Transforming the Customer Experience

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Customer Service Question -Does Your Business Have a Pulse or a Wire?

Where’s the customer service these days?

Improving customer service and the customer experience is more important now more than ever. And the best part is – it’s SIMPLE.  Keep in mind, simple doesn’t always mean easy, but it can be started simply by focusing on the fact that you are people delivering products and services to other people.

One of the biggest complaints that I hear about companies today is that they are so “processy” and “systematized” that customers wonder if humans work there or is the place being run by robots?

Yes, we need to have processes and systems to run our businesses, but the people running the business need to be just that – PEOPLE.

Customers are looking for one main thing in their transactions that can set you apart from your competition, or anyone else they’ve recently done business with – a RELATIONSHIP.  When people buy from you, they aren’t buying your product or service, they are buying the promise that you will answer their questions, help them find the best product or service you offer to meet their needs, to hold their hand throughout the process, and be there to help if they run into trouble.

Yes, people consider product and price, but with both of those being comparable, the decision always comes down to emotion.  People make their buying decisions based on emotion, then back it up with logic.  If they feel like they know, trust, and like you, then they are likely to buy from you.

Customer service is about delivering a quality product or service, but then providing the emotional support of service.  This means that you need to engage with customers, get to know them, ask what they are trying to accomplish, what are their struggles in this accomplishment, etc.  When you truly engage from a genuine place of customer service and it is your goal to do everything you can to delight that customer, you’ll win a customer for life.

Businesses that don’t focus on the customer relationship are those that are filled with ominous forms, stores with lackluster salespeople, customer service reps that barely look you in the eye, and seem completely disinterested in being there until quitting time.

Energize your staff, especially now during holiday shopping season, and remind them that without the customers, they’d have no place to earn paycheck.  These customers need to be treated like gold.  They want to see smiling, happy faces that are ready, willing, and able to help them.

If you settle for anything less, you may as well hire a robot to serve your customers.

 

Amazon Delights Customers with Sunday Delivery

Online retailers have always used Amazon as the standard to strive for when competing for customer loyalty and satisfaction.  But now, the renowned online retailer has yet again surpassed expectations for  the customer experience in the larger metropolitan areas by offering Sunday deliveries.

This is yet another example of “What is extraordinary today will become tomorrow’s minimum standard.”

The Business Insider just announced that Amazon will begin offering Sunday deliveries to it’s customers on November 17.  Yes, this is a move to drive more shoppers to enroll in their Prime program, but I see it as a way to yet again exceed the expectation of the customers.

Smart companies continually ask themselves “How can we take an ordinary experience and make it stand out?”  Certainly, delivery of products doesn’t leave much room for fancy workings, but teaming up with the USPS to make it happen is something that has never been done before and certainly takes things to the next level.  While most of us may not NEED Sunday delivery, the fact that their stock prices more than quadrupled in a few hours certainly indicates it is something that most consumers WANT.

Discovering what consumers WANT and delivering it is the magic sauce.  Of course, most companies don’t wield that level of influence, but what can your company do to make ordinary processes seem special?  What can you do to make yourself stand out in a way that makes the mundane seem delightful?

Once you come up with that answer, look for ways to make it happen.  Rather than listen to the naysayers, simply say “I know we can’t right now, but what would it take to make that happen?”  As they are listing everything that would need to change, they are giving you the action steps needed.  So, take action and make it happen.  Delight those customers in ways they haven’t expected.  Then, rinse and repeat.

Your customers will thank you for it.  Just ask Amazon how well it works.

I’d love to hear your comments below.

 

Get the Feedback From Your Teams Improves Customer Service

You Gotta Listen!
Continuing on with Customer Service Week, we are focusing on encouraging our internal teams to foster the customer centric attitudes and service.
 
Tip # 4 – Get Feedback from Your Teams and Staff to Find Out What They Need to Help Them Serve Customers Better and Enjoy Their Jobs More
 
You’ve all been reading my newsletters long enough, so you know how much I advocate getting feedback from your customers whenever possible.
 
The same holds true for your staff.  You need to find out what it is that they need or would like that would help them serve customers better and give them more reason to like their jobs.
Ask questions…. then LISTEN to the answers.
 
This is where you’ll discover what you team would like to take over, what would make them more efficient, what processes don’t work, are redundant, or simply make life too complicated.
 
You’ll also find ways to reward your teams.  One of my clients found that their phone contact center liked the specialty coffee he sometimes brings in over the doughnuts that are more frequently offered.  So, this week he bought them a Keurig coffee maker with their favorite coffee flavors.  
 
Like any relationship, it’s the little things that count.  Pay attention to your staff.  You tell them to pay attention to customers… you need to do the same thing with them.  Your staff is just as important.

SHARE Your Ideal Customer Centric Vision with Your Teams

Continuing on with Customer Service Week, we are focusing on encouraging our internal teams to foster the customer centric attitudes and service.

 

 
Tip # 2 –  Share Your Vision with EVERYONE in your company.
 
It’s not a secret.  It needs to be shouted from the rooftops, okay training rooms and reception area, of your company.  You need to define your ideal customer experience and what it looks like from the customer perspective.  When you define it, then you need to share it with your teams so that everyone knows it, understands it, and embodies it.
It doesn’t matter if you are a “Mom and Pop” shop or a larger company, you must share your vision of exactly what your ideal Customer Experience looks like at all levels.  Your entry level positions should have the same vision as the CEO or owner of the company.
 
Ideally, you can share your vision with everyone during training on the very first day they begin working with you.  They’ll know immediately why your company is different and what their role is in making customers feel that difference.
That being said, sharing that vision must also be a continual process.  We all know that information shared once tends to be forgotten.  By keeping the vision of the ideal customer experience clear and present throughout the company, it will quickly become ingrained into your culture.
 
Leadership must interact regularly with teams, lead by example, discuss ideas and suggestions, and continually examine how the current state of the customer experience is moving toward the vision of the ideal.
It’s no accident that Disney, Ritz-Cartlon, Nordstrom, and Apple are known for exemplary customer experiences.  They have clearly defined that customer experience and how everyone plays into it.

Customer Service Week – 5 Tips in 5 Days!

The First of Five Tips for 
Customer Service Week
So I’m thinking that it’s wonderful to have Customer Service Week to encourage our teams to work in the best interest of the customer and improve our service delivery, but I have one question…
 
Why are we dedicating only ONE week per year to focus on Customer Service and the Customer Experience?
 
We should be doing this Each. And. Every. Week. All. Year. Long.
 
Tip #1 –  Communication is a Two Way Street
We know that customer relationships are built on trust and communication.  The same holds true for your internal teams.
 
You need to be sure that you are in touch with your teams and understand what they see as an opportunity and where they are facing challenges.
 
I’m a big fan of huddles.  Huddles are something that football teams do before a play.  Business leaders need to huddle either as a team or one-on-one with their team players to discover what they need to know and how to encourage and set them up for success.
 
The huddle is also a fantastic time for leaders to be open to ideas and suggestions from their teams.  After all, they are most likely spending more time interacting with customers than the leader is.
Customer Service Skills – Do You Train Well Enough?
70% of consumers stop doing business with a company because they aren’t feeling valued or that the company doesn’t engage with them.
If you lost one customer each week, what would that mean to your bottom line?
To help you, during Customer Service Week, I’m reducing the fee for my “Training for the Best Customer Service Skills – Start to Finish”  .  You’ll still get all of the benefits and modules, but because you are in my community, you get the reward of a special price!
Many of you have already invested in this training for your teams and have responded with great results and stories.
Take action now to be sure that your efforts during Customer Service Week don’t fall prey to the “All Talk – No Action” pitfall that plagues so many companies today.

Who Is Your Biggest Competitor? It’s Not Who You Think…

When working with companies that are focused on getting new customers, I always ask them who their biggest competitor is.  As expected, I typically hear the names of their competition in their industry.  They are shocked  when I tell them they are only partially right.

The competition is the company that gave customers their last positive memorable customer experience, regardless of industry.  That’s who businesses are being compared to in the mind of the customer.

So it doesn’t matter if you are an office equipment dealer, restaurant, or medical office.  Your customer is comparing the service you deliver to the experience that perhaps their dry cleaner gives them.  Their dry cleaner knows their name, smiles, engages in conversation, asks them how their business and family are, and makes doing business with them simple and quick.  A simple exchange, but one that is focused on engagement, is what customers are craving.

In understanding this premise, focus your attention on every aspect of the customer experience.  Ways to do this…

  1. Build a customer touch point map
  2. Define the ultimate customer experience to perfection at each touchpoint
  3. Train staff to deliver that ideal ultimate experience
  4. Ask customers for feedback on ways to improve
  5. Rinse and repeat

It’s good to have competition.  It gives you a measurement to gauge your service delivery by.  It’s not okay to let your competition surpass you simply because you didn’t try.

Next week is Customer Service Week.  This is a great time to examine what you can do to create that positive lasting impression in the mind of your customers.

 

Customer Service Consistency Is More Important Now Than Ever Before….

86% of consumers quit doing business with a company because of a bad customer experience, up from 59% 4 years ago

Source: Harris Interactive, Customer Experience Impact Report

Consumer confidence increases when consistent results are produced. They will return to you again and again when you have not only built a sold relationship with them, but when they are certain that they can count on consistent results time after time.

Customer satisfaction increases based on consistency and relationships.
 Relationships, whether professional or personal, are built on the solid foundation of trust. This trust extends into a level of service that is depended upon.

Fluctuations in service will result in disheartened referrals.
 Should your consistency fluctuate, the referral will sound like “Try XYZ Company. Sometimes they do a pretty good job.” The referral that you want is “I recommend that you call ABC Company. They consistently deliver a quality product and they will treat you well. I know you’ll be happy with them.”

They want to know that what they see and feel one time is what they can count on in future interactions.Regardless if you are going into a chain coffee house, hiring a caterer, working with a realtor, or working with a large office furniture manufacturer, customers want consistent quality products and services. Customers will be much more likely to refer their associates to you when you have consistently shown a track record for results.

Relationships factor greatly into the consistency equation. The customer is looking to see if they are being treated well each and every time. They are looking to see if they are treated the same way by everyone in the organization. Customers will figure out quickly who will and won’t help them in a company. Your customer service reputation is only as strong as your weakest link. All associates in your company need to be delivering excellent customer service, in each and every interaction.

Review your core values regularly to determine that they are being considered in every interaction with your customers.
 The customer will recognize the consistency of exceeding their expectations while holding true to the core values your company was built upon.

Please comment below with your thoughts!

Customers Want Compassion in a Tense Situation

Own Up and Step Up When You Blow It

A few weeks ago, you may have seen CNN or been made aware of an incident involving a salon owner allegedly berating a young mother whose child was crying during his haircut.  Once the mother was brought to tears, she was heard by other patrons saying “I’m sorry.  He’s autistic.”  The mother left the salon in tears and the stylist followed her outside to continue the haircut while the child sat in his mothers arms.  haircut
This story originated with a post by one of the onlookers on Facebook, was carried to the local news stations, then on to CNN.
It was a sad situation all around.  According to news reports, the lawyers responded that the owner was concerned for the child’s safety.  They stated that she meant no harm.  They then proceeded to state that perhaps the salon would consider donating some profits for autism awareness.
The public apology  that the owner offered was ridiculous.  She basically said that she never meant her actions to result in consequences.  Subsequent to this event, half of the staff has quit, the bad press surrounding this situation continues to grow, and social media has barely started to subside.
 
Why am I writing/ranting about this?  Because this is an extreme example of what we see each and every day in business.  The owner of the salon blew it.  She clearly was annoyed by the commotion of the crying and fuss by the little boy and lost her cool. 
 
My thoughts…
 
1) At the time, she should have offered to help in any way. She should have tried to see if there were any other areas in the salon to continue the cut, ask the mom if she knew of anything that may help her son, ask if she wanted to continue with the cut despite his upset, or if they wanted to come back later.  Clearly, there was a scene, but using some compassion and empathy would have helped immensely.  Sometimes, there just are no other options and you just have to push through it and be as helpful as possible.
 
2)  Once she blew it, she should have owned up to it.
Upon reading the public apology, I’m amazed that the owner actually permitted it to be printed.  It was so robotic and “legalized” that it took away any apologetic intent.  
She could have said something along the lines of…
 
“I’m so sorry about the way I handled this situation.  It seemed to be a bigger disturbance than it actually was and I completely mishandled it.  Berating or confronting someone in an already emotionally charged situation is never helpful and I just didn’t think at the time.  I was off my game and for whatever reason wanted to squelch the situation rather help.
 
For those who take particular offense because of the child’s autism, I’m truly sorry.  That really had nothing to do with my poor judgement and handling. 
 
Although it may be far too late, I’d like to reach out to the family and offer free salon services for one year.  I’d like to personally apologize for my actions and for the embarrassment and distress that my outburst caused the mother.  That is not who I am, nor ever want to be.”
 
I’ve waited to write this post in hopes that I’d eventually be made aware of something genuine coming from the owner.  But, as of this morning, no amount of searching has turned up anything after the “apology” that was issued.
 
Please understand that people blow it.  We have outbursts. We make mistakes.  We say things or act in a way that we wish we could take back when the dust has settled.  When that happens, take ownership of it.  That genuine humanness is all people are looking for today.  Concern for others is the best way to build and repair relationships, both personally and professionally.
 
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue or any others that you are currently involved in.  Please comment below and share.
 
Helping you focus on your customers,
 
Kristina

In Customer Relationships, Complacency is a Profit Killer

We Were Good at Dating, But Terrible at the Marriage Part.  They Left Us For Someone Else.

No, this isn’t part of a marriage counseling session or a relationship reality show, but it is the reality that many of you face.
The really scary part is that many of you may not even realize that this is the situation you are in.
The above statement is what a prospective client said to me a few weeks ago.  His company lost a major client because their competitor came in and wooed them away.  With hindsight being 20/20, this gentleman told me that they had become complacent and took the customer for granted figuring that they would always be there.  They were busy attracting new and other clients.
So, for all of you that find yourself losing customers without knowing exactly why, please reread that last paragraph.
Your customers are NOT buying your product or service.  They are buying the relationship you promise them.  If you don’t hold up your end of the relationship, they’ll leave you.  Often times, the business relationship is the easiest kind of relationship to end.  Your customers don’t need to file papers (usually), they don’t need to let you know why they are leaving, or even that they are leaving at all.   They’ll just go find someone who treats them better than you do that offers the same product at a comparable price.
Just like any personal relationship, check in with your customers to see how they feel with the way things are going.  Is there anything they’d like to see more or less of?  Is there anything they think you should know?  Is there anything going on that they don’t like or would like to see changed?
Asking these questions proactively just may be the difference between your customer saying “I’m so glad that I finally found you!” rather than “We need to talk.”
Please share your thoughts below…

Embrace Your Customers as Partners… REALLY!!!

There is so much press out there right now in the business communities advising you not to have the mindset of “Partnering” with your customers, it’s really driving me nuts! 
 
Some sources say that using the word “partner” implies that you are both on the same level and that there should be a hierarchy in order for you to better lead your client or customers. THEY say that you need to be “above” them.
 
I can understand where they are coming from, but I don’t agree with it.  I think that you should absolutely partner with your customers in order to help them succeed.  By truly partnering with them, you are embracing their goals, challenges, and successes.
When you truly understand and embrace what they want, when their struggles become your struggles, when their successes become your successes, you know that your success is dependent upon their success, then you are a true partner.
That’s where the magic starts to happen.  Your customers and clients turn to you instinctively because they know that you will do absolutely everything within your power to help them and help their customers.  When they achieve their goals and help their customers succeed, they know in large part it is because of their partnership with you.
 
I don’t care what they say, this is what customers truly want.  They want someone to completely put themselves in their shoes, feel their struggles, understand their goals and personalize them.  When customers feel that, they’d be hard pressed to leave someone that they feel is truly invested in helping them succeed.  Customers know that partners are completely invested in the best process and outcome for everyone involved.
 
After all, aren’t true partners there to help you be your best?
I’d love to hear your thoughts below… Please share them with me.
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