Transforming the Customer Experience

Category : customer retention

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First Impressions Count!

You never have a second chance to make a first impression.”

How true this is!  It takes only a few seconds for people to make a customer service judgment about you and your organization.  Make the first impression count in a positive way.  Here are a few of the top deal makers or breakers that you and your organization should live by:

* Acknowledge your customer as soon as possible – If this means that they are physically in your organization, smile and look them in the eye within the first 10 seconds of their presence.  Few things are more infuriating than waiting to be acknowledged by someone you are going to do business with.

*Verbally greet them with sincerity and ask them how you may help them today.  A genuine ” Thank you for coming in today. My name is _________.  How may I help you?” will do wonders for the service perception that your customer has about feeling welcomed into your organization.

*How does your place look?  Customers perceive sloppy surroundings as laziness and disrespectful.  It is easy to fall victim to becoming used to your environment and not noticing that things are deteriorating.  Things such as peeling wallpaper in lobbies, dead or dying plants, disheveled and/or old magazines, stains on chairs, and worn carpet in waiting areas speak volumes to the attention to detail that your organization will provide.  Look at the areas that your customer see with fresh eyes and be sure to pay attention the details.  On the flip side, pay close attention to the ares that your staff sees.  It is hard to expect staff to treat customers well when they are working in an environment that is not well kept as well.

“Delivering Knock Your Socks Off Service” co-author Ron Zemke sums up these premise remarkably well with the following quote, “In service, everything communicates your style to customers.  The way you dress, the way you move, or whether you move at all instead of staying barricaded behind a desk or cash register.  The way you talk, the way you act when you’re not taking care of customers, but still within their view.  The way you take care of the person ahead of them in line.  All of these impressions add up to say, ‘I know what you need.  I can take care of that for you.’”

By keeping these basics in mind, you will see increased customer satisfaction levels among your clients.  They will feel that by paying attention to they way you treat them at the very beginning, you will pay attention to their need for coming to you in the first place.

Establishing Superior Customer Service is a PROCESS, not an Event

In speaking with many companies, I am frequently told “Oh, we have customer service under control. We put our staff through training when they are hired. We even have training programs that we occasionally have for our staff. They really enjoy those events.”

Holding Customer Service Training Programs for your staff is an excellent idea and the best way to reinforce the customer service mindset for your organization. But don’t lose sight of a crucial truth…… Establishing Superior Customer Service is a PROCESS, not an Event.

Customer service is the lifeblood of your business, no matter what product or service that you offer. Customer service situations need to be reviewed at every possible opportunity, preferably a staff or unit meeting. Focus on a few issues at each meeting.

When looking at situations that did not go smoothly, review them and look at other ways it could have been handled. Has the initial problem been resolved? Do you need to educate your customers regarding new procedures? How can this situation be prevented in the future?

Pay particular attention where things went well. What made it go so well? Was it the particular employee or customer? How specifically did they address the situation? Did they have a special technique to listen to the customer? Are there other areas that you can apply these same techniques to?

In both cases, learn from the situations and find ways to carry that learning over to other areas of your organization.

Even with technology and data, the human touch is critical

In a recent article by Joseph Michelli,  the benefits of being able to anticipate the needs of the customer and providing an exceptional experience were covered.  

The case was made that a company can have all of the data and technology in the world, but what distinguishes the successful companies is the customer experience.  In this article, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel was held as one of the highest standards most companies strive toward.  

The hotel goes so far as to provide the favorite snacks and magazines of its guests, but also when it “selects” (not hires) their staff.  The newly selected staff members were treated to their favorite snacks and juices during their orientation.

When a company goes to these lengths, it is clear that the needs of all customers are considered, both internally and externally.  

Though data and technological feedback is extremely useful, the sure fire way to ensure customer satisfaction, customer retention, and customer loyalty is to put the needs of customer first, anticipate those needs, and to adopt a cultural mindset that will deliver the best customer service experience possible, no matter what.  Only by the human element will the extra mile be traveled to make the customer know that you care.  Customers really don’t care that much about your product or your service.  They can basically find the same thing you provide at your competitor.  What they do care about is how they feel when they are in your business or in your care.  That is where the difference is made and what separates the successful companies.

Under Promise – Over Deliver

Have you ever been upset when a company makes a promise that it doesn’t fulfill?  This is one of the easiest ways to lose customers.  Otherwise known as “Over-promising and Under-delivering”, this demonstrates the company’s lack of commitment to follow through and satisfying the needs of their customers.

If your company recognizes the importance of following through on every commitment made, it is on the right track to becoming known as an organization that values its customers.  The company needs to stand behind their employees when promises are made, even in the occasional circumstance when it may cost the company some money.  The mere fact that the promise was kept will go much further in customer retention and satisfaction than the actual dollars lost would have gone in marketing to other customers.

Customer satisfaction levels soar when they perceive things are accomplished ahead of schedule or at a higher level of quality for them.  If you know a process will take two days to complete, tell the customer you will get back to them in three to four days.  That way, you have built in some “fudge-factor” time to account for any unforeseen delays.  Then, when the process is complete, you can them inform your customer that you have fulfilled your promise to them.  They will perceive this as exemplary service on your part, and you now have a positive customer who will give you more referrals, more purchases, and the most important, customer loyalty.  

With access to literally hundreds of thousands to people via social and professional networking online, people will and do take notice of comments that are made regarding service.  You want people to associate good customer service stories with your organization.  The very basic fundamental business of Under-promising and Over-delivering to your customers will increase customer satisfaction and customer loyalty each and every time.

Back to Basics

A lot of companies today are recognizing the importance of customer loyalty. Some studies suggest that a 2% increase in customer retention will have the same impact as a 10% operating cost reduction. The factors that go into this can be numerous depending on which study you are looking at. I think that it really comes down to the basic foundations of business… develop a great product or service, know your market, get your key players in place, but most importantly……. TREAT YOUR CUSTOMERS WELL!

Customer satisfaction is what is distinguishing the successful companies. Smart companies are making their customers a true partner in their business. They ask the customer what they want, they listen to what their customers are saying, and they are actually considering those ideas for implementation.

On a level playing field, customer satisfaction and customer service will set your company apart from your competition.

“Blow them away with legendary, remarkable service,” enthuses Robert Craven, managing director of business consultancy The Directors’ Centre. He believes that going the extra mile is the key to keep them coming back for more.

“We are in a world of mediocrity where we are competing with similar products, similar companies, similar people and similar prices,” he explains. “In that world of bland, beige, mediocrity, you have to step up to the mark, be distinctive, smarter, faster, brighter, harder, cleverer and get closer to the customer. If you are the same as the competition, why should people bother to buy from you?”

People choose the people and companies they associate with based on how they feel when they are around them. This directly demonstrates the cause and effect between customer service and customer loyalty. When you treat your customers well, they will feel valued, when they feel valued, you have developed customer loyalty. When you have customer loyalty, those customers will increase their referrals to your business and you will see increased profits.

Avoid Saying “NO”

In a world where everyone is tired of hearing what they can’t do, try rephrasing your objective into what you CAN do.  Customers don’t want to hear that they can’t get what they want or that they don’t fit into a certain category.  They want to know how you will satisfy their needs.

To keep your customers satisfied, train yourself and your employees to find ways to tell your customers how you can meet their need.  Tell them what you can do to help them.  It may not be the way that the customer originally expected to get help from you, but if it meets their need in their best interest, you have all but won them over.

It is almost impossible to use the word NO in a positive way.  Turn this to your advantage by enabling your staff to be creative and focus on alternative solutions to solve the problems of the customers.

Treating Your Customers as Guests

The complaint from so many consumers these days is that they are feeling like nothing more than a number.  Consumers want to feel that they are valued and appreciated.

There are a few and extremely easy ways to go about showing consumers that you value them and their business.

Greet them as you would a visitor into your home.   When you prepare for friends to come to your home, you go through a set pattern.  You make sure that your home is straightened up and looks inviting.  You have prepared certain foods and drinks for your friends to enjoy.  You have made sure that everything necessary for the enjoyment is available.  If it is a dinner gathering, you have set the table, prepared the food, have beverages ready, etc.  For game night, you have the game selection handy, tables set up for people to play, paper and pencils ready for scoring, etc.    When your friends come to the door, you certainly wouldn’t say “Let me know if you need anything.”  Your greeting would be more along the lines of “Hi Susan!  I’m so glad that you are here.  We’ve been looking forward to having you over.”

When you have customers come into your place of business, the same steps should be followed.  Make sure that all areas that your customers see are straightened up and cleaned.  This may involve constant attention throughout the day, but it will make an  impact.  Make sure that you and your employees are dressed professionally and in accordance to your business and job functions.  It takes less than one second for someone to make a first impression and it is often based on visual cues.  Your credibility is often influenced by your appearance.  Greeting your customers should be genuine.  They need to know that you appreciate your business.  Tailor your greetings to your business.  A few examples are “Welcome to (XYZ Restuarant).  We are so glad to have you here.  How many of you will be joining us tonight?”  “Welcome to (XYZ Store).  My name is ____________ and I’d like to help you out in any way that I can.  Is there something specific that you are looking for or would you like to look around for a bit?”

The point is to be WELCOMING to your customers.  Your attitude will speak volumes.  Customers pick up on sincerity right away and they will know when someone genuinely wants to help them or not. 

When the customer is leaving your place of business, thank them for coming in.  A GENUINE statement of “I’m glad we were able to help you today.  We look forward to seeing you again soon.” speaks volumes of the dedication you have to making your consumer feel valued.

The term “Customer Service” is rapidly being replaced by the term “Guest Relations” today in the hospitality industry.  They recognized that customers want to be more than a number and to feel like they belong.  If you value your customers and show them this, they will return to you and refer you to their friends and associates.

Get to Know Your Customer’s Use for Your Product or Service

One of the easiest traps that businesses fall into today is that they have a product or service to sell and think that customers will fit into their mold.

However, they have it completely backwards.

Consumers today don’t want to fit into anyone’s mold and want services and products that will fit their needs, not the other way around.

When addressing product and service components, ask your customers what they think.  Ask them what they look for in the service or product.  How will they use it?  How will it make their life easier?  How long do they plan on using it?  What will they accomplish with it?  

Your customer is your best focus group.  By asking them, you will find out what services or features will be the most utilized and which can be eliminated.

By doing this simple research, your product or service will fit the needs of your target audience through the most candid and direct input resource available – Your Customer!

Welcome!

Welcome to the world of Customer Service Excellence!  

Today’s customers are more demanding and savvy than ever before.  They expect people to deliver what they promise, and to deliver it with a smile.  They want to feel part of a team toward a common goal.  Customers want providers and suppliers to take care of the situation and provide them exactly what they need.

With Customer Service becoming a lost art in the business world, businesses are losing customers without even knowing why.  A recent study quoted that when a customer decides to leave a particular business, dissatisfaction with their customer experience is the catalyst 70% of the time.

This blog is designed to help businesses and organizations recognize the direct correlation between service excellence and increased profits.

Please post your comments or related anecdotes on the posts to add your viewpoints.

Stories and personal experiences are the best ways to demonstrate how customer service can make or break a business relationship.

Again, welcome!

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