Transforming the Customer Experience

Category : Customer Experience Management

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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.

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.

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