Transforming the Customer Experience

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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 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.

 

Any Customer Experience Focus MUST Start at the Top

The fastest and easiest way to turn around the lack of customer service that we are currently experiencing is to, as business leaders, practice what we preach.

So many times, our teams within our organization have not been properly trained or even told what is expected of them. Because of this, everything has been left to chance. They are operating with no guidelines or expectations and really have no true idea of what excellent customer service means or even how to go about delivering it.

Leadership has the responsibility for setting clear expectations and guidelines when it comes to delivering excellent service. In order to be a true leader, you must, by definition, have followers.  Your staff will follow the direction and examples you set before them.

So with this being established, it is now up to leadership to clearly define what excellent customer service means in your organization. It needs to be something much more than a snappy motto or slogan, it needs to be something that everyone buys into and can deliver.

Most importantly, leadership needs to model the desired behaviors. Whatever standards are set for service levels, leadership needs to be walking the talk and delivering exactly that. To really been seen as true leaders, the key players should be doing everything they can to exceed even those bare minimum guidelines.

By knowing exactly what excellent service means in your company or organization, your teams will clearly know what is expected of them.

When they see and hear leadership delivering excellent service, they will be learning specifically what to do and say in order to achieve those standards. People love learning from their leaders because they then feel secure in the examples given and aren’t risking too much by trying something that hasn’t been done before.

Leadership is the key factor in excellent service. It is the trickle down effect that carries the most weight. If teams are told to deliver excellent service and the examples are set for them, it instantly becomes part of the culture of service and everyone will encourage the delivery of superior service.

Your competitors are doing everything they can to attract your customers. By starting at the top, your customer centric mentality will permeate your organization and become natural practice.  If you do this correctly,  you’ll create customers that want to go out of their way to do business with you.

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.

Does Your Meeting Agenda Put the Customer Experience First? If Not, Read This…

customer-focus3Company, department, and team meetings are the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the commitment to the customer.

Often, meeting agendas focus on issues important to leadership, housekeeping issues, new policies, etc and hopefully – customer issues make it on the agenda before “Open/New Items” if they are mentioned at all.  And, if you are lucky, it won’t get bumped to the next meeting because the time allotted for the meeting has been taken up by the previous items.  This again sends the message that the company or department knows they should be paying attention or discussing customer issues, but can’t quite get around to it.

I challenge you to put “Customer Focus” at the beginning of all meetings.  In doing so, Customer  Focus will never fall by the wayside or get bumped to the next meeting.  Remember, the customer is one of the most critical components of a successful business.  Demonstrate this commitment and importance by addressing customer…

  • training
  • initiatives
  • feedback
  • suggestions
  • experiences
  • priorities

…. at the beginning of all meetings.  This sets the tone and keeps everyone focused on the benefit to the customer at all times.  If you don’t place it as a priority, then how would your staff know that it’s a priority in practice?

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!

 

 

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.

Huddles Pay Off BIG in Football and Customer Satisfaction

Successful customer service and football.  What do they have in common?  They both rely heavily on huddles.  Think about it.  In football, the huddle is when the play and strategy is discussed.  It’s when they make sure that everyone has what they need to make the play and score the touchdown.

The exact same thing goes down in a huddle at the office. The manager, supervisor, or team leader gathers everyone for just a short time and makes sure that everyone knows what is needed to make that day go well for both the customers and the company.

The leader needs to make sure that everyone knows what is expected of them.  All team members must understand their role in the big picture and needs to speak up if they need help or assistance.

It’s during the huddle that the day is mapped out and challenges are prepared for.

I strongly advise you to have 5-7 minute huddles DAILY with your teams. This should be part of the DNA of your business, team, or office.  The huddles need to happen daily and consistently.  As a leader, you need to ensure that they be short in duration and full of relevant information.   They should cover what is being worked on, appointments for the day, any current customer issues, anything that is required or needed for a project to be completed, and requests for information and assistance.

Remember, prepare your team for success by giving them a game plan for the day.  Find out what is needed, what should happen, what to do in case the unexpected happens, offer assistance to those who may need it, keep those working on projects  accountable.  Find out about the challenges facing your team.  Be brought up to speed on customer issues and internal department issues.  With huddles, these should essentially act as a game plan for the day.

Using huddles in the workplace makes everyone a winner.

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.

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