Once it’s in print, it’s ALWAYS in print. Any printed conversations – digital or paper and ink – with or ABOUT a customer live on for eternity. Because of this, we need to be extremely cautious and proactive about what is written to a customer and about the customer. Different topics regarding the length, the way to address your customers, who to include and not include, content of the email or letter, etc are all covered here. Don’t let your written communications be your downfall. Listen here for more details…
Bad customer service – we’ve all experienced it. The receptionist that seems impatient with us on the phone. The server at the restaurant that is condescending and rude, thus ruining our dining experience. The clerk at the store that seems to think we are invisible and rolls her eyes when we actively try to get her attention.
Poor customer service is rampant these days. It’s one of the most vocalized complaints on Facebook and Twitter. Business leaders and owners know that it is a big issue, yet few take any action to correct it, much less know HOW to correct it. They tell themselves that the offenders “are really very good people.” “They’ve been with us forever.” “They have a lot going on in their personal lives.” “It’s just a phase.”
While most of us dislike having to face negative facts, we just have to. The impact of poor customer service on your business is more than just the occasional upset customer.
Customers leave because of bad service. That’s it. Plain and simple. 70% of your lost customers have stopped doing business with you simply because someone within your company treated them rudely, indifferently, or barely acknowledged them. It has nothing to do with your product or price. Someone just didn’t deliver a smile, use their name, or engage. They just processed them through your system.
It lowers the standard of customer service in your company. No matter how well you train your staff, if you allow poor service to continue by one or more of your employees, it will slowly erode the level of service experienced by your customers. The coworkers of negative employees will slowly start to slip in their own actions and will likely display lower levels of service than their norm. By allowing poor service to continue, you send the message to your staff that the customer experience and service skills are not important enough for you to address.
You’ll lose your best employees. The employees that are the best representatives for your company and pride themselves on the way they help your customers will soon be so uncomfortable in the environment that they will seek employment in a different department or, worse yet, another company. These are the people your customers know, like, and trust and want to continue working with. Once they leave, you’ll also lose some customers.
What to do about it…
Train Well. Be sure that you have clearly identified customer service level expectations and specifically train your staff how achieve these standards.
Coach to Success. Should you identify someone not meeting these minimum expectations, immediately be proactive and coach them on the necessary skills to guide them.
Free Up Their Future. Sometimes folks just can’t consistently meet the minimum expectations of customer service. After you’ve coached them with unsatisfactory improvement, you must help them find another position, preferably in another company. These are hard conversations to have, but your profits depend on them. You’ll also notice morale will quickly increase in the impacted department.
For help on training your staff to deliver great customer service consistently, my Excellent Service Skills: Start to Finish training package will give you everything you need, step by step. Don’t let the service your staff delivers drive customers away. Let your service reputation be the reason your customers WANT to do business with you.
The secret sauce to getting more customers and making more money? Show Your Customers The LOVE!
It doesn’t get any simpler than that. Think about the way we build personal relationships… we see someone we are attracted to, we do things to get them to notice us, we try to find out more about them, we do things to try to impress them, we pay attention to them, we notice what makes the happy and/or sad, we do our best to make them feel good or happy. If we really like them, we do whatever it takes to make them want to be around us more. It becomes mutually beneficial. Both people discover things about each other that make them enjoy each other’s company and continue to see each other… and quite possibly marry each other for life.
Now, that mini-therapy session was my gift to you… but there is a lesson in it. The SAME EXACT principles come into play in business relationships as well. You know your target market or ideal customer, you market to them, you try to find out what they need/want, you impress them with introductions or sales pitches or networking, you pay attention to what they say to tailor your solution around them, you notice what they want, don’t want, you do whatever you can to keep them coming back to you first for your product or service. The benefits to both are that you are making money from them and you are providing them with a solution for their needs.
I’m the first to agree that all relationships require some work, and yes, are sometimes stressful. And yes, sometimes they don’t work out, but it always requires some effort. As the saying goes, all good things in life require effort. In business, because customer needs and demographics are constantly changing, we really need to be in touch with our customers. What’s important to them? What do they need? What is it about our product or service that works for them? What isn’t working for them? What would they like to see changed or improved? As in all relationships, communication is key.
The extra bit here is that in successful relationships, both people need to feel valued and special. Yes, I was a Psychology major in college and it continues to amaze me to the degree that companies neglect this aspect in business.
If you’ve ever been on one of my webinars or in my workshops, you’ll know I ALWAYS start out with the statistic that the number 1 reason people stop doing business with a company is because they didn’t feel valued or special. People/customers want and need to feel that their business is valued by the vendor. To do so, we need to show our customers the love.
Here are a few suggestions on how to do just that…
- Make sure that you learn and USE your customer’s names at least once during your conversations. Even if it’s when you say goodbye… it makes an impact and sends the feeling of a relationship. Example: “It was nice catching up with you today, Kristina. I’m looking forward to seeing you again soon.” “Thanks for calling with your question, Kristina. I’m always happy to help.”
- Take an objective look in the mirror and ask yourself WHY people should like to do business or work with you. If you can’t think of many, you may want to think of what you need to focus on to make working with you desirable. Remember the saying… If you want friends, BE a friend. This same concept holds true in business as well. Want more clients/customers? BE friendly and NICE. The #1 reason people stop doing business with companies is because they are treated rudely and indifferently.
- Go a little out of your way to show your customers/clients they are important to you and you value them. Ask them questions that show you care and are interested in what they are saying or about their industry/business.
- “The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.” – Jimmy Johnson
- Let them know in your conversation or email that you truly enjoy working with them and value their business. Most companies don’t do this and people notice on the rare occasion that it happens. This is your chance to stand out.
Do this regularly, not just on important dates like Valentine’s Day because you “should.” When you work on making good customer service a habit and your customers can come to count on it, you’ve struck gold in the relationship game. The proof is in your bottom line… and by the glowing way your customers will speak about you and your company.
Customer service and being nice can make or break a first impression, especially in a medical office. My family recently changed insurance companies due to the recent health care changes. We were heartbroken that this also meant we had to change our physicians we’d been with for the past 10 years.(To be accurate, we could have stayed with them, but it would have cost us an additional $300 per month.)
Anyway, I’d finally been able to find a location close to our home that was accepting new patients. I called and informed the receptionist of our dilemma of being entirely unfamiliar with the doctors and hopeful that we would find the right fit for each member of my family. She immediately took care of my uneasiness by saying “Well, that’s what I’m here for and I’m happy to make any recommendations and answer any questions you have.” This impressed me immensely.
After setting an appointment for one of my sons just two weeks out, she then said “I’m working that night, so I’m looking forward to meeting him. Just have him ask for me, Merrit, if he has any questions and I’ll make sure he’s taken care of.” I was blown away. I used to manage medical offices in my past life and I wish I could say I’d had staff this welcoming at that time.
When I was done getting everything set and the appointments made, I complimented Merrit on her ability to take a situation that I admittedly was very anxious about and putting my mind at ease. I told her that I’m a consultant in customer and patient satisfaction and that I wished I could take her on the road with me to show how things should be done.
My point here is that you really need to understand how sad and anxious I was about switching doctors for my family. Just by her kindness and genuine helpfulness, she took the time to answer questions and to be sure that I felt as comfortable as possible with how we had scheduled things. If only we could do this in all aspects of business. Patients are customers too and she acted like she knew it. I haven’t even been to the office yet and I’m already telling a few folks how please I am with the new health clinic and staff. This is the type of recommendation we want from all of our customers. My trust level is high right now and they’d really have to mess it up to change my mind.
Remember, people do business with those that they know, like, and trust. Take a lesson from Merrit and do whatever it takes to make your new customers/clients/patients/guests feel welcome and happy they decided to do business with you.
I’d love to hear your comments below…
- He who profits most serves best. – Arthur F. Sheldon
- Be the difference between delivering what is expected and what is delightful.
- Your customers are keeping your business alive based on what you promised to deliver. Be sure you know what promises you can make that you can KEEP no matter what. Disappointment is VERY hard to overcome.
- As far as your customers are concerned, you ARE the company. This is not a burden, but the core of your job. You hold in your hands the power to keep the customer coming back. You have the power to make or break your customer’s loyalty. Do everything you can to exceed your customer’s expectations.
- In business, you get what you want by giving other people what they want. – Alice MacDougall
I preach continually about the importance of Customer Service and am really happy to share this personal story.
Last week I was on my annual pilgrimage to Chicago with some good friends. Every year, I mean EVERY year, we dine at Quartino’s restaurant. We happened to find ourselves there about 8 years and have returned every year because the service, food, and prices are so wonderful. Our friends think we are nuts for not trying any of the other venues, but we just don’t want to risk it.
Last week, we found ourselves waiting a few minutes for our reserved table at the appointed time. I asked the hostess twice if she had an estimate of the wait time as we had tickets to a show later that evening. She very politely apologized for the wait and assured us we’d be seated shortly.
Just moments after my second inquiry, the restaurant manager, Tony, appeared and genuinely apologized for our wait. He assured us that the table would be ready momentarily and thanked us so much for our patience. We told him how happy we are with the restaurant and have come back every year because of the great experience we consistently have. Upon hearing that, he thanked us for our loyalty and returned with a complimentary bottle of wine for us to enjoy for the remaining minutes we had to wait. He then showed us to our table.
The remainder of the meal was, as expected, wonderful. We enjoyed our meal while catching up on each other’s lives and lots of laughter. The manager then stopped by at the end of our meal with a cocktail treat for each of us and gave me his card and asked us to email him next time we, or any of our friends, would be dining at the restaurant so that he could be sure we were well taken care of.
Now, this is the type of service experience I train my clients to deliver to their customers. While we hadn’t waited too long, they were very kind and apologetic about having to wait at all. The manager went above and beyond to make us feel like we were special patrons of the restaurant and really made us feel important and well taken care of. He even followed up at the end and made sure that we knew how to contact him to be sure we’d receive great service at our next visit.
When you can connect all of the dots like this.. welcoming at the beginning, great care during, handling any mishaps with grace, and sending us off with a smile (and a blog post), you know you’ve done a great job. They key here is that they do it CONSISTENTLY.
Keep it up, Tony and your team at Quartino’s! Next time any of you are in Chicago, stop by and ask for Tony. He’ll take great care of you. You can also learn a thing or two from them to bring into your business.
The POSITIVE Impact of Customer Service…
Is it possible to be TOO nice as a Customer Service Rep?
Can being TOO nice scare people off? A client of mine asked this question of me yesterday during a workshop and it gave everyone pause for thought.
Yes and No. I know, I sound all “lawyer-y”, but it really is true. There are a few things to consider…
Customers are SO impressed when they find someone who is genuinely nice to them, engages with them, works to solve their problem, or answer their question, that in their mind, it is nearly impossible to be TOO nice.
There are some caveats to this though…
Nice must be GENUINE – Folks can pick up insincerity in a heartbeat. If you are “saccharine” sweet, it turns people off right away. This can be in your tone of voice, the words you use, or basically seeming like a grandmother that is offering a child too many sweets and coddling.
Now on the other hand, those CSR’s that are truly wanting to help their customers, ask the right probing questions to truly understand the situation are also most likely those that will …
- Take conversational cues from their customers and use those as an opportunity to have a short conversation with them about the weather, their business, recent vacation, etc.
- They’ll use appropriate humor.
- They’ll make it a goal to have the customer smiling within 60 seconds of working with them.
- They’ll use a tone of voice that is warm, friendly, and sincere.
- They’ll typically talk to the customer as if they are a personal friend of theirs using the same tones.
- They’ll make the effort to connect on a personal level and get to know them.
So in our discussion, I suggested to my client that while it is hard to ask someone to “dial back the niceness,” it is completely appropriate to be sure that the words being used are professional.
Example… You have someone on your team who refers to everyone, even customers, as “Honey” or “Sweetie.” This would be when you would want to guide them to avoid using those words as they are crossing the professional line and many people are offended when those not in their personal circle refer to them that way. Those words are also very offensive when said to someone older than the person speaking. It comes across as condescending and flippant and you’ll lose customers.
This is one of the many reasons why I created training for basic Customer Service Skills for your customer facing folks with my “Excellent Customer Service Skills –
Start to Finish“ now being offered at a special reduced rate.
Get this training now before I decide to raise the price again and CLICK HERE.
I often work with clients to create customer surveys to get valuable feedback from customers about the way they do business, ways to improve, what is working, what isn’t, etc. One of the most frequent discussions we have is around my guidance to avoid having a neutral response available for the respondent. I like to provide the following options for quantitative options…
- Strongly Disagree
- Strongly Agree
This forces folks to decide how they feel one way or the other. Think about it – if you ask someone about a movie or restaurant and they respond with “Eh, it was alright.” Do you really have any insight as to how they enjoyed it or if they would encourage you to see that movie or go to that restaurant? No, it’s vague. It gives them the comfort of being vague and neutral… which really gives you no insight to their true feelings at all.
When asking for feedback, you have to be courageous enough to ask for the good, the bad, and – yes – the ugly. If you are looking to only get glowing responses to lull yourself into a false sense of tranquility, then you really are sticking your head in the sand and eventually you’ll be outpaced by your competitor that truly wants relevant feedback on how they can keep their customers coming back for more.
You’ll be MUCH better off when you ask folks to tell you directly, no sugar coating it. You need to know what your customers like and what they don’t like. You need to know what will drive them away to your competition and what will bring them back to you. You need to find out what you are doing well and what is simply not working.
Now, here is what separates the men from the boys / women from the girls – – you MUST have a comment section included somewhere for folks to give comments in free form… meaning they can explain any of their reasoning for responding as they did for any of the questions, or to add any additional thoughts they feel you should know. This is actually the secret sauce… you are getting the customer to articulate EXACTLY, in their own words, their thoughts on the way you do business.
Using customer surveys with both quantitative AND qualitative (free form) responses gives you a complete picture as to the true state of the customer experience with direct customer input. Who better to tell you how your business is running than the people that are currently working with you? You’ve already marketed to them. They’ve already put their trust in you. Now is your chance to continue to earn it and reap the benefits by making improvements suggested by those that are already keeping you in business.
Coming soon… The importance of a WELL WORDED survey – it can make or break your results.
Be sure to leave your thoughts and comments below…
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!