Transforming the Customer Experience

Category : Customer Experience Management

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Stop Kidding Yourself! Are You Interested or Committed to Delivering Amazing Customer Service?

“I’d kill to have a golf swing like that!”

“I’d do ANYTHING to lift that much weight and look like that!”

We’ve all heard, and made, statements like this about something in either our personal or professional lives. But really, we are all a bunch of liars.

Yes, that sounds extreme, but let me explain… I’ll tie this in to Customer Service and the Customer Experience quickly.

That golf pro… Before he or she turned pro, they likely went to the course in the wee hours of the morning and practiced a full 90 minutes before going to their “job” only to return again after work, day in… day out. They sacrificed many moments that most of us take for granted to get them closer to their true goal… to be the absolute best they could be and turn pro.

That fabulous looking person in the gym (I’m not talking about the steroid pumpers)… They watch everything they eat. They train methodically and diligently.  They let the scoffing over their eating habits roll of their skin. They don’t judge those that eat differently, yet find themselves subject to ridicule because of their strictness to their own eating and training regimine. “Can’t you just let loose and have fun this ONE time?”

Many of us are not prepared to put in the time and effort it takes to be in the top 5% of anything… sport, physical fitness… or business success.

So, you say you deliver the best customer service and make the experience your customers have better than they can get anywhere else?  Really.

If I were to walk in your doors, or call your company, and ask the first five people I see what your company stands for and how it works with customers better than anyone else, I’d bet that I’d get five blank stares… and then some sheepish off the cuff made up answers.

So my question to you is this… Are you INTERESTED in focusing on your customers and creating a culture that is centered around them, or are you COMMITTED?

Interested companies gather a little information, talk about it from time to time, hire a consultant, might spend a little money for a workshop or training session, and believe that they are on the right track.

Committed companies do research, not only hire coaches – but DO THE WORK, talk about and focus on the customer experience incessantly, create a unified vision of the ideal customer experience, hire and train the right folks to support that ideal experience and HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE for excellent customer service delivery, they get feedback from their customers as to how they are doing, etc.

So, the golf pro and the body builder, they have a goal. They have clarity. They have a vision of success. They. Do. The. Work.

Are you willing to step up and stop talking the talk? Walk the talk. Develop a culture focused on the most important person in your company – the CUSTOMER.  Not sure where to get started? Click here…

Resolutions Don’t Work in Customer Service… Habits Drive the Customer Experience

Resolutions Don’t Work… HABITS Do
 
First off, I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday season and are looking forward to the promises and opportunities of 2015.
 
Many of you likely fell into the nostalgic traditions of setting New Year’s Resolutions with big plans and the best of intentions.
And… like the MAJORITY of folks, most (if not all) of those resolutions have already fallen by the wayside.
Frustrating, isn’t it.  Why does this happen? Because resolutions are only intentions. We all can think back on zillions (no exaggeration) of times we’ve had the best of intentions and can’t seem to make any of them stick.
The reason is because intentions are a mind game. ACTION is the cement to make things happen. You have to have action to take your intentions to fruition. 
 
I can say that I’m determined to complete my second full chin up in the next 6 weeks until I’m blue in the face, but that simply won’t happen unless I continue to ratchet my nutrition into check and continue my strength training. But, those actions of eating right and training are the ONLY way I’m going to get that second chin up to happen.
What does this have to do with your business and the customer experience? EVERYTHING!  
 
Think about it… you had to take many different actions to get your business to it’s current state. Whether that is a good or bad thing, a series of actions got you where you are.  To make any changes, you’ll continue to take actions. 
 
The most impactful actions are the DAILY HABITS that we make as part of our action plan. A daily habit and choice I have in my quest for strength is do I eat a donut or three eggs for breakfast? I eat the eggs.  I strength train HARD twice a week to increase my strength. I want results. I need to take action. My egg breakfast is a daily habit, an action DIRECTLY RELATED TO MY GOAL. 
 
If you want to be successful in business and in your quest to make more profits and increase your customer retention, you must take action to make that happen. Wishing it won’t make it happen. Wanting it won’t make it happen. Working at it will make it happen.
 
I have great plans for all of us in 2015. I spent some time the past few weeks mapping out content, workshops, and coaching programs to help each of you make more money, enjoy your business, improve the morale of your staff, and simply making the customer experience more natural to the DNA of your company.
 
I do need your help though. To make the information relevant and useful to you, I’m going to continue to ask for your feedback, questions, and challenges that hare keeping you from having the business of your dreams and giving you the biggest headaches. I’ve found that many of you have similar questions and it helps me when you’ve voiced your challenges specifically to your situation.  
So, remember make improving the customer experience a HABIT in your organization.  Here are some strategies and quotes to help you and your staff get there faster…
  • He who profits most serves best. – Arthur F. Sheldon
  • Be the difference between delivering what is expected and what is delightful.
  • Your customers are keeping your business alive based on what you promised to deliver. Be sure you know what promises you can make that you can KEEP no matter what. Disappointment is VERY hard to overcome.
  • As far as your customers are concerned, you ARE the company. This is not a burden, but the core of your job. You hold in your hands the power to keep the customer coming back. You have the power to make or break your customer’s loyalty. Do everything you can to exceed your customer’s expectations.
  • In business, you get what you want by giving other people what they want. – Alice MacDougall
Happy New Year and I’m honored to have you in my community to change the world of business, one experience at a time!
Helping you focus on your customers,

Customer Service – It CAN Earn You Loyal Customers!

I preach continually about the importance of Customer Service and am really happy to share this personal story.

Last week I was on my annual pilgrimage to Chicago with some good friends.  Every year, I mean EVERY year, we dine at Quartino’s restaurant.  We happened to find ourselves there about 8 years and have returned every year because the service, food, and prices are so wonderful.  Our friends think we are nuts for not trying any of the other venues, but we just don’t want to risk it.

Last week, we found ourselves waiting a few minutes for our reserved table at the appointed time.  I asked the hostess twice if she had an estimate of the wait time as we had tickets to a show later that evening.  She very politely apologized for the wait and assured us we’d be seated shortly.

Just moments after my second inquiry, the restaurant manager, Tony, appeared and genuinely apologized for our wait. He assured us that the table would be ready momentarily and thanked us so much for our patience.  We told him how happy we are with the restaurant and have come back every year because of the great experience we consistently have.  Upon hearing that, he thanked us for our loyalty and returned with a complimentary bottle of wine for us to enjoy for the remaining minutes we had to wait.  He then showed us to our table.

The remainder of the meal was, as expected, wonderful.  We enjoyed our meal while catching up on each other’s lives and lots of laughter.  The manager then stopped by at the end of our meal with a cocktail treat for each of us and gave me his card and asked us to email him next time we, or any of our friends, would be dining at the restaurant so that he could be sure we were well taken care of.

Now, this is the type of service experience I train my clients to deliver to their customers.  While we hadn’t waited too long, they were very kind and apologetic about having to wait at all.  The manager went above and beyond to make us feel like we were special patrons of the restaurant and really made us feel important and well taken care of.  He even followed up at the end and made sure that we knew how to contact him to be sure we’d receive great service at our next visit.

When you can connect all of the dots like this.. welcoming at the beginning, great care during, handling any mishaps with grace, and sending us off with a smile (and a blog post), you know you’ve done a great job.  They key here is that they do it CONSISTENTLY.

Keep it up, Tony and your team at Quartino’s!  Next time any of you are in Chicago, stop by and ask for Tony.  He’ll take great care of you.  You can also learn a thing or two from them to bring into your business.

Customer Service Surveys – Have Them Take a STAND!

I often work with clients to create customer surveys to get valuable feedback from customers about the way they do business, ways to improve, what is working, what isn’t, etc.  One of the most frequent discussions we have is around my guidance to avoid having a neutral response available for the respondent.  I like to provide the following options for quantitative options…

  • Strongly Disagree
  • Disagree
  • Agree
  • Strongly Agree

This forces folks to decide how they feel one way or the other.  Think about it – if you ask someone about a movie or restaurant and they respond with “Eh, it was alright.” Do you really have any insight as to how they enjoyed it or if they would encourage you to see that movie or go to that restaurant?  No, it’s vague.  It gives them the comfort of being vague and neutral… which really gives you no insight to their true feelings at all.

When asking for feedback, you have to be courageous enough to ask for the good, the bad, and – yes – the ugly.  If you are looking to only get glowing responses to lull yourself into a false sense of tranquility, then you really are sticking your head in the sand and eventually you’ll be outpaced by your competitor that truly wants relevant feedback on how they can keep their customers coming back for more.

You’ll be MUCH better off when you ask folks to tell you directly, no sugar coating it.  You need to know what your customers like and what they don’t like.   You need to know what will drive them away to your competition and what will bring them back to you.  You need to find out what you are doing well and what is simply not working.

Now, here is what separates the men from the boys / women from the girls – –  you MUST have a comment section included somewhere for folks to give comments in free form… meaning they can explain any of their reasoning for responding as they did for any of the questions, or to add any additional thoughts they feel you should know.  This is actually the secret sauce… you are getting the customer to articulate EXACTLY, in their own words, their thoughts on the way you do business.

Using customer surveys with both quantitative AND qualitative (free form) responses gives you a complete picture as to the true state of the customer experience with direct customer input.  Who better to tell you how your business is running than the people that are currently working with you?  You’ve already marketed to them.  They’ve already put their trust in you.  Now is your chance to continue to earn it and reap the benefits by making improvements suggested by those that are already keeping you in business.

Coming soon…  The importance of a WELL WORDED survey – it can make or break your results.

Be sure to leave your thoughts and comments below…

Customer Service – Which Comes First – the Customer or Your Staff?

Customer service is an obvious and crucial focus for any company looking for sustainable financial success.  You MUST focus on customers.  You MUST value and appreciate the business, revenue, and referrals they bring you. Customers today are leaving businesses that take them for granted.  Customers are looking for those businesses that understand they are only one option and make it their goal to be the BEST option in terms of customer service and experience.

We try to give customers everything they want… and more.  We try to please them to keep them not only satisfied, but loyal.  Yes, without the customer, you wouldn’t be in business.

But there is another factor in this equation… your staff.

It all begins with hiring the right folks to represent your company and serve your customers. Start with the interview process when determining the customer focus of your candidates.  Have specific customer service intent questions included in the interview process.  By intent, I mean give them a realistic customer interaction scenario and ask how they would like to see it handled.  Ask open ended questions to hear their stories. Have them tell you a story of when THEY THEMSELVES have experienced wonderful and terrible service as a customer.

Engaged employees are a critical complement to the customer focus.  Engaged employees know that when the company succeeds, they succeed.  The way to determine engaged employees is the same way you connect with your customers – speak with them, ask questions, what do they like, what do they not like.  What are their professional and personal goals and how can you help them achieve those goals?  

Engagement can be the determining factor in your company’s long term success.  Find out from your staff if they feel that management and leadership make them feel appreciated in a way that makes them WANT to come to work, not HAVE to come to work.  Also ask them if htey would ever recommend their friends to work for your company.  These questions should serve as valuable conversation starters to determine the pulse of your staff engagement.

Like the chicken and the egg conundrum, you can’t have customers without your staff to serve them, and you cant have staff serving someone who doesn’t yet exist.  Both are truly equally important.

I DO suggest though, that you focus the first 70% of your efforts on your internal staff to show them what service looks like to you and train them accordingly.  From that point, spread the love 50/50 between customers and staff.  You must always interact with both from similar perspectives.  Actively connect with them, find out what they like and dislike about your company, and ask what they’d like to see to keep them loyal to your company.  Then, whenever possible, act and implement.  

Once you’ve done all of the above… rinse and repeat…. forever.  There is NO END to focusing on your customers or staff.  You lose one… you’ll lose the other.

Click here to discover even more facts about the importance of focusing internally from one of the industry leaders… Zappos.com.  They’ve built their reputation SOLEY focusing on the customer experience and this interview shares how they’ve gone about it to become the success they are today.  My gift to you!

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 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.

 

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.

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.

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