Transforming the Customer Experience

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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….

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.

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