Transforming the Customer Experience

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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…

Nail Salon Could Use a Little Polish in Customer Service Training and Skills

I walked into a local nail salon today and realized that they didn’t know a thing about giving good customer service or providing a great customer service experience.

My intention was to purchase a gift certificate for a client of mine for her birthday.  When I walked in, there were four nail techs working on customers.  The one closest to me didn’t look up, make eye contact.  She just raised her voice and said “Hello,  pick a color and have a seat.”

So, I turned around and walked out.

It’s not a huge deal and isn’t going to alter my world, but I’m not going to pay $50 to someone who doesn’t have the courtesy to make eye contact, greet me with a friendly greeting, and ask me how they may help me.  She made an incorrect assumption about what I wanted and barked out orders to me.  So, I’ll find something else for my client.

Small businesses have the power to drive the economy and to thrive right now.  But it’s amazing to me how many just fail to understand that it takes a simple focus on the customer.  Treating people well. Engaging with customers. Smiling. Getting to know what our needs/problems/issues/goals are. Asking for feedback.  These are all the simple things that I cover in my 5 Steps to More Loyal Customers emanual.  Large companies can do the same thing, yet customers tend to gravitate toward the smaller businesses because there is more of a personal touch, a connection, that sometimes is lost in the bigger companies and organizations.

Connecting with customers is much simpler than most people and businesses realize.  It just takes a conviction from the leaders and owners that there needs to be a mindset shift on how they serve the customers.  They need to instill this to everyone works with customers, either face to face or behind the scenes.  So, basically, everyone in the company.  Because if you aren’t working face to face with a customer, you are working to support someone who does.

Easy Tips to Improve the Customer Experience

Your goal is to set your small business apart from the competition. If you’ve been a reader of this blog for any length of time, you know that I’m going to say it’s all about the customer service experience you deliver.  Here’s a lesson I recently gave on how to do just that.

I recently had the privilege of delivering a webinar for Zendesk, a superb CRM software company, and many of their customers.  Because the response was so favorable, I’d like to share the webinar with you.  You may watch it here…

Here are the points covered as well as Zendesk’s summary of them….

1. Asking questions is key to serving your customers
Your customers have a lot to say. Asking them questions is a great way to learn about their likes, dislikes, and pain points. By listening to your customers, you can better understand what they want and how to meet those needs.

2. Give each customer that “one customer” feel
How would you treat a customer if they were your only customer? You would probably make a major effort to ensure that those interactions are positive and genuine. Making small talk, taking time to understand them as individuals, and learning how they use your products and services will go a long way toward providing a personalized customer experience.

3. Answer requests with “I’m here to help”
Many people don’t like asking questions, out of shyness or a fear of sounding uninformed. Saying things like “I’m here to help” and “I’m glad you asked that question” will help them feel more comfortable and make it easier to solve their problems.

4. Think “best / better / next” practices
At staff meetings, take a look at the real world challenges you’ve had helping customers, and pay particular attention to what worked and what could be improved.

5. Hire “nice,” train the skills
Don’t hire customer service professionals that have the skill set you want but aren’t nice people. “Nice” is a skill that should be innate to anyone involved in customer service. You either have it, or you don’t. You should hire nice people and train them how to be customer service superstars.

6. Don’t be afraid to make the decision
Have the guts to make a decision and help your customers. Work within the guidelines you’ve been given, but work with the customer and provide them service with their best interests in mind. More often than not, doing so will be in the company’s best interests. If you make a mistake, reread #4.

7. Make a difference each and every day
Every single customer interaction matters, so you have to make the most of them. When reviewing a call, ticket, or email exchange, ask yourself, “Did I really do absolutely everything I could?” Striving to be the best you can be with every single customer interaction will go a long way toward setting yourself apart as a truly customer-centric organization.

Please leave your comments below as to which resonates the most with you and your business.

Bad Employee Morale Can Kill Customer Service

Last night as I waited for my daughter at dance class, I joined a group of other moms that were waiting.  One was lamenting about how unhappy she was with two of her coworkers.  Apparently, it had been a really rough day…

“They just stir the pot and make it such a negative environment.  There are only six of us in my department and it drives all of us crazy.  If management would just address the problem and stop hiding from conflict and confrontation, we all would function better as a team.
The main trouble maker is 6 months away from retirement so they are probably thinking that they’ll just wait her out and hopefully things will improve.  I wish they knew how miserable we all are.  I’ve even started looking for a job outside of my department.”
I don’t know this woman well, but I felt for her. We’ve all been there.  I’ve even been in her manager’s position of having difficult staff.  But the key is to address the situation before it gets worse.  As I see it, there are (at least) two issues here –
 
1)  Not Addressing the Behavior – By letting the poor behavior continue, management is condoning it.  It will soon become the accepted norm. The wording I would suggest to start to correct this would be…
” You seem to be pretty unhappy or frustrated about something. Please let me know what’s going on so that I can help.  Your attitude is sending a sense of negativity that I’m not sure you are aware of. We need to make this a positive working environment. How can I help?”
Notice that I didn’t use wording that would put someone on the spot, but these words help alleviate the expected sense of defensiveness, while letting it be known that what is going on needs to stop.  It also puts management in the position of being open and able to help if possible.
 
2)  The Rest of the Team is Devalued – If you’ve read these newsletters long enough or spent an hour on the phone with me, you know that I’m always going to say that you need to treat your internal customers as well as, if not better than, your external customers.
Should you allow poor working environments, even psychological, to continue, you are telling the rest of the team that you don’t care enough about them.  You are putting more value on your fear of confrontation than on their emotional happiness at work.  The sad part here is that you’ll not only lose your good staff, but you’ll lose customers as well. Customers will sense what’s going on.  They’ll overhear staff.  They might even get an earful from one of your staff.  Don’t risk it.
Takeaway Tip –  Pay attention to your team.  If you have some “Morale Killers” around, act sooner rather than later, before it’s too late

Lego Connects More Than Blocks – It Connects People Through Excellent Customer Service

Connecting with customers is essential to customer loyalty and satisfaction.  It takes a special company, and a special representative, to really make that connection one that makes the news and touches hearts.

Luka is a little boy at the age of 7, but is the customer in this case.  He saved up all of his money and bought a special Lego set.  After taking one of the Lego characters to the store, it unfortunately was lost.  These things happen.  But, Luke wasn’t about to give up.  He wrote a letter to Lego to see if he could get a replacement.

Now, so far, this story isn’t too special.  Yes, he’s a cute kid and many kids and customers write letters to companies when they need some help.

What is so special about this story is the response that he received from Lego. Here is a copy of that letter he received from Lego’s superstar representative Richard.  Richard wrote that he had spoken to Sensei Wu, a master from the  Ninjago line.

Luka,

I told Sensei Wu that losing your Jay minifigure was purely an accident and that you would never ever ever let it happen ever again.

He told me to tell you, “Luka, your father seems like a very wise man. You must always protect your Ninjago minifigures like the dragons protect the Weapons of Spinjitzu!”

Sensei Wu also told me it was okay if I sent you a new Jay and told me it would be okay if I included something extra for you because anyone that saves their Christmas money to buy the Ultrasonic Raider must be a really big Ninjago fan.

So, I hope you enjoy your Jay minifigure with all his weapons. You will actually have the only Jay minifigure that combines 3 different Jays into one! I am also going to send you a bad guy for him to fight!

Just remember, what Sensei Wu said: keep your minifigures protected like the Weapons of Spinjitzu! And of course, always listen to your dad.

Not many companies bother to respond to letters, much less respond on such a personal level.  This is a stellar example of not only following up, but following up consistently with the branding of the company and making a true connection with the customer.  You bet your last dollar that Luka and most folks that read this story won’t go out of their way to do business with Lego or buy their products at the next opportunity to do so.

Bottom line…  When you get a letter from a customer, respond to it.  And don’t bother to send a canned response.  Folks just don’t like those.  Go ahead and use a framework response if needed, but customize it as much as possible.  Use the sender’s name and reference their specific issue in the way they described it, not just your internal “issue or reference number.”

How many of you can site an example as great as this one?  Unfortunately, I bet it won’t be too many of you.  If you have one, no matter what role you played in the situation as the customer or company, please share below…  I love hearing stories and examples of companies that do things well.
If you’d like to read the original article, click here, then come back and leave your comments below here on this page…

The Last Impression Counts Just as Much as the First… If Not More

In the customer experience field, we all pay a lot of attention to the first impression we make with customers. 

“You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression” – We all know this saying and drum it into the minds of our teams.

But – what about the last impression?

This really struck home with me this morning as I dropped my daughter off at the bus stop before school.

We had had a wonderful morning.  She woke up on time with her alarm, got dressed, and went downstairs humming a cheerful little song.

Since it snowed a little this morning, I decided to make it an extra special last day before winter break and turned on the fireplace and we ate breakfast in the family room by the Christmas tree and just took our time and chatted.

As we drove up to the bus stop, we talked about some of the fun things we have planned as a family for winter break and what she can do with her friends.  Once we reached the bus stop we waited for the bus to come.  As the bus was approaching, she panicked and remembered that she needed to put her lunch box in her back pack and was doing that as the bus came to a stop.  When she finished, I unlocked the door for her and leaned in for my goodbye kiss and……  That’s where the magic stopped.

She was  frustrated as the bus was now loading kids on and was worried it would leave without her.  A goodbye kiss was simply not on her list of priorities at that moment.  She got out of the car and headed for the bus and got right on with barely a glance back to me.

I sat there for a moment feeling a bit defeated.   I questioned why this bothered me so much since we’d had such a fantastic morning.  Seriously, the morning could not have gone better if I’d planned it right up until that last 90 seconds, and that’s the part that bothered me.

Now, I’ll get over it.  I know she’s 9 years old and didn’t mean anything by it and I know we’ll be fine when she comes home from school today.  But it got me thinking about the way that we leave our customers.  Now, I don’t think there are many businesses that would go so far as to kiss the customers goodbye, but how much attention to you pay to the way that you say goodbye to your customers or consider what happens at the last touch point with them?  You need to be sure to thank them, to look them in the eye, to smile, to do something that signifies a connection of some sort.  For my daughter, it would have been the quick kiss on the cheek goodbye.  For a client or customer, it’s a sincere handshake, a “Thanks for coming in today.”, you get the idea.

Yes, the first impression is extremely important.  But always remember that the lasting impression the customer has of your business or the last person that worked with them is just as important, if not more so.  The last impression lingers far longer than the first.

Please comment below with your thoughts….

No Matter What Your Job Title Is – You Are a Customer Experience Officer

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.

Customer Service Mindset Tips for the Small Business Owner

Small Business Owners: Take Heed – Customer Service is All in the Mindset!

I work with  businesses both large and small and it is reinforced to me daily as to how much of the “Service Mentality” truly stems from the mindset each and every one of us chooses to display.  Yes, you read that correctly…we choose how well we will treat our customers. People try to blame their background, their boss, their peers, or worse yet… the customer, as the reason why they don’t give good service.  But once you own up to it, it all comes down to CHOICE.

So with this being said, the small business owners sometimes feel outnumbered, out-lawyered, out-staffed, out-everything’d by the larger companies that advertise and market in such a way that they can only dream of.

To them, I consistently say one thing…. It’s all in your mindset.  The mindset that you can create the ideal service experience stems from your beliefs and your desire that delivering a superior service experience is not only profitable for your bottom line, but that it is the right thing to do.

I believe this is an essential first step.  You must believe that it is truly possible to assemble a dream team for service.  You may have a few folks in your team right now that you regret hiring, but from this point on, we’ll work on that and ensure that you are hiring for the best service experience possible.  If you don’t believe that this is actually a probability, then you may as well throw in the towel now and continue to make excuses.

The body travels in the direction of  the mind’s most dominant thought, so be prepared to come into this with a beginner’s mind and be open and excited about what the possibilities are.

I have a past client who had so much more knowledge than she ever gave herself credit for until recently, and needed just to open her mind for what was possible.  She recently accepted a position doing everything she had been hoping she could do in her past company, but with a much more progressive one that walks the talk, that has the mindset of all things are possible, and even, necessary in the world of service. So, yes, she had to make some changes by making the huge decision on how long to continue working for a large company with good intentions but no follow through, or to go where she knew it felt better to start from scratch and stay true to her mindset of connecting with customers and becoming a solutions provider.

To all of you who are leaders or owners in your businesses, you must envision the way that you want your customers to feel about you.  You must envision the right team in place that is fulfilling the desires and needs of both the company and the customers.  You must envision how each and every day you are gaining the loyalty and trust of yet one more customer.  By doing this day in and day out, you are setting yourself up for success.  There will be some days when it seems overwhelming and frustrating, but by envisioning the success of you and your team, you are practicing the same techniques that professional athletes, even Olympians, use.  They envision the finish line.  They envision themselves getting the gold medal.  They push through the setbacks.

So to all of you small business owners, the customer service experience that draws your customers back time and time again begins with your mindset and your belief in getting the job done in the best interest of the customer.

Patient Centered Care – How Two Broken Bones Identified a Language Barrier

Every industry or field of business has it’s own jargon, we all know that.  But do your customers speak it or even understand you when you speak with them?

We hit a milestone at our house yesterday… our first broken bones. My 11 year old son was fooling around as boys do and slipped and fell with a loud crash.  Once I found that I couldn’t calm him down and these were true wails of pain, I rushed him to the nearest Urgent Care center not really knowing what to expect.  I was figuring this was a severe wrist sprain or possible fracture since that was what he landed on when he fell. With three kids, we’ve been pretty lucky with very few injuries, but I had a feeling this was going to be a bad one.

The staff at the center wrapped his arm right away while we were in the waiting room to keep it immobilized until we could be seen.  X-rays were taken and then the doctor came in.

The radius and ulna are both fractured and we are a little concerned because the fractures are very close to the growth plates. We are waiting for a wet read from the attending orthopedic, but he is in the OR right now.”

Now, I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent person and I do have a background in medical office management, but I was lost at radius. I was also not in my normal professional processing mode since “Mommy Mode” had taken over and I was trying to console my son since the pain medicine had not kicked in yet.

Once the doctor saw the puzzled look on my face, the doctor said “I’m sorry, this is what I do all the time and I need to remember to speak parent language.   Your son has broken both bones in his right arm very close to the wrist.  Because the fracture is close to the growth plates that could impact some nerves, I’m waiting to hear back from the specialist at the hospital to determine if we need to do surgery tonight.  He’s performing a surgery at the moment, but we are hopeful to hear back within the hour.”

This physician did a very smart thing.  He gave me an explanation right away of the medical terminology he used the first time.  He told me what I needed to know as a parent so that I could process and plan from that point for the best treatment.  While we were waiting, he asked what I do and I explained that I’m a trainer and consultant for customer satisfaction and retention.

He lit up with this and explained how he trains his staff to remember that patients in the center are there because they have to be, not because they want to be there.  He also reminds them to put themselves in the patients shoes when they hear a scary diagnosis or are getting impatient while waiting.  This physician understands what being customer and patient centered is all about.

The way that the staff and physician treated us during our 4 hours at the center helped make the situation so much more manageable.  They checked back with us every 10 minutes to let us know they were still waiting to hear from the specialist and to help alleviate my son’s pain.  They also told us a little about what to expect for the next few days in regards to his pain and the casting process.

It turns out that we were lucky and didn’t need surgery.  My son will get his cast first thing tomorrow morning.  It’s just too bad we don’t have a really great story to tell his friends as to how the fracture happened.

The point of this story is to remind all of you that when you use the lingo or jargon that is so common to you, please remember that it isn’t what your customers typically understand.
  Be clear and specific as to what they need to know and how it impact them.  They often need to follow up or go through some process based on your information, so it’s important that they understand everything clearly.

Any questions or comments?  I’d love to hear them! Please leave your comment below….

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