Learn to Let Go

Balloons letting go I caught myself this week doing something I really should have delegated to someone else. Not only was this tying up my valuable time when I could be doing something only I can do; the person who should have done it would have done a better job, and quite possibly in half the time! Do you ever find yourself falling into this trap? I’m not just referring to doing routine administrative or mundane tasks. There’s many a time that the things we do to respond to customers’ needs and expectations could also be done just as well (or even better) by others. When we have an excellent relationship with customers it can be difficult to let go. We often feel guilty or obliged to that customer to look after them ourselves; to give them a personal service. And we’re potentially worried they won’t feel as valued if we delegate some aspects of the customer relationship to our team. But in doing so we could actually be diluting our efforts and giving a poorer customer experience. What happens when we’re on holiday, tied up with other projects, or when two or more customers all need us at the same time? We can’t do everything! We need to put our trust in others and delegate some of that responsibility. But what if we’re not confident anyone in the team is up to it? I’m not talking here about abdication. You if you were teaching your child to swim you wouldn’t just dump them in at the deep end and let them get on with it. You’d show them, coach them, support them until they were ready to go it alone. And even then you’d be watching at the poolside until you could see they were safe. Ah, but… I hear some say.
  • “My customer trusts me and expects to deal with me” They expect to always deal with you because that’s what you’ve always given them. If they are never given the chance to speak to your team that will never change. Set expectations early on with your customers so they know who is the best person to speak to when. Introduce your customers to your team so they know who they’re dealing with and build trust (and their expectations) early on. .
  • “It takes too much time to explain, I can do it quicker” In the short-term yes, but in the longer term if you delegate you are saving time to attend to more important things to add value for your customer. Having simple systems in place for routine queries means you might only have to invest the time once.
  • “They aren’t yet capable” And never will be unless you start incorporating delegation and trust into your people development plans.
  • “They won’t do it as well as me” Maybe, but are you being too much of a perfectionist? Does the task need such a degree of excellence?  If not, maybe someone can deal with the task adequately in less time so the customer isn’t kept waiting. 
  • “They aren’t yet qualified, authorised or licenced to do that” Everyone has to start somewhere so get them involved and leave time for you to approve or endorse their efforts before it gets sign off or the rubber stamp. (None of us would ever pass our driving test if we weren’t able to actually get out on the road and drive; it just needs plenty of practice and handholding along the way until ready.)
  • “If they are left to deal with someone else my customer won’t be happy and I’ll lose their respect” You’ll upset customers far more and lose more respect by delaying your response and by not devoting enough time to the areas of expertise they’re paying you for because you are too distracted by routine and administrative issues.
So in regard to having an obligation to that customer to look after them and give them a personal service - yes you should. But you won’t be able to if you get sucked into tasks that don’t require your level of expertise or experience. The skill is knowing when to let go of the day to day issues, and put your trust in someone else to get on with things, leaving you to focus on the more important aspects of your relationship that only you can do and on the more strategic aspects of the businesses.

But, I do that already!

One of my clients was telling me last week of her frustration when her team were reluctant to get involved in training.  “They think they know it all already” she said. Have you ever experienced that too? I know I have. A big barrier to training, particularly customer service training or management skills, is when an employee thinks they know it all or are already doing everything correctly already. So they see the training as a criticism. This means they are not receptive, which is not only frustrating for you, but means in all likelihood your training is a waste of time, money and effort. Here are some ideas to get over this... .

I’ll have to get my manager

When you’re a customer and want to make a complaint the last thing you want to hear is “I’ll have to go and get my manager…” Not only is it frustrating for you as the customer, it’s demeaning for the employee and time consuming of the manager. This week I've been training line managers, giving them the skills and confidence to coach their own teams in how to handle customer complaints, so they can trust their team to handle them effectively. This means customers get any complaints handled swiftly, team members feel empowered, and managers are freed up to get on with other things. You can watch here to discover the 4 key areas we covered. So what’s the process in your business when a customer has a complaint? Do your team have the skills and confidence to deal with complaints, and do their line managers have the skills and confidence to train, coach, and support them?  

Who handles your customer complaints?

Coaching in Complaint Handling

When you’re a customer and want to make a complaint the last thing you want to hear is “I’ll have to go and get my manager…” Not only is it frustrating for you as the customer, it’s demeaning for the employee and time consuming of the manager. So what’s the process in your business when a customer has a complaint? Do your team have the skills and confidence to deal with complaints, and do their line managers have the skills and confidence to train, coach, and support them?

10 ways to show your team some love

love hearts laura-ockelIf you’re like me you’ve probably already had half a dozen email declarations of love today from suppliers and those touting for your business. It happens every Valentine’s day, doesn’t it? I wonder if these businesses put the same amount of time and attention into declaring their love for their team. Unless your team feel valued and loved they're not likely to share much love for your customers either. But if you take care of and show some love for your team they’re far more likely to care for and show love to your customers. A loved team is an engaged team. So here are 10 ideas you can use to show your team some love so they in turn show your customers some love and give an all-round great customer experience. Not just for today, but any day.

1. Know what’s important

Understand each of your team members and what’s important to them. Recognise there are things which may seem insignificant to you, but can mean a lot for others. What are the things they enjoy? What are the things they’re proud of, be that in or out of work. Express an interest in what they do away from work. Never under estimate the value sitting down in private with each of your team on a one-to-one basis. Schedule these in advance and stick to your schedule; nothing smacks more of I’m not valued than constantly cancelling these meetings.

2. Common courtesies

Treat your team with the same care, courtesy and respect as you’d like them to show your customers. Keep your commitments; letting people down suggests a lack of respect, but if you can’t do what you say you’ll do at the very least say “I’m sorry”. Give a simple please and thank you, a sunny smile and a cheerful “good morning”, and a “good night and have a good evening” at the end of their day or shift.

3. Pay attention

Listen to your team’s feedback, ideas and suggestions. Show them you value their opinion: ask for their advice or suggestions on matters that affect them or where they may be able to present a different perspective. Be approachable, and listen and observe so you can act on any staff concerns before they become a problem. Provide support and be receptive to when this might be needed.

4. Keep your team informed

A well-informed team not only gives them confidence and enables them to make decisions, it also helps establish trust with your customers. Let everyone know what’s going on in your business through regular staff briefings, and use these to get feedback from your team on any customers’ comments, or discuss any questions or suggestions that arise about operational issues. Keep your team up to date with the bigger picture: what’s happening in your business, in your industry, and with your competitors.

5. Invest in your team’s development

Provide development opportunities to tap into their strengths and keep them stretched. Not everyone wants to progress but it doesn’t mean to say they don’t want to be stretched given opportunities for new challenges. A bored employee is unlikely to wow your customers. Give everyone an opportunity to learn something new; it’s a win-win as the business will benefit too. Add variety, set them a challenge and trust your team to make decisions to do what’s best.

6. Promote teamwork

Upskill and cross train your team to cover other’s responsibilities so everyone is confident the job still gets covered even when they’re sick, on holiday or have an extra heavy workload. This also promotes a greater appreciation at each other’s roles as well as making it easier to create a culture where everyone takes responsibility when necessary rather than passing the buck. It doesn’t have to be all about work. It’s difficult to please everyone but if you can find something that appeals to everyone’s tastes, personal commitments and budget, social activities is a great way to bring the team together. Even if this is simply some after hours team activities in the workplace that taps into the interest, talents or expertise of your team.

7. Guide and support

Give your team the support, resources and guidance needed to do a good job. This starts with providing clear direction on your expectations and providing everyone with the resources they need (including sufficient time and manpower). Observe your team in action and give supportive feedback, encouragement and coaching, so you build their confidence and their productivity. Every business has its times when things go wrong, so equip your team to deal with the unexpected and empower them to handle these situations with confidence.

8. Two-way trust

Lead by example and be a role model so there are no mixed messages. Ensure or your management team used the same criteria for awarding and recognising the team’s contribution, so people don’t get confused of feel deflated when something worthy of recognition gets ignored. Play to people’s strengths and demonstrate your trust by delegating some control and ownership. This gives a sense of pride and a desire to get things right.

9. Recognise and reward success

Recognise those who go beyond the call of duty. Give public recognition when you receive positive feedback from a customer. Share your good news to give everyone a boost and recognise those who have contributed. Make any rewards meaningful; not everyone is motivated by the same things to consider what’s important to the individual. Have some fun. You might be dealing with serious subjects but people are more productive when they’re happy and relaxed. Laughter is the best medicine and a good hearty laugh release tension and it’s contagious!

10. A simple thank you

The most obvious and easiest thing you can do to show your team you care about them is to make a point of thanking them. Whether that’s a heartfelt thank you at the end of a busy shift or hectic day, when they’ve made an extra effort or used their initiative, or gone out of their way to help a colleague or a customer. Send a handwritten letter or a thank you card when they’ve gone the extra mile; a physical letter or card will have 10 times more impact than an email. These ideas can go a long way towards creating staff loyalty which in turn will contribute to customer loyalty.

You’re only as good as your weakest link

You are only as good as your weakest link. That means if you have just one person failing to deliver good customer service or giving a poor customer experience this will impact your customers perception of your business as a whole. And that person might not even be one of your own team. Any one of your suppliers or third party providers who can impact your customer experience could be leaving your customers wanting to go elsewhere.   So who are the weak links in your business?

No time for customers?

One of the biggest barriers I come across when I'm helping business owners with their customer experience or delivering customer service training is when people believe they don't have enough time to devote to customers and delivering a memorable customer experience. In this short video I give some suggestions to help get over this.

Creating Service Superstars

I’m super excited to announce my book ‘Creating Service Superstars’ is now published.

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It is a manager’s guide to building your team’s confidence, initiative and commitment to creating a memorable customer experience. I’ve kept it nice and short (69 pages) so it’s an easy read and hopefully doesn’t become one of those tomes gathering dust on the book shelf and never gets read.

This is some of the feedback I’ve had to date…

“I love love love your book.  I can hear you in the pages.  Much of what we discussed is echoed here in your book.  This tells me that you have a command of your craft and are a true subject matter expert. 

“I find the book extremely easy to read and easy to follow.  I love how your examples cover various industries. I find the “Actions” section at the end of the chapters very helpful.

“I consider you an authority on the topic and am so humbled you asking me to read your book pre-release."

“Caroline’s new book is a treasure trove of ideas for any customer service team member – and any manager or leader involved in this critical area of the business. In fact – it should be mandatory reading for anyone who touches a customer – regardless of their job title or function. “This book is a self-learning tool anyone interested in improving service will benefit from as they apply the ideas, methods and systems.

“ Creating Superstars is an essential guide for the service industry, whichever sector you work in. This book brings to life Caroline’s  extremely effective customer service  workshops. Starting with a  clear vision from the leaders to enthusing the team and generating that essential oxygen of customer loyalty"

“I do not hesitate in recommending this book to anyone who really wants to grow their business.”

“I think it is fabulous, I started off thinking this is exactly how I think and I want to give it to my staff telling them that this is what I am talking about, please read it three times over and start embracing! I think for some people it will be a light on moment."

It’s available NOW on Amazon. You can get instant access to the Kindle version for just 99p from Amazon UK or $1.22 on Amazon.com. It will only be available at this launch price until next weekend (15th January) so order it now while you can. And if you like the book and would be happy to write a review for me on Amazon I’d be delighted to send you a complimentary copy as a thank you. (I just ask you pay a contribution to postage if sending to outside the UK). You can always pass it on to a customer or a supplier if you don’t want to read it again! p.s. here are the links again to grab your copy by Sunday 15th UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Creating-Service-Superstars-confidence-initiative-ebook/dp/B01NAL0898/ Rest of world: https://www.amazon.com/Creating-Service-Superstars-confidence-initiative-ebook/dp/B01NAL0898/ signature blue     p.p.s. To claim your complimentary copy drop me an email to let me know you’ve written a review and tell me the name you’ve used (as I’d love to find out what you thought!). Save Save Save Save Save

3 things to do today to get 2017 off to a flying start

Here's  a short video with 3 things you can be doing this week to get your team engaged, enthused and energised for the year ahead and get 2017 off to a brilliant start. If you get them engaged now and show you are enthusiastic about the year ahead this will rub off on your team and in turn your customers too, and help with your whole customer experience.

6 ways to show your gratitude

thank-you-im-so-gratefulChristmas is a time of showing our gratitude - not that you shouldn’t be doing this all year round of course - to our team. Unless your team feel valued and loved they're not likely to give their best and to deliver the type of customer experience either you or your customers expect. So how can you add a touch of magic for your team this Christmas and bring a smile to their face without it costing you a fortune in bonuses or incentives? There’s a perception that everyone is motivated by money. There’s no doubt cash is a contributing factor. Pay them late, mess up their overtime or deny them the pay rise they were promised and you’re probably going to have an unhappy person. And unhappy team members invariably lead to unhappy customers. But how would you feel at Christmas if your loved one just gave you money? Unless it was a ton of cash or you’re saving up for something really special it’s not very exciting. It feels as if no care or thought has gone into it. It’s impersonal. It might be fine for Aunty Joan to give you money or a voucher at Christmas as she doesn’t know what you’d like (and it’s better than the alternative of a pair of slippers!), but if someone’s taken the trouble to find that something special and buy it for you – that’s going to have far more impact, right? Money is a very short term motivator. And let’s face it, unless your team are on performance related bonuses few of us can be doling out monetary rewards every five minutes. So what can we do to show our team some love?

Before you do anything…

The golden rule is to treat others how you would wish to be treated. And that’s certainly a good start. But the platinum rule is to treat others how they wish to be treated. So find out what's important to them. Not everyone values or is interested in the same things. Whilst some love the sense of achievement or recognition others get a buzz from supporting others. Some love to have their say and see their ideas put into practice, whilst others are happiest when they’re learning or being stretched. And if it really is just tangible rewards people love? Well, I know I’d rather be given a bunch of flowers any day over a fiver go and buy my own! We should never assume what our team would like and what's important to them. If you’ve never had the discussion, it’s high time you did! So start by doing a little bit of homework to find out what’s likely to bring a smile to their face... which they're sure to pass on to your customers. Here are some six things you might consider .…

1. Say thank you

I know I’m always talking about showing your customers your appreciation, but it’s just as important to demonstrate to your team that you appreciate their contribution. The simplest thing you can do is to say thank you. Recognise and reward good performance, achievements and a job well-done. For many, that is all they need to feel encouraged. Yes, they work for pay, but it always helps to know that their work is recognised. Not just as a routine passing comment; go out of your way to thank individuals when you spot them doing something in support of a colleague or that will delight your customers. Bring the team together at the end of a hectic day, busy shift or demanding project when everybody has pulled their weight to make sure everything went smoothly. If you are genuine in your appreciation, and choose it for the right moment, it can work wonders. A simple but honest appreciative remark can go a very long way. Celebrate and share successes. And if you are going to praise an individual, don’t just leave it till you are on your own with them. Find an opportunity when they are with their colleagues, and your praise will create a buzz! Make sure it’s genuine and specific for the task carried out, or the person might be seen by their colleagues as ‘teacher’s pet’.

2. Token gestures

Become aware of your team’s hobbies and interests. Then when you are out and about and see something that has to do with that particular interest, pick it up for them. Coming into the business and saying: “I really appreciate what you do, and I got this for you as a small token of my appreciation”,  will make them feel they are recognised for a great job. It doesn’t have to cost the earth; just a token. But the thought it evokes will make a real difference.

3. A treat

Give people the occasional treat. No need to be a lavish; look at ways to reward that create a win-win: For example maybe a visit to a sister business or somewhere where they will be on the receiving end of outstanding service and are motivated to bring back more ideas that can be implemented in your business. When your team have worked long or unsociable hours that had an impact on their personal life, extending the treat to be shared with their loved one not only makes your team member feel good but shows your appreciation of the support given by their friends and family. This paves the way for future good deeds too!

4. Time Off

For some people a little free time could be the most valuable gift you can give them. Allowing flexibility to go home early to attend their kid’s sports’ day or the day before their holiday, have a lie in or the evening off on their birthday, or take an hour out to attend to a personal matter. Allow the freedom for having fun too; this doesn’t mean being unprofessional, but looking for opportunities that create a relaxed and enjoyable place to work. Simply a rest or just have a bit of fun can work wonders to their state of mind.

5. Awards

For those with a competitive spirit consider awards, competitions, or even a league table. This might mean focusing on a different theme each month so that everyone has the opportunity to be recognised for their particular skills and strengths. External awards are a great way to give recognition for the whole team. Keep your eye out for awards which are relevant to your business or your market. Just being nominated an award is a great booster, as I recall from my corporate days when our sales director put me forward for the Institute of Marketing Sales Trainer of the year award. I didn't win but I was one of the finalists, which gave me a huge boost, and an opportunity to invite my colleagues along to the awards dinner which was great for my profile and for the business. Be sure to recognise all departments, including back of house staff, or those in non-customer facing roles. They all have their part to play.

6. Opportunities for personal development

We so often think of development as solely grooming somebody for promotion. This might be one intention or outcome but even when we know that a member of our team has probably reached their peak, that doesn't mean to say that we just let them stagnate. A bored employee is unlikely to wow your customers! Development should have the intention of making people the best they can be at their jobs, and this might lead to making the job easier, more rewarding or simply getting the job done in less time. Rather than making everybody mediocre at everything they do, tap into their strengths, talents and passions so they excel in certain areas, and work as a team to bridge the gaps in individuals’ abilities or interests. Identify and utilise their strengths, providing further development when needed to bring out the best in these areas. Delegate and give some control and ownership; this gives them pride in what they do and they will appreciate that you've recognised where they do a good job, providing of course you’re careful not to overburden or just dump these tasks on them. Once we understand what’s important and a little bit of creativity there are plenty of ways we can say “I appreciate you” and find the things they’ll love.  And your customers will feel that love too!