Transforming the Customer Experience

Category : Customer loyalty

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Listening to Customers Tells You Everything You Need to Know…

Listening. We all know how to do it… but few know how to do it well… and it could be driving your customers away if you don’t do it well. Listen well and you’ll increase sales and customer loyalty.

Even though communication involves two parts – speaking and listening – I believe that listening is actually 2/3 of successful communication.

Someone can speak all they want. But if the other party doesn’t listen – REALLY listen – nothing that was said matters… at all. And yes, there is a huge difference between hearing and listening. Hearing means you heard words and sounds. Listening means you understand the purpose, content, and context of the message.

About 70 % of all lost customers left because they didn’t feel valued or felt the service experience was lacking. And they should. If you don’t feel valued or that the experience was at a minimum “good,” why on earth would you continue to do business there?

Much of what goes into creating a memorable and desirable experience is derived from LISTENING to what customers tell you they want… what they like… what they don’t like… what they need… what is becoming a challenge for them… what they are confused about… what their last option didn’t do for them that caused them to leave and find you… etc.

LISTEN to the customer. Listen when they call to complain. This is an opportunity for you to be the hero and solve their problem. You can teach them how to get the most benefit from their purchase/contract/etc.

LISTEN to what is confusing for them. Make changes based on things that are becoming a trend or an issue over a certain threshold. Focus on making that form, procedure, instruction, etc simpler. The customers that voiced their issues will know you listened to them. They’ll feel valued for you taking their concern seriously and making changes as a result. They’ll feel you really want to do right by them to earn their loyalty… and they’ll stay.

LISTEN to what they like about your company and your product. Use that feedback as a springboard to determine how you can integrate those high points into other areas of your company. You know you are doing or providing that well – identify what makes it so and carry it through as far as possible. And in most cases – don’t change much unless absolutely necessary. They’ve told you they like it. Mess with it and they may not.

LISTEN to what they don’t like about your company and product. Seriously listen to that feedback. Hopefully it came about during a conversation which will provide the opportunity for you to ask probing questions to truly understand their perspective, the issue and to identify the cause.

LISTEN to suggestions customers make on something they feel would make a positive impact to them. You won’t necessarily be able to do or provide exactly what they are asking, but you may be able to generate ideas that are on the right track or come close.

Bottom line… LISTENING to your customers is really a crash course on how to stay in business long term and build a loyal customer base. Your customers are telling you exactly how to keep them coming back to you – because they want to.

 

 

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Personalize to Improve Your Customer Satisfaction & Make Your Customers Happy!

Improving customer service and profits… many companies make this so very complicated. Once you realize that you can design service into your processes, it makes much more sense. The magic happens when you’ve committed to the mindset and process required.

Here are a few strategies to get you started…

  • Make sure that you learn and USE your customer’s names at least once during your conversations. Even if it’s when you say goodbye… it makes an impact and sends the feeling of a relationship. Example: “It was nice catching up with you today, Kristina. I’m looking forward to seeing you again soon.”  “Thanks for calling with your question, Kristina. I’m always happy to help.”
  • Take an objective look in the mirror and ask yourself WHY people should like to do business or work with you. If you can’t think of many, you may want to think of what you need to focus on to make working with you desirable. Remember the saying… If you want friends, BE a friend. This same concept holds true in business as well. Want more clients/customers? BE friendly and NICE. The #1 reason people stop doing business with companies is because they are treated rudely and indifferently.
  • Go a little out of your way to show your customers/clients they are important to you and you value them. Ask them questions that show you care and are interested in what they are saying or about their industry/business.
  • “The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.” – Jimmy Johnson
  • Let them know in your conversation or email that you truly enjoy working with them and value their business. Most companies don’t do this and people notice on the rare occasion that it happens. This is your chance to stand out.

Remember to use these quotes and tips during…

  • The beginning or ending of any and all meetings – leadership, management, and staff
  • Huddles
  • Company or team bulletin board
  • Newsletter – either external or internal
  • Daily and / or weekly emails
  • Training sessions

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments below!

Customer Loyalty Depends on the Word “WHY”

Many people assume that customer loyalty and customer satisfaction is based on asking one very important question – What is the likelihood of you referring others to do business with us? This is commonly known as Net Promoter Score, or NPS.  On a scale of 1- 10, 10 being the highest likelihood, you delight in the folks that score a 9 or 10, pay more attention to the 6, 7, and 8 scorers, and count on the fact that anyone scoring 5 or less is already looking elsewhere for your product or service.

But only asking IF customers will refer to you misses, in my opinion, the truly critical component.

Now, asking customers IF they will refer to you is very important. But, I’d really like to take it a step further and ask customers WHY they would refer to you. This is how you find out what it is in your organization that you do really well that makes an impact on folks -OR – that nothing in your company really stands out from the rest of the pack. 

Consider this… if you were to ask a current customer why they would refer others to do business with you, or would continue to do business with you themselves, and they responded back with “Because the folks here really seem to go out of their way to help me. I like the fact that everyone is really friendly and knows what they are talking about.” 

If you had that response, you would know that your customer service and the customer experience is something that your company does really well and you should capitalize on that. Continue to make it a focus. Recognize and reward those that truly exemplify the customer service skills and deliver amazing customer experiences you want to be known for.

The significance in asking people WHY they would recommend your company to others is understanding what is MEMORABLE about your company and the way you work with customers.  It goes without saying, you want to be creating positive experiences that make customers feel good about their decision to do business iwth you.

When customers need to take a while or can’t really come up with a specific reason WHY they would refer their friends to you, you need to take a step back and face the harsh truth that your organization is pretty bland. You aren’t making enough of a positive impact in any one area that has impressed them enough to make them want to come back or resist the draw of your competitors.

Fortunately, it’s a simple fix. Create positive experiences throughout your company that will draw your customers in, engage them, become their ally,  and ultimately build and nurture long term business relationships. All it takes is focusing on the customer – their needs, their struggles, how you can help them, how they want to receive your help, and communication. In future posts, I’ll explain exactly how to do just that.

What are your thoughts on taking it a step further and asking WHY people would refer to you? Take a moment and comment below.

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

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

Customer Service – It CAN Earn You Loyal Customers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Never Under Estimate the Power of a Thank You Note to Boost Customer Loyalty

Remember Thank You notes?  The things that we encouraged to write as kids every birthday or holiday when we received gifts from relatives or friends?  My own personal experience is that I didn’t enjoy writing them at all.  But, my mom had a point – “They made an effort to purchase a gift with you in mind.  You need to thank them for their kindness.”

Hardly anyone sends Thank You notes anymore – ESPECIALLY in business.  I think it sends such an impactful message when we take just a few minutes to send Thank You notes to our clients and customers (and our personal friends too, for that matter).  Think about it… when is the last time you received a Thank You note from a place you do business? ….. cricket….. cricket…   I bet you were hard pressed to come up with an answer.  Most of us can’t think of ANY.

But that’s exactly my point…  Set yourself apart from the rest of the pack by taking the time and making a small effort to those upon whom your business is dependent… YOUR CUSTOMERS.

When to send the Thank You note?  Well, first off, you should be sending them to any new customer.  Now, this can be difficult for those that are retail or commodity based, but you can still find a way to do this.  Pick a dollar amount to be spent that will trigger a Thank You note to be sent.  I do a lot of my clothes shopping at Ann Taylor.  I don’t shop often, but when I do, I walk out with a few outfits.  The manager of the store always sends me a Thank You note.  Now, I know she doesn’t send them to every customer, but not every customer spends what I spend the few times I’m in there per year.

For those of you in a business model where you have Sales Reps that are charged with forming lasting relationships with new clients, this is a perfect scenario to send a Thank You note to each new client that signs on with your company.  It should actually be part of your process.  Once the account is signed, the Sales Rep should be sending a personalized handwritten Thank You note (yes, you may have someone with more legible writing pen the note for them/you).  But the point is this,  I’ve kept all of the notes that I’ve received from Ann Taylor, from Zappos, from  Gazelle Sports, from my financial planner, etc.  I also make it a point to shop those retailers or providers first when I may have a need for their products or services.

The Secret Sauce…  But the real secret is to send a Thank You note to your clients and customers when you are not reaching out to them to sell something, check in on their accounts, review something, or anything related to business.  When you send a Thank You note out of the blue, the impact is HUGE!  In long term contractual relationships, I suggest sending a Thank You note one year after the original contract was signed.  Now, your customer doesn’t know that you may have it on your automated calendar to send this out, but they will feel as though you value them.  They will appreciate the few minutes you took to acknowledge and thank them for their trust in you and your business.  And, when customers feel valued, they’ll repay you with their loyalty.

Keep in mind… you likely won’t have many people mentioning to you that they appreciate these notes.  But, I promise you it will make a difference in the way they feel about doing business with you.  It will strengthen the relationship that you’ve developed with them and will further the sense of confidence they have that they made the right decision in doing business with you.

Please comment below on how you’ve appreciated Thank You notes or how you use them in your company.

The Customer Experience You Deliver Trumps Your Title

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.

How to Drive Customers Right Into the Arms of Your Competition

Many studies suggest that a lot of customers are non-confrontational and won’t address a complaint with a manger of a business.  They’ll simply take their business elsewhere without telling you why.  Many businesses aren’t even aware that they are losing you as a customer in the first place.  Following are some sure fire ways to lose customers without even really trying to.

Don’t acknowledge them. The best way to let your customers know that you are glad they came into your store, company, or office is to properly and immediately greet them. If you make eye contact and genuinely introduce yourself and ask if you may assist them in any way, they may get the distinct impression that you actually want to serve them and gain their business. In order to have them leave quickly, be certain to ignore them when they come in, don’t be available for questions, and be as uncommunicative as possible.

Don’t ask them any questions or identify their needs. By asking questions to identify the needs of your customers, they will think that you are trying to ascertain which product or service of yours, if any, will best suit their needs. Just tell them in as few words as possible what products and services you offer. Say your script and, if they ask any questions, repeat the script again.

Be sure to drop the ball. When customers ask questions, tell them that you will get right back to them, but never return the call. When you promise them something on a specific date or time, make sure that you are days late without warning them ahead of time. Make sure that no one else in your office knows what is going on with this customer, so that if they happen to contact your office while you are gone, no one else will be able to help them. If customers think that you are a reliable company, accountable, and deliver what you promise, they will be more likely to return to you. Is that what you really want?

Don’t train your staff. If you tell your staff as little as possible and keep them out of the loop on company news, products, and services, they certainly won’t know how to pass any of this information along to your customers that you are trying to lose. By having staff that is well informed on the company, well versed in products and services, it just gives the impression that you know about what you provide and that you are anxious to make sure the customer gets full benefit from it.

Just deliver the goods and head out. When you deliver the product or service, do so without offering any help or suggestions. Make sure that they just get your “thing” without fully understanding what it does or how to use it. Most of all, make sure that you don’t call them to ask them how they liked it. If you deliver your product or service and fully explain what it does, how to use it for their needs, you may give the impression that you know your stuff. Customers like it when they have someone who knows what they are show them how their new purchase works and how will benefit them or their company.

Never look back. By never following up with your customers, you can continue doing business exactly the way you want to. You don’t have to listen to any suggestions from customers on how to improve any products or services, or how your company may better fit their needs. If you do follow up with your customers, they may think that you value them and customer retention levels rise. Customers will also develop loyalty by thinking you are willing to do certain things to keep them coming back for your product and to your company. If you tailor your products and company to better serve your customers and increase customer satisfaction, they’ll just keep pestering you for more.

To receive some valuable tips and strategies that you can immediately apply to win the hearts of your customers, click here to receive 50 Customer Service Tips Made Simple.

Spreading Holiday Cheer with an AMAZING Customer Experience

This just made my heart warm!  West Jet in Canada did what most of us would dream to do for our customers… took an ordinary situation and made it extraordinary!

I know, I get it… your business can’t afford to go to the lengths that West Jet did, but you can take the same premise and deliver the same feeling.  Ask your customers (or a percentage of them) what their favorite charity is and help organize an evening of volunteering for them.  Or, ask a select few what they’d like for Christmas and do exactly what West Jet did.  Or, ask a few of them what their favorite chocolate or coffee indulgence is and make a special delivery for them or have it on hand at your next meeting.

Spreading cheer is what this season is all about.  For our customers we should have this mindset all of the time, but what a special opportunity to really focus on this.  Do something special, whether large or small, just do something special and unexpected to put a smile on your customers face!

Click on the image below that is linked to the video and enjoy! It will be the best 5 minutes of your day…  I promise.

 

Amazon Delights Customers with Sunday Delivery

Online retailers have always used Amazon as the standard to strive for when competing for customer loyalty and satisfaction.  But now, the renowned online retailer has yet again surpassed expectations for  the customer experience in the larger metropolitan areas by offering Sunday deliveries.

This is yet another example of “What is extraordinary today will become tomorrow’s minimum standard.”

The Business Insider just announced that Amazon will begin offering Sunday deliveries to it’s customers on November 17.  Yes, this is a move to drive more shoppers to enroll in their Prime program, but I see it as a way to yet again exceed the expectation of the customers.

Smart companies continually ask themselves “How can we take an ordinary experience and make it stand out?”  Certainly, delivery of products doesn’t leave much room for fancy workings, but teaming up with the USPS to make it happen is something that has never been done before and certainly takes things to the next level.  While most of us may not NEED Sunday delivery, the fact that their stock prices more than quadrupled in a few hours certainly indicates it is something that most consumers WANT.

Discovering what consumers WANT and delivering it is the magic sauce.  Of course, most companies don’t wield that level of influence, but what can your company do to make ordinary processes seem special?  What can you do to make yourself stand out in a way that makes the mundane seem delightful?

Once you come up with that answer, look for ways to make it happen.  Rather than listen to the naysayers, simply say “I know we can’t right now, but what would it take to make that happen?”  As they are listing everything that would need to change, they are giving you the action steps needed.  So, take action and make it happen.  Delight those customers in ways they haven’t expected.  Then, rinse and repeat.

Your customers will thank you for it.  Just ask Amazon how well it works.

I’d love to hear your comments below.

 

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