Category: Blogging

A Different Take on Difficult Customers

Call centre helper A few weeks ago I was fortunate to be in London for a few days with my wife, and I met up briefly with Jonty Pearce who edits Call Centre Helper magazine in the UK. Jonty and I enjoyed a follow up conversation over the phone. If you're unfamiliar with his on-line magazine, it's worth bookmarking and making frequent visits.

I loved their current article on how we respond to difficult customers. After writing a few posts of my own on some practical ideas to use with difficult customers, I appreciated Christine Knott's psycho analytical take on the subject. I believe we can learn a lot from looking at the same subject from different perspectives and disciplines.

Christine shares that, when faced with a difficult customer, we often unconsciously revert to one of three "ego states":

Parent ego state: represents the occasions when during conversations we respond in a manner that copies the behaviours and actions of parental or influential figures from our lifetime. Can you recall instances when you’ve heard yourself thinking ‘I sound just like my mother/father/teacher’? You are reflecting and copying their behaviour.

For example, during a conversation a person may display anger by shouting at someone because they learnt from an early age that when the parent shouts the child takes notice.

Adult ego state: represents the occasions when during conversations we draw on our lifetime of experiences as an adult to guide us objectively to a positive outcome. When we are in our Adult state we see, hear and respond to people as they really are, and have an understanding of why they are reacting as they do, rather than accepting at face value the way they choose to communicate.

For example, if during a telephone call our organisation is criticised we would respond with a calm, logical response which aimed at reducing or removing the emotion from the discussion in order to resolve issues in a logical and factual manner. We would adopt this state having learnt throughout our lifetime that shouting, sulking, answering back or other emotional states will detract from our ability to reach a solution, and extend the time needed to reach it.

Child ego state: represents the occasions when during conversations we revert to behaving, feeling and thinking similarly to how we did in childhood.

For example, during a conversation a person who receives criticism may react as they did in their childhood when they were reprimanded. This reaction may take on an emotional form, crying, sulking, answering back or perhaps feeling ashamed or angry.

I'm reflecting on conversations I had yesterday, and I can identify all three ego states in my reactions to different people.

How about you?

QAQnA Top 10 Posts from the Past Two Years

In celebration of two years of blogging, here from the home office in Des Moines, Iowa, are the All-Time Top Ten Posts from QAQnA:

1.       The Geek Squad Posts

2.       Ten Things Your Customer’s Don’t Want to Hear

3.       Internal Customers are Still Customers

4.       Successful Calibration Basics

5.       Upselling Basics

6.       World-Class Service: The Greeting

7.       Your Calls Can Be Monitored to Ensure Service Quality

8.       Zero Tolerance QA Elements

9.       World-Class Service: Managing “Dead Air”

10.   Pros & Cons of 3rd Party QA

QAQnA Celebrates 2nd Blogoversary!

2nd_blogoversaryIt was St. Patrick’s Day in 2006 when I first sat down and wrote my first blog post. It was a free blog on Blogger called "The Call Center QA Guy" and it was sort of an experiment for me and our group. Would this "blogging thing" be a viable marketing tool for our consulting business? A month later, our group moved the blog to Typepad and it became QAQnA (Quality Assessment Questions aNd Answers).

It’s two years later and this is my "State of the Blog" post:

From the beginning, I approached blogging with the mantra "slow and steady wins the race". I have never been out to be #1 in Technorati rankings. I’m not about winning the award for the most posts, the largest number of subscribers or about generating lots of ad revenue. I have tried to post regularly, provide valuable content for readers, and cultivate profitable relationships. To me, "profitable" encompasses relationships that benefit me spiritually, relationally, emotionally, and intellectually as much as it does those that may ultimately benefit me financially.

So where has two years of blogging brought me? For those of you who like to crunch numbers, here are my humble stats – gathered from a combination of Typepad, Feedburner and Google Analytics:

Posts: 382
Comments:  1,000
Page-Views: 83,000*
Absolute Unique Visitors: 65,000*
Percent of Visitors who Return: 25%*
Average time spent at site: 2 minutes 10 seconds*
Links/references to our site from other blogs/sites: 550
Trackbacks: 114 (a linked reference to a particular post within another blog post)
Technorati rank among 4.5 million blogs world-wide: 74,992 (top 2%)
Subscribers: 389


I’m not exactly burning up the blogosphere, but I haven’t been stagnant either.

What’s the Return On Investment (ROI)? That’s always the million dollar question people ask about social media. I sat down and calculated the total amount of money our group has invested in QAQnA. I then made an estimate of the time I’ve spent blogging and translated that into the total amount in billable days, had I charged a client for it. To this day, our group has generated new client relationships directly attributable to the blog and has billed over twice the amount invested in projects.

Of course, that calculation does not include the potential client relationships and written proposals that have not (yet) been accepted. It also does not include the number of speaking engagements or PR opportunities (being quoted in SmartMoney magazine; featured on the cover of The Des Moines Business Record).

What can’t be calculated is the number of friends and networking contacts I’ve gained through the blog. These relationships may never put pennies in my pocket, but they have refreshed my spirit, fed my brain, sharpened me as a person and have a worth that is beyond value.

What have I learned from blogging? Blogging has been a constant reminder and practical illustration of timeless truths:

  • Give and you will receive.
  • If you want to lead you gotta serve.
  • Slow and steady wins the race.
  • The only way to have a friend is to be one.
  • Treat others the way you want to be treated.
  • Be yourself.

A special thanks today to all my fellow bloggers, readers, subscribers, co-workers and associates.

Here’s to the next leg of the journey!

QAQnA Named Among Best Call Center Sites!

Call_centre_helper I just received word today that QAQnA was named in the Top 10 Call Center sites by Call Centre Helper magazine in the U.K. I sent a quick note to the editor, Jonty Pearce, to let him know that we’re humbled by the honor.

A big thank you to all of our readers and subscribers! As we close in on our 2nd Blogaversary, we are commited to continue providing quality content and stimulating conversation about Customer Service, Quality Assessment and Call Center issues.


Take it Easy, Bloggers. Computers Don’t Have On-Star (Yet)!

EmergencyI was alerted to a recent article in the New York Times stating that some bloggers are feeling so much pressure to post that they’re having heart attacks. My friend was concerned for my health (I’m fine, btw!).

I’ve done some research on personality types over the years. I’ve learned that an extrovert is one who actually receives energy from being around people, while an introvert is drained by being around people. I wonder how well that theory applies to on-line community and what kind of effect that has on one’s health? I personally get engergized and jazzed by the community created in the blogosphere, but I imagine others experience it as stressful.

And it may just be that that "blogtreprenuers" put a lot of pressure on themselves, especially those who are trying to go-it-alone and build a business or make a fortune blogging. For some, blogging may be a "post or perish" existence. Yikes! Perish the thought.

That’s not what it should be. In the words my friend Terry Starbucker, "the day it stops being fun is the day I stop blogging."

I had to learn early on that blogging needs to fit my life, not be my life. I may not be an uber-blogger like Liz. I’m not a prodigious poster like Rich. I’m not a noteable networker like Mike. That’s okay. I’m just good ol’ QAQnA Tom. I’m still posting (thought not as much as some). I’m still meeting people (though not as many as others). I’m learning a lot (though not as quickly as some). I’m having an impact (though not as powerfully as others). I’m slowly-steadily gaining readers (though not as instantly as many).

Hey bloglings and veteran bloggers: Don’t put pressure on yourself! Find your pace. Have fun. We don’t want anyone keeling over at their keyboards.

Computers don’t come with On-Star (yet).

Top Ten Posts of 2007

Newyear Call me strange, but I actually like all the end of year features in media about what has happened the previous year. You know, "The Year in Photos," "The Top News Stories of 2007," etc. I’ve noticed that some blogs have been listing their top posts for the year. It’s a great way to learn what’s resonating with readers!

As I head toward the homestretch of my 2nd "blogoversary"(coming in March) I thought it would be interesting to look back at the top 10 posts from QAQnA in 2007. These are based on number of page views provided by Google Analytics.

  1. Apple Gets Closer to Winning Me Over
  2. Dress Code in the Call Center
  3. Comcast Blasted for Outsourcing Sweatshop
  4. More Thoughts for Bloglings: Post Secrets
  5. World-Class Service: Taking Ownership
  6. Makes it Right
  7. Web Tools Can Create Efficiency or Create Problems
  8. Overstock Under-Delivers
  9. Read Rick Reilly’s Column April 30th SI
  10. "Our System Isn’t Set Up for Death"

So what do I learn from looking at the list?

  • It’s not about me. Sometimes the best thing I do with my blog is pass along great information that was written, spoken, or posted by others.
  • While my blog is focused on the niche of customer service, QA and call centers, some of my most popular posts are about blogging. It’s okay to venture out of your niche once in a while. It broadens your audience.
  • People are interested in the experiences I’ve had with companies and products. Referencing them can give a post legs.

Here’s to making’ it great in 2008 (props to Phil)!

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Sally M

Blogging Can Deepen Customer Relationships

Blogging I still get a lot of quizzical looks when I speak to clients about blogging. For those who are not involved in the blogosphere, there seems to be a shroud of mystery about this rather simple form of communication. The mystery leads people to assume that it is complicated. The old paradigm of cob-web developers who charge big bucks to do simple tasks is still cemented in people’s minds.

There has been a great conversation on the blogosphere recently about keeping customers at the top of your mind through communication with bloggers sharing their own thoughts on keeping yourself top-of-mind with your customers.

For me, blogging is a simple, effective way to improve communication with my clients:

  • By listening to what other bloggers are saying, you can provide useful resources to customers and clients. Instead of waiting for your customer to engage you, you can engage them. If I run across a blog post that relates to a client or read of a blogger talking about a client, I immediately forward it. It took me a few seconds to click on "email this post" and enter the client’s email address and a short message, but the client has received important information and knows that I’m thinking about them.
  • By posting on your blog, you develop an archive of useful information that will benefit your customers. If a customer is dealing with an issue that I’ve discussed on my blog, it takes me only a few seconds to pull it up and e-mail it to them. Not only have I helped them, but I’ve introduced them to a valuable resource that they can tap into at any time. I’ve now become a go-to resource for my clients – a resource they can use 24/7/365.

When I first heard about blogging and decided to give it a try, it literally took me 10 minutes to sign up at blogger, set up my blog and write my first post. If you can follow simple directions and write an e-mail you can blog. It’s that simple.

creative commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Sue Richards

Liz Strauss @ Panera!

I had the distinct pleasure and privilege of meeting up with Liz Strauss yesterday at a Panera in downtown Chicago. It was then that  Liz confided in me that it was her first time in a Panera! The Blogga Nostra would be shocked and amazed by this revelation – but I was pleased to provide Liz with her first experience at our favorite blogger meeting place, and get a picture to document the occasion!

I don’t think anyone in the blogosphere needs an introduction to Liz (all you have to do is Google "liz" and you’ll find her at number four or five out of 46 million hits), whose open mic nights have introduced me to and allowed me to connect with many wonderful persons/bloggers like Christine Kane and Chris Cree, just to name a few of my favorites. Liz’s reputation as "the nice one" was fully realized in our time together – and I learned that I could add – "the intelligent one", "the astute one", "the curious one", "the intriguing one", and "the gracious one" to her list of descriptive tag-lines. How amazing that getting to know someone on-line can translate into immediate hugs in person and hours of intense, inspiring conversation.

One of the great things I’ve learned about the blogosphere is that you have the opportunity to connect with incredible people whom you might otherwise never cross paths.

Thanks to Liz, who continues to lead the way for everyone in the blogosphere!