Transforming the Customer Experience

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Celebrate and Share Your Customer Service Efforts – with Worms

Customer service and satisfaction consultants often advise clients to share and celebrate our successes.  It’s wonderful when someone on our team has done something far above and beyond their responsibilities to deliver excellent service for a customer.  I advise clients to do this on a regular basis during every staff meeting.

By sharing successes, it opens up the creativity of the other team members as to how to surprise and delight their customers.  Many of us stumble in our efforts to come up with a new idea, so I highly recommend repeating what someone else has done successfully.  Call it copying, but if it works in the best interest of the customer, everyone wins.

The challenge comes when we have a few team members who are not used to recognizing their strengths or something that they’ve done well.  While a herculean effort always makes for a good story, it is usually the smallest efforts and gestures made under the radar or behind the scenes that are  most appreciated by the customer.  So when we have those instances when no one can think of something that went well, I like to inject a little bit of fun.

“The Gummy Worm Award”

When someone can’t think of something that they did well for a customer, give them an award of a bag of sour gummy worms. No one will want to have that bag of gummy worms for long, so the next meeting, they will most likely have more than one example of something they did well for a customer.

This is all in good fun, but reinforces the fact that we all need to recognize that simply by doing our jobs well, we make a difference in the  minds of our customers.  It doesn’t even need to be something directly job related.  It could be that you made a phone call to your customer’s next appointment and informed them that the customer is on their way.  It could be that you made an unscheduled  proactive phone call to a customer about an issue they’ve been dealing with.  Maybe you sent your customer an article that caught your attention because it relates to their industry.

I hope you get the point here.  The above examples are small acts that make a big difference to a customer.  None of them may seem monumental, but any one of them could be the difference that makes the difference to the customer and gets them to return to your business or renew their account with you. We need to reinforce to our teams that the small things count and will keep the focus on the positives, not the negatives that arise from time to time.

By having your teams share what has worked for them, it gets them to recognize what they do well, gives examples to others to follow, and keeps the focus on the positive aspects of customer service and the difference it makes to our current customers.  When they try some of the strategies that have worked for their peers, their level of customer service improves, as does their feeling of empowerment and ownership in the company overall.

I’d love to hear your comments and strategies you’ve found useful in getting your teams to recognize their efforts.

Increase Customer Satisfaction by Managing Expectations

Manage the Customer’s Expectations Up Front

When customers first begin to do business with you, they will have their own expectations and hopes regarding your product and service delivery. The best way to make sure you are seen as reliable and deliver on promises is to educate them from the beginning what to expect from us.

Let them know how your business works.  Tell them how long processes, program, or deliveries take.  Inform them of your billing practices before the first order is placed.  Advise them of the information or steps you need from them in order to complete the process or order.

You may have to do this a few times in a few different ways.  We, as business owners, often find that customers don’t really read all of the information we give them.  As customers, we’ve done the same thing.  So be sure to integrate a system to cover the same information verbally.  Be it the person who takes the order from your customer or the receptionist they speak with, make sure that someone is talking with the customer to let them know what will happen and what to expect.

Once customers are informed about the way you do business, they will have a clear understanding of what to expect from you.  They won’t be calling you the day after an order was placed frustrated that it hasn’t been delivered yet.  They’ll know it typically takes 4 business day to arrive.  You won’t receive angry calls from customers asking what the status of their insurance policies is because you’ve let them know that in order to get accurate quotes, you need paperwork from them.

Customers really don’t like surprises, unless it is a delightful experience.  Keep negative surprises to a minimum by making sure they know the process, time frames, and expected outcomes every step of the way.  Be sure to keep them informed should something not go according to plan.  They’ll thank you for it.

“Mom, She Talked to ME!”

This morning I took my seven year old daughter to the oral surgeon for a frenectomy. While it is a relatively easy and painless outpatient procedure, the fact that it involved a needle was enough to get my daughter a little nervous. It didn’t help that her big brother did his brotherly duties of scaring her about the laser that would be used. Needless to say, she was a bit apprehensive about the whole procedure.

All of my fears were immediately alleviated when we checked in at the front desk. The receptionist greeted me, then stood up so she could see my daughter and looked her in the eye and welcomed her to the office and told her how nice she looked. I then took the necessary paperwork and we both sat down in the waiting room. My daughter looked at me and whispered “Mom, she talked to ME, not just you! They have very good customer service!” It really was pretty cute, but it resounded with me that people notice everything. Even kids have a perception of being treated well or not.

Throughout the visit, all of the assistants were very kind to us and explained everything in layperson’s language to me and then again in “kid friendly” terms to be sure that we both understood what would happen.  The best part was when they made it fun to wear the goggles and the bib, turning her into a superhero.

The point of this anecdotal post is that customer service, patient care, whatever you want to call it is about connecting with the customer.  It’s about building rapport, trust, and relationships to make the experience beneficial, if not enjoyable at the same time.  In this case, it was all about making my daughter feel comfortable and important.  This particular oral surgeon’s office did that successfully. When considering the areas for improvement in your business, make sure you consider things from the perspective of the customer and what will make the biggest impact for them.  Often, you’ll find that it is the little things like goggles and a cape turning a small child into a superhero that will turn an patient visit, or customer transaction, into one of the highlights of the day.

Personal Touches Win Business Every Time

Customer service training should always include the personal touch and being on the lookout for the little things that make a difference to your customers. I interviewed a fellow attendee at a recent conference about the things that bring her back to a business and the things that will drive her away. Lain will tell you, from a customer perspective, what wins her business and what will make her take her spending dollars elsewhere.

The personal touch goes a long way in making sure that your customers don’t feel that they are one of the many “transactions” that you have to “get through” everyday. When you engage personally and surprise your customers even in small ways, it makes an impression on them that keeps them coming back for more.

What are you doing in your business to train customer service and keeping the personal touch in the forefront?

Train Your Staff to Improve Like Athletes – Continually

When athletes break their own records or win that “big game”, do they stop training for the next event?  No.

Should your customer skills training stop once the staff member has started working in their position after the initial training?  Absolutely not.

In order to keep your staff at the top of their “game,” continual training is necessary to reiterate the importance of focusing on the customer.

Unfortunately, many businesses try to skimp by not investing the time and resources into their staff.  Your staff will only be as good as they currently are should you accept the status quo.  Your customers won’t accept the status quo and you, as the small business owner or leader, shouldn’t either.

Customers are becoming more and more sophisticated and savvy each day.  They know that times are tight and that everyone is fighting to keep their current customers, much less trying to market to and attract new customers.

You must train your staff to deliver excellent customers skills continually and consistently. This demonstrates the commitment that your organization has to deliver superior service each and every time to each and every customer.  Training must be a part of the culture and DNA of your organization and be known as one of the foundation blocks of constant quality improvement.  Companies that train consistently on at least a monthly basis, whether a formal training session or a discussion as part of their regular staff meetings, recognize the level of service continually improving among their staff.

Staff working in continual improvement companies realize that the focus is always on the customer and look for ways to implement their new strategies with customers.  They look forward to sharing the successes and occasional failures with the rest of the team.  Failures are perfect opportunities for discussion to explore what went wrong and why.  How much was in the staff or company’s control?  How much was due to the personality of the customer involved?  Were there outside factors at play?  Any discussion involving strategies and skills for the customer’s best interest works to bring the group together and improve as a team.

So for the businesses and companies that are looking to cut back on expenses and not train their teams to be at their best when interacting with their customers, I offer a word of warning.  You may have adequate skills now, but one of your competitors is looking to “up their game” and woo your customers away.  Keep in mind that 70% of the time, your customers are leaving only because someone in your company didn’t treat them well enough.  How much money does that customer bring into your business over a lifetime?  My bet is that a small investment of time and resources to improve customer service skills won’t even come close to the dollars that are walking out your door.

Loyal Customer Relationships – Do You Derail It Before You Even Start?

Customer loyalty is developed in many ways, yet they all fall back to one fundamental act – follow up after the initial contact.

Customer service is connecting the person with the product.  It’s about making sure that clients know that we value their business, even if they have not yet had a business transaction with us.

Often I will have a conversation with a friend, a colleague, or a client and the name of a new prospective client comes up.  Then, occasionally, the person with whom I am speaking will say “Oh man, I forgot to follow up with them.  I should get right on that!”  Unfortunately, if the need was immediate in the potential customer’s mind, the damage has already been done.  They are already doing business with the competition.

Because they didn’t act with a sense of urgency on behalf of the potential client, they moved on to one of your competitors who did.  I can’t state that I’ve not done the very same thing myself.  I was once approached for a potential speaking engagement on Customer Service and I failed to understand that the client had already decided she was going to hire me to speak at her association and had the specific topic in mind.  Because I had planned to follow up with her within two weeks of meeting her and give her enough time to settle on her desired topic, I gave her the impression that her engagement was not important to me and she booked another speaker.

Two things happened here that you should learn from – while you may pride yourself on being very perceptive to people’s needs and requests (as I usually do), you may sometimes miss the mark and lose that sale.  You also should learn that it is very important to make a connection, however brief, with the potential client to let them know that you are glad to have met them and would like to serve as a solution provider for whatever their need is.

Customer Contact Follow Up

The initial follow up contact can take many forms depending on the situation involved – a phone call or email will establish the initial contact information and to let them know how you may fill their needs.  Mention the part of the initial meeting that made you think that you may be able to serve them.  Let them know how they’d benefit from your services and what it is about the way that you do business that is unique from the rest of your competitors.

Take a quick look right now in your stack of business cards that you have recently connected with.  If you think that you could be a resource to them in any way, make sure to follow up with them before your competitor does.  Whether it is by a personal phone call or an email, by all means – MAKE THAT INITIAL FOLLOW UP CONTACT TO YOUR POTENTIAL CLIENT. Let them determine the sense of urgency and set the pace for the rest of the process.  At least you have let them know that you value their potential business and will act expediently. Loyal customers will remember your diligence with service throughout the entire customer experience.

Customer Service Skills Make an Impact on Profits

Small business owners are recognizing that delivering excellent customer service impacts their bottom line.

I was at a business conference last weekend and found it interesting that so many business leaders and owners were a bit surprised to realize the financial impact that delivering excellent customer service can make in their business – either positively or negatively.

Train your staff well.  Ingrain it into the DNA of your culture that the customer is the most important person in your business.  They are the ones paying your salaries and covering your business costs.

I’d love to hear your comments…….

On a side note, which would you prefer to see on this blog….. video posts, written posts… combination of the two?

Customer Service, Core Values, and Leadership – Walk the Walk

Here’s an excerpt from the action guide Creating a Customer Centric Culture that is soon to be launched.  I’m posting this not only to get your feedback, but also because it is the crux of several conversations I’ve had with clients this week.  We’ve been improving customer service training and focusing on customer satisfaction.  It all comes back to the way that you want customers to feel when doing business with your company.  The experience is what will keep them coming back or life, or what will lose them forever to your competition.

The focus of my conversation with clients this past week was to have the Core Values of the company transparent to everyone – staff and customers alike.  It is essential that everyone understand them in order to live by them and to best serve the customer and the company.  Leadership must be committed to this process and serve as the example in all areas.  Staff watch and learn at all times.  Yes, they even judge when we make mistakes.  The point is to lead by example because teams will do exactly what they see their leaders do.

Now that you have your Core Values, broadcast them to your teams.  Share these values with your staff.  Tell them that you value their efforts to uphold these values while interacting with customers and with each other.

Your staff will appreciate the fact that they know what is important to the organization.  They need to know this in order to know what is expected of them and how to best serve the customer and fulfill their own responsibilities.

During meetings and events, hang posters or banners with these core values on them. Some companies even go so far as to have cards with their ideal culture and core values printed and laminated for staff to carry with them at all times while at work.  If you are able to have these printed on your payroll, that is an excellent way to reinforce to your team that they are being compensated for their role in providing a customer centric culture and demonstrating the core values of the company.

While it may seem that they are being flooded with these core values, that is exactly the point.  They need to be the DNA of your company.  Staff needs to be able to recite these in their sleep, practice them, live them, teach them, and demonstrate them with customers.

Again, all of this is for naught without the commitment of the leadership team to exemplify, reinforce, and practice these core values.  You must talk the talk, and walk the walk.  It’s all about accountability and leadership by example.

How many times have you encountered leadership that has said one thing, but they themselves have done another or have not promoted the very ideals that the company has promoted?

Improving Customer Service – The Three Most Important Things

I recently had the privilege to interview Mark Sanborn, author and speaker about leadership, service strategy and turning the ordinary into the extraordinary. During our conversation, he gave me his answer that many of my clients and small business owners ask regarding trying to improve the customer experience through service.

KE: What are three things that every company or organization should be doing right away to improve customer service?

MS: Number 1 – I think all customer service is predicated on a simple idea. I think all business is predicated on a simple idea. Say what you’ll do and do what you say. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Don’t create expectations you can’t fulfill. Make sure you’re every bit as good or better than you’re advertising. So No. 1, say what you’ll do and do what you say.

Number 2 – Treat customers like friends. That doesn’t mean you have to be their friend, it just means treat people like they’re friends. My friend Fred Shea, who I wrote about in my book The Fred Factor is an extraordinary postal carrier. I said to Fred, I said how is it you’re able to give such great service to all the customers on your route? Fred said, well I don’t think of them as customers, I just think of them as friends and it’s easy to take care of your friends.
I think that’s a pretty good guiding principle. If you want to know how to treat people, here’s a question, how do you treat your friends? Assuming you have some. We hopefully all do.

Number 3- The third thing is, and this one will really get the attention of management, compensate customers for mistakes you made. Don’t just say “Geez, I’m sorry.” We had a customer who, because of a snafu in our system didn’t receive something they ordered. We reshipped a second one even though the first one was on the way. Gave it to them for free and paid the shipping.
In other words, we didn’t just fix the mistake, we compensated them for the mistake. It’s not enough to just fix what was broke. You need to demonstrate your commitment to the customer. And by the way, when you do that and the data gets to management about the money you’ve had to spend to keep customers happy, that will certainly get their attention focused on service delivery.

KE: That’s right. When they see it coming out of their bottom line, they also understand that they could have done right the first time, too.

If you’d like to read the rest of the interview, please click on the resources tab and you’ll find both the ebook and audio versions of the Customer Centric Conversations.

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