But back here in the UK I am still surprised – even shocked – at just how many businesses are either not open at a time suit their customers, or simply don’t gear themselves up sufficiently for their busy periods.
Of course not many places close for lunch these days. But are there times when you’re not as readily available as your customers might wish. Walk into many a high street bank at lunchtime and you’ll know what I mean. You certainly wouldn’t expect a restaurant to let staff go for lunch at lunchtime!
So here are my top 10 questions to review for your business:
- When are your busiest periods? It could be a specific time of day, a certain day of the week, or time of year. How well do you cope during these busy periods, and do your customers experience even the slightest drop in care and attention at these times.
- Review your call volumes; are there certain times of the day or week when they peak. Become a mystery caller (or ask someone else to do this for you) to see how well your team keep up with the call volume at peak times. If you say your office hours are 8.30 – 5.30 if you call at 8.31 or at 5.29 do you still get the same welcoming and helpful response?
- Do your staffing levels enable your team to meet customer expectations? Adjust your staffing levels according to your peak periods. If this means restructuring or recruiting people specifically for peak times then do so.
- Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and determine when are the periods people are most likely to want to speak to you or need your help. For example if your business is a hotel who offers wedding packages your customers are far more likely to want to discuss their arrangements during the weekend or in the evenings than during normal office hours. If you are a sports physiotherapist does the phone not stop ringing first thing on Monday morning from all the aches and pains sustained over the weekend? So ask yourself (or better still, ask your customers) is someone always available when your customers most need them?
- If your business involves a delivery or callouts are these available at a time to suit your customers? No one wants to be hanging around all day waiting for a delivery or an engineer to call. So why not make your point of differentiation a guaranteed timeslot or out of hours when people know they’ll be home. The bar has been set by the supermarket delivery companies. Just because this is not the norm in your industry doesn’t mean to say you can’t break the mould.
- Obviously not every business can be manned 24/7. But do customers know when you are available? Make it easy for them by being specific about when you are available. There’s nothing more frustrating than phoning a number to be told the office is now closed, but no mention of when it will be open next! Better still, let your customers know before they phone when you’re available when you’re not, and how to contact you out of normal opening hours if they need to.
- What happens when you or key people are off for the day or on holiday? Forewarn regular customers when their key point of contact won’t be available; no one wants to hear when they call at 4 PM on Friday afternoon that the only person who can deal with their query has just left and is now on holiday for 2 weeks.
- Do your team have the skills to cover for one another? Upskill and empower your team so there is flexibility and they can cover for one another during days off or holiday periods. Establish systems so that customer information is readily available to anyone who needs it so customers don’t have to wait until that person returns from holiday.
- What’s happening in the wider world that could prompt a peak in customer queries. For example, if you’re in financial services something mentioned in the budget could prompt calls from existing and new customers. If you’re involved in travel something in the media may suggest a problem with a popular tourist resort, potentially leading to customers concerned about their travel plans or safety.
- If you’re running a promotion or advertising presumably you’re hoping for a good response, so will customers be able to get all the information they need straight away? Make sure that first impression is a good one. Give your team all the details and ensure customers can contact you at the point the promotion goes live. Here’s a classic example of getting this wrong. Twice recently I’ve seen an advert in the Sunday papers. On both occasions I phoned the number given (on the Sunday while I’m in buying mode) and both occasions discovered the office is closed. I daresay neither of those adverts came cheap; so what a massive wasted opportunity. By Monday morning the moment has gone; people are back at work and on to the next thing.
Great customer service involves being open and available when your customers need you.
Not just when it’s convenient for you!
If you’d like help reviewing your customers’ experience and looking for simple cost effective ways to improve it, please give me a call on 07887 540914
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