Nick Goss: How the Customer’s Experience is impacted by ‘good intentions’

This week’s guest post is offered by customer service expert Nicholas Goss. We both share a commitment to help small business owners Deliver the World’s Best Customer Experience.  I connected with Nicholas first on Twitter and quickly began a fan of his customer service blog. He was kind enough to allow me to publish here one of his recent posts. Nicholas points out below that “Your company’s result are driven over the long term by your efficient delivery of the customer’s desired outcome.” Read on to learn out how to do just that. And find out how you, too, can connect with  Nicholas at the end of the post. 

 

Hell-Paved-RoadMAXIM

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

THEORY

That’s a dangerous philosophy to hold in customer service… Clinging to a ‘results only’ attitude is unreasonable pragmatism; a poisonous policy, and a destructive programming.

Let’s talk about good intentions.

While the road to hell may be paved with them, I would bet that the road to heaven is as well; only with complimentary results.

The road to hell is also paved with BAD intentions, probably even more so than good ones, though the road to heaven is in no way paved with bad intentions whatsoever.  Of course, the moral to the maxim is that ONLY results matter.  But that’s not exactly true.  As a matter of fact I would bet that purposefully having bad intentions that accidentally have good results would NOT open heaven’s door.  And what results are we even talking about here?  The Company’s desired outcomes? Or the Customers?  It should be obvious who’s outcome  should take precedence.  Your company’s result are driven over the long term by your efficient delivery of the customer’s desired outcome.  The most important point of all of this is that…

YOUR COMPANY’S INTENTIONS COLOR THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE CUSTOMER’S OUTCOME MORE THAN ANY OTHER FACTOR.

Don’t get me wrong… results absolutely matter.  Your customers NEED RESULTS.  But they must be wrapped in the best of intentions, or they’ll get results from someone else who knows how to convey good will towards them.

A better policy would be to focus on what your organization can control.  While results are often heavily influenced and achieved by your company’s managed activities, they are not totally within the complete control of any organization.  INTENTIONS ARE!  Every member of your team has control over intention, with every customer.   Sometimes, many times, it is the only thing within their control.

APPLICATION

Color the customer’s desired outcome (the result that matters) with your company’s good intentions (the customer’s best interest).  Here are some behavioral examples:

  • To feel at home, cared for, comfortable, and at ease (customer’s desired outcome) you should Warmly Welcome your customer.   If your intentions are oriented to your customer’s desired outcome, you will more than likely be successful and create loyalty. (HERE is a great example of a warm welcome)
    • If your intentions are oriented toward your company’s desired outcome (anti-theft, direct marketing, promotions, upsells, etc) your efforts will become gimmicky, robotic, and ingenuine.  Your customers deserve better than the Wal-Mart approach to greeting guests, if you are going to expect them to come back and do business with you.
  • To be remembered, appreciated and valued (customer’s desired outcome) you should Recognize your customer by remembering and using their name.   If your intentions are oriented to your customer’s desired outcome, you will more than likely be successful and create loyalty.
    • If your intentions are oriented toward your company’s desired outcome (eliminating confusion when delivering and order, or addressing the next person in line to be served) your efforts may be resented  by your customers, who start to feel like they’re being treated like cattle, or ‘just a number’.  Chik-Fil-A has implemented this strategy and it has been great for their business.  Starbucks has failed miserably at this as they have moved away from recognition and the use of names as a standard of service…. Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

Be very careful in how you deliver your service!  Fill your every gesture and word with the good intentions (the customer’s best interest at heart) and focus on delivering the results that matter (the customer’s desired outcome) and you’ll quickly realize that RESULTS FOLLOW INTENTIONS… AND YOU CAN ONLY CONTROL THE LATTER.

 

About Nicholas Goss

Nick GossMy name is Nicholas Goss and I’m a Customer Service Expert.  I thrive on helping you and your business do one thing, and one thing only….. BUILD LOYALTY!  I want to help you develop and deliver great, memorable experiences that keep your customers coming back again, and again, and again.  My passion is in serving small business owner master their customers’ experience through my coaching offering.

Connect with Nicholas on Facebook or Twitter @GossNicholas. Subscribe to his blog via his website, nicholasgoss.com

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James Clifton: Five Ways to Improve Customer Service

James CliftonThis guest post is written by James Clifton, Social Media Manager at GetApp.com.  This blog is all about Delivering the World’s Best Customer Experience. In my posts, I provide advice to improve face to face customer interactions. James and GetApp are focused on  offering the best customer service technology solutions. As you read his post, you will see that whether it is in person or via social media, his five ways to improve customer service work for both.  You can find out more about James and GetApp.com at the end of his post. 

 

What sets a successful business apart from the others is not their business model nor is it the product or service they provide. What makes one business stand head and shoulders above the rest is excellent customer service. Repeat customers and fans of your business means you’ll see an increase in sales which translates as an increase in profit. By simply giving customers what they expect you’ll find that they remain happy and loyal even if the occasional mistake is made.

So, How Can You Improve Customer Service?

1. Start Listening to the Customer

It sounds pretty simple but you’ll be amazed how many people forget this fundamental aspect of customer service. For a  customer it really makes a difference if you take the time to listen to their complaint. For anyone working in customer service it is important to listen to the whole complaint and ask what they can do to right the wrong. In most cases the customer will let you know what will improve the situation.

It’s important not to forget the power of social media in these cases. How many times have we seen the incorrect handling of a customer complaint become a trending topic across social media?

2. Apologize to the Customer

Often overlooked but one of the most important aspects of excellent customer service provision. All employees of any business no matter how big or small need to have the power to apologize on behalf of the organization and seek to remedy the situation. Simply by offering something extra, free of charge demonstrates goodwill, it shows you are trying to make it right no matter if it were a misunderstanding or not your fault.

In those cases where it is the client who steps out of line, and we all know that happens more often than it should, it doesn’t hurt to offer them something. Doing this you end the issue and prevent it from escalating.

3. Never Blame the Customer

The customer is always right, even if you don’t think they are, you must convey to them that they are. You need to listen to customer complaints and the business take responsibility for it. If everyone on your customer service team is able to solve issues before they escalate you’ll see a good return on your customer service investment.

4. Work Together Effectively

Today there is a lot of customer service software available which enables customer service teams to collaborate on customer complaints effectively. For example if a client calls with a complaint, it should be entered into the system immediately, outlining the complaint, the problem and the solution. This not only saves the customer from explaining the whole story again if they realizes it hasn’t been resolved to their satisfaction. It also enables different members of the team to be involved in complaint resolution.

5. Empathize with the Customer

Your customer service representatives need to be trained to empathize with your customers. By empathizing with the client it shows you know what they are experiencing and won’t feel misunderstood or mistreated. When empathy is shown towards a customer complaint their anger and frustration usually dissipates.

 

About James Clifton

James is the Social Media Manager at GetApp.com. You can find out more about James on LinkedIn.

About GetApp

getapp_logo_vector_vertical_dark400pxGetApp (http://www.getapp.com/) is the #1 independent Cloud Apps Marketplace that helps businesses to discover, compare, review and purchase the best B2B apps. GetApp supports millions of users by providing a comprehensive directory, interactive search tools, side-by-side comparison tables, user reviews and app evaluation content and resources, to help them find the best apps that fit their needs. Follow them on Twitter at @GetApp

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Ben Puzzuoli: Improving Front Line Customer Service

This week’s guest post is written by Ben Puzzuoli, Chairman of the Board at Cayzu Help Desk (www.cayzu.com).  The real benefit of social media is in meeting people who share like interests. My very first management position was with Marriott Hotels. Back then, there were less than 35 hotels worldwide. Recently Marriott opened the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Washington, D.C., its 4000th.  I believe the growth and strength of Marriott’s success was based on J.W. Marriott’s leadership mantra, ““Take care of your employees, and they’ll take care of your customers.”  You can find out more about Ben and Cayzu at the end of his post. And when you read his bio you will see that Ben and I both share a commitment to engaging associates to help build an exceptional customer experience. 

 

Each company faces the task of managing their overall customer service experience so that it’s the most positive that it can be. Regardless of what industry an organization is part of, customer service remains a central part of a company’s operations and improvement should always be strived for. This improvement should begin with a thorough look at the different facets of the customer service experience.

Service From the Customer’s Perspective

Most customers are concerned with making their purchasing decision, finalizing the transaction, and then moving on. They do not wish to experience a drawn-out service experience, especially if that experience is not getting them to a successful conclusion. Ambiguity, conflicting information, and redundancy will quickly put a customer into an unfavorable mood.

Customers are also very concerned with value, both the value of their money and the value of their time. Coming to a company with support-related concerns is an investment of time; customers want to see a return of value and they want to see it quickly.

Service From the Employee’s Perspective

Generally speaking, employees want a successful conclusion to a transaction as much as customers do. Even if an employee’s only job is providing customer support, there are many customers to attend to and many other tasks that need to be done in order for a company’s operations to run smoothly. A transaction that is unsuccessful in any way interrupts work flow and demands prioritization.

Keeping employees motivated to provide a higher level of customer service is one of the toughest challenges in management. Paying employees competitively is a good start; implementing a system of accountability is another. Managers have to work closely with each employee to figure out what motivates his or her individual spirit of excellence. This requires strong interpersonal skills and a knack for working with people.

Service From the Vendor’s Perspective

Every organization has to take the time to train employees in customer service so they feel empowered (http://www.cayzu.com/blog/4-effective-ways-empower-customer-service-employees/ ) to do the best job possible. This training has to be implemented from the very beginning of employee orientation since each and every team member represents a face of the organization. Vendors have to develop an integrated approach to customer service training.

There are other ways of promoting a culture of customer service, such as:

  • Establishing standards of service
  • Helping employees develop a poised and confident attitude
  • Identifying and applying best practices for phone and email communication
  • Practicing active listening skills to make customers feel valued and heard
  • Creating a respectful work environment

Can a Help Desk Solution Help with Front Line Customer Service?

A help desk solution can help front line customer service by capturing customer complaints posted via the store’s email, web site and even social media channels.  This feedback can help the front line staff in refining their strategy to best suit their customer’s needs.

A helpdesk is a site for customer interaction that encompasses more than the acceptance of comments and complaints. Whether real or virtual, this site is where some of the most complex of all customer interactions will take place. Customer support operations can be augmented through the implementation of software that helps track, manage, and record these interactions. Many such interactions will come from social media networks. The comments that come from these platforms have to be taken as seriously as those that come from more traditional avenues. Support software can connect with these networks for a broader and more effective approach to customer interaction which will ultimately give your business a more productive and efficient front line staff.

 

About Ben Puzzuoli

Ben PuzzuoliWith over a decade of experience in managerial positions, Ben has proven himself as a strategic and logical minded executive that produces exceptional results in demanding environments.

Having co-founded and sold his first business before the age of 30, Ben is a well-spoken, disciplined individual that has demonstrated the ability to lead teams. Coupled with a strong business acumen and a deep understanding of technology, Ben thinks strategically and tactically to fuel growth and the bottom line.

Ben leads by example and doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty. This mentality stems from his FIRM belief that a healthy and fun culture within an organization will lead to a more dedicated and productive employee. Happy Employees = Happy Customers = Successful Business.

Ben is the Chairman of the Board at Cayzu Help Desk (www.cayzu.com)

 

 Cayzu logoCayzu is a cloud-based helpdesk software solution that allows any business to easily manage all their customer service needs through email, phone, website, Facebook, Twitter and even mobile. Coupled with powerful features, a beautiful and easy to use interface and real-time reporting, Cayzu is perfect for any small to medium sized business.  And best of all, Cayzu is completely FREE for up to 3 agents!  Cayzu was founded in 2013 and is quickly gaining traction in the helpdesk software industry as a simple and affordable alternative to more expensive and complicated solutions.  For more information, please visit http://www.cayzu.com or find us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cayzu or on Twitter: @Cayzu.

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Kirt Manecke: Four Customer Service Tips to Make Your Customers Smile

ManeckeKirtToday’s guest post is written by Kirt Manecke, author of the book: Smile: Sell More with Amazing Customer Service – The Essential 60-Minute Crash Course.  I firmly believe that the service basics to Deliver the World’s Best Customer Experience are common sense. But for most businesses, it just isn’t common practice. That’s because many owners and managers see customer service training as a “Day One and Done” kind of thing. But businesses that have built a reputation for stellar service continuously train their people. They keep the service lesson simple, repeat it often, and ultimately make it stick. If you don’t know where to start and need a primer on customer service basics, as well as a single resource for periodic training reminders for your team, Kirt’s book will definitely keep you on track to Deliver the World’s Best Customer Experience. You can learn more about Kirt and his book, which I highly recommend, at the end of the post.

 

Customer service is important to your business because first impressions matter…a lot! Here are four quick and easy critical customer service techniques you and your staff can implement today to sell more and delight your customers.

1. SMILE
When a customer enters your business or office, greet them promptly and politely – just as you would greet a guest in your home.

Here’s How
1.  Smile.
Make it a warm, genuine, heartfelt smile.

2.  Look your customer in the eye and say “Hello!” Speak in a warm, upbeat, and friendly manner.

This may sound basic, but you’d be surprised how many businesses fail to greet their customers properly.

2. MAKE A FRIEND
People buy from people they like and trust – from friends – so it’s important to remember the golden rule: Treat people the way you’d like to be treated. Be nice, be polite, and don’t be afraid to approach a customer to initiate an exchange. Make a friend!

Here’s How
1. Greet your customer properly (with a genuine smile and a warm “Hello!”).

2. Engage them in an initial short and friendly conversation. Find out how they’re doing: “It’s nice to see you. How’s your day going?” When appropriate, give a genuine compliment: “I really like your sweater.”

3. Then find out how you can help them: “What exactly brings you in today?” or “How can I help you?”

3. ANSWER THE PHONE WITH A SMILE
When you answer the phone at your place of business, you’re the first point of contact with your prospects and customers. It’s critical that you make a great first impression.

How do you find the right tone? It’s simple — smile as you answer the phone.

Here’s How
1.
Smile and say: “Good morning (or afternoon or evening)!” Be sure to speak clearly.

  1. State the complete name of your business, or say:  “Welcome to [your complete business  name].”
  2. Say: “This is [your name]. How may I help you?”

Be upbeat, warm, inviting, and genuine — greet customers just as you would greet a guest in your home.

4. FOLLOW UP
Follow-up is key to providing amazing customer service and making sales. Always follow up promptly with customers and provide timely updates and communications.

Phone
Return phone calls right away – at least by the end of the business day, at worst within 24 hours.

Email
The rule for email is exactly the same: return all email inquiries from customers as soon as possible – at least by the end of the business day, at worst within 24 hours.

Service Situations
If you’re an automotive or other service business with a waiting room, keep your customers informed on the status of their repair on a consistent basis, perhaps hourly. Don’t leave them wondering or feeling disrespected or ignored.

TIP: In all situations, a good rule of thumb is to always do what you say you’re going to do. If you promise someone you’ll “call them right back” or “get right back to them,” then do it! Many businesses neglect this simple rule and lose many customers as a result.

 

 

Smile_CoverParts excerpted from Smile: Sell More with Amazing Customer Service, Copyright © 2013 by Kirt Manecke. Kirt Manecke is the author of the award-winning book Smile: Sell More with Amazing Customer Service – The Essential 60-Minute Crash Course. He is the founder and former owner of an award-winning specialty retail business in Michigan. Learn more about Kirt at www.SmiletheBook.com.

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5 Tips on Building Customer Relationships

Nunzia_deskeroThis week’s guest post is written by Nunzia Falco Simeone. Nunzia is Marketing Manager at Deskero and editor-in-chief of Deskero corporate blog about customer service and social media. She can be reached at nunzia@deskero.com. You can find out more about Deskero at the end of her post. One of my favorite customer service mantras is “Think Relationships or Go Broke.” Nunzia offers advice not only to “Think Relationships”, but “Build Relationships.”

 

Modern customer care can’t be achieved by simply answering requests. You have to reach out, engage with people, get in touch with them. Customers won’t be content with a nice service: they want a great experience.

In order to realize that, you need to build a proper customer relationship. How? Here are a few tips:

Listen to your customers

Transforming customers into advocates and influencers is perhaps your most important task. And the first step is listening to them.

Do you know who your most important customers are? And why they buy your product or service? Do you know what they think about you? These are important questions that need to be answered.

…and talk to them

The relationship between customers and company should be two-way: it is important to listen to your customers and it is even more important that you talk to them!

Monthly newsletters, blogs, social networks are great channels to keep relationships strong on a shoestring budget.

What should you talk about? New features, achieved goals, special offers, testimonials, events. Also build your reputation as an expert by giving away some free insight. Have interesting things to say!

Engage

The best way to engage with people is to act like a person and not a brand. So, be personal by keeping track of conversations, getting your customers involved and following up. Build trust by engaging conversations both online and in-store and making them feel special.

Be more responsive and proactive, delivering on your promises and listening and observing to gain insights and then acting on them.  When companies learn how  to deliver personalized customer service, they build strong, lasting customer relationships and trust.

Reward loyal customers

If you reward your customers, they’ll reward you with their loyalty. Ask yourself: I am doing enough to encourage my customers to buy again?

If the answer is no, you should increase involvement and give them something of value in exchange for their attention, like a coupon, a special event, helpful insights and advices. You further involve your customers with your business with special events, gatherings, contests. And remember that if you don’t keep in touch with your customers, especially the most loyal ones,  your competitors will.

Ask for customer feedback

Seek suggestions on new features as well as critiques of current products and features. Gather candid customer feedback through emails, contact forms and surveys. Also listening through social media can be useful for gathering feedback from customers; you should pay attention not only to direct comments or mentions, but to all the social experience: people can talk about your brand and you might not know that!

 

Deskero-logo-01

Deskero is a simple yet effective way to offer great customer service, and to take it to its next level through seamless integration with social networks. Follow us at @deskerocare.

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Leadership Mantra for New Managers: Connect. Inspire. Empower.

I originally wrote this post for Sold MagazineI’ve made some revisions to the published version.

Key to Leadership 2“How long employees stay at a company, and how productive they are there, is determined by the relationship they have with their immediate supervisor.” Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, The Leadership Challenge

I have had the opportunity to promote many front-line employees to their first management position. My commitment to them did not end at giving them a new title. That’s the easy part. More importantly, I needed to make sure they succeeded in their first leadership role. According to Kouzes and Posner, these managers supervising the staff who were directly interacting with our customers had as much, if not more, impact than I did on employee engagement and subsequent customer satisfaction. And while each new manager displayed strong interpersonal skills that served them well to earn the promotion, managing people requires a different set of skills. We all know of an all-star employee who failed as a manager. So my advice to any first-time manager is to live this leadership mantra: Connect. Inspire. Empower.

Connect

“People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” John C. Maxwell

Before making any major changes as a new manager, take the time to get to know your direct reports. Find out their personal and career aspirations. Then work hard to help them achieve their goals.  Talk to each member every day. Visit the break area regularly just to chat. Get to know what they like to do outside of work. Given the opportunity, meet their significant others and family. Celebrate your employees’ birthdays and anniversaries. They know when they are scheduled on their birthdays and the date they started working at your business. You should, too. Remember that without involvement there is no commitment. If you are not involved with them, then they simply won’t be committed to you.

Inspire

“Yesterday’s idea of the boss, who became the boss because he or she knew more than the person working for them, is yesterday’s manager. Tomorrow’s person leads through a vision, a shared set of values, a shared objective.” Jack Welch

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather give them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“Communicate everything you can to your associates. The more they know, the more they care. Once they care, there is no stopping them.” Sam Walton

Your business has a mission statement. As a leader, you should have a passion statement. The best managers are passionate about what they do. Frankly, if you are not passionate about what you do, you have no right to manage others. That said, be sure to express your passion to your people. What do you envision for the business? The owner or senior manager has a vision for the business. What is yours? Let your people know. Once they see and share your “big picture”, then every step your people take will be in that direction.

Keep your passion statement short. Say it often. Make it stick. Your message cannot be mentioned only at new hire orientation. You must continually and consistently express your vision.

Empower

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”  Theodore Roosevelt

Create a work environment where everyone has the necessary tools and are encouraged to take care of the customer. Ritz-Carlton permits every employee to spend up to $2000 making any single guest satisfied. It is no wonder that the brand is perceived by its guests as simply one of the best. For your team to embrace the idea that you are empowering them to do whatever it takes to satisfy the customer, you must establish and explain any guidelines. It could be as simple as the Nordstrom Rules:

Rule #1: Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.

Most likely your guidelines will be a little more conditional, but whatever you decide, make sure you define and cite examples for your team. And continue to monitor, recognize and reward those employees who do take action.

Connect with your people. Inspire them. Then empower them.  This is not a one-time thing. It is an everyday thing. And when you live this mantra, you will be an involved leader with an engaged team, all intent on delivering the very best experience for your customer.

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Holly Regan: Richard Branson-Style Tips to Empower Your Customer Service Team

A while ago I had blogged about using the CASE Method to improve your company’s customer experience.  CASE stands for “Copy and Steal Everything”. If you feel uncomfortable with “Steal”, then “Copy and Save Everything”.  I said you should be more intent on observing within and outside of your industry for ideas that you can CASE. Then tweak the idea to make it your own.

I recently read an article in Software Advice’s Customer Service Investigator, which featured a discussion with Communications Coach and Author Carmine Gallo on some strategies for mimicking the customer service efforts of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. While the tactics discussed are agreeably good ideas for promoting a strong customer experience, I wanted to further explore how other organizations could CASE Virgin’s best practices with the article’s author, Software Advice Managing Editor Holly Regan. You can learn more about Software Advice at the end of the post.

What is the risk involved with allowing customer service reps to operate within the “judgment playing field” (make their own decisions within boundaries)? How can other organizations comfortably adopt this tactic?

When you allow employees the freedom to make their own decisions, you open yourself up to the possibility that, occasionally, they will make the wrong ones. However, if you delineate clear boundaries for your judgment playing field ahead of time as to what employees are and aren’t allowed to do, you can ensure that even the occasional wrong decision won’t significantly harm your business. Defining these limits for acceptable behavior and communicating them to all staff members is one way organizations can feel comfortable about adopting this tactic. The other piece of the puzzle is smart hiring. If you have a strict screening process that ensures you only have people on staff who fit with your company culture and values, you can feel comfortable trusting them to make the right decisions.

Are there other benefits associated with instilling the company mission in all staff besides an improved experience for the customer – that is, do you find that employees also have a greater sense of purpose with knowledge of company goals and are willing to work harder?

Yes–instilling your company mission in all members of your staff not only allows them to deliver that mission to customers, it also gives them a higher-level view of what the company is trying to achieve through every customer service interaction. Employees who know what they’re working towards and why tend to work harder and are better able to internalize the mission and become passionate about it. They are empowered to deliver great service, regardless of their level of authority within the company.

Virgin’s employees are proof of this: customers of Virgin America and Virgin Atlantic laud the consistency of their service experience from boarding to baggage claim. The staff member checking them in for their flight portrays the same passion and enthusiasm as the flight attendant serving them in the air, because they’re both working towards the same mission. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company is another great example: everyone who goes through training at one of their hotels is immersed in the company mission, from basic etiquette to service psychology, and employees of every department are empowered to do whatever it takes to deliver on that mission. As a result, they are praised as some of the most passionate customer service reps in the world.

Which members of the customer service team should have an open door policy, and how does such a policy satisfy employees?

Anyone in a management position should have an open-door policy, from the shift supervisor to the CEO. Having a forum in which employees can provide feedback – and encouraging them to do so frequently and honestly – is crucial for any service-oriented organization. Management needs to have an accurate picture of what’s working and what’s not on the ground, and who better to provide that than the employees who are directly interacting with customers day-to-day? Your service reps are the best source of feedback on what customers like about your company, and what they need that they aren’t getting.

Having an open-door policy is not only helpful for management – it also shows employees that they have a voice and that their managers genuinely care about their needs, concerns and suggestions. Employees must feel truly valued in order to feel passionate about the company they work for. Managers must also make sure to communicate with employees about how their suggestions for improvement are being implemented or why they decided not to act on them. When employees know they aren’t just giving feedback in a vacuum, they’re more likely to keep providing it. And seeing their ideas put into practice is empowering and inspires them to always be looking for new ways to innovate in customer service interactions.

Customer service reps might find it difficult to “bring their personality” to work, as many are instructed to go off scripts. Should scripting not be so heavily practiced, or should managers encourage employees to simply integrate their own “personal touch?”

As mentioned in the article, customers don’t want to interact with a robot. Service is much more effective when it’s perceived as genuine, and scripting definitely discourages this. Instead of giving reps specific instructions for what to say and how to act, managers should focus on hiring quality employees who exude the company’s culture, mission and values – and who can be trusted to use their own judgment to deliver on that. By clearly defining the judgment playing field, you can ensure your employees don’t get too far off-track while also allowing them to interact naturally with customers, as they would with a friend or colleague. This not only gives reps the freedom to be themselves, it gives customers the benefit of a unique, memorable and genuine interaction that will keep them coming back.
software_advice_logo_v2Software Advice is a free online resource that reviews CRM, marketing automation and sales force automation software. Follow them at @CRMAdvice.

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Shep Hyken: Trust Enhances Employee and Customer Experience

 

Shep HykenWhether you are talking about a customer relationship or employee relations, there is an essential element that must be part of your customer service culture, and that is trust. For a business to be successful, management must trust employees, employees must trust management, and customers must trust the company. The “Three Legged Stool” theory can be applied to this situation. Essentially, if you have a stool with three legs and one of the legs is removed, the stool will fall over. Similarly, if one of these three groups mistrusts another, the chance for true customer loyalty is destined to fail.

So, what could cause mistrust among the three groups? An outright lie, of course, but there are other ways to erode confidence as well. People in one group must believe that they can count on the others. Also, does the system always work? If not, doubt can creep in – that nagging thought that something will go wrong.

Can the customers be confident in the company? Will they always receive good service or information – in other words, do they trust the company will do a good job? Also, do they believe in the value and integrity of the company?

From the managers’ point of view, can they be confident that the employees will do a good job?

From the employees’ viewpoint, do they believe that management trusts them?

Years ago, I worked at an auto parts store. I came to the job not knowing much about auto parts, but shortly after I started, the owner put me in charge when he went away for a weekend. I made mistakes, but that didn’t diminish the experience for me. The owner trusted me to use my best judgment – it was a great learning experience as well as a real confidence booster. As for my mistakes, he helped me to learn from them and continued to entrust me with the care of his business when he was away.

Ace Hardware CEO John Venhuizen put it like this: “Every time a customer walks through our doors, that customer is trusting our associates (employees) to help them to solve a problem, and to buy the right product. Possibly, that solution we come up with involves the home where their kids sleep every night. Now, whenever you accept advice from someone about what you’re supposed to do in order to protect and take care of your home, that’s a significant leap of faith. That means the level of trust and emotional connection that associate needs to be able to build up with the customer is huge. By the same token, the trust and emotional connection the store owner builds up with the associates has to be pretty huge too. So, we know that in order to win that high level of trust with the consumer, we have to establish a trusting relationship with the employee first.”

Trust is an essential element in business relationships. It must exist between the customer and the company, as well as between management and employees. Without trust, the customer experience and employee experience lack confidence. In business, trust is a must!

Amaze Every Customer_book coverShep Hyken, New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author and hall-of-fame speaker is the Chief Amazement Officer at Shepard Presentations. As a customer service expert, he helps companies build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. For more information about his upcoming book, Amaze Every Customer Every Time: 52 Tools for Delivering the Most Amazing Customer Service on the Planet, go to www.AmazeEveryCustomer.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

 

Copyright © MMXIII Shep Hyken. Used with permission.

 

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Kattia Bolanos: How to Treat the Angriest Customer Like a VIP

Kattia BolanosThis is a guest post written by Kattia Bolanos, internet marketer for ARC Pointe Call Center Solutions.  While I give advice on how to deliver service via face to face customer interactions and ARC Pointe offers business call center solutions, Kattia’s advice can serve all customer service professionals intent on delivering the World’s Best Customer Experience whether in person or through other channels. Find out more about Kattia and ARC Pointe at the end of the post.

Customer loyalty is the key to running a successful business. If you can’t keep your customers coming back, you can’t hope to keep your doors open. If you have outsourced your customer service to a call center, it’s imperative that each agent is properly trained in the handling irate customers. That means that even the angriest customer should be treated like a VIP. Here are the steps for agents to take to ensure that irritated, frustrated, and angry customers are retained by your company:

1. Listen
There is a fine line to be balanced when listening to an angry customer. Whether your agents are providing customer service support in New York or Los Angeles, irate customers want to know that they are being heard. Agents who are too quiet make your caller feel as though he is being ignored. Agents who are too talkative make your customer feel as though he is being interrupted. Agents must utilize active listening skills. Using brief murmurs or words and phrases like “okay,” “I see,” and “mm-hmm” let your customer know that he is being heard.

2. Empathize
Agents who deliver customer support for your company must be skilled in the art of empathy. A potentially explosive situation can be diffused quickly when your agent puts himself in the shoes of the customer. An agent with thin skin may argue with your customer, making a bad situation worse. An agent who understands how to empathize will tell your customer, “I can understand how that would be frustrating.” A phrase like this creates rapport and immediately changes the customer’s state of mind.

3. Offer an Apology

An irate customer doesn’t care who works in what department. Even though agents offering customer service support in New York may be thousands of miles away from your base of operations, your customers don’t realize this, nor do they care. Agents must have a “we” attitude. Every angry customer needs to be offered an apology from the agent they speak with. The apology should be phrased in such a way that the words “our” or “we” are utilized.

4. Make Them Happy
Once your agent has listened, empathized and apologized, it’s time to fix the problem. Each agent should be empowered by you to ask the customer what it will take to remedy the situation. While one customer may want a discount off of the next purchase, another customer may want a refund for their recent order. No two customers will be pleased by the same resolution. Your agents must have the knowledge and power to fix the problem without having to transfer the customer to a supervisor.

When you agents are trained on the correct handling of an angry customer, even the most irate customer hangs up the phone feeling like a VIP. Take the time to instruct your agents how to handle dissatisfied customers. When dealt with correctly, an angry customer will turn into a happy customer and, in turn, a repeat customer.

Kattia Bolanos is the ARC Pointe Internet Marketer. She is also an article contributor focusing on call center, customer support, customer service and help desk support articles. You can contact her at kattia@apcallcenters.com

ArcPointeARC Pointe Call Center Solutions is a leader in global business process outsourcing (BPO). They offers their expertise in managing diverse inbound call center and outbound call center programs as a solution to your customer care needs. www.apcallcenters.com

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Stefanie Amini: What can we learn from American Express about Customer Care

Stefanie AminiThis is a guest post written by Stefanie Amini, a fellow customer service blogger.  As she describes it, her blog “is focused on Customer Service for the Instant Gratification era.  The ‘I want it now’ mentality. The faster the results, the better for everyone.” Find out more about Stefanie and her blog, I Want it NOW at the end of the post. 

 
Technology is rapidly evolving, and along with it marketing and the means of getting in touch with customers are evolving too. Nowadays, a successful selling strategy is no longer enough to attract customers’ interest on the long run, since more and more companies are resorting to it. By comparison, few businesses have witnessed the true power of customer care, and how a strong support team can make the difference between winning a customer and losing him. One of these businesses is American Express, a company which is constantly pursuing to find new means of enhancing its relationships with the customers. Next, we’ll describe you a few ways in which American Express has revolutionized the marketing game through customer support:

The net-promoter concept

Before 2005, the customer service at American Express (AmEx) wasn’t very different from what others had to offer. However, in that particular year Jim Bush was invested as the company’s marketing president, and he was the one to break the regular orthodox means of conversation into some more dynamic and flexible human engagements. Thus, instead of judging the quality of service reps by how quickly they managed to answer customers’ queries over the phone, he switched the style to the net-promoter score concept developed by Bain Fred Reichfeld. Basically, it all resumes down to a single question for the customer: “Would you recommend our company to a friend?”. By adopting this strategy, customers’ retention quickly went up, while the “bounce rate” went down.

New analytic software, no scripts

Thanks to the software implemented by Bush, every time a customer calls the service department, the service rep gets to see a list filled with all the information related to him/her, such as name, address, age, buying tendencies, and payment patterns. By taking advantage of these info, the employee has to guide on the conversation without being restricted to a script. Thus, if he discovers the opportunity to tell the customer about a new AmEx service or product which he isn’t aware of, it is possible for the customer rep to uncover the benefits of this service/product in a friendly and personal manner, one which is more likely to sell than a traditional-based script.

Additionally, the AmEx analytic software is capable to calculate and indicate on screen the likelihood for a customer to end the phone call, plus any other early warning signals which tell if he isn’t interested in the conversation anymore. When such case occurs, the employee has to dig for the customer’s underlying problem and try new ways of solving, as it has been previously instructed at training. AmEx aims to reduce customer’s phone stress this way, and their strategy seems to rejoice from an overwhelming success.

New employee training strategy

Since the way service reps interact with customers has been changed, they needed to be taught differently how to approach a phone call. Thus, Bush has brought a whole new meaning to employee training by basically reducing the technicality means to a human, friendly conversation which customers benefit from the most.

Bush said that he was inspired to approach this strategy as he witnessed how warm and interactive people at the hotels’ front desks were. He quickly adopted the same friendly means, only that in a virtual environment, leading to customers being treated in a more personal manner.

American Express’ strategy in terms of customer care quickly paid off, since lots of people are actually recommending the credit card company to friends and relatives from social networks, workplaces, neighborhoods and not only.

 

iwantlogoStefanie Amini is the Marketing Director and Specialist in Customer Success at WalkMe, the world’s first interactive online guidance system.  She is chief writer and editor of I Want It Now, a blog for Customer Service Experts. Follow her @StefWalkMe

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