Author Archives: Caroline Cooper

Inject some energy

employee productivitySo here we are at the end of the first full week back to normal after all the festivities. How good has employee productivity been so far?

As a business owner you’ve probably plans, hopes or dreams for the year ahead. But for some, being back at work in January doesn’t always have the same attraction.

Whether your team have been working flat out over the Christmas and New Year period, or they’ve taken time off to take a well earned break, either way it’s often tough getting back into the swing of things in the new year.

It’s time to inject some new energy. Give your team something to work towards so they’ve a sense of purpose and focus, which will in turn improve employee productivity.

Here are 6 actions you can take to get you going…

1. Thank You

Simply say thank you to show your appreciation for their input and contribution over the past year. A thank you and an acknowledgement of a job well done is far more sincere if you’re specific about what you’re recognising, so pick out some specifics.

 

2. Celebrate and share successes.

Remind your team of all your achievements over the past 12 months. What milestones have you achieved as a business and individually. What were the highlights, and what’s been their contribution?

Staff are more likely to be loyal and work harder for a business they believe in.

Give praise where it’s due to create a buzz for the year ahead!

 

3. What’s your Why?

Remind people of your purpose and values. now as a good time to review your purpose and values. Are these living breathing and evolving and referred to and reflected in your day to day activities? Or simply a statement that’s tucked away and forgotten?

Be passionate about your purpose – if you aren’t how can you expect anyone else to be?

 

4. Fresh Focus

Time off often gives people time for reflection and can prompt them to start thinking about other options, career moves or even career changes.

Share your plans for the coming year with your team so they feel involved.

Schedule one to one reviews early to discuss individual contributions and where they fit in with your plans for the year ahead. Ask for their input to demonstrate you value their contribution.

Encourage everyone in your team to have their own goals too. Even if these don’t include working for you long term, discuss how you can help them achieve their goals together.

 

5. Getting stuck in

It can often feel as if you’re not achieving much in the first few days or weeks back at work. Set some short term goals or mini projects so that everyone can get stuck in and can see some results within the first few days back at work.

It will certainly help focus attention back onto the job in hand, and get everyone back into full flow as quickly as possible.

 

6. Plan your training and development

As well as your routine refreshers, look at where you can be

  • Upskilling and cross training people to cover other’s responsibilities
  • Capitalising on individual strengths to enable people to really excel
  • Look for opportunities to stretch team members within their current responsibilities so they don’t get stale
  • Discuss how you can add variety, set new challenges or stretch them
  • Identify what development people need to work towards future roles and aspirations.

So inject some energy into your team to improve employee productivity.


Freshen up your refreshers

customer service training ideas21 customer service training ideas to help freshen up your refreshers

If January is a quieter month for you now might the time to address your refresher training. Refresher training is important in any area, and customer service is no exception.

Without reminders it’s easy for service to stagnate and standards to slip. Consistency in your service ensures your customers won’t be disappointed on their second, seventh or even 70th visit.

But how can you make this engaging for everyone, especially your long-serving team members who have seen it all before?

Instead of thinking refresher (as some will simply see this as a boring repeat of the same old messages) focus on different aspects of service.

By Creating a culture of continuous improvement, and putting the emphasis on making things even better, it’s less likely to be dismissed as unimportant and repetitive.

Here are a few customer service training ideas to help freshen up your refreshers (or any other training)…

  1. Challenge your team members to come forward with suggestions on how things can be improved, not just for the customer, but to make their lives easier too. Shaving 5 minutes off a task in one area can free up 5 more minutes to spend caring for customers elsewhere..
  2. Add variety. Do something different to what people are used to, to make the sessions interesting or memorable, so everyone remembers the messages.
  3. Stop thinking about training purely as a classroom activity; get creative with your training. Recognise people’s different learning styles and vary the ways you communicate with your team to appeal to different preferences.
  4. Ask the team what training they think they need and how they’d like to learn it.
  5. Make learning a part of the day-to-day activity, by using everyday activities as opportunities for development and where it’s second nature for people to help and support one another, and to learn on the job.
  6. Use short sharp ‘coffee break sessions’ to delve deeper to explore how you can make things even better. What can you do to add more value for your customers and really wow them?
  7. Assign tasks or projects on real business issues to develop team members.
  8. Get everyone’s involvement. Avoid the chalk and talk’ lecture, it’s not as if they are hearing this for the first time. Use team exercises to encourage interaction, get opinions, and generate ideas so everyone benefits from each other’s insights and suggestions.
  9. Use team meetings to direct focus and reinforce messages. Most customer facing roles are ever-changing, and every day there will be specific and individual options, events, and situations.
  10. Use refreshers as an opportunity to give your team up to date product knowledge.
  11. Celebrate and share successes. Remind people of the importance and significance of what they do; everyone likes to be appreciated, and when they hear about refresher training they can see this as a criticism, implying they are not doing things well enough.
  12. Recognise and reward team members who go the extra mile and contribute to exceptional customer service to reinforce what makes a good customer experience.
  13. Act on customer feedback. Ask for direct feedback from your customers so you learn first-hand what they value and where you can make improvements in your service.
  14. Share positive customer feedback. It can be a really big boost for the team. Use it to reinforce good practice. Even for those not involved or contributing directly, it helps illustrate the impact of good service and a great customer experience.
  15. Keep things light hearted when discussing customer service issues; it is a serious subject, but people are more receptive when they are happy and relaxed. Reinforce messages with quizzes and games to add an element of competition and fun.
  16. Add in fun energiser activities and ‘right brain’ exercises. These might seem trivial, but getting your team involved keeps them energized and in a better state of mind for learning.
  17. Take people away from their normal environment (as long as this doesn’t make them uncomfortable or become a distraction); go outside, use music; alter the layout, introduce unusual props.
  18. Use role plays. Despite people’s reluctance they are a great way for people to practise what to say and how in a safe setting. Make these less intimidating by running in small groups with colleagues acting as an observer to give feedback.
  19. Capitalise on people’s strengths, and utilise those with talents in specific areas to share their skills and expertise with the team. This is not only good for people’s development, it also helps the team respect other’s roles and share the burden
  20. Involve your support teams in refresher training, identifying what they do or not do which impacts the customer experience, however minor, and ask for their input on how these can be developed.
  21. Ask your team for feedback on how you are doing in their eyes. It can feel uncomfortable for people to give feedback to their boss, so ask in a more conversational way such as “What could I be doing to make customer service easier?“. Be sure to accept any feedback with good grace, and thank them for an honest response!

So instead of rolling out the same old training, take one, two or all 21 customer service training ideas to help freshen up your refresher training.

If you need help with this, find out how to get this here



Big Rocks

Complaint handling

Complaint handling  – It’s all too easy to wait until something has gone wrong to discover your team are not that confident or competent in dealing with complaints, only to end up with a niggling customer complaint escalating into a major problem. That’s because it’s all too easy to let these proactive (big rocks) shift down the priority list.

But, before you get onto “Big Rocks” I have a big rock of my own, and could do with your help, please.

I’m currently working on a new programme to help businesses deliver their own customer service training in-house. I need to make sure I have considered everything, and this is where you come in. If you could have a private conversation with me about developing customer service skills, with your team, what 2 questions would you like to ask me? Just click here and send me your questions. I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to answer individually… But I will try to answer them in a future newsletter. Thank you.

As you plan for the year ahead here’s something to bear in mind…

You may have heard of Stephen Covey’s idea of the rocks and the jar. In case you haven’t it goes like this…

Covey takes a jar, into which he places a few big rocks. Then he adds a bunch of small pebbles, and finally some sand, which fits in around the rocks and pebbles.

The jar symbolises our time, the rocks represent our important priorities, the small pebbles represent things that matter, but that you could live without, and finally the sand which represents busy tasks that aren’t important, and are likely only done to waste time or get small tasks accomplished.

When you place the big rocks in the jar first, then put in the pebbles, and finally the sand, everything either fits in, or the only thing that won’t fit is excess sand.

The metaphor here is that if you try and do this in the reverse order putting sand in first, then the pebbles you can’t fit in the big rocks.

This holds true with the things you let into your life. If you spend all your time on the small and insignificant things, you will run out of room for the things that are actually important.

While you can always find time to work or do chores, it is important to manage the things that really matter first. The big rocks are your priorities, while the other things in your life are represented by pebbles and sand.

One such big rock is scheduling time for staff development, such as setting aside time for developing customer service skills, or any activity which helps develop your service culture.

Let’s take complaint handling as an example. It’s all too easy to wait until something has gone wrong to discover your team are not that confident or competent in dealing with complaints, only to end up with a niggling customer complaint escalating into a major problem. If team members had been trained and coached in complaint handling in advance such a situation could probably be avoided. But it’s all too easy to let these proactive (big rocks) shift down the priority list.

One of the challenges is that we see these big rocks as scary overwhelming tasks. But if your managers and supervisors have the skills to deliver training in-house (be that identifying customer needs, complaint handling, managing customer expectations). It means you can break down this training into bite-size sessions which you can schedule in over several days, several weeks, or simply make part of your weekly/monthly routine.

So, the moral of the story? As you plan for the year ahead, put in the big rocks first – the things that are important, such as staff development and training, even though they are not necessarily urgent yet, or else they won’t fit into the jar. i.e. schedule these into your calendar first.

p.s. please send me your questions- what 2 questions would you like to ask me about developing customer service skills? Just click reply to this email and send me your questions. I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to answer individually… But I will try to answer them in a future newsletter. Thank you.



Don’t kid yourself you’ll remember

customer retentionCustomer Retention and Employee Retention post-Christmas

I know planning for next Christmas (or any other busy period) is probably the last thing on your mind just now.

But if we don’t take stock now of how this year has gone, we’ll be missing out on the opportunity to learn from the experience. Don’t kid yourself you’ll remember what you’d change for next year… You won’t, and only kick yourself afterwards!

Debrief at the end of each day or event and keep notes of what you’ll do differently next time. This helps you identify ways to improve both customer retention (particularly customers buying from you the first time) and employee retention, by keeping your permanent and temporary staff happy.

Customer Service and Customer Retention

  • Keep a note of what your customers have bought, so you can prompt them next time around, so they (and you) don’t forget anything. And you can deliver a consistent service which is at least as good as, if not better than this year.
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  • Capture feedback from your customers. Find out what they loved (so you can do more of the same in future) and what they were not so keen on, so you know what not to repeat. Do this now while their emotions are still running high from their experience, not in three weeks’ time when everything is back to normal.
    Build on this feedback for next year, so you can plan what you’ll add or do differently.
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  • Ask your happy customers for testimonials, and check they’re happy for you to use these in next year’s marketing. This in itself helps with customer retention, as few customers who recommend you are likely to then go elsewhere.
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  • Follow up with your customers to show you appreciate their business.  Take this opportunity to ask them what they enjoyed and tell them what you have planned for the year ahead to sow the seed for further business throughout the year or at the same time next year.
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  • Capture details of new customers so you can stay on their radar and tempt them back at other times of the year.

Employee retention

  • Get feedback from your team, both permanent and temporary staff. Involve them in the review process by asking for their ideas. Focus on 3 questions:
    1. What went well for them?
    2. What was challenging and where did they struggle to meet customers’ expectations?
    3. What can be improved on or should be done differently in future to ensure the customer experience is still a great one even when you’re busy.
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  • Identify where your team needs support, coaching or further training; all of which you might be able to address in your quieter weeks ahead.
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  • Recognise and reward your team. If they’ve put in extra hours or effort to make your busy periods a success show them how much you appreciate this, so they’ll be happy to do the same again next time. Remember, rewards don’t have to be financial; for some time off or flexibility of shifts to spend with family or friends after Christmas could be the most valuable gift you could give them
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Profitability

  • Keep tabs on your costs to ensure you have an accurate picture of your expenditure and profit margins.  If you run events or promotions include post costings for each event, to take account of uptake, wastage, and actual spend.
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Future planning

  • Bring everything together from your debriefings and summarise:
    1. what went well. What will you continue, develop or build on for future
    2. what didn’t go so well, and needs doing differently.
    3. What have you learnt.
  • Make notes which will be meaningful to you months down the line, and file these somewhere where you can find them easily when it comes to planning next year!
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Finally, take the time to celebrate your successes and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.


I don’t care how busy you are!

customer service standards when busyMaintaining customer service standards when busy

Here’s my second article related to customer service during the Christmas Season. If you’re busy in the weeks leading up to Christmas, or over Christmas and New Year itself I’ve written this with you in mind.

But if you want to maintain your customer service standards, most of the points are equally applicable to any business at any time of year when you expect to be busy or you experience peaks of activity.

So, whether you’re a hospitality, leisure or retail or business already in the thick of Christmas activity, a professional services business who knows everyone leaves things to the last minute to get repairs, renewals  or returns done on time to meet end of year deadline, or a health and wellness business anticipating a flurry of activity  as a result of New Year’s resolutions – here are a few things to bear in mind to continue to meet your customer’s expectations.

7 ways to maintain your customer service standards

  1. First impressions count.  Remember, when you’re busy, many of these customers may be coming to your business for the very first time, so don’t let the volume of customers be an excuse to let customer service standards drop. Create a memorable first impression and a reason for them to return.
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  2. Avoid damaging your reputation with your loyal regulars by lowering your standards of customer service just because you are busy. Your regulars don’t care! Busy or not, whether it’s Christmas and you’re rushed off your feet, or your staff are taking time off, your customers expect consistency. Don’t disappoint.
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  3. Most customers accept that things can go wrong from time to time. But, they are far more understanding if they’re forewarned. Keep the customer informed of the situation and give them options. Customers will appreciate your honesty which helps maintain trust and keep your customers loyal.
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  4. Avoid disappointments. When you know something is unavailable give customers as much notice as possible – through your website, when booking or enquiring, prior to travel or on arrival – to minimise disappointment. But, offer customers choice and alternatives. Being kept informed is not about making excuses!  It’s about honesty so the customer can make an informed decision.
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  5. If something they’ve asked for isn’t available; will be it be available later or not at all? What’s the alternative? What can you offer that might be as good as or even better? Take the opportunity to introduce your customers to something they haven’t tried before, or something that could be classed as an ‘upgrade’ (at no additional cost to them, of course). It’s a perfect opportunity to let your customer experience something over and above what they were expecting, so enhance their perception of customer service and value for money.
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  6. Don’t over commit. Ensure your team are able to offer suggestions and recommendations, and that they’re fully aware of what is feasible, and what’s not a practical proposition when you’re busy, so they don’t make commitments you can’t deliver.
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  7. Even out the workload. For example, if you know that you’re likely to be busy at certain times of the day, make every effort to let your customers know this. If you let them know when the quieter times are, this not only helps them, it potentially evens out the peaks and troughs for you too, enabling you to maintain customer service standards.

So whether your busy season is Christmas, the January sales, or sizzling summer days, the same customer service principles still apply…



Improving Employee Productivity

Getting the best from your seasonal team

When Christmas is an exceptionally busy time for your business this of course presents a huge opportunity for you. But if you’re left with insufficient manpower, or temporary staff who simply aren’t up to the job, this can leave your existing team stretched and unable to meet your normal levels of service.

So, not only do your regulars leave disappointed, but those first-time customers don’t get the fab first impression they need to convert them into returning long term loyal customers.

If you’re taking on extra seasonal staff for the Christmas period (or at any other time of the year), I’m sure you will want them to be as productive as possible, as quickly as possible.

Here are a few ideas, so you avoid them being thrown in at the deep end or not pulling their weight.

Before

Start the induction process as soon as possible; the more you can do before their first shift the better their first day’s experience is likely to be and the quicker they’ll be up to speed.

When confirming the job let them know how much you’re looking forward to them coming to work for you and then start with information that lets them know that they’re going to get a warm welcome.

The easiest way for you to do this is to create a standard welcome pack. This might include:

  • A short personalised welcome letter or card from you, the owner or general manager personally signed.
  • The background to your business, your service culture, your values and what’s important to you.
  • An outline of what they’ll be doing on their first shift – training, briefings, range of work.
  • Information about personal safety at work, plus travelling to and from the job. (Particularly important for those who will be working unsociable hours.) This might include information about parking and public transport, even a timetable (download and print).
  • For hospitality, leisure or retail businesses a voucher for them to come and be a customer with you so they can experience things from a customer’s perspective.
  • A short summary of the Staff Manual with key things they need to know.
  • Their terms and conditions of employment so they have an opportunity to read through this before day one.
  • Any current topical information, such as your latest newsletter.
  • What to wear and what to bring on their first shift.
  • Anything else they might need to know in advance such as time keeping, break allowance, staff meals, security, health and safety.
  • Avoid being let down at the last minute – Provide out of hours contact numbers and establish procedures for sickness reporting.

Putting all this in a smart folder with their name on it and sending it to them before they start will make them feel more welcome and they are more likely to be looking forward to the first day and getting into their job quickly.

Stay in touch with the new team member, particularly if there is a long lead-in time before they start. This will help to avoid the potential “buyer’s remorse”, and instead help to create a sense of excitement and anticipation.

During

Apart from the obvious outline of the job itself, cover the following:

  1. What we stand for: Define your service culture, what is important to you as a business and what is the type of experience you want your customers to have when they do business with you.
  2. First impressions count.  Customers don’t differentiate between permanent or temporary team members; they expect the same service from everyone. Specify your standards for welcoming and greeting customers, answering the phone. including the ordering and/or booking procedures if this is part of their role.
  3. Help new team members understand your customers’ expectations. Describe your customer profile and what they will be looking for. Why do people come to you rather than your competition, what makes you different or unique. Take people through the key parts of the customer journey and allow them to see everything from a customer’s perspective as far as possible.
  4. How we do things round here.  Every business has its own little routines, habits and traditions.  The sooner new-comers get to know these the sooner they’ll start to feel at home. How this translates into the day-to-day role might come better from a fellow employee or their buddy, rather than necessarily coming from you.
  5. Assign a buddy. Assign someone within their team they can go to for day-to-day questions, so they’re not left floundering or too scared to ask for help. This means when they have what they might perceive as being trivial questions they still have someone to turn to rather than the question being left unanswered. Choose your buddies with care, ensuring that they not only know the standards and your expectations, but they are ambassadors for your business and you’re confident they’ll be patient and supportive when asked.
  6. Teamwork is key. Introduce new team members to everyone else in the whole team. Defining everyone’s areas of responsibility so there are no gaps and no duplication of effort. Avoid any friction that can occur when someone hasn’t pulled their weight or others are seen to ‘interfere’ with your way of doing things.
  7. Play to people’s strengths. When you offered them the position, what were the key things that stood out for you about this person?  Rather than making everyone mediocre at everything, capitalise on the skills and experience this person displays. Consider allocating a specific task or project that they can get stuck into and for which they have some responsibility and ownership. This is a great way to get them involved and give them something where they can contribute early on.
  8. Provide thorough product knowledge – People can’t sell something they don’t know exists! What does your business offer – times of service, complementary products, etc.  Let your staff sample products and/or services as far as possible, explain what products are normally sold together (e.g. in a restaurant what accompanies each dish) what the price includes and what’s extra. If they have a role in up-selling what are the products you want them to promote, including any future events?  If your core team are incentivised, make sure you include seasonal staff in the scheme.
  9. Establish protocol in dealing with specific situations. Payment procedures, including any security procedures or checks needed; handling customer complaints, and awkward customers.  Define the line between handling these situations themselves and when to seek intervention from a manager or more experienced staff member
  10. Help make them feel like family. If your team (temporary or permanent) have to work unsociable hours, long nights or sacrifice personal social lives, be open to flexibility. Recognise that people may be missing out on family and friends’ events, so help make up for this in some way.
  11. Recognise their work. Just like permanent employees, let them know that you see and appreciate their efforts. If they’re there to learn (e.g. a student gaining valuable work experience) they’ll welcome supportive feedback. Schedule short weekly meetings to review progress, answer questions, and identify when help is needed.
  12. This is also a great time to get feedback from them on their ideas and observations. Often a fresh pair of eyes will highlight things we’ve missed, and they bring with them experience and insights on how to do things better.
  13. Give them something to look forward to and keep them interested for the whole season.  Involve them in any after work social activities and maybe some incentive awarded at the end of the season.

After

Set yourself up for next year or your next busy period by ensuring your temporary team members remember you in a good light and will want to return or at the very least become an ambassador for your business.

How you treat them afterwards is as important as how you treat them during their time with you, especially if there’s a strong likelihood they may work with you again.

  • Ask for their feedback on their experience so you can learn how to make your business an even more attractive place to work in future.
  • Invite them along to any post season team events. This is not only a good way to say thank you afterwards, but helps embed positive memories of their time with you.
  • Maintain communication so you can continue a conversation with potential talent, giving you the ability to hire fast when you need to. You’ll be more readily able to hire people who are already familiar with your business, (or  who help find others like them), and can easily slip back into the business with little to no extra training.
  • Show them opportunity. Some may be looking to forge long-term careers within your industry. To ensure you’re capturing the best talent, show them the opportunity and growth positions that could arise if they return or stay with your business.

Is all this effort worth it if they’re just a temp?

Absolutely.

Treat them well and you’ll be rewarded with improved employee productivity, a happier more engaged team and employee retention, better customer service, and ultimately create advocates for your business.

Maintain your reputation as a good employer; if you treat seasonal staff well, and they will be willing to come back next time you need an extra hand.

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It’s not the cost that counts for employee recognition

Don’t you just love it when you open up a gift, and it’s perfect for you?

It feels really good that somebody’s gone to the trouble of finding something that they knew you’d love.

You’re delighted that they paid attention to something you happen to have mentioned in passing.

You’re touched that they’ve gone to so much trouble to find the precise thing you’ve always wanted.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could leave our team members or customers feeling that way about what we give them?

Last week I wrote about the new John Lewis Christmas advert and how it prompted me to think about 2 things which are important factors in creating a service culture.

The first of these was emotional triggers and anchors, which if you missed it you can read here.

The second one was how often we focus on the cost of something rather than the value it brings.

I see the underlying message of the advert is that it’s not what gift you give or how much you spent on that gift, but what that gift can mean to the person you give it to.

So, how can we apply this principle in the context of creating a service culture?

As human beings we all like to be appreciated!

But there are many ways we can show that appreciation. It’s not about how lavish the gift, in fact it might not even be a tangible gift at all.

Ongoing, simple but sincere gestures – however small – that demonstrates your gratitude will certainly contribute to your team’s and your customers’ loyalty.

Here are a few ideas to show employee recognition and build customer loyalty:

  1. Help people celebrate: Something that seems insignificant to us might be a big deal for a team member or customer. Share in their excitement. What can you do to help them celebrate their special day or achievement?
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  2. Make them smile: In the same way you might share a joke, compliment a friend on their new shirt, or point out something fun, it might just be something we say or small gesture that really makes someone’s day. Spot opportunities to bring a smile to someone’s face.
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  3. I saw this and thought of you: Remembering an interest, a hobby or a project they are working on. And when you see something or meet someone related to it you make a note and send them over an article, buy a magazine or introduce them to someone who shares their passion. So long as it’s relevant, well timed and personal.
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  4. Remember people’s like and dislikes: People feel touched when you remember their likes and dislikes: their favourite foods, favourite colour, or simply the way they take their coffee. Never under estimate the impact when you remember someone’s preferences especially when they aren’t expecting it.
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  5. Spot opportunities to Give Little Unexpected Extras: Doing something spontaneous when you know the other person will appreciate it.
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    For example, for a customer finding something they’ve mentioned even though it’s not something you normally stock; gift wrapping or packing something with a personal touch or greeting because you know it’s their birthday.
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    For team members, letting them leave early because you know it’s their partner’s  birthday, their children’s sports day, or tomorrow they leave on a holiday of a lifetime.
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  6. Creating Magic Moments: Identify the little finishing touches that you can give to leave people with that wow factor. Picking up on an earlier conversation you’ve had that enables you to give a customer a personalised memento of their visit.
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    What is there that makes your business or offer unique, that others might enjoy taking home or share with others to create magic moments, not just for your customers or team members but their families and friends too?
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  7. Generate ideas. Challenge your team to come forward with their own ideas – If they were a customer coming to your business what little touches would they love that would make it memorable or extra special for them?
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    Ask them to imagine they had a magic wand and had all the time in the world, and a limitless budget… this can give you insights into what they might like too!

What can you give that can turn an average day into an amazing day for your team or customers?

Value, not price

A present should not be about the best or the most expensive thing. It’s not about the money, but about the thought that has gone into it. So that it means something to the person you give it to. This might be to delight, inspire, excite or simply make them feel special or valued.

This privilege shouldn’t be reserved for customers. If you make your team members feel special or valued they’ll do the same for your customers.

 



Your Song

The new John Lewis Christmas advert was released last week. I have to confess, I’ve watched this several times on YouTube, as Elton John’s Your Song has to be one of my favourite songs of all time. As a teenager, when this was first released, I would play it over and over; it’s one of the few songs from which I could recite every word.  And because my mum loved it too, each time I hear it, it reminds me of her.

What has this got to do with your customer service culture?

This prompted me to think about 2 things which are important factors in creating a service culture:

Emotional triggers and anchors

We are surrounded by things that can impact our emotional state or our mood. And these are so easily picked up by customers. This is fine when it’s a positive emotional state, or a state that helps us to get into rapport with the customer.

Not so good when it’s a complete mismatch, or when we have negative emotions which are picked up by the customer, albeit subconsciously.

These emotional states can be prompted by the things other people say or do (when we’re surrounded by mood Hoovers, it’s inevitable this rubs off), the day’s events (e.g. missing the bus, or getting stuck in traffic, so we are late for work), or even our anticipation of future events (you’re not looking forward to speaking to that particularly difficult customer).

But, as in my case with hearing Your Song, it could be a sound, such as piece of music or birdsong, it could be a scent or a particular smell, it might be the touch or feel of something real or imagined. Or it might simply be recalling a scene from a movie, a fun night out with friends, or the first time you saw a particularly amazing view. Any of these things have the capacity to change someone’s emotional state, but it will be different triggers for different emotions and different triggers the different people.

So, how does all this relate to customer service?

If we know that some states will have a negative impact on the customer experience, we need to look to changing that state to one that is appropriate.

Firstly, we need to break the negative state. Simply by changing our physiology can help (think how we are on a car long journey and we are feeling sleepy, if we get out of the car and walk around for a few minutes we’ll normally feel more alert).

But we then want to replace this with a more positive state; so, the trick is to identify what triggers will work for you to elicit the right state.

Putting that into context, for me, hearing Your Song makes me feel rather sad, so although this very easily elicits an emotion, it might not be the emotion I want when I’m dealing with a customer. So, if I wanted to get into a very happy state, I know – for me – picturing a particular scene from the film The Full Monty always brings a smile to my face.

What’s Your Song? And the trigger that’s guaranteed to bring a smile to your face?

And just as important, what’s the one thing that is guaranteed to bring a smile to their face for each of your team. You don’t have to know what this is, but it’s important that they do, so they can get into that happy state, even when their day has got off to a bad start.

The second factor in creating a service culture? I’ll come back to that next week.

 

 


Tears of frustration

Since my arm came out of plaster (following my mountain bike accident in July) I’ve been having weekly sessions with an occupational therapist to help get the strength and mobility back in my wrist and hand. It’s been a long, slow process, but on each visit I’ve made incremental improvements.

As you can imagine, some of the exercises she puts me through are testing, and at times quite painful. The thing is though, it’s one thing, doing the exercises with her at the hospital, but it’s quite another when I have to do these for myself 10-15 times a day at home.

And last week this led me to tears. Not tears from the pain, but tears of frustration.

I just couldn’t get one of the exercises right, and I knew if I couldn’t get it right here with the therapist guiding me there was no way I was going to get it right at home.

One instant she was tell me I was doing it wrong, and then the next she’d say “well done, that’s much better”. But the frustration was because I simply couldn’t tell the difference between doing it wrong and doing it right!

If we think in the workplace, are there ever times when we spot a team member doing something in a way that we know won’t get them the right result, but however much we pick them up on it, they still don’t get it right?

When we have to correct them on the same thing, time and time again, of course, this is frustrating for us, but it’s probably just as frustrating for them if they really don’t know what it is they’re doing wrong. Particularly when they really do want to get it right.

If this ever happens to you here are some pointers that might help…

What tells you it’s right or wrong?

The more specific you are about the tangible and measurable indicators, the easier it will be for the other person to measure their success.

Quantitative standards or pointers are easier to interpret than qualitative ones. So, for example, if you want phone answered quickly, specify in how many rings. When it comes to qualitative standards, it can be far more open to personal interpretation, so giving examples and/or demonstrations (and of course leading by example) can be helpful, but still be prepared to make the comparison between the right way and the wrong way.

Often, it’s subtle little nuances that make all the difference to reflect your service culture or improve employee productivity.

What’s the impact?

If people understand the end result they’re aiming for, this can help clarify why something is right versus why something is wrong. They can often see or feel for themselves that the wrong way doesn’t achieve the result they want and vice versa.

What to do differently?

Once people know what’s wrong (specifically), and why, it’s considerably easier for them to grasp the right way; or even to identify the right way for themselves.

Getting them carrying out tasks the right way, in comparison with the wrong way, is a step forward.

But…

It’s very easy for people to go back to the wrong way, particularly if that feels more comfortable, is easier or is quicker.

Human nature says we’ll always take the path of least resistance!

Until someone becomes fully competent and confident in the right way, (and we’ll assume here they already have the commitment and capacity to do things the right way) it will be all too easy for them to slip back into their old comfortable way of doing it.

So, be prepared to give further coaching, support and feedback until they have formed new habits.

And avoid those tears of frustration. For both them and you!

 


Another perspective

Both my grandfathers served in the First World War. My mum’s dad (Pop) was an officer in India. Dad’s dad (Granddad) a private in the trenches in northern France.

As you can imagine Pop and Granddad had very different experiences and very different perspectives of the war.

They also both responded in very different ways. Whilst in India Pop kept a diary which included drawings to illustrate events, effectively creating an historical document (since donated to the Imperial War Museum).

Granddad, on the other hand, never ever talked about the war. He simply wanted to block out the horrors he’d witnesses and endured. And who could blame him.

Whatever your own perspective, in the workplace it’s always useful to consider things from other people’s perspectives. Whether that is getting commitment from team members, dealing with customers, or merely seeking ideas or solutions to problems.

Let’s look at a few examples:

1. The Angry Customer

When I’m coaching managers to get the best from their team or training staff in dealing with customer complaints encouraging them to see things from other people’s perspectives is such an important part of resolving difficult situations.

Let’s focus on an example of a customer who is extremely angry and (to our mind) unreasonable. This customer is important to you because she spends a lot of money with you, but every time she visits or calls you anticipate some kind of confrontation or anger on their part. This is upsetting to you and your team but because they are a valuable customer you feel you need to do something to improve the relationship.

Your perspective

What I hear is a raised voice, curtness, demands for attention. What I feel is nervousness for what’s going to come next, frustration at her for doing this, defensiveness towards my team. What I’m saying out loud is calm, polite, but what I’m saying inside is how I’m determined I am not to be insulted. What I believe is this person is rude, arrogant and ignorant and likes to get her own way.

Customers perspective

As the customer I am stating what I want and the deadlines I need to meet. I hear someone who is meek and I’m not sure if they really understand my urgency and the pressure I’m under to get served quickly. I’m concerned that unless I make it very explicit I’m not going to get what I need, and I’m putting myself at risk of getting a hard time from my boss.

This second position (in this case getting into the customers shoes) helps create empathy and can give clues to a potential way forward. But although empathy will help it won’t necessarily lead to a solution both parties are happy with.

You both want the same thing – the customer getting what they need and going away happy

2. Poor Performance

When a team member isn’t acting appropriately or not doing what is asked of them. Imagine you’ve asked one of your team to carry out a refund for a customer. It’s a simple task, but when you check up on it later in the day you discover it’s not been done.

Your perspective

I’m irritated; I’ve given this person instructions on what’s needed. This is part of their job, and he should know what to do as he’s seen everyone else do it. If he doesn’t do it soon either the customer is going to get very irate, or someone else in the team will have to do it. I feel frustrated he’s not dealing with it, and appears to be putting it off.

Team members perspective

I’m confused. I’ve been asked to do this task (my old manager always processed refunds himself). Although I’ve seen others do it, I’m not really sure how to get the information I need. I was shown once but it was a while ago and I’ve forgotten all the details. I know it’s important for the customer to process these promptly, but also I’m nervous about getting it wrong. I’d ask for help, but everyone is really busy. I have 101 other things to do, so I’ll get on with those for now, and ask for help later.

You both want the same thing – the task done correctly

3. Making changes

When you need to get buy-in to a change, unless you consider others perspective you can find resistance to that change. Let’s imagine you are about to install a new system for taking bookings. You know it will mean fewer errors.

Your perspective

I’m relieved we are finally installing the new system as I know it will reduce errors such as double bookings or bookings left off the system altogether. It will streamline the process so making it easier for the team and reduce complaints from customers when there have been errors.

Teams perspective

Do they think it’s our fault? We believe it won’t make much difference as people prefer the personal touch, and probably won’t use it. Also, for regulars we know their personal preferences so if it’s all automated, we’ll end up with our regular customers being unhappy with their room or table allocation. If they aren’t happy they’ll moan to us and it’s bound to have an impact on our tips.

You both want the same thing – happy customers (who tip well!).

4. Finding solutions

It doesn’t just help in negative situations, it can also help clarify the way forward, when for example when you are stuck for a solution or a way forward on something that affects others.

For example: you have peaks and troughs of activity so when you’re quiet team members are sometimes under-utilised and end up wasting time. But at others you are really busy and then have an issue with customers being kept waiting.

Your perspective

I’m frustrated I’m paying wages for people to hang around doing nothing. But I know I need to have people there as when we are busy.

Their perspective – person A

We have a lot of hanging around, which is boring, and it makes the day go so slowly. I don’t want to be doing this job for the rest of my life and would love to get involved with some of the things happening in other departments. Why can’t I spend the downtime helping in other departments, and they help us when we are busy?

Their perspective – person B

I don’t know why I have to rush to get here so early as all we do for the first hour is hang around. I’d love to spend an extra hour with the kids before I come in, and I’d happily make up extra time if needed when we are busy.

You all want the same thing – not to have to hang around doing nothing.

In each of these scenarios you can see that the other person isn’t wrong, they just have a different perspective of the situation. Even when YOU think their belief is wrong or unfounded something must have led to their perception; to them this is the reality. Even if you believe you need to change their perception you must first seek to understand what it is and what it’s based on, and show you understand their perspective.

Then take a step back from an onlookers perspective to look for the areas of commonality so you can find a solution; ideally a joint solution that satisfies you both.

Related posts: Perceptual Positions