Transforming the Customer Experience

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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.

How to Drive Customers Right Into the Arms of Your Competition

Many studies suggest that a lot of customers are non-confrontational and won’t address a complaint with a manger of a business.  They’ll simply take their business elsewhere without telling you why.  Many businesses aren’t even aware that they are losing you as a customer in the first place.  Following are some sure fire ways to lose customers without even really trying to.

Don’t acknowledge them. The best way to let your customers know that you are glad they came into your store, company, or office is to properly and immediately greet them. If you make eye contact and genuinely introduce yourself and ask if you may assist them in any way, they may get the distinct impression that you actually want to serve them and gain their business. In order to have them leave quickly, be certain to ignore them when they come in, don’t be available for questions, and be as uncommunicative as possible.

Don’t ask them any questions or identify their needs. By asking questions to identify the needs of your customers, they will think that you are trying to ascertain which product or service of yours, if any, will best suit their needs. Just tell them in as few words as possible what products and services you offer. Say your script and, if they ask any questions, repeat the script again.

Be sure to drop the ball. When customers ask questions, tell them that you will get right back to them, but never return the call. When you promise them something on a specific date or time, make sure that you are days late without warning them ahead of time. Make sure that no one else in your office knows what is going on with this customer, so that if they happen to contact your office while you are gone, no one else will be able to help them. If customers think that you are a reliable company, accountable, and deliver what you promise, they will be more likely to return to you. Is that what you really want?

Don’t train your staff. If you tell your staff as little as possible and keep them out of the loop on company news, products, and services, they certainly won’t know how to pass any of this information along to your customers that you are trying to lose. By having staff that is well informed on the company, well versed in products and services, it just gives the impression that you know about what you provide and that you are anxious to make sure the customer gets full benefit from it.

Just deliver the goods and head out. When you deliver the product or service, do so without offering any help or suggestions. Make sure that they just get your “thing” without fully understanding what it does or how to use it. Most of all, make sure that you don’t call them to ask them how they liked it. If you deliver your product or service and fully explain what it does, how to use it for their needs, you may give the impression that you know your stuff. Customers like it when they have someone who knows what they are show them how their new purchase works and how will benefit them or their company.

Never look back. By never following up with your customers, you can continue doing business exactly the way you want to. You don’t have to listen to any suggestions from customers on how to improve any products or services, or how your company may better fit their needs. If you do follow up with your customers, they may think that you value them and customer retention levels rise. Customers will also develop loyalty by thinking you are willing to do certain things to keep them coming back for your product and to your company. If you tailor your products and company to better serve your customers and increase customer satisfaction, they’ll just keep pestering you for more.

To receive some valuable tips and strategies that you can immediately apply to win the hearts of your customers, click here to receive 50 Customer Service Tips Made Simple.

Amazon Integrates EASE in their Customer Experience

Yet again, Amazon continues to amaze with the “easiness” of the customer experience by including a customer service component not found in most online retailers.

First, I have to own up to complete operator error on my part…

I had an extremely rare evening alone at home.  My husband and all three kids were all out of the house and I decided to indulge in watching any movie of my choice without having to take anyone else’s preferences into consideration.  I have an Amazon Prime account (which I highly recommend) and decided to rent an instant movie.  Now, keep in mind, I’m one of those folks that knows what I want to do, yet can’t completely figure out the remote controller we have that operates our DVD player.

So, I decided to rent the movie “About Time” since I was in the mood for a “feel good” movie.  I selected the HD version and thought I followed the appropriate steps.  When I couldn’t find the “Watch Now” icon, I went through the process again.  You can probably tell where this is going.  Anyway, I watched the movie and it was fantastic.  Best movie I’ve watched in a very long time.  Anyway, I knew I’d have to double check to be sure that I wasn’t charged twice.

In checking my email this morning, yes, I was charged twice.  Yes, I know it was very likely my error.  So, I found the contact page for Amazon Prime Video and was surprised to find they had an option to have them contact me, rather than me calling them.  I entered my phone number and within 10 seconds my phone rang.  I explained my dilemma to the CSR.  She empathized with me that it can sometimes be confusing the first time you use the process (she was very kind and didn’t point out how simple it actually is).  She asked if she could put me on hold for just a minute, then came back to the phone and let me know my account had been credited for one of the rental fees.  Problem solved and an already very satisfied customer was yet again reassured that they ‘ve made the right decision in doing business with Amazon.

Online retailers are slowly developing a reputation for hiding behind their anonymity.  Because they don’t actually see us, they don’t typically understand the frustration of the customer in having to jump through hoops to contact them to resolve issues.

By thinking outside of the box and having their company contact us, that made it even better.  This is one of the many reasons why Amazon is the online goal that so many others are trying to reach.

Who are your favorite online retailers and why?

 

What is More Important to an Upset Customer – Cash or an Apology?

 

Upset customers and clients are part of any business.  We don’t like to admit that it’s true, but the simple fact is that customers will be disappointed with us, our products, or our services from time to time.  This is when most people in business get nervous and don’t know exactly how to manage upset customers.  Many figure that the customer is going to be unreasonable in their demands on how to fix the issue, expect products or services for free, that they can’t admit to any wrong doing for fear of retribution by the company or the customer taking advantage of the situation, etc.

The good news is that what they really want are two very simple words – I’m sorry.

Really, it’s that simple.  Now, simple doesn’t mean easy.  You have to genuinely mean it when you say it.  The customer wants the empathy for their inconvenience and dissatisfaction before we even try to resolve the situation.  Without the empathy , if you deliver a flippant “So sorry,” it just won’t fly.

Once we convey our apologies, the consumer is much more likely to work with us to find a mutually agreeable solution to the problem.  And, aside from the few exceptions that we all know about, most customers are reasonable and fair in their expectations for resolution.

There is an article in www.dailymail.co.uk that will be surprising to many.  It states that when resolving a problem with a customer, most customers value a true and genuine apology over receiving a cash payout from the company.

The article is based on a study conducted by the Nottingham School of Economics’ Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics.  NSE research fellow and study co-author Dr Johannes Abeler claimed the results proved apologies were both powerful and cheap.

The study was done using a seller on ebay who generated 10,000 sales per month over a six month period dealing with their unhappy customers.  The researches predicted that customers would not accept the apology over the cash.  The apology was given by a faceless company, not face to face, and was certainly in the best interest of the company to apologize rather than to pay out money.

The stand-alone apology blamed the manufacturer for a delay in delivery, adding: ‘We are very sorry and want to apologise for this.’

Customers offered money were told: ‘As a goodwill gesture, we can offer you five euros if you would consider withdrawing your evaluation.’

Some 45 per cent of participants withdrew their evaluation in light of the apology, while only 23 per cent agreed in return for compensation.

The study also discovered that a higher purchase price further reduced the number of customers willing to forgive for cash.

Yet the size of the initial outlay had no effect on the willingness of participants to settle for simply reading the magic words: ‘I’m sorry.’

This goes to show that throwing money at a problem is not necessarily the answer.  People want an apology for mistakes and for responsibility to be taken.  Consumers today recognize that issues arise.

Remember, the problem is not going to define you or your company.  How you respond to it will.  Customer satisfaction and customer retention rates dramatically improve when a company has taken the time and effort to serve the customer relationship.  By focusing on customer service through staff training to include an apology when necessary, you will see customer satisfaction levels increase.

Google “Gets” the Customer Experience Through Service

I’m sure that Google is under impressed with my internet skills. I’ll start right off by saying that I am certainly no “techie” and that any errors that you find on this site are likely going to be “operator error.”  Me being that operator.

That being said, I ventured off into the world of “techies” to write some articles and needed to find some keywords to capture my target audience.  In the process, it appeared that when I signed into Google to use their tool, it required me to create an ad.  I don’t do ads for my business and was not interested in that at all.  After spending about 30 minutes trying to navigate the site, watching the instructional video, and extreme frustration setting in, I finally contacted Google at their contact number.

After going through about 4 different automated attendant menus (which I can’t stand) I then waited for the customer service rep for about 2 minutes.  Based on the auto attendant process, I was prepared to have someone be very aloof, indifferent, and even a bit condescending to me about my lack of internet programming knowledge.

I couldn’t have been more impressed with the empathy and caring nature of the Google CSR that took my call.  She completely empathized with my situation and assured me that she would walk me through the process without me having to create an actual ad.  With her help, I was able to get the help that I needed and I was on my way.  I was even so happy that I mentioned how impressed I was with her help to my husband later that day and so relieved that it was such a pleasant experience when I was expecting a painful one.

My point is this…  Business owners should make it easy for their customers to ask for help and assistance.  Not everyone knows how to use the products and services they purchase and help should be easily available.  Customers cite many occasions when they look for assistance but are either unable to find it or are so frustrated by the process, they just neglect the purchase and vow never to do business with that company again.

This dilemma knows no boundaries.  It doesn’t matter if you are a small or large businesses, corporation or “Mom and Pop” shop, financial institution, fast food vendor, pet store, or medical office.  Your customers will ask for help. It’s your responsibility to give it to them… with kindness.

Your thoughts?

 

Spreading Holiday Cheer with an AMAZING Customer Experience

This just made my heart warm!  West Jet in Canada did what most of us would dream to do for our customers… took an ordinary situation and made it extraordinary!

I know, I get it… your business can’t afford to go to the lengths that West Jet did, but you can take the same premise and deliver the same feeling.  Ask your customers (or a percentage of them) what their favorite charity is and help organize an evening of volunteering for them.  Or, ask a select few what they’d like for Christmas and do exactly what West Jet did.  Or, ask a few of them what their favorite chocolate or coffee indulgence is and make a special delivery for them or have it on hand at your next meeting.

Spreading cheer is what this season is all about.  For our customers we should have this mindset all of the time, but what a special opportunity to really focus on this.  Do something special, whether large or small, just do something special and unexpected to put a smile on your customers face!

Click on the image below that is linked to the video and enjoy! It will be the best 5 minutes of your day…  I promise.

 

Customer Service Question -Does Your Business Have a Pulse or a Wire?

Where’s the customer service these days?

Improving customer service and the customer experience is more important now more than ever. And the best part is – it’s SIMPLE.  Keep in mind, simple doesn’t always mean easy, but it can be started simply by focusing on the fact that you are people delivering products and services to other people.

One of the biggest complaints that I hear about companies today is that they are so “processy” and “systematized” that customers wonder if humans work there or is the place being run by robots?

Yes, we need to have processes and systems to run our businesses, but the people running the business need to be just that – PEOPLE.

Customers are looking for one main thing in their transactions that can set you apart from your competition, or anyone else they’ve recently done business with – a RELATIONSHIP.  When people buy from you, they aren’t buying your product or service, they are buying the promise that you will answer their questions, help them find the best product or service you offer to meet their needs, to hold their hand throughout the process, and be there to help if they run into trouble.

Yes, people consider product and price, but with both of those being comparable, the decision always comes down to emotion.  People make their buying decisions based on emotion, then back it up with logic.  If they feel like they know, trust, and like you, then they are likely to buy from you.

Customer service is about delivering a quality product or service, but then providing the emotional support of service.  This means that you need to engage with customers, get to know them, ask what they are trying to accomplish, what are their struggles in this accomplishment, etc.  When you truly engage from a genuine place of customer service and it is your goal to do everything you can to delight that customer, you’ll win a customer for life.

Businesses that don’t focus on the customer relationship are those that are filled with ominous forms, stores with lackluster salespeople, customer service reps that barely look you in the eye, and seem completely disinterested in being there until quitting time.

Energize your staff, especially now during holiday shopping season, and remind them that without the customers, they’d have no place to earn paycheck.  These customers need to be treated like gold.  They want to see smiling, happy faces that are ready, willing, and able to help them.

If you settle for anything less, you may as well hire a robot to serve your customers.

 

Who Is Your Biggest Competitor? It’s Not Who You Think…

When working with companies that are focused on getting new customers, I always ask them who their biggest competitor is.  As expected, I typically hear the names of their competition in their industry.  They are shocked  when I tell them they are only partially right.

The competition is the company that gave customers their last positive memorable customer experience, regardless of industry.  That’s who businesses are being compared to in the mind of the customer.

So it doesn’t matter if you are an office equipment dealer, restaurant, or medical office.  Your customer is comparing the service you deliver to the experience that perhaps their dry cleaner gives them.  Their dry cleaner knows their name, smiles, engages in conversation, asks them how their business and family are, and makes doing business with them simple and quick.  A simple exchange, but one that is focused on engagement, is what customers are craving.

In understanding this premise, focus your attention on every aspect of the customer experience.  Ways to do this…

  1. Build a customer touch point map
  2. Define the ultimate customer experience to perfection at each touchpoint
  3. Train staff to deliver that ideal ultimate experience
  4. Ask customers for feedback on ways to improve
  5. Rinse and repeat

It’s good to have competition.  It gives you a measurement to gauge your service delivery by.  It’s not okay to let your competition surpass you simply because you didn’t try.

Next week is Customer Service Week.  This is a great time to examine what you can do to create that positive lasting impression in the mind of your customers.

 

In Customer Relationships, Complacency is a Profit Killer

We Were Good at Dating, But Terrible at the Marriage Part.  They Left Us For Someone Else.

No, this isn’t part of a marriage counseling session or a relationship reality show, but it is the reality that many of you face.

The really scary part is that many of you may not even realize that this is the situation you are in.
The above statement is what a prospective client said to me a few weeks ago.  His company lost a major client because their competitor came in and wooed them away.  With hindsight being 20/20, this gentleman told me that they had become complacent and took the customer for granted figuring that they would always be there.  They were busy attracting new and other clients.
So, for all of you that find yourself losing customers without knowing exactly why, please reread that last paragraph.
Your customers are NOT buying your product or service.  They are buying the relationship you promise them.  If you don’t hold up your end of the relationship, they’ll leave you.  Often times, the business relationship is the easiest kind of relationship to end.  Your customers don’t need to file papers (usually), they don’t need to let you know why they are leaving, or even that they are leaving at all.   They’ll just go find someone who treats them better than you do that offers the same product at a comparable price.
Just like any personal relationship, check in with your customers to see how they feel with the way things are going.  Is there anything they’d like to see more or less of?  Is there anything they think you should know?  Is there anything going on that they don’t like or would like to see changed?
Asking these questions proactively just may be the difference between your customer saying “I’m so glad that I finally found you!” rather than “We need to talk.”
Please share your thoughts below…
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