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Forward on Reverse ... Reverse Mortgagee Letter 2008-38: 20 years late …

National Mortgage Professional
Mar 10, 2009

The Telephone Doctor: Direct link between low consumer confidence and poor customer serviceNancy Friedmancustomer service, consumer confidence, phone manners, customer relations For years, The Telephone Doctor saying has been: "We will pay more for better service." And today, during these challenging times, it means even more. Fact: There is a direct correlation between consumer confidence and how you treat your customers. This is a true story. Picture this: We're in Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. Some stores have already closed & vacant areas abound. We're hungry; there are a few restaurants available to us. None are terribly crowded. We sit down in a bar/grill, hungry, thirsty and tiredalthough not necessarily in that order. It's not that busy. The waitress finally came after a 10-min. wait, and that was after we got up and asked the hostess if our table came with a waitressshe didnt catch the humor. Finally, with water and menus, she walks up to the table and asks: "Take your order?" "Yes," we say. "Diet Dr. Pepper, please," I say, and as I start to continue, she interrupts. "We don't have Dr. Pepper." "Okay," I say. "What do you have?" "Diet Pepsi," she explains. "Okay. Then, I'll have a Diet Pepsi," and continue, "and a grilled chicken sandwich, please, on whole wheat bread." "We don't have whole wheat bread," she says in the same tone as the Dr. Pepper line. "Okay. Let me double check the menu." Quickly, I tell her, "How about the burgerno bun and no chips." "How do you want that cooked?" she asks. "Medium rare please," I say. And in all seriousness, she says to me, "We only cook them well done." I didn't have the heart to say, "Then why the heck did you ask me?" Normally, we'd laugh our way through this type of situation, but neither Dick, my husband, or I felt like we wanted to spend any more time or money in this bar/grill, which we have now named "The No Restaurant." Our eyes locked. We knew exactly what we were going to doyes, we went elsewhere. Since I wrote this article, several other situations have happened to make me spend my money elsewhere. What about you? Spank them with your wallet, we say. It's a better retaliation than getting angry and yelling. I can pretty well guarantee you that there had been no customer service training in that bar/grill. No alternatives were suggested. No apologies were made. And we felt as though the waitress was glad to see us leaveone less table to handle. There is a definite correlation between consumer confidence and customer service training. No doubt about it. When we feel secure, helped, wanted, needed and appreciated, that is where we spend our money. Think Nordstrom, Disney and your five-star restaurants. These and many other companies place high value on customer service training. Fact: When a consumer walks into a location or calls on the phone, they are looking for confidence from the person they're talking with at that time. That confidence comes from product and customer service training. Increasing consumer confidence will help the economy. Increasing consumer confidence will help businesses both large and small. Increasing consumer confidence will help the employee. Increasing consumer confidence is a benefit the business gives the consumer. What are you doing to increase consumer confidence in your customers? "Be nice" is not customer service training. Everyone thinks they're nice. And we know everyone isn't nice. Customer service training is tangible, explainable, useful, understandable and actionable. Be nice is something your mother might tell you when you're five years old. It's not customer service training. Some folks, sadly, don't know how to "be nice." If they did, everyone would be nice. And, as said before, we know everyone isn't nice. Here are five simple, helpful tips based on The Telephone Doctor's Customer Service Training. They are simple, yet effective techniques that will increase consumer confidence and help this economy. 1. Offer alternatives The product is out-of-stock? You don't have what I need? Don't let me walk. Offer some alternatives. Give me choices. Keep me interested. Don't let me go. It's so easy just to hang up or walk out and go somewhere else. Give me a reason to stay with you. 2. Smile and be friendly Yeah, if there was ever a time to do that, it's now. And for those of you who don't feel like smiling, do it anyway! Watch what happens. As for being friendly, that's more than just: "Can I help you?" It's saying something proactive, something easy, or something simple. Maybe just a "good to have you here today" or "nice to talk with you" will do. Or even that great phrase, "Thank you for your business." 3. Be a double checker Most salespeople know that no is not forever. It gives a whole other meaning to consumer confidence when I'm told, "The last time I checked, we were out of the widgets, but let me double check, just in case I missed them or new ones came in." Double-checking is a great confidence builder! Immediate nos are deflators. 4. Ask questions We don't need to answer a question as soon as it's asked. We can ask one to gain more information. The more information you have, the easier it becomes to increase consumer confidence. Determine the needs of your customer before trying to 'sell' them. Besides, asking questions shows you're interested, and that in itself can increase consumer confidence. 5. Do something different Did you write a thank you note? Did you call to see how your customer is doing? Did you personally thank them for their business or even coming to your location, even if there was no purchase? There is a mass of gray average out there. Those are the people who do nothing to increase consumer confidence. Decide for yourself, and for your business, if you want to be in that mass of gray average or if you'd like to raise the bar and be an island of excellence in an ocean of mediocrity. The more we can increase consumer confidence, the better off we will be! Nancy Friedman, "The Telephone Doctor," has spoken at the past four consecutive National Association of Mortgage Brokers Annual Conventions and is president of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training in St. Louis, Mo. Nancy is a frequent speaker at meetings and conferences worldwide. She may be reached at (314) 291-1012 or visit
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