Play with Lego Blocks!? 7 suprizing ways to improve your customer service skills.


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Customer service tips usually follow the same formula or list format. They generally give well intentioned, but vague and overused advice about being empathetic and going the extra mile. That’s all very well and good, but you’re an expert! You already know the basics. Ready to kick it up a notch? Let’s go play tent forts.

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Lego man--your new best friendLego man–your new best friend

1: Call the 1-800 number on all of your
utilities, credit cards, and club cards.

Whatever business you need to take care of that you’ve been dreading, just get it over with. This time, instead of doing dishes with the phone tucked under your chin, or watching Real Housewives on mute while you do yoga breaths trying to keep your temper in check, do something else. Take notes. What worked? What really didn’t work? Most importantly, what could the agent have done differently in a concrete way, to make the call better?

Now take this knowledge to your team. Better yet, have THEM call your Little Dippers Frozen Yoghurt account and ask for a refund because they pulled the flavor you wanted from production before you got to your 9- cones- get- the- 10th- free!

2: Develop a hobby or interest. Better yet, several!

One of the main ways I built rapport with customers was through shared interests. Sometimes there would be an easy give away, such as a credit card with a vanity picture of a tangle of yarn with knitting needles sticking out of it. Sometimes, they would outright tell me “I make my own jewelry.” Other times, it was up to me to mention my hobbies and interests, to build rapport or make small talk while we waited for an approval to go through. Hobbies and interests also make you calmer and more grounded, meaning you’ll have patience with all your terrible customers. Smiley.

3: Shop more. Shop deeper.

This is related to number 1. Become an unofficial secret shopper. When things make you frustrated or angry, go deep. Why were you so upset when the coupon didn’t go through? What are you losing or what is being taken away from you? Is it time, money, prestige, comfort, security? This is the way advertisers think: they’re never selling you the product, they’re selling you the things you can get for or with this product.

Security and safety with a Volvo, freedom from conventional ‘good girl’ rules with Hypnotique’s “Don’t just turn heads, break necks” campaign, the rush of defying death itself with Camel “cancer sticks.”

“Going deep” about your own feelings and motivations will help you understand what goes on in the mind of the average consumer, on a deeper level, and will help you provide better, more holistic solutions.

4: Read more.

News, magazines, books, articles—anything! The best agents and coaches in customer service know a little about a lot of different things. They know where you can get a money order at midnight, they know how to look up zip codes for different neighborhoods, and they know how to wiggle around the rules (legally!) to give the customer that extra mile experience. They know lots of cool stuff you can usually only know through reading.

5: Play.

I am an advocate of more play time for adults. And the treadmill with US Weekly doesn’t count. Physical exercise could be play, that’s true, but I’m talking about using your hands to play with something, for the pure fun of it. Frisbee, mini golf, putting together puzzles, playing with Lego blocks or other building sets….the rules are it has to make you happy, it can’t be “work” or a true strain on you, and it should be a toy, not an electronic game.

Play not only makes you more relaxed and happy, it puts you into a “flow” state where your mind can wander freely and make serendipitous connections. Working as a day care teacher and a nanny, I got to spend many extra years playing: painting, drawing, putting on puppet shows, building things, coloring, using Play-doh… and I credit those years with my seemingly endless supply of creative ideas and unusual outlook on life.

Playing with toys can bring up emotions and help you access a side of your personality that may have been long buried under a mask of adult professionalism. This playful side, this creative side, this empathetic and emotional side, (in small doses!) is what thousands of books are being written about helping you find. Find your purple frog by bouncing a ball while you’re on the phone, by drawing during your lunch hour, by joining a puzzle group. Just play.

6: Talk to your friends.

Really talk. Listen. Refine your conversational skills. One of the biggest errors I would hear on the phones was agents talking over customers or drowning them with spiels and scripts. Another skill to add is listening for emotional context or the feeling behind the words. Living in a country where I didn’t speak the language enabled me to add seven league boot steps’ worth of knowledge about tone and body language to my repertoire, and it’s been very helpful.

7: Let it go.

There is a breeziness, a lightness, and a sense of “work well done” with a light hand that is common to the best service workers. It’s kind of like “Hey, it’s just my job, no big thing.” When you know your product, you feel confident, and you’re relaxed and comfortable, there is a lightness that you can share with your customers. It seems like a halo that touches your shoulders and lights up the room. You can find this grace with time and devotion to your craft.

Get started.

Naomi Kelsey
Naomi Kelsey has 10+ years of progressive responsibilities in the customer service industry, and 3 in the BPO training field, with an Instructional Design focus. She specializes in creating custom-tailored training programs in Language, Customer Service, and US Culture for both internal and external call center clients. Her vision is to bring "supernaturally human" customer service to all customers through innovative training methods and materials, great coaching tips, and true expert advice.


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