Transforming the Customer Experience

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Improving Customer Service: How to Handle Upset Customers Successfully

Improving customer service requires the fine art of working with frustrated and upset customers. We’ve all had them. We all know the principle that if you can successfully turn around an upset customer, they’ll be more loyal to your company than if they never had an issue at all.  
 
But in the heat of the moment, what is the best way to connect with them to calm them down so that you can help them? Here are my five steps for success...
  1. 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.”
  2. Apologize – Obvious, but many people miss this one. “I’m so sorry the (situation/product/service) isn’t what you thought it would be.
  3. 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.”
  4. 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.”
  5. 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.  

I’d love to hear your thoughts below…

Excellent Customer Service is PROACTIVELY Connecting the Dots

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.

Customer Service – One of the Biggest Mistakes to Avoid

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.

Customer Experience Mapping Puts the Pieces of Customer Satisfaction & Loyalty Together

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…

  1. Customer calls in and phone is answered within 2 rings with a genuine, warm, friendly greeting.
  2. The call is then transferred to a a billing representative who will answer without the call going into voice mail
  3. The billing representative will be able to look into the history of the records and identify core issue.
  4. 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.

Customer Loyalty and Profits Thrive In a Strong Customer Centric Culture

Getting new customers, keeping those customers, and making more money are the goals you have for your business, right?

Then let me share one of the most crucial factors into setting up that equation – DEFINE your ideal desired company culture!

If I could shout this from the mountain tops, I absolutely would.  All of the clients I work with online and in person have struggled with this concept initially.  They believe that they need to amp up their sales force or train their front line staff better.  These ideas certainly come into play, but only after we get the critical step of the culture solidified first. When I explain that customers will absolutely do business and spend more money with the companies that have a solid foundation, know who they are, how they want to do business, how they want customers to be treated, how they want their staff to work together internally, they start to pay attention.  Here is where you want to take notes…

1.  Companies with clearly defined cultures have taken the guesswork out of their daily lives.  These companies know what their mission statement is, what their core values are, and how they want their customers to think of them.

2.  Companies with clearly defined cultures have a high level of staff engagement.  Companies with high staff engagement have low turnover rates, high staff morale, staff feels more empowered, and the staff make decisions that benefit both the company and the customers.

3.  Companies with clearly defined cultures do everything they can to protect the culture they strive to create.  They protect it like a Mama Bear protecting her cubs.  Anything or anyone threatening that culture is diverted into a different forest.  Meaning, if there are internal issues and leadership stands and supports the ideal culture, they will make the difficult decision of “freeing up the future” of those who do not embrace the ideals and are slowly but surely destroying morale.

So, how do you define your culture?  Simple.  Sit down with your leadership team, managers, or whomever you see as a leader in your company.  Limit the group to 10 to eliminate the “Too Many Indian Chiefs” phenomena.

You then need to brainstorm and identify that in your wildest dreams of the best possible world where there are plenty of customers, plenty of business, staff is performing at optimum levels, everything is functioning as well as it could possibly be….  what does it look like, feel like, sound like, how are staff interacting with clients and each other? What’s being said?  What is the morale like?   It doesn’t matter how things are currently operating now, this is all about setting goals and aiming high.  

The key here is to have the conversation.  Define what you have in mind, document it, rework it until it feels right.  Then be sure to SHARE it with your entire organization.  If you keep it in your head, you’ll just be lucky if someone else is headed in the same direction as you.  Leave nothing to chance.  Your business success depends on it.

Once you’ve done this exercise, you’ll know that everyone knows what they are working toward.  Everyone will be on the same page.  There will be consistency across your company.  Getting new customers is much easier when everyone is sending the same message and delivering a consistent customer experience.  When customers have better customer experiences on a consistent basis, they turn into loyal customers.

 

The Best Way to Increase Patient Satisfaction, Care, and Loyalty

HEALTH CARE DEPENDS ON EMPATHY AND COMPASSION

HEALTH CARE DEPENDS ON EMPATHY AND COMPASSION

The most important investment to make in health care? It's not the technology, not the office flow, not the insurance contracts, but rather focusing on the needs of the individual patients as human beings. It's focusing on the patient themselves.

Now, all of the above listed areas are clearly quite important. But what good is investing in those areas when we lack the one thing that patients crave the most? They are craving some personal attention. Someone who cares. Someone who listens. Someone who will understand what they are asking for. The biggest key here is they crave empathy.

Patient satisfaction is higher when physicians and staff are able to show genuine empathy and compassion for patients, no matter how trivial the situation. Patient compliance also increases when the patient physician relationship is stronger, thus resulting in better outcomes.

So often, patients report that they don't feel like a unique person in a medical practice. They feel as if they are just another medical chart number or "just another patient" in the schedule. All it takes is a connection with each patient while they are in the practice to make them feel more comfortable about being cared for by your practice.

The key to instilling patient centered care? Physician leadership is crucial. The initiative to have a truly patient care centered practice begins at the top and trickles down to management, supervisors, and front line staff. Staff can be taught how to best care for patients, but they must know it is a primary focus for it to be ingrained in the DNA of the entire office. The physicians and leadership team must support staff in being caring, empathetic, and compassionate to patients and their families. The best way to do this is by setting the example.

Each patient deserves to be treated as a person with successes, struggles, ideas, and questions. Each patient is a person, a mother, a father, a brother, a sister, a best friend, a professional, a laborer, a dedicated parent. When we lose sight of this and treat them as just another patient, we lose the impact of being able to best guide them through their current and future medical needs.

It used to be "Old School" that physicians would graduate with all of the medical training that they need, but severely lacking in bedside manner. Now, medical schools promote the need for a connection with patients on a personal level. Aside from the well known fact that that an office that treats patients well and connects with them are less likely to be sued, patient compliance and patient satisfaction also increase when patients feel like the physician and the staff truly care about them.

Get even more tips on how to connect with your patients and show them you truly value them and their business in your own ePamphlet - "50 Tips to Enhance Patient Centered Care" by clicking here: http://www.kristinaevey.com/patientexptips/

Never Under Estimate the Power of a Thank You Note to Boost Customer Loyalty

Remember Thank You notes?  The things that we encouraged to write as kids every birthday or holiday when we received gifts from relatives or friends?  My own personal experience is that I didn’t enjoy writing them at all.  But, my mom had a point – “They made an effort to purchase a gift with you in mind.  You need to thank them for their kindness.”

Hardly anyone sends Thank You notes anymore – ESPECIALLY in business.  I think it sends such an impactful message when we take just a few minutes to send Thank You notes to our clients and customers (and our personal friends too, for that matter).  Think about it… when is the last time you received a Thank You note from a place you do business? ….. cricket….. cricket…   I bet you were hard pressed to come up with an answer.  Most of us can’t think of ANY.

But that’s exactly my point…  Set yourself apart from the rest of the pack by taking the time and making a small effort to those upon whom your business is dependent… YOUR CUSTOMERS.

When to send the Thank You note?  Well, first off, you should be sending them to any new customer.  Now, this can be difficult for those that are retail or commodity based, but you can still find a way to do this.  Pick a dollar amount to be spent that will trigger a Thank You note to be sent.  I do a lot of my clothes shopping at Ann Taylor.  I don’t shop often, but when I do, I walk out with a few outfits.  The manager of the store always sends me a Thank You note.  Now, I know she doesn’t send them to every customer, but not every customer spends what I spend the few times I’m in there per year.

For those of you in a business model where you have Sales Reps that are charged with forming lasting relationships with new clients, this is a perfect scenario to send a Thank You note to each new client that signs on with your company.  It should actually be part of your process.  Once the account is signed, the Sales Rep should be sending a personalized handwritten Thank You note (yes, you may have someone with more legible writing pen the note for them/you).  But the point is this,  I’ve kept all of the notes that I’ve received from Ann Taylor, from Zappos, from  Gazelle Sports, from my financial planner, etc.  I also make it a point to shop those retailers or providers first when I may have a need for their products or services.

The Secret Sauce…  But the real secret is to send a Thank You note to your clients and customers when you are not reaching out to them to sell something, check in on their accounts, review something, or anything related to business.  When you send a Thank You note out of the blue, the impact is HUGE!  In long term contractual relationships, I suggest sending a Thank You note one year after the original contract was signed.  Now, your customer doesn’t know that you may have it on your automated calendar to send this out, but they will feel as though you value them.  They will appreciate the few minutes you took to acknowledge and thank them for their trust in you and your business.  And, when customers feel valued, they’ll repay you with their loyalty.

Keep in mind… you likely won’t have many people mentioning to you that they appreciate these notes.  But, I promise you it will make a difference in the way they feel about doing business with you.  It will strengthen the relationship that you’ve developed with them and will further the sense of confidence they have that they made the right decision in doing business with you.

Please comment below on how you’ve appreciated Thank You notes or how you use them in your company.

Orthodontists Wanting More Patient Referrals Drifting Away from Old School Tactics

Successful orthodontists are the doctors that understand that the “Old School” method of practicing medicine simply won’t make it in today’s world.

Patients are customers. Beyond quality orthodontic care, they are also looking for quality customer experiences and service. It’s a high touch industry and in need of more discussion and collaboration between the patient, their parents, and the orthodontist than has typically been seen.

Understanding this, there are many opportunities for orthodontists to develop larger and profitable practices based on the referrals they generate by the patient relationships they nurture.

“Old School” – vs – Current Successful Style – It used to be that orthodontists could simply rely on their office staff to work with the patients and handle any of their questions or needs and have the doctor simply handle the “technical” needs of the patient. The doctor used to only address one patient as needed before moving on to the next chair. The staff would be relegated to taking care of any patient needs and explanations.

Patients and their parents are now wanting the doctor to spend a minute or two connecting with them personally. Simply connecting with the patient on a personal level develops a relationship of trust and will engages the patient to take a more active role in their treatment plan.

What does this look like? It’s having your staff and the doctor working in tandem. The staff understands what needs to be done and does everything possible to make the patient and their parents feel as comfortable as possible. The doctor will not see the patient as “another set of teeth to straighten” or “just another mouth” but as a person with a personality. Small talk is more than polite chatter, but a chance to let the patient and doctor connect.

“I just didn’t get that warm feeling from the other practice.” This patient comment should be music to your ears. This comment means that they were most likely referred to a competing practice, yet it didn’t meet their connectivity needs, so they are looking to go elsewhere. You can earn their business by training your staff to look at everything within your practice from the patient perspective. Train your staff make patients and their parents feel comfortable, get to know their names, about learn a little bit about them.

Referrals are Worth More than Marketing Budgets. Sure, you’ll likely continue to have marketing as part of your budgets, but by connecting with your current patients, collaborating with them, discussing their treatment plans and their role in that, you’ll quickly recognize a loyal patient base that is eager to refer you to their friends and colleagues. Numerous studies show that a “word of mouth” referral is far more valuable than any media or print ad.

For more tips on how to connect with your patients and show them you truly do value both them and their business, get your own copy of “50 Tips to Enhance Patient Centered Care” by clicking here: http://www.kristinaevey.com/patientexptips/

 

Get More Customers with the Personal Touch

Who would you prefer to spend your money with – someone who gets to know you and values your business, or at a company where you feel like just another number?

Customers are willing to spend more money on a product that they know is not necessarily “state of the art”  based on the feeling that they are being treated well. Contrary to popular belief, buying decisions are not based on price, but by the feeling that the customer gets when they do business with us. Now, there are some customers who purely price shop, but they are not the majority.

What customers really want is good customer service. Improving your customer service skills is very simple to do and the payoffs are almost immediate.

When you train your staff, be sure to have them understand their role in the company and the customer experience. When staff realizes this, if you’ve hired right, you will awaken the entrepreneur in them. They’ll understand that the way that they treat the customer will have the biggest influence on whether or not that customer returns to your business.

Customers really appreciate when personal attention is paid to them. They enjoy being treated politely and courteously. The firs thing that most people notice today is that so many businesses don’t train to their staff to greet customers warmly, to make eye contact with them, or even to smile at them.

Consumers strongly feel, and rightly so, that when they are spending their money in a place of business, they should expect to be treated courteously and feel appreciated. Why then, is the perception that good customer service is a lost art?

The smart businesses today are training their staff to value and treasure their customers. The staff clearly understands that if they don’t treat their customers well, they will no longer have customers, therefore, the business will not be sustainable.

What are some of the simplest ways to show your customers that you value them?

– Smile at them and genuinely greet them.
– Get to know your customers names and preferences.
– Learn how your customers use your products and services.
– Ask for their ideas and suggestions on how to improve or change your products or business.
– Develop a set of customer service minimum standards within your company.

None of these customer service tips here cost any money at all. They can be implemented with your very next customer and will have an immediate payoff of a strengthened customer relationship. When the relationship is stronger, the customer will be much more likely to return to you and will develop loyalty over time provided your service is consistently centered around the customer.

I’d like to invite you to visit http://www.KristinaEvey.com/service-tips/ to get your free copy of 50 Customer Service Tips Made Simple. Just by implementing a few of these strategies today, you will be ahead of your competitors. If you don’t treat your customers well, they will find one of your competitors who will.

Best Way to Handle Upset Customers? Show Genuine Empathy

Improving customer service in the way we handle customer complaints will serve you well. We’ve all had those customers that come looking for an argument when an issue arises. The number one way to win them over?

Use empathy. Most of the time, customers simply want someone to genuinely listen to them and understand their perspective. Empathy is the perfect way to do this. Notice I didn’t say sympathy. That can suck you in emotionally and cloud your judgment and resolution skills. Empathy is defined as the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

Customer satisfaction levels can actually increase based on how companies handle customer complaints. A problem or issue does not define the staff or the company. How the company handles the issue DOES define them. Customer complaints often stem from the customer not feeling understood. They feel they are being treated like a number or a widget, not like a real person with real frustrations when issues arise.

Feelings of alienation set in when customers don’t feel listened to. When the statements “It’s our policy to…” or “It’s not our policy to do that.” comes into play, any relationship that has been built with that customer will be damaged.

Ultimately, the customer will take their business and their dollars to your competitors that have made customer service a top priority.

In order to resolve issues and keep your customers, respond to issues quickly with empathy. Your customers simply want to feel validated in their frustrations. When a product does not function properly or a commitment was not met, listen to the customer and their frustrations. It is necessary to state that their frustration with the situation is understood. It is an inconvenience for the customer to even have to pick up the phone and make the call to your company, much less hassle over how to resolve it.

Once the inconvenience and frustration has been handled with empathy, then resolve the issue in the best interest of the customer. Upgrade them to the next product level, if possible, to make up for the inconvenience and time involved. Express ship or deliver them a new product at no expense to the customer. Perform the service again and make sure that the original issues are taken care of.

Or, the ultimate loyalty builder, purchase the service or product from one of your competitors and deliver it to your customers at no charge. This may sound extreme, but if you are determined to have service be defining factor, what better way to exceed the customer’s expectations than by doing right by your customer – no matter what. By putting the customer’s best interest first and resolving it to their benefit, you will exceed their expectations, delight them, and earn their continued loyalty.

Those customers that have had issues that have been well handled will be stronger proponents of your business than those who were satisfied and had no complaints in the first place.

I’d love to hear your thoughts below…

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