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How to Tell Anyone Anything: Coaching Your Service Team To Success


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Those who manage people know that it is often challenging to provide ‘constructive criticism’ or feedback without causing their employees to become defensive. All too often human nature and an instinctive need to defend ourselves takes over, resulting in resentment or resistance to suggestions for change.

This webinar features Rich Gallagher - Author of What to Say to a Porcupine & How to Tell Anyone Anything: Breakthrough Techniques for Handling Difficult Conversations a Work – exploring a fresh new approach to coaching customer service professionals. An approach based on recent developments in the psychology of how we communicate with each other focusing on strength-based coaching versus deficit-based coaching.

Rich told our audience:

:: Avoid the mistake of focusing on what’s wrong and transform interactions that might become verbal tugs-of-war into collaborative problem-solving sessions
:: How a painless, blame-free approach for coaching can create real performance and behavior change

Published in: Business, Education

How to Tell Anyone Anything: Coaching Your Service Team To Success

  1. 1. “ How to Tell Anyone Anything – Coaching Your Service Team To Success” Rich Gallagher, President, Point of Contact Group Gary McNeil, Vice President, Marketing, Parature Inc.
  2. 2. Our Business <ul><li>Parature is a leading provider of on-demand software (SaaS) for customer service and support </li></ul><ul><li>Parature enables organizations to: </li></ul><ul><li>Reduce the cost of supporting their customers </li></ul><ul><li>Have a 360 view of customer issues </li></ul><ul><li>Retain their customers </li></ul><ul><li>Improve customer loyalty </li></ul><ul><li>Generate more revenue from their base </li></ul><ul><li>Deliver “great” customer service </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>One stop shopping </li></ul><ul><li>One integrated software suite – on-demand </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Parature Portal </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Parature Ticket </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Parature Knowledgebase </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Parature Reporting </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Parature Chat </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Parature Forum </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Host of other modules </li></ul></ul><ul><li>“ With Parature, we do not have to increase our CSR headcount…we would have needed two to three additional CSR’s with the rate that JobFox is growing.” </li></ul><ul><li>- JobFox </li></ul>Parature - One Integrated Suite
  4. 4. Economic Downturn Has Changed Everything… Although there may be signs of a recovery… Customers are buying less – demand is recovering slowly.
  5. 5. The Customer Has Never Been More Important! <ul><li>In light of sales teams selling less - organizations are focused on: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Customer retention </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Customer upsell and cross sell opportunities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lifetime value of a customer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Overall revenue from the customer base </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Service Has Become A Major Differentiator <ul><li>Improving the customer experience </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Multi-channel support </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Providing support in the manner by which the customer wants it </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Reducing customer effort </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Delivering on the promise of first contact resolution </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The result is reduced frustration </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Increasing customer loyalty </li></ul><ul><ul><li>By reducing customer effort you increase customer loyalty </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Increased loyalty is a game changer </li></ul></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Communication is Paramount <ul><li>No matter how you are communicating with your customers, you always have to communicate well </li></ul><ul><li>Consistent and appropriate answers need to be given regardless of channel: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Chat, email, phone, forum’s etc. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Your CSR’s need to have the skills necessary to manage a positive user experience </li></ul>
  8. 8. How to Tell Anyone Anything: Coaching Your Service Team to Success Presented by Rich Gallagher Point of Contact Group Sponsored by
  9. 9. Introduction: Do you ever have problems like these?
  10. 10. In an ideal world … <ul><li>Agents would always welcome your feedback and coaching </li></ul><ul><li>They would always treat your customers well </li></ul><ul><li>They would never come in late, miss performance targets, or fight with each other </li></ul><ul><li>And you, your support team, your management, and your customers would all live happily ever after … </li></ul>
  11. 11. So why don’t people just listen to us? <ul><li>Most of us practice deficit-based communications: we find something wrong and try to correct it. This is a basic survival instinct. </li></ul><ul><li>Most of us hate being on the receiving end of deficit-based communications. This is also a basic survival instinct. </li></ul><ul><li>Deficit-based messages usually fail no matter how “correct” your points are . </li></ul>
  12. 12. OK, then how do we get people to listen to us? <ul><li>By practicing a strength-based approach to our interactions with other people </li></ul><ul><li>Strength-based approaches, as the name implies, focus on the strengths and interests of the other person </li></ul>
  13. 13. Great! So why isn’t everyone strength-based already? <ul><li>Strength-based communications are very powerful, and go completely against our human nature </li></ul><ul><ul><li>When an employee is late again, the last thing you want to do is “understand” (normalize) it </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>When you feel someone does their job wrong, the last thing you want to do is explore the benefits of their approach </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>When someone is rude and abrasive, the last thing we want to ask is what frustrates them </li></ul></ul><ul><li>But this is exactly what will keep these people in dialogue, and help them change their behavior! </li></ul>
  14. 14. Polling question 1 <ul><li>Fred has just “snapped” at a demanding customer and spoken rudely back at her. What would you say? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ You shouldn't treat customers that way.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ You need training to handle conflict better.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ I can tell this customer was frustrating you.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Say nothing in the heat of the moment: save it for later. </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. The four steps of strength-based coaching <ul><li>Step 1: Start in a safe place. Compartmentalize your message into its “safe” (neutral) and “unsafe” components </li></ul><ul><li>Step 2: Be curious, not furious. Take a learning stance and ask good questions </li></ul><ul><li>Step 3: Acknowledge everything. Yes, everything! Not the same as agreement </li></ul><ul><li>Step 4: Discuss the issue factually, not emotionally. When you stick to facts, you can be as frank as you wish – and still stay in productive dialogue </li></ul>
  16. 16. Step 1: Start in a safe place <ul><li>Break down the message into its “safe” and “unsafe” parts </li></ul><ul><li>Open the discussion in the neutral zone , saying safe things that will not get the other person on the defensive </li></ul><ul><li>This is the hardest part of the process, and works best when it is planned in advance . </li></ul>
  17. 17. Four basic safe openings <ul><li>Ask someone how they perform a task </li></ul><ul><ul><li>&quot;Could you walk me through how you set up a help desk ticket?&quot; </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Explore how they feel about a situation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>&quot;Do you feel stuck when people demand an escalation, and no one is available?&quot; </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Make a neutral observation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>&quot;I can tell that certain customers frustrate you.&quot; </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Share your own experience </li></ul><ul><ul><li>&quot;I used to struggle with the same issue myself.&quot; </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. Polling question 2 <ul><li>Jose is a nice guy, but he often tells customers “I don’t know” and rarely escalates issues voluntarily. What might you ask him first? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Why don’t you escalate tough calls? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Are you uncomfortable when you don’t know the answer? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How do you handle a typical call? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What resources do you use when you feel stuck? </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. Step 2: Be curious, not furious <ul><li>Ask appropriate questions, based on the other person’s responses </li></ul><ul><li>Good questions have three goals </li></ul><ul><ul><li>They show interest in the other person </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>They provide a face-saving way for the other person to acknowledge their behavior in their own words </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>They focus the other person focused on solving the problem themselves </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. The anatomy of a good question <ul><li>Good questions learn from and benefit the agent: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Showing empathy: &quot;Does it bother you when customers ramble on?&quot; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Gathering data: &quot;What kinds of situations take the longest to resolve?&quot; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Opening dialogue: &quot;I'd like to learn more about that. What was your experience?&quot; </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The right questions help you leverage the agent's thinking to negotiate a solution </li></ul>
  21. 21. Polling question 3 <ul><li>Angie has been late three times in the last week. She claims she has child care issues. What is your first response? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ It would not be fair to bend the rules for one person.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ It is your responsibility to report to work on time.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Try to do better next time, OK?” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Juggling work and children can be really difficult sometimes.” </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. Step 3: Acknowledge everything <ul><li>Understand and acknowledge the other person’s behavior, even when it is wrong </li></ul><ul><li>This is NOT the same as agreeing with it </li></ul><ul><li>The most effective way to get someone in dialogue about a Bad Thing is to make it safe to talk about it </li></ul><ul><li>Commonly seen in the movies, as the “good cop, bad cop” technique </li></ul>
  23. 23. The three “octane levels” of acknowledgement <ul><li>Observation: Simply observe the other person </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ I can tell that situation bothered you” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Validation: Acknowledge that feelings are valid </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ No one likes customers who drone on” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Identification: Share your own feelings </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ I wouldn’t like to feel criticized either” </li></ul></ul>
  24. 24. Step 4: Discuss the issue factually, not emotionally <ul><li>Note that this is the fourth step – for most people it is the first step </li></ul><ul><li>Bring up the issue at hand, as neutrally and factually as possible </li></ul><ul><li>Make the other person part of the process of solving the issue, using phrases such as “What do you think?” </li></ul><ul><li>Help the solution benefit the other person </li></ul><ul><li>Empathize with every response – because feelings are never wrong. This is NOT the same as agreeing with them </li></ul>
  25. 25. Emotional versus factual discussion <ul><li>Not good: </li></ul><ul><li>You: You act disengaged when you are on the line with a customer. You don't care enough. Leslie: Hey, I'm doing my job. I don't know what to say. </li></ul><ul><li>Better: </li></ul><ul><li>You: I can see why customers sometimes react badly to you. You jump right into problem-solving - but if you acknowledge a customer first, they would feel heard and probably treat you better. Would you like to try a little role-playing with me and see how it works? Leslie: Sure, let's give it a try. </li></ul>
  26. 26. More examples of productive discussion The problem How to discuss it Your performance hasn’t been up to par lately. Normally, a typically employee handles X transactions per day. Your productivity has been about 40 per cent of that recently. What do you think might be the reasons for that? Your short temper is getting on people’s nerves lately. I sense that you are feeling angry a lot lately, and it has been impacting other people’s morale. What do you think might help solve the problem from here? You are dropping the ball on important customer issues. Several customers have been sharing concerns about getting follow-up on their issues recently. What is your take on the situation?
  27. 27. Strength-based coaching: the one-page summary <ul><li>Don’t sweat - follow the process </li></ul><ul><li>Speak to the other person’s interest by creating a dialogue where both people benefit </li></ul><ul><li>Tailor your message to specific situations and personalities </li></ul><ul><li>Strength-based communications replaces criticism, sugar-coating and avoidance with authentic, productive discussion – and real performance change </li></ul>
  28. 28. Learn more with this free offer! <ul><li>Order Rich Gallagher’s new book on today and get a free customer support library </li></ul><ul><li>Includes full, downloadable books on help desk and customer service management </li></ul><ul><li>E-mail your receipt to [email_address] </li></ul>
  29. 29. Thank You! To learn more, visit For more information on Rich Gallagher’s communications skills training programs, visit To contact Rich: [email_address]
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