Author Archives: Caroline Cooper

Conscious competence and how to move beyond it

conscious competence

Developing unconscious competence

When we learn we start at unconscious incompetence, working through conscious incompetence and conscious competence towards unconscious competence.

Last week I was reviewing progress as a result of some training I’ve been conducting with some managers – helping them get the best from their team, who are all customer facing. I love working with junior managers who lack the experience of managing people, as it is so rewarding when they start to see the results.

In this instance these results just weren’t coming fast enough for their manager! He was expected instant changes. I reminded him Rome wasn’t built in a day!

There were two things we needed to take into consideration to reach the level of unconscious competence:

Having the resources

In this instance the training flushed out a number of resources that were needed for them to do everything they wanted to implement, some of which required time and others needed sign off.

Although you might believe people have everything they need, their perception may be different. And if they believe they don’t have the time, tools or authority to put their new skills or knowledge into practice it becomes a barrier. And the longer it takes to remove that barrier (be it real or imagined) the less likely your training will be put into practice.

So ask them to identify anything that might stand in their way, and resolve any obstacles promptly, otherwise it implies it’s not important.

Moving from ‘conscious incompetence’ to ‘conscious competence’

During training you normally established the standards or process, set expectations, and hopefully people have had a chance to practise their skills in a safe environment.

But, often the only way to really hone these skills and develop true competence is once applied on the job. It simply can’t always happen in the confines of the training room.

When we learn anything new we always begin at stage 1 (‘unconscious incompetence’) on the conscious competence learning model, and end at stage 4 – ‘unconscious competence’, having passed through stage 2 – ‘conscious incompetence’ and – 3 ‘conscious competence’.

At the point people finish a piece of training they are somewhere between consciously incompetent and conscious competence. Unconscious competence will only come later.

At conscious competence they still have to stop and think about how they do something; it doesn’t flow naturally. It takes longer and they’re still learning a little from trial and error. Confidence can be low as they get to grips with it all.

Think of it as you were when you first passed your driving test; you probably took things steady, you had to concentrate really hard, not being distracted by tuning the radio, or chatting to your passengers. And you wouldn’t have rushed out to drive in snow and ice or at full speed on a busy motorway.

So, when your team go through any training, allow time for people to practise, to get feedback on how they are doing, and where it’s OK to ask for help or make a mistake so long as they learn from it. This will help them move from conscious incompetence conscious competence if they’re not get there, and then onto unconscious competence.

It might still be on the job, but don’t expect them to be able to put everything into practice brilliantly straight away. If you do you run the risk of losing their confidence

And when something doesn’t work right first time around it’s all too easy for them to go back to their comfortable old familiar ways, and go back down the competency ladder.

 

Take action

If you only do two things to help people achieve unconscious competence:

  1. Ask people if they are missing any resources they need to implement their training.
  2. Allow time and opportunity for people to build up new skills and habits gradually, giving them plenty of time for practice.

Watch my video on creating Conscious Competence – the critical first step to get people receptive to training

If you’re looking for more ideas to help embed customer service training and get your team from conscious competence to unconscious competence here are 38 activities for you to use https://www.naturallyloyal.com/resources/28activities/



How am I doing? Conducting effective 1-1 meetings

How to conduct effective 1-1 meetingsConducting effective 1:1 meetings

Conducting effective 1-1 meetings is an essential skills for any manager. Never under estimate the impact of sitting down regularly with each member of staff on a one to one basis.

Whether you call them “one to one meetings”, “reviews” or simply “chats” really doesn’t matter; the important thing is that they happen.

And regularly.

But, why would you want to have these if you see your team members every day and give them feedback as you go?

Because conducting effective 1-1 meetings provides an opportunity for a private discussion, to raise points which you may not want others to hear, and for them to raise things they might not want everyone else to hear.

They also provide that window of time to focus on them:

  • not just you telling them how they’re doing,
  • but allowing them the opportunity to tell you how they think they are doing.
  • and to listen to their ideas, questions, concerns and suggestions

Your aim in conducting a 1-1 meeting should be:

  • To motivate your team members to either continue or sustain good performance
  • For team members to feel confident that they have the ability and support to fill any gaps where they need development.
  • It’s an opportunity for them to have their contribution recognised – not just performance, but have their ideas heard.
  • It devotes time to set direction and goals for the coming weeks.
  • The net result should be an enthused and motivated employee who knows what they should be focusing on, and how this will contribute to the business.

Two-way

I often hear of managers spending literally hours preparing for the meetings, then finding themselves having to work twice as hard to get the employee to contribute their ideas and views to the meeting. One to ones are as much for their benefit as yours, so ask them to take some responsibility for the preparation too.

There may be things they’ve done that are worthy of comment, which you are oblivious to; remember you don’t see them every minute of every day they are at work. So ask them to plan what they would like to discuss.

  • Ask open questions to get their ideas on performance and how to move forward.
  • Use the AID* model for feedback: They’ll still want your view on performance
  • Ask for their views
  • Offer support: If there are shortfalls you need to understand why, and then help bridge that gap.

3 core questions for conducting-effective-1-1-meetings

As a minimum you may like to consider these 3 questions:

  • Achievements
  • Shortfalls
  • Focus

1. Achievements

What successes or achievements have you had this month or what have you done this month that you’re proud of?

  • What have been your top 2/3 successes?
  • What have you accomplished towards this year’s goals?
  • What has gone particular well for you this week/month/period?
  • What have you been particularly pleased with?
  • What have they achieved towards pre-determined goals, targets, KPIs, etc.

Start on a positive and is an opportunity for the employee to blow their own trumpet.

Of course if these are things you’ve spotted too this is your opportunity to give praise where it’s due, and reinforce their success.

This is a time when you might discover other strengths or successes that you’ve been previously unaware of, so take note and ask for examples if you need to.

Ensure you build on their successes and discuss how they can do more of this or emulate this in future. (See the AID model)

Compliment them, tell them why you value their contribution, focus on strengths.

2. What’s not gone so well?

What disappointments or frustrations?

  • If you had a magic wand, what would you change or do differently?
  • Where have you fallen short against this month’s goals/KPIs?
  • What hasn’t gone to plan?
  • What have you been disappointed with?
  • What have you set out to do but it hasn’t yet happened?

Sometimes people will be very hard on themselves, and even if people have not done everything you’ve asked of them, when they are identifying this for themselves it’s a lot easier for both of you to have that conversation.

How have they gone about this? Something may have given a good result at first glance, but it’s all very well achieving all their targets but not so good if they’ve upset colleagues or customers along the way.

Look at this as an opportunity to learn, so discuss what got in the way and how to overcome this in future. This might need some more support or training from you or additional resources.

3. Where’s the next focus?

What do you feel needs to be your number 1 focus for the coming month?

Alternatives:

What needs to be the focus for the coming week/month/period?

This is your opportunity to look ahead and either set some goals for the forthcoming period or to summarise any development that has been identified as result of the previous 2 questions.

  • What needs to be focused on or addressed, and what support or development do they need to do this

At the end of the meeting ask if they have anything to add.

Summarise theirs and your actions, record and agree next review date.

If there needs to be more commitment or input on their part ask them to do the summarising. This way you know there is at least an understanding of what’s expected over the coming period, and an opportunity to set this straight if their interpretation is different from yours.

If you simply ask the 3 questions on a regular basis over time your team will get used to you asking these and as time goes on hopefully they’ll be more prepared for each question giving it some thought prior to your meeting.

Their preparation obviously doesn’t let you off the hook altogether, but if they are well prepared it will certainly reduce the amount of time needed for conducting effective 1-1 meetings.

See a short video on Conducting effective 1-1 meetings here: https://naturallyloyal.wistia.com/medias/4unqvbced5

If you only do one thing: Find some time in the coming week to schedule a one to one with each of your team.



How to engage and motivate your team

engage and motivate your team Engaging and motivating your team on their return from their Christmas break

When you get home from work can you normally sense what sort of mood everyone else is in? Even when no words are spoken it’s usually pretty easy to tell. Our moods and emotions are usually evident to others from our expressions, behaviours and tone.

I know how difficult it can be to get motivated again after a break. And of course, it can be no different for your team getting back into the swing of things after Christmas.

All of which of course can have an impact on your customers’ experience …and ultimately your bottom line.

So, what can you do to engage and motivate your team?

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy; if you, or any of your management team, think it’s going to be tough getting back into the swing of things the chances are it will be.

Not just for you, but for your team as well.

We are all familiar with the “Mood Hoovers”; you know – those people who, when you come into work full of the joys of spring, they comment “What are you so flipping happy about?”, sucking all that energy and enthusiasm from you like a Hoover.

Your physiology certainly influences your own feelings, but can also influence the feelings of people around you too. Which means if people mooch around all day fed up about coming back to work after Christmas it will be difficult to engage and motivate your team, as you’re far more likely to elicit negative emotions than if you’re smiling, happy and generally being positive about being back at work.

Like it or not, your mood – and the mood of your managers – has a profound impact on the mood of all those around you. It influences your team’s attitude, their enthusiasm, their willingness to take responsibility, their confidence in you and the business and their loyalty towards you.

And in turn this certainly influences your customers’ perception of you and your team, their level of engagement and ultimately their loyalty to your business.

Being confident, enthusiastic and energetic might not always rub off on everyone else, but it’s a better bet to engage and motivate your team than if you or any of your managers are down and resenting being back.

Take action

If you only do one thing to engage and motivate your team on their return from their Christmas break, find something positive to share with your team and share it with enthusiasm! (…and deal with any Mood Hoovers)

If you’d like more ideas here are 38 Activities to Engage, Energise and Excite your Team in Customer Service



Staff training and development

staff trainingA different way to approach your staff training and development

As we approach January, this is often a time to catch up on staff training.

Most managers think of staff training and team development to achieve one of two things:

  • to fix someone’s weaknesses
  • as a way of grooming somebody for promotion

But there’s an alternative way to approach your staff training and development…

Seeing strengths versus fixing faults

It’s all too easy to end up with everybody becoming a “Jack of all trades and master of none”. Whilst it’s good to cross train your team so you make cover easy, you don’t want to end up everyone mediocre in everything, but expert in nothing.

Imagine what would happen if you were to focus on people’s strengths instead – in the same way you might expect an athlete or members of a football team to hone their skills in areas where they already perform well. You could help them go from a strong performance to real excellence in their areas of greatest ability.  How much more motivated would team members be if they could focus on what they’re best at?

Everyone has skills, it’s just that different jobs require different skills. It takes a certain type of skill to organise an hectic event, to calm down an irate customer, to clean a room in a room in 25 minutes.

Often these are skills they don’t necessarily recognise themselves, as they take these things for granted.  When you recognise these strengths it can boost confidence, and often the tasks they’re good at are those they enjoy more, so it helps to keep them engaged.

Of course, in reality we can’t always let people just do what they’re best at, but we can at least make sure that they’re not always under pressure to improve what they’re worst at! But by focusing on individuals’ strengths you can balance your team so they complement potential shortcomings in others so you can bridge any gaps you have elsewhere.

Stagnate versus stretch

Not everyone wants to progress, but that doesn’t mean you let them stagnate.

We often think of development as grooming people for promotion. This might be one outcome or intention, but it shouldn’t stand in the way of development. Even those who you believe have reached the limits of their capability or have no desire for more responsibility shouldn’t be left to stagnate.

After all, a bored employee is unlikely to shine and even less likely to wow you or your customers!

Look for opportunities to set new challenges within people’s current responsibilities. How can you add variety or stretch them further in areas where they’re already strong?

For example:

– asking them to find ways to make efficiencies or refine a process

– giving them responsibility for training others

– allocating ownership of specific procedures

By giving individuals ownership of particular tasks you create a sense of pride and responsibility.

You’ll be amazed what people can achieve when their strengths are recognised, and they’re given the authority to apply them.

This can also take the pressure off you as that person then becomes the go to person.

Sadly, it’s often only when people leave that we miss what they bring to the team. (….could that lack of recognition be the very reason they leave?)

Here’s an exercise you can carry out with your team to recognise their strengths to take into account before staff training.

Take Action

If you only do one thing: take a step back and identify one strength – however small – for each one of your team members, and let them know you value this.



Strengths Appraisal

Here’s an exercise you can carry out with your team to recognise their strengths.

First, make a list of the members of your team and consider each one personally:

  • What is he/she really good at?
  • What does he/she love to do?
  • When do you see him/her working really well?
  • What is his/her greatest talent?
  • What do you like or value about this person?
  • What do other people in the team value about him/her?

Now look at the team as a whole

  • What is your team’s greatest achievement to date?
  • What is the team really good at?
  • When does your team work best?
  • What do other people value about your team?
  • Why do you enjoy leading this team?
  • What are your team’s greatest strengths?

Having completed this exercise are there any strengths you’ve identified that you can capitalise on to bridge any gaps elsewhere?


How to earn trust

earn trust Why you need to earn trust

According to a recent Harvard Review Survey 58 percent or people say they trust strangers more than their own boss.

This is truly shocking.

If your team don’t trust you, imagine what impact that can have on their performance, your staff turnover, your customers’ experience and your bottom line.

If you want your team to thrive, stay engaged and wow your customers start by ensuring you have their trust, and that people believe you and you will do what you say you will do.

I’ve written previously about demonstrating your trust in your team.

But trust is two way.

How to earn trust

How can you earn trust, and get team members to put their trust in you too?

  1. Show you genuinely care about them, and always have their best interests and long-term well-being at heart, not just business interests.
    A specific – but probably counter intuitive – example is not giving in to the excessive or unreasonable demands of a customer who is having a negative impact on the well-being of team members.
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  2. Lead by example, so there are no mixed messages. If you aren’t seen to adhere to the same principles and behaviours you expect from your team this is a sure way to lose their trust. Be of service and support to others in the same way you’d expect your team to be of service or support to their colleagues and your customers.
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  3. Don’t play favourites. No one likes a teacher’s pet and if one person gets recognised more than others or gets singled out for recognition it will certainly not go down well with those who don’t get the same attention (as well as potentially embarrassing the person who gets all the glory).
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  4. Show personal integrity. Lack of integrity can undermine almost any other effort to create trust. It goes beyond honesty.  One way of manifesting integrity and earn trust is to be loyal to those who are not present.
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  5. Demonstrate trust. When you demonstrate your trust in your team you will usually earn trust in return.
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  6. Play by the same rules. Sincere appreciation is an essential ingredient to earn trust. Ensure all your management team all use the same criteria for rewarding and recognising the team’s contribution, so people don’t get confused or feel deflated when something worthy of recognition gets ignored.
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  7. Keep commitments. Do what you say you’ll do and avoid making commitments you will struggle to keep; breaking a commitment or promise is a major way to destroy trust, particularly when it’s somethings that’s important to the other person.
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  8. Habit forming. It takes time to build and earn trust, so if you have new members in your team or you are new to the team, focus on small daily commitments.
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  9. Apologise when you’re wrong. It is one thing to make a mistake, and quite another not to admit it. Saying “I’m sorry” or admitting when you’ve forgotten something or messed up will go a long way to avoid losing trust.
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  10. Trust yourself. Earning trust from others is not enough if you don’t have trust in yourself. If there’s something you really believe to be right you have to show others what you stand for and what you stand against

Take Action

If you only do one thing to earn trust: Treat your team with the same care, courtesy and respect as you’d like them to show your customers. Listen to them and take on board their requests, and work with them to make their lives easier (which invariably helps productivity and frees up time to improve service levels).



Maintaining service standards however busy you are!

maintaining service standardsMaintaining service standards when busy

Maintaining service standards when you’re busy is just as important as it is at any other time.

Is a customer any less important to you when you’re busy than when you’re quiet? They certainly shouldn’t be; and from the customer’s perspective, they expect to get the same positive customer experience when busy as they would at any other time.

Here’s my second article related to maintaining service standards during the Christmas Season. Of course, consistency is important at any time of year and everyone in your business needs clarity on your expectations (see https://www.naturallyloyal.com/how-to-get-consistency/ ). 

Whether you’re a leisure, hospitality or retail business in the thick of Christmas festivities, a sporting, health or wellness business anticipating a flurry of activity from New Year’s resolutions, or a tourism business with a Christmas spectacle, your customers – be they guests, members or visitors (or any other term you use to describe your customers) – don’t really care whether you’re busy, short staffed or having a meltdown; they still want to be catered and cared for just the same as any other time of year.

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.

7 ideas for maintaining 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. Maintain your reputation. Avoid damaging your reputation with your loyal regulars by allowing your normal standards to drop just because you’re stretched. It may have taken years to build loyalty and trust, and this can be broken in an instant. Even more so if they are entertaining; nobody wants the embarrassment of bringing their friends to their favourite haunt, only to have their expectations dashed.
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  3. Be up front. 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. Don’t over commit. Be realistic about what’s feasible, and what’s not a practical proposition when you’re busy, so you don’t make commitments you can’t deliver. Check your team are aware too, particularly if something regulars normally expect isn’t currently available. What can your team suggest or recommend as an alternative?
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  5. Manage expectations. For example, if you know when you’re likely to be busy, 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.
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  6. 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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  7. Try something new. If something a customer might normally have isn’t available; will 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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So whether your busy season is Christmas, the January sales, or sizzling summer days, the same customer service principles still apply…

Take action

Trust is the basis for building loyalty, and the quickest way to lose this is make promises you can’t deliver. Be open and honest with your customers and brief your team fully so they know what’s available and what’s not.

p.s. If you’d like some help auditing your venue to check it meets your customers’ expectations here are 3 different audit checklists to give you a head start.

https://www.naturallyloyal.com/resources/checklists/



Keeping your team engaged over Christmas

Keeping your team engaged over Christmas

Keeping your team engaged over Christmas, and keeping your customers happy too!

If you run a business that depends heavily on Christmas trade (or have peaks of activity at any time of year) a lot will hang on how good your customers’ experience during this time.

And if your team are feeling the pressure, if they’re rushed, tired from long days, or just fed up with demanding customers, all of this will be picked up by customers.

So it’s important you focus on keeping your team engaged over Christmas if you want them to impress your customers.

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.

Whether you’re a hospitality, leisure or retail or business already in the thick of Christmas activity, a health and wellness business anticipating a surge of activity as a result of New Year’s resolutions, or a tourism business who may see big spikes in visitors as festivals or shows attract the masses, your customers don’t really care how busy you are; they still want to be loved and cared for.

And this starts with your team!

So, here are 11 tips to keeping your team engaged over Christmas, to keep them smiling,  and continue to meet your customers’ expectations.

1. 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. When you’re busy it’s easy to let these slip, but it’s on your busiest days that things are most likely to go wrong, so these are the days when your team briefings are most important.

2. What’s available

Ensure everyone in the team knows what’s available and what’s not as part of your Christmas offerings. People can’t sell something they don’t know exists, and they don’t’ want to look stupid if a customer orders a regular item then discover it’s not available over Christmas.

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.

3. Promote teamwork

Play to the strengths of your permanent team, and use them to support your seasonal team. Introduce temporary team members to everyone else in the whole team and define 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.

4. 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.

5. Pay attention

Listen and observe. Keep your ears and eyes open to recognise when things aren’t as they should be, and spot concerns quickly. When everyone is focused on the customers having a good time, it’s easy to miss the tell-tale signs things are not as they should be. Left to fester these can snowball into bigger problems.

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.

6. Debrief

Get feedback from your team at the end of each day or after each major event, so can you make things go smoother every day.

What went well? What was challenging and where did they struggle to meet customers’ expectations? What can be improved on for next time, or done differently to ensure the customer experience is still a great one even when you’re busy.

Listen to their ideas and suggestions, and show them you value their opinion.

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.

When busy it’s easier for things to go wrong. 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 all your management team use the same criteria for rewarding 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. Time Off

If your team have to work unsociable hours, long nights or sacrifice personal social lives, be open to some flexibility. Recognise that people may be missing out on family and friends’ events, so help make up for this in some way.

And even when busy it’s important for everyone in the team to have a chance to recharge the batteries; it’s when people are tired and frazzled that accidents happen, or mistakes get made.

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.

11. Have some fun

It’s the festive season and your team want to have some fun too! 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, so will certainly rub  off on customers too. This doesn’t mean being unprofessional, but looking for opportunities that create a relaxed and enjoyable place to work.

Give them a treat to look forward to after Christmas.

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!

Finally, take the time to celebrate your successes and give yourself and your team a well-earned pat on the back for a job well done.

This all helps in keeping your team engaged over Christmas, and into the New Year.

Take Action

If you only do one thing – Take a few moments today to review how things are going. Ask for some feedback from the team and thank them for their contribution so far.

Related article: Improving Productivity:  https://www.naturallyloyal.com/improving-employee-productivity-of-seasonal-team/


Getting out of a skid

Service Recovery

Service Recovery

One frosty morning a few weeks ago I was driving to an early morning meeting. I’d negotiated the local country lanes without incident, but just after joining the main road my car went sliding into a skid. Thankfully nothing was coming in the opposite direction and I recovered the situation and regained control.

In this instance no harm was done, but I certainly wouldn’t like a recurrence and I will be more mindful of the conditions on that stretch of road in future.

In business, as with driving, there are times when the unexpected catches us out. Even the best run businesses have problems, and when these affect customers it’s the recovery of the situation that gets remembered.

It’s somewhat counter intuitive, but customers will often have a better perception of  their experience when they’ve had an issue that’s been taken care of swiftly and professionally, than if they didn’t encounter any problems and their experience was just as expected.

I’ve written on complaint handling many times before, (see https://www.naturallyloyal.com/learn-from-complaints/) but here are 5 key considerations to aid your service recovery so your customers’ perception of their experience is even higher.

1. Report near misses

Rather than waiting for things to go wrong, create a culture where it’s accepted that mishaps happen from time to time, and encourage your team to come forward with details of near misses. If they fear a reprimand or criticism they’ll never come clean if they were close to causing an issue.

Whether it was an error on their part or not, the focus should be on learning from the situation, and identifying what needs to happen or be in place to avoid such a situation arising again. Is it a call for better systems, equipment, time, training?

Follow up promptly, or your team members will get the impression it’s not that important.

2. Ownership

A customer doesn’t care whose fault it is, all they are interested in is getting the problem resolved. Empower your team members to take whatever action is in the customer’s best interest. This may involve seeking information, support or action from a colleague, but the important point here is that they take ownership and see the problem through to its resolution.

This is made easier when you have systems and processes in place for service recovery, and when everyone in the team has the same understanding of these.

3. Support

With the best will in the world, you can’t anticipate every conceivable issue. Allow your team members to practise, get feedback and coaching on how they handle service recovery, and learn from everybody else’s experiences.

Listen out for hesitation; when you hear a team member saying  “I can’t…” that might be an indication they are fearful of making a mistake. Talk this through with them to identify any obstacles.

Build confidence; often people know what they should be doing, but just lack that certainty and confidence to do this really well, so give time and an opportunity for them to practise in a safe environment.

4. Prevention is better than cure

Of course, in a perfect world you’d prevent such things happening, and never have to take any steps towards service recovery! Rather than it falling on you to spot potential problems and their solutions, involve your team in ‘hazard spotting’ and in looking for solutions to common issues. Often they’ll foresee issues you’ve never considered and before they’ve become a problem.

Even if you can’t avoid a potential issue altogether, your goal is to minimise the negative impact on the customer experience, so look for ways to do this!

5. Process

The great thing about hearing about a service issue is that you have an opportunity to put things right. But, it’s also important to learn from it, so you prevent a recurrence (even if the issue was purely a misunderstanding on the customer’s part – what led to their understanding or perception, and how do you avoid that perception in future).

Have a process in place – not just for dealing with such issues – but also for reporting or feeding back on them, and following-up to prevent re-occurrence. Ensure every team member understands the process and recognises the importance of it, so they are able to get out of the ‘skid’ if it happens.

If you only do one thing

Look back over the past couple of weeks, and review any issues that have affected customers and discuss with your team how well they handled the service recovery, and what they’ve learnt from it.


Is Anyone Listening to Customer Feedback

customer feedback

How to handle customer feedback and avoid adverse reviews.

Are you listening to customer feedback? Last week someone posted on LinkedIn a cringe-worthy letter she’s been sent by the CEO of an airline following her complaint at having to wait 11 months for a refund, with no apology, no empathy and no acknowledgement. Although not quite in the same league as the “United Airlines breaks guitars” video (19 million views on YouTube!) it was still pretty damning feedback which simply got compounded by the crass response from the CEO.

It’s easy to get defensive or take things personally when hearing negative feedback from customers. But without it how do you identify what’s working and what’s not in your customer eyes? Customer feedback can give you actionable insights that help you make educated business decisions, rather than taking a shot in the dark. Value this honest feedback from customers.

The bad news is most customers won’t give you a second chance if their first experience is bad. That’s why it is paramount to gather customer feedback at the first available opportunity, so you have a chance to put things right before it’s too late.

Too many businesses rely on customers completing feedback forms or questionnaires. The trouble with these is that firstly, people have better things to do than fill out a survey, and if they’re going to say anything they’re far more likely to post a comment on social media, telling the whole world rather than just you.

Secondly, if someone has taken the trouble to give feedback it’s usually too late to rectify things if there was anything they didn’t like. And there are bound to be occasions when you don’t understand what they’re referring to, and by now it’s difficult to ask questions to unravel the issue.

First-hand feedback

Getting feedback directly from your customers gives you an opportunity to capitalise on positive feedback and minimise the impact of any negatives. It gives you the chance to ask questions to really understand the specifics.

When a customer has had a good experience, sharing this with you at the time helps reinforce those positives, whilst if it’s negative you have an opportunity to put things right.

Give your team the confidence to ask well-structured questions to get feedback on specifics; there’s a big difference between bland statements such as “I hope everything was OK” rather than asking about specifics such as “What did you think of the…..?

Talk to your customers

Being visible in your business, and making contact with your customers builds rapport and trust. Once you’ve gained this you’re in a far better position to gain valuable feedback first hand.

The same goes for your team too, so encourage them to talk to your customers. Give them the appropriate training to ask for feedback in the knowledge that they are confidence to deal with feedback – good or bad – in a positive way. Bear in mind, your customers will tell you things that they wouldn’t feedback to your team, and vice versa.

Welcome complaints

When there is something wrong, if you get to hear about this early on, it puts you in a position to empathise, apologise and do something about it whilst there’s still time to remedy the situation.

If you don’t agree with the feedback, rather than getting defensive, find out (tactfully) what has led to their perception, as this may lead to the root of the problem. If you don’t know what disappoints customers or has led to a negative a perception, you can’t improve on it, so make sure you are prepared to listen to, and take on board any thoughts on what lets you down, so you can learn from this and address it.

It’s easy for team members to shy away from listening to complaints. Instead, train them to be observant and look for clues that things are not as they should be – a customer’s body language, facial expressions, the tone of their voice or hesitation, or their behaviours, such as leaving half their meal untouched, cancelling their order, asking for the bill earlier than expected.

Empower your team and give them the confidence to do whatever is in the customer’s best interest, without having to get approval from a manager, so any issues can be resolved swiftly and professionally with minimum fuss.

Online reviews

Whether it’s TripAdvisor, Google, Booking.com or Facebook, there’s no getting away from the fact that online reviews – and the responses to them – are shared publicly and may be seen by hundreds or even thousands of prospective customers.

Encourage positive reviews: The most effective way to generate positive reviews is organically, by offering such a positive experience that customers feel compelled to tell others. People are more likely to write reviews when expectations are surpassed, and this is often found in the small details and the special care of customers.

When you know the customer has had a positive experience, don’t be pushy, but sometimes just giving them a little nudge to post a review can make all the difference “I’m happy to hear you enjoyed your stay. It would mean a lot to us if you helped spread the word by posting a review on TripAdvisor.” Or for your team members to have cards they can write their name on and hand to customers, making the review process a little more personal.

Accept that you will get (hopefully only occasional) negative reviews. Whatever you do, don’t get drawn into defensive mode; research indicates that when customers see a business respond positively and professionally to a negative review, they are more than twice as likely to buy from that business than if they had not responded. It shows your customers that you care, and are willing to learn and adapt if relevant to meet their needs.

If the review is asking for a response or needs more discussion before it can be resolved, take the discussion off line by asking reviewers to phone/email you directly.

If you get drawn into a debate or argument, just think how many of your potential (or existing) customers could see that response. By the same token, if you feel justified or compelled to make a refund, you’re in danger of setting a precedent if you make this public online.

 

Make it easy

Have systems in placed to make it easy to gather and review feedback. Take note of the language your customers use to describe what they like. Capitalise on this information and use it in your marketing.

Capture the good and the bad.

Every bit of feedback you get from your guests is valuable to you, whether it’s positive or negative and whether you agree with it or not. So treat it as such.

Action

If you only do one thing:

Have a process, system or forum for your team to share and review customer feedback so it can be acted upon quickly to learn from it and build on it to make continuous improvements.

p.s. if you need more ideas to get your team on board and give them the skills in  asking for feedback see 38 Training Exercise & Activities to Engage, Energise and Excite your Team in Customer Service for ways to hone these skills