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?

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

 

SHARE Your Ideal Customer Centric Vision with Your Teams

Continuing on with Customer Service Week, we are focusing on encouraging our internal teams to foster the customer centric attitudes and service.

 

 
Tip # 2 –  Share Your Vision with EVERYONE in your company.
 
It’s not a secret.  It needs to be shouted from the rooftops, okay training rooms and reception area, of your company.  You need to define your ideal customer experience and what it looks like from the customer perspective.  When you define it, then you need to share it with your teams so that everyone knows it, understands it, and embodies it.
It doesn’t matter if you are a “Mom and Pop” shop or a larger company, you must share your vision of exactly what your ideal Customer Experience looks like at all levels.  Your entry level positions should have the same vision as the CEO or owner of the company.
 
Ideally, you can share your vision with everyone during training on the very first day they begin working with you.  They’ll know immediately why your company is different and what their role is in making customers feel that difference.
That being said, sharing that vision must also be a continual process.  We all know that information shared once tends to be forgotten.  By keeping the vision of the ideal customer experience clear and present throughout the company, it will quickly become ingrained into your culture.
 
Leadership must interact regularly with teams, lead by example, discuss ideas and suggestions, and continually examine how the current state of the customer experience is moving toward the vision of the ideal.
It’s no accident that Disney, Ritz-Cartlon, Nordstrom, and Apple are known for exemplary customer experiences.  They have clearly defined that customer experience and how everyone plays into it.

Service is Tipping Point in Supermarket Experience

Sometimes even good customer service isn’t enough – especially when you have a great service experience to compare it to.

Last month I decided to channel my “Martha Stewart-ness” and make lasagne for my family.  I went to the Family Fare supermarket in my area and bought all of the necessary ingredients.  As usual, it was a pleasant experience with the typical friendly staff, clean store, and plenty of selection with reasonable prices.

When I got home and began to assemble the lasagne and opened up the package of shredded mozarella cheese, I noticed a sour smell although the package was well within the expiration date.  Since I was too far into the process to back out, I had to go back to the store.  The service clerk was a dream to work with.

She immediately apologized for the situation and for me having to drive all the way back just for that.  She refunded my money and had me go get another package of cheese and had me open it to make sure that it was good.  All I expected was to exchange the package, but she went above the necessary to be sure that I felt good about the situation.

Now, here is where the comparison comes in.  Last week my daughter asked for a special treat of cookies and cream ice cream.  I bought some at the Ric’s Food Center that is literally one mile from my house, closer than Family Fare.  When we opened the container, it looked like vanilla ice cream with no cookie chunks.  We dug halfway through the container and we could see a few specks of cookie, but not enough to even assemble into one complete cookie.

I took the container back the next day and the staff was genuinely empathetic.  They apologized and asked me to grab another container, but since I selected a different brand of the same flavor, I’d have to pay the price difference.  The difference was $1.27.

I paid the difference which was completely reasonable, but my nose was a little out of joint.  I couldn’t figure out why until I remembered the cheese incident at Family Fare.  Since Family Fare had gone above and beyond by refunding me the price and giving me another package, anything less than that fell short in my eyes.  Had I not had the cheese incident, then I most likely wouldn’t have batted an eye paying the price difference for the ice cream.

The point is that we always need to be thinking ahead and think “better than okay.”  The response at Ric’s was good.  They were nice and friendly about it.  The only thing they lacked was putting themselves in my shoes and wondering what they could have done to make it better than right.

Okay, here’s the pun I’ve been itching to use….  Just some “food” for thought!

 

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.

3 Tips to Handle an Unhappy Customer

The unhappy customer who is complaining

We’ve all had them.  Some yell, some cause a scene, some silently simmer.  Believe it or not, it is a very good thing to have a customer that is unhappy because you have the opportunity to regain their trust and even turn them into one of your most loyal customers ever.

Many customers tell us that they will even spend more money with us the next time they return after we’ve handled a complaint better than they ever would have expected someone to do.

So before you start to panic when that next unhappy customer storms into your office or calls you on the phone and has already told the receptionist that they are very upset, stay calm and follow these simple steps.

1)   Apologize Immediately

Even if you aren’t at fault, the apology is crucial.  Now keep in mind, it is very possible to apologize without taking the blame.  Everyone who has ever felt wronged really wants to hear a genuine apology.  When you or someone in your company has made a mistake, it goes without saying that you need to accept responsibility and apologize.

“Mrs. Smith, I’m so truly sorry that I forgot to file those papers on time.”

In the case when it is not your fault, or even the customer’s fault, and they’ve contacted you to vent or to resolve the issue, here is my suggested wording…

“Mrs. Smith, I’m so sorry that this situation is happening.”

Many times it is the customer themselves that is causing the situation to go south.  Be sure not to point this out to them.  You can re-educate them during the follow up.  For now, only apologies will be accepted by the customer.

2)  Use Empathy

Empathy is the golden piece of this equation.  Saying sorry is a great start, but it simply isn’t enough.  The customer appreciates the apology, but they really want to know that you feel their pain.  Keep in mind that the customer is usually more irritated by the need and time necessary to resolve the situation than the issue itself.

“I know it is really frustrating when the process is delayed due to paperwork and logisitics.  You wanted to get this taken care of and now you are forced to wait.  I’m sorry.”

The main thing here is to let the customer know that you feel their pain and that you would most likely feel the same way if you were in their shoes.  That’s what they need at this point.  You won’t be able to fix the problem until you understand their perspective.  This step does that.

3)  Make it Better Than Right

This is when you show your customers that you are in it to win it and keep their business. Not only do you need to fix the problem, you need to do it in a way that not only makes up for the initial problem, but also makes the customer feel good about it.  My suggestion is to offer the customer no more than three solutions, all of which you are confident will work in their best interest.  Your customer will be left with the feeling that they’ve made out better in the end than if there were no problem in the first place.

Should you find yourself challenged to come up with an acceptable fix, simply ask the customer what they would like to see happen.  You’ll be surprised to see how reasonable they actually will be.  Often times, they’ll ask for far less than you were prepared to have to offer.

Bonus Tip – Follow Up Wins Every Time

This is your time to shine.  Not only have you fixed the problem to their satisfaction, now you are going to go the extra mile to truly show how much you appreciate their business.  You are going to call them within a few days to again apologize for the situation happening and to find out how they are doing with the resolution. This is when they will thank you for the follow up, your help in resolving the issue, and really give you some honest feedback that you can apply.

Believe me when I tell you that none of your competition is doing this.  They don’t feel that it’s worth the time. Or they think it’s important, but they don’t make the time.  Service is the best and most cost effective way to set yourself apart and this one step alone has huge payoffs.

This may also be the time that you discover the resolution did not work or they are still not happy.   Go through the process again and work with them until they are.

I’d love to hear about any companies that you feel do go above and beyond in how they handle their customer complaints.

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….

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