Category Archives: Training

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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Filed under Customer Experience, Customer Satisfaction, Customer Service, Hospitality, Training

Do you have a Customer Service Manifesto?

Imagine if you could get each person on your team focused on the same vision and commitment to the delivery of the World’s Best experience for each customer. Your company’s service reputation would be broadcast so loudly by all of your customer loyalists that you easily would dominate your competition. So how do you do it? How do you get everyone on your team reading from the same book? Simple. Put it in writing. Literally let them read from the same book.

Create your customer service manifesto. Your manifesto is a declaration of your company’s customer service creed, principles and intentions. Do not confuse this booklet with the employee handbook. The latter defines the legal responsibilities of the company and the employee.  Your manifesto defines your company’s service culture. The employee handbook defines the limitations of personal performance. Your customer service manifesto defines the principles that each team member should aspire to perform. Big difference.

Why is writing your customer service manifesto so important? Review your company’s first day orientation agenda for a new employee. I am sure you will find that, while benefits are reviewed, much more time is spent on company policy – email and social media guidelines, conduct on and off duty, house rules, safety, sexual harassment, and on and on. It’s like saying to a new employee, “Welcome to the company. Now here is how you can get fired.” On the first day, you spend more time explaining the obstacles more than you do how to go above and beyond to wow your customer. What’s wrong with that picture?

Your manifesto will let your employees know that you are committed to service that is not hindered by rules. Discussed separately from the rules and regulations, you initiate new employees to fully grasp the value and importance of customer service. The principles within the manifesto define the level of service to which you wish each employee to aspire. So what are the components for a customer service manifesto? Here you go:

Mission Statement – Your mission statement should answer three simple questions: What do you do? How do you do it? Who is your customer?  Keep it short. Your mission statement should be memorable and easily recitable. Disney offers one of the best examples of a mission statement:  (What do you do?) We create happiness (How do you do it?) by offering the finest in entertainment  (Who is your customer?) for people of all ages, everywhere. It is simple, yet aspirational. What is your mission? Is it memorable? Can your employees get passionate about it?

Your Company Heritage – Most businesses give a new employee a historical timeline of major events. But a heritage is something more. A heritage incorporates the “why” behind the “who, what and when”.  A heritage is the storytelling of the rich tradition of your company. Marriott employees all know the story of newly wed J.W. and Alice Marriott’s trek from Salt Lake City to Washington, D.C., the nine stool Hot Shoppe where J.W sold 5 cent A&W root beer, and the sticky nickels hand carried to the bank by Alice Marriott. What is your company’s story?

Core Values – The core values for Baptist Health Care are Integrity, Vision, Innovation, Superior Service, Stewardship and Teamwork. Yum! Brands employees focus on CHAMPS: Cleanliness, Hospitality, Accuracy, Maintenance, Product Quality, Speed of Service. What are the pillars on which your company is built?

Appearance Standards – To the customer, the employee is the company and first impressions do matter. Your message here should convey that an employee’s appearance should be a reflection of your company’s professionalism and not an employee’s personal style.

Performance Tips – Define the specific behaviors that can guide employees to act courteously with customers in person, on the phone and on-line. Include in this section the forbidden phrases like “Honey, Sweetheart.” “I don’t know.” “You should have . . .” and “To be honest with you . . .” while offering performance expectations such as answering any ringing phone within three rings or an email within 8 hours, as well as using the person’s name at every opportunity. You know how to properly interact with customers. How do you want your employees to act? Tell them by writing it down.

Service Recovery – Marriott Hotels uses the service recovery acronym LEARN: Listen, Empathize, Apologize, Respond, Notify (your supervisor and co-workers so that it does not happen again to future customers). Other businesses use the acronym LAST: Listen. Apologize. Solve. Thank (the customer for bringing the issue to your attention). What are the service recovery steps that you expect every employee to take when confronted with a dissatisfied customer?

Experience Flow Chart – Jan Carlzon, then CEO of SAS Airlines, defined a Moment of Truth as “anytime a customer comes into contact with any aspect of a business, however remote . . . to form an impression.” Whether you call it an experience flow chart or experience journey map, plot all the emotional touchpoints of the customer’s experience. The employee can then be more aware of the key opportunities to wow your customers.

Aspiration page – This last page could be customer testimonials, motivational or customer service quotes or a parable like The Starfish Finder. (Google “Starfish Finder” if you haven’t heard of this story). This last page should serve as aspiration that one person truly can make a difference in the experience of a customer.

But merely writing and distributing the customer service manifesto at orientation is not enough. Spend time with the new employee to give your personal interpretation of the meaning and importance of the key components.

QUI TAKEAWAY: Samuel Johnson said, “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.” Ritz-Carlton established itself as one of the finest luxury hotel brands by mandating a daily line-up where that day’s Ritz Carton Credo card’s performance tip is reviewed. So refer to your manifesto often and ideally discuss daily one item within it  to instill in each employee your company’s mission, values, and performance expectations. And when you do, you will see that each employee will deliver consistently the World’s Best Experience to every one of your customers.

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

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

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

Connect.

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

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

Inspire.

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

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

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

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

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

Empower

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

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

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

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

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

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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

Customers are paying for their experience, not your service. And customers buy with emotion and justify that decision with reason.

Several weeks ago, 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!

Last Saturday, while I was at home, my wife lost her keys at the local Walmart. Her keys were her car keys, the condo apartment keys, and the remote of the complex security gate. Fortunately, she had taken my car keys, but she had panicked and asked if anyone had found her keys. The Walmart service people had not and after searching for them throughout the store, told her they could call her back if they found her keys. Even though she was safely back home, she was distraught. After an hour she called, but they had not yet found them. Minutes later, we received a call to tell her that she could pick up her keys. We quickly came back and when we arrived, the supervisor exclaimed, “We found it!” and the security guard gave the keys to us. My wife was ecstatic, thanking them many times over.

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 in the vitamin shop, 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 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.

To many customers, shopping at Walmart is satisfactory. Satisfied customers feel service is good, not better, just average. Nobody raves about average. And satisfied customers will leave when they find something better or less expensive. Walmart may lose many keys in a week, so much so, that service people may think keys are no big deal. But, like customers who lose their keys, my wife feels that those keys were a BIG DEAL to her. Customers have an emotional connection with you. The more emotional the connections, the more memorable the experiences, the more loyal the customers. And loyal customers will return again and again, raving about you to others along the way. 

QUI TAKEAWAY: Put on your customer experience hat. When you serve customers remember, “To the customer, you are not the representative of the company. 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. Customers don’t know how big you are. They only know how big you care about them.

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The M&M of Employee Engagement

colorful candy background closeup detail
Management is no longer merely a task-oriented discipline. To be a successful manager, not only do you need to effectively direct your employees, you need to have them understand their role in the bigger picture of the company’s image to your customers. Your customers are not a captive audience. They do not need to do business with you. You have to create a reason why they want to do business with only you. The only tangible difference between you and your competitor is not your product or service you sell, but rather the service that your employees provide your customers during their interaction. The success of your business rests on your staff’s ability to encourage return business as a result of superior customer service.

Ultimately customer satisfaction begins with employee satisfaction. Yet, too often, management overlooks the day-to-day contributions employees make to the business. Some business leaders will claim, “We have the best wages and benefits among our competitors. Isn’t that good enough? And I’d say, “If the only thing your people get out of their job is a paycheck, you, as a leader, have failed.” One of the top reasons why employees leave a company is not because of the rate of pay or benefits. It is because they felt they did not get recognized for their efforts. At the same time, your employees will only deliver the level of service that they have experienced within your business. With that in mind, you must ensure that your employees understand their key role in the success of your business and are recognized for their efforts. In order to accomplish this, incorporate in your management style these two M’s – Motivation and Maintenance.

Motivation

Motivation begins with the selection (You don’t hire. You select) process and continues through onboarding. During the interview, you should explain to the prospective employee the critical “key role” in maintaining the highest level of customer courtesy. Thereafter, ensure that each new employee goes through an extensive orientation program that not only includes the tasks of their job, but also the vision and specific proven performance tips to deliver your expectation of customer service.

This orientation sets the tone of your company’s commitment to the customer and reinforces the “key role” concept you discussed in the selection interview. Continue on-the-job instruction with a designated coach. The key criterion for the selection of your coach should be an outgoing, friendly character which captures what you want to project as your company’s personality. Be sure that the coach is aware of your expectations of the delivery of the customer service performance standards.

Keep your employees informed. The #1 complaint employees have of their company is the lack of communication. They want to feel that they are “in the know”. Conduct regular meetings to inform the staff of the status of the business and its forecasted future. Be honest with them. To create a customer focused culture, distribute and post thank you letters or testimonials received from customers. Consider maintaining a Facebook page specifically for your employees that would periodically remind them of their focus on customer service. That page can serve as an advertisement of the company culture for prospective employees. Your employees will be more concerned about their job performance if they are more aware of their business.

Acknowledge your employees as members of your professional family. Recognize special dates or occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, family births, or illnesses. Birthdays are very important as your employees know that they are working on their birthday and expect their manager to know, as well. Announce these so everyone knows and send the appropriate cards or flowers. Organize pot luck luncheons or picnics, holiday dinners, or even baby showers. Remember that if you show special consideration for your employees, they, in turn, will take better care of your customers and your business.

Create recognition programs. Special appreciation such as Random Acts of Kindness Awards, given to employees who are named by your customers as offering stellar service instill in the recipients a sense of pride that their contributions have been recognized by you. A commendation letter delivered via mail to an employee’s home or a gift card for dinner with their family serve to have the employee’s family understand and appreciate the employee’s commitment to your business.

Utilize inexpensive motivational tools. Hang a mirror in the office with a sign above it that says; “Smile, You Are (Your Company’s Name.) This conveys that each employee’s appearance is a reflection of your business. Stamp paychecks with morale boosters. Put up posters that depict themes of success and teamwork. Successories and Baudville are two companies that offer such products to deliver great motivational messages.

Maintenance.

Maintenance, in this sense, is synonymous with consistency. The continuation of any of the programs you start is essential. Do not begin a special program only to drop it soon after your employees come to appreciate it and look forward to it. If you begin a newsletter bulletin board, posting the names of new employees, employee birthdays and anniversaries, promotions, customer appreciation letters, and in-house activities then you must maintain it monthly with current topics.

Visible management is essential. Practice the “Inspect What You Expect” and CBWA  or “Caring by Walking About” credos. Follow up on your training programs. Remind your employees with any updated techniques, as well as a refresher course on customer service. Conduct employee surveys or better yet, hold regular group discussions with a small number of your staff, to get maximum input and participation from each employee. Be visible and be available to your employees.

QUI TAKEAWAY: Ultimately, your employees drive customer satisfaction. Do not take for granted the immense impact a concerned, vital group of employees can do to enhance the image and success of your business. Whether it is through recognition programs or your visible management, your employees must sense and believe in your conviction that they are your competitive edge – the reason why customers will return to your business.

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When It Comes to Service Training, Once Is Never Enough

A wife sits on the sofa next to her husband who is reading his laptop. She says, “I love you.” No response. She says a little louder, “I love you.” Complete silence. She then questions directly, “You know, I say ‘I love you’ a lot to you, but you never say it back to me. Why is that?”  The husband looks up from his computer and declares “Look, I said I loved you when we got married. If that should change, I’ll let you know.”

Now, really, do you think that is enough to sustain the love? Of course not. If you want to be recognized for your commitment to personal values like trust, honesty, or respect, you must practice, not simply preach. It is no different for your business values when you are leading others. Too often, the value of service excellence is communicated only at new employee orientation and the on-the-job training during the first week with no reinforcement thereafter. That is simply not enough to drive consistent customer care performance. And while I enjoy presenting my customer experience seminars to clients, I always let them know that learning about customer service cannot be seen as an event, but must be seen as a process. If your intent is to drive customer service excellence, you need to say it and your team needs to hear it more than just one time.

One of my favorite quotes is from Samuel Johnson, “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.” You must continually remind your team that when it comes to customer service, being consistently good is better than being occasionally great. Here are a few ideas:

  • Make sure customer service values and skills are included in the job description and reviewed at each performance evaluation.
  • Check out Successories.com, Baudville.com or SimpleTruths.com for ideas on creating and reinforcing a sustained customer focused message.
  • If your company has an intranet, use the screensaver feature to remind your team of your customer service values.
  • Post thank you letters from customers in a prominent area where your team can read them.
  • If you receive a compliment from a customer on your voice mail, broadcast it to the others on your team.
  • Write a letter of commendation recognizing a specific customer service act that can be placed in the associate’s personnel file. Send the letter to the associate’s home. What is your ratio of written thank you notes or commendations versus written corrective action notices? In order to create a culture of customer care, the ratio should be 3 to 1, and better still 5 to 1.
  • Review social media sites to recognize any employee who has been mentioned positively by customers. 
  • Recognize an individual’s act of kindness that was appreciated by a customer with a small token of acknowledgement. (movie tickets, free dry cleaning, a  day off with pay)
  • Start every meeting with an opportunity for attendees to thank someone in the group for their actions in support of internal or external customer care.
  • Periodically send out reminder messages via email, paycheck stuffer or company newsletter on the importance of the customer. If you are short of ideas, take a look at my Facebook page that offers customer service tips, quotes and insight from various sources.
  • Always serve as a role model by interacting and responding to each individual on your team with the intent to live the credo first used by Jan Carlzon, president of SAS Airlines, “If you’re not taking care of the customer, you better be taking care of the person who is.”

QUI TAKEAWAY: Commit to periodically reminding your team of the value of customer service excellence. Otherwise their delivery of exceptional service will be inconsistent. It’s up to you to commit to their lifelong learning because once is never enough.

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Your voice mail greeting is costing you business.

Angry Business Man Hears Something Annoying on His Phone

Of course, the best customer service is to have any person answer any phone ringing. But if you’ve decided that voice mail is acceptable, does your voice mail greeting sound something like this: “This is (My Name). I am either away from my desk or on the phone. . . ”  or “You have reached the office of . . .” or “You have reached the desk of . . .”  If yours sounds like any of those, then your voice mail greeting is costing you business.

Be your customer:

  1. In a phone conversation, there are two people on the line – your customer and you. With your greeting, of the two of you on the phone, who are you saying is more important – you or your customer? If you have one of those “I am either away from the desk or on the phone” you’re saying to your customer, “I’m so important that I have to tell you where I am even when I’m not here.” Now really, do you think your customer cares what you’re doing when you can’t take his call? Really?
  2. Do you really want your customer to think that you believe your office or your desk are animate objects that actually answer the phone on your behalf? Your customers don’t want a relationship with your office or your desk. They want one with you.
  3. When your customer calls you, do you think he really wants to get your voice mail?

Remember, the customer is paying for his experience, not yours. Whatever you think is your reason you give on voice mail for not answering the phone, whether you really are away from your desk or on the phone – your experience – is still perceived as an excuse by your customer for not being there – his experience.

So what should it sound like? How about something like this:

“At Your Service, this is Your Name, Your Position for Your Company. I apologize that I’m unable to take your call personally at this time. Press the one key at any time to begin recording. My email address is SPELL OUT YOUR NAME @Your Company. If you wish, please leave your name and number and the best time to contact you, and I will return your call. Thank you for calling.”

“At Your Service” . . . It’s a reminder to your customer that you understand what your role is in the business relationship. And it will certainly differentiate you from your competition.

“I apologize . . .” What the customer is hearing is: “Since I’m not here to speak to you as you expected, I want to apologize. . .”

“ . . to take your call personally . . .”. Customer service is all about relationships. Given a choice, people would always prefer to buy from people they know, like, and trust.  And people like and trust more those people who personalize the experience for each individual customer.

“Press the one key. . . ” so that they know what to do on future calls.

“My email address . . . “ Rather than play telephone tag, many callers who can’t connect with you on the phone will send an email immediately after hanging up.

“Thank you for calling.” People also buy from people who want their business. How do you show someone you want their business? Just say “Thank you.”

There is one group who will read this and say to themselves, “Boy, that’s over the top. It’s not that big of a deal. It’s only voice mail. I’ll just stay with my greeting.” There is another group who will read this and will say to themselves and others who work in their organization that they will adopt my VM greeting example because it removes a potential customer dissatisfier. They understand that they cannot begin to truly satisfy a customer until they remove all the potential dissatisfiers. That second group makes every effort to remove any potential dissatisfiers, even what they believe may be a small one because they “think like their customer.” And if it’s a big deal to the customer,  it’s a big deal to them. And that second group, well, they’re competing with the first group for the same customer and differentiating themselves from their competitors. Which group are you in?

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Filed under Customer Service, Hospitality, Marketing, Training

WWWBLL’s wobble but they don’t fall down.

The customer service business is full of acronyms and abbreviations: CSAT, CEM, KPI, NPS.  For those who want to drive their companies to stand above their competition, let me add one more – WWWBLL. “WWWBLL” is pronounced “Weeble” just like the roly-poly toys. The toys’ tagline was “Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down.” WWWBLL stands for “What Would World’s Best Look Like?” And just like Weebles, the World’s Best companies may wobble in this economy but they certainly won’t fall down. So to stand above your competition, define “What would World’s Best look like” for your customer and then work very hard to deliver it.

Customers make a buying decision on three criteria: cost, location and reputation. According to Ken Irons in Market Leader, 70% of a brand’s reputation is based on the customer’s perception of the interaction they have with people. Nowadays it is not only your customers’ personal interactions and subsequent word-of-mouth advertising that will drive your reputation; it is also the viral impact when those interactions are posted on social media sites like TripAdvisor, Twitter, Facebook, or Yelp. Times have certainly changed when all you had to do to build your reputation was to include handpicked testimonials in your sales packets or advertisements. Now customers reading these third-party sites take the reviews as gospel from people they have never and most likely will never meet. Communications expert Michael Angelo Caruso has identified this tendency of web surfers, “If they hear it from us it is advertising. If they hear it from someone else, it’s the truth.”

If you are in their preferred location and if your reputation is WWWBLL, then customers will come back and tell others about you. The only way to drive such rave reviews is by having your customers feel that the experience you offered was so over the top that they want to tell the world. So how do you do that? How do you create a customer experience that answers the question “What Would World’s Best look like? There are Three Principles: Be Your Customer. Create Their Experience. Make a Difference.

 

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Filed under Customer Loyalty, Customer Service, Training

The customer is paying for his experience, not yours.

Customer Satisfaction Blue Grey HorizontalThe goal of any business is to attract and retain customers. And customers actually make it very easy for you. No customer walks into your establishment and says to you, “Here is my money. Now, dissatisfy me please.” In fact, your customer comes in with an expectation that what you offer could be more valuable than his money. Nobody knowingly expects to pay good money for a poor product or service.

If it’s so easy, why isn’t your business doing so well that you are literally turning away customers? It’s because you already are turning away customers and you may not even know it. You cannot think you are only selling a commodity or service to your customers. You are not in the product business. You’re not even in the service business. You are in the experience business.

Think of your top three competitors. They have a similar product. In fact, if your competitors really wanted to, they could come pretty close to replicating it. What they can’t replicate are your people. And it is your people who deliver your experience. An American Express survey found that 70 percent of consumers are willing to spend an average of 13 percent more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service. So the good news is that if you understand that your company is in the experience business and you get the experience right, you reap more revenue and repeat customers.

The bad news is that, in the same survey, 78 percent of consumers claimed they have abandoned a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of a poor service experience.

Ultimately, for you to retain your customers you have to understand that you are in the experience business and the customer is paying for his experience, not yours.

So how do you create an experience that will retain your customers and attract new ones? Here’s how in just three steps:

  1. No Surprises.
  2. No Excuses.
  3. One Percent more.

No Surprises. Find out what that expectation is of your customer. Then deliver it plus one percent more. That’s a take on the “Underpromise. Overdeliver” service mantra. As a hotel general manager, I defined that the restaurant could never run out of any item that was on the menu. Be the Customer. The menu was actually our promise in writing. If the customer orders and the server says they have just run out of it, then it is an unexpected bad surprise for the customer. The server, manager and chef thinks it’s OK to run out of something – our experience. If they kept everything in stock beyond demand it would lead to higher food costs – still our experience. But the customer sees it on the menu and expects that he can get it with no surprises – his experience. And the bottom line is the customer is paying for his experience, not ours.

No Excuses. Of course, on busy nights, we did sell out of certain items or it took too long for an order to be served. Step two: No excuses. “I’m sorry, we had more people order that than we expected.” or “I’m sorry, we’re a little understaffed tonight.” All that is really the restaurant’s experience – our experience. Be the customer. The customer decided to eat in the restaurant with the expectation of being satisfied. Any reason the restaurant gives to the customer is “heard” as an attempt to explain why the restaurant could not deliver – an excuse. Here is what the customer is hearing “So what that you’re sorry. I still don’t’ have what I wanted.” No excuses. Better to respond to your customers with an “I apologize.” Since you could not deliver their expected experience, you need to give them something, at the very least, a sincere apology. Then follow up with a gesture of atonement.

One Percent More. Deliver an experience that is just a bit more than what the customer expected. For example, customers expect your business to open on time. Be the customer. As a customer, doesn’t it frustrate you when you go to a store that clearly posts that it will open at 8:30 a.m. and it actually unlocks the door for its first customer at 8:45 a.m. – their experience. And if you were that customer on your way to work, didn’t that 15 minutes seem more like an eternity with each passing minute – your experience. And as the customer, you were paying for your experience, not theirs. Your customers expect the same from your business. So what’s the 1%? Just make it a Best Practice to open 10 minutes before and stay open 10 minutes after your posted times. Remember, to the customer, it is not the one big wow that will separate you from your competitors; it will be the 1001 little “wows”, those one percents, that will make the big difference.

QUI TAKEAWAY: The customer is paying for his experience, not yours. Deliver their experience with no bad surprises and if there is a surprise for the customer, apologize and fix it with no excuses. And always add just that one percent more.

 

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“If you knew then what you know now” in 140 characters.

If you want only a five-minute speech, it will take me two weeks to prepare.” — Mark Twain.

In just the recent past, job coaches were recommending that candidates have an elevator speech ready for any opportunity. Then it became a sound bite. Now a candidates’ opportunity may be only within the 280 characters of Twitter. So let’s turn the tables. As a leader, you serve as a mentor for the people who will want to succeed. They use Twitter as much as we use email. So in 280 characters, what advice would you give? Sorry, no short links or video allowed. I’ll compile and publish the very best, crediting you. So what worldly leadership wisdom would you tweet?

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Filed under Leadership, Training