Category Archives: Customer Satisfaction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The net-promoter concept

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

New analytic software, no scripts

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

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

New employee training strategy

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

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

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

 

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

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Martin Kramer: The Six Forms of Service

This is a guest post written by Martin Kramer, a fellow hospitality professional. Find out more about Martin and restaurant-academy.com at the end of the post. If you are a restaurant manager or server, I strongly recommend you follow his blogto learn more on how to create the World’s Best dining experience for your customers. You can also follow him on Twitter @R_Academy. For the rest of us, his blog is great insight about dining out from the inside. 

In the past, I have written about using the CASE Method to improve your personal delivery of customer service. What can you CASE from Martin’s insight on the six different forms of service?
 

Recently, I fell over some interesting ideas from the European psychologist, H. G. Haeusel. He explored 6 different forms of service that are appealing to our guests these days. I would like to share them with you, plus some ideas on how you can put them into action in your restaurant. Here we go:

With the “Happy Service” the guests are experiencing a little unexpected surprise, which are triggering happiness and joy within the guest.

  • It doesn’t matter in what kind and style of restaurant you work, arrange very small dishes to be served in between. It can be a soup in an espresso cup before the starter or a small sorbet as a refresher before the main course. Always a nice surprise and also serves as an up selling tool, when your guests are coming back next time. Of course, please confirm that with your manager.
  • Offering an umbrella service on the way to guests’ the car when it is raining, a shawl in case someone (most likely ladies) feels cold in the restaurant, offer reading glasses are just some examples for added surprises.
  • Also, providing attentive and special service to family with kids with little surprises keeps the kids occupied and the parents can enjoy their meal. Makes everyone in the restaurant happy!

“Easy Service” makes life for the guest easier. Things to do and decisions are been taken away from your guests, which might have been difficult or would have caused worries or even troubles:

  • Helping guests with the menu is always a nice touch. Often, they don’t really know about certain dishes, but are afraid to ask. Just explain a bit about the ‘tricky’ and uncommon dishes you have on your menu.
  • Hanging coats, pulling chairs out, escort to (or at least half way) the bathrooms might be common, but hardly carried out. Help your guests!
  • Also, if guests need to leave the restaurant during their meal for whatever reason, ask if you could keep the food warm in the kitchen. Guests usually appreciate that.

“Care Service”, it is important to recognize the guest and to handle the concern or request between human beings friendly and personalized way.

  • Notice your guests and stay focus when you talk to them.
  • Listen to your guests! This sound easy, but it is actually a skill that needs to be learned and practiced. Start today!
  • In case someone has a problem, show true empathy and that their concern, issue or problem is important to you.
  • If you can, solve the problem for your guests or pass along the issue to the person who can solve it. Just make sure, you are explaining the situation so the guest doesn’t need to repeat him or herself. At the end, ensure that the issue has been solved.
  • Sometimes guests forget something on the table, bench or bathroom. Make sure, you keep it, when you find it. In case you know the guests phone number, call them. If you have no information at all, keep it safe.

With “Trust Service” you build trust and make sure that this trust is justified constantly. Not only reliability needs to be part of it, trustworthiness and transparency are a must. In addition, in case something goes really wrong, a certain degree of fairness has to be shown.

  • When guests are visiting your restaurant, they trust the company, the kitchen and you that everything will be at least to their satisfaction. Show them that they can trust you.
  • Especially, if you have guests with certain food intolerances or allergies, it is a must to write down the requests, confirm with your kitchen and/ or let the guests know honestly, in case the request can or can’t be fulfilled. That builds trust.
  • In case of a justified complain, everything should be done (involve your superior) to handle the problem with sincerity and fairness, so that everybody is at least ok with the outcome.
  • Back to the topic of forgotten items; especially wallets, credit cards and other valuable items are very delicate to handle. Inform your superior immediately when you find something like that. Remember, building relationships with guests through trust, are usually the ones that lasts the longest.

Implementing “Power Service” means to fulfill guests’ needs, desires and demands as fast and efficient as possible, so nobody needs to wait or has to find solutions by themselves the hard way.

  • Observe the way you work! Is it fast, efficient, organized? Are there procedures, set-ups or changes you would need to be better and faster? Talk with your superior to implement them!
  • Ensure you are staying focused. If you are trying to do everything at the same time, the ‘disaster avalanche’ is rolling.
  • Understand your guest’s desires, needs and wishes. Find them out through observation, listening and asking!
  • Let’s be specific; once you know what the guest wants – go and get it done! Fast, smart and efficient! That’s what makes your guests feel special! Don’t loose time!

Very important is also the “VIP Service”, where not only celebrities and other high profile guests are counted to, rather then giving every one of your guests the feeling and assurance he or she is the most important person. If a guest is getting even just a small fraction of being categorized into the ‘unimportant’ section, all efforts of delivering any kind of service are loosing its sincerity and meaning.

  • One of the most often carried out behaviors showing no interest in guests is to look at the next table, screen the restaurant or just daze away while placing a plate in front of guests or taking the orders. Honestly, this is horrible and unacceptable! Stay with your guests, look at them, give them a smile and maybe even pronounce the dish shortly and friendly. Makes even the food tastes better…seriously!
  • Eye contact and focus is the key again.
  • Mostly guests feel categorized unconsciously, especially when they are seen as ‘not so important’ and you can pull your leg out trying to make them happy again, it won’t work.
  • You want to make your guest feel like a VIP? Remember them when they come back next time and pay full attention to their needs, everytime. It’s not always easy, but a lot of fun!

I am quite sure, you are doing a few of those ‘services’ already anyway, but I think it is interesting to become aware of them and use them more consciously to improve your services and grow yourself.

All forms of service mentioned are holding a huge power in themselves individually, but if you combine all of them into your way of service and find more things you and your colleagues can do in each ‘category’, the results in terms of guest satisfaction will soar!

Even though the examples I pointed out above are for restaurants specifically, however, if you have a very close look at the general descriptions of the forms of service, I bet you get ideas what you could implement in your environment and business almost instantly to greatly increase your customer service.

Also, have a look in which areas you already succeed and where some improvements could be necessary. No matter if you are the boss of the company or an employee; sit down with your colleagues and brainstorm ideas to increase your service within these ‘categories’ to add more value to your customers. That would mean you are adding value to the company and therefore to yourself and your team!

Give it a try and enjoy the ride!

About Martin

My name is Martin Kramer, born in Hannover, Germany. So far, I worked for more then a decade in luxury hotels and resorts in Germany, the USA, Thailand and Indonesia. A Bachelor degree from a well-known hospitality management school in Heidelberg, Germany, majoring marketing, could have led me into several departments of hotels, but I love Food & Beverage and restaurants, so I decided to stick with it and apply as well as increase my knowledge in that area.

Recently, I started my own website www.restaurant-academy.com to provide useful information for waitresses and waiters to become more successful and satisfied with their job – keeping in mind that guest satisfaction and exceeding guest expectations are the key ingredients for any successful restaurant operation. In short; happy staff = happy guests and happy guests are leading to a successful restaurant operation.

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I Know Ritz-Carlton and You’re No Ritz-Carlton

We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.
Ritz-Carlton Motto

We recently decided to visit a golf resort here in North Michigan. It touted having spent $14 million dollars in renovations. While it is the off-season, as a former resort general manager, I still wanted to check out what was new and different. (Yes, it’s what resort GM’s do on vacation.)

Walking through the brand new lobby, we approached the front desk. The agent asked me for my last name. I said, “It’s KEY-sing. Starts with a Q-U-I”. She looked down at her computer, typed the letters, then looked right up at me, and asked, “How would you pronounce that?” Seriously. Then she asks me for a photo ID. Now I know that the controller wants to catch the one guest out of 10,000 who might scam the resort, but for the other 9,999 of us, you’re basically telling us that you don’t trust us. Not a great first impression. After proving to her that I was actually who I said I was, she gave me the room key. While I may have rolled in my luggage, I could have used bell assistance to tell us how to get to our room. No such luck.

I was struggling in front of the room with four pieces of luggage, having propped the door with one of them, when a room service attendant passed by. She smiled and then practically sprinted by me to catch the elevator before it went back down.

After a three hour drive, we weren’t up for being cloistered in the room ordering room service. So we went back downstairs and found out that the only two outlets open for dinner were the fine dining restaurant and the sports bar. We weren’t dressed for elegant dining, but when we went to the Sports Bar, it was so poorly lit that it looked like a cave lighted only by the big screen TV. The menu was limited to bar food appetizers. So we opted to travel into town.

I’m a souvenir collector when it comes to vacations, so the next morning  I walked to the brochure rack next to the bellstand to pick up a resort brochure. There were three bellpersons talking to each other near the stand. And while I was scrutinizing the rack to find a brochure that wasn’t there, none of them offered assistance. Rather than disturb them, I walked away. Never did get a brochure.

At checkout, the only parting remarks from the front desk agent was, “You’re all set.”

Nobody raves about average, but everybody rants about nothing. While I liked the new Great Room lobby and appreciated the flat screen TVs and free Wi-Fi, I have come to expect that in a first-class resort. So I’m really not inclined to jump over to TripAdvisor to give them a Five Star review. In fact, I’m ranting in this post to say that the resort actually fell short in service. When I pay more for a king bedded room in one resort than the same size bed in another resort in the same area, I know I’m not paying the premium for the product or the setting.  I’m paying more because I think the services offered are going to be better. So I have high expectations of what that service should look and feel like. Unfortunately, my actual experience didn’t meet my expectations. It would have been “nothing” for the front desk agents or bell attendants to personalize my arrival and departure experiences. It would have been “nothing” for the room service attendant to lend a hand in helping me move the luggage into the room. Not exactly Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen. In doing their jobs and nothing more, they were average. And nobody raves about average. Disappointed that my experience did not meet my expectations, I rant about the “nothings.”

People are willing to pay much more of a premium to stay at a Ritz-Carlton. And despite paying that premium, people still rave about the exceptional service delivered by the Ladies and Gentlemen of Ritz-Carlton. So what is their secret? Actually it’s not a secret, at all. Ritz-Carlton gives us the blueprint to their success. Simply Google “Ritz-Carlton service” and you will find any number of articles written about the subject or the Amazon listing for Joseph Michelli’s book about Ritz-Carlton, The New Gold Standard. Better yet, go directly to the Ritz-Carlton page on their website that defines the brand’s Motto, Credo and Gold Standards. You also will find the foundation for their exceptional service in The Three Steps of Service:

A warm and sincere greeting. Practice the 10-5 rule. At 10 feet, acknowledge the customer with eye contact and at 5 feet, greet the customer with “Good morning/afternoon/evening” and a smile. Use the customer’s name after it’s been given whenever the opportunity arises.

Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest’s needs. Define customer expectations of the timeline of touchpoints during the customer experience. First remove all the potential dissatisfiers that could displease a customer. Then proactively look for opportunities to create a “small wow” that goes above the customers expectations. It could be something as simple as assisting a customer you may see standing in front of the store directory or looking up at the store directionals.

Fond Farewell. Sincerely thank the customer for choosing you and offer a warm good-bye. Again, use the customer’s name once it’s been given. Better yet, consider an after the sale follow-up phone call or thank you note.

Seems simple enough: Warm welcome, Magic Moment, Fond Farewell. But if it’s that simple, why, then, isn’t customer service everywhere like Ritz-Carlton? The real secret is in the huddles held daily in each department in every Ritz-Carlton and consistent execution of The Three Steps of Service by their Ladies and Gentlemen. So to build your customers’ perception that your service is dependably exceptional, then perform the Three Steps of Service courteously in your personal delivery of service with each customer every day. If you are a customer service leader, remind your Ladies and Gentlemen daily of The Three Steps of Service and recognize and celebrate frequently those you see deliver The Three Steps to your customers.

QUI TAKEAWAY: Make this common sense Three Steps mantra – a warm welcome, anticipation and fulfillment of each customer’s needs and a fond farewell – truly common practice with your customers and you’ll soon be earning a reputation for service like Ritz-Carlton.

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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.

QUI TAKEAWAY: 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. )

QUI TAKEAWAY: 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.

QUI TAKEAWAY: 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.

Be Your 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.

So what is the QUI 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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To be the World’s Best, Create Their Experience, Not Yours.

How do you get your customers to feel that their experience with your business is so over the top that they want to tell the world? In order for them to be that delighted, you have to answer this question for your customer “What would World’s Best look like?” or “WWWBLL” (pronounced “Weeble”).  And it is not “World’s Best” as you see it, but it is “World’s Best” as your customer expects it. Once you understand the WWWBLL expectation of your customer, then you need to deliver that experience consistently. There are Three Principles to delivering the WWWBLL experience:

  1. Be Your Customer.
  2. Create Their Experience.
  3. Make a Difference.

I addressed Principle One in a previous blog. On to Principle Two.

Principle Two of the WWWBLL Experience: Create Their Experience.

Customers walk into your establishment with expectations. Creating their experience means understanding those expectations. Too often, businesses are telling their customers, “Here’s what we offer that is different from our competitors?” Instead they should not focus on the “what” but on the “why” they offer it and make sure the “why” is important to the customer. When I was general manager for a business hotel, we offered free high-speed internet, a mouse pad, and upon request, at no charge, in room computer printers and basic office supplies. We thought the reason why guests chose us over our competitors was because we created an atmosphere where they could be more productive. We invited our frequent corporate guests and meeting planners for lunch to confirm that we were on the right track. To our surprise, we were not only on the wrong track; we were going in the opposite direction. They said, “We aren’t looking to be more productive when we get back to the hotel. In fact, we do that all day when we are out there pounding the pavement or making sure the meeting runs smoothly. When we get back into the room, all we want to do is decompress. Offer us things that allow us to do that.”

In our case, the reason “why” customers selected our hotel was not to be more productive, rather it was to relax. Once we knew that, we offered amenities and services suggested by our guests that allowed them to do just that. The list included Bose® IPod speakers, aromatherapy candles, memory foam pillows or foot massagers upon request, an extensive wines by the glass room service menu and in room massages. Of course, we continued to offer the other amenities but we had created loyalists and advocates of our hotel because we asked and answered the right question, “Why?” We had created their experience, not ours.

Once you have created their experience by understanding the “why” from your customer, then deliver that experience consistently. Make sure you remove all the potential dissatisfiers. Just ask this question, “Is there any one thing we could have done to make your experience more enjoyable?” Whatever your customer mentions is a dissatisfier. Do all you can to eliminate each dissatisfier from future experiences.

But meeting the expectations of your customer by addressing the reason why he wants to do business with you and removing all the dissatisfiers only gets you to be competitive. What do you need to do to stand out and become your customer’s “World’s Best” favorite?

PRINCIPLE THREE OF THE WWWBLL EXPERIENCE: Make a Difference.

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To be the World’s Best, Be Your Customer.

How do you get your customers to feel that their experience with your business is so over the top that they want to tell the world? In order for them to be that delighted, you have to answer this question for your customer “What would World’s Best look like?” or “WWWBLL”.  And it is not “World’s Best” as you or others see it, but it is “World’s Best” as they perceive it. Once you understand the expectation of WWWBLL for your customer, then you need to deliver that experience consistently. There are Three Principles to answering the WWWBLL question: Be Your Customer. Create Their Experience. Make a Difference.

Principle One of the WWWBLL Experience: Be Your Customer

To your customers, their perception is their reality. Jan Carlzon, then president of SAS Airlines, coined the phrase “Moment of Truth,” which defined any time a customer comes into contact with any aspect of a business, and based upon the collective sum of those “Moments of Truth” forms an unshakeable perception of that company.

Why is the male grooming standard at Disney theme parks so strict? If children are not brought to Walt Disney World by their parents, they are brought there by their grandparents. Ask Grandma if she would leave her grandchild in the care of the teen attendant with the body tattoos, long hair, beard and multiple body piercings – a Moment of Truth. Grandma may not say it, but she’s certainly thinking, “Of course not! If he’s not doing drugs, he’s probably selling drugs.” That attendant could be Disney’s Cast Member of the Month. It doesn’t matter. Grandma’s perception is her reality.

If you dine in a restaurant for the first time, have a decent meal, but, at the end, step into the restroom – a Moment of Truth – and you find it filthy, you may not return. You are thinking to yourself, “If the owner doesn’t feel restroom cleanliness is important, he probably doesn’t think it’s important in the kitchen either.” Your perception is that if the restroom looks and smells this bad, then how clean could the kitchen be. And your perception is your reality.

Customers buy with emotion and justify that decision with their own logic. Customers are willing to pay a premium, above what others might define as reasonable, because emotionally it makes them feel better. Think about a Four Star resort spa experience. The reality is that you will go into a private room and take off all your clothes. A complete stranger is going to come into that room and for fifty minutes touch you all over your body. And for that experience you are going to pay the spa about a hundred dollars. Realistically why would you do that? Because emotionally you believe you feel so much more relaxed, it was worth it. Your perception is your reality.

If you want to relax at home, envision yourself in a “Calgon, Take Me Away” moment, soaking in a bubble bath, surrounded by candles and listening to Kenny G. You can go to any dollar store and buy a pack of ten emergency candles for a dollar. That makes each candle just ten cents – very reasonable. But for some of you, that is laughable. If you are going to relax, dollar store candles just won’t do. You’ll go back to that spa and get one of their scented candles. The spa sells their candles for ten dollars each. You could get one hundred dollar store candles for the price of just one spa candle. One hundred candles! You could have a bonfire in the bathroom with those candles! But which candle would make you feel better? You’d say it’s because the spa candle smells like mango-papaya. I could tell you that you could go back to the dollar store to buy air fresheners, pop them open and put them all over the bathroom. But you’d respond that it just wouldn’t feel the same as how the spa candle would make you feel. And as hard as I might argue, your perception is your reality. You, thinking like a customer, are willing to pay a premium because it makes you feel better. Now you are being your customer.

QUI TAKEAWAY: Your customers’ perceptions are their reality and they buy with emotion. Their expectation of customer service is no different. Maya Angelou said it best, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” If your customers’ Moments of Truth interactions with your business are “wow’s” and, in the end, they feel great, they will be sure to tell their world of family and friends. So how do you create an experience that will emotionally bond your customer to your company?

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