Tag Archives: customer service

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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Filed under Customer Loyalty, Customer Satisfaction, Training

Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.

“Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.” Erma Bombeck

What do dead plants in the waiting room have to do with the skill of the doctor? Logically nothing, but to the customer, everything.

When we are sick, we go to the doctor because we do not know what is making us sick. The doctor is the expert. Even if he misdiagnoses the illness and prescribes the wrong medicine, we would still take his word for it since we have no experience in medical diagnosis. We assume that the doctor is the trusted authority. In fact, we assume it so much that we don’t ask the doctor to prove it. No one has ever walked into a doctor’s office to ask “Before you examine me, from what medical school did you graduate?” We take his expertise for granted because we have no benchmark.

But we can judge a doctor on what we do know. We know what clean and orderly looks like. We know what friendly looks and sounds like. We know what waiting too long feels like. And we certainly know what dead looks like. And with past experiences we can judge how our doctor visit stacks up to those experiences. And based on the entire experience we will decide whether to come back or not, and depending on the experience, will either refer our friends or tell the world to stay away with an on-line bad review. Is that logical? Of course not, but as management consultant Tom Peters says,

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

When there are dead plants in the waiting room, the customer is saying to himself, “If they can’t even take care of the plants, why do I want them taking care of me?”

While a general manager at a resort up north in Michigan, I served as an adjunct instructor for many years teaching customer service at the local community college. To their credit (pardon the pun), the college made my customer service class a prerequisite for the office administration and medical administration paths. They understood that it is not what you know; it is how you say it. At the end of the semester, a survey was given to the students on how I did. Was I on time for class? Did I cover the objectives defined in the syllabus? Was I available after hours? All the survey questions were focused on the instructor. As part of the class session discussing customer feedback, I surveyed the students on their school experience. My question was, “If there was anything you could improve in your education experience, what would that be? Very few answers were specific to what the administration thought was the college experience. Rather the improvements ranged from the parking lot to the restrooms. What does the parking lot have to do with higher education? Logically, nothing. But to the female student who is taking night classes, everything. She perceives a burned out light in the lamp post as an unsafe parking lot. What does the restroom have to do with the education offered? Nothing. But as a female student wrote in her survey, “During the winter, the restrooms are so cold, I can’t even think after going in there.”

Several weeks ago, I needed to see a dentist. When I asked a friend for a referral, she gave me the name of her dentist. I asked why she thought the dentist was so good. She said the waiting room had Wi-Fi, they offered free bottled water and juice and there was a large flat screen TV in the waiting room. And, as an afterthought, she said the dentist was nice, too. The most important aspects of her dental experience were the touchpoints that eliminated the waiting time and angst of the perception of visiting the dentist for the first time.

QUI TAKEAWAY: Don’t be too focused on just your expertise. Your customers have no way to judge you on what you know. But they can grade you on the other touchpoints that they have experienced before. Take the time to look at your entire customer experience. Identify all the potential dissatisfiers and remove them. Then replace them with something positive.

What potential “dead plant” dissatisfiers in your customer experience are you leaving unattended?

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Filed under Customer Experience, Customer Service

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.
  • Refview 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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Filed under Leadership, Training

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: CSM, CSR, CapEx, QA, ROI, SOP, VIP, WiFi. 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 guests’ 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 websites like TripAdvisor, Angie’s List or Yelp. Times have certainly changed when all we had to do to build our reputation was to include handpicked testimonials in our sales packets. Now clients 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 they will come back and tell others about it. 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

Common Sense But Not Common Practice

Earning customer loyalty is ultimately about creating and maintaining relationships. Over 70 years ago Dale Carnegie wrote the very best book on building relationships, “How to Win Friends and Influence Others.” While the stories are too dated to be relevant for most people, the fundamentals defined by Dale Carnegie many years ago are still customer service gold today. Mr. Carnegie defined the six ways to make people like you:

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
  6. Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.

Over seventy years ago, Mr. Carnegie recommended making the other person feel important by using that person’s name. Common sense. But is it common practice? You decide. Let’s use your credit card as an example.

Be the Customer. A credit card is only a piece of plastic but it is very personal and valuable to you. Should you ever lose it, you would be panicking about identity theft or credit card fraud. When you make an in-person retail purchase, you hand a credit card with your name printed right on it to the cashier. In handing it back to you, the cashier may simply place it on the counter. To the cashier, it is simply a piece of plastic. To you, it represents money. 

Following Mr. Carnegie’s advice, all a business needs to do to win a customer is to use the customer’s name at every opportunity. Seems common sense, But is it common practice? 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.

If I were a retailer, I would make sure that the card swipe would post the customer’s name on the mini screen in front of the cashier. I’d educate every cashier to hand the card, or if the purchase was contactless, then hand the bag with the purchased items to the customer, look to the customer to establish eye contact (trust) and sincerely say with a smile, “Mr. Customer’s Name. Thank you for choosing [Name of Company]. We really appreciate it.” That small wow would make a big difference in winning the customer.

QUI QUESTIONS: What are you doing to make your customer feel important? And what are you doing to make sure it is common practice?

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