customer service

Tell a Story to Land the Job 0

Job Interview landed by telling success story  Employers hire to solve their problems. They advertise job postings and list a series of requirements they expect candidates to possess. Companies reduce the pile of applicants to those who exhibit the closest fit to their posted job description. Those that remain are interviewed to see how they would fit in.

So how do you stand out and be remembered?  The answer is, you tell a story.

For example, most positions have some interaction with customers, or clients, or guests. The question then is “how do you handle customers?”

You could say “I’m a people person!” Now my dog is a people person, but I wouldn’t hire him for a customer service position. But what if I told a story that showed; a problem a customer had, what I did to solve the problem, and how it turned out? Would you remember me? Let’s see.

I was the store manager for Best Products in a small rural town south of Richmond, Virginia. I was at home about 8:30 PM on Christmas Eve. The phone rings and it is a customer who had been in the store that afternoon to purchase a battery operated ride on car for his seven-year old son for Christmas. He is calling because as he is putting it together, he sees that the battery is missing from the package.

Now he’s almost frantic asking me what am I going to do about it? Well, first, I don’t know how he got my number and I’m thinking it might be a setup, but it is Christmas Eve. So what I did was tell him I would meet him at the store and we would find the battery. Then I called my assistant manager, just in case it was a setup.

I arrived at the store and we met the customer. We opened another box and got the battery he needed. Several days later, he came into the store and thanked me for ‘saving his son’s Christmas.”

Now if you had just interviewed two candidates and one told you he was a “people person” and the other told the Christmas Eve story, which one would you remember? When your Boss asked who you will pick for the job, which candidate would you be able to justify hiring, the people person or the Christmas Eve manager?

Remember, stand out by telling stories and land the job of your dreams.

3 Ways Job Seekers Tell Stories During An Interview 3

What kind of story are you telling?

The more I speak with job seekers, the more I am certain that those who are getting hired tell a better story. They have taken the time to think about their past experiences and have practiced telling specific stories about specific actions they have taken.  They can tell an employer what the problem was, what action they took to solve the problem and how it came out.

During an interview for any position that involves interaction with customers, you will most likely be asked something like “tell me about a time when you had a problem customer; what was the problem, what did you do to resolve the problem and how did it turn out”?

Here are three ways people answer:

1. Having interviewed several thousand applications, almost two-thirds  will gloss over their answer. It’s as if they are taking a few experiences and mashing them together, then talking in general terms about it. There is a generic “someone was upset, I called a manager, I think it was ok”. Even getting that out of many applicants is a struggle. Sadly, many applicant stand out because they can’t tell a simple story of how they helped someone.

2. Without a magic potion that will make the applicant’s nose grow with each “untruth” they tell, an interviewer can never be 100% certain if the applicant is telling the truth. Yet some applicants feel the need to embellish their story in order to make themselves look better on paper or sound better in an interview. Most experienced hiring managers will understand what is going on. Just be yourself, sincere, honest and enthusiastic. Making up stories is never the right answer.

3. Having taken the time to think about your job experiences before the interview and the ways you have helped customers, you pick the experience that most closely fits the job you are applying for and you simply relate the story like you would tell it to a family member.

“It was Christmas Eve, I was the store manager for Best Products in Hopewell, VA. My phone rang about 8:30 PM and it was a customer who had bought a large ride on car for his 4-year-old son for Christmas. He was putting it together and found the battery was missing. He was very upset that his son’s Christmas was going to be ruined.

I told him to meet me at the store and I would get him the battery. I called my assistant manager to meet me there, just in case it was a setup (it wasn’t) and I went to the store. We found the battery the man needed and his son’s Christmas was saved.”

While you may not have solved a customer problem on Christmas Eve, I am certain you have gone out of your way to take care of a customer issue. Maybe you dropped off a set of plans on your way home, you called someone and got a needed repair done quicker or  you beat a deadline for a customer and made him or her look good as a result.

Take a few minutes right now and go back through your customer service experiences. Then you will be ready for your next interview, standing out for the right reasons. You will set yourself ahead of two-thirds of the applicants just by this one idea.

And if you feel like sharing, I know we would all benefit from hearing your personal “Christmas Eve” story.

My Garbage Man said “I’ll check with my office” 0

 

“I’ll check with my office”

It wasn’t just that he said “I’ll check with my office” when I asked him about a special pick up, it was the way he said it. If my eyes had been closed I would have pictured him in a three-piece suit standing at one end of a large conference table with Board Members and Senior Executives all waiting to hear what he had to say next.

And it wasn’t forced. His comment was as natural as if he was asking you to pass the butter at the dinner table. His answer was also sincere. He really wanted to take care of my needs, as the customer, and I walked away from our interaction just knowing that he would “check with his office” and I would get the extra pick up I needed.

I once had an employee leave because he felt he was being asked to do something that was beneath him. He wasn’t able to project, even to himself, an attitude that says “I’m proud of myself and I take pride in what I do.” He got lost in what he perceived the “status of the job” to be.

Having a positive attitude about yourself works in your favor in so many ways. Here are just a few:

  • You want a promotion at work – If your attitude is that you already have the job and your actions show you are doing the job, you will be in the right place when the opening occurs
  • You are interviewing for a job – Your positive, I can solve your problem, attitude will strike a chord during the interview. Combine that with some specific examples of how you have solved problems in the past and you are on your way to hearing “when can you start”

It has been over 10 years since my garbage man told me “I’ll check with my office”. He made a huge impression that day. Think about your attitude, adjust as necessary and let me know how this works for you.

 

Management in Unexpected Places 0

Thousands of people have gathered on the Camden waterfront to witness Red Bull’s Fulgtag, where contestants launch their homemade flying machines off of a 30′ tall runway attached to a barge anchored in the Delaware river. From the website promoting the event, to the local radio show celebrities who were judging the efforts, anyone could tell that this was a well organized event. The promoters were very clear in all of the advertising that they were not allowing any outside food or beverages (with the exception of unopened bottles of water) into the viewing area. This created a captive audience for the group’s $5.00 hotdogs and $6.00 beers. But as my son and I were watching one of the crafts attempt their flight, I noticed a business transaction taking place right beside me in the crowd.

 

The “Manager” of the operation was wearing a purple drawstring backpack. He casually approached his potential customer in the crowd and happened to ask, almost in passing, if the two men would be interested in purchasing a cold beer for $3.00. There was initial interest, followed by negotiation. The customer’s friend was very interested also and would the manager consider selling 2 beers for $5.00. As it was close to the end of the event, the “manager” said yes. As the manager was speaking with his customers, I noticed that he had two employees with him. Once the customer was interested, the managers’ employees backed up to the group, with each employee facing out towards the crowd. The employees never looked at the manager or acknowledged the customers. As the transaction took place, their job appeared to be that of making sure the manager was working safe. I pictured the 3 holding practice in someone’s garage where they covered evacuation drills in the event that their customers became disruptive or an outside entity attempted to interrupt their operation.

 

After the transaction was complete the customer said” I wish you had been here earlier” to which the manager said, “we’ve been here all day”. So the manager and his employees must have put together a business model in advance, had worked out the logistics of supplying their operation in spite of obstacles at the point of entry to the event and had planned out in advance evacuation routes in case their business was discovered by the original operations managers or local authorities. This was necessary because I had to assume that they had not secured the necessary permits to operate such a business.

 

Now I’m not passing judgment either way on what they did, but in the final analysis, price controls and regulations created an underground market. A group of entrepreneur’s recognized that opportunity and capitalized on it after weighing the costs and the benefits. Their conclusion was the potential costs (possible fines and a night in the Camden jail) were offset by the chance to make some money. I imagine they saw their company providing a service. So next time you are out and about, keep your eyes open and you will probably see your own examples of management in unexpected places.

 

You Never Know 0

All businesses have customers. Without someone purchasing the services or products that your company produces, there is no profit and no incentive to continue. Even in the non-profit sector, there are end users of the services provided by the organization and if you do not meet the needs of that group, they will leave you and find someone who will fulfill their needs.

Every day my managers, employees and I interact with our customers and work to give them the best possible experience. We give of our time willingly, proud of the products that we offer and proud of the company we work for. And because our company does a lot of business around the world and has a great reputation, we see a huge number of customers every day. So there was little time to think that what I did or said that Tuesday morning at 10:17AM would come back to me five months later.

It started out the same as any Tuesday. We opened the door a little early and made sure that everyone was ready to greet the customers. Then it was, “do you carry this?” and ” I saw this product in another of your locations, do you have it?, and “several months ago you had this product, I don’t remember the name, but it was really good, are you getting it again?” At 10:17AM I was making my way from the back of the store. As I passed the register area, I noticed a man standing near the entrance to the office. I approached him and asked if I could help.

He explained that he had purchased a product from one of our other locations and it was defective. He had returned it to that location only to find out they did not have any more. Really wanting the same item, he had asked if any other location had the same item and was told that my location stocked the product. So he packed a lunch and drove the 40 minutes from his home to see us. After researching what he had purchased, it turned out that we did not have any more of this item. Not wanting to disappoint this customer any further, our team found a slightly more expensive item that was in stock that would meet his needs. So we rang him up at the same price he had paid for the original item, loaded him up and away he went. The customer left happy and that’s the end of story. Or so I thought.

Five months later, a co-worker from another location, Debbie was riding the New Jersey Coast Line train into New York to see a matinee performance of a Broadway musical. Debbie was seated with five other employees talking about the show they were going to see, about their families and just generally making conversation as the train approached the tunnel into New York. Seated across the aisle was the customer I worked with 5 months ago. He was quietly listening to the conversation my co-worker and her employees were having. When someone in the group mentioned the name of our business, this customer’s ears perked up. He turned to Debbie and said “It sounds like you work for “my favorite store”".  She said, “yes”. He then asked “do you know Joel?” “Yes” was the reply, “we have worked in the same building in the past and I have known him for years”.  So he related to her his feelings about that day 5 months ago.

He told her that by the time I spoke with him he had been disappointed 3 times. He told Debbie that at the very moment I had approached him, he was actually preparing a very strongly worded complaint letter in his head and had every intention of never purchasing anything from our company again. But, by the time he left my location, we turned his thoughts around 180 degrees. He told my co-worker that he is now our biggest fan. We took a frustrating problem for him and turned it into a positive experience. By taking the time to hear him out, seeing what he needed and then meeting that need, we unknowingly won a loyal customer.

The most important lesson from this is that you never know. What my team and I did, we do all the time. I can’t remember thinking I’ve got to do something special or that I may run into him in the future, it was just taking care of the customer. When I  spoke to the customer on that Tuesday morning, he did not say anything about how frustrated he was or that he was thinking of boycotting our company. He was just a customer with a problem and we set about solving it. Having the positive ending come back to us 5 months later through a random meeting on a train going into “the city” was just proof that every encounter with your customers is the most important.

Most of the time you will never even be aware of the impact you have had on your customers. But every so often, the hand of fate gives you a glimpse. So do the right thing at every opportunity because… you never know!

Is your resume a list of your responsibilities? Then it’s wrong 0

Think about that for a moment. Anyone can make a list of job titles they have held, committees they have been on, even positions on local boards or volunteer agencies. But the biggest question to a future employer is what did you actually accomplish?

If you can’t get that across, it doesn’t matter how important the positions were you held. In order to make a lasting impression on an interviewer, they need to understand that you get things done. That you get things done in an efficient manner. That you get things done on schedule or even ahead of schedule.

And after you say that, then you must give a specific example of a problem at your last job, what action you took and most importantly, how the outcome was far better than your Boss had ever expected. The interviewer will remember that specific example and remember you.

As an example, when asked about your customer service skills you could say, “I’m a people person”. Or you could say:

As the Store Manager for Best Products in Hopewell, Va., I received a call one Christmas Eve from a customer about a ride-on toy he had purchased for his 6 year old son for Christmas. It was 8 PM when he noticed that the specialized battery for the car was not in the box. So I told him I would meet him at the store and we would get him the battery. I called my Assistant Manager (just in case this was a set-up) and I headed down to the store. We found the battery in another box and I sent him home, relieved that Christmas wasn’t ruined for his little boy.

Now that is a true story and it sticks much better than “I’m a people person”.

So as you prepare or review your resume, think about what you have specifically accomplished and the results you have produced. Then write that and be sure to share that in the interview. The results will amaze you.