Archive for Conflict – Page 2

When Streamlining Drives Business Away

When Streamlining Doesn't WorkI’ve been focused on some good-sized client projects of late neglecting blog readers – but because I prefer content to be personally from me, client projects became the priority – glad to be back..

Today offered such a great example of how you can drive business away with apparent “streamlining” I just had to share.

CitiFinancial has been leaving automated calls at our home and does not ask for anyone but twice a day the automated voice tells us to call them at this number: 1-877-667-6152. Given there are 5 people in our household, all adults, it makes it hard to know who should call back, my spouse, me or one of our adult kids. Every person has been asked if they are CitiFinancial customers, everyone says no – so here is the scenario.

Phone call 1 – automated message

Phone call 2 – automated message

Phone call 3 – us phoning the number to see who they are calling – only to be told they cannot give us that information as it is private.

Phone call 4 – automated message

Phone call 5 – automated message

Repeat 4 and 5 daily for two weeks.

We call them – this time the person asks my first and last name – I am told that it does not match with that number in their records and there is nothing they can do.

Two more weeks of automated phone calls – twice daily.

Email to their online contact page stating that I either wish to know why they are hounding and suggest they stop. If the calls do not stop I will be calling my phone company to have the number blocked – I receive no response.

Today I received two more calls from CitiFinancial – both automated with the same message.

Today I called the number again and this time the person took the other last name that is used in this house and said it does not match with that number either. I asked if they could possibly tell me WHO on earth does match with that number and was told it was not possible to provide that information to me as it is confidential, but that they will look into it.

Steam begins to come out of my ears.

Here is how I responded – I swore at them – not a great leadership response, but definitely I had reached my limit. I told them I have done what they have asked of me, I have called them. I have done everything a good person is supposed to do to try to get down to the bottom of why my personal phone number is being hounded. I also wanted to know why the number they give me does not provide me with any information as to why I am being hounded by these ridiculous automated calls.

I will admit, I lost my temper… I said that I know this person is not personally responsible for the ridiculousness of the system under which they are working, but that I am not a CitiFinancial customer and they have ensured I never ever will be. The representative says they have no answer for me, could offer no reason for why I needed to call, and that they are not associated with the department that sends the automated calls.

She took a rotten bunch of my attitude today and remained professional. Kudos to whoever hired her, she has a terrible job of sitting blindly without information at a number to which automated calls are directing people highly annoyed with CitiFinancial. I sure don’t envy her that job, and if I knew how to reach her again would offer her an apology.

CitiFinancial, your streamlining does not work… you should be ashamed of your selves.

How do you think an organization would respond if all of us called that number leaving an automated message saying “Call us at this number” not directed TO anyone, and then telling them we knew nothing about why they are calling us back… a little something to ponder…..


How Many Customers Did Your Staff Lose Today?

GiftCardEver heard an employee say, “It was only one customer, what are you so hung up about?”
What if you could keep accurate metrics on the number of customers chased away by your staff?

First, a little story told to me by a friend – then onto customer service metrics!!

My friend was given a gift certificate to a local establishment that provides a Dinner Theatre Mystery Night and 4 Course meal. Unfortunately, due to the rarity of the number of Mystery Theatre nights (approx 1/month) and the high volume of travel required by my friend’s job, he was unable to use the gift certificate within the time frame of the 1 year expiry date.

Since purchased, Alberta law changed on November 1, 2008 stating that all gift certificates and gift cards issued will no longer be allowed to state an expiry date. That law also includes gift cards purchased before November 1, 2008 so long as they did not expire before the Nov.1 date.

They phone to finally book a dinner on one of the available Mystery Nights, but were greeted with a sour Food and Beverage Manager who simply asked the date the gift certificate was issued, then abruptly stated;

“The legislation did not come into effect until after that gift certificate was bought so it’s valid for a year only, sorry, it’s expired. If you would like to purchase two tickets, I will need a credit card number.”

That is it, not only did she misinterpret the legislation, she was rude and curt! My friend would have accepted a courtesy of at least being listened to, or considered he was a customer, especially since the tickets are valued at 75.00 each. A single 150.00 purchase is worth something to the business, no? It is to me when I shop!

My friend says:

She could have offered to extend the certificate, give us a discount to another function or even just said “I’m sorry, the certificate you have has expired; we can’t honour it but would still be happy to have you as a guest for dinner…”

Lets look at the metrics!

2 = Pissed-off customers this week

8 = The number of people they told (say each of those pissed off customers tell 4 people – conservative estimate.)

10 = 2 pissed off customers + 8 good friends. Lets say those 8 share it with 1 person each.

26 = 2 pissed off customers+8 people they told + the additional individuals those 8 shared with.

Multiply that by how many weeks your business is open to the public (typically 52)

1352 = 2 pissed off customers per week chased away from your business x 52 weeks a year.

A similar encounter every week will guarantee 1352 people within their marketing reach WILL NOT do business with that company or organization due to a story of poor customer service told by someone, and people always listen to those they love and trust.

How does a 21st century consumer make a purchase?

  • They shop from emotion
  • They want a relationship with the business.
  • They want to feel good about how hard they work
  • They want their money going to an organization that deserves to receive it
  • They want a positive experience.

Are consumers really buying your goods or services – NO! They are buying the experience and the relationship. We have all the ‘stuff’ we need, consumers shop and spend because they can and they want to feel good doing it.

If you are not clear with your front line staff as to what that looks like, then I can guarantee you will be suffering –
Let’s take it a little farther – let’s say only 5% of that total number would really have purchased from them based on referrals from satisfied and happy customers.

68 = approximately 5% of 1352 customers.

$5100.00 = per year of lost sales on an average 75.00 purchase. Are you okay tossing that money in the trash?

Now let’s consider that those 68 people may very well have a spouse or friend they would prefer to attend a Mystery Dinner Theatre Night with. WOW, are you as a business willing to toss a potential of $10,200.00 a year down the drain?

So, when an employee says, “It was only 1 person, what are you so hung up about?” That person is NOT suited for frontline service delivery, customer complaints or technical support, (certainly not without training).

Is it worth an investment of 20-50 bucks to gain a loyal customer – you tell me!

Care for your customers and train your staff! Leadership is directly tied to customer service – for every loyal happy customer, you could be making the difference between surviving this economic downturn or closing the shop!

NOTE: I called the organization my friend was talking about – mainly to find out about their gift certificate policy.

  1. They did say gift certificates no longer expire and there are no other conditions.
  2. They told me if I wanted to purchase new ones I best do it at next year’s prices, as this year is getting filled up
  3. When I asked how often they had the theatre, they said once a month, but less this year because there has been a huge slow down (really?)
  4. They were very curt and not at all interested in listening – only ‘telling’
  5. This is NOT the first time I have heard poor feedback on this particular organization

Need I name them? No, they are doing enough damage to themselves!


Customer Response and Resolution? You Decide.

Due to a busy couple of weeks I’ve neglected the blog, but feel it imperative I offer a follow-up to the Rogers cell phone story. I’d like to say my own behaviour with Rogers was of the utmost grace and decorum, but the truth is by the time I spoke with someone in authority I was pure ‘ticked off’. What really struck a chord is the fact it took a public blog before any attention at all was called to this very frustrated customer.

Timeline of Events:

  • 5 Customer Service Representatives who never once clued -in that escalation would be a good idea. When I asked if there was nothing more I could do, they ALL said ‘yes’.
  • Initial tweets were not picked up by social media ‘watchers’ on Twitter before I posted a blog.
  • The Blog drew an enormous amount of attention- many similar negative stories and offers of help from Roger’s competitors.
  • I purchased a phone privately from Kijiji –Rogers “sent it to them for free at their upgrade time but that they did not need it.” (I found that fascinating.)
  • Unfortunately because I had a smart phone I only had a data plan, not a Blackberry plan. I then spent another entire morning with customer service reps 6 & 7 finding out that I needed to change my plan before the phone woud be operable.
  • I was still on hold with customer service when Rogers finally called in response to the blog (Toronto office).

Talk about your “Shaggy Dog” story – it just seemed to go on forever. I’ll stick with the phone story and try and avoid going into the ‘lost revenue and business time” saga! (I consult by the hour – can’t get that client time back)

What Worked:

  • When I finally spoke with someone who could help, they recognized the change in data plan would cost me additional funds (more even than a new phone already cost me). A discount of 5.00/mo was given for the additional cost.
  • I got to vent a bit about how this is customer clean-up NOT customer service based on the fact I needed to go public before I EVER got attention.

Things I would never say to a customer:

  • “We go to great expense to provide those free phones up front, we cannot give everything away” – hmm, then you should not be in business, because good business people build their costs into a package.
  • “Our customer service people have to deal with 10 more people just like you once you hang up” – last time I checked, customer service was about caring about the customer you are serving at the moment, especially if they are frustrated.
  • “If you go to our website you will find our escalation policy and could have done that before posting a blog” – That is going to take a LOT of training to get the entire Canadian public to understand how to best escalate an issue. I wonder if a company might be better off limiting that training to the customer service representatives and offer them clues as to when THEY can escalate an issue. I struggled to connect with the right CSR multiple times, my expectation was they would indicate a process and simply ask, would you like this to be escalated? I had no idea it was MY job to find out their escalation policy.

No answers or conversations seemed to focus on the real point. I bought a data plan with Rogers. The LCD on my data phone stopped functioning correctly. At no point during my plan was I told my data phone would be obsolete and I would be forced to upgrade to a $4-600.00 BlackBerry and a different plan if my phone was broken. Nor was I informed that even though I HAD a data plan, the only phones available to me would be non-data phones. I’d like to think if I worked at the company, I would recognize the real issue.

If you offer a service/product (in this case a smart phone data plan) and within that contract your lost or broken program cannot provide the same service or product as agreed to in the beginning, you as a company should be liable to take the lead in finding a solution. Rogers did not provide any smartphones for my data plan at this point in my contract. BUT according to Rogers, the problem is all mine. I am stuck with THEIR provision of this service (even though they can no longer provide what they agreed to in the beginning) and any solution is a new phone at full (or close to full) cost at my own expense or to downgrade to a non-data phone but still pay the data fee as per the contract. If I try removing myself from the contract I pay a hefty penalty – but they hold no such accountability.

I am still with Rogers only because I did not wish to pay that penalty and throw my money in the trash. The loss of time, money and patience is now history – but serves as a great model of what NOT to do in my own company and with my own clients. Will I renew with Rogers? Time will tell, I will definitely ask many more questions of any provider next time I agree to a contract. Do they need a better customer service solution – indeed I think they do.

In this case, a free phone was only a ‘hook’ to gaining an initial contract – certainly discounted phones are not used as a solution to maintaining service and keeping a customer who likes to be loyal to the companies with whom she has chosen to spend her money.

(Update: August 31, 2009 – Call from “Office of the President” at Roger’s with additional discount to account to say sorry for the experience. This individual was polite, considerate, wants to use these posts as an example for continued front-line training and apologized quite a few times. It is clear that they are doing what they can in the aftermath of this particular situation. I hope his optimistic description of the changes they wish to make on the front-lines does materialize for the benefit of other customers so they can avoid an experience like this altogether.)


Giving Customer Service STARTS with Caring About The Customer

This is a long one folks!

HTC SmartphoneI ‘ve spent WAY too much time on the phone today, but not with friends, family or clients. Instead, I’ve been on the phone with my cell phone provider, Rogers. Rogers Canada is one of the largest providers in the country alongside competitors Telus and Bell (but not for long). The story I tell is of a customer service perspective and I will try to be as fair as possible but I have to admit my emotional frustration has gotten the best of me, not to mention the loss of income for taking a full day to deal with this ridiculous issue.

January of 2008 I purchased a plan through Futureshop under the provider Rogers. I selected Rogers because at the time I needed a SIM card and Telus did not provide one. Wanting a BlackBerry I was talked out of it by a Futureshop employee who convinced me the HTC Smartphone was my best bet . I was also looking for a business plan so I could access email and internet when not in the office. I have never been so sorry to own this HTC Smartphone as I am today. I have 1.5 yrs. left to go before my cell phone plan is up.

Fast forward to last week, and the LCD screen on my phone decided to fade and disappear. (see photo) Trust me I am not swinging my purse around like a crazy person, although I am close to tossing the phone in the trash right now! I decide I will take it back to Futureshop to see what they can do for me and this is where my time-consuming expensive little night-mare begins.

Attempt #1. Much waiting – for the staff to eat their icecream and stop chatting and a smile-less young person finally decides to help me and can only give me this answer: “Rogers does not offer ANY discounts for you for another data phone, only a regular phone, because you bought an HTC Smartphone.” HUH, your shop talked me into a Smartphone that Rogers will NOT support?

So Futureshop is telling me Rogers says although I HAVE a dataphone, I cannot get an ‘upgrade’ on a data phone until the cell phone plan has surpassed two years? All I am qualified for is a regular phone unless I spend the 599.95 for the Blackberry they have in stock. I also discover that the young person who sold me the phone in the first place did NOT register it as a company plan like I thought. (Okay, I should read my papers more carefully, but I simply did not realize I did not have a corporate plan given he wrote down my company name and corporate number when I bought it.)

I think, okay, calm down now, surely this is a limitation of the Futureshop person acting as a Rogers Rep – Certainly if I talk to Rogers I can clear this up because they won’t want to lose me as a customer. I will simply go home and call Rogers myself!

Attempt #2. Call to Rogers:

  • Nice fellow by the name of Bruce informs me there are no upgrades at all to another dataphone for the HTC Smartphone until I have waited out my 2 year mark. Had I bought a Blackberry I would be eligible after only 1 year. (Does HTC know that Rogers does not offer as good support for the Smartphone as they do the Blackberry?)
  • I have an important point: I bought a phone WITH a plan. If Rogers did not feel the phone would last out the life of the plan, (evidenced by their lack of support for it) then they shouldn’t be selling it as a package deal.
  • I also find out that Cancelling this cell phone plan will cost me 500.00holy cow! Does that mean this plan was worth 1000.00 when I got it because I am halfway through?
  • They can put me into a nice little LG phone but without data. (does HTC know that I bought an HTC plan but they are promoting a “downgrade” to a non-data LG phone? Not to mention, I am paying for a data plan, damn it! I want to receive my email here)
  • He wants to help but his hands are tied, I ask about upgrading my plan to a better one so they will support a better phone option. He suggests I call the business and corporate customer service. I try, they are not open nights or weekends (of course not, because that would involve customer service).
  • I have to wait until Monday. I’m busy Monday (people have to work) so tried Tuesday not because I don’t have to work, but because I need a working cell phone and PDA.

Attempt #3. Call to Rogers on Tuesday:

  • I dial the only number I can find online and it takes me to a nice girl named Suma, who is polite but needs to be reminded to speak into her headset 3 times because I cannot hear her.
  • Suma gives me the exact same answers above, but adds some additional information:
  • The only way they can upgrade me is if I purchase a Blackberry and yes, they will give me a discount:
    • BB9000=549.00; BB8900=449.99; BB8310=399.00; BB8220=349.99
    • Why does that not feel like a discount? WOW no matter what I do the fact my HTC smartphone could NOT outlast my phone plan will cost me anywhere from 349.00 to 500.00. Hmmm, Rogers, was this your plan all along?
    • I am not satisfied because I feel these are rather expensive options considering I can purchase an unlocked Rogers supported phone online for less than 200.00 from and simply stick my SIM card into it – but wait- I want to give Rogers another chance. I am frustrated but I ask – “What if I were to upgrade to the business account I wanted in the first place, would that make a difference?”
    • She passes me over to someone in the Business and Corporate (finally).

Attempt #4. Business and Corporate at Rogers

  • I did not document this person’s name. But he was trying to be nice. I warned him that I am not frustrated with him personally, but that I am very frustrated and I am very angry with Rogers. I must go over the entire story again, explaining myself several times because he was not understanding what I want.
  • I wanted to know if Rogers would back the combination phone/phone plan by offering me a solution that did not break the bank and kept me as a loyal customer.
  • He told me EXACTLY what the others did, with the addition of one more piece of information that amounts to this: Options that come up on his screen are limited to how much money I have spent in the past with Rogers.
  • Now I am outright angry! Does this mean I am worthless as a customer to them because I don’t spend bigger bucks?
  • This fellow suggests I try customer care AGAIN.

Attempt #5. Rogers Customer Care

  • I tell this nice fellow, James, that I am getting very upset ,am more than frustrated and I do not believe that Rogers cares to keep me as a customer. I am hoping he can provide me with better answers to prove otherwise. He is exceptionally considerate, does all the digging he can because I share with him the following information:
    • If I cancel my plan paying the 500.00 penalty, go with another provider and get the top-of-the-line Blackberry I will save myself 50.00 or more than any options at Rogers.
    • If I go online and hunt down an unlocked Rogers Blackberry for a HUGE discount, ride out my plan and move on in 1.5 years, Rogers does not get any upgrade dollars from me at all and I vow to find a different service.
    • Frustration builds as I never do get an answer about upgrading to a better plan, perhaps a business plan. They all seem to want to keep me right where I am, stuck between a rock and a hard-place.
    • He repeats all of the identical information I have already learned and basically agrees with me that my best bet if I want to save costs is to go elsewhere or get a used BB from someone.
    • Poor fellow was stuck between being loyal and trying to show me he was very understanding.

Attempt #5. Rogers Customer Care

  • By this time I am so ticked off I just want to limit any thing I have to do with Rogers. I realize I have one more question to which I need an answer: I speak with a girl. “What will it cost if I remove the data plan from my phone and go with the least expensive cell phone plan?”
    • This means removing my 200/unlimited Eve/Weekend Plan
    • Removing the Data Service plan (it’s only 2MB as it is)
    • Taking off the “Smartphone Value Pack” (Goodness knows why I would keep THAT)
    • The girl lets me know my plan would be reduced to 32.00/month BUT there is a hitch – of course there is!
    • The cancellation of my data package will cost me 100.00. WHAT??
    • Unbelievable , this is the icing on the cake! They WILL NOT provide a decent discount on a comparable data phone only a regular cell without data BUT THEY ARE PENALIZING me for cancelling the ‘data’ part of my plan? You have GOT to be kidding me!

ROGERS! Shame on you!

Listen, I don’t want it for free, but my expectation is this:

If I have a data plan I cannot get out of without a penalty, then at least put a data phone on your list of possible ‘upgrades’!

Do yourself a favour. Check out the internet for other stories about Rogers before you choose to buy! I wish I had.


Your "Attention Radar" – Choosing Your Focus

RASHave you ever taken training or coaching where someone was working hard to gift you with gems of wisdom or a different way of looking at things? Do you know if you were truly open to the information being given?

One of the most difficult situations is when a coach or mentor is trying hard to move you forward and your door is closed!

A great way to tell if you’re being receptive is to listen to your own response. The next time someone – a coach, boss, trainer, or mentor – is making a concerted effort to encourage change, try to acknowledge that they have a different view you might not be seeing. Then ask yourself if you are actually leaving the door open enough to receive the gems of wisdom they offer.

  1. Are you taking time to hear what they are saying and turning it into a lesson to be utilized in your own life?
  2. Do you respond by defending the behaviours that keep you from moving forward?
  3. Do you use expressions such as “I DO that, but it never works.” Or “I try, but….” or “I AM…”
  4. Do you leap to conclusions about what others think of you, even though it’s not actuallywhat they were saying?
  5. Do you hold tightly to beliefs that are clearly holding you back?

If so, then you might very well be trapped in a cyclical thought pattern based on buried beliefs and while you think the doors are open to hearing and recognizing opportunity and growth, they may very well be closed.

So, what’s really going on here?

Neuroscience has performed studies on an area in the brain called the Reticular Activating System or RAS. The RAS acts as a sort-of connector between your conscious and unconscious mind and filters information by “listening out for” things that are relevant to your conscious thoughts and focus. Basically, it controls our ability to pay attention. For example, when you are walking down the street there are literally hundreds of thousands of noises. You might hear a vibration or hum of noise in the background but you do not hear each and every individual sound, only those for which your focus is attuned, but it has it’s limits. Your brain is programmed to take in approx 5-9 individual items at a time and you hone in on those items because focus on them has been programmed by your conscious mind providing the “attention radar” for your unconscious mind.

A car horn signalling danger; familiar music coming from a store; your name being called from the other side of the street; all of these are items your subconscious will listen to because they are out of the ordinary in a typical walk and your conscious mind has made them a relevant focus in your life. Equally so, inadequecy or feelings of being persecuted or judged will fly into the face of a discussion if your belief system has been built under the experience of having to continually defend yourself. Basically you are ‘looking for it’ and so you will find it.

What great information for all of us –the beautiful thing neuroscience teaches us here is that the Reticular Activating System can be reprogrammed, or you can change what you are ‘looking for’. This is why setting goals, saying affirmations and visualizing ìn the conscious are the beginning of the journey to realizing our dreams because they speak to our unconscious mind, the place-holder for our belief systems.

Learning how to listen and embrace information with an open heart and mind can be done with practice and by learning strategies and techniques for reprogramming your RAS. The first step is in recognizing if you are listening openly, take a few minutes to evaluate your recent conversations against the above list – are you truly open? If not, then you will benefit from learning strategies for discovering and challenging belief systems that hold you back and practicing techniques to reprogram your RAS thus putting the “attention radar” on that which will help you grow and move forward.


Why You Think I Am Wrong And What I Have To Say About It.

The thing about being an adult in an adult work world is that we’re forced to deal with many things we may find unpleasant or stressful. Communication between people takes many forms and can be interpreted in many ways. Ideally, we would live in a world where every person with whom we communicated would understand our intentions and not interpret them badly. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

We are emotional human beings with egos, and we are adamant about protecting our viewpoints because we believe we are right. When communication comes our way, our response is typically based upon a reaction to our own view point and when that viewpoint is challenged, we often focus on the parts that anger us rather than the true message behind the communication.

How we respond to communication in our work and personal environments is a clear indicator of our respect for the viewpoint offered us, or how we respect the communicator themselves. Reponses packed with anger, frustration and hurt will put a stop to a relationship very quickly. This kind of a response can be so damaging it can take years to repair the relationship.

Here are a few tips on dealing with difficult discussions in your life. You’ll want to jot them down somewhere, you see you live in the real world and will be forced to deal with difficult discussions frequently.

  • Avoid Public Responses – A response to a difficult conversation or written communication should remain private. Sure, tell a confidant or two if you need to vent, but until you have calmed down and queried the person about their intent behind the discussion, you are reacting blindly and immaturely. Posting an angry note on Facebook will likely lose you the relationship or get you fired.
  • Analyze The Whole Communication – If you are upset about a conversation or a written communication, try these steps:
    • What parts make you angry? Why does it make you angry? Then explain to the other person in a very calm manner exactly how you interpreted what they said, and ask for clarification. Avoid arguing, listen!
    • Work hard to find the hidden gems of wisdom they’re trying to impart, focus on any compliments or positive statements they have tried to convey, rather than letting your anger focus on a single word or perceived slight.
    • If you are truly right, you will have no problem calmly building a compelling case to prove your point. Answer any questions they may have asked rather than lashing out to hurt them back, there is a good chance they were not trying to hurt you at all. Give them a reason to support your viewpoint!
    • Keep your anger private, being outwardly pissed off, rather than dealing with the person directly only proves YOUR immaturity, rather than their insensitivity.
  • Maintain Respect – Most people who initiate difficult conversations do so because they feel they have a significant stake in the topic or success regarding the issue being discussed. It’s extremely tough to initiate a difficult discussion. A person may already have lost sleep, poured over the written form, and feel vulnerable by exposing a challenge or expressing an opinion they know will create heated response. They do it because they care and believe, like you do, that they are right. The ideal situation is to have the issues put on the table and discussed maturely so the two of you can come to an understanding. Be respectful enough to the relationship to treat the other person with consideration and thoughtfulness.

Wanting to become a leader, striving to excel in any environment or hoping to launch your career will be dependent on the relationships you build and your reactions to difficult situations. If you struggle to handle conflict or difficult discussions in your personal relationships, it is almost a given you will struggle in the same manner in your work environment. Becoming a manager or leader of any kind of business will require you to practice and hone the skill of conflict resolution . Your future career or possible future promotions will be based upon your ability to take on the tough stuff, not the easy and inspired tasks.

Life is not all about what makes us feel good, but rather our attitude and response to all life has to offer, good, bad, challenging, beautiful, difficult, tragic, and amazing! Are you willing to accept all that life has to offer and respond to it maturely with a positive attitude that builds relationships or do you really believe life is supposed to hand you all happiness and ease?