Nancy Friedman is one of the top customer service and employee relations experts in the North America. She believes that most sales are lost due to poor service rather than a mediocre product. So it makes a lot of sense to coach customer service to everyone who interacts with customers.
In this interview, she tells us how she started off as customer service expert through a delightful accident rather than a strategic plan.
Tell us about your journey
My journey was a delightful accident.
I was working with my husband in his advertising business and had to call our insurance agent.
He was out of the office, but the treatment I received from his staff was shocking.
The staff at the insurance agent’s office where we had several policies was so bad. Couldn’t do this, couldn’t do that – everything was negative.
So, I called the agent and canceled all my policies. It was no small incident since we were his most significant client.
He was floored. Why? He asked.
What did he do wrong? I told him he was never there, that I always dealt with his staff, and they were terrible.
He asked me to come over to his office and explain to his employees what they were doing wrong.
It was hard to fathom these supposedly “people-oriented” folks who were trying to help client’s day in and day out were so bad at customer relations.
I spent about 30 minutes explaining how I should have been treated. What they should have said and done. They wrote as fast as I was talking.
A few days later, a newspaper publisher friend of mine heard about what I had done and asked me to show his employees what they should be doing when dealing with the public.
He felt they were losing ads and subscribers, and customer relations was a part of the problem.
So, I flew to Davenport, Iowa and delivered four programs for the staff.
After the last program, the editor of the newspaper paper came up and thanked me.
He said, “Thank you so much…. You’re super. You’re like the doctor. In fact, I’m going to call you the Telephone Doctor.”
I came home and told my husband, Hey Dick, “Someone called me the Telephone Doctor. What should we do?”
He said, “Let’s go get it registered… We’re going to have some fun.”
And fun we’ve been having, traveling around the country helping companies communicate better with their customers.
The niche was chosen for me. It fell right into my lap.
My motivation was realizing that I could positively touch people while making them smile and laugh.
My mantra has been “More business is lost due to poor service and poor treatment than a poor product.”
What was your biggest challenge as a coach?
I don’t see myself as a coach as much as someone who has ideas that can help others be better in their communications.
I don’t do one-on-one coaching.
I speak at major conferences and corporate meetings, spreading information and life lessons about how to provide better customer service.
Those that take the information to heart and use it become better at customer relations and see a spike in their sales.
You only need to have one poor customer service experience, and you’ll agree, we’re needed all over.
When we lose a customer, they don’t go up to the company in the sky; they go to the competition.
Did you take any specific training to be a trainer?
Well, of course, trainers need to have expertise in their field.
All of us have experienced terrible customer service fails from in-store salespeople who have no knowledge of the products they sell to the automated phone systems that make you want to hang-up.
I’ve taken all those life-long customer relations fails and turned it into a thriving business.
I also think it also helps to be entertaining.
It’s important to not only provide knowledge but entertain the group, so they remember your message.
My past professional theater career has been a massive factor in my success and why I’m continually asked to train small and mid-sized businesses and associations.
How do you acquire clients?
While I love the classroom training I do with major companies, my professional speaking bookings are primarily due to referrals and repeat business.
Over many years, I’ve written many books and have appeared on TV programs like Oprah, CNN, and The Today Show.
All that media coverage has had a positive snowball effect, raising not only my awareness but influencing business managers to seek help and improve their customer relations with the people who buy their products.
What is your pricing methodology?
As a customer service speaker and trainer to small and mid-sized businesses and associations, it’s always a hard task to put a price on ‘words.’
Initially, I undersold my fees, but little by little – as folks started letting me know we were at the low end of the speaking scale, we raised our prices.
Many told me my content and advice about how to improve customer service was worth so much more.
So, we finally arrived at my current pricing.
I don’t lose many speaking engagements due to money; it’s usually someone who isn’t interested in helping their customers.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to become a coach?
Other than being knowledgeable in your field, my best advice is having a positive attitude.
About work, about your clients, and about the tasks you need to accomplish that day.
My attitude determines everything.
Whether I’m in my office, giving a speech, a presentation or doing a customer relations training session. If you go to work with a positive attitude, you’re very likely to have a successful coaching career.
The one lesson I’ve learned that has helped me become a very successful speaker and trainer is never stop learning.
Those that think they know it all when starting-up are in real trouble.
Whether it’s from books, audio tapes, or attending meetings/conferences, each provides an opportunity to expand your knowledge and learn more about your field.
Reading sales books and audio tapes had a huge impact on my early years and shaped me into the successful speaker and trainer I am today.