Transforming the Customer Experience

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Episode 007 – CX Depends on Hiring Right

Hiring Right – Episode Number 007 Shownotes…

So much of this work is dependent on hiring the right people to execute the desired customer experience. If you have people that aren’t concerned about customer service and making the customer happy enough with their experience doing business with you, then you have a little additional work to do.

As you have found, since you are in the C-Suite or on the leadership team of your company, you know how important it is to have the right people in the key roles of your business. It doesn’t matter if you are a large company or very small business, if you have the wrong people in place to run your business, things will malfunction.

If you can’t rally the troops, you have the wrong troops. You can’t be making decisions that you don’t feel confident your teams will be executed well.

You need to hire the right people. Front facing, behind the scenes, everyone.

If they don’t work face to face with a customer, they are working to support someone who does.All of these dots need to be connected.

You have got to be decisive and strategic about who and how you hire. This is key.

How well do they feel welcomed into your company? Do they feel like you’ve planned to have them there? Do they feel like folks are ready to welcome them in, show the basics of the layout, introduce them to other staff? Do they feel valued as a person and for the work they have been hired to do? Do they feel engaged? Are they listened to? Do they feel they serve a purpose in a bigger picture of company success?

When you have the right people in place, knowing what their responsibilities are in the customer experience and how they individually impact the outcome, are dedicated to doing their best, they put in the time and effort, the benefits are seen by the customer the company earns their loyalty.

On a side note… if you are looking for a good book on leadership and teamwork, there is a book called Boys in the Boat and it’s about the 1936 American Olympic crew team. It’s seriously a fabulous true story about a few of the boys on the team and their struggles individually and as a team on how they actually made it to and won the 1936 Olympics in Germany. I was literally holding my breath in the last part of the book. But there are many lessons on leadership and the importance of timing of skills and knowledge that are relevant in business today.

It’s also important to remember that when we consider employee churn we need to remember that it is becoming more widely recognized that employees don’t leave their jobs, they typically leave their managers. Think about it… their next job is likely to be very similar to the job they had with you. So why did they leave? Studies suggest that it’s because they weren’t getting what they needed from their managers and leaders. So, they move on.

Hiring the right people and providing everything they need to succeed in training and value when you do this, you are completely on the right track to delivering a customer experience the right market will want to repeat over and over again with you.

For now, understand that when you focus on getting the right people in place, it will start to systematize the consistency of your customer experience. Knowing that you can count on the people you have in place to help navigate through the initial set up stages of the customer experience work will make it much more likely to succeed. I want you to feel that when you have a solid plan from which to work, you’ll have the right people in place that if it has any chance of succeeding, it was worth it. If the plan doesn’t work, you’ll have the solid confidence of knowing it was the plan, not the people, that wasn’t right.

Action steps –

Identify the characteristics and type of people that make good employees.

Look at your current employees that you would be truly heartbroken if they were to leave. Ask yourselves, what is it about them and the way they add value to your business, their positions, and the customer experience that makes them stand out?

During the hiring and interview process, you also need to be sure you hire to fit your culture and those that also hold true to your core values, understand them and embrace them.

United Airlines Needs a Lesson in Apologizing

It’s all over the news… a United Airlines flight attendant insisted that a passenger put her dog carrier containing her 10-month-old French bulldog, Kokito, in the overhead compartment. Fellow passengers state the family told her there was a dog inside the carrier, but the attendant insisted the carrier be placed in the overhead compartment. The passenger begrudgingly complied and the dog did not survive the three-hour trip. The passenger and her 11-year-old daughter were devastated, as were many of the fellow observing passengers.

To make the situation even worse, and the purpose of this post is that United Airlines issued an apology that could have been delivered by a robot…

“This was a tragic accident that should never have occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin. We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences to the family and are committed to supporting them. We are thoroughly investigating what occurred to prevent this from ever happening again.”

Now, a few folks are faulting the passenger for complying. The plane had already pulled away from the gate and was en route to the runway for takeoff. The passenger had her 11-year-old daughter and an infant traveling with her. While I do agree that since she had already paid the $125 ticket for the dog and had him in an approved dog carrier which was designed to comply with the airline’s requirement of fitting underneath the seat in front of them and remaining there for the duration of the flight… I really can understand why the passenger complied.

Traveling with children is a challenge. Traveling with children AND a dog is even more of a challenge. She most likely ran through a variety of scenarios… They could be asked to deboard the plane before takeoff, thus causing a scene, missing a connecting flight, having to hassle with the kids and the dog, etc. All of these play secondary to what I suspect was the deciding factor for her… the flight attendant was the authority in the situation. She worked for the airline. She was trained. She knew the rules. She would never insist something be done contrary to airline rules and policies. She would not insist that the animal would be safe in a situation unless that would certainly be the case. So while I personally would likely have not agreed to comply, I can understand and see what lead to her decision. I don’t necessarily agree, but I can empathize with the situation.

And that right there is the key to how this tragic outcome should have been handled. EMPATHY. Empathy is crucial to customer experience and United Airlines demonstrated it’s clear lack of empathy in their corporate response. Assuming responsibility… express deepest regret… committed to supporting… thoroughly investigating… those words and phrases all sound close, but nowhere near good enough. It feels like they are doing their best to sound apologetic, but they are keeping themselves at arms distance from truly owning up to this and doing the right thing. I think it lacks compassion and sounds like they are just annoyed that they have to deal with the bad press surrounding the incident.

My thoughts – If I were to advise United Airlines, I would quickly have them put themselves in the passenger’s place. They have a pet they loved so much they brought it with them on their travels rather than board it in a kennel. Most pet owners love their pets almost as much as they love their children and truly regard them as a member of the family. Not that the mother wasn’t upset enough, but I imagine it would be even more difficult for the 11-year-old daughter to handle the death of a pet, as this would likely be a “life moment” of teaching. United would also need to understand that it was one of their own employees who instructed them to perform the act leading to the death of the pet. Here is how I would issue the apology…

“We cannot express how very sorry we are that this family’s pet died on one of our planes while following instructions given by one of our staff. Losing a pet is hard enough, but to lose it at the direction of a representative you believe is trained and looking out for the safety of all passengers and acting with authority – and having them be wrong – in the situation is unimaginable. 

We know nothing can be done to bring this pet back or make up for this tragedy in any way. We do want to do anything possible to help this family heal. When and if the family decides it is time for a new dog, we would like to facilitate that and cover all expenses for the cost and care of the new dog for the first three years. We would also like to make a donation in Kokito’s name to the SPCA in the amount of $5,000.

As for our United Airline staff, we will be immediately retraining all personnel involved with passengers and pets during any of our flights on the appropriate and proper guidelines and methods to ensure the safety of all passengers and pets. What happened on this flight was not in accordance with our guidelines and the dog should never have been put in the overhead compartment. We will do everything possible to ensure that this never happens again. 

Our hearts go out to this family and we hope they can believe and accept our sincerest apologies.”

So, while I am no public relations specialist, this is the type of response I would like to hear had this happened to me and my pet. It comes right out and says “We are so very sorry.” Nowhere in the United response do they use the word “sorry.”  We are human. “I’m sorry” conveys at a heart level the compassion and empathy necessary to connect at a human level when delivered genuinely. My suggested response also quickly acknowledges the passenger followed the direction of the authority in the situation. It also acknowledges the directions given were wrong and states the immediate action of training everyone to prevent this situation from happening again.

Offering to cover the cost of a new dog and it’s care for three years and a donation is a gesture of sincere intent to do right and goodwill. They can’t bring the dog back, but they can show that they are humans behind the brand. The backlash that United has dealt with in the last 24 hours over this I think would be lessened quite a bit had United done something similar to show compassion and understanding for the important role pets play in so many families’ lives. United’s response says they are committed to supporting the family, yet didn’t take the time or effort to figure that out or come up with an idea.

With all of the bad press that United has received lately, I really am surprised to see them handling this situation so poorly. The customer experience is based on human emotions. It’s based on how people feel when they work with a company. It’s based on connection and being proactive. In the cases where there needs to be a reaction, the customer experience is successful when the customer feels that the company understands their perspective and has done everything they could to make it as right as possible. It’s about feeling cared about and valued.

Again, while the passenger could have refused, and believe me I’m sure she is replaying that missed moment over and over in her mind, I consider United at fault since their representative gave the directive causing the animal’s death that was not in accordance with their policy.

I truly hope United will take a step back, look at the backlash, really listen to the undercurrent of stated lack of empathy, care and concern and remember that behind the company and the brand, they are people working to serve other people.

 

 

 

 

Stop Kidding Yourself! Are You Interested or Committed to Delivering Amazing Customer Service?

“I’d kill to have a golf swing like that!”

“I’d do ANYTHING to lift that much weight and look like that!”

We’ve all heard, and made, statements like this about something in either our personal or professional lives. But really, we are all a bunch of liars.

Yes, that sounds extreme, but let me explain… I’ll tie this in to Customer Service and the Customer Experience quickly.

That golf pro… Before he or she turned pro, they likely went to the course in the wee hours of the morning and practiced a full 90 minutes before going to their “job” only to return again after work, day in… day out. They sacrificed many moments that most of us take for granted to get them closer to their true goal… to be the absolute best they could be and turn pro.

That fabulous looking person in the gym (I’m not talking about the steroid pumpers)… They watch everything they eat. They train methodically and diligently.  They let the scoffing over their eating habits roll of their skin. They don’t judge those that eat differently, yet find themselves subject to ridicule because of their strictness to their own eating and training regimine. “Can’t you just let loose and have fun this ONE time?”

Many of us are not prepared to put in the time and effort it takes to be in the top 5% of anything… sport, physical fitness… or business success.

So, you say you deliver the best customer service and make the experience your customers have better than they can get anywhere else?  Really.

If I were to walk in your doors, or call your company, and ask the first five people I see what your company stands for and how it works with customers better than anyone else, I’d bet that I’d get five blank stares… and then some sheepish off the cuff made up answers.

So my question to you is this… Are you INTERESTED in focusing on your customers and creating a culture that is centered around them, or are you COMMITTED?

Interested companies gather a little information, talk about it from time to time, hire a consultant, might spend a little money for a workshop or training session, and believe that they are on the right track.

Committed companies do research, not only hire coaches – but DO THE WORK, talk about and focus on the customer experience incessantly, create a unified vision of the ideal customer experience, hire and train the right folks to support that ideal experience and HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE for excellent customer service delivery, they get feedback from their customers as to how they are doing, etc.

So, the golf pro and the body builder, they have a goal. They have clarity. They have a vision of success. They. Do. The. Work.

Are you willing to step up and stop talking the talk? Walk the talk. Develop a culture focused on the most important person in your company – the CUSTOMER.  Not sure where to get started? Click here…

Customer Experience Mapping Puts the Pieces of Customer Satisfaction & Loyalty Together

Call it Customer Experience Mapping, Journey Mapping, Customer Touchpoints…  The thing to understand is that the companies that use these practices recognize higher levels of customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.  Why is this?  Well, I’m happy to explain.

The companies that take the time to do this understand that while we all might have a great idea in our heads on what we’d like the customer to experience when they choose to do business with us, unless you have it well planned out, it’s unlikely to happen.

I suggest that mapping be done to outline the ideal perfect customer experience that you’d love to be able to deliver to your customers.  Start at the beginning and consider the journey of the customer through your company as they do business with you.  Each time the customer interacts with a person or department, this is a “Waypoint” on your map.  Describe the ideal experience at each waypoint.  Now, I’m saying to map out what you’d DREAM of doing with/for them, not what your current capabilities are today.  For instance, if you have many customers call into your business it may look something like…

  1. Customer calls in and phone is answered within 2 rings with a genuine, warm, friendly greeting.
  2. The call is then transferred to a a billing representative who will answer without the call going into voice mail
  3. The billing representative will be able to look into the history of the records and identify core issue.
  4. The billing representative will be able to make any adjustments or corrections as necessary to resolve issue during that call, eliminating the need for a 2nd customer call.

Once this is done, then management needs to determine what is necessary to make each of these steps happen.  For instance, Step 1 requires a live person answer the phone within 2 rings.  If you have an auto attendant answering the phone, take steps to eliminate it. Hire a phone receptionist or reorganize staff responsibilities in order to have a live person answer the phone within 2 rings.  If something isn’t possible to implement right now, determine what would need to change in order to make it happen and make all future decisions in line with that goal.

The great companies like Disney, Nordstrom, and Ritz-Carlton all do this regularly.  The great experiences they are famous for don’t just “happen,” they are created.  They are mapped out every step of the way with clear direction, regardless of current capabilities.  To ensure cohesiveness across your company or small business, share these ideal customer experiences.  Knowledge is beneficial to everyone.

The question most folks ask is regarding Step 4. The first thing they tell me is that their staff aren’t able to fix a lot of the issues on the first call.  My question is – Why not train them to be able to?  How much better of an experience would it be for everyone, customer and staff included, to be able to take care of the issue on the first call?  The staff will feel more empowered to do their jobs and the customer will be delighted with less of a hassle than they anticipated.

So, Customer Experience Mapping does a lot more than creating more satisfied and loyal customers, it enhances morale and employee engagement as well.

Get the Feedback From Your Teams Improves Customer Service

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

 
Tip # 4 – Get Feedback from Your Teams and Staff to Find Out What They Need to Help Them Serve Customers Better and Enjoy Their Jobs More
 
You’ve all been reading my newsletters long enough, so you know how much I advocate getting feedback from your customers whenever possible.
 
The same holds true for your staff.  You need to find out what it is that they need or would like that would help them serve customers better and give them more reason to like their jobs.
Ask questions…. then LISTEN to the answers.
 
This is where you’ll discover what you team would like to take over, what would make them more efficient, what processes don’t work, are redundant, or simply make life too complicated.
 
You’ll also find ways to reward your teams.  One of my clients found that their phone contact center liked the specialty coffee he sometimes brings in over the doughnuts that are more frequently offered.  So, this week he bought them a Keurig coffee maker with their favorite coffee flavors.  
 
Like any relationship, it’s the little things that count.  Pay attention to your staff.  You tell them to pay attention to customers… you need to do the same thing with them.  Your staff is just as important.

The Best Customer Experience Begins with Customer Service Training – Part One

As a business coach for companies, both large and small, that want to deliver a customer service experience to bring in more money from their customers, I’m often asked “Where do I begin?”

It’s just like eating an elephant… One step at a time.

Successful companies follow seven systematic steps when

1.  Developing a complete training game plan – Before you start on a cross country road trip from New York to Los Angeles, you would make sure that you have a sound stable vehicle to get you there, you’d map out a route, plan how long you’d like to travel each day, approximately where you will lodge for the night along the way, etc.  The same thing applies here.  There must be a guideline mapped out detailing when the training process will start, who will be involved, what will be covered, approximately when it will be complete, etc.

2.  Onboard for successful fit and service assimilation – The way you bring new hires into your company sets the tone for their training experience and subsequent service.  You must think start to finish in this process.  Welcome them into your organization as a valued member of the team.  Show them how important they and their role is in the overall vision of the customer experience.

3. Set clear and specific service expectations – This is one of the areas that many business leaders complain about the most, yet this is the one area I feel is most neglected.  When you are training someone as to how you’d like them to treat your customers, you MUST be specifically clear.  “Be Nice” is too general  Nice means different things to different people and is never consistent.  You need to spell out how you’d like your team to engage with your customers at each and every touchpoint and exactly how they can best serve the customer.

4. Have an accountability system for service expectations – Once you’ve set and trained for your customer service expectations, you need to have an accountability system in place.  By not following through on this one step, it sends the message to your team that either your leadership skills aren’t honed enough to follow through on expectations or that the service you deliver to your customers is not really that important.

5. Assess customer service levels from the customer perspective – Feedback from customers and the rest of the team regarding service levels is invaluable.  You can work this into other feedback or survey methods to gain insight as to how your team is treating customers when leadership isn’t around.  The goal is to have customers come to rely on consistent service levels for them to build a sense of trust and relationship with your company.

6. Last impression counts just as much as the first – While you’ve heard the saying “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” you can actually make as much of an impact, if not more, by focusing on how you bid your customers farewell.  You can say “goodbye” while making sure that you thank them, invite them to come back soon, and by telling them you truly value their business.  Train your teams on how to do this well and you’ll soon be cultivating an extremely loyal customer base.

7. Implement systematic continual customer focus processes into your design – Again, the “shot in the arm” solution rarely works in any business aspect, especially in service.  You know how it goes… everyone gets all exited after a fantastic customer service or experience presentation, but then after a while, it becomes business as usual.  To make sure this doesn’t happen in your group, place the customer focus as a top priority at the beginning of every meeting, every decision, every new idea.  Do this long enough and your customers will soon learn and sense that you truly value their business.

To discover how all of these steps truly fit together to benefit your customers, I’m making my last webinar available here for your review.  This webinar received fantastic reviews from the attendees and I gave so much valuable information that I wanted to make sure it’s available to everyone.

Please comment below on which of these steps you struggle with the most and let me know how I may help.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Nail Salon Could Use a Little Polish in Customer Service Training and Skills

I walked into a local nail salon today and realized that they didn’t know a thing about giving good customer service or providing a great customer service experience.

My intention was to purchase a gift certificate for a client of mine for her birthday.  When I walked in, there were four nail techs working on customers.  The one closest to me didn’t look up, make eye contact.  She just raised her voice and said “Hello,  pick a color and have a seat.”

So, I turned around and walked out.

It’s not a huge deal and isn’t going to alter my world, but I’m not going to pay $50 to someone who doesn’t have the courtesy to make eye contact, greet me with a friendly greeting, and ask me how they may help me.  She made an incorrect assumption about what I wanted and barked out orders to me.  So, I’ll find something else for my client.

Small businesses have the power to drive the economy and to thrive right now.  But it’s amazing to me how many just fail to understand that it takes a simple focus on the customer.  Treating people well. Engaging with customers. Smiling. Getting to know what our needs/problems/issues/goals are. Asking for feedback.  These are all the simple things that I cover in my 5 Steps to More Loyal Customers emanual.  Large companies can do the same thing, yet customers tend to gravitate toward the smaller businesses because there is more of a personal touch, a connection, that sometimes is lost in the bigger companies and organizations.

Connecting with customers is much simpler than most people and businesses realize.  It just takes a conviction from the leaders and owners that there needs to be a mindset shift on how they serve the customers.  They need to instill this to everyone works with customers, either face to face or behind the scenes.  So, basically, everyone in the company.  Because if you aren’t working face to face with a customer, you are working to support someone who does.

Improving Customer Service – What to Do When You’re Running Out of Ideas for Better Service (3 Big Tips)

How many small businesses still remember or still operate on the phrase – If you build it, they will come?

This phrase is a sure fire customer service improvement  downfall and profit killer.

Those days are long gone.  Studies show that customer engagement is key and that customers are much more aware and conscious of how businesses treat them.

So here are three ways that businesses fall short on customer expectations and what you can do about it.

1) The company was unavailable – literally.

58% of consumers in a Right Now study from 2011 stated that they were less than satisfied because the company did not answer the phone or respond to email.

What should you do?  PICK UP THE PHONE AND ANSWER YOUR EMAIL

This is so simple and requires minimal explanation.  Be sure that someone is manning your phones and email AT ALL TIMES.  If you really want to stand out from the crowd, then set a goal for your business to answer the phone within three rings and respond to all emails within two hours.  Now, you may not have the answer within 2 hours, but by responding that you are glad they contacted you and that you are working to get an answer or solution, you’ve put their mind at ease that they haven’t “fallen through the cracks.”

2)  The company showed no sense of urgency

56% of customers in that same study said that they found that companies are slow to resolve issues.

 What should you do?  Step on it!

When a customer contacts you with a question, concern, or problem – get moving right away to fix it.  In reality, customers know that there will occasionally be issues with a product or service, but when you don’t make it a priority to fix it for them, you’ve lost your edge in their eyes.  This study suggested that more than half of the time, customers feel like the business just doesn’t care enough about them to take action right away or within the customer’s perception of a reasonable amount of time.  Would you, putting yourself in the shoes of a customer, continue to do business with a company that less than half the time acted quickly to resolve issues?  I would hope not.  Go to their competition and explain why you left business number one.  If the competition is smart, they’ll make sure that doesn’t happen to you again.

3) The staff didn’t have a clue

Imagine the frustration level of the 57% of customers that stated they felt like they knew more about the company and it’s products than the customer service agent that was working with them.

 What should you do?  Do your homework!

Train your teams on everything about your company and the products and service it has to offer.  Give them the history of the company – who founded it, why, when, and where. How has it grown and what has changed over time.  As for your services or products, dive deeper than just the facts stated in the brochure or website.  Anyone can find that.  Your customers are contacting you because they’ve shown an interest already in your product, so give them more information than just a high level overview.  Train your teams on what is the best use of the product and what it wouldn’t be suited for.  Who is the best person to benefit from the service and who wouldn’t be the target market?  Is this a standard item or can modifications be made if needed?  Focus on the benefits of the item or service, not just the features that are listed elsewhere.

I’ve got even a few more tips for you here to learn what you need to know to stay ahead of your competition through service.

3 Things I Learned From 25K Training About Improving Customer Service

I’m training for a 25K this May and on my short run this morning, it hit me how similar the process of training for a 25K is to improving customer service.  Three of the main points are 1) Take it slow 2) Have a plan and 3) Use the right equipment for the environment.

Take it slow – No one in their right mind registers for a race without training for it.  They’d injure themselves and set themselves back further than if they’d just not started at all.  It’s one step in front of the other.  You ease into it.  The same goes with improving the customer service you deliver to better serve your customers.  You seriously can’t just jump in both feet first at full steam ahead speed and expect wonderful outcomes.  When you know what you want, you ease into it and achieve one milestone, then the next, then the next.  Enough steps gets you to the finish line and looking ahead to the next race.

Have a plan – When training for a race, you have a training schedule.  A few short runs during the week, longer runs on the weekend that get longer and longer every week.  Throw in some cross training and some speedwork and you are on your way.  Improving your customer service levels is exactly the same thing.  You’ve got to have a plan.  It doesn’t happen successfully without one.  You need to have a goal of what the ideal service experience is for your customers.  That’s your goal.  Then, you plan it out step by step.  Start at the top with leadership.  Then move on to the teams to consider every touchpoint with the customer.  Look at how you greet the customer, how you interact with them, how you serve them, how your processes work for them… you get the picture.  Start at the beginning and work from there.  Again, one step at a time.

Use the right equipment for the environment – As you can see from the picture, it was snowing this morning.  Knowing that my grace and coordination abilities are somewhat absent, I made sure that I used my Yaktrax to help me on the snow and ice.  I used my earmuffs and mittens to keep my hands and ears warm.  Using the right equipment for customer service means that you have to get help when you need it, use training manuals, get a CRM software if it will benefit your customers and staff.  Ask your teams what they need in terms of training or delivering great service and supply them with it.  Making the investment in your team, be it time and/or money, always pays off in the end when used the right way.  Please don’t be an example of “Shelf Help’ where you’ve purchased training books, dvd, or consultants like myself and never followed through and left everything sitting on the shelf in your office.

Remember to take it slow, have a plan, and use the right equipment and you’ll make great strides in getting to the point of being know for the service levels you provide, regardless of your product or your price.

See you at the finish line!  Let me know what some of your challenges are.  I’ll be helping and cheering for you every step of the way.

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