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Happy Employees Means Happy Customers: Q&A with Dave Murray

Last updated August 12, 2014

There’s no doubt about it—training employees to create happy customers by providing great service is critical. What’s equally important, though often overlooked, is making sure employees provide that same level of great service to their internal customers and coworkers as well. Dave Murray of The DiJulius Group is ready and willing to share how. He’ll be joining us for a free 1-hour webinar on Tuesday, August 19th at 10am PT, where he’ll walk through simple tips and tricks that employees at all levels can put into practice today to make their team members feel both valued and important, and create happy customers.

Prior to joining The DiJulius Group, you headed up the customer service operations with the Cleveland Indians. Can you share an experience you had while working there that has helped shape your view of what customer service should be?
Back in the fall of 2007, the Indians had just completed a deep run in the postseason, and we as an organization decided that we wanted to really focus on our service levels for our year-round Fan Services Team. Fan Services touched our customers in several ways: they were the inbound call center, answered all emails, and typically spoke with our best customers the most. We wanted to make sure that we were on top of our game entering the next season.

After much pre-work, we decided our initial focus for this particular group would be a Customer Experience Cycle for inbound calls. I felt this workshop would not only be educational, but also a great team-building experience. So much so, we actually scheduled it from 6pm to 10pm on a Friday evening while the ball club was away so that all team members could attend.

When the evening came, I was nervous that employees would resent giving up a Friday night, and that bad moods would abound—but I was never so happy to be so wrong. The thing that impressed me the most was the participation, engagement, and excitement on all levels. The folks I thought might be ready to quit were as engaged as my go-to folks. Great ideas were flowing from everyone and everywhere. There was a true feeling of appreciation for our customers and our own team in that room that evening.

Here’s the take-away, and why this moment shaped the way I view service: the workshop showed me that all employees want to help our customers, but we need to show them how. No one really wants to hide behind policy, disappoint customers, and get yelled at, but all too often that is seen as part of the job. We, as managers, need to provide the roadmap for how we want our customers to be treated – and we can never expect our employees to get it right without this knowledge.

Do you have any tips for keeping your cool when dealing with an upset or angry customer?
I’ve actually been praised by a few former employers for my ability to keep my cool when dealing with angry customers. Here are a few of the tips I use:

First, I start with empathy. I have learned over time that if I’m able to see the issue from the customer’s shoes, I will much more easily and willingly advocate for them. They are no longer the fifth person with this issue this hour, but instead a fellow human being in need of my expertise and experience to resolve an issue. Empathy, to me, is the most important tool in providing world-class service.

The second thing I do is to issue myself a challenge—find a way to smile. I want to find an appropriate place for me to smile, and hopefully get a smile from the customer, as well (and yes, this goes for the phone too!) Even if the ideal situation does not exist, a smile can always make things better.

What’s the best customer service you’ve ever experienced?
It actually doesn’t take much to impress me when it comes to service. What I appreciate is someone who looks to make a connection with me. I appreciate an employee who looks beyond just the transaction at hand, and does so sincerely. When I am with my kids, I appreciate when their presence is acknowledged along with mine. After all, they’re very often paying customers too! Focusing on the little things can go such a long way in turning a mundane transaction into a pleasant experience.

I am most amazed at how many missed opportunities I see on a daily basis. Whether it is happening to me, or a person in line near me, almost everyday I see a service experience that could have been so much better with just one or two small changes. Even worse, a ball gets dropped (which will happen to all of us) and no one picks it up and runs with it. Going back to my first answer, WE as managers, owners, employers, need to make sure our teams know how to address these issues…and that we want them to do so.