Operations: Anticipate, Stimulate, Welcome, Recover

Source: http://www.conversationagent.com/2009/04/anticipate-stimulate-welcome-recover.html

Rules of Thumb The title of this post comes from advice Alan Webber gives in his new book Rules of Thumb in the chapter if you want to change the game, change customer expectations. At the root of this conversation is the company that acts human, again.

In many cases, this means getting the people part right. Does your organization have the right managers in the right functions?

At the root of problems with customer conversation is often a mismatch between what the company thinks is important to customers and what you on the other end of the phone consider a priority.

The good news – if you could call it such – is that the bar today is so low that you have a shot at making things right.

Alan talks about these four ways to do that:


This doesn’t mean you learn to read minds. If you’ve ever waited tables, or worked in a service role directly connected with the public, like a bar, or a coffee shop, you will know what this means in the first person. During high school I worked summers in an ice cream shop. You know, those fancy places where they sell gelato in many delicious flavors in Italy.

When you spend 5-6 hours at a stretch serving people in the same place for several weeks, you learn to read expressions. You can tell those who already know what they want from those who need a little time to decide. Groups were the best.

You could see peer pressure and test behavioral theories – and your patience with change of minds – on the spot. There’s nothing more social than food, nothing more useful to customer service than learning to anticipate desires and needs.

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Bottom line – anticipation shows your customers you’re thinking about them ahead of time.


How do you stimulate feedback? Tell the truth, do you look forward to filling out and responding to surveys? They are one of the most invasive forms of one-way communication. From the exit interview to the “how did we do?” after your car has been serviced, surveys seem to be the only time a company explicitly requests your opinion – when you’re on your way out.

What if instead of having surveys we had conversations? Would the attrition rate improve? We talked about surveys at Fast Company a year or so ago. What is lacking in the traditional survey is one very important component – the feedback loop. Do your customers know that you’re listening? “Thank you for your feedback” is the bare-bone minimum and possibly an excuse for not taking the time to have a conversation.

The benefit of asking for feedback is increased engagement. The risk is disappointment. Can you create concierge-like service for your customers?


Any business today should be in the business to wow people, make them feel welcome. I was talking with someone in the service industry not long ago and he shared with me that sometimes he feels like the company he works at behaves like a utility. People show up 9-5 to do the bare minimum, and go out of their way not to have to talk to customers.

Why did utility companies get such a reputation? Probably because in some instances they corner the market on their specific service. Remember though that in a long tail economy, someone else will figure out how to do that job sooner or later, and your customers will disappear overnight.

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Search for Ritz-Carlton and customer service and you will see plenty of positive entries about follow through and making people feel welcome. It’s not that difficult, and if you actually listen to them, your customers will tell you how to show you care.


We all make mistakes, companies are made of people, they make mistakes, too. The way you come back from mistakes, your efforts at service recovery, will determine whether customers will come back to you or not.

While you can improve your company reputation online, remember to address any issues you have directly and swiftly. Be genuine and you will have the opportunity to make your customer feel better, thus becoming more effective at establishing a closer connection.

How do you recover from a bad attitude in customer service? Join the conversation at Fast Company Expert blog and find out why you should ask Dave.