Category Archives: Customer Loyalty

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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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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Nunzia Falco Simeone: 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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Ashley Furness: The Secret to Ritz-Carlton’s Customer Service Mojo

Prior to my present position as resort manager for Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club, I served as the charter general manager for The Henry – Autograph Collection (Autograph Collection is Marriott International’s exclusive portfolio of independent hotels) when it was reflagged after 21 years as the Ritz-Carlton Dearborn, MI (Ritz-Carlton is  a wholly owned subsidiary of Marriott International). Almost all the associates were former Ritz-Carlton “Ladies and Gentlemen”. Last year The Henry was recognized as one of Marriott International’s Hotels of the Year. I am convinced that while they are now The Henry associates they still would bleed Ritz-Carlton blue.  And if you’ve every stayed in a Ritz-Carlton hotel you know there is something extraordinary about the refined delivery of customer service by its associates. So when fellow customer service blogger Ashley Furness offered to share an interview she conducted with Diana Oreck, vice president of the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Training Center, I quickly accepted. You can find out more about Ms. Oreck and Ashley at the end of the post. But for now, here is Ashley’s inside look at how Ritz-Carlton educates its associates to deliver its world-class brand of exceptional customer service.

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company is known worldwide for it’s “legendary service.” So much so, Apple uses the luxury hospitality brand as a model for its owner customer support traditions. For both, it’s all about anticipating the customers’s expressed and unexpressed needs.

These practices have not only increased word of mouth and brand loyalty. Ritz-Carlton also boasts among the best employee retention rates around. To create raving fans, they start with inciting brand enthusiasm from their team.

Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Ritz-Carlton leadership training center Vice President Diana Oreck. I asked her about customer service training, retention, performance measurement and more. Here’s what she had to share about Ritz’ super service sauce:

What sort of questions can you ask someone to find out if they’re caring and can anticipate customer wants and needs?
Well what you want to make sure you do is not ask yes or no questions. You’re not going to say, “OK Ashley, are you a caring person?” Because obviously, you’re just going to say yes, right? So what we do is we ask you in the interview, “Ashley give us a specific example of how you’ve cared for someone in the last month.” “Give me a specific example of anticipatory service that you have extended.”

Ritz-Carlton puts a lot of emphasis on successful new hire orientation. Why is this important for customer service training?  

A lot of companies have a notion that employee orientation really needs to be a data dump of the company, and statistics and who’s doing what. It really isn’t. What we are looking for at orientation is passion. We want to make sure that that new person gets the feeling they made the right decision in joining us.

It’s all about them and it’s all about culture. We feel that orientation needs to be significant emotional experience. Because think about it – you are making  a very big decision in your life to either start a job or change a job. So our two days of orientation, they are solely revolving around our culture, which we call the gold standards. And the reason we do that is we know that the culture creates passion advocates of our employees. Raving advocates of our brand and we don’t think that it’s realistic to ask that your customer be passionate, raving fans if your employees aren’t first.

Is this also something that helps with customer service employee satisfaction and retention?

Yes, it’s about engagement. I will give you an example. The lodging industry as a whole tends to run a 60-70 percent turnover in a year. Here at Ritz Carlton we run in the low 20s. It’s a huge difference.

What else do you do to promote retention?

We’ve got a vast list. Rewards and recognition is huge. Ranging from first class card, which is the most popular form of recognition at Ritz Carlton. Talk about less is more, it’s just a card that says “first class” and we give it to each other to thank each other. It can be peer to peer, peer to manager, employee to president, president to employee. And then we have things like birthdays, we give gift certificates. You can become five-star of the quarter. We don’t do employee of the month, because we find it’s much for meaningful if it’s the quarter. We are also one of the only hotel companies that still provide meals for their staff. We have gorgeous picnics in the summer and the holiday party and it goes on and on.

What metrics or qualitative data does Ritz-Carlton use to measure customer service training success (How do you know it’s working)? How do you collect this data?

Oh yes, we poll our guests once a month. The Gallup organization sends out 38 percent of guests that stayed the month before. It’s done randomly with the hope we will get 8-10 percent return. We live and die by that guest engagement number. This is the sum of responses to about 30 questions, including How likely is that guest to recommend Ritz Carlton? Were they delighted and satisfied with their stay? If there was a problem, did we take care of their problem? We know that if that guest engagement number goes up, we know that our training programs have been successful.

What are the biggest mistakes companies make when training customer service staff?

There not being specific enough. They’ll say things like “Give great service.” Well that’s nice, but people need a road map. Never assume anything, make sure you have your service standards written down and allow people to observe you in action. Don’t assume that their mother or father, or previous employer taught them what really great service looks like. Have a written service strategy.

What other successful customer service strategies have companies adopted by studying Ritz-Carlton?

It’s all about empowerment. The thing that our guests are most wowed about is that every single employee has $2,000 a day per guest to delight, or make it right. But we never use the money because that money is just symbolic. We are saying to our employees we trust you. We select the best talent. Just help the guest. We do a lot of training around empowerment. So I would say this – you need to empower employees. You also need to make sure that you are inspiring employees to bring their passion to work everyday and to volunteer their best. And you do that by reinforcing their purpose, not their function. Not the how to do your work, but the why of the work you do.

About Diana Oreck
Diana Oreck is Vice President, Leadership Center and leads The Ritz-Carlton’s two-time Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award-winning corporate university.  She brings more than 30 years of experience in hospitality to her role and was named as a 2011/2012 Woman of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women. Under her leadership The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company was named the best global Training Company in the world in 2007 as ranked by Training Magazine.

About the Author

Ashley Furness is a CRM analyst for Software Advice. has spent the last six years reporting and writing business news and strategy features. Her work has appeared in myriad publications including Inc.Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal. Before joining Software Advice in 2012, she worked in sales management and advertising. Currently, her research focuses on various topics related to CRM software, sales, customer service and marketing strategy. Follow her on Twitter @AshleyFurness.

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Don’t settle for the “Customer Service Checklist” – Buy in to the philosophy

This is a guest post written by John-Paul Narowski, founder of karmaCRM. Find out more about John-Paul and his company at the end of the post.

Recently I purchased a book from the local bookstore.

On the way in, I got a friendly “Hi, can I help you find anything?” from a passing employee. I asked where I could find small business books, and she gave me quick directions to the right spot. Perfect. I smiled.

As I approached the checkout counter with the book in one hand and my wallet in the other, the cashier greeted me with a warm smile and a friendly “Hello, I can help you right over here. How are you today?” As I handed over my credit card, the cashier even took note of my name. “Thank you, John. Would you like to sign up for our rewards program?” I smiled again. The service so far was outstanding – it made me feel like my business was truly appreciated.

I normally avoid rewards programs because I don’t like having all of the extra cards in my wallet. But on that day, the service I’d received put me in a great mood. I said yes. Not only did I say yes, but I also imagined returning to the store for my next book and using my loyalty card. After all, this local store was right down the street and everyone was so friendly.

But when I agreed to take the loyalty card, the happy customer service facade came down. It was as if the switch had been flipped off. The cashier (Claire was her name) stopped smiling immediately, and started typing on her computer, presumably bringing up the page where she could enroll me in the rewards program. Then Claire, the very same cashier who smiled, thanked me by name, and asked about my day, scrunched up her eyebrows. She gave me a puzzled look and asked, “what was your name again?”

I’m sure many of you have experienced something similar. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that Claire had been trained to follow a standard “customer service checklist” – one of those 3 step magic bullet systems designed to, in this case, get me to sign up for the rewards program. Smile, say thank you, read the name off of the card, and ask to join. I’m not the only customer that can see right through that – especially when it becomes obvious that the employee wasn’t really listening.

Let it be known – customer service is not a checklist. It’s a philosophy. Each customer deserves special treatment. Checklists don’t make anyone feel special. They just reinforce the fact that we are all treated the same. Checklists are what I like to call “doing the minimum.”

To Claire, forgetting my name was no big deal. To me, Claire represented the local bookstore. As Bill is fond of saying, “To the customer, YOU are the company.” When she forgot my name after her canned 3-step loyalty card checklist, it made a big difference. It was as though the bookstore had already forgotten about me, my money, and my choice to support their local business.

As a small business owner myself, customer service is one of my passions. After all, the customers pay for the employees, the store, the product, the lights, the counter, and everything else. But here’s the kicker. The customers aren’t thinking about all of that. They pay for their experience, not yours.

So why shouldn’t we focus on customer experience? I call this business philosophy customer-centricity. I’ve made it the focus of my entire business. Every decision I make, from hiring and training employees to refining my product, is designed to provide the customer with a better experience.

Next time you catch yourself or your employees following a checklist, ask yourself if the customer feels special. Then do something extra and see if it makes a difference. Grow out of relying on the checklist. Put in that extra effort to make the customer feel special. Trust me – the customer does care, and they are paying attention.

John-Paul Narowski is a customer-centric thought leader and founder of the Ann Arbor, MI-based karmaCRM, a small business software solution designed to help manage sales teams and build strong relationships with customers.

John-Paul, or JP as his friends call him, is fanatical about customer service and the customer-centric business model. Improving customer relationships is his passion and his business. Every decision JP makes at his company, from hiring employees to developing new features for his software, is based upon improving the customer experience.

 JP was recently interviewed by fellow customer service expert, Shep Hyken, where he discussed further his customer-centric philosophy. You can read that post hereFind out more about JP and karma at http://www.karmacrm.com. You can also follow karmaCRM on Twitter

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February 14: Customer “Show Your Love” Day

In our personal relationships, while we love those close to us as much everyday, Valentine’s Day gives us an opportunity to express it in a special way. And if you don’t think that it’s important to proclaim “I love you” to your significant other on Valentine’s Day, just try missing one. It should be no different for your customer relationships. People like to buy from people who want their business. And while you don’t take any customer for granted, Valentine’s Day is a great occasion to express your appreciation to your loyal customers. Make this day “Show Your Love” Day for your customers. What could you do on Valentine’s Day to offer a special “thank you” for their continued patronage and support of your business?

With that in mind, here is my Top Ten list of Valentine’s Day inspired quotes that can serve you well as reminders on how to “show your love” to your customers.

Love is doing what is best for a person regardless of the cost or response. R. Robert Flatt

The first duty of love is to listen.  Paul Tillich

Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get, it’s what you are expected to give — which is everything.  Anonymous

Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own. Robert Heinlein

Get not your friends by bare compliments, but by giving them sensible tokens of your love. Socrates

We too often love things and use people, when we should be using things and loving people. Anonymous

Anyone can catch your eye, but it takes someone special to catch your heart.  Anonymous

Love is like a tennis match; you’ll never win consistently until you learn to serve well. Dan P. Herod

Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing. Mother Teresa

That best little portion of a good man’s life – his little nameless unremembered acts of kindness and love.  William Wordsworth

Whether you are following me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or via this blog, I see you as my customers. So on this day, as sincerely as these written words can express, I really do appreciate your continued support. Thank you very much and Happy “Show Your Love” Day.

Now what can you do today to “show your love” to those who surround you in your business and those loyal customers who made you successful?

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Just Because You Don’t Think It’s a Big Deal, It’s a Big Deal

“Just because you don’t think it’s a big deal doesn’t mean your customer doesn’t think it’s a big deal. When your customer says it’s a big deal, it’s a big deal. And even when your customer says “It’s no big deal,” it’s still a big deal. Or why would they bring it up?” – Kristin Anderson, Performance Research Associates

Last night I was shopping in the local vitamin shop when I overheard a customer tell the cashier, “I think someone just left their credit card.” The cashier says, “It might be that woman’s,” and points to the lady outside just about to get into her car. It was very obvious the cashier wasn’t going to do anything else so the customer took the card and practically ran out to ask. It wasn’t hers. The customer brought it back, left it on the counter and went about shopping in the store. The card was still on the counter when he went back with his purchase. The customer picked it up and placed it behind the counter. The cashier just left it there. He didn’t stick in the register. He didn’t give it to the manager. Nothing.

That cashier didn’t get it. To that cashier, it was simply a piece of plastic. To him, no big deal. To us, as customers, credit cards are unbelievably valuable. If we ever misplace a credit card, let alone lose one, we panic. To us, it’s a BIG deal.

As a customer, you know that we don’t buy from companies; we still buy from people. And we buy from people we know, like and trust. In just reading about what happened, you see as I see, as a customer, that the cashier is the store. And that one act that he does not think was at all important to him is the snapshot we take of that business. To the customer who found it, to the customer who hopefully will claim her card and to me, we are all questioning the trust we can have for that store. And that mental snapshot stays with us until another snapshot of that business replaces it. In fact, for some customers, it may take a motion picture worth of positive impressions before that one snapshot is deleted. It takes 12 positive service incidents to make up for one negative incident. And some customers who have a bad experience may never give a business a second chance, opting simply to walk away, intent on never coming back.

Now put on your customer service hat. When you serve customers remember, “To the customer, YOU are the company”. If you are a customer service manager, reinforce to your team that each interaction with a single customer represents all of you as a business. Every act of any one individual is a customer’s snapshot of your company’s likability and trust. And every act, no matter how small, is a big deal.

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Great Service is Great Theater

Great TheaterIn their book, The Experience Economy, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore define that “Work is theater and every business a stage.” If you were an actor delivering a great live theatrical performance, the audience becomes wrapped up in the experience and as they walk out of the theater, they are telling their friends that it was the best thing that they’ve enjoyed in a long time.

It does not matter to the audience that the actors are performing for the 100th time. The audience has paid very good money to see the show and expect that the actors will deliver their performance with the same passion as on opening night. Your customers expect nothing less. As it is in Great Theater, you have to “act it like you mean it”. Do not confuse this with “fake it until you make it”. Your customers, like any audience, can see right through that kind of performance. Do you always feel like working every day, five days a week, 8-10 hours a day, on your birthday, the holidays or even on scheduled days off? Of course not. But do you think the customer really cares how you feel? Of course not! No customer walks into your establishment with an expectation of being dissatisfied. So you have to deliver Great Theater every day whether you feel like it or not.

When you perfect the delivery of the script, you perfect your performance. Break down your customer experience, act it like you mean it and deliver Great Theater. For example:

ACT ONE. Scene One.

 The Customer enters from offstage.

SERVICE PROVIDER: “Good afternoon, how may I help you?”

Motivation: Never say “May I help you?” If the customer is standing in front of you, he obviously needs help or he would have bypassed you completely.

CUSTOMER: “I believe I have a reservation. Last name is Smith.”

SERVICE PROVIDER: “Yes, Mr. Smith, we’ve been expecting you. Welcome to The Best.”

Direction: Maintain eye contact for at least seven seconds and smile as you say your lines.

Motivation:

  • As Dale Carnegie says in his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” So start with the customer’s name.
  • What do you think is the very first question running through the mind of a customer when coming up to an airline counter, front desk, host stand, or reception desk? That question is, “I wonder if they have my reservation?” So to establish a great first impression, incorporate this statement into your welcome, “We’ve been expecting you.” It immediately removes that mental dissatisfier and puts the customer at ease.
  • Follow that up with the name of your business.

Let it all flow together.

“Mr. Smith” (you’re very important to us). “We’ve been expecting you.” (No need to worry about your reservation. We have it.) “Welcome to . . .” (Where did Mr. Smith feel the most comfortable in interacting with a company? With you, of course. )

Define each scene in the customer experience and practice it often off stage. Never practice on the customer. Then perform your role so well that all your customers say to themselves and others that your service was the best that they have enjoyed in a long time. And when you deliver that kind of Great Theater performance consistently, you will build repeat business and customer loyalty.

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No Surprises. No Excuses.

Displeased young girl has a serious conversation with the hairdresser

“Customers perceive service in their own unique, idiosyncratic, emotional, irrational, end-of-the-day, and totally human terms. Perception is all there is!”

Tom Peters

When your customers call or walk into your establishment, they already have a perceived expectation of what your customer experience should be. Your advertising, website and salespeople, which serve a promise to your customers, have already shaped that expectation. Deliver on that promise and your customers come to trust you. Fall short and you have broken that promise and trust. For example, a restaurant menu is a promise to your customers that what is printed on the menu is what you have to offer. If you have to tell a customer that he has an old menu, the new menus haven’t been delivered by the printer and the dry-aged steak is not on the new menu, then to the customer, you failed. He doesn’t care about the printer. All he cares about is his steak. And you failed to deliver it. And his perception is all there is.

Customers don’t care that it’s your first day on the job. They don’t care that you are understaffed because someone called in sick. Customers don’t care that the computers were down when they called.  They only care that they are your customers.  They are willing to give you their hard-earned money in exchange for an experience that they feel is more valuable to them than their money.  And when they come to you, they never have an expectation that they will be dissatisfied.

So how do you live up to your customers’ expectations? At the very least the customer experience you deliver should be with no surprises and no excuses. To your customers, any experience less than their expectation is perceived as a dissatisfying surprise. And any reason you offer to explain why you could not deliver is perceived as an excuse. And their perception is all there is.

So do everything you can to make sure there are no negative surprises. Get rid of any potential dissatisfiers.  For example, remove forbidden phrases such as “I’ll be back in a second,” Can you hold for just a minute?” and “I’ll be right with you.” Such phrases only frustrate a customer when more than 60 seconds go by.  Review all the customer touchpoints and take any negative issue and make it a neutral.  Minimize wait times. Clean dirty restrooms. Create “no hassle” return or exchange policies.  Then, as Larry Winget, the Pitbull of Personal Development puts it, “Do what you said you would do, when you said you would do it, the way you said you would do it.”  That’s it. It’s that simple.  Just “do what you said you would do, when you said you would do it, the way you said you would do it.”

And if the customer is unpleasantly surprised because you could not deliver, then offer no excuses. Simply apologize. Even if the customer asks for a reason, just say, “It doesn’t matter. We failed. It should never have happened and I apologize.” Remove the surprise and offer some form of atonement.

To drive customer loyalty, deliver to each customer an experience that has “No Surprises. No Excuses.”

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Your Satisfied Customers Are Leaving You

Too often, the only way a business asks for customer feedback is with the question, “How was everything?” And for many owners and managers, the response “Everything was fine.” is enough. If you are one of those who is satisfied with “Fine”, then know that your customers are leaving you.

Think like a customer. You hear of a new restaurant in town. You decide to try it out. There is no hostess upon arrival. When she does return back to the stand five minutes later, she curtly asks “How many?” with no other greeting. During service the server wasn’t rude, but he certainly wasn’t exceptional. The meal took slightly longer to be served than you expected. The beverages were never refilled until you asked. Yet when the manager comes up to the table and asks, “So how is everything?”, what do you say? “Fine.” The manager is thinking, “Another satisfied customer,” but you’re thinking to yourself, “Never again.” Your customers are no different. If service is only adequate, there is no real desire to return.

Maybe that’s too harsh. What I’m saying is that if your customers perceive your service as merely satisfactory, it simply is not good enough for them to want to return. They’re perfectly satisfied for the moment, but they’ll switch to a competitor if something better comes along.

Loyalty among satisfied customers is fleeting. In fact, research conducted by Xerox and featured in a Harvard Business Review report by Thomas Jones and W. Earl Sasser, Jr. found out that on a 1-to-5 satisfaction scale, the very satisfied customers who ranked their experience a 4 were six times more likely to defect than the extremely satisfied customer who rated their experience a 5. Creating only satisfied customers will not build your business. In fact, if you are only creating satisfied customers, your business will suffer. Proof? How about KMart versus Wal-mart? Circuit Cityversus Best Buy? Borders versus Barnes and Noble?

Does your product have such an overwhelming quality or price advantage that your customers won’t consider your competitor? If not, then the key criteria to driving loyalty will be how your customers perceive their overall service experience.

If you want to retain your customers and grow your business, you need to deliver service that exceeds their expectations and fully satisfies them. So how do you do it? You must deliver a consistent experience without any dissatisfiers and full of positive Moments of Truth.

I’ve discussed dissatisfiers and Moments of Truth in previous posts. So what is the takeaway in this one? Continue to ask the question, “How was your experience?” And when a customer responds, “Fine,” immediately ask, “Is there any one thing we could have done to make it more enjoyable for you?” Then do whatever it takes to deliver it before he has a chance to walk out the door.

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Filed under Customer Experience, Customer Loyalty, Customer Satisfaction, Customer Service