Don’t Confuse Customer Services with Customer Service

This was originally published as a guest post on Shep Hyken’s  customer service blog.  

HYKEN Human Touch

There are only two ways to make a profit in business. One way is to increase sales. The other is to reduce costs. Companies have relied on technology to reeduce one of the most expensive costs in any business – human labor. Banks have replaced tellers with ATM’s, direct deposit and internet banking. Gas stations and supermarkets have moved to credit card readers and scanners, reducing the number of cashiers and eliminating gas attendants and grocery store baggers. Even hotels are experimenting with robots to deliver room service.  But in this technological evolution, too many companies are confusing customer services with customer service. Customer services is all about how to speed up the transaction. Businesses have used technology to become more efficient at the process of serving customers.

But being good at customer services does not build customer loyalty. All a competitor has to do is ante up with the same technology. Now even non-related businesses are looking to take revenue from each other. Where banks might have been the first to offer self-service options and debit cards, stores now offer ATM’s and their own credit card services, stealing fees and interest revenue from banks. In fact, how loyal would you be to your bank if it started to raise fees for its services? When was the last time you actually walked into a bank and interacted with a teller? Businesses may have reduced labor costs by offering hi-tech customer services, but by reducing human interaction with their customers, they inadvertently have jeopardized customer loyalty. As a result, customer services may help to keep customers, but rarely does it increase sales.

Walt Disney had the best formula for boosting sales, “Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it they will want to come back and see you do it again and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.” Great companies will always remember that despite advances in technology, customer loyalty must be earned by nurturing a genuine emotional connection.

Focus on the interaction, not the transaction. Define ways to personalize the customer experience. Restaurants that take reservations usually ask the question, “Are you celebrating a special occasion this evening?” Many will offer a complimentary dessert for an anniversary celebration. But the best create a wow moment by personalizing the menu header with the couple’s names and delivering that dessert with Happy Anniversary and their names written in chocolate on the rim of the plate. Of all the pictures taken that evening of the food, which do you think is featured and forever immortalized on Facebook for their friends to see and like? And how many friends have gone to that restaurant hoping to have that same kind of experience?

Personalizing the customer experience can be as simple as using the customer’s name. Simple, but simply not done. Think back to the last several times when you were a customer. You hand a credit card with your name printed right on it to the cashier. Yet the last five times you used your credit card, how many times did the cashier use your name in giving it back to you? Rarely, if at all. An opportunity to embrace you, as a customer, is lost.

The sales adage that people buy from people they know, like, and trust should be your customer service mantra. If I were a retailer, I’d use the technology to make sure that the card swipe info would post the customer’s name on the mini screen in front of the cashier. I’d educate every cashier to look at the screen or the credit card and then look back to the customer to establish eye contact (trust), smile (likeability) and sincerely say, “Mr. Customer’s Name, thank you for shopping at Name of Company. We certainly appreciate it.” That small wow would make a big difference in having that customer return again and again.

So don’t confuse customer services with customer service. Real customer service is all about how to enhance the human interaction. As Shep Hyken has said, “The greatest technology in the world hasn’t replaced the ultimate relationship building tool between a customer and a business – the human touch.”

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Bill Hogg: 4 Steps to GIVE Exceptional Service and Utilize Service Guidelines

This week’s guest post is from leadership consultant and keynote speaker Bill Hogg. I have been an avid reader of his blog where he writes about “the critical relationship between leadership, employee engagement and delivering an exceptional customer experience as a competitive advantage.” So I’m honored that he has offered to share his customer service insight here. If you commit to following consistently his four steps of service, you will Deliver the World’s Best Customer Experience. You can find out more about Bill at the end of his post. 

 

Please enjoy! Beautiful young female baker giving cookies to customer and smiling

Providing exceptional service is the ultimate goal. However, many organizations limit their teams’ ability to provide the type of service they want to deliver because rules and policies get in the way.

Each and every person in your organization has the opportunity to create a positive impression on your customers — to impact their experience and potentially convert them from a lukewarm satisfied customer to a red-hot loyal customer. Here is a simple 4-step formula to help your team remember how to GIVE exceptional customer service each and every time they interact with customers.

4 Steps to Provide Exceptional Customer Service

In my experience as a leadership change consultant, the following four guidelines can help you effectively engage with your customers in all situations:

Greet: Greet every customer with a smile, make eye contact. This lets them know you see them and are ready to help. Asking “how may I help” rather than waiting for people to approach will create a positive experience. Greet your customers in a friendly and approachable manner and adjust your tone according to their needs — your greeting would be different for a customer asking for information versus one who might have a problem and is a bit upset.In every case, you want to let the customer know that you are ready to listen and respond to their needs — and help build long-term loyalty.

Interact: Listen carefully to each customer’s request. Are they looking for help? Do they have a complaint? Be careful not to jump to conclusions about their needs, and never take their comments personally. Remember, customers often don’t express their needs clearly and ask their real question. So make sure you listen for the real question behind the question.

Choose your attitude — be courteous, friendly and polite. A positive, caring attitude will sooth even the angriest customer and will turn a satisfied customer into a red-hot loyalist. Help them — make it easy for them to accomplish their outcome faster, easier and more conveniently — and you will create long-term loyalty.

Verify: After you have listened to understand their needs, make sure your actions address their opportunity or concern? It is often a good idea to confirm with them what you have heard and then whether the solution you propose will address their need — before taking action. For example, if they ask your closing time — what they might really want to know is “what the latest time they can receive service”. Or if their preferred brand is not available, you could ask how often they would be purchasing, and potentially offer to order the product for them.

Little will be accomplished by rushing an answer or hurrying off to solve an issue they don’t have. There is little value in taking action that the customer doesn’t need.

Express Thanks: Always say “thank you” — it makes all the difference. Customers often express thanks when they receive help from a sales person or change from a cashier, but it really should be your team expressing thanks to your customers for their business. Letting your customer know their business is appreciated is an essential part of making them feel welcome and valued.

No two customers are ever alike, so train your team to follow these 4 simple steps to GIVE exceptional customer service: Greet, Interact, Verify and Express Thanks.

Why Your People Need Guidelines, Not Policies

To give exceptional service, it’s important for your organization to provide your team with guidelines, not strict policies and rules, if you want them to create memorable customer service experiences. Rules and policies can be restrictive and sound scripted, and your frontline service providers need flexibility with how they interact with customers in order to provide the best service possible.

Rules are an essential part of any business. Rules are necessary to ensure we make intentional decisions. Rules are written to make sure people are treated equally and consistently. While there’s nothing wrong with this in principle, there are always going to be situations where a certain degree of flexibility is essential because people are unique. The way they react to situations is also unique, and if you’re trying to offer great customer service, you have to be flexible enough to respond to their needs.

So, apart from rules that tell an employee what they can or can’t do, it’s also essential that employees have guidelines as well. These guidelines will provide the boundaries that allow your team to make appropriate decisions for the benefit of the customer — and the organization — without having to seek a supervisor’s approval every time.

What changes to your approach could you make that allow your team to give exceptional service?

  • Allow common sense to prevail in all service situations
  • Empower your frontline team members, and give them a reasonable amount of authority to act
  • Get rid of the canned responses and processes that impede your employees ability to provide personalized and effective service

While rules are a necessary evil in some situations, flexible guidelines make it easier for your team to give exceptional customer service and help your customers get the service and experience they expect.

 

Bill Hogg-High RezChange Instigator | Transformational Leadership Expert | Professional Speaker

Bill works with individuals and organizations to stimulate change — that excelerates passion, productivity and performance! For over 30 years, Bill has been the go to guy when the world’s most recognized brands are faced with challenges that require change — to improve bottom line results. Bill takes no prisoners and his clients love him for it.

Bill provides world class executive consulting, dynamic keynote presentations and transformative workshops for clients that include; Adecco, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, Pita Pit, Thompson Ahern, Toronto International Film Festival and ServiceOntario.

For additional articles and information on how to transform your organization, contact bill@billhogg.ca

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Will “World’s Best Customer Experience” Be Part of Your Legacy?

I have been a big fan of Dr. Joseph Michelli ever since his book, The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary. Having had a long career in hospitality, I especially enjoyed reading Dr. Michelli’s The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton. That was followed by The Zappos Experience: 5 Principles to Inspire, Engage, and WOW. Having read all three, I strongly recommend them to anyone interested in creating the World’s Best Experience for their customers. Each book offers insight on how these companies have established their internal processes to ensure the consistent delivery of their trademark service. Individuals and businesses are sure to learn something from the philosophies, principles and practices of these companies that they can then incorporate into their own operations to create exceptional customer experiences. I am sure there is as much value that can be found in Dr. Michelli’s newest book, but I will let him introduce it. So it is a real privilege for me to feature a post from him. You can find out more about Dr. Michelli and a great offer on his new book at the end of his post. 

 

I’m honored to provide this guest blog for Bill, a guy who will certainly leave a legacy for helping leaders develop the “world’s best customer experiences.”  Which begs a broad question for all of us, what will our legacies be?

Charles Dudley Warner, likely crafted the phrase “everyone talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it.” Sadly, when it comes to transforming customer experiences there are parallels to Warner’s observation – since much is tried and far less is accomplished.  Take a Forrester Research finding that 92% of companies have customer experience elevation on their strategic priority list and juxtapose that with data from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) showing customer satisfaction is approaching a 9-year low.   You see the problem.

Drvien to DriveThere are a lot of well-intentioned leaders who are not “ALL-IN” when it comes to transforming customer experiences and I suspect the difference between “investment” and “commitment” may account for so many failed efforts.  While I have had the good fortune to consult with a wide swath of senior leaders, several years of interaction at Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) highlights the value of declaring, defining and fully committing to (not simply investing in) customer obsession.  These and many other lessons are chronicled in my new book Driven to Delight: Delivering World-Class Customer Experience the Mercedes-Benz Way.  For our purpose lets hone in on a few key takeaways:

Declare It Now –   Have you determined what you want your leadership legacy to be? Will a portion of that legacy reflect your role in engaging your team and your customers? Leadership guru, John Maxwell, suggests that each of us will be remembered “in one sentence, so write it now.”  The CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) Steve Cannon, has been very public about his legacy.  In magazines such as Automotive News and in appropriate discussions with stakeholders, Steve repeatedly and resoundingly declares “customer experience will be my legacy.”

Live-In to Your Declaration – The problem with publicly declaring a legacy is that it places pressure on you to make choices in accord with it.  Heightened focus on those choices occurs when we select accountability partners and when we seek mentors to guide us on our path.  That’s where following thought-leaders like Bill comes in!

Inspire Others – Harry Hynekamp, general manager of customer experience at Mercedes-Benz USA, notes “customer experience transformation it hard work.  There is no end point and it doesn’t spontaneously combust.  It takes stewardship and dedication.” Since customer centric success comes from mobilizing people, improving processes, and integrating technological/human solutions, communication is a key requirement of leaders. Legacies take shape when those leaders willingly and transparently tell stories of success and setback along their purposeful journey.

Measure & Celebrate – One of my favorite questions is “how do you know?”  How do you know if you are creating one of the worlds best customer experiences?  How do you know if you are living your legacy?  By setting signposts in advance and defining key performance indicators, we truly can gauge progress.  At Mercedes-Benz the aspiration was to fulfill their brand promise of “best or nothing” not only in their automotive innovation and safety but also in their customer experience.  Progress is measured by internal metrics and number 1 finishes on the American Customer Satisfaction Index and the J D Power Sales Satisfaction Index.

Give It Away – To maximize legacy, one has to magnify one’s influence.  The best calculation of influence I have run across is the multiplication of scope and effort.  Influence goes up as the number of people you affect increases and as you enhance the effort you dedicate to them.  When it comes to the complexities of improving customer experiences, it takes enterprise-wide scope.  The more we volunteer our “lessons learned” and “knowledge gained” the more we influence others.  In turn, the more we mobilize our organization to improve the live of customers.

Lest, you think the concept of legacy sounds a tad self-serving or grandiose, in truth we all leave one!  Some people design their careers to maximize their lasting positive impact others leave their legacy to chance.  I hope you will consider a deeper dive into what it takes to create a thoughtful legacy that drives world-class customer experiences.  In so doing, I further hope you will set a target like being Driven to Delight – every customer, every time – no excuses!

 

Joseph MichelliJoseph A. Michelli, Ph.D., C.S.P., is an internationally sought-after speaker, author, and organizational consultant who transfers his knowledge of exceptional business practices in ways that develop joyful and productive workplaces with a focus on the total customer experience. His insights encourage leaders and frontline workers to grow and invest passionately in all aspects of their lives. Find out more about him at josephmichelli.com . Follow him on Twitter @josephmichelli

Dr. Michelli has graciously offered  a sizable discount, free shipping, and an autographed copy of the book to the readers of this blog post. Simply click on the book cover above or here and enter the promo code VIP at checkout. 

 

 

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How to start using Social Media for Customer Service

This week’s post is written by Ravi Shukle.  In my posts, I provide advice to improve face to face customer interactions. But today’s customers are expecting service on-line and on the social media channels that they use. One of the great benefits of social media is connecting with people who we would otherwise not meet. Since I certainly am not an expert on how to use social media for customer service, I reached out halfway around the world to someone who is, Ravi. And he was kind enough to offer his insight here. You can learn more about Ravi at the end of this post.

 

Ravi

Are you a business owner or entrepreneur looking to use social media for customer service?

If you said yes – then your customers are very lucky people, and you have come to the right place!

Ravi Shukle social media for customer service

I recently gave a talk at the SocialHackUK conference here in London on how businesses can use social media for customer service. In this post I am going to share with you my journey on how I have used social media to deliver great customer service online, as well as some of the key tools & techniques that have helped me to drive results for my clients & brands over the years.

So sit back, take a sip of coffee, and let the discovery begin!

How to start using Social Media for Customer Service

So where do you start?

Now that is a great question. Having helped online businesses owners manage their online customer service & social media for nearly 10 years, I’ve made all the mistakes along the way, and as a result, I have discovered what works the best & what doesn’t.

So today we are going to take a look at the 2 core areas of getting started with social media for customer service, covering the best practices I have picked up over the years & the top tools that have helped save me precious time & money.

Best Practices

As we are going to be taking a look at how to begin using social media for customer service, it’s important to start from the very beginning. That is why I have outlined some of the key best practices you will need to follow when both starting & maintaining your social media channels.

These strategies will help to ensure your business remains consistent in being able to serve its customers in the long run.

Content Calendar

A content calendar is simply a table of information that shows you what you are posting & on what day & time. This is essential before posting to your social channels, as it helps to keep your content organised & relevant. When creating your content calendar, a good starting point is to plan content for a week in advance, stating the days & times you are posting. One golden rule you want to remember is to always leave space in between your planned posts to allow for real time events & content.

Golden rule of planning social media content is to leave space for real time events ~ Click To Tweet

Escalation Process

To avoid a back log of customer queries it’s important to have an escalation process in place. This simply means your business should ensure it has a list of people it can escalate queries to should they be needed.

For effective social media customer service ensure you have an escalation policy in place ~ Click To Tweet

If you have a small company, it’s crucial to determine who is in charge & can make decisions on behalf of the business. This helps to save time & resources as it ensures the customers’ queries are dealt with efficiently & by the correct individual.

Response times

67% of consumers have used a company’s social media site for servicing & this number is set to grow even further~ Click To Tweet

This means that online customer service has now gone social – a trend that is set to grow even further. As a result, you literally can’t afford to keep your customers waiting, as they will go elsewhere. To help combat this, as a starting point your business needs to make sure it is able to respond to all social comments within 1-3 hours.

If you do not have an answer to a query, don’t ignore it until the next day. Instead, be sure to leave a reply for the customer, letting them know that you’re looking into their query & will get back to them. This helps the customer feel appreciated & shows you have acknowledged their input.

Personality – sign off names / engage without automating

Treating your social media fans as individuals & not numbers is the key to creating great customer service service ~Click To Tweet

I know that as a business owner you are very busy & time is very precious. However, responding to customers via social media is not an area where you want to cut corners.

Here are a 5 ways your business can inject some personality via social media ~Click To Tweet 

  • Signing of comments with your name
  • Addressing fans by their first name / @ tagging their username in comments
  • Sharing personal stories or company stories that relate to the customer’s query
  • Being honest – if you do not have an answer or have made a mistake, admit this right away
  • Last but not least, have fun! Adding humour is a great way to connect on a more personal level & deepen the relationship with your fans. Of course, this should only be used at the appropriate times ;)No Days Off

While this may sound obvious to many, it is still one of the biggest mistakes I see on social media.

Creating great customer service on social media means taking no days off ~ Click To Tweet

Now this doesn’t mean you should hibernate away in your office 24/7 waiting for replies to come in so that you can respond. However, your business does need to manage expectations via your social channels, which means being prepared for comments or questions to come in on the weekends & public holidays.

To facilitate this, assign someone on the team to check these channels during weekends & holidays to ensure you do not miss out. Ignoring these comments can often mean creating more angry customers or even worse – can cause your fans to look elsewhere.

Customer Feedback – data from insights & asking questions

Encouraging customer feedback is a great way to generate insight from your key target market ~ Click To Tweet

Customer feedback can come in many forms on social media. However, there are two key ways in which your business can gather this information:

  • Asking questions directly via your social channels
  • Analysing social media insights

It really is that simple – asking your fans directly allows your business to get instant feedback on social media compared to a survey, and analysing social media data through insights allows you to get information on your customers in almost real time.

Using this information is the key to creating a great customer experience, as your business will be able to determine what your customers’ pain points are & what type of content they like to engage with.

Employee training

It’s important to train all employees on how to use social media for customer service as it’s everyone’s responsibility ~Click To Tweet

Training all employees on social media is vital, as it’s the role of the whole company – not just one department – to better serve your customers. Therefore, training employees on how to use social media effectively empowers them to accurately represent the business outside working hours, and enables them to feel confident in replying to customers through social media.

This also gives them the confidence to reply right away, which means your team will also be more responsive – a win-win for both you & the customer!

Rewarding fans

Customer loyalty on social media means focusing on the quality of the interaction, not the quantity ~ Click To Tweet

Rewarding fans on social media is a great way to build customer loyalty, as it shows you truly appreciate your community & are willing to give back.  What you want to remember here is that customer loyalty on social media doesn’t just mean the person who “likes” or “comments” the most.

It should be based on the quality of the interaction or conversation. If you had one customer who gave you very detailed feedback or shared a great story, this should be considered for a reward just as much as a customer who always looks to engage with your posts.

Tools

During my SocialHackUK talk I also went over some of my personal top tools, programmes & websites I use on an almost daily basis to effectively create content & manage social media for customer service.  I didn’t want you to miss out, so here they are:

10 Tools to help you create content & manage social media for customer service ~ Click To Tweet

Jing

Offers a free & simple way to start creating & sharing images & short videos of your computer screen

Pixabay

A free resource to help you find high quality & commercial free images to use on the web & your social channels

Hootsuite

A free social media management tool that allows you to manage & schedule content across many different social networks

Powerpoint

Perfect for creating great images & presentations for your social networks

Canva

Offers a simple way to create graphic designs for your social channels with many great templates to choose from

PicMonkey

A free online photo editing tool that allows you to add frames, text & effects to your images

Post Planner

An app that makes it easy for people to find & post amazing content consistently to their social channels

Agora Pulse

An app that helps you to manage all social media messages & content in one place as well having the ability to launch contests & promotions

Buffer

An app that allows you to easily schedule, create & publish content across your social channels

Shortstack

Lets you create Facebook apps & build engaging social media marketing campaigns including contests, promotions & much more

Summary

Implementing these strategies and seeing results using them wont happen over night. It’s important to realise in order to build a true customer culture within your company as well as across your social media channels the company as a whole must embrace an open minded attitude to customer service and see this as a role for all employees and not just one department. Training all employees on the effective use of social media will help the over all responsiveness of the organiastion and help to increase that all important relationship with your fans helping to create that 5 star customer service.

 

Ravi Shukle Customer Service Specialist

Ravi Shukle  is a customer service specialist who loves to help businesses create happy customers for life through customer service. He reveals his Secrets to creating Five Star service here. Follow him on Twitter @ravishukle.

 

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In customer service, your people are NOT your most important asset.

In the book Good to Great, Jim Collins writes that “People are not your most important asset. The right people are.”

Customer service is all about building relationships – relationships with superiors, direct reports, vendors and customers. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, claims that success in any job is 20% knowledge and 80% interpersonal skills. Ultimately success in customer service is all about interpersonal skills.

Unfortunately, while there are people who want to work in customer service, many lack the necessary interpersonal skills because they have grown up or interacted with others in a generation far different from our own.

I am convinced that people can only deliver an experience that they themselves have experienced. In order to succeed in customer service, they would have had to personally experience and learn from great examples of others exhibiting stellar interpersonal skills in their day-to-day interactions.

But those opportunities to learn firsthand from face-to-face interactions have all changed in less than a generation. Like many of you, when I earned my first paycheck there was no direct deposit or internet banking. We would have to go weekly to the bank to deposit our paycheck. After a while, the teller got to know who we were, where we worked, what we did there, and regularly asked how work and our company was doing. We learned how to communicate personally as a result of those interactions. But with on-line banking and ATM’s, when was the last time you had to actually go into a bank? We have lost that opportunity for regular personal interactions.

I was a member of after school clubs in school and in that process I collaborated with others in person. Now many young people are more apt to spend as much time with an on-line team of avatars of people they have never met playing Call of Duty or Warcraft. All those hours on-line, but what interpersonal skills are they learning from that experience?

Remember when gas stations used to have the attendant check your oil and tire pressure, clean your windshield and ask us if there was anything else they could do for us ? How bad has customer service gotten when we never see an attendant and actually pump our own gas? Where is the interpersonal skills reinforcement in that experience?

This will date me, but I remember when the baggers at the grocery store would actually take the bags in a shopping cart and help me load them into my car. Not only are the baggers gone, but so are many of the cashiers, replaced by self-serve checkout lines. And even the cashiers who are on duty certainly have no time to strike up a social conversation.

The average Facebook user today has 200 friends. When people posts on their page, they don’t have a loss of self-esteem when only three “like” the post. The other 197 have ignored them  – and they are OK with that! Even those that “like” the post rarely leave a comment to begin an interaction. Social media, then, is rarely social.

I have a cell phone and young people have cell phones. But what are they doing with their cell phones? OMG. LOL. I’m so old I remember someone actually laughing out loud on my phone. Texting is really one-way communication. You don’t hear voice tone or inflection or a pause. Two text monologues on do not make a real dialog.

So the experiences for many people are not full of the good examples of emotional intelligence, body language or verbal communication that only face-to-face interactions can teach. I believe that translates in a real world that is OK to ignore the customer and our co-workers. We don’t have to greet our co-workers every morning or every customer who walks through the door. Having not experienced good examples of communication, collaboration or relationship-building skills, how will those people we entrust to take care of our customers be successful? And if we allow ourselves to accept that level of performance as adequate, how will our businesses succeed?

The answer is that we, as managers, are responsible for the education of those who do not have those skills. For us to succeed in this very competitive customer service marketplace, we will need the right people.  We will need people who know how to consistently welcome our customers with eye contact and a smile, listen and respond empathetically, and bid them a sincere fond farewell. So we will need to ask the proper interview questions with the specific intent on finding out if the candidates have the necessary skills of expressing sincerity, empathy and trust. And we will be the ones who will have to educate the people we select to deliver the experience our customers are expecting from us. Customer service cannot be “Day One and Done” training. Soft skills reinforcement must be continuous. Only then will we build the interpersonal skills of our staff to drive their success and ours.

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Review: Micah Solomon’s new ebook: Culture Of Yes: Practices And Principles Of Great Hospitality

MicahSolomonMicah Solomon is a customer service and marketing speaker, strategist, and author of the book, High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service. Ever since reading his book, I have been following his customer experience articles on Forbes. So when he recently published an ebook entitled Culture Of Yes: Practices And Principles Of Great Hospitality, I was all over it.  While I was quoted in the first chapter, I bought the Kindle version for the invaluable insight shared by some real hospitality heavyweights. And while this ebook is focused on those who are in the hospitality industry, I am sure that customer service professionals in any industry will benefit. Find out more about Micah and his new ebook at the end of this post.

A hotel’s associates have more impact in building the reputation of a hotel than the general manager. In one day, the associates have more direct interaction with the customers than the general manager might in one week. Yet, those associates can only deliver the level of service that they themselves have experienced. Many of them have never stayed at a hotel recognized for its exceptional service. Some of those associates may have graduated from a hospitality school. As a hotelier, I have interviewed my fair share of college graduates. These hospitality students have learned the technical parts of running a hotel – budget preparation and analysis, menu engineering, purchasing and inventory, property management systems, and sales and marketing. But rarely has the curriculum focused on the critical ingredient of a truly successful hotel operation, namely the art of hospitality, taking real care of the guest. So it is up to the manager to educate the associates and their junior managers on the principles of hospitality.

And if you are going to learn the principles of hospitality, shouldn’t you learn it from the best? Ask frequent travelers to name the best hotel chains and they will tell you Ritz-Carlton or Four Seasons. Or wouldn’t’ you want to know the secrets of the luxury resort properties that are frequently named in travel magazines as the very best like The Broadmoor or The Inn at Little Washington. Micah has interviewed the key executives from hospitality’s best, including others from Montage, Fairmont, EDITION, and Virgin Hotels and has published in this ebook their insights and, as a seasoned travel and customer service expert himself, those of his own.

Their collective insight focuses on all the key ingredients to deliver an exceptional guest experience – hiring the right people, developing the necessary internal systems and hospitality standards, creating the proper service culture, and defining steps for service recovery. Micah even discusses how technology has and will change the guest experience.

Busy managers may complain that they have no time to read an entire book on hospitality. Micah responds by offering bulletpoints at the end of the chapters, as he calls it, a “cheat sheet” to “begin learning from the best of the best – the greatest leaders and professionals from the very best lodging and foodservice organizations in the world.” That invaluable insight is offered from such hospitality icons as Isadore Sharp, founder and chairman of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Herve Humler, president and COO of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, and Danny Meyer, president and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group. And if you want to be great at hospitality, then ask someone who has already proven that they are one of the hospitality greats. Micah has done that for you here.

While this ebook is directed to hospitality professionals, there is value for a manager of any business who has customers. Whether it is buying a Big Mac from a McDonald’s, a book from Amazon, or gasoline from your local Chevron station, you exchange money for a tangible product. Unlike retail, the hospitality industry is unique. In exchange for hundreds of dollars for a weekend stay, you check out of a hotel without receiving any physical item. You may have taken extra bottles of shampoo or even the bathrobe, but were they worth the price you paid for your room? Of course not.  The only “thing” you take with you is the memory of the experience. That experience has to be so memorable that you are willing to pay to repeat that experience again and again. In retail, almost any product can be replicated by your competitor. What can’t be replicated is the unique experience surrounding the sale of the product. So wouldn’t any retail business gain from the insight from hospitality where the experience is what customers pay for?  Of course it could.

You have heard, “Knowledge is power.” That is not true. It is what you do with the knowledge that is the power. So buy this book. Read it. And then do something to start delivering great hospitality for your guests or a great experience for your customers.

Culture of YesMicah Solomon is a keynote speaker, author, customer service speaker, customer experience consultant and company culture consultant. Find out more about Micah, his blog and his recent Forbes articles at http://www.micahsolomon.com . You can find out more about the ebook or purchase it from amazon by clicking on the book cover.

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Rhonda Basler: From Adequate to Outstanding: 5 Ways to Inspire Customer Advocacy Through Customer Care

This week’s guest post is from Rhonda Basler, director of Customer Engagement at Hallmark Business Connections. I have been a longtime fan of her blog so I’m honored that she is sharing her customer experience insight here. I am convinced that if you commit to following consistently these five essentials, you will Deliver the World’s Best Customer Experience. 

What does it take for your business to create remarkable experiences for your customers?

Think about that for a second.

Today’s customers don’t just want more from companies – they expect more from companies.  Research shows 70% of buying experiences are based on how customers feel they are being treated, which means it’s up to companies to deliver the kind of experience customers are looking to have.

At Hallmark Business Connections, we believe in the power of the human connection.  By providing customer care that supports your brand’s vision, mission and values, you inspire customer advocates to truly believe in your company’s products, services, and brand, and to share their positive feelings with others (friends, family, acquaintances, social media networks, etc.).

Here’s a closer look at 5 ways to earn customer advocacy through inspired customer service:

1. Commit Random Acts of Kindness

Independent consumer trends firm trendwatching.com has identified unexpected, meaningful actions as a major customer trend in business and I think we all know why: It’s the right thing to do.5 Essentials of a Differentiated Customer Experience

Creating meaningful experiences for your customers doesn’t have to be flashy or expensive.  Sometimes, it’s the smallest gestures – taking the time to listen and encourage someone in need or sharing a story or joke – that can have the biggest impact.

Committing these random acts of kindness can go a long way toward fostering customer loyalty, so it’s important for your company to consider what it can do to make the experience truly special to the individual.  Only then can you provide the types of experiences that touch customers on an emotional level and create greater engagement with your company.

2. Be Proactive

Creating meaningful experiences for customers doesn’t just build customer advocacy: It also makes good business sense.  After all, Bain & Company research shows it costs six to seven times more to acquire new customers than it does to retain existing customers.

To inspire true customer advocacy, you need to find ways of going above and beyond to show customers you’re committed to providing an exceptional customer experience.  Examples of this type of proactivity involve checking in with customers to uncover the root causes of problems and fix issues before customers have the opportunity to get in touch with your company themselves.

This investment in improving customer retention is well worth going the extra mile.  Try thinking about it this way: Instead of investing money to replace customers that have been lost, you’re focusing instead on building such solid relationships with customers that they refer you to new customers.

3. Offer a Plus One

According to McKinsey research, word of mouth is a primary factor behind 20-50% of all purchasing decisions.  People trust friends and family more than virtually any other information source; in fact, they’ll pay two times more attention to recommendations from friends than other sources.

Given the importance of word of mouth referrals, make sure you’re giving your customers something to talk about!  In every customer experience interaction, associates should surprise and delight customers with an unexpected, extra benefit that’s unique, thoughtful, and relevant to the individual.

These sorts of “plus one” benefits can make all the difference when it comes to not only the individual customer’s experience, but also the anecdotal stories that get shared with others.

4. Show Your Gratitude

The key to providing a positive customer experience is to make the experience meaningful and memorable enough for customers to still be sharing it with friends and family days, weeks, or even months later.  There are many ways to do this, but sometimes the most effective is communicating two simple little words: Thank you.

Displaying heartfelt, sincere gratitude to customers is memorable – and it opens the door to doing business again.  Acknowledging and expressing that you know the business would not exist without your customers can have a huge impact on how they feel about your company.

5. Put Yourself in the Customers’ Shoes

The business implications of the customer experience are huge: 55% of customers would pay more for a better customer experience and 89% of customers would quit doing business with a company following a poor customer experience.

What does this mean?  For starters, it reinforces the pivotal role customer service plays in the way your customers feel about your company, which translates directly into how much they trust your company.  But, to go a level or two deeper, it also suggests the importance of empathy as it pertains to the customer experience.

Hearing – and, more importantly, understanding – the emotions of customers can augment a positive experience or turn around a negative one.  To truly understand what matters to customers (and provide the best possible experience for the individual), you need to be able to put yourself in your customers’ shoes.  Research, in fact, shows conveying this type of empathy can make or break a business.

Final Thoughts

Let’s go back to our question at the very beginning of this post: What can your company do to create remarkable experiences for your customers?

Keeping the above tactics in mind, try thinking about the various ways you can transform a customer experience from adequate to outstanding.  By providing top-notch customer service at every step of the way, you can create the type of customer advocates who will share their positive experiences and inspire those around them to do the same.

To learn more about Hallmark Business Connections’ approach to creating a differentiated customer experience, watch our “5 Essentials For Creating a Differentiated Customer Experience” video: 

Rhonda BaslerRhonda Basler is the Director of Customer Engagement at Hallmark Business Connections.  An avid business trend watcher and strategic thinker, Rhonda’s customer advocacy expertise stems from more than 29 years of experience in data-driven and brand marketing for major corporations as well as small companies.

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Adam Ramshaw: Proof that Exceeding Promises does not pay off

One of the real benefits of social media is connecting with people from around the world who we would otherwise not meet. I especially appreciate meeting individuals who are as committed as I am to helping small businesses create a customer experience that builds loyalty. This week’s guest post is from Adam Ramshaw based in Australia. Once you read his post, you will see Adam shares that commitment. Find out more about Adam at the end of his post.

You may have heard the service mantra to “Underpromise and Overdeliver”. Read on to find out that practicing that mantra may not be the best way to get customers to return again and again.

 

Many customer service gurus, and others, will tell you that you need to Wow your customers to drive great customer loyalty but recent research indicates it may not be the best approach.

I’ve been saying for a while that you over delivering on your promises is probably a waste of time and certainly has a low return on investment. Now I have some solid scientific research to back me up.

The Science

Worth Keeping but Not Exceeding: Asymmetric Consequences of Breaking Versus Exceeding Promises was published just a few months ago and examines the relative happiness of people when someone breaks a promise, keeps a promise and exceeds a promise.

There were four experiments in this paper but we’re only going to examine two in detail.

Experiment 2b

In this experiment participants used recalled promises that were broken, kept and exceeded. The researchers then linked the types of promise to how it made them feel. That happiness level was recalled at the time of the promise (Happy Then) and now (Happy Now).

“Worth Keeping but Not Exceeding: Asymmetric Consequences of Breaking Versus Exceeding Promises”

Not surprisingly, participants were unhappy with broken promises. However, the happiness level (if we can call it that) was very similar for kept and exceeded promises.

Further, the chart above almost shows that the happiness for an exceeded promise was statistically significantly lower than a kept promise.

Many years ago a wise business mentor told me:

Customers like good news, they dislike bad new but they really hate surprises.

It occurs to me that the results of this test may be evidence of the validity of this advice.

Experiment 4

Here the authors looked at the positivity of participants on an absolute scale (more is better) and with respect to the breaking/keeping/exceeding of a promise.

Now things get even more interesting. When no promise was made and respondents had only their own expectations to test against, the absolute positivity of respondents was, more or less, linearly related to the value of the outcome.

That is: the better the outcome the more positive they were. This is the red line on the chart.

However, when a promise was pre-made about the level of delivery, the positivity was two sided: low if broken, high if kept or exceeded. See the green lines on the chart.

It seems almost as if the promise changes the respondents view to a digital outcome: (broke promise) and (met or exceeded promise). The value of additional positivity from over delivering was lost (wasted?) if there was a promise provided.

“Worth Keeping but Not Exceeding: Asymmetric Consequences of Breaking Versus Exceeding Promises”

Customers Over Reward Signals of Honesty and Fairness

From the paper:

Indeed, existing research suggests that social systems tend to be hypersensitive to signals of dishonesty and unfairness but do not necessarily reward generosity.

Put another way people are very sensitive to being ripped off but not so sensitive to any value you put on the table above and beyond your promise.

What You Should Do In Practice

So how does this impact our businesses?

If you Promise Something You Must Deliver

In our customer feedback work over the years we have seen that “do what you say you will do” is a consistent driver of customer loyalty.

The higher a company scores on this measure, they higher is their loyalty.

This academic research is consistent with this finding.

So always keeps your promises.

Don’t over Deliver on Your Promises.

Once made, deliver on your promises but you don’t need to over deliver as that extra value will be wasted.

Wowing Doesn’t Always Work

The promise plays a key role in the positivity a customer will take away from their interaction with you.

If you promise a customer a 10% discount and then give them a 15% you’ve wasted that extra 5%.

However, if you simply give them a 15% discount without a prior promise or expectation you will get value for the whole 15%.

So if you want to Wow your customers you should not set their expectations up front.

Adam Ramshaw owns a boutique customer feedback consulting company. With more than 15 years working in small business he knows the challenges it brings. RunOurSurvey is his answer to some of those challenges where you can download free Small Business Customer Feedback Resources to use in your business.

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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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