Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Customer Service – Has Frustration ever got the better of you?

Ever had a phone call or face to face confrontation with someone who was in a Customer Service Department where you almost burst with frustration?

I have. I was reduced to tears. Me! I don’t get reduced to tears over stuff like when my phone is going to be hooked up or why my express delivery package never arrived.  But I did. 

There was me working incredibly hard to remain calm, reasonable, logical and what I got in return was prevarication, disinterest and someone who absolutely didn’t listen. This, by the way, was my fifth call to get my problem sorted. And we all have heard stories of people who have made far more calls than I did to try to get some form of satisfaction.

Why, oh why, is it so hard for some organisations to offer the fundamentals of good customer service? 

Clearly, I’ve got a real bee in my bonnet and I will confess that when it comes to customer service I’m like a one-woman vigilante, spotting poor service from 100 paces.

The thing is that good customer service isn’t hard to achieve.

Let’s start with some basics to think about for yourself or your people who have to deal with customers. 

Be a real person talking to another real person.

Your customers will listen to what you have to say if they, in turn, feel listened to.

It’s quite off-putting to know that people are reading from a script or are using pat answers.  I know I don’t like it when I’m on the receiving end of over formality which simply distances me from whoever I’m speaking to. 

Equally, I don’t want over-familiarity (I absolutely hate it when someone calls me Jo – not my name) which is nearly as off-putting as the script reader. False cheeriness will not endear me to anyone when I’m looking for resolution of a problem.

No one should need to put on a ‘Customer Service persona’.  Pleasant, friendly and welcoming are all excellent qualities that indicate you’re talking to a real person.

The empathy thing

I’d say that every list of top tips on great customer service talks about empathy.  So why is that? Because it makes my first point about being a real person more possible. It’s hard to genuinely relate to another person if you can’t imagine what they might be going through.  You’re never going to feel exactly as they do, but with empathy you can certainly get a fair insight for what’s going on for them. 

Really listening to what the customer is saying and then reflecting back what you’ve heard and letting them know you understand all add up to authentic empathy.  People respond to empathy are far more likely to calm down and be less stressed when they realise the person they are talking to isn’t just trying to get rid of them but cares about resolving the problem.

Resolving the problem

Once you have established a connection then you can get down to discussing the options that will resolve the issue. Not every problem has a straight-forward resolution – wouldn’t that be great.  However, when you establish empathy and demonstrate that you care about this real person with their real problem you are far more likely to get the customer to help find a solution instead of them berating you for not getting it sorted asap.

An extra bonus is that when someone is treated really well, they are more tolerant of hold-ups and delays and even when you mess up. I’ve said before that a sign that you are providing great customer service is that your customers will forgive you for your mistakes.

Another sure-fire way to connect with your customers is to show flexibility. You can usually tell when someone is ‘taking the piss’ and trying one on; most of the time though, your customers just want to get to the bottom of what the problem is and to get it sorted. The more flexible you can be, the better. Sticking to rigid rules says to the customer that the deck is definitely stacked against them.

It really isn’t rocket science

Offering great customer service isn’t difficult: ditch the script, remember you’re both real people, treat your customers with excellent listening skills and empathy, show flexibility and work with your customers to resolve their issues. If you can create an environment where this is the way customers are treated, you will be a customer service master.

Check out Impact Factory’s Customer Service courses.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Good leaders or a leadership culture: What makes an organisation thrive?

We need leaders. Most people would rather be led than lead and that’s just fine, especially if you have a leader who is inspiring, creates trust, sees the big picture and yet has an awareness of the small stuff too.

People often need guidance and direction and also feedback that they’re on the right track and that the leader has their back.

At the same time, there has been a lot more talk in the corporate and training worlds about developing leadership throughout an entire organisation and how much more effective that is than simply developing individuals.

On our Leadership Development courses professionals come along with a range of levels and requirements: some want a refresh of their skills, some have just been appointed to new roles, some need to take a good hard look at their leadership style and how they communicate their vision, some even feel a bit of a fraud, as though they aren’t really leaders and are going to be found out any day now. 

We believe that people can be developed into better more motivating leaders prepared to make a more effective impact on their organisations. 

As far as we’re concerned, there doesn’t need to be an ‘either or’ but rather, we ask the question, what would most benefit your organisation? And why not do both: develop individuals in leadership roles and spread a leadership culture to everyone in the business.

What do you mean by a leadership culture I hear you ask?

Take a look at your own organisation. Has everyone ‘bought in’ to the ethos of the business and feel that their contribution is appreciated and acknowledged?  Are people trusted at all levels within the company? Are people able to challenge the status quo, make suggestions for change and given responsibility for actualising some of their ideas? Are staff members encouraged to initiate projects and feel they can influence the outcome of decisions?

A leadership culture can exist equally well in a strict hierarchy or a flat structure as long as the environment is supportive and fosters the concept that everyone, whatever their status in the organisation, has a valid voice.  This does mean that people will question how things are done and will offer suggestions that may, at first glance, not exactly fit.

So how do you create a leadership culture? That brings us back to leaders, doesn’t it? If you already have a leadership culture, then the key is to maintain and develop it and ensure it keeps bubbling along with commitment and enthusiasm. 

If it doesn’t already exist, then someone, or more than one someone has to introduce its benefits both to the powers that be (if they aren’t themselves the powers that be) and the organisation as a whole.

And there couldn’t be a better time than right now to take the ball and run with it because of the uncertainty and volatility that exists in the world today. Old ways of doing things may simply not work anymore nor will completely top-down structures necessarily be responsive to the changing business climate we are experiencing.

Organisations may indeed have to ‘turn on a dime’ and the more involved, trusted and creative the workplace is, the better any organisation will be to handle its future in a valuable, productive and considered way.

Check out Impact Factory’s Leadership Development, Personal Impact, Line Management and Five Day Elite courses - Communicate with Impact and Presentation withImpact.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Presentation Skills Top Tips to Overcome Fear

“No, no! Please don’t ask me to make a presentation.  I can’t do it; I get too scared; I’ll faint; I won’t be able to breathe.”

Now, maybe you don’t have this extreme reaction when you’re asked to present, but perhaps your initial reaction is like a rabbit in the headlights and you mentally leap to how to avoid it or why you’re the wrong person or just how awful you’re going to feel.

All common responses; all completely understandable.

Why they’re understandable is that for most people standing in front of a group of people or sitting around a table presenting is unnatural, exposing, awkward and utterly nerve-wracking.  It’s also why things like daises and PowerPoint and iPads are used so extensively – because they’re something to hide behind.

For a lot of people, they think there’s nothing they can do but endure and get through it.

If you’re one of those people, here are some things you can do before you make your next presentation and of course, when you’re actually in front of an audience.


  1. Do your homework.  Too often I’ve seen people who felt they were too busy to prepare.  I cannot emphasise enough just how important it is to be well-prepared.  You don’t have to know every nuance of your material but you have to know enough to be able to reassure people you know what you’re talking about and how to direct people to learn more. 

  1. Someone else’s slide deck.  If you are expected to present someone else’s slide-deck, then make enough notes in your own voice so when you present it sounds like you, rather than presenting something that doesn’t quite fit.

  1. Avoid trying to wing it.  Even if you’re well-prepared, you still need to rehearse and rehearse again.  And again.  If you use PowerPoint, then you absolutely have to learn how to make it work for you.

  1. Visit the space.  There’s nothing like really knowing the arena you’ll be presenting in. Sometimes that may not be possible, but when it is, have a walk around the space, sit at the table, get a feel for the room’s vibes.  Walking into an unknown place can be very unnerving, so getting to know it ahead of time will serve you very well.

  1. Make the space your own.  Not only is it important to get a feel for the space, it’s also good to put your own stamp on it, even if all that means is shifting some chairs, moving a table, leaving brochures for people to take – really anything that shows you are connected to the space.  For your audience, on an unconscious level, the more you ‘own’ the space, the more credibility it gives you.


  1. Breathe.  That seems pretty obvious, but when your nerves are on over-drive, your breathing tends to be shallow which in turn can make you feel as though you aren’t getting enough oxygen.  Before you start it really helps to take three or four deep slow breaths (note: if you take fast breaths you could well become dizzy and light-headed).

  1. Jump around.  Not on stage but before hand you could jump up and down a few times or if that’s not possible, do some stretches.  Even if you are sitting, you can still stretch your arms above your head, or turn your head slowly from side to side, shrug your shoulders; pretty much anything that will get you settled into your body.

  1. Take your time.  When you’re scared, it’s easy to rush.  By slowing things down right at the beginning, you will come across as thoughtful and considered.  If this is indeed the first time in the space, if there’s any furniture or props (a dais, a table, a carafe of water, a computer or tablet, etc.) move them, handle them, place them where you want them.

  1. Eye contact.  Again, when your nerves are strung as taut as they can stretch, it’s easy to stay buried in your notes or keep your eyes focused on your slides.  Making eye contact with at least a few members of your audience is a good way to settle some of those nerves.  Seek out a couple of friendly faces and return to them throughout the presentation.

  1. Sips of water.  Think of taking sips of water as mini-breaks where you can gather your thoughts, look at your audience and move a bit. Moving around is really important if you find yourself becoming rooted to the spot.  Not only will it help you breathe better, it will get your blood moving as well.

  1. Enjoy yourself??  Believe it or not, once your nerves are under manageable control, presenting can be an exciting, energising and engaging way to communicate with others.

Follow even just a few of these tips and you’ll feel a lot more like the king of the jungle than that poor, frightened rabbit.

Check out Impact Factory’s range of Presentation Skills courses:  Presentation Skills One and Two Day, AdvancedPresentation, Public Speaking and our Elite Five Day Presentation with Impact.