Transforming the Customer Experience

Category : Customer Experience Management

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Straight Talk on Customer Service from Larry Winget

Call It Customer Service, Customer Satisfaction, or Customer Loyalty.  We’ve all just made it too complicated according to Larry Winget.

A while ago, I had the opportunity and privilege to speak with some of the leaders in the field of Customer Service, Satisfaction, and Loyalty. I’d like to share a key point from my discussion with Larry Winget.

I asked Larry, known for his very direct and straight talk on various business aspects, why he felt the state of the customer experience and customer service seems to be in such disarray.  His answer is exactly what many of you need to know….

“You asked why I feel we fall short of delivering acceptable customer service.  It really comes down to that people don’t seem to understand that when they go into business that they have given over the power and their ability to be successful to their customer. That’s what I said earlier, it all goes back to profitability.

When you go into business, profitability no longer lies in your hands, it lies in the hands of customers.

I heard an old tape many, many years ago by Earl Nightengale that said all of the money you’re ever going to have is currently in the hands of someone else.

In business, that someone else is the customer. They’ve got the money.  The only thing in business you’re supposed to do is figure out how to get it from them.  The best way to get it from them is to serve them well. It’s not that complicated a process. It just comes down to figuring out what they want.

How do you do that?  Well, gee, why don’t we just ask them.  They’ll tell you.  Ask people what they want and then give it to them.

My philosophy of selling and serving is very simple.  Find out what people want and give them a whole lot of it.  Find out what they don’t’ want and don’t give them any of that. They don’t want you to be late.  They don’t want you to lie.  They don’t’ want you to hem-haw around when you say what your product does.  They want your product to do what you said it would do.

All that stuff’s really very, very simple.  But we’ve complicated it with these weird ideas.  Then you add to that we don’t bother to teach our employees, the people who actually deliver the customer service, that it’s all in the hands of the customer. All of it is in the hands of the customer.  We don’t teach employees that.

We don’t teach employees that the real boss is the customer.
And then we don’t enforce that whole feeling that the customer is in charge and that they are the boss.  And so they end up treating the customer like an inconvenience instead of like the boss.”

Larry’s words couldn’t be more true.  The Customer is the Boss of your company. The customer ultimately signs the paycheck and pays the bills for everything you do within your organization.

So, while you are focusing on customer service, customer skills training, and customer retention, please pay attention to the very true words of Larry Winget.

Please share your thoughts on Larry’s views below in the comment area. I’d love to know what you think.

What Do Customer Satisfaction and Expectations Have in Common?

“Why are customers impatient and upset when I’m trying to do what I can for them?”

It’s all about setting the customer expectation.  When you do it right, it leads to a better experience for them and makes life much easier for you.  Here is a short video explaining how one orthodontic office did a great job and earned a very satisfied patient and customer….

Customer Centricity – The Problem – Not the Solution?

Not Be Customer Centric? Focusing on Customers a Problem?

I came across an article today that made me think at first that the author was way off base.  Then, after reading it, I found that I could not agree with him more.

The article, Customer-Centricity Is Not the Solution, It’s the Problem by Sampson Lee, at first tells how so many companies are doing their best to make each customer feel as if they are listened to.  They are listening to all of their customers and doing their darndest to do what they all want in order to keep them coming back for more.  Profits are driven by returning customers, right?  We all want all of our customers to come back to us, right?  Wrong.

You Only Want the Customers You WANT Coming Back to You

Let this sink in for a minute and I’ll explain.    Imagine that you are a local supermarket and a customer requests an item that you don’t carry.  Acting in the best interest of the customer, you order the product from a supplier with a minimum quantity of 25. Now, another customer requests that you provide a different type of shopping cart to accommodate not only a coffee cup, but a sippy cup as well for toddlers.  Then, you have another customer that is requesting that you have a more expansive deli selection with specialty meat.  Trying to be accommodating, you comply as much as you can.

Did I mention that you are a local supermarket that is focused on Oragnic and Natural Produce?  What if no other customer wants the product that the first customer requested.  You are losing valuable shelf space to a product that lies on the boundaries of what your core business values are – Natural and Organic Produce.  They requested a salad spinner to wash their lettuce with.  Only one customer will buy that and it is not a product that will likely be purchased by that person anytime again soon until theirs breaks.  Salad spinners are not a high volume seller.

You can make the case that the special shopping cart and more expansive deli counter would be attractive to some customers, but at what cost to your business?

Stay True to Your Business Purpose and Goals – Your Desired Customers Will Be Your Repeat Customers

By holding steadfast to your core business values and purpose, you’ll not only be serving the customers that truly want what you have, you’ll be able to focus on what you do best… Organic produce.  You want to be finding out who your core customers are, what they like about your store, what they’d like to see offered, how they cook, and if there is anything that you can do to help make their buying decisions easier.  You need to be sure that your suppliers are staying compliant with the guidelines to be labeled as organic and ensuring that your buying is consistent with the profit margins to allow you to provide the items the majority of your customers want and still come out ahead.

By trying to be all things to all people, you’ll simply set yourself up for failure.  You can’t accommodate the needs of everyone. When you can’t, please try to help those customers find a supplier who can better serve them.  Profit margins, staff resources, and shelf space are certainly at risk if you distribute too many resources to the areas that are not the main focus of your operations.

I’ve used a local grocery store as an example here, but all you need to do is consider how your business operates.  If you have the staff, resources, time and space to accommodate many varied requests… by all means, do it.  If you are a three person shop, you’ll need to weigh what the profit and long term loyalty customer gain will be against the short term gain.

By identifying your main customer base and listening to them, focusing on their needs and wants, then you are working in both the best interest of your ideal customers and your company.

Besides, what customer is going to be purchasing processed deli meat in a store dedicated to providing organic produce?  You’ll be quickly called out as not staying true to your values and trying to please too many people.

Your thoughts?

Could You Be Missing This One Idea to Have More Satisfied Customers?

Customer Satisfaction – How Much Are You Willing to Do?

This has been the hottest 12 months in recorded history.  As some of you have been letting me know, your sales are either the best or the worst these past 12 months in your recorded history.

I’ve been suggesting a way to determine how in tune you are to the requests of your customers and many of you have found that it is getting great results.

Keep track of every customer question that you or someone on your team says “No” to.  Now, write these requests and questions down and put them into two categories….

“CAN’T” – –  These are the requests that are simply not cost effective, outside of your business model, not enough demand, truly can’t obtain the product to sell, or for some reason you truly can’t fill the request.

“DON’T / WON’T” – – These are the requests that you should really investigate as to the practicality of providing.  Those that have done this exercise found that there really wasn’t a good reason for not fulfilling the request.  Many found that by simply asking their team, or suppliers, that they could indeed fulfill the request and increase the satisfaction of their customers.

The telling question for the “DON’T / WON’T” category is….  I know that we don’t do this right now, but if we really wanted to provide this, what would need to happen on our end?  Once you and your teams answer this question, you’ve most likely got the buy in to deliver your customers exactly what they are looking for.  And we all know what that means….  more repeat business, loyal customers, and higher profits.

Customer Complaint Resolution – A Fishy Restaurant Tale

Resolving a customer complaint isn’t just about handling the issue, it’s the way you handle the issue. Customer satisfaction and customer retention depends on it.  Here is how one unsuspecting restaurant lost a customer for life.

My family and I were on a weekend getaway in northern Michigan and stopped in at a restaurant to enjoy some dinner.  Since I have a younger child, we always get the child’s menu plus some regular menus.  My daughter ordered the fish and chips off the children’s menu for $ 4.99.  My husband and my older son ordered the fish and chips off the regular menu for $14.99.  It was a nicer restaurant right on the water and we were really enjoying the experience.  The server engaged us and was quite attentive.

When the meals arrived, we instantly were put off.  My daughter’s plate had one piece of fish and french fries.  My husband’s and son’s plate each had two pieces of fish identical to my daughters and french fries.  We could have ordered two children’s meals each for my husband and son, received the same amount of food, and saved $ 4.99.

In the first place, the pieces of fish were not that large and was not enough to satisfy anyone that would order a meal off the regular menu.  The second issue was the price difference did not justify the quantity of food.

The server graciously sent the manager to our table.  We explained how we thought there would be a bit more fish on the plate, especially due to the price. We explained the math I presented above. Her response was “I’ll get you some more fish.  I don’t want you to leave hungry.”  When she returned, she provided only one piece of fish for my husband, not for my son.  When we asked for him to have another piece as well, she agreed but was clearly irritated.

My point is this… When customers voice a concern, really try  to understand it.  Customers have a level of expectation that they internally monitor based on the type of store/restaurant/facility factored in with occasion and price points. While some customers are unreasonable, most are not.  Most simply want to be understood and typically have a very good point that deserves to be considered.

While this manager “solved” the problem by bringing more food, she failed to understand the issue from the customer perspective.  The feeling that was in our minds was that we were trying to get something for nothing or receive special treatment.  She didn’t try to understand that there simply was not enough of the protein on the plate to satisfy anyone over the age of 14, aside from the fact that it was simply double the child’s portion at triple the cost.

While everything else about the restaurant really was very nice, we were left with such a sour taste in our mouths, there is no way we will ever go back there.

Now, we fell into the typical business to customer situation.  We didn’t tell the manager that we were so disappointed for two reasons – 1) We were really enjoying ourselves otherwise and didn’t want to spend more time there than necessary.  2) We didn’t think she would ever get it.

How many of you, as business leaders/owners/and managers really train your teams to understand and resolve customer complaints?  How many of you train your teams about not just what to do, but how to do it?  This customer complaint lack of resolution altered our ultimate customer experience.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Please share below.

Do Your Customers REALLY Trust You?

I’ve been saying since Day One that customer loyalty is built on trust.  Think about it, any relationship requires trust in order to be successful and sustainable.  Trust is expected and needs to be earned by both parties.  This is true in both personal and business relationships.

There is an article posted today in Fast Company that really does an excellent job in giving specific hard hitting questions on how well you’ve earned the trust of your customers.  For some of you, it may be a hard wake up call.  If you find yourself falling short, start taking stock now of areas that need attention and get started.

Consumer trust is about transparency, accountability, competency, integrity, and customer specification.  Hopefully, you read the article and know where your business stands in each of these categories.

Remember, any progress is progress.  Just don’t settle for less or “good enough.”  That’s what your competition is doing.  Be better than your competition and your customers will stay with you.

Customer Loyatly – Make the Experience Memorable

Customer satisfaction and loyalty depends really on one thing… how memorable you make the experience.  Businesses and staff that bring an extra nuance to the “business transaction” have a much higher likelihood of retaining customers than those who simply deliver the promised product.

Last week, I had the opportunity to go with my son on his 5th grade field trip to Chicago. The kids were excited because instead of riding on the regular school bus, we were making the trip on a chartered bus.

I’ve been on many of these field trips before and they were nice.  The drivers were friendly and got us to our destinations on time and safely. Everything you’d really expect on a bus trip.

Now, this particular bus trip stands out.  Yes, we got to our destinations on time and safely, same as the other trips.  But, there was something, or some ONE rather, that made this trip memorable.  Joe, the bus driver made our trip an experience, not just a ride.

When we boarded the bus at 6:00 am, he was very friendly and introduced himself to us.  He explained a few of the safety rules that we needed to know and got the formalities of the trip out of the way.  He then went on to say how happy he was to be able to drive us because he just loves the excitement that elementary school kids have when they are on their way to Chicago.

He then told us about a few things he had planned to make the trip fun.  He made a special CD for the trip with songs referencing Chicago and those that he knew kids love to hear (yes, the ever famous YMCA was in the mix as well).  Joe also made a point to have a few treats for the adults.  Mixed into the CD were 5 theme songs to older television shows.  Joe offered his special CD as a prize to the child who, with some help from an adult, could name all five theme songs.

When we made our one rest stop break there and back, Joe provided fruit, water, granola, and fruit snacks for anyone who wanted them.  He had a few riddles for the kids with some little treats for the kids. He even provided a few brain teasers and small prizes for those winners.

Because we arrived in Chicago a bit earlier than expected, he took us to a few of the tourist spots and even took our picture against the famous Chicago skyline and emailed it to the teacher so we may all have a copy.  As Chicago is one of his frequent destinations, he has picked up on a lot of Chicago trivia and pointed out many facts that we would not have knows otherwise.

At the end of the trip, Joe thanked all of the kids and adults for being on time for all of the pick ups and said that he truly enjoyed driving us that day.  He congratulated all of the kids for completing elementary school and wished the best of success for all of them in middle school.  He thanked the parents for all of our help during the trip and commented on our kids being so great.

Now, this may be all part of his standard “performance” for all trips he drives for, but that is the key – he knows he is performing.  This trip was far more memorable and fun than any other field trip any of us had taken before (as a mom of 3, I’ve been on plenty).  He made us feel welcome right away, he provided some entertainment through the music CD and the riddles and quizzes for the kids, he made sure we knew things about Chicago that he thought was interesting and thought we would enjoy knowing.

He could have simply picked us up at the school and dropped us off at our destination, but he went the extra mile to make it special.  Now, how does that happen?  Can anyone replicate this experience?  Yes, and no.  You must start with the right team by hiring personalities that have this service mentality.

You can be sure that anytime our elementary school has a field trip requiring a charter bus, we will be contacting that same bus company and requesting Joe simply because he made the experience memorable.  You don’t have to have the title of customer service representative to earn customer satisfaction and loyalty.  Just ask Joe, the bus driver.  Now, I’m off to listen to my CD.

Personality Can Make or Break Customer Service & Satisfaction

Personality makes much more of an impact on customer satisfaction than most people realize.  While we all are focused on the best way to welcome customers into our businesses, the tones that we set, we often fail to capitalize on the main strength of the people we hire – their unique personalities.

Yesterday I was making a payment on some physical therapy I had to help me get through my last 1/2 marathon.  While I’m not in favor of human cloning, the woman who helped me yesterday would be the ideal customer relations representative that all companies wish they could clone.

Right off the bat, she greeted me in a very friendly, yet professional manner.  While we were discussing the medical insurance glitch that prompted my original phone call, she started asking questions about the progress of my therapy and training. She asked how long I had been running, how I liked it, and told me how envious she was because of her knee issues that prevented her from running.

She then answered my questions about the bill, assured me that she would personally contact the insurance carrier and provide them with the necessary information.

But here is the piece that really grabbed me.  Here are her exact words that she used to close the call…

“Well, it looks like we have everything taken care of now.  Please let me know when you get your statement from the insurance carrier.  If there are any discrepancies, I’d like to follow up on it myself.  Besides, I really enjoyed helping you today.  This was not just a billing conversation, but felt more like a chit chat with a friend.  Please ask for me next time you need any help.”

I’ve never had a billing clerk treat me so kindly.  I then let her know that I’m a consultant for customer service and satisfaction and that I was truly impressed with the way she handled my call.  She thanked me and let me know that I just made her day with the compliment.  Her last call was with a disgruntled patient who treated her very poorly and took all of his frustrations out on her.  She said while that is expected sometimes and part of her job, it get taxing over time and is hard to shake off for the next unsuspecting caller.

I was amazed that she had experienced such a poor call just previous to me calling her.  I never would have suspected that.  Her personality was the defining factor there.  It was in her nature to help and in her nature to connect with the people she was helping every day.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to pay attention to the personalities of the people you hire into your business.  You must hire the smile, then train the skill.  The “Nice” factor isn’t something that you can, or should, train for.  Hire the people who are helpers by nature.  They’ll engage with your customers far more successfully than those that may be more skilled or educated.

I’d love to know what personality traits you’ve found your successful or most engaging team members to have and how your customers have benefited because of them.

A Common Customer Satisfaction Mistake – No Customer Definition

I had a very important Customer Engagement Moment reinforced this morning.  We have two 9 month old Golden Retriever puppies that needed to be boarded while my family and I were gone last week on Spring Break.  This was our first time leaving them overnight and with this boarding kennel.

The owner of the kennel is a wonderful woman. Within 15 seconds of meeting her and seeing her with my dogs, I knew she was the best one to leave them with.  Her love of animals is self evident. She loves to share knowledge and information that will help with any training or behavior challenges.

Stay with me here, the point is coming. Now, while I know I tend to be a bit longwinded, I can’t hold a candle to this woman.   When she shares her knowledge, she also is the type that doesn’t leave a pause for a polite interruption to move things along.  I knew this going into the transaction and was prepared.  I soaked up all of the training tips she could pass along.

A funny thing happened toward the end of our conversation today.  She suddenly stopped and said…

“I’m so glad that you don’t mind me sharing so much with you and letting me talk.  I don’t see many humans during the day and it does me good to have conversations with folks who walk on only two legs.  I’ve had inquiries from folks who call and just want to find out how much I charge and if I have room on the days they need.  When I can sense that they want to be short and to the point, I politely inform them that I don’t think I’m the best person for them to board their dogs with.

I suppose some folks think I’m crazy for turning away some business for that reason, but it goes against my nature and if I can’t relate to the people, I don’t think I would be able to relate well to their dogs.”

I simply smiled and told her that I think she’s doing a good thing for herself and her customers by being clear who her ideal customer is.

That’s the point of this letter to you today.  Be clear about who your ideal customer is. Understand that you won’t be able to be all things to all customers.  If you try, you are guaranteed to fail.  By focusing on a clear niche or group, you’ll be able to identify and build a rapport with them that is much deeper and sustainable.

Many companies and businesses have made the mistake of trying to do all things for every potential customer.  They’ve either failed or not been nearly as successful as they might have been because they didn’t clearly understand who their customers were and how they could help best help them.

Please also discuss this point and train your teams on who your ideal customers are and how to relate to them.  Your team will feel much more ownership with their responsibilities and invested in your business.

There is nothing wrong with sending some customer elsewhere.  In fact, you’ll be respected because not only are you looking out for your own welfare, but that of those potential customers as well.  They may even turn out to be a referral source for your in the long run.  I’ve seen it happen.

Please be sure to let me know what questions you have about this point.  It’s one that always brings about a lively discussion.  I enjoy the discussion and I’m always happy to help and learn.

Customer Service & Humor – Can One Benefit the Other?

Have you made your customers laugh today?  Did you know that you can keep customers coming back by using humor in your business dealings?

We all know that humor is good for the soul.  We tend to hang out with the people that make us feel good and make us laugh.  Humor puts us in a positive mood, gives us a fresh perspective, and helps us treat others well.

Now, take this to the next level and connect the dots to your business.  Would this be a fantastic way to keep customers coming back to you?  Simply make them feel good and use some humor.

In this article in Inc.Com I think the author does a great job highlighting the use of humor.  I especially like the point about humor creating alignment.  Everyone has had similar experiences as a customer, in a family, in a sport, somewhere.  When you can bring two or more people together using humor relating to an experience, it creates an atmosphere of familiarity and comfort, both of which are crucial for a successful business relationship.

Granted, you must be careful when using humor.  I have learned that not everyone appreciates my somewhat sarcastic humor.  But, when I give presentations and consult, people give me the feedback that they appreciate the humor that I use to engage them and hold their interest.

When first starting a new relationship with a customer, relate your humor to the existing situation or light humor in general.  Once you see how your customer reacts, take their reaction as a guide for continued progress.  That might seem that it was an unnecessary comment, but occasionally we as business leaders tend to feel too comfortable too quickly and unintentionally offend or put off our potential customer.  Remember to do everything you can to make your customer feel as comfortable as quickly as possible.

How has humor served you well in your business?  Have you ever run into a situation where it may not have been the best choice?

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