Monthly Archives: July 2015

Is your customers’ experience in for a dive?

dive into the water

It’s that time of year again when instead of looking forward to their annual holiday so many managers and business owners dread the prospect of being away from their business.

And of course if you can’t trust your team to do a good job when you’re not there is little doubt you’ll have concerns about your customers’ experience while you’re away too.

So here are my top 7 tips to ensure your customer service and customers’ experience doesn’t take a nose dive whilst you’re diving into the hotel pool.

1. Set expectations

If everyone in your business understands your customer service ethos and is engaged in what your business is all about, then it’s a lot easier for them to cope when you’re not there.

Even if they don’t know the exact way you’d deal with a customer, if they know your intent they’ll normally work out the best way to get there.

2. Prepare for the unexpected

As well as giving the obvious skills, product knowledge and customer service training, equip your team to anticipate and deal with the unexpected.

There will always be things that don’t go according to plan, and the last thing you want when you’re not there is to your team to panic! So train your team how to handle such situations so that they’ll be confident to deal with them smoothly, and leave your customers confident to deal directly with your team rather than waiting for your return.

3. Systems

Establish systems and your way of doing things, so there’s consistency irrespective of who carries out that task.

This doesn’t mean you don’t allow some creativity and flexibility amongst the team, but just having simple checklists can make the world of difference so nothing gets missed or forgotten that can impact your customers’ experience.

4. Practice makes perfect

Build your team’s confidence gradually; you can’t expect them to be introduced to something on Friday afternoon and perform it perfectly for the first time on Monday morning, when you’re not even there to offer support.

Introduce new areas of responsibility gradually so people have an opportunity to refine and perfect as they go as well as building confidence (theirs and yours) in their ability.

5. Ownership

The sooner you can give individual team members ownership over particular tasks the quicker they’ll develop a sense of pride and ownership.

Trust your team to make decisions to do what’s best in a given situation; if they truly understand your customer service values and what’s most important it shouldn’t be too difficult for them to work out the best way to achieve it.

6. What’s going on

Brief your team thoroughly in all the expected activity. What are all the things going on in your business while you’re away that could impact the day-to-day operation.

Which regular customers are you expecting, who is expecting anything from you while you’re away, what’s outstanding for any particular customer?

What else is happening in your industry currently or in the media that could raise questions from your customers? What is unavailable currently, where might there be delays that could have a knock-on effect on your customers?

Update your team with anything, however insignificant it might seem, that could have an impact on your business or on your customers’ experience whilst you are away.

7. When you return

Give credit where it’s due for a job well done and reward your team for holding the fort without you.

And if things have been less than perfect, rather than apportioning blame, think of it as an opportunity to learn for next time, in the spirit of continuous improvement.

Of course there’s always the possibility that things have run more smoothly without you them when you’re there!

 

If all this seems like too little too late, then isn’t it about time to start thinking longer term to get your team up to speed so at least you can go wait next year confident that everything is running smoothly? To get the ball rolling here are 28 Activities to Engage, Energise and Excite Your Team in Customer Service.


Are you losing your customers?

I find it quite ironic to be writing this post just a few days after the New Horizons probe has managed to make it several billion miles to Pluto without getting lost.

But, if you’re anything like me, I’m sure you’ll have driven somewhere confident that your sat nav will get you there safely. And when it helpfully tells you “You have reached your destination” you realise you are in the middle of nowhere, wondering now where?

In short you are lost!

So how does this happen? Let’s face it, sat nav is only as good as the info we give it, and I’ve had two instances recently that have landed me in totally the wrong place.

Had I been a customer these instances would have given me a far from good customer experience and first impression…

Probably arriving late and in a bad mood.

Not a good start to a good customer relationship, and potentially putting you on the back foot right from the start.

So as a business what can we do to prevent this negative first encounter? In fact can we use something as simple as travelling directions as an opportunity to impress our customers right from the start. All part of great customer service.

1. Make your post code prominent

90% of people these days are likely to go to Google maps or similar to look you up, (and probably want to see where you are before they decide to visit you) and chances are they’ll use sat nav to find you.

Make sure your post code is easy to find, not tucked away in minute font on a hidden contact us page.

2. Check your postcode actually comes up

Today I was looking for a hotel and had their postcode. But when I put it into Google Maps it didn’t like it one bit. I called the hotel and asked them where they are as it wouldn’t find them, and they gave me a different postcode. I suggested it might be an idea to put this on their website! “Oh, that’s a good idea” came the reply!

Hardly rocket science, but it’s one of those things that simply gets shunted to the bottom of the to do list – giving your staff more to do, and frustrating your customer from the outset.

3. Check it out

Get into your customers shoes and check your postcode and directions and where these take you. Not just your postcode when you enter it into a sat nav, but on Google maps and other map apps.

Check the directions it gives for the final part of the journey, and not down some farm track or footpath (yes, I am serious, it has been known) and it takes you to the front entrance, not some rear entrance that you’d rather your visitors didn’t see!

4. Give alternatives

If your postcode takes you somewhere remote, don’t just tell customers to ignore their sat nav – give them a practical alternative. Do some homework and check out the postcode for an alternative point on the journey to use as an anchor or waymark they can use instead. And then make this clear.

5. Update your Google listing

Get your business on Google so when people find your location on Google maps your business name comes up too (not just your competitors’). It’s nice and reassuring for a customer when they see this.

6. Keep your eyes open

It’s easy to drive in on auto pilot, but is your business easy to spot? Have road signs got over grown, faded or damaged. Is your entrance visible from the road? Are sign posts accurate (who hasn’t been caught out by some prankster turning signs around and sending you in the wrong direction?) It’s fine for us, we know where we are going; your customers don’t!

7. Road closed

Keep an ear out for roadworks. If you know in advance a road will be closed or there are major roadworks give your customers the heads up. It’s a great excuse to get in touch before their visit and earn some brownie points.

But don’t just warn them; let the know the alternatives (particularly if you know any diversions will take them the long way round when there is a sneaky short-cut).

8. Provide old fashioned directions

What did we do in the days before sat nav? Oh yes, we gave directions with landmarks. Be prepared to do the same today. And ensure anyone likely to get asked can do the same – e.g. reception or anyone who answers the phone to customers. Build this into your customer service training.

9. Reserved Parking

Once your customer has found you, what’s their first impression when they arrive? Do you provide parking? If not where is the best place, how far is it, will they need change for the meter? If so forewarn them in a friendly note before they travel.

But if you do provide parking one of the best ways to wow your customer is to reserve a space. Having your plum parking spaces nearest your front door reserved for directors or your own team speaks volumes about how much you value your customers!

10. Applying the principles

Although I’m referring here to directions to help customers, what other processes do we fail to make simple for our customers? Is your ordering process clear, how simple is your cancellation or refund process, do you make it easy for customers to pay you (e.g. clear invoices and prominent bank details), is your website easy to navigate, is it easy to find your contact details and a way to contact you directly?

Ask your team for their input. What do customers remark on. What questions do they frequently get asked? What else can we do to to make it easy for our customer?

These seemingly insignificant factors all add up to giving your customer either a simple smooth experience or a stressful one, which loses them on the way…