Transforming the Customer Experience

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The Best Customer Experience Begins with Customer Service Training – Part One

As a business coach for companies, both large and small, that want to deliver a customer service experience to bring in more money from their customers, I’m often asked “Where do I begin?”

It’s just like eating an elephant… One step at a time.

Successful companies follow seven systematic steps when

1.  Developing a complete training game plan – Before you start on a cross country road trip from New York to Los Angeles, you would make sure that you have a sound stable vehicle to get you there, you’d map out a route, plan how long you’d like to travel each day, approximately where you will lodge for the night along the way, etc.  The same thing applies here.  There must be a guideline mapped out detailing when the training process will start, who will be involved, what will be covered, approximately when it will be complete, etc.

2.  Onboard for successful fit and service assimilation – The way you bring new hires into your company sets the tone for their training experience and subsequent service.  You must think start to finish in this process.  Welcome them into your organization as a valued member of the team.  Show them how important they and their role is in the overall vision of the customer experience.

3. Set clear and specific service expectations – This is one of the areas that many business leaders complain about the most, yet this is the one area I feel is most neglected.  When you are training someone as to how you’d like them to treat your customers, you MUST be specifically clear.  “Be Nice” is too general  Nice means different things to different people and is never consistent.  You need to spell out how you’d like your team to engage with your customers at each and every touchpoint and exactly how they can best serve the customer.

4. Have an accountability system for service expectations – Once you’ve set and trained for your customer service expectations, you need to have an accountability system in place.  By not following through on this one step, it sends the message to your team that either your leadership skills aren’t honed enough to follow through on expectations or that the service you deliver to your customers is not really that important.

5. Assess customer service levels from the customer perspective – Feedback from customers and the rest of the team regarding service levels is invaluable.  You can work this into other feedback or survey methods to gain insight as to how your team is treating customers when leadership isn’t around.  The goal is to have customers come to rely on consistent service levels for them to build a sense of trust and relationship with your company.

6. Last impression counts just as much as the first – While you’ve heard the saying “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” you can actually make as much of an impact, if not more, by focusing on how you bid your customers farewell.  You can say “goodbye” while making sure that you thank them, invite them to come back soon, and by telling them you truly value their business.  Train your teams on how to do this well and you’ll soon be cultivating an extremely loyal customer base.

7. Implement systematic continual customer focus processes into your design – Again, the “shot in the arm” solution rarely works in any business aspect, especially in service.  You know how it goes… everyone gets all exited after a fantastic customer service or experience presentation, but then after a while, it becomes business as usual.  To make sure this doesn’t happen in your group, place the customer focus as a top priority at the beginning of every meeting, every decision, every new idea.  Do this long enough and your customers will soon learn and sense that you truly value their business.

To discover how all of these steps truly fit together to benefit your customers, I’m making my last webinar available here for your review.  This webinar received fantastic reviews from the attendees and I gave so much valuable information that I wanted to make sure it’s available to everyone.

Please comment below on which of these steps you struggle with the most and let me know how I may help.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

What Your 8 year old is Learning About Business in Elementary School

by Don BeeryColorful crayons and apple

The world is accelerating. University students getting younger every year (or maybe I’m just getting more… uh, seasoned). And your elementary-aged child is gaining a valuable business education.  Specifically here’s what your 8 year old is learning about business in grade school.

1. Trading sandwiches

This complex transaction occurs daily in cafeterias across this great land. Armed with lunchboxes rather than briefcases young people are conducting high-level negotiations. A bologna/pickle sandwich is traded for peanut butter & banana. Fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt is exchanged for an oatmeal cookie. These transactions are not trivial commerce when you’re eight. Yet these little people seem to execute this process with ease. Your friend has something you want. And you propose something to offer in exchange (maybe you didn’t really want it anyway). This is the art of persuasion. This is business.

It’s not about arm-twisting or putting your friend in a half-nelson. Instead you have to deliver a compelling value proposition that prompts your buddy to happily give up what he has.

2. You’re Not the Boss of Me

Ever heard this? Ever said it? Truth is that even if you are the CEO or sole shareholder of your company you have a boss. In fact, you and I have the same boss. It’s our customers.

The next sale depends totally on winning the next customer. It’s true for you. And true for me. I spoke recently with a young technology company salesperson. He was struggling with attracting senior-level customers with his solution. He asked what he could do to convince them his solution was best. Had he actually asked them about their needs and wants, I questioned. Apparently he hadn’t. He didn’t view his customers as being in charge.

3. Color in the Lines

Here are your crayons and coloring book – now, remember to color in the lines, we’re told in school. And this drifts into adult business advice too. But could we agree that the most interesting people and solutions come from outside the lines? Consider Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs. I have a LinkedIn contact who is a well-credentialed leader of two organizations. Her job title with one of them is Chief Rabble Rouser. Do you think she might occasionally color a bit outside the lines.

4. The Buddy System

Who doesn’t like a good field trip! Remember the buddy system? Stay with you partner, students are reminded. There are two lessons here. First, bring somebody along on your journey because two brains and two set of eyes are better than one. You both may view the same experience differently, making it richer.

Second, show someone else how something is done. The benefit is you’ll learn it better by explaining it, and you might be cultivating a future team member or customer.

5. The Unpredictable Will Happen

One day upon arriving home from work, my then elementary-aged daughter was sporting a snazzy, purple cast on her right arm. Recess began normally enough. But somehow, while sliding through one of those large plastic tubes on the jungle gym, she managed to land funny at the bottom. We think. To this day she can’t tell us exactly what she did. Stuff happens. Although, by definition, we can’t predict the unpredictable we should expect that something unexpected will happen. Being prepared is simply good business.

 

Don Beery is President of BlendonGroup Consulting and can be reached at don.beery@blendon-group.com

Nail Salon Could Use a Little Polish in Customer Service Training and Skills

I walked into a local nail salon today and realized that they didn’t know a thing about giving good customer service or providing a great customer service experience.

My intention was to purchase a gift certificate for a client of mine for her birthday.  When I walked in, there were four nail techs working on customers.  The one closest to me didn’t look up, make eye contact.  She just raised her voice and said “Hello,  pick a color and have a seat.”

So, I turned around and walked out.

It’s not a huge deal and isn’t going to alter my world, but I’m not going to pay $50 to someone who doesn’t have the courtesy to make eye contact, greet me with a friendly greeting, and ask me how they may help me.  She made an incorrect assumption about what I wanted and barked out orders to me.  So, I’ll find something else for my client.

Small businesses have the power to drive the economy and to thrive right now.  But it’s amazing to me how many just fail to understand that it takes a simple focus on the customer.  Treating people well. Engaging with customers. Smiling. Getting to know what our needs/problems/issues/goals are. Asking for feedback.  These are all the simple things that I cover in my 5 Steps to More Loyal Customers emanual.  Large companies can do the same thing, yet customers tend to gravitate toward the smaller businesses because there is more of a personal touch, a connection, that sometimes is lost in the bigger companies and organizations.

Connecting with customers is much simpler than most people and businesses realize.  It just takes a conviction from the leaders and owners that there needs to be a mindset shift on how they serve the customers.  They need to instill this to everyone works with customers, either face to face or behind the scenes.  So, basically, everyone in the company.  Because if you aren’t working face to face with a customer, you are working to support someone who does.

Easy Tips to Improve the Customer Experience

Your goal is to set your small business apart from the competition. If you’ve been a reader of this blog for any length of time, you know that I’m going to say it’s all about the customer service experience you deliver.  Here’s a lesson I recently gave on how to do just that.

I recently had the privilege of delivering a webinar for Zendesk, a superb CRM software company, and many of their customers.  Because the response was so favorable, I’d like to share the webinar with you.  You may watch it here…

Here are the points covered as well as Zendesk’s summary of them….

1. Asking questions is key to serving your customers
Your customers have a lot to say. Asking them questions is a great way to learn about their likes, dislikes, and pain points. By listening to your customers, you can better understand what they want and how to meet those needs.

2. Give each customer that “one customer” feel
How would you treat a customer if they were your only customer? You would probably make a major effort to ensure that those interactions are positive and genuine. Making small talk, taking time to understand them as individuals, and learning how they use your products and services will go a long way toward providing a personalized customer experience.

3. Answer requests with “I’m here to help”
Many people don’t like asking questions, out of shyness or a fear of sounding uninformed. Saying things like “I’m here to help” and “I’m glad you asked that question” will help them feel more comfortable and make it easier to solve their problems.

4. Think “best / better / next” practices
At staff meetings, take a look at the real world challenges you’ve had helping customers, and pay particular attention to what worked and what could be improved.

5. Hire “nice,” train the skills
Don’t hire customer service professionals that have the skill set you want but aren’t nice people. “Nice” is a skill that should be innate to anyone involved in customer service. You either have it, or you don’t. You should hire nice people and train them how to be customer service superstars.

6. Don’t be afraid to make the decision
Have the guts to make a decision and help your customers. Work within the guidelines you’ve been given, but work with the customer and provide them service with their best interests in mind. More often than not, doing so will be in the company’s best interests. If you make a mistake, reread #4.

7. Make a difference each and every day
Every single customer interaction matters, so you have to make the most of them. When reviewing a call, ticket, or email exchange, ask yourself, “Did I really do absolutely everything I could?” Striving to be the best you can be with every single customer interaction will go a long way toward setting yourself apart as a truly customer-centric organization.

Please leave your comments below as to which resonates the most with you and your business.

Solve Social Media Customer Complaints Out In the Open

Handling customer issues is one thing.  Handling customer issues in the world of social media is something else entirely.

No one likes to receive criticism, but you can turn it around and win both the loyalty of the complaining customer and those watching when you handle things correctly in the transparent world of Facebook, Twitter, and the like.

In a recent post, Salon.com, addressed this exact issue. The matter of handling customer complaints on a Facebook page was the topic for discussion.

The author made the appropriate suggestions of acknowledging the issue, making a connection with the upset customer by offering to email or meet with them personally do discuss the problem, and to ask for input.

While I think the author was on the right track, I feel that a major opportunity was missed.  By offering to meet or discuss the issue privately was well intended, the company misses the chance to show the rest of the observers how well they can step up and resolve the issue in the best interest of the customer.

When the whole world is watching, you have the chance to show how you can shine.  For this Salon.com instance, let’s suppose there was a complaint on the Facebook page of a local salon.  Perhaps a patron or client was unhappy with a haircut or color and posted it on the page.  The salon would follow the steps suggested by the author, but do so in public.  My suggestion would be to apologize for the unhappiness of the client (this is empathetic and customers need that), offer to have the client return at no additional charge to correct the issue until the customer is delighted, and to thank them for bringing it to their attention.

Doing this quickly and for all the world to see shows the rest of the readers that the salon is aware of their presence on social media, is concerned enough to respond, apologizes for the unhappiness, wants to make it right, offers to make it right, and is not afraid to fix isolated incidents.  People make decisions on what they see you do.  If you don’t resolve issues where they can see the outcome, they are left to wonder what happened or feel that it was never resolved.

Don’t make the mistake of missing any opportunity to proudly display your problem resolution skills.  You’ll be winning the trust of customers who may be on the fence about doing business with you.

Lego Connects More Than Blocks – It Connects People Through Excellent Customer Service

Connecting with customers is essential to customer loyalty and satisfaction.  It takes a special company, and a special representative, to really make that connection one that makes the news and touches hearts.

Luka is a little boy at the age of 7, but is the customer in this case.  He saved up all of his money and bought a special Lego set.  After taking one of the Lego characters to the store, it unfortunately was lost.  These things happen.  But, Luke wasn’t about to give up.  He wrote a letter to Lego to see if he could get a replacement.

Now, so far, this story isn’t too special.  Yes, he’s a cute kid and many kids and customers write letters to companies when they need some help.

What is so special about this story is the response that he received from Lego. Here is a copy of that letter he received from Lego’s superstar representative Richard.  Richard wrote that he had spoken to Sensei Wu, a master from the  Ninjago line.

Luka,

I told Sensei Wu that losing your Jay minifigure was purely an accident and that you would never ever ever let it happen ever again.

He told me to tell you, “Luka, your father seems like a very wise man. You must always protect your Ninjago minifigures like the dragons protect the Weapons of Spinjitzu!”

Sensei Wu also told me it was okay if I sent you a new Jay and told me it would be okay if I included something extra for you because anyone that saves their Christmas money to buy the Ultrasonic Raider must be a really big Ninjago fan.

So, I hope you enjoy your Jay minifigure with all his weapons. You will actually have the only Jay minifigure that combines 3 different Jays into one! I am also going to send you a bad guy for him to fight!

Just remember, what Sensei Wu said: keep your minifigures protected like the Weapons of Spinjitzu! And of course, always listen to your dad.

Not many companies bother to respond to letters, much less respond on such a personal level.  This is a stellar example of not only following up, but following up consistently with the branding of the company and making a true connection with the customer.  You bet your last dollar that Luka and most folks that read this story won’t go out of their way to do business with Lego or buy their products at the next opportunity to do so.

Bottom line…  When you get a letter from a customer, respond to it.  And don’t bother to send a canned response.  Folks just don’t like those.  Go ahead and use a framework response if needed, but customize it as much as possible.  Use the sender’s name and reference their specific issue in the way they described it, not just your internal “issue or reference number.”

How many of you can site an example as great as this one?  Unfortunately, I bet it won’t be too many of you.  If you have one, no matter what role you played in the situation as the customer or company, please share below…  I love hearing stories and examples of companies that do things well.
If you’d like to read the original article, click here, then come back and leave your comments below here on this page…

Service is Tipping Point in Supermarket Experience

Sometimes even good customer service isn’t enough – especially when you have a great service experience to compare it to.

Last month I decided to channel my “Martha Stewart-ness” and make lasagne for my family.  I went to the Family Fare supermarket in my area and bought all of the necessary ingredients.  As usual, it was a pleasant experience with the typical friendly staff, clean store, and plenty of selection with reasonable prices.

When I got home and began to assemble the lasagne and opened up the package of shredded mozarella cheese, I noticed a sour smell although the package was well within the expiration date.  Since I was too far into the process to back out, I had to go back to the store.  The service clerk was a dream to work with.

She immediately apologized for the situation and for me having to drive all the way back just for that.  She refunded my money and had me go get another package of cheese and had me open it to make sure that it was good.  All I expected was to exchange the package, but she went above the necessary to be sure that I felt good about the situation.

Now, here is where the comparison comes in.  Last week my daughter asked for a special treat of cookies and cream ice cream.  I bought some at the Ric’s Food Center that is literally one mile from my house, closer than Family Fare.  When we opened the container, it looked like vanilla ice cream with no cookie chunks.  We dug halfway through the container and we could see a few specks of cookie, but not enough to even assemble into one complete cookie.

I took the container back the next day and the staff was genuinely empathetic.  They apologized and asked me to grab another container, but since I selected a different brand of the same flavor, I’d have to pay the price difference.  The difference was $1.27.

I paid the difference which was completely reasonable, but my nose was a little out of joint.  I couldn’t figure out why until I remembered the cheese incident at Family Fare.  Since Family Fare had gone above and beyond by refunding me the price and giving me another package, anything less than that fell short in my eyes.  Had I not had the cheese incident, then I most likely wouldn’t have batted an eye paying the price difference for the ice cream.

The point is that we always need to be thinking ahead and think “better than okay.”  The response at Ric’s was good.  They were nice and friendly about it.  The only thing they lacked was putting themselves in my shoes and wondering what they could have done to make it better than right.

Okay, here’s the pun I’ve been itching to use….  Just some “food” for thought!

 

Improve Customer Service – Asking Questions Is Crucial in the Customer Service Experience

Improving customer service and the customer service experience is something that both small businesses and large companies are always trying to do.

The great thing is that the answer on how to do that comes from one source – your customers. Asking your customers questions about the way they do business with you will gain you knowledge you’d never have insight to otherwise.

Let’s boil it down to basics, you lead or work in a business. You have or want customers. Your customers give you money for your product or service. You hope they come back again and give you even more money. This is pretty much how it works, right?

There is a critical component in here that can make the whole process so much more beneficial and will practically guarantee you customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Ask your customers questions. That’s it. Well, that’s the premise, but it reaches so many different levels. You need to ask them questions about what they need, how they will be using or what they want to accomplish with your product or service, what their challenges are, etc.

You also need to ask them about your business and the way you interact with them. This customer feedback is invaluable. These people are already familiar with your business and if you’ve done a good job cultivating trust with them, they’ll give you honest feedback.

You want to ask questions about what your business does well and what needs some attention. Customers love it when you ask them for their opinion or feedback because it shows them that you value them, and everyone loves to feel valued.

With all of this being said and done, there is one critical piece to this puzzle that left unused will have more of a negative impact than anything else.

If you ask the question, be sure to act on it. Few things irritate customers more than taking the time to answer a question or give requested feedback and have nothing happen from that point.

No, you can’t do everything your customers want or suggest, but you absolutely must acknowledge their input and ideas.

This can be as simple as “Thank so much for your ideas. That’s something I’m going to bring up in our next team/store meeting.” Or, you can go as far as writing a hand written note. Avoid using canned response letters when possible. It is alright to use a skeleton canned letter, but be sure to personalize it by referencing their suggestion or input.

Asking your customers questions makes perfect business sense. They are the ones doing business with you by asking them questions, they’ll be telling you how to keep them coming back to you instead of going to your competition.

Claim more tips and strategies to boost your profits, get your current customers to spend more with you, and to create raving fans, go to http://kristinaevey.com/op/keep-your-customers/ You’ll get access to a short video series that will help you make dramatic improvements right away in your customer relationships.

Make the Ordinary Customer Experience Unforgettable!

How many weddings have you attended that follow roughly the same routine?  The guests gather in the church or wedding hall, are seated, the music starts, the wedding party slowly progresses down the aisle, followed at last by the bride in the traditional bridal march set to traditional wedding music.

The bride walking down the aisle is my absolute favorite part because I love seeing the look on the groom’s face.  That look says it all.  That’s the part that I always remember.

Now, why am I talking about a wedding march in a business blog?

There is a recent video of a wedding ceremony that is absolutely unforgettable!  You may have seen it in recent news media coverage.  It is a fantastic example of taking something ordinary, yet special to us, and making it unforgettable to those that actually experience and witness it.  One couple made their ceremony unforgettable by taking the traditional wedding march and turned it into a memorable experience.

The guests were seated in the pews, the music started, but it wasn’t traditional music.  It was “Forever” by Chris Brown. This is popular dance song that is very fun and upbeat.Each maid of honor and groomsman danced down the aisle together, each in their own style.  All of them were also wearing sunglasses. It made EVERYONE in that church SMILE!  Everyone enjoyed seeing the spin that each couple dancing down the aisle would put on their dance.  The spirit of joy and celebration was infectious and each new couple was early watched dancing down the aisle.  The bride was the last to dance down the aisle and had her own dance.  I think it would be difficult to watch this video and not smile.

The correlation between this wedding dance and our businesses is simple – they took something ordinary and made it unforgettable and unique.  Our customers have the expectation that in our businesses things will follow a certain routine.  Each and every one of us is in a business where we have competitors that do similar things that we do.  Sure, we have some differences, but the point is to make yourself radically different. This would follow along the lines of Joe Calloway’s book “Category of One” and Scott McKain’s book “The Collapse of Distinction.”  Both of these books are highly recommended reads to truly differentiate your business.

Look at the routine processes in your organization and find ways to make them different.  Make them memorable.  Make them unique. Do something different that has never been done before.  Sure, this may take you out of your comfort zone and completely change your normal way of thinking, but that is the point. Do things in such a way that it truly impresses your customers. By doing this, you will be exponentially increasing customer satisfaction among your customers.  The customer service that you will be providing them will be amazing to them because it will be DIFFERENT!  Your employees will be energized to find ways to put a new spin on the ordinary and mundane.

Another point to notice- each of these couples dancing down the aisle had their own moment in the spotlight, but all of them together made the entire experience one to remember.  Each of the people that you have working within your organization has special talents, abilities, and strengths that will contribute to the distinction of your own company.

And now, for your viewing pleasure……… the best wedding procession I have EVER seen!  Please click on this link to watch this. Sit back, enjoy, and smile!

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