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Customer Service – Do You Give Empty Compliments to Your Customer Facing Staff?

Compliments are always good, right? Especially a compliment given to an employee for delivering good customer service, right?compliment

Actually…. no.

I’ll explain.

I once worked with a company in which the Director of the Customer Relations department would walk through the department and say “You guys are Rockstars!”  When an employee would speak with him privately, he would discuss their issue and upon leaving would say “You’re a Rockstar!”

This seems a good practice… until you hear his staff members say…”If he calls me a Rockstar once more, I’m going to lose my mind!” I asked them to explain.

It seems that, while well intended, his compliments were completely empty. His staff felt that he had absolutely no understanding of the stress of their jobs, the hoops they had to jump through to make or keep customers happy, the stressful interactions involved with other departments to move up orders or how unreasonable many of their clients were. Their manager had given up asking him for assistance in these areas because he was torn in too many directions and offered no support to that department within the company.

Once I pressed them for more information, the staff told me that the compliments from the Director meant nothing, while the compliments from their manager meant everything to them.

The manager would give the following compliments…

“I noticed how you really went to bat for that customer and did everything possible to move their order up to meet their deadline. Even though it didn’t work out, they noticed that you put forth the effort. That means a lot to them.”

“I like the way you speak with our customers. You really show a sense of graciousness and pleasantness that I like. Even when the news isn’t what the customer wanted to hear, you really go out of your way to sound genuinely empathetic. Thanks for that.”

“I really appreciate the thoroughness you show when coming to me with a situation. You have all of your facts checked and have a few possibilities for solutions in mind. That really helps me make a decision much faster.”

Specificity is the key here folks. Empty compliments mean nothing. They may sound nice initially, but over time they feel just that… empty and meaningless.

When you give the little effort to specify what you are complimenting and how it impacts the situation, your staff will likely repeat the behavior.

After all, that’s our end goal, right? Reward the desired behaviors and they will likely be repeated. When this happens, our staff is happy and they treat the customers better, customers are happy, they return and likely buy more, and we make more profits.

Bottom line… be specific and sincere. It means more than you know.

Please leave your thoughts and examples below…

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!

Customer Loyalty and Profits Thrive In a Strong Customer Centric Culture

Getting new customers, keeping those customers, and making more money are the goals you have for your business, right?

Then let me share one of the most crucial factors into setting up that equation – DEFINE your ideal desired company culture!

If I could shout this from the mountain tops, I absolutely would.  All of the clients I work with online and in person have struggled with this concept initially.  They believe that they need to amp up their sales force or train their front line staff better.  These ideas certainly come into play, but only after we get the critical step of the culture solidified first. When I explain that customers will absolutely do business and spend more money with the companies that have a solid foundation, know who they are, how they want to do business, how they want customers to be treated, how they want their staff to work together internally, they start to pay attention.  Here is where you want to take notes…

1.  Companies with clearly defined cultures have taken the guesswork out of their daily lives.  These companies know what their mission statement is, what their core values are, and how they want their customers to think of them.

2.  Companies with clearly defined cultures have a high level of staff engagement.  Companies with high staff engagement have low turnover rates, high staff morale, staff feels more empowered, and the staff make decisions that benefit both the company and the customers.

3.  Companies with clearly defined cultures do everything they can to protect the culture they strive to create.  They protect it like a Mama Bear protecting her cubs.  Anything or anyone threatening that culture is diverted into a different forest.  Meaning, if there are internal issues and leadership stands and supports the ideal culture, they will make the difficult decision of “freeing up the future” of those who do not embrace the ideals and are slowly but surely destroying morale.

So, how do you define your culture?  Simple.  Sit down with your leadership team, managers, or whomever you see as a leader in your company.  Limit the group to 10 to eliminate the “Too Many Indian Chiefs” phenomena.

You then need to brainstorm and identify that in your wildest dreams of the best possible world where there are plenty of customers, plenty of business, staff is performing at optimum levels, everything is functioning as well as it could possibly be….  what does it look like, feel like, sound like, how are staff interacting with clients and each other? What’s being said?  What is the morale like?   It doesn’t matter how things are currently operating now, this is all about setting goals and aiming high.  

The key here is to have the conversation.  Define what you have in mind, document it, rework it until it feels right.  Then be sure to SHARE it with your entire organization.  If you keep it in your head, you’ll just be lucky if someone else is headed in the same direction as you.  Leave nothing to chance.  Your business success depends on it.

Once you’ve done this exercise, you’ll know that everyone knows what they are working toward.  Everyone will be on the same page.  There will be consistency across your company.  Getting new customers is much easier when everyone is sending the same message and delivering a consistent customer experience.  When customers have better customer experiences on a consistent basis, they turn into loyal customers.

 

Bad Employee Morale Can Kill Customer Service

Last night as I waited for my daughter at dance class, I joined a group of other moms that were waiting.  One was lamenting about how unhappy she was with two of her coworkers.  Apparently, it had been a really rough day…

“They just stir the pot and make it such a negative environment.  There are only six of us in my department and it drives all of us crazy.  If management would just address the problem and stop hiding from conflict and confrontation, we all would function better as a team.
The main trouble maker is 6 months away from retirement so they are probably thinking that they’ll just wait her out and hopefully things will improve.  I wish they knew how miserable we all are.  I’ve even started looking for a job outside of my department.”
I don’t know this woman well, but I felt for her. We’ve all been there.  I’ve even been in her manager’s position of having difficult staff.  But the key is to address the situation before it gets worse.  As I see it, there are (at least) two issues here –
 
1)  Not Addressing the Behavior – By letting the poor behavior continue, management is condoning it.  It will soon become the accepted norm. The wording I would suggest to start to correct this would be…
” You seem to be pretty unhappy or frustrated about something. Please let me know what’s going on so that I can help.  Your attitude is sending a sense of negativity that I’m not sure you are aware of. We need to make this a positive working environment. How can I help?”
Notice that I didn’t use wording that would put someone on the spot, but these words help alleviate the expected sense of defensiveness, while letting it be known that what is going on needs to stop.  It also puts management in the position of being open and able to help if possible.
 
2)  The Rest of the Team is Devalued – If you’ve read these newsletters long enough or spent an hour on the phone with me, you know that I’m always going to say that you need to treat your internal customers as well as, if not better than, your external customers.
Should you allow poor working environments, even psychological, to continue, you are telling the rest of the team that you don’t care enough about them.  You are putting more value on your fear of confrontation than on their emotional happiness at work.  The sad part here is that you’ll not only lose your good staff, but you’ll lose customers as well. Customers will sense what’s going on.  They’ll overhear staff.  They might even get an earful from one of your staff.  Don’t risk it.
Takeaway Tip –  Pay attention to your team.  If you have some “Morale Killers” around, act sooner rather than later, before it’s too late

Would You Give Your Staff Your Revenue For a Day?

Since you’ve been reading my posts for quite a while, you’ll most likely remember that one of the things that we talk about often is how well you treat your teams.

Treat your internal teams as well as you’d like them to treat your paying customers, if not even better.

Now, there are many examples of this premise from companies large and small.  This example is from a couple that owns three restaurant bars in Grand Rapids, Michigan.    I’ll link the article here, but to summarize….

The couple that owns Hop Cat, McFadden’s, and Stella’s want to give something back to their staff.  It’s been a busy time in each of these establishments with the recent Art Prize events that drew in record crowds.  Their teams pulled their weight and delivered good food and good experiences for everyone.

The owners don’t have any kids of their own, but said that they feel the staff that works with them are their kids, their family.  They’d like to show their appreciation  for their talents and efforts. “This is a way to show our family how much we love them.”

Today, Tuesday, October 23, they will take every penny of revenue in all three restaurants, put it in a pot, and divide it up equally among the entire staff.

Now, it’s not just the profits, but every penny taken in.  The owner realizes this may be a day that could cost him, but he sincerely believes it will pay off in the end.

Here’s the ultimate gift given back to the owners – – the cook in one of the restaurants is so touched by their generosity that she said it makes her want to work harder for them.

That right there is the reward for investing in your teams.  It’s pretty much that “Pay It Forward” mentality.

Consider this example and explore ways in which you may be able to do something similar in your business.  It doesn’t have to be as grand a gesture as this.  Ask your teams what their favorite snack food is and go out and get it for them.  What is there favorite bowling alley?  Take them there after work sometime and let them enjoy some time together with you not in “Work Mode.”  The possibilities are endless.

Have you done this with your teams in the past?  How well did it work?  Please share your thoughts and comments below.

Staff Recognition Ultimately Benefits Your Customers

Want your staff to improve their customer service skills and deliver excellent service?  Then give them a pat on the back for their efforts.

All small business owners dream of having stellar customer service marks, increasing profits and customer retention, and developing sustainable customer loyalty.

One way to practically ensure these outcomes is to value and praise your staff – your internal customers.

By valuing and praising your staff, you are recognizing a job well done and promoting the ideals and service standards you want others to display. Because their practices are recognized, it gives the individual a feeling of pride and ownership in their responsibilities. This concept translates into excellent customer service being delivered.

When we praise our staff and team members, they realize that we are paying attention to them and recognize the fact that they have done something well. Everyone likes to know that they are doing a good job. The great thing is that people tend to repeat the same behavior that brought the praise. By focusing on what people do well, excellent customer service it is brought to the center of attention conveyed that it is expected, valued, and recognized.

Behavior rewarded is behavior repeated

I think that simply acknowledging and appreciating superior service sits in the staff mind as a reward.  By having leadership recognize their efforts and performance, they are much more likely to repeat the same actions to receive the same affirmations repeatedly.  Everyone appreciates a pat on the back.

Some companies give staff pins to wear displaying their efforts for excellent service. It is a sense of pride that comes through when wearing these pins or symbols because it signifies that they have been recognized and that they are the best of the best and have risen to high standards.

By praising and valuing our team members, we are also valuing our customers. The behavior and attitudes that we are rewarding in our staff is exactly what we want our customers to see. We reward our customers by having the best possible teams in place to serve them. To have the best staff, we need to acknowledge the excellent work that they do in order for them to see a benefit to continue displaying the same performance. This pays off in terms of high levels of customer satisfaction, customer loyalty and retention. Increased profits are the end result of a job well done.

Practice Some Charity to Your Staff Today

We all like to indulge a bit from time to time. Why not indulge your teams and staff today? Give everyone a day off, an hour off, or buy them lunch when they don’t expect it. Take everyone out to the movies or an event. The point is to make everyone feel special.

Yes, it may cost you some money and productivity time, but my guess is that it will be well worth it. Your team will feel a sense of value that they are not merely machines that make your business run, but that they are an integral part of a team working toward a common goal.

If you are taking everyone out for a group event, the teamwork will increase exponentially because everyone will get to relate to each other outside of the office.

If you are giving everyone some time off, either a few hours or an entire day, they will most likely show up for work the next day feeling a bit more refreshed and motivated because they used the “free time” to relax, or to attack their personal “to do” list.

As a manager, I wanted everyone to feel special for a bit. We had just come through a really tough week and they deserved some recognition. I treated everyone in my office to chocolate covered strawberries one day. It was a small cost, but felt like a true indulgence to everyone in the office. We all took about 30 minutes to just enjoy a treat, not answer the phones, and to feel a little luxurious in the middle of the day. Once we got back to business, everyone was smiling a bit more and there was far less tension and stress than on a normal day.

Once, when we had gotten through a particularly busy season made worse by being short staffed, we gave everyone $75 gift cards to be used for dinner and a movie. These were presented to everyone my directors with sincere thanks for all of their hard work and effort. The staff decided to go out together to dinner and the movie, rather than go as individuals.

So, whether it be a small cost of chocolate covered strawberries, a larger cost of a concert, movie, meals, or the gift of time off, practice some charity in your office today. Make everyone feel special.

My bet is that you will find a more positive team, everyone will feel refreshed, and everyone will treat your external customers better than ever.

Top Ten List to Improve Customer Service and Satisfaction

Dear Customer Service Leader:Staff Wish List

It’s us, your staff.  You’ve been talking to us lately about how we should focus on improving customer service with our company.  So, in order to do that, we’ve compiled a list of things that we need from you to help us deliver excellent customer service.

OUR TOP 10 WISH LIST TO IMPROVE CUSTOMER SATISFACTION

Tell us what is expected of us. We have no way of knowing what it is you want us to do or how to act if you don’t tell us what you expect.

Communicate with us. By opening the lines of communication as to how we are doing, what you like or what you don’t, we can tailor what we do to the expectations.

Empower us. The more power you relinquish to us, the better able we are to serve our customers needs.

Recognize and reward me. We don’t need a party thrown for us every time we do something well, but it is certainly nice to know that you notice when we do things right.“I noticed how you took the extra time to really help that customer.  I like the way you handled that.”  Those words will carry me for a long time.


Treat us the way you want us to treat the customer.
When you give us the service you’d like us to deliver to our customers, we’ll know exactly what to do.

Hold me accountable. When I know that my compensation will reflect my efforts to develop positive customer relationships, I’ll do everything I can to deliver quality customer service.

Help me manage customer expectations. Please work with us to let customers know when they can reasonably expect products to be delivered, to see results, or know what to expect.  When we say, “You should receive this soon.” Soon can mean tomorrow or next week, depending upon the customer’s perception.

Support my decisions that we make using good judgment.
Know that we make the best decisions we can at the time with the information available to us.  It increases our confidence when you support us.  Yes, we will make mistakes sometimes. We promise we will learn from those and not repeat them if at all possible.

Walk a Day In Our Shoes. Could you take an hour a week and do our jobs?  If you answered the phones once in a while, made  the deliveries, scheduled shipments, prepped the procedure, you would know the challenges and needs that we have.  We would also know that you truly appreciate the work that we are doing.

Set Customer Service Minimums. Help us set some Customer Service Minimum standards that we all know are the very least  we will do for our customers. This will encourage us to revisit our service and continually increase the level of service that we provide.

These requests are really customer retention strategies that will help us to develop profitable customer relationships.  We know that without our customers, there is no business.  Without the business, we don’t have jobs.  In today’s economy, good jobs are hard to come by and we sincerely appreciate having our jobs.  We would love to work with you to build customer loyalty and improve the customer’s experience when they do business with us.

Sincerely,

Your Staff

Dear Employer, Your Staff Has a Wish List…..

Dear Employer,

It’s us… your staff.  You’ve been talking a lot about serving our customers well and doing everything we can to retain their business based on service. You’ve told us that we can differentiate ourselves from our competitors through service.  Our customer service skills can certainly be fine tuned to make our customers fall in love with us.  In fact, we all want to make our customers go out of their way to do business with us because they love the way we treat them.  It’s the relationships that we have with our customers that make our jobs as enjoyable as they are.

We understand that by serving our customers well, they will come back to us year after year anytime they have a need for our product or service.  We also know that once we have the loyalty of our customers, they will also begin referring their associates and friends to us.  That means we will have even more customers to serve. And, when it comes right down to it, when we have customers, we have jobs.  No customers = No business, No jobs.

In order to deliver the best customer service possible, we need something from you.  Over the next few days, we’ll be sending you specific items that we need help with in order to better serve our customers.

This means that as our employer, we need you to provide us the skill set and training that we ask for.  Communication goes both ways, so we will do our part and tell you what we need.

Thanks for listening,

Your Staff (Your internal customers)

This is a tongue-in-cheek letter from staff telling their employer that they need some help in delivering excellent customer service.  Many times, employers require their staff to deliver good customer service and expect them to have the customer service skills necessary, but the staff is left to figure out how to do it on their own.  The next series of blog posts will list some of the requests that staff frequently make and the way that employers can fulfill those requests.

Please take the time to comment on this post and let me know more about you…

I’d like to know your name, the type of business you are in, the number of staff in your company, and what some of their biggest challenges are in delivering excellent customer service.  This way, I can be sure that these posts are relevant to you. I’m interested in developing relationships with the readers of this blog and to be sure to write about the topics you find most interesting.

Looking forward to the first request from staff…..

Be Customer-Centric: Both Internally and Externally

Everyone knows the buzzword and implications of being “Customer Centric.”  It means to focus on your customers and keep your customers in mind when evaluating processes and products within your organization.  And, everyone knows that without our customers, we would not be in business at all.

However, what many companies fail to remember is that they have the most important customers within their very own walls – their own teams and associates.

Before we can even hope to meet the needs of our external customers, it is essential that we exceed the needs of our own internal customers.

Be certain that you are providing the environment necessary for your staff to learn about your company and product, receive the training that they need, and can grow and learn in the areas of interest to them.  Ask your associates frequently what types of training or education they would like to receive – be it about products, services, or internal functioning of your organization.  The more information you are willing to share and provide, the higher ownership they will feel and relay that feeling onto your customers.

As I have been trying to convey in previous posts, the deeper the relationships with your customers, the higher satisfaction levels you will find. This same principle applies to your internal customers on a much deeper level.  By taking care of your own teams, they will gladly take care of your external customers.

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