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Monday, January 30, 2012

Customer service, Zingerman's style

Our parent organization, the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research (ISR), is working with the training component of the Zingerman's family of companies - ZingTrain - to build a customized training module for use at the ISR.  The focus is, of course, on delivering excellent customer service, and I had the opportunity to attend a session led by two ZingTrain consultants.

I don't want to give away too much of their "secret sauce" but I found their interaction with the group engaging and informative.  I almost used the word "presentation" but that feels wrong; it really isn't a monologue whatsoever.  And there are no Powerpoint slides in sight.  As you might expect the ZingTrain folks shared some tips and techniques about how they build the right culture and right processes.  And they brought goodies from the Bakehouse!

I started to think about some of the tips and techniques I've learned to use in the technology business over the years.  In this realm an awful lot of the interaction with others takes place electronically, and so one doesn't have all of the visual cues and tonal cues one normally can use in conversation.  For example, how do you let someone know that if the solution you have offered does not work, you want and expect the person to let you know so that you can keep trying to solve the problem?  How do you let them know that you will own the problem until it is solved?

One easy way, of course, is to be explicit.
If that doesn't do the trick, please let me know.  I have a few other ideas we can try.
By asking the person to return and letting them know that "we" can try some other things, it shows that one is engaged.  It lets them know that this is the start of a conversation, not the end of one.

On the other hand, I will often see people write this instead:
Hope this helps.
I know people often write this with the best of intentions, but consider how people may read it.  It sounds like the conversation is over.  "Here, try this.  I hope it works.  But if it doesn't, it's your problem, not mine." There's no invitation to come back for more advice, more assistance, more analysis if the issue hasn't been resolved.

And that's my customer service tip for the month.

Hope it helps. :-)


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