Transforming the Customer Experience

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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…

Any Customer Experience Focus MUST Start at the Top

The fastest and easiest way to turn around the lack of customer service that we are currently experiencing is to, as business leaders, practice what we preach.

So many times, our teams within our organization have not been properly trained or even told what is expected of them. Because of this, everything has been left to chance. They are operating with no guidelines or expectations and really have no true idea of what excellent customer service means or even how to go about delivering it.

Leadership has the responsibility for setting clear expectations and guidelines when it comes to delivering excellent service. In order to be a true leader, you must, by definition, have followers.  Your staff will follow the direction and examples you set before them.

So with this being established, it is now up to leadership to clearly define what excellent customer service means in your organization. It needs to be something much more than a snappy motto or slogan, it needs to be something that everyone buys into and can deliver.

Most importantly, leadership needs to model the desired behaviors. Whatever standards are set for service levels, leadership needs to be walking the talk and delivering exactly that. To really been seen as true leaders, the key players should be doing everything they can to exceed even those bare minimum guidelines.

By knowing exactly what excellent service means in your company or organization, your teams will clearly know what is expected of them.

When they see and hear leadership delivering excellent service, they will be learning specifically what to do and say in order to achieve those standards. People love learning from their leaders because they then feel secure in the examples given and aren’t risking too much by trying something that hasn’t been done before.

Leadership is the key factor in excellent service. It is the trickle down effect that carries the most weight. If teams are told to deliver excellent service and the examples are set for them, it instantly becomes part of the culture of service and everyone will encourage the delivery of superior service.

Your competitors are doing everything they can to attract your customers. By starting at the top, your customer centric mentality will permeate your organization and become natural practice.  If you do this correctly,  you’ll create customers that want to go out of their way to do business with you.

The Customer Experience You Deliver Trumps Your Title

Disregard the title on your business card. That’s right, whatever title you currently have, disregard it.  It doesn’t matter if you are the business owner or the entry level summer position.  Your title on your card is irrelevant except for the fact that it details some of your functional responsibilities.  Your true purpose within your business is to serve the customers who pay money for your product or service.  If you don’t serve the customer face to face, you are still working to support those who do.

No matter what your titled position is designated as – you are in customer service.

Everyone in your organization is serving the customer. Even those who work behind the scenes and never come face to face with the customer bringing in the dollars are working to support those who do. The person who answers the phone, the person who distributes mail, the person making purchasing decisions, the person managing projects, the person providing janitorial services – all of these people are performing functions that ultimately impact the paying customer in some form or fashion. The trick is to make sure that all of these individuals recognize that they are not working independently, but as a team to benefit the customer.

The main reason customers leave? You and your treatment of them.

Customers are leaving your business mainly because of how you treat them. The number one reason cited 70% of the time for leaving a place of business is based solely on the experience that you provided. Consumers today are delighted when they are treated as valued partners in the business and are not processed through the system. When businesses practice the basic concept of courtesy and good manners, customers notice it and come back for more. Customers are hungry for businesses that welcome them into their place of business, that greet them warmly, make eye contact, introduce themselves, offer assistance when needed. They enjoy the experience so much more when they are thanked for their business at the end of the transaction and are encouraged and invited to come back again.

Too often, customers are treated as a nuisance or necessary evil of running the business. They are seen as time wasters. While we all have had the occasional bad day and don’t want to interact with another customer, we need to recognize that those very customers are the ones sustaining our business.

If you don’t serve your customers well, someone else will.

The smart companies are those that are focusing on their customers and looking for ways to serve them well. The customer is the sole determining factor in the success of your business. Customers are recognizing this fact and are looking for those businesses that deliver excellent customer service. They want to do business with those that effectively manage the customer experience.

It’s all about Customer Experience Management.

Delivering excellent customer service involves all aspects of the customer experience. It starts from the initial desire of your product or service on the part of the customer and extends through every customer contact point, to the point of follow up after the transaction. When this process is well managed with the customer benefit as the focal point, the entire company has then become customer centric and started to build the relationship that customers are craving from those they do business with.

By making sure that it is the customer and their needs that you are serving, you are working in the best interest of both the customer and your business.

Empathy Drives Customer Loyalty and Customer Experience Factors

Managing the customer experience requires efforts in many areas.  As leaders, we consider the staffing levels, the shopping environment, the product lines we offer, the marketing and advertising to draw customers in, sales incentives, etc. But as much time and attention as we put into these, many companies neglect one critical factor.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

This is a saying that has been around for quite some time and holds so much meaning in so many different contexts.  But, ultimately, it comes down to the fact that you must care in order to reach people.  When you care, you are giving of yourself.  When you give of yourself, you connect with people in a way that most business leaders fail to recognize is the missing ingredient to a successful business relationship.

We many know everything about our product and all of the benefits and features it has, but until we care about the customer and how our product will be their solution, the customer will feel as though they are merely part of a business transaction.

By caring about the needs of the individual consumer, the business is setting itself apart from the competition.  So many consumers today feel that they are simply a number or a part of the bottom line that they feel companies do not regard them personally at all.   When business leaders consider their customers as actual people with a problem that needs to be solved, it brings the relationship to a deeper level.

Consumers have a need for certainty and connection that can be met simply by having the right mindset in place to serve them.  It takes empathy and a genuine sense of customer service to connect with customers and to show them that you genuinely want to provide the best product and experience for them.  When we want to do our best, we usually become more resourceful in ways to accomplish our goal.

Creativity and wanting to best serve the customers are the two main factors I see in delivering excellent customer service that drives the customer relationship.  When we’ve hired the right staff that shares the customer centric mindset we have, the customer wins by receiving the time and attention from those that truly want to serve their best interest.

A team that cares about the needs of the customer is also the team that is empowered to make the decisions that make the customers happy.  By giving the staff more control and power, they are more willing to work with customers, to know what it will take to retain their business, and how to best resolve an issue that has the potential to sever a customer relationship.  The staff also is encouraged to make decisions as if they owned the company.  They seriously consider the long term benefits to the decisions they make and how it will sustain the customer retention levels.

What to Do With Customer Survey Feedback to Improve the Customer Experience

Customer feedback is a critical component of any customer service program.

Today’s successful companies are those that are truly partnering with their customers and integrating their feedback. The smart companies are being

proactive about improving their customer service by asking their customers directly what they can do to retain their business.
In order to truly find out what your customers are thinking about your company and it’s products, just ask them.

Essential steps to take are:

Determine what you want to know – The desired outcomes need to be clearly defined. Anybody can ask customers 10-20 questions, but if they aren’t geared toward uncovering specific information, the benefit to the company or customers is minimal.

Identify the target group – Determine which specific segment of your customers you wish to survey. Once this is done, it is important to capture as much of their feedback as possible.

Develop and conduct the survey – 
More information can be obtained from surveys that are both quantifiable and qualifiable. By having an explanation given for the scale ratings, you will gain the customers reasoning perspective. The results from this initial survey serve as the benchmarks against which improvements and changes will be measured.

Personal follow up – Once the survey has been conducted, follow up with those customers who have given permission to be contacted. Even more information will be gained in conversation and the customer will clearly explain their reasoning and perspective behind their answers. This step also solidifies in the customer’s mind the company’s determination to satisfy their customers.

Implement the changes and resurvey – Integrate the changes or improvements requested in the survey. After enough time has passed for the customers to experience the improvements, resurvey them. Measure the results against the benchmarks obtained in the original survey.

Be certain to distribute the information received from the feedback surveys to all departments in your company. The ultimate customer experience is determined by the integration of efficient teamwork and sharing of customer driven information throughout the organization.

How to Drive Customers Right Into the Arms of Your Competition

Many studies suggest that a lot of customers are non-confrontational and won’t address a complaint with a manger of a business.  They’ll simply take their business elsewhere without telling you why.  Many businesses aren’t even aware that they are losing you as a customer in the first place.  Following are some sure fire ways to lose customers without even really trying to.

Don’t acknowledge them. The best way to let your customers know that you are glad they came into your store, company, or office is to properly and immediately greet them. If you make eye contact and genuinely introduce yourself and ask if you may assist them in any way, they may get the distinct impression that you actually want to serve them and gain their business. In order to have them leave quickly, be certain to ignore them when they come in, don’t be available for questions, and be as uncommunicative as possible.

Don’t ask them any questions or identify their needs. By asking questions to identify the needs of your customers, they will think that you are trying to ascertain which product or service of yours, if any, will best suit their needs. Just tell them in as few words as possible what products and services you offer. Say your script and, if they ask any questions, repeat the script again.

Be sure to drop the ball. When customers ask questions, tell them that you will get right back to them, but never return the call. When you promise them something on a specific date or time, make sure that you are days late without warning them ahead of time. Make sure that no one else in your office knows what is going on with this customer, so that if they happen to contact your office while you are gone, no one else will be able to help them. If customers think that you are a reliable company, accountable, and deliver what you promise, they will be more likely to return to you. Is that what you really want?

Don’t train your staff. If you tell your staff as little as possible and keep them out of the loop on company news, products, and services, they certainly won’t know how to pass any of this information along to your customers that you are trying to lose. By having staff that is well informed on the company, well versed in products and services, it just gives the impression that you know about what you provide and that you are anxious to make sure the customer gets full benefit from it.

Just deliver the goods and head out. When you deliver the product or service, do so without offering any help or suggestions. Make sure that they just get your “thing” without fully understanding what it does or how to use it. Most of all, make sure that you don’t call them to ask them how they liked it. If you deliver your product or service and fully explain what it does, how to use it for their needs, you may give the impression that you know your stuff. Customers like it when they have someone who knows what they are show them how their new purchase works and how will benefit them or their company.

Never look back. By never following up with your customers, you can continue doing business exactly the way you want to. You don’t have to listen to any suggestions from customers on how to improve any products or services, or how your company may better fit their needs. If you do follow up with your customers, they may think that you value them and customer retention levels rise. Customers will also develop loyalty by thinking you are willing to do certain things to keep them coming back for your product and to your company. If you tailor your products and company to better serve your customers and increase customer satisfaction, they’ll just keep pestering you for more.

To receive some valuable tips and strategies that you can immediately apply to win the hearts of your customers, click here to receive 50 Customer Service Tips Made Simple.

Amazon Integrates EASE in their Customer Experience

Yet again, Amazon continues to amaze with the “easiness” of the customer experience by including a customer service component not found in most online retailers.

First, I have to own up to complete operator error on my part…

I had an extremely rare evening alone at home.  My husband and all three kids were all out of the house and I decided to indulge in watching any movie of my choice without having to take anyone else’s preferences into consideration.  I have an Amazon Prime account (which I highly recommend) and decided to rent an instant movie.  Now, keep in mind, I’m one of those folks that knows what I want to do, yet can’t completely figure out the remote controller we have that operates our DVD player.

So, I decided to rent the movie “About Time” since I was in the mood for a “feel good” movie.  I selected the HD version and thought I followed the appropriate steps.  When I couldn’t find the “Watch Now” icon, I went through the process again.  You can probably tell where this is going.  Anyway, I watched the movie and it was fantastic.  Best movie I’ve watched in a very long time.  Anyway, I knew I’d have to double check to be sure that I wasn’t charged twice.

In checking my email this morning, yes, I was charged twice.  Yes, I know it was very likely my error.  So, I found the contact page for Amazon Prime Video and was surprised to find they had an option to have them contact me, rather than me calling them.  I entered my phone number and within 10 seconds my phone rang.  I explained my dilemma to the CSR.  She empathized with me that it can sometimes be confusing the first time you use the process (she was very kind and didn’t point out how simple it actually is).  She asked if she could put me on hold for just a minute, then came back to the phone and let me know my account had been credited for one of the rental fees.  Problem solved and an already very satisfied customer was yet again reassured that they ‘ve made the right decision in doing business with Amazon.

Online retailers are slowly developing a reputation for hiding behind their anonymity.  Because they don’t actually see us, they don’t typically understand the frustration of the customer in having to jump through hoops to contact them to resolve issues.

By thinking outside of the box and having their company contact us, that made it even better.  This is one of the many reasons why Amazon is the online goal that so many others are trying to reach.

Who are your favorite online retailers and why?

 

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