Transforming the Customer Experience

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Make Customer Service a Habit

Daily actions of Customer Service are what makes a difference in the minds of the people we work with. Both internally and externally, we serve to fulfill a need or obligation. Now, be honest… how often is the way we work with people simply a combination of “habit activities” we’ve designed in order to get us through the workday?

As the graphic points out… many of the functions and actions we perform every day are “thoughtless” processes or habits that we’ve developed to get us from Point A to Point B. This is neither good nor bad, it just is. But I’d like to make this into an opportunity to be systematically good.

My challenge to you is this… BE INTENTIONAL!

Develop habits and processes into your daily conversations and routines with customers that show them you are focused on them, focused on serving them, focused on acting in their best interest, and focused on partnering with them.

You can make this work for you in a few different ways…

  1.  Identify a set routine that focuses on getting your mindset right in working with others. Better yet, develop a Servant Leader attitude
  2. Develop a set routine of questions that are customer focused to help you understand the challenges your customer faces on a daily basis to discover how you or your company can better help them
  3. Deliberately decide on a few actions you’d like to turn into “mindless habits” that show your desire to be intentional and focused on others. Example… If you drive through a coffee shop daily on your way to work, make Tuesday’s your “Pay It Forward” day and buy a coffee for the person behind you.  When you make copies on the copier at work, always fill the paper tray to the top when you are done. etc.

The more intentional your actions are, the more impactful they’ll be. By intentionally doing the right thing, making a positive change, putting a smile on someone’s face and becoming so routine in these that they become habits, the better it is for everyone.

I know it sounds a little “Rosy Colored Glasses,” but really, who wants to look at the world through muddy glasses?

Transforming the Customer Experience Podcast is HERE!!!

After a lot of preparation, the Transforming the Customer Experience podcast has come to fruition!

I’ve taken the ideas,  the most commonly asked questions, and most commented on themes of customer service skills, developing a customer centric culture, and leadership impact to produce a podcast that is perfect for your daily commute. Each episode addresses relevant issues and content that you can use today in your organization, regardless of size or industry.

I’d be honored and grateful if you would subscribe to it on iTunes and leave a favorable rating and review.  Here’s the link…

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/transforming-customer-experience/id1031721961

I’d also love to hear your ideas, questions, and suggestions for future podcast episodes. It’s a gift to me when you let me know exactly what you’d like to hear about to be sure that each episode is relevant and impactful to you.

Please leave your comments and ideas below!

Good Business Is About Showing Customers the LOVE Through Good Customer Service

The secret sauce to getting more customers and making more money? Show Your Customers The LOVE!

It doesn’t get any simpler than that.  Think about the way we build personal relationships… we see someone we are attracted to, we do things to get them to notice us, we try to find out more about them, we do things to try to impress them, we pay attention to them, we notice what makes the happy and/or sad, we do our best to make them feel good or happy. If we really like them, we do whatever it takes to make them want to be around us more. It becomes mutually beneficial. Both people discover things about each other that make them enjoy each other’s company and continue to see each other… and quite possibly marry each other for life.

Now, that mini-therapy session was my gift to you… but there is a lesson in it.  The SAME EXACT principles come into play in business relationships as well.  You know your target market or ideal customer, you market to them, you try to find out what they need/want, you impress them with introductions or sales pitches or networking, you pay attention to what they say to tailor your solution around them, you notice what they want, don’t want, you do whatever you can to keep them coming back to you first for your product or service. The benefits to both are that you are making money from them and you are providing them with a solution for their needs.

I’m the first to agree that all relationships require some work, and yes, are sometimes stressful. And yes, sometimes they don’t work out, but it always requires some effort. As the saying goes, all good things in life require effort. In business, because customer needs and demographics are constantly changing, we really need to be in touch with our customers. What’s important to them? What do they need? What is it about our product or service that works for them? What isn’t working for them? What would they like to see changed or improved? As in all relationships, communication is key.

The extra bit here is that in successful relationships, both people need to feel valued and special. Yes, I was a Psychology major in college and it continues to amaze me to the degree that companies neglect this aspect in business.

If you’ve ever been on one of my webinars or in my workshops, you’ll know I ALWAYS start out with the statistic that the number 1 reason people stop doing business with a company is because they didn’t feel valued or special. People/customers want and need to feel that their business is valued by the vendor. To do so, we need to show our customers the love.

Here are a few suggestions on how to do just that…

  • 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.

Do this regularly, not just on important dates like Valentine’s Day because you “should.” When you work on making good customer service a habit and your customers can come to count on it, you’ve struck gold in the relationship game. The proof is in your bottom line… and by the glowing way your customers will speak about you and your company.

Niceness Makes ALL the Difference in Reducing Patient Angst

Customer service and being nice can make or break a first impression, especially in a medical office. My family recently changed insurance companies due to the recent health care changes. We were heartbroken that this also meant we had to change our physicians we’d been with for the past 10 years.(To be accurate, we could have stayed with them, but it would have cost us an additional $300 per month.)

Anyway, I’d finally been able to find a location close to our home that was accepting new patients. I called and informed the receptionist of our dilemma of being entirely unfamiliar with the doctors and hopeful that we would find the right fit for each member of my family. She immediately took care of my uneasiness by saying “Well, that’s what I’m here for and I’m happy to make any recommendations and answer any questions you have.”  This impressed me immensely.

After setting an appointment for one of my sons just two weeks out, she then said “I’m working that night, so I’m looking forward to meeting him. Just have him ask for me, Merrit, if he has any questions and I’ll make sure he’s taken care of.” I was blown away.  I used to manage medical offices in my past life and I wish I could say I’d had staff this welcoming at that time.

When I was done getting everything set and the appointments made, I complimented Merrit on her ability to take a situation that I admittedly was very anxious about and putting my mind at ease. I told her that I’m a consultant in customer and patient satisfaction and that I wished I could take her on the road with me to show how things should be done.

My point here is that you really need to understand how sad and anxious I was about switching doctors for my family. Just by her kindness and genuine helpfulness, she took the time to answer questions and to be sure that I felt as comfortable as possible with how we had scheduled things. If only we could do this in all aspects of business. Patients are customers too and she acted like she knew it. I haven’t even been to the office yet and I’m already telling a few folks how please I am with the new health clinic and staff. This is the type of recommendation we want from all of our customers. My trust level is high right now and they’d really have to mess it up to change my mind.

Remember, people do business with those that they know, like, and trust. Take a lesson from Merrit and do whatever it takes to make your new customers/clients/patients/guests feel welcome and happy they decided to do business with you.

I’d love to hear your comments 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.

Customer Service – Which Comes First – the Customer or Your Staff?

Customer service is an obvious and crucial focus for any company looking for sustainable financial success.  You MUST focus on customers.  You MUST value and appreciate the business, revenue, and referrals they bring you. Customers today are leaving businesses that take them for granted.  Customers are looking for those businesses that understand they are only one option and make it their goal to be the BEST option in terms of customer service and experience.

We try to give customers everything they want… and more.  We try to please them to keep them not only satisfied, but loyal.  Yes, without the customer, you wouldn’t be in business.

But there is another factor in this equation… your staff.

It all begins with hiring the right folks to represent your company and serve your customers. Start with the interview process when determining the customer focus of your candidates.  Have specific customer service intent questions included in the interview process.  By intent, I mean give them a realistic customer interaction scenario and ask how they would like to see it handled.  Ask open ended questions to hear their stories. Have them tell you a story of when THEY THEMSELVES have experienced wonderful and terrible service as a customer.

Engaged employees are a critical complement to the customer focus.  Engaged employees know that when the company succeeds, they succeed.  The way to determine engaged employees is the same way you connect with your customers – speak with them, ask questions, what do they like, what do they not like.  What are their professional and personal goals and how can you help them achieve those goals?  

Engagement can be the determining factor in your company’s long term success.  Find out from your staff if they feel that management and leadership make them feel appreciated in a way that makes them WANT to come to work, not HAVE to come to work.  Also ask them if htey would ever recommend their friends to work for your company.  These questions should serve as valuable conversation starters to determine the pulse of your staff engagement.

Like the chicken and the egg conundrum, you can’t have customers without your staff to serve them, and you cant have staff serving someone who doesn’t yet exist.  Both are truly equally important.

I DO suggest though, that you focus the first 70% of your efforts on your internal staff to show them what service looks like to you and train them accordingly.  From that point, spread the love 50/50 between customers and staff.  You must always interact with both from similar perspectives.  Actively connect with them, find out what they like and dislike about your company, and ask what they’d like to see to keep them loyal to your company.  Then, whenever possible, act and implement.  

Once you’ve done all of the above… rinse and repeat…. forever.  There is NO END to focusing on your customers or staff.  You lose one… you’ll lose the other.

Click here to discover even more facts about the importance of focusing internally from one of the industry leaders… Zappos.com.  They’ve built their reputation SOLEY focusing on the customer experience and this interview shares how they’ve gone about it to become the success they are today.  My gift to you!

Excellent Customer Service is PROACTIVELY Connecting the Dots

One of the best ways to increase customer satisfaction and to improve the customer service skills your staff delivers is to encourage your staff to proactively “Connect the Dots” for your customers.

Customers are looking to service and product providers not only to help make the purchase, but to help them accomplish their goals as quickly as possible.  This may be considered managing their expectations better, asking better questions during the initial sales or consultation, or walking them through the process, but ultimately it is connecting the dots of the entire process to make life easier for your customer.

Case in point, a client of mine recently repainted his daughter’s room.  He decided to do the job himself and headed off to the home improvement big box store.  On his first trip, the employee helped him purchase a gallon of the right color paint, handed him some painter’s tape since he said there would be a design his daughter wanted on the wall, and suggested a paint roller.  He headed home and began painting.  He became a bit frustrated when he had to use three strips of  tape to get the desired width of color blocking and when the paint did not cover as much area as he’d hoped it would.

He headed back to the store and another employee helped him find what he needed.  But this experience was different.  This employee asked him questions about the project and then proceeded to give him the same brand of painter’s tape that was  wider to reduce the amount of tape needed, gave him a larger quantity of paint, told him how to ensure the best coverage with a better roller, and gave him a few paint stirrers since my client mentioned that he’d had to use his wife’s wooden spoon to stir the paint.  He also talked about the pros and cons of using an edger versus a paint brush to handle the corners and edges.

The point here is that the first employee helped my client, but only extended the bare minimum effort necessary.  He was able to start the job, but with large amounts of frustration.  The second employee asked a few more questions, then helped him assemble everything he needed to complete the job easily with no additional trips to the store.  When my client told me about the tape, he said “It never occurred to me that there were two different widths of painter’s tape.  I just wish the first person had offered me the choice and I would have picked the second one.  I just didn’t know what I didn’t know.”

Being proactive means letting the customer know everything you feel they need to based on their reason for consulting you.  It means letting them know who will be contacting them next to move the process along and what they need to do in the meantime to prepare.  It means not making your customer feel like they are at fault for not knowing things that are your job to educate them on.

Customer loyalty and satisfaction increase when customer service includes thinking one step ahead for your customers and helping them connect the dots of the entire process.

Google “Gets” the Customer Experience Through Service

I’m sure that Google is under impressed with my internet skills. I’ll start right off by saying that I am certainly no “techie” and that any errors that you find on this site are likely going to be “operator error.”  Me being that operator.

That being said, I ventured off into the world of “techies” to write some articles and needed to find some keywords to capture my target audience.  In the process, it appeared that when I signed into Google to use their tool, it required me to create an ad.  I don’t do ads for my business and was not interested in that at all.  After spending about 30 minutes trying to navigate the site, watching the instructional video, and extreme frustration setting in, I finally contacted Google at their contact number.

After going through about 4 different automated attendant menus (which I can’t stand) I then waited for the customer service rep for about 2 minutes.  Based on the auto attendant process, I was prepared to have someone be very aloof, indifferent, and even a bit condescending to me about my lack of internet programming knowledge.

I couldn’t have been more impressed with the empathy and caring nature of the Google CSR that took my call.  She completely empathized with my situation and assured me that she would walk me through the process without me having to create an actual ad.  With her help, I was able to get the help that I needed and I was on my way.  I was even so happy that I mentioned how impressed I was with her help to my husband later that day and so relieved that it was such a pleasant experience when I was expecting a painful one.

My point is this…  Business owners should make it easy for their customers to ask for help and assistance.  Not everyone knows how to use the products and services they purchase and help should be easily available.  Customers cite many occasions when they look for assistance but are either unable to find it or are so frustrated by the process, they just neglect the purchase and vow never to do business with that company again.

This dilemma knows no boundaries.  It doesn’t matter if you are a small or large businesses, corporation or “Mom and Pop” shop, financial institution, fast food vendor, pet store, or medical office.  Your customers will ask for help. It’s your responsibility to give it to them… with kindness.

Your thoughts?

 

Customer Service Question -Does Your Business Have a Pulse or a Wire?

Where’s the customer service these days?

Improving customer service and the customer experience is more important now more than ever. And the best part is – it’s SIMPLE.  Keep in mind, simple doesn’t always mean easy, but it can be started simply by focusing on the fact that you are people delivering products and services to other people.

One of the biggest complaints that I hear about companies today is that they are so “processy” and “systematized” that customers wonder if humans work there or is the place being run by robots?

Yes, we need to have processes and systems to run our businesses, but the people running the business need to be just that – PEOPLE.

Customers are looking for one main thing in their transactions that can set you apart from your competition, or anyone else they’ve recently done business with – a RELATIONSHIP.  When people buy from you, they aren’t buying your product or service, they are buying the promise that you will answer their questions, help them find the best product or service you offer to meet their needs, to hold their hand throughout the process, and be there to help if they run into trouble.

Yes, people consider product and price, but with both of those being comparable, the decision always comes down to emotion.  People make their buying decisions based on emotion, then back it up with logic.  If they feel like they know, trust, and like you, then they are likely to buy from you.

Customer service is about delivering a quality product or service, but then providing the emotional support of service.  This means that you need to engage with customers, get to know them, ask what they are trying to accomplish, what are their struggles in this accomplishment, etc.  When you truly engage from a genuine place of customer service and it is your goal to do everything you can to delight that customer, you’ll win a customer for life.

Businesses that don’t focus on the customer relationship are those that are filled with ominous forms, stores with lackluster salespeople, customer service reps that barely look you in the eye, and seem completely disinterested in being there until quitting time.

Energize your staff, especially now during holiday shopping season, and remind them that without the customers, they’d have no place to earn paycheck.  These customers need to be treated like gold.  They want to see smiling, happy faces that are ready, willing, and able to help them.

If you settle for anything less, you may as well hire a robot to serve your customers.

 

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