- He who profits most serves best. – Arthur F. Sheldon
- Be the difference between delivering what is expected and what is delightful.
- Your customers are keeping your business alive based on what you promised to deliver. Be sure you know what promises you can make that you can KEEP no matter what. Disappointment is VERY hard to overcome.
- As far as your customers are concerned, you ARE the company. This is not a burden, but the core of your job. You hold in your hands the power to keep the customer coming back. You have the power to make or break your customer’s loyalty. Do everything you can to exceed your customer’s expectations.
- In business, you get what you want by giving other people what they want. – Alice MacDougall
I preach continually about the importance of Customer Service and am really happy to share this personal story.
Last week I was on my annual pilgrimage to Chicago with some good friends. Every year, I mean EVERY year, we dine at Quartino’s restaurant. We happened to find ourselves there about 8 years and have returned every year because the service, food, and prices are so wonderful. Our friends think we are nuts for not trying any of the other venues, but we just don’t want to risk it.
Last week, we found ourselves waiting a few minutes for our reserved table at the appointed time. I asked the hostess twice if she had an estimate of the wait time as we had tickets to a show later that evening. She very politely apologized for the wait and assured us we’d be seated shortly.
Just moments after my second inquiry, the restaurant manager, Tony, appeared and genuinely apologized for our wait. He assured us that the table would be ready momentarily and thanked us so much for our patience. We told him how happy we are with the restaurant and have come back every year because of the great experience we consistently have. Upon hearing that, he thanked us for our loyalty and returned with a complimentary bottle of wine for us to enjoy for the remaining minutes we had to wait. He then showed us to our table.
The remainder of the meal was, as expected, wonderful. We enjoyed our meal while catching up on each other’s lives and lots of laughter. The manager then stopped by at the end of our meal with a cocktail treat for each of us and gave me his card and asked us to email him next time we, or any of our friends, would be dining at the restaurant so that he could be sure we were well taken care of.
Now, this is the type of service experience I train my clients to deliver to their customers. While we hadn’t waited too long, they were very kind and apologetic about having to wait at all. The manager went above and beyond to make us feel like we were special patrons of the restaurant and really made us feel important and well taken care of. He even followed up at the end and made sure that we knew how to contact him to be sure we’d receive great service at our next visit.
When you can connect all of the dots like this.. welcoming at the beginning, great care during, handling any mishaps with grace, and sending us off with a smile (and a blog post), you know you’ve done a great job. They key here is that they do it CONSISTENTLY.
Keep it up, Tony and your team at Quartino’s! Next time any of you are in Chicago, stop by and ask for Tony. He’ll take great care of you. You can also learn a thing or two from them to bring into your business.
The POSITIVE Impact of Customer Service…
Is it possible to be TOO nice as a Customer Service Rep?
Can being TOO nice scare people off? A client of mine asked this question of me yesterday during a workshop and it gave everyone pause for thought.
Yes and No. I know, I sound all “lawyer-y”, but it really is true. There are a few things to consider…
Customers are SO impressed when they find someone who is genuinely nice to them, engages with them, works to solve their problem, or answer their question, that in their mind, it is nearly impossible to be TOO nice.
There are some caveats to this though…
Nice must be GENUINE – Folks can pick up insincerity in a heartbeat. If you are “saccharine” sweet, it turns people off right away. This can be in your tone of voice, the words you use, or basically seeming like a grandmother that is offering a child too many sweets and coddling.
Now on the other hand, those CSR’s that are truly wanting to help their customers, ask the right probing questions to truly understand the situation are also most likely those that will …
- Take conversational cues from their customers and use those as an opportunity to have a short conversation with them about the weather, their business, recent vacation, etc.
- They’ll use appropriate humor.
- They’ll make it a goal to have the customer smiling within 60 seconds of working with them.
- They’ll use a tone of voice that is warm, friendly, and sincere.
- They’ll typically talk to the customer as if they are a personal friend of theirs using the same tones.
- They’ll make the effort to connect on a personal level and get to know them.
So in our discussion, I suggested to my client that while it is hard to ask someone to “dial back the niceness,” it is completely appropriate to be sure that the words being used are professional.
Example… You have someone on your team who refers to everyone, even customers, as “Honey” or “Sweetie.” This would be when you would want to guide them to avoid using those words as they are crossing the professional line and many people are offended when those not in their personal circle refer to them that way. Those words are also very offensive when said to someone older than the person speaking. It comes across as condescending and flippant and you’ll lose customers.
This is one of the many reasons why I created training for basic Customer Service Skills for your customer facing folks with my “Excellent Customer Service Skills –
Start to Finish“ now being offered at a special reduced rate.
Get this training now before I decide to raise the price again and CLICK HERE.
I often work with clients to create customer surveys to get valuable feedback from customers about the way they do business, ways to improve, what is working, what isn’t, etc. One of the most frequent discussions we have is around my guidance to avoid having a neutral response available for the respondent. I like to provide the following options for quantitative options…
- Strongly Disagree
- Strongly Agree
This forces folks to decide how they feel one way or the other. Think about it – if you ask someone about a movie or restaurant and they respond with “Eh, it was alright.” Do you really have any insight as to how they enjoyed it or if they would encourage you to see that movie or go to that restaurant? No, it’s vague. It gives them the comfort of being vague and neutral… which really gives you no insight to their true feelings at all.
When asking for feedback, you have to be courageous enough to ask for the good, the bad, and – yes – the ugly. If you are looking to only get glowing responses to lull yourself into a false sense of tranquility, then you really are sticking your head in the sand and eventually you’ll be outpaced by your competitor that truly wants relevant feedback on how they can keep their customers coming back for more.
You’ll be MUCH better off when you ask folks to tell you directly, no sugar coating it. You need to know what your customers like and what they don’t like. You need to know what will drive them away to your competition and what will bring them back to you. You need to find out what you are doing well and what is simply not working.
Now, here is what separates the men from the boys / women from the girls – – you MUST have a comment section included somewhere for folks to give comments in free form… meaning they can explain any of their reasoning for responding as they did for any of the questions, or to add any additional thoughts they feel you should know. This is actually the secret sauce… you are getting the customer to articulate EXACTLY, in their own words, their thoughts on the way you do business.
Using customer surveys with both quantitative AND qualitative (free form) responses gives you a complete picture as to the true state of the customer experience with direct customer input. Who better to tell you how your business is running than the people that are currently working with you? You’ve already marketed to them. They’ve already put their trust in you. Now is your chance to continue to earn it and reap the benefits by making improvements suggested by those that are already keeping you in business.
Coming soon… The importance of a WELL WORDED survey – it can make or break your results.
Be sure to leave your thoughts and comments below…
Customer service is an obvious and crucial focus for any company looking for sustainable financial success. You MUST focus on customers. You MUST value and appreciate the business, revenue, and referrals they bring you. Customers today are leaving businesses that take them for granted. Customers are looking for those businesses that understand they are only one option and make it their goal to be the BEST option in terms of customer service and experience.
We try to give customers everything they want… and more. We try to please them to keep them not only satisfied, but loyal. Yes, without the customer, you wouldn’t be in business.
But there is another factor in this equation… your staff.
It all begins with hiring the right folks to represent your company and serve your customers. Start with the interview process when determining the customer focus of your candidates. Have specific customer service intent questions included in the interview process. By intent, I mean give them a realistic customer interaction scenario and ask how they would like to see it handled. Ask open ended questions to hear their stories. Have them tell you a story of when THEY THEMSELVES have experienced wonderful and terrible service as a customer.
Engaged employees are a critical complement to the customer focus. Engaged employees know that when the company succeeds, they succeed. The way to determine engaged employees is the same way you connect with your customers – speak with them, ask questions, what do they like, what do they not like. What are their professional and personal goals and how can you help them achieve those goals?
Engagement can be the determining factor in your company’s long term success. Find out from your staff if they feel that management and leadership make them feel appreciated in a way that makes them WANT to come to work, not HAVE to come to work. Also ask them if htey would ever recommend their friends to work for your company. These questions should serve as valuable conversation starters to determine the pulse of your staff engagement.
Like the chicken and the egg conundrum, you can’t have customers without your staff to serve them, and you cant have staff serving someone who doesn’t yet exist. Both are truly equally important.
I DO suggest though, that you focus the first 70% of your efforts on your internal staff to show them what service looks like to you and train them accordingly. From that point, spread the love 50/50 between customers and staff. You must always interact with both from similar perspectives. Actively connect with them, find out what they like and dislike about your company, and ask what they’d like to see to keep them loyal to your company. Then, whenever possible, act and implement.
Once you’ve done all of the above… rinse and repeat…. forever. There is NO END to focusing on your customers or staff. You lose one… you’ll lose the other.
Click here to discover even more facts about the importance of focusing internally from one of the industry leaders… Zappos.com. They’ve built their reputation SOLEY focusing on the customer experience and this interview shares how they’ve gone about it to become the success they are today. My gift to you!
- Agree with them. You aren’t agreeing that they are RIGHT, you are only agreeing that it is a frustrating situation. Suggestion – “You’re right! That’s sounds so frustrating.”
- Apologize – Obvious, but many people miss this one. “I’m so sorry the (situation/product/service) isn’t what you thought it would be.
- Empathize – Easily the MOST important step. “I would be frustrated too. This is how we want any of our customers to feel. Please let me help you.”
- Offer Options – Offer two options for the customer to choose from. This will give them the feeling that they now have some say and control in the resolution. Be sure they feel comfortable with the option they select. “Do you feel comfortable with this? It’s important to me that you feel good about working with us.”
- Follow Up – After a few days, the next time you work with that customer, or whatever time period makes logical sense based on your business and relationship with the client, circle back with them and ask how the situation is now. Ask if they are happy with the solution to the issue and if there is anything else that can be done to help them. This is a critical step that most companies just don’t do.
By following each of these steps, it lets the customer know that you truly do value their business and the experience you deliver. Remember, people do business with the companies who treat them as humans, not those who process them through their systems and hide behind policies.
One of the best ways to increase customer satisfaction and to improve the customer service skills your staff delivers is to encourage your staff to proactively “Connect the Dots” for your customers.
Customers are looking to service and product providers not only to help make the purchase, but to help them accomplish their goals as quickly as possible. This may be considered managing their expectations better, asking better questions during the initial sales or consultation, or walking them through the process, but ultimately it is connecting the dots of the entire process to make life easier for your customer.
Case in point, a client of mine recently repainted his daughter’s room. He decided to do the job himself and headed off to the home improvement big box store. On his first trip, the employee helped him purchase a gallon of the right color paint, handed him some painter’s tape since he said there would be a design his daughter wanted on the wall, and suggested a paint roller. He headed home and began painting. He became a bit frustrated when he had to use three strips of tape to get the desired width of color blocking and when the paint did not cover as much area as he’d hoped it would.
He headed back to the store and another employee helped him find what he needed. But this experience was different. This employee asked him questions about the project and then proceeded to give him the same brand of painter’s tape that was wider to reduce the amount of tape needed, gave him a larger quantity of paint, told him how to ensure the best coverage with a better roller, and gave him a few paint stirrers since my client mentioned that he’d had to use his wife’s wooden spoon to stir the paint. He also talked about the pros and cons of using an edger versus a paint brush to handle the corners and edges.
The point here is that the first employee helped my client, but only extended the bare minimum effort necessary. He was able to start the job, but with large amounts of frustration. The second employee asked a few more questions, then helped him assemble everything he needed to complete the job easily with no additional trips to the store. When my client told me about the tape, he said “It never occurred to me that there were two different widths of painter’s tape. I just wish the first person had offered me the choice and I would have picked the second one. I just didn’t know what I didn’t know.”
Being proactive means letting the customer know everything you feel they need to based on their reason for consulting you. It means letting them know who will be contacting them next to move the process along and what they need to do in the meantime to prepare. It means not making your customer feel like they are at fault for not knowing things that are your job to educate them on.
Customer loyalty and satisfaction increase when customer service includes thinking one step ahead for your customers and helping them connect the dots of the entire process.
What is one of the biggest mistakes companies make in their customer service efforts?
Not asking for or not encouraging customer feedback.
The customers are the people keeping you in business. Listen to them.
Many of us go about our day and do business with our usual vendors day in and day out. Or, maybe we are one of those 70% who leave because we don’t like the service and find someone who does treat us better and we like the overall experience enough to stay until we find someone else.
Occasionally, you encounter one place that you get a little annoyed or irritated with or sometimes even the point of thinking “That’s the last time I’ll go there again.” Now, if those places were smart, they’d be asking their customers if they were happy doing business with them. They’d be asking what it is that draws them back to their business. They’d be asking what they like least about doing business with them. They’d be asking them for ideas and suggestions on how to make it more beneficial for them to do business with them.
If they were REALLY smart, they’d be contacting lost customers and asking them what it was that cause them to leave. Some studies even suggest that they’d gain a portion of that business back simply because they reached out with the genuine intention of wanting to do better by their customers.
Customer service is about the relationship, not the product
Whether you are merely benchmarking or looking to see if changes you’ve made are making a difference, asking for feedback will give you information worth it’s weight in gold. This is your target market telling you exactly what they want you to do in order to keep their business.
Remember, customers are buying the relationship with you, not your product or service. As we all know, a critical part of successful relationships is communication. This needs to be two way communication, but as the service provider, it’s in your best interest to be proactive with the communication and seek the feedback from your customers. Doing this, you’ll be able to jump on issues immediately when your customers tell you there are areas that need focus or attention. You can absolutely fix it after the fact, but wouldn’t it be better, and a lot easier, to know about the issue before it has the chance to drive customer away?
Select your feedback method to match your business model
You need to find methods of getting feedback from your customers regularly that works best for you. Some choose to do it by surveys, comment cards, focus groups, one on one conversations either in person or by the telephone. I’m currently doing this for one of my clients now. I’ve contacted customers fitting a certain demographic that we’ve selected to find out how they like the processes my client uses. We’ve gotten valuable feedback and are currently making changes based on that information that will make the experience much better for the customer. We know they’ll be thrilled with it.
Some companies and businesses use online surveys to get feedback. This can be very effective when done correctly. All too often, I come across a survey clearly designed to produce a desired outcome based on the way the question is worded or the answer selections. Language plays a big role in surveys so I caution you to be very diligent in getting the honest and candid responses you are really looking for. Remember, you are looking for the good, the bad, and the ugly. You can only correct and fix the issues that you know about.
Should you choose to use surveys, make sure you are surveying as many customers as possible in order to get a true voice of the customer. If your client base is, lets say, 1000 customers and you only survey 10 of them, your answers won’t represent an accurate sample.
You also want to do away with the neutral response option. You want people to stand behind their feeling of either liking or not liking your business or the way you do business. It’s like someone who ate at your restaurant “What was the food like?” and getting the answer “Eh,it was alright.” That doesn’t really tell you anything. You need to know all about it. Did it taste good? Too hot? Too spicy? How did it look? Was the presentation appetizing or did it look like slop thrown on a plate? You really need to know these things in order to know if you should keep doing what you are doing or if you should change direction.
My recommended way of getting feedback through surveys is to have both quantitative answers, like a rating or scale system, and a qualitative answer field as well. This way the person can explain why they responded on the scale as they did. You’ll get more candid responses that way as well.
The best way to get feedback, in my opinion, is to have the conversation with the customer. Either in person or on the phone, having dialogue and asking questions based on their answers will give you feedback and suggestions worth their weight in gold. Think about it…. This is your most invaluable market research. You are truly discovering what your target market thinks and wants.
To get even more strategies to gain loyal customers, check out http://www.kristinaevey.com/products/5-steps-to-more-loyal-customers/ or go to the resources page for additional tools. It costs far less to retain your existing customers and make more money with them than it does to market to, attract, and gain new customers. Why not focus on your existing customer base and have them market to new customers for you?
To gain practical insight on how to best serve your customers, register for the complimentary short video presentation at the top right side of this page. You’ll be given five strategies to transform the customer experience along with techniques on how to build the relationship your customers want and are willing to pay for.
Call it Customer Experience Mapping, Journey Mapping, Customer Touchpoints… The thing to understand is that the companies that use these practices recognize higher levels of customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. Why is this? Well, I’m happy to explain.
The companies that take the time to do this understand that while we all might have a great idea in our heads on what we’d like the customer to experience when they choose to do business with us, unless you have it well planned out, it’s unlikely to happen.
I suggest that mapping be done to outline the ideal perfect customer experience that you’d love to be able to deliver to your customers. Start at the beginning and consider the journey of the customer through your company as they do business with you. Each time the customer interacts with a person or department, this is a “Waypoint” on your map. Describe the ideal experience at each waypoint. Now, I’m saying to map out what you’d DREAM of doing with/for them, not what your current capabilities are today. For instance, if you have many customers call into your business it may look something like…
- Customer calls in and phone is answered within 2 rings with a genuine, warm, friendly greeting.
- The call is then transferred to a a billing representative who will answer without the call going into voice mail
- The billing representative will be able to look into the history of the records and identify core issue.
- The billing representative will be able to make any adjustments or corrections as necessary to resolve issue during that call, eliminating the need for a 2nd customer call.
Once this is done, then management needs to determine what is necessary to make each of these steps happen. For instance, Step 1 requires a live person answer the phone within 2 rings. If you have an auto attendant answering the phone, take steps to eliminate it. Hire a phone receptionist or reorganize staff responsibilities in order to have a live person answer the phone within 2 rings. If something isn’t possible to implement right now, determine what would need to change in order to make it happen and make all future decisions in line with that goal.
The great companies like Disney, Nordstrom, and Ritz-Carlton all do this regularly. The great experiences they are famous for don’t just “happen,” they are created. They are mapped out every step of the way with clear direction, regardless of current capabilities. To ensure cohesiveness across your company or small business, share these ideal customer experiences. Knowledge is beneficial to everyone.
The question most folks ask is regarding Step 4. The first thing they tell me is that their staff aren’t able to fix a lot of the issues on the first call. My question is – Why not train them to be able to? How much better of an experience would it be for everyone, customer and staff included, to be able to take care of the issue on the first call? The staff will feel more empowered to do their jobs and the customer will be delighted with less of a hassle than they anticipated.
So, Customer Experience Mapping does a lot more than creating more satisfied and loyal customers, it enhances morale and employee engagement as well.