Transforming the Customer Experience

Category : cultural mindset

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How to Make Your Customers WANT to Give You Money

I’m thrilled to present a guest blog post from one of my favorite sites www.FlyingPigCommunications.com and speaks directly to the experience we all desire to create for our customers.

by Laura Petrolino

In these tough economic times, it may seem like a false hope to create an environment where your customers not only freely pay you for your product or service, but do so eagerly and gratefully. Ah Contre’ dear business owning friends….it perhaps is easiest in a tough economy to produce this type of sentiment in a customer. Since money and resources are scarce, a customer wants to feel confident and justified in what they spend their hard-earned dollars on, all you have to do is give them a convincing reason why spending their money with you is worthwhile (and then, of course, follow through).

I had a great experience last night that served as a perfect example of this. While I was in the shower, my wonderful (yet mischievous dog) decided it would be a good idea to devour an entire bottle of a new glucosamine supplement I had bought earlier in the day. I discovered his ‘joint relief’ feast too late to simply provoke him to throw up, so I was faced with the need to call up animal poison control (run by the ASPCA)  to see what I should do and if he was in major danger. As I was researching where to call, I found myself becoming very angry at the fact that I would be forced to pay $65 for a call. “What a rip-off!”, I thought to myself, “$65 for them to tell me that he would probably be fine but just have a bunch of diarrhea”.

Since my dog is my child, although the $65 angered me, I didn’t see any choice in the matter, so I begrudgingly called up. I was greeted with a HUMAN voice…not an automated machine, who was extremely friendly and carefully went through the situation with me, did a google search to find the exact supplement he ate, gave me a case number and then passed me on to a Vet.

The Vet was also extremely pleasant, took quality time to double and triple check things, told me what a normal reaction would be, and what an abnormal reaction would be. She then set up a follow up call and told me to call back (for free) at any time if things didn’t seem right or I had any questions. Before she took my money, she took the time to see if I was registered with a specific microchipping organization, which if I had been, would have made the consultation free.

I hung up the phone in a completely different state of mind than I called with. I felt like I truly received a quality service and would both call again for any reason and recommend them to others. I was actually happy to give them my money! What created this change of opinion? I can narrow it down to a few things, that can be actively applied to any business or service:

-They were nice: seems simple huh? Guess what…it is! Too often though, businesses act like the customer should be serving them vs. the other way around. Being nice goes along way!

-They provided a complete service: Consultation, follow up and emergency call back (if needed) ALL INCLUDED. They didn’t try to nickel and dime me, but instead provided more than I expected. Nothing bad ever comes from OVER DELIVERY

-They trusted me as a customer: Although they mentioned at the beginning the fee to make sure I was aware of it, they didn’t charge me until the end. They trusted that if they followed through on their service, I would follow through as a customer. I could have easily just hung up, but they provided such a good service it was well worth paying for. Communicating trust to your customers is an attribute of good businesses that is often overlooked and undervalued. Trust is important to a customer and it is a two way street. How can you expect your customer to trust you, if you don’t trust them in return?

-They established credibility: This goes along with feeling like I’m receiving value for my money.

What do you do to make your customers feel good about paying for your product or service?

Improve Customer Service by Holding Staff Accountable

Dear Manager,

Managing the customer experience and my ability to improve the customer service I deliver will now be my main focus in the upcoming year.  My supervisor just gave me my annual performance evaluation and I noticed that 50% of the review focused on customer service and a customer centric culture.

At most companies, the statement “Focus on the Customer” is usually just a lot of talk.  Sure, it’s addressed once in a while, but rarely have I seen a performance appraisal that stresses customer focus so heavily.  What you are really telling me is how well I treat our customers is just as important as my daily job responsibilities.  Since my compensation is directly tied in to my performance evaluation, you can bet that I’m going to pay more attention to that.

When we went over the customer centric culture last month, we did spend a lot of time discussing how each of our teams could improve the customer relationship.  During my review, my supervisor started asking me how I had implemented some of those ideas.  I was embarrassed to say that I hadn’t actually done any of it, just thought about it from time to time.  Now, I’ll really have to make sure I follow through.

I have to admit, this change is going to be a bit of a challenge.  Before, you were pretty hands off.  Now that you are more focused on the customer service and satisfaction levels, it’s going to take some getting used to.  Don’t get me wrong, I can rise to the challenge.  It might not happen overnight, but with you making me accountable for the service levels you expect, if my job is important to me, I’ll do it.

Sincerely yours,

Your staff

Customer Experience Management – Practice What You Preach

Dear Employer –

Customer Experience Management has been a hot topic around our company lately.  You have been giving us many motivational talks about it, but there is something that would really help us out – leading by example.

You serve as a role model to us. If you disregard the customers, focus only on the business and not the customer driving it, or don’t walk the talk, how would we know to do otherwise?  We really need you to practice what you preach. You are our business role model and set the expectation by how you relate to our customers.

To excel at managing the customer experience, we need the leadership to set the example and it will trickle down throughout the entire company.  When you set the tone for improving customer service and to delight our customers, we will then follow suit.

We’ll treat our customers the same way that you treat them, and even us.

We want to make sure that the ideals that you are holding us to are not just merely mission and vision statements that hang on the wall in our lobby.  We want to embrace the customer centric culture we promise and to live it each and every day.

Thanks for listening,

Your staff

Guest Blog Post – The Customer Centric Leader

Guest Blogger – Jennifer V. Miller

Many companies aspire to customer service greatness, but few achieve it. Why? One reason is that it’s not part of the company’s culture. Oh, sure, it’s on banners in the break room and the company hired that fun inspirational speaker for “Customer Service Week.”   But it’s not really part of the culture—not ingrained in the company DNA. Why? Well, one reason is that it can be difficult for the company’s leadership to really, truly get behind a customer service culture. It takes hard work on the leadership team’s part to bring life to and sustain an organizational culture that’s customer-centric. Leaders have many other items competing for their attention and “customer service” often gets left to the front-line employees. That’s a big mistake on any leader’s part.

Here are three ways leaders can help shape and promote the customer experience:

Model it. You have to be a good role model. If you don’t return calls, are abrupt when someone questions you or don’t deliver on promises, would you really expect otherwise of your customer-facing employees? There’s just no way around it. The “Do as I Say, Not as I Do” mentality won’t cut it. Creating a customer-centric culture starts with leaders who model it. All other things flow from that.

Talk about it. Already have a set service motto or value statement? Great—talk it up! Saying it once or twice has very little effect. You’d be surprised how often you need to discuss providing quality service. Caution: no pontificating about how the customer is always right or any other windbag speech with platitudes. It’s about conversation. Engage employees about what they see as key customer service issues in your department. What’s working? What’s not? Be truly open to what your employees have to say about the customer experience. After all, who has the majority of the data? They do and they’ll share it if you actively listen.

Celebrate it. Your overall corporate culture will dictate what’s appropriate for “celebrating”. Regrettably, most efforts come across as cheesy events, with front-line employees secretly rolling their eyes. Even so, don’t let the naysayers stop you from genuinely saying “thanks” to employees who serve the customer well. Above all, employees want to know that their efforts matter. Sometimes a small token of thanks goes a lot further than the grand gesture.

Leaders who keep these three actions foremost in their daily to-do list will be far ahead in the game for creating a strong service culture in their organization.

Jennifer V. Miller is the Managing Partner of SkillSource, a firm that provides consulting, online courseware, train-the-trainer programs and workshop facilitation in the areas of communications, management, supervisory skills and team development. She can be reached at: jmiller@people-equation.com.

Are You a Stodgy Professional or a Real Problem Solver?

In putting the final touches on a presentation I’m making later this afternoon, I recognize the fact that I need to really build rapport with the group that I am working with. I am new to them and they may not embrace doing a SWOT analysis late in the afternoon. I do have a few questions that I present to groups that give them a compelling need and a few things that I do to lighten the mood. It is essential for me to build the rapport in order to have them engage in the process, recognize their pain points, and to look for opportunities of strength and growth.

The point of this is to recognize that in all arenas of business, it is imperative to be a real problem solver to your customers. I could give a boring presentation filled with content like so many of us have attended. But, would I really be helping my client? It doesn’t matter if I deliver fantastic information when no one in the audience is engaged enough to want to retain or apply it.

In order to be effective at what we do, we need to be real problem solvers. How do we do this? We engage, we ask questions, we identify with our audience, we get them to identify with us. Whether it is 2 people or 200 people we are working with, it is important to open up. Although I speak professionally, I am by no means the most polished speaker in the world. This works to my advantage because I am very good at finding humor in my blunders. Because all of us make mistakes, I level the playing field in laughing at our goofs.

At the same time, I hold the audience accountable in a good way. I tell them NOT to take what I say at face value. I ask them to challenge me. I challenge them also by asking why they are at the meeting and what they expect out of our time together. This engages them and also gets them to hold me accountable for information and facilitating plan, while at the same time, they know they need to play nice in my sandbox and cooperate with me.

So, in your interactions today with your teams, your customers, and yourselves, are you being a stodgy professional or a real problem solver?

Offer to Make Your Customer’s Load a Bit Lighter

Yesterday I had two great customer service experiences.  Two completely different scenarios, but the same premise of providing excellent customer service in such a way that clearly increased my satisfaction with the experience.

I have an iPhone which means that my cell service is through ATT.  I have heard so many horror stories about the customer service from ATT and their service overall that I was a bit apprehensive about signing up with them initially.  Yesterday, as I was online checking my bill before the automatic payment went through, I noticed that I had exceeded my minute threshold and my bill was almost double of my typical statement.  I called ATT to make sure that I was reading the bill correctly.  The call center representative was very friendly and helpful.  He explained that I was reading the bill correctly and that my usage had been increasing steadily over the past few months.  He suggested that I go up one level to the next plan to get more minutes and that would have covered my usage this month.  Since that made sense, I made that change, all the while wishing I had done that earlier in order to avoid this large bill.  This is the point that I was impressed – he OFFERED to make the change retroactive one month since we were still in the same billing period and that he would make the price adjustment for me to reflect the new rate plan.  Now, this may be their typical practice, but the point is that I didn’t have to ask.  He presented this for me and in my eyes, ATT was the hero.  He was the point of contact for ATT with me, so in my perception, he is ATT.  I was thrilled to save the money and with  his friendly and professional handling of my call.

The other situation is a completely different situation, but same premise.  I was shopping with my kids last night at a local clothing store, Paper Doll, in Rockford, MI.  I needed a pair of leggings and stopped in to the store to see if they had my size in the color I needed.  The sales clerk quickly checked and discovered that they didn’t have my size in the color I wanted.  She did tell me that they were expecting another shipment at any time.  Here again is the impression point – she OFFERED to call me as soon as they came in.  Now I don’t need to make the effort to call or stop in.  I know she’ll call me.  I’m not even a frequent customer there.  She just knew that she could make my life easier and offered to help.

By being customer centered, the satisfaction level among your customers will dramatically increase.  Any time that you can reduce the effort on the part of your customers, it is truly appreciated.  Your customers are coming to you to solve a problem.  As much of that problem that you can proactively manage for them will be another reason that your customers will go out of their way to come to you.

Welcome Customers into Your Home

I was having a morning meeting to review upcoming products at my favorite local coffee house, Epic Coffee in Rockford, MI. I had the opportunity to meet the owner, Sarah, and complimented her on the success of the shop and the great feeling I always get when I am there. She thanked me for the compliment and said the magic words I love to hear –

“I really enjoy getting to know my customers and try to treat them as if they were coming into my home.”

Now, if you’ve learned anything from reading my previous posts, this is the perfect approach to making your customers feel welcome.  It says a lot about the culture that Sarah has instilled in her store.  She wants to make people feel comfortable there so that they’ll want to return.  She has customer service as the most important thing people notice.  Sarah knows that if she treats people well and does the little extras, like warming coffee mugs, they’ll appreciate it and become loyal customers.

To take this into the corporate world, this holds true as well.  Take a moment to look at how your office presents itself.  How are the phones being answered?  How does your office look?  What is the appearance of your office staff?  All of these things feed into your customer satisfaction levels.  If you want to increase your customer satisfaction and retention, make your customers happy by making them feel welcome as if they were being welcomed into your home.

Your customers will thank you for it.

Customer Satisfaction is Your Fault or Your Glory

I was recently speaking with someone about the people in their organization and how to increase the drive to deliver excellent service.

The discussion revolved around two main issues that are relevant in ANY organization –

1) Customer Service and Satisfaction is a trickle down effect starting with the CEO and management that is a leadership by example phenomenon.  It’s is crucial that leadership set the standards and the expectations as to how customers are going to be treated and what the minimum expectations are in any customer interaction.  As Lisa Ford said in a recent conversation I had with her – “Without service standards, everything else is left to chance.”

By clearly laying out the expectations as to what the customers can expect, then everyone is aware of what their role is to make that happen.

2) Hiring right is going to make or break your service standards. Once you’ve hired the people who have the desired mindset on how to treat the customers, the rest is simple.  If you have people in your organization that groan when the subject of treating customers right comes up, you have some people that are toxic to your customers.  The customer needs the top priority of everyone within your organization.  Without your customers, you won’t even be in business.  This is a philosophy that Zappos.com wholeheartedly embraces.

These two points really deserve so much more attention than this short post, but we’ll go into both of these soon in some of the upcoming videos under production.

In the meantime, treat your customers well and they’ll reward you by keeping their money and loyalty with you.

Do Your Core Values Result in Customer Satisfaction and Service?

Core Values – many of us have heard the term, but do we really know what they are or mean?  Core Values are those values by which you and your company are driven by.  These determine who you are and what you stand for.  The Core Values don’t necessarily have to do directly with your product – but with your customers and business.

For example, Zappos is held in the highest regard for their customer service and satisfaction. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, said recently that they really don’t train for customer service.  They hire for culture fit.  The culture of Zappos is what makes them who they are.  Once they make the right hiring decisions based on their culture, the customer service, satisfaction, and retention come naturally.  The core values of Zappos are these…

1.   Deliver WOW Through Service
2.   Embrace and Drive Change
3.   Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
4.   Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
5.   Pursue Growth and Learning
6.   Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
7.   Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
8.   Do More With Less
9.   Be Passionate and Determined
10. Be Humble

By adhering to these core values, customer service and satisfaction are a natural benefit.  Everyone who works at Zappos fits their customer mindset culture, lives these core values, and truly enjoys working there. Because of this, they are invested in the success in the company and vested in keeping their customers happy.  It’s a win/win situation for both.

Do You Tolerate Bad Service?

If you have staff in your organization that are providing poor service, you have two options – provide them the direction they need, or they need to be let go.  By allowing just one staff member to provide poor service, it will become a festering problem quickly.  It sends the message to your other staff that service is not very important, and the standards will quickly fall.

The public perception of your service delivery is only as strong as your company’s weakest link.  No matter how hard most of your team works to deliver excellent customer service, your customer will walk away when they hit that one person that appears to be indifferent or uninterested in serving your customers.

Customers want to spend their money where they feel appreciated.  They want to be acknowledged and thanked for doing business with you.  If you fail to do so, they will find what they are looking for with your competitors.

Customer satisfaction rises when everyone in a business is doing everything they can to deliver excellent service and build loyal customers.

Your customers will thank you for it.

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