Transforming the Customer Experience

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Listening to Customers Tells You Everything You Need to Know…

Listening. We all know how to do it… but few know how to do it well… and it could be driving your customers away if you don’t do it well. Listen well and you’ll increase sales and customer loyalty.

Even though communication involves two parts – speaking and listening – I believe that listening is actually 2/3 of successful communication.

Someone can speak all they want. But if the other party doesn’t listen – REALLY listen – nothing that was said matters… at all. And yes, there is a huge difference between hearing and listening. Hearing means you heard words and sounds. Listening means you understand the purpose, content, and context of the message.

About 70 % of all lost customers left because they didn’t feel valued or felt the service experience was lacking. And they should. If you don’t feel valued or that the experience was at a minimum “good,” why on earth would you continue to do business there?

Much of what goes into creating a memorable and desirable experience is derived from LISTENING to what customers tell you they want… what they like… what they don’t like… what they need… what is becoming a challenge for them… what they are confused about… what their last option didn’t do for them that caused them to leave and find you… etc.

LISTEN to the customer. Listen when they call to complain. This is an opportunity for you to be the hero and solve their problem. You can teach them how to get the most benefit from their purchase/contract/etc.

LISTEN to what is confusing for them. Make changes based on things that are becoming a trend or an issue over a certain threshold. Focus on making that form, procedure, instruction, etc simpler. The customers that voiced their issues will know you listened to them. They’ll feel valued for you taking their concern seriously and making changes as a result. They’ll feel you really want to do right by them to earn their loyalty… and they’ll stay.

LISTEN to what they like about your company and your product. Use that feedback as a springboard to determine how you can integrate those high points into other areas of your company. You know you are doing or providing that well – identify what makes it so and carry it through as far as possible. And in most cases – don’t change much unless absolutely necessary. They’ve told you they like it. Mess with it and they may not.

LISTEN to what they don’t like about your company and product. Seriously listen to that feedback. Hopefully it came about during a conversation which will provide the opportunity for you to ask probing questions to truly understand their perspective, the issue and to identify the cause.

LISTEN to suggestions customers make on something they feel would make a positive impact to them. You won’t necessarily be able to do or provide exactly what they are asking, but you may be able to generate ideas that are on the right track or come close.

Bottom line… LISTENING to your customers is really a crash course on how to stay in business long term and build a loyal customer base. Your customers are telling you exactly how to keep them coming back to you – because they want to.

 

 

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Episode 15 – Written Communication Skills to Improve the Customer Experience

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…

How Bad Customer Service Slashes Your Sales and What to Do About It

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.

Good Business Is About Showing Customers the LOVE Through Good Customer Service

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.

Niceness Makes ALL the Difference in Reducing Patient Angst

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…

Resolutions Don’t Work in Customer Service… Habits Drive the Customer Experience

Resolutions Don’t Work… HABITS Do
 
First off, I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday season and are looking forward to the promises and opportunities of 2015.
 
Many of you likely fell into the nostalgic traditions of setting New Year’s Resolutions with big plans and the best of intentions.
And… like the MAJORITY of folks, most (if not all) of those resolutions have already fallen by the wayside.
Frustrating, isn’t it.  Why does this happen? Because resolutions are only intentions. We all can think back on zillions (no exaggeration) of times we’ve had the best of intentions and can’t seem to make any of them stick.
The reason is because intentions are a mind game. ACTION is the cement to make things happen. You have to have action to take your intentions to fruition. 
 
I can say that I’m determined to complete my second full chin up in the next 6 weeks until I’m blue in the face, but that simply won’t happen unless I continue to ratchet my nutrition into check and continue my strength training. But, those actions of eating right and training are the ONLY way I’m going to get that second chin up to happen.
What does this have to do with your business and the customer experience? EVERYTHING!  
 
Think about it… you had to take many different actions to get your business to it’s current state. Whether that is a good or bad thing, a series of actions got you where you are.  To make any changes, you’ll continue to take actions. 
 
The most impactful actions are the DAILY HABITS that we make as part of our action plan. A daily habit and choice I have in my quest for strength is do I eat a donut or three eggs for breakfast? I eat the eggs.  I strength train HARD twice a week to increase my strength. I want results. I need to take action. My egg breakfast is a daily habit, an action DIRECTLY RELATED TO MY GOAL. 
 
If you want to be successful in business and in your quest to make more profits and increase your customer retention, you must take action to make that happen. Wishing it won’t make it happen. Wanting it won’t make it happen. Working at it will make it happen.
 
I have great plans for all of us in 2015. I spent some time the past few weeks mapping out content, workshops, and coaching programs to help each of you make more money, enjoy your business, improve the morale of your staff, and simply making the customer experience more natural to the DNA of your company.
 
I do need your help though. To make the information relevant and useful to you, I’m going to continue to ask for your feedback, questions, and challenges that hare keeping you from having the business of your dreams and giving you the biggest headaches. I’ve found that many of you have similar questions and it helps me when you’ve voiced your challenges specifically to your situation.  
So, remember make improving the customer experience a HABIT in your organization.  Here are some strategies and quotes to help you and your staff get there faster…
  • 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
Happy New Year and I’m honored to have you in my community to change the world of business, one experience at a time!
Helping you focus on your customers,

Customer Service – It CAN Earn You Loyal Customers!

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.

Customer Service – The POSITIVE Impact

The POSITIVE Impact of Customer Service…

I typically let you know how much poor customer service is COSTING your company.
This week, my news is much more positive and I can show you to make them work for you.  So, here’s the low down…
70% of customers cite the MAIN reason they stop doing business with a company is ONLY because of how they were treated.  They were ignored, treated rudely or indifferent, and just felt like they didn’t matter to the company.  So, they left.  Those 70% are looking for companies to treat them well.  Companies like YOURS!
2% increase in customer retention has as much of an impact on your bottom line as cutting costs by 10%.
Almost 9 out of 10 consumers say they’d pay more to ensure a superior customer experience. – American Express, 2011
Some studies suggest that they’d pay up to 24% more for that superior experience.
70% of the buying experience is directly tied to how the customer feels they are being treated. – McKinsey
A man without a smiling face should not open a shop“- Chinese Proverb
So I’ve got just what you need to get started having these numbers impact your business in a positive way by showing you what you need to start improving that service customers are so desperately looking for.
By the way, the most requested improvement (40%) in the buying experience was …. wait for it…. BETTER HUMAN SERVICE.
Okay, enough with the numbers.  You get the point.  You need to work with your teams to engage, connect, and work with customers in a way that impresses and delights them.
The best part is… you don’t have to figure any of it out on your own!  I’ve done the work for you and outlined exactly how to improve the service your staff delivers to drive your customer loyalty numbers and profits higher than ever before.
My Excellent Customer Service: Start to Finish package is JUST WHAT YOU NEED!
Want happy and smiling employees that customers WANT to work with?  This package shows you how to make that happen.
Want to be sure your customers are getting CONSISTENT great service?  This program shows you how.
Now, I have sold this package for $167, but I’m especially grateful that you’ve been part of my community and am lowering the price to just $67 for one week only.  This is your chance to grab it before the price goes up again.
I’ve also sweetened the deal to include some great bonuses that are guaranteed to give you tools and strategies to kick up your customer service more than you’d expect.
So click here… Excellent Customer Service: Start to Finish to get immediate access and impress your customers and clients with the service your business delivers.
Remember the retail adage – customers remember the service a lot longer than they remember the price.
 
Helping you focus on your customers,

Customer Service – Can You Be TOO Nice and Scare Customers Away?

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.

My response….

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.

Customer Service Surveys – Have Them Take a STAND!

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
  • Disagree
  • Agree
  • 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…

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