Transforming the Customer Experience

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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…

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!

Improving Customer Service: How to Handle Upset Customers Successfully

Improving customer service requires the fine art of working with frustrated and upset customers. We’ve all had them. We all know the principle that if you can successfully turn around an upset customer, they’ll be more loyal to your company than if they never had an issue at all.  
 
But in the heat of the moment, what is the best way to connect with them to calm them down so that you can help them? Here are my five steps for success...
  1. Agree with them. You aren’t agreeing that they are RIGHT, you are only agreeing that it is a frustrating situation. Suggestion – “You’re right! That’s sounds so frustrating.”
  2. Apologize – Obvious, but many people miss this one. “I’m so sorry the (situation/product/service) isn’t what you thought it would be.
  3. Empathize – Easily the MOST important step. “I would be frustrated too.  This is how we want any of our customers to feel. Please let me help you.”
  4. Offer Options – Offer two options for the customer to choose from. This will give them the feeling that they now have some say and control in the resolution.  Be sure they feel comfortable with the option they select. “Do you feel comfortable with this? It’s important to me that you feel good about working with us.”
  5. Follow Up – After a few days, the next time you work with that customer, or whatever time period makes logical sense based on your business and relationship with the client, circle back with them and ask how the situation is now.  Ask if they are happy with the solution to the issue and if there is anything else that can be done to help them. This is a critical step that most companies just don’t do.  

By following each of these steps, it lets the customer know that you truly do value their business and the experience you deliver. Remember, people do business with the companies who treat them as humans, not those who process them through their systems and hide behind policies.  

I’d love to hear your thoughts below…

Customer Service – One of the Biggest Mistakes to Avoid

What is one of the biggest mistakes companies make in their customer service efforts?

Not asking for or not encouraging customer feedback.

The customers are the people keeping you in business. Listen to them.

Many of us go about our day and do business with our usual vendors day in and day out. Or, maybe we are one of those 70% who leave because we don’t like the service and find someone who does treat us better and we like the overall experience enough to stay until we find someone else.

Occasionally, you encounter one place that you get a little annoyed or irritated with or sometimes even the point of thinking “That’s the last time I’ll go there again.” Now, if those places were smart, they’d be asking their customers if they were happy doing business with them. They’d be asking what it is that draws them back to their business. They’d be asking what they like least about doing business with them. They’d be asking them for ideas and suggestions on how to make it more beneficial for them to do business with them.

If they were REALLY smart, they’d be contacting lost customers and asking them what it was that cause them to leave. Some studies even suggest that they’d gain a portion of that business back simply because they reached out with the genuine intention of wanting to do better by their customers.

Customer service is about the relationship, not the product

Whether you are merely benchmarking or looking to see if changes you’ve made are making a difference, asking for feedback will give you information worth it’s weight in gold. This is your target market telling you exactly what they want you to do in order to keep their business.

Remember, customers are buying the relationship with you, not your product or service. As we all know, a critical part of successful relationships is communication. This needs to be two way communication, but as the service provider, it’s in your best interest to be proactive with the communication and seek the feedback from your customers. Doing this, you’ll be able to jump on issues immediately when your customers tell you there are areas that need focus or attention. You can absolutely fix it after the fact, but wouldn’t it be better, and a lot easier, to know about the issue before it has the chance to drive customer away?

Select your feedback method to match your business model

You need to find methods of getting feedback from your customers regularly that works best for you. Some choose to do it by surveys, comment cards, focus groups, one on one conversations either in person or by the telephone. I’m currently doing this for one of my clients now. I’ve contacted customers fitting a certain demographic that we’ve selected to find out how they like the processes my client uses. We’ve gotten valuable feedback and are currently making changes based on that information that will make the experience much better for the customer. We know they’ll be thrilled with it.

Some companies and businesses use online surveys to get feedback. This can be very effective when done correctly. All too often, I come across a survey clearly designed to produce a desired outcome based on the way the question is worded or the answer selections. Language plays a big role in surveys so I caution you to be very diligent in getting the honest and candid responses you are really looking for. Remember, you are looking for the good, the bad, and the ugly. You can only correct and fix the issues that you know about.

Should you choose to use surveys, make sure you are surveying as many customers as possible in order to get a true voice of the customer. If your client base is, lets say, 1000 customers and you only survey 10 of them, your answers won’t represent an accurate sample.

You also want to do away with the neutral response option. You want people to stand behind their feeling of either liking or not liking your business or the way you do business. It’s like someone who ate at your restaurant “What was the food like?” and getting the answer “Eh,it was alright.” That doesn’t really tell you anything. You need to know all about it. Did it taste good? Too hot? Too spicy? How did it look? Was the presentation appetizing or did it look like slop thrown on a plate? You really need to know these things in order to know if you should keep doing what you are doing or if you should change direction.

My recommended way of getting feedback through surveys is to have both quantitative answers, like a rating or scale system, and a qualitative answer field as well. This way the person can explain why they responded on the scale as they did. You’ll get more candid responses that way as well.

The best way to get feedback, in my opinion, is to have the conversation with the customer. Either in person or on the phone, having dialogue and asking questions based on their answers will give you feedback and suggestions worth their weight in gold. Think about it…. This is your most invaluable market research. You are truly discovering what your target market thinks and wants.

To get even more strategies to gain loyal customers, check out http://www.kristinaevey.com/products/5-steps-to-more-loyal-customers/ or go to the resources page for additional tools. It costs far less to retain your existing customers and make more money with them than it does to market to, attract, and gain new customers. Why not focus on your existing customer base and have them market to new customers for you?

To gain practical insight on how to best serve your customers, register for the complimentary short video presentation at the top right side of this page.  You’ll be given five strategies to transform the customer experience along with techniques on how to build the relationship your customers want and are willing to pay for.

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.

 

Never Under Estimate the Power of a Thank You Note to Boost Customer Loyalty

Remember Thank You notes?  The things that we encouraged to write as kids every birthday or holiday when we received gifts from relatives or friends?  My own personal experience is that I didn’t enjoy writing them at all.  But, my mom had a point – “They made an effort to purchase a gift with you in mind.  You need to thank them for their kindness.”

Hardly anyone sends Thank You notes anymore – ESPECIALLY in business.  I think it sends such an impactful message when we take just a few minutes to send Thank You notes to our clients and customers (and our personal friends too, for that matter).  Think about it… when is the last time you received a Thank You note from a place you do business? ….. cricket….. cricket…   I bet you were hard pressed to come up with an answer.  Most of us can’t think of ANY.

But that’s exactly my point…  Set yourself apart from the rest of the pack by taking the time and making a small effort to those upon whom your business is dependent… YOUR CUSTOMERS.

When to send the Thank You note?  Well, first off, you should be sending them to any new customer.  Now, this can be difficult for those that are retail or commodity based, but you can still find a way to do this.  Pick a dollar amount to be spent that will trigger a Thank You note to be sent.  I do a lot of my clothes shopping at Ann Taylor.  I don’t shop often, but when I do, I walk out with a few outfits.  The manager of the store always sends me a Thank You note.  Now, I know she doesn’t send them to every customer, but not every customer spends what I spend the few times I’m in there per year.

For those of you in a business model where you have Sales Reps that are charged with forming lasting relationships with new clients, this is a perfect scenario to send a Thank You note to each new client that signs on with your company.  It should actually be part of your process.  Once the account is signed, the Sales Rep should be sending a personalized handwritten Thank You note (yes, you may have someone with more legible writing pen the note for them/you).  But the point is this,  I’ve kept all of the notes that I’ve received from Ann Taylor, from Zappos, from  Gazelle Sports, from my financial planner, etc.  I also make it a point to shop those retailers or providers first when I may have a need for their products or services.

The Secret Sauce…  But the real secret is to send a Thank You note to your clients and customers when you are not reaching out to them to sell something, check in on their accounts, review something, or anything related to business.  When you send a Thank You note out of the blue, the impact is HUGE!  In long term contractual relationships, I suggest sending a Thank You note one year after the original contract was signed.  Now, your customer doesn’t know that you may have it on your automated calendar to send this out, but they will feel as though you value them.  They will appreciate the few minutes you took to acknowledge and thank them for their trust in you and your business.  And, when customers feel valued, they’ll repay you with their loyalty.

Keep in mind… you likely won’t have many people mentioning to you that they appreciate these notes.  But, I promise you it will make a difference in the way they feel about doing business with you.  It will strengthen the relationship that you’ve developed with them and will further the sense of confidence they have that they made the right decision in doing business with you.

Please comment below on how you’ve appreciated Thank You notes or how you use them in your company.

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