30 years, and when I'm a customer, I lived on the road for 15 years. I basically lived on the road traveling, teaching constantly, which meant that every day of my life I was having 200% the number of customer service interactions that I would have if I were home in my own place, right? Everything, traveling, checking into the hotel, where's this, where's that? And the times where people were giving me magical customer service, what did it do four me? It made me feel like I was home. I didn't have to fight for things. I didn't have to ask four times for a meal in the room and it's late. So, it's everything from the caring to the follow-through, it's all of that. And yes, you can definitely do it. That's what makes it magical. It affects someone else in an extremely positive way.
Okay. So, for companies who are trying to get there, what are some important things to remember when trying to come up with ideas to make it truly magical?
Sure, absolutely. So step one, be courteous and caring, not caustic. It's near impossible to un-insult someone. Once you've insulted someone, you can apologize without any ifs, ands or buts, you can make amends. All of that is wonderful. And once in a while, you know we're going to slip, but the goal is to never slip because once that insult is out there, it's impossible to take it back. So, look at how you interact with your customers. This is in person, emails, online, social media, on your websites, whatever, very important.
So step number two, be clear. Now, this doesn't sound very magical, right? Oh, hey, I'll be clear. Do you know how frustrating it is? Let's say you're on a website and you know, on e-commerce engine, right? Maybe you're a small business and you've come up with some interesting products and you're selling them online via your own e-commerce website. And someone is trying to navigate that website. And they're having trouble and they can't find your phone number, or they don't know what the shipping charges will be, because it doesn't tell you that until you bought it. All of this confusion, there's nothing magical about it. But the clarity, knowing exactly what is the customer I need to do to return something, or what you mean, if you start using jargon, you have your own internal jargon, you know? I used to be a techie in my former life, I was a computer programmer. I have a lot of respect for them. They're incredible people, but they use a lot of jargon. And you start talking jargon to somebody who doesn't understand it, you make them feel stupid, and nobody likes to feel stupid. So when you're clear, you are giving the customer the gift of respect. It sounds strange, but it's true.
Here's the third one and this may well be the most important one, commitment, and I'm going to give you a definition of commitment. So, if you're a small business owner, and you have people working for you, and you're trying to say, "Oh, come on, we got to be more committed to great service." Well, the problem may be that they don't understand what you mean by commitment. Sure, showing up on time for your work and all of those things is critical, but to a customer, the definition of commitment is a visible sense of forward motion. Every customer wants you to know, every customer wants to feel that you are moving them forward. Right? They didn't stop by just to chat most of the time. It's at your website or in your brick and mortar establishment or whatever. They're there to transact some kind of business with you, right? And so everything needs to welcome them, treat them with respect, show them you care, and move them forward to the end goal. So if they're asking you questions, "Well, I don't know. That's not my job. I guess we'll have to find somebody else to help you, yeah." How do you feel if you were to hear that, right?
Oh, I've heard that before.
You've heard it before, right? I mean, it's totally true. And how do you feel? How do you feel, Jessica or Natalia? I'm so sorry to tell you, I'm looking right at you, please I am so sorry. Yeah.
Yes? Oh, that's right. So yeah, definitely it feels like, you know, they don't really care.
Yeah. Like if you ever go into a-- I've been into these big, I wouldn't call them big box stores, I won't use any names. And I went right up to a customer service desk, and there were three employees standing there, talking to each other. I coughed a little, "Hello, anybody want to help me?" No, nothing. And they finally turned around. "Oh?" they said to me. "What do you mean, Oh? Do you think I drove over here to stop by to chat with you? I didn't stop by to chat, I need help."
Now, there's a small business. It's a, you know, like a hardware kind of store. Prices are a little bit more but not outrageous. I go in there. Every single person I pass, "Do you need help? What can I help you with?" Commitment. It is absolutely clear they want you there. They don't just want my money, they care about helping me to get through it quickly to find what I want, and so forth. That's the difference between average humdrum service and magical service. This makes sense?
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Totally cool.
I love your breakdown of the three components of that, that's definitely helpful. So, the next question I have is the role of teamwork in creating magical customer service. How can an employee deliver that kind of service alone, and what's the difference between that and if we work as a team?
Right. Excellent question and very critical to magical customer service. So, your question is very insightful, because underneath that question is the answer. And the answer is that unless you are a one-person business, which is fine, if you have more than one person working in your business, and they are not working together, it's impossible to give magical customer service. Each individual person could give some outstanding customer service to a customer. In fact, each person has to do that. But if all the employees are not working together, it will not seem magical to a customer. How many times when I was teaching, especially like the larger call centers customer service, and they would say to us, "Well, we're having a problem and that sometimes when customers call they only want to speak to X person, you know, Ann or John or whomever, you know. We want them to talk to anybody who answers the phone." The very fact that they only wanted to talk to a certain representative meant that the team was not giving magical customer service, and what happens when there is no teamwork? The customer ends up managing around you to try to get a magical customer service experience by saying, "I only want to talk to Natalia. I only want to talk to Jim." or something. So, teamwork is the absolute essence of magical customer service if there is more than one employee in a company. If there's only one person, that's it. In my business I'm it, have been it for 30 years. So, no matter what the question, I'm the one who ends up delivering it. But I had to establish teamwork with some vendors of mine who provide me with certain things. So even behind the scenes, even though the customers were only interacting with me, I had to make sure that I had good teamwork with my other vendor partners and that sort of thing.
Teamwork, here's something I want everybody to remember. Most of the time we define a team as a group of people working towards common goals. There's nothing magical about it and by the way, that is not a team. Because common goals do not join people together. It's a myth. Each person comes to work and starts working on that common goal in their own way. That's not teamwork. Try defining team this new way, is people who adapt, grow and change to meet common goals and a shared success. It's the commitment to adapting to each other, helping each other out. Don't just back each other up, bring each other up, share your knowledge, pitch in. If somebody, you know, one rep, one person in your business having a really bad day, maybe they've got a, you know, a severe, like a family health problem, you know, some child is sick, whatever. So help bolster them that day, bring each other up, don't just cover for each other, very important for magical customer service and teamwork.
Okay. Yeah, that definitely makes sense. That brings us to the next question of what can companies leadership and management do to foster that kind of teamwork? And can you give some examples when people felt short doing that?
So, yes, leadership must do's and you know, whether it's the business owner, or, you know, you have managers in the business, supervisors, team leaders, doesn't matter the title, what must you do? So, most importantly, you want to create a culture that's not based on blame. You know, "Who's at fault? Who am I gonna fire to get results here?" And believe it or not, if those words are coming out of my mouth right now, which they are, it means that I've actually heard people say these things to their employees. Well, my goodness gracious, how do you think they're gonna treat that customers if you're treating them like that? It's not going to work.
So you must create what we call a culture of accountability. Some people say, "Kate, being accountable is blaming." It is not, it is not at all. Accountability means that within your business, you know, behind the scenes from the customers, you establish a culture of what we call learning. Everybody is gonna make a mistake. I'm not perfect, you're not perfect, but when a mistake happens, do we pounce on employees and blame them or do we say, "Okay, how did the mistake happen? Let's take a look at it. How can we correct it quickly, apologize to the customer, and so forth? And what have we learned from it that we could share with everybody?" So now, the person who made the mistake, the employee can be accountable. They can say, "Yep, that was my mistake. I'm fixing it right now, and I've uncovered a few other things we need to fix." So people start to feel, the employees start to feel like, "Wow, I'm valued. Yes, I'm accountable. I have to, you know, admit my mistakes. As long as I keep learning and contributing to the business, I am a worthwhile employee." So if you can establish that culture every single day doing that, then empower your employees. Customer service is about empowerment. No customer wants to talk to six different people to get a problem resolved. Right?
So, empower them but don't abandon them. Another big myth, right? So, "Kate, I empowered my employees. Brand new employee, I told him, go ahead, try to do your best, and if you fail we'll help you." But that's not empowerment. Empowerment means you give them the knowledge, the training, the resources to do, to have a good chance of success, and let them know, "Look, I've been here longer than you. If you think my insight, my experience can be helpful to you along the way, come and ask me, Hey, boss, what should I do about this? Right? I've tried, I'm not a hundred percent sure, help me out." So stay involved, but don't micromanage them.
Number two, leaders, you must clear the obstacles they can't. So let's say you have a big computer system, that's the backbone of your small business. And it's, you know, having some problems or the network is down and it's causing major problems for the business that day. You as the business owner or the manager, leader, whatever, you need, you can clear some obstacles. It might be an outside vendor that you need to sort of shake up a little to come and help us more quickly or something. So make sure that you are clearing the obstacles.
Also, if there are interpersonal problems between employees, between teammates, for goodness sake, don't say them, "Work it out for yourself." If they could work it out for themselves, they would. You are an objective third party in that case, help them resolve the difficulty. And I can, you know, again, all these topics that I'm speaking about today, I have more information. So if there's anyone of these things you want more information on, you can just email me firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll be happy to give you the guidance I have to offer.
I think there's one more step and that is, and I think it's the most important step. If you want to inspire people to be committed and give magical service show them the impact they have on A, the customers, and B, your business. Many people come to work every day. They're going through their routine actions, regardless of the type of business, but they don't ever really know how their work impacts the customer. A quick example, if you don't mind, I'll just give you this example. This was a health system practice, you know, there was a medical office center, Medical Center, and so forth. And there was a technical call center, because technology is throughout every medical office now, right? You go in, they don't look at you anymore with a stethoscope, the first thing they do is come at you with their laptop to ask you all your personal information. Okay. So, these are the tech support reps. It's a tough job. I used to do it. I respect how difficult it is, but they were totally demoralized. And the leader said to me, "What are we going to do? I mean, I've tried everything." I said, "Do they understand how their work when they get a call from a nurse's station, that you know, this computer is down and the software is not working, or they can't get the clinical results back from a lab. Do they understand that what they do could save a life?" And she just looked at me. I said, "Is there any way that we could rotate them even one person a week to go to those places to walk around and see what the nurses and the doctors are going through trying to use the technology?" She said, "That's an amazing idea." So she did it, and all of a sudden, the morale, the commitment was going through the roof because finally, they understood that what they do makes a difference. And it doesn't have to be a medical situation for that to happen.
It could be, and what if you're running a traveling tour company, right? People save up a lot of money to go on vacation. And let's say the tour guide takes them over there, but some kind of reservation system that is not working. Your ability to solve that back at the Small Business Office is going to make that travel happy trip, instead of, "Well, I guess the tour company didn't know what they were doing and now I'm out $2,000."
Right. So adding, not adding but more of showing value in everyone's work.
In everyone's work and everyone's work. I mean, even in a hair salon and I know I as you know, people think, "Oh, I just going in there to get your hairs, you know, washed in and you know, maybe put color on and get a hairdo." Do you know how many times I walked into a hair salon and the shampoo assistant shampooed me instead of my hair? I mean, you know, took the hose and next thing you know, I was drenched? And it happens and you're like, "What the heck is this?" And it's soured me on the entire experience. You know, these young ones, they don't really know what is the value of a good shampoo. Now you might be sitting there right now laughing at this example. But I certainly for women, I mean, when we go, I go to a hair salon, it's not just to get my hair done. It's my time to relax. I don't want to have all these bad things happen to me just trying to get my hair done. And so if that first person you deal with is the shampoo assistant, and the shampoo assistant gives me this wonderful shampoo, it's like, "Ah, thank goodness, I get an hour today to have somebody take care of me because I spend my life taking care of other people." Right?
Yes, absolutely. Yeah. So, my next question is, what are the essentials of the people skill magic?
Well, I guess I'm gonna sound a little repetitive but it bears repeating. People skills magic starts with caring about others, not just yourself. Then you move on to the whole issue of showing respect, basic human respect. You know, there's a respect that we earn from being very experienced in our field and all of that, but I'm talking about basic human respect. And when you show that to everybody, and you treat them with dignity and civility, it is magical. I've worked with some of the toughest customers. I had a big job in a major corporation that was going through, oh my gosh, I mean, just incredible difficulties, and they were laying off hundreds of thousands of people and everything. And I was teaching those. They didn't want to lay people off without retraining them, so we were trying to retrain them on how to be consultants. I'm standing in the room, these people felt like they were going through a divorce. And they were so in pain, they were screaming at me and they were yelling at me. And instead of being offended and saying, "Gee, they need to treat me with respect." I could see their pain. I could see, oh my gosh, what they're going through. I let them vent and I said to them, "I know the pain you're going through. And I'm telling you that the way out is through the training we're going to do today. So, if you'll give me a chance, just a little chance to get started and to get you into this, I believe that your pain will start to lift." It's about seeing other people's needs in a positive way, not a manipulative way. You know how con men gotta, "Oh, let me, I know what this person wants to hear so I'll just tell them that." That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about with a good heart you see what other people need, and you adapt and you help them. That's people skills magic.
So basically, you're saying that empathy is at the heart of magical?
Empathy is at the heart of it and adapting your own style. I have a big webinar I do on adapting to different personality types. How many times do we say, "All those driver types, they're pushy, they're rude, they want to dominate us." [laughs] Not true. If you understand people, if you understand that some do, but, you know, they're the exceptions actually. It's just that these different personality types like driver and amiable and analytic and expressive, all come and look at the world from a different perspective. So, if you can identify the type they are and by the way, you can do it within the first 20 seconds of talking to them, and then have empathy for the way they see things and what they want, huh! It's magic. It's so easy to adapt. It's like in fact, that is, by the way, the one thing that has made me a huge success in business, is my ability to adapt to other people.
So once you applied that empathy and you realize, "Okay, this person needs this," what are some, I guess you would have to generalize, but what are some basic needs that humans need, the customers need met to have that customer experience?
Sure. So again, first and foremost upfront, because if you don't give it upfront, you're gonna spend all your time apologizing and they'll be fighting you. So upfront, it has to be courtesy, welcoming, caring. All of that has to be upfront because that's a human need. We want to be treated with respect. Personalization is another need and that's more popular today. You know, 30 years ago, when I was teaching customer service, we didn't even really talk about personalization. But, for example, in the travel and tourism industry, there was a huge study in an article that just came out about two, three weeks ago, that personalization in the travel industry is the hot trend. That's what everybody wants because they've got smartphones and apps and they want, you know, that travel tour company to know who they are and what their preferences are. Oh, they want to be on a boat in Bimini and they, you know, very personalized. So, that's a current trend and yes, you can do it whether you're running a brick and mortar store, an e-commerce center, a medical office, a hair salon, doesn't matter what kind of business, a tech startup, personalization is a big need nowadays that has evolved.
The other thing is to meet the goal without hassle. Think about how stressful people's lives are. And we can't even imagine, you know, behind the door at their house, what are they dealing with? Sick family members, upset children, their own health problems, whatever, life is full of stress. So, the need to destress is huge today. And so whether we are-- there are, you know, caregivers now that go in and help. I think, you know, like when elderly people live alone and we get them a caregiver to go in, and so forth. When we think of those, it's easy for us to identify human needs, but people going into a store or to a restaurant, or to a computer place to get a new smartphone or whatever, all have the same needs. We want to be uplifted in some way. And instead of saying, "Okay, this is exactly what every customer wants," what I challenge every small business to do is identify where can you provide the magic? So, A, what kind of business are you running? B, what kind of customers do you have? Are you dealing with other businesses? Are you a B2B or are you dealing with the consumers? And C, what is it that they care most about? Not customers in general, but your customers? What is it that they care about? What is it that they want? You should be able to identify that if you've been in business for at least a couple of months. And if you've been in business for two or more years, you should definitely know what is it that your customers really want? And then deliver it.
Right. Well, this takes us to our last question. And with this one, I kind of want to connect what you talked about when you said, "We need to address our customer's needs, but we also need to address our employee's needs, and when we do, those employees will address customer's needs." So, what as management can we do to inspire our employees? And how can they recognize their needs, alright?
Oh, absolutely. And if you don't, you know, this now has finally been researched. You know, the universities, the different firms that have the abilities and the structure to do research on what employees want today. This is what it comes down to. In fact, that was somewhat the impetus of my writing my book "Leading Morale", because employees today compared to employees, let's say in the 1950s, '60s, '70s, and so forth, it has shifted. Back then employees had what was known as a sacrifice mentality. Okay? So, you went to work and you worked hard for your employer, and they took care of you. So you sacrifice some of your personal time as well. It was very that's even I was raised because my parents were a lot older than most people's parents, so even I was raised with that sacrifice mentality. And so you didn't expect to be thanked at work. You didn't expect to be applauded and appreciated, and all that sort of thing. You expected that you were there to work and you get your paycheck, and the employers believe that the paycheck was all you deserved in return.
Nowadays, they want and I can understand this because I wanted it back then but I didn't get it, they want to be first of all recognized. So, this old idea, "There is no I in a team," that's a bunch of baloney. There are a lot of Is in team, there's individual contribution, there's identity. There's all of these individual traits that people have, and in fact, if you have a blog post called "25 traits to applaud and maximize in your employees", there are people who come with natural talents. And when you say to them, "You know what? You're really good with like handling angry customers. Why don't you give the rest of us a few tips. Well, how do you do that so well?" When you highlight the natural talents of your employees, they feel recognized, they feel appreciated, and you will get more of that talent.
Also, morale is not an event. It is not donuts on Friday. It's feeling that you are being treated with dignity, that you have a purpose at that organization, that you know your impact of how you impact the business and the customer, that your ideas are at least considered, that it's okay to speak up as long as you're doing it, you know, respectfully. It's okay to disagree if you have an interesting idea and it's different from someone else's view of it. This concept of being able to go to work and contribute. You know, people really, they've been beating up on Millennials and even the next generation way too much. Millennials are full of wanting to do-- they are what called the contribution generation, they want to contribute. They want to be recognized for their contribution. They don't want to be told, "There is no I in a team. Now, you just get to work." But that's boring. Nobody wants that. It's not inspiring, but you can inspire people to contribute the maximum of their natural talents and to help everybody else, even you, the business owner, grow from their talents. That's inspiring, that's magical teamwork.
Wow! Well, that sounds great. And yeah, that was a wonderful way to wrap it up, Kate. So, thank you so much for your time today.
Oh, my pleasure.
I think we learned a lot.
I hope that people will reach out to me if they have questions. Like I said, you can always send me an email email@example.com, just put in the subject line, you know, cx follow up, so I'll catch it because I get a lot of emails. And take a look at my book "Leading Morale", is very readable. It's not the sort of highbrow, it's just really good how to step by steps and people have said it really helps.
Great. Wonderful. Alright, thank you again, Kate. Again, this was Kate Nasser and we enjoyed having you. Now up next we have Jill, Jill is here.
Alright. Thank you and have a great rest of the conference. Bravo to you all, I think it's a great idea.
Oh, great. Thank you so much.
Take care now.
All right. Bye Jill.
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™ delivers workshops, keynotes, coaching, consulting for superior customer service, teamwork, employee engagement, and leading change. She is the author of "Leading Morale: The People Skills to Stop Negativity & Ignite Contributions!"
"Magical customer service is the all-encompassing attitudes and actions that we do that show we care about the customer. It's all about the caring."