Monthly Archives: April 2014

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

SorryI’m one of those people that like to give others the benefit of doubt. So when something goes wrong I’ll usually go out of my way to give feedback giving them the chance to put things right – and retain my trust or custom.

Getting feedback from customers and being given a chance to turn things around is such a valuable opportunity for any business. So why is it some businesses make it such a painful process?

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had two instances where I’ve got to the point where I’ve been so frustrated. In both instances I’ve heard all the excuses under the sun.

In one case I have to admit I was initially at fault.


Did that make it okay for me to have to speak to 6 different people to get the situation resolved?

Having phoned the number I thought was for my business manager (for a service that is supposed to be available 24/7) to end up with somebody who wasn’t empowered to make a decision to resolve my issue, but told that nobody else was available.

Having agreed that somebody would phone me back the following day after 2 PM, why then did they phone me at 9:15 AM…? But that’s a different story altogether (later being told that it wasn’t possible to call the customer back when it was convenient to the customer, only when it was convenient to the business! Good grief; some businesses just don’t get it do they!)

When I did finally get to speak to somebody who could resolve the issue I must’ve heard a dozen times about their policy, but not once did I get an apology for all the aggravation that I’d been through to get to this point.

In the other situation I went to give feedback on something that is the recurring problem. But because I’ve already given feedback so many times and it’s fallen on deaf ears I decided on this occasion to be more direct. So I announced the dreaded words “I want to make a complaint!”

So far, so good. Because for the first time I’d feed back on this issue I actually got to speak to a manager. Did it actually do any good? Well, time will tell if the issue gets resolved.

But I must’ve heard every angle on this situation: whose fault it was, what the possible options were, why they haven’t resolved it yet, blah blah blah…

But in our 10 minutes conversation I didn’t hear the word sorry once.

So why is it so hard for people to say sorry?

This doesn’t mean taking personal responsibility (although at times that would be nice!), or admitting liability. It means as a very minimum showing some empathy towards the customer by saying sorry. …Sorry they’ve had a bad experience, or you’re sorry they feel let down, or you’re sorry they’ve had a frustrating time, or you’re sorry if there’s been a misunderstanding, or you’re sorry something wasn’t available today, or you’re sorry the weather wasn’t as nice as it could have been….

Just hearing those words “I’m sorry” can make such a difference from the customer’s perspective, and maybe all they need to hear.


So in the words of Elton John….

“…What have I got to do to make you care… ?

“….What have I got to do to be heard…?


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Are you trying to get more business the hard way?

Getting more business the hard wayLast weekend we took a break to Istanbul. If you’ve ever been there you’ll know that like so many tourist areas you have to run the gauntlet to get through the mass of eager restaurateurs, carpet sellers and ceramics stallholders.

The trouble is they’re all just trying too hard to get our attention without even considering that we’re simply not interested.

And even if we were there’s no knowing what they supply will meet our needs. And so far there’s simply no relationship, no trust and no reason to choose them in preference to all the competition.

As it happened we weren’t in the least interested in looking at or buying carpets. However I do love ceramics and would have been tempted to look at some of the beautiful pieces on offer, but I was too scared of getting pressured …so I simply steered clear.

We were of course interested in eating! But rather than taking a gamble on our first night we asked our hotel for a recommendation. Interestingly when we approached the recommended restaurant it was the only one on that street where we didn’t get the sales spiel from the pavement.

On our second night we went to a restaurant in another part of the city which we would never have found had our hosts not been there before. It was tucked away in the most unlikely of buildings, on the top floor with fantastic views across the city, and food to match. We got the impression it was one of those places to be seen, but it certainly didn’t achieve such a following by accident.

On our final night we took the easy option and returned to the restaurant we’d been to on our first evening. The food had been good, there was a great atmosphere and they’d looked after us well. There’s no reason to suggest we wouldn’t have had just as good an experience in any of the others, but we knew we could trust this one, and as we had our hosts with us we didn’t want to take a chance. So that one simple recommendation had earned that particular restaurant two visits and introduced 4 new customers in the space of 3 days.

If we think about it, it’s a similar story whenever we are touting for new business. If we approach a prospective customer we’ve no way of knowing they have a need for what we sell right now, and even if they do they don’t know that what we have to offer is a good match, there is no relationship, no trust and no particular reason to choose us in preference to any of our competitors.

Compare this with asking for additional business with our existing customers. They already know us, and we know that they’ve had a need for what we sell and may well have further needs in the future. They’ve already had experience of our product or service, and hopefully they like what we offer and if we’ve done a good job they’ll trust us too. Just like the two restaurants in Istanbul.

So how about devoting some of the energy we put into creating new business into fostering a longer term relationship with our existing (and past) customers? Keeping the relationship going, keeping contact, reminding them of what we have to offer and why they chose us in the first place, introducing them to what else we have available, asking them to share in our successes, taking every opportunity to stay on their radar so it’s us they think of first when they’re ready to buy again or asked for a recommendation.

It might take a bit of effort, but it certainly beats pouncing on every passer by just on the off chance!

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Have you been an April fool?

Your team represent your company. Whilst some of their actions might bring massive value to your business there may be those who have the potential to do more harm than good unless they’ve had the right customer service training.

Here are ten reasons why you’d be a fool not to invest in training your team in customer care…

  1. If you’re in a competitive market your customer service and the whole customer experience might be the one thing that sets you apart from your competition. I’m sure you wouldn’t let any of your other competitive advantages to chance, so why take a chance on your customers’ experience? Consistent customer service and a great customer experience doesn’t happen by accident.
  2. Customers’ expectations for excellent service are rising all the time, and you want to make them happy, don’t you? Your customers aren’t stupid; they can soon spot when your team haven’t been given the skills, knowledge, authority and confidence to deliver this. If you want your customers to be loyal demonstrate you’re willing to invest in the service they receive.
  3. The right training across your team means you’re in a stronger position to ensure consistency in the service your customers receive each and every time they visit so they won’t be disappointed on their second, seventh or even 70th visit.
  4. Investing in training results in better employee engagement. This has to whole host of spin-offs, not only for the customer, but for the business as a whole. A happier team means lower staff turnover so you save on recruitment costs, the headache of staff shortages, and helps you maintain a continuum for your customers.
  5. Skilled and competent team members mean you get better productivity and lower absenteeism which enables you to contain labour costs without compromising on service levels.
  6. The more competent your team the easier it will be you to give them authority to deal with day-to-day events as well as resolving problems or complaints. This means issues can be dealt with quickly saving time, effort and heartache for the customer, the team member and you or your management team.
  7. Knowledge and confidence to offer other services enables team members to spot opportunities to up-sell and cross sell when appropriate helping to increase sales (on the right products and services) and boost profit margins.
  8. Training enables your team to see the bigger picture such as the importance of obtaining valuable feedback from customers, and generating ideas for delivering even better service so you can get their full buy in as you tweak your approach and keep exceeding your customers’ expectations with each visit they make.
  9. Training enables your team to see and understand each of these roles thus promoting a willingness to cover and support each other at peak times so your customers get a seamless service and you don’t need to depend on unreliable temporary staff.
  10. You can be confident your team can cope without you so you can focus on working on your business rather than being perpetually sucked into the day-to-day operation (and enable you to take a well earned break when you need to).


So don’t be a fooled into thinking of training as an unnecessary expense. Training is an investment for your business and should be budgeted for like any other investment you’d be making in your business.

If you’d like help with planning your training to make it as cost effective as possible then get in touch here or for more information go here