Category Archives: Customer Care

10 ways to show your team some love

love hearts laura-ockelIf you’re like me you’ve probably already had half a dozen email declarations of love today from suppliers and those touting for your business. It happens every Valentine’s day, doesn’t it?

I wonder if these businesses put the same amount of time and attention into declaring their love for their team.

Unless your team feel valued and loved they’re not likely to share much love for your customers either.

But if you take care of and show some love for your team they’re far more likely to care for and show love to your customers.

A loved team is an engaged team.

So here are 10 ideas you can use to show your team some love so they in turn show your customers some love and give an all-round great customer experience.

Not just for today, but any day.

1. Know what’s important

Understand each of your team members and what’s important to them. Recognise there are things which may seem insignificant to you, but can mean a lot for others.

What are the things they enjoy? What are the things they’re proud of, be that in or out of work. Express an interest in what they do away from work.

Never under estimate the value sitting down in private with each of your team on a one-to-one basis. Schedule these in advance and stick to your schedule; nothing smacks more of I’m not valued than constantly cancelling these meetings.

2. 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.

3. Pay attention

Listen to your team’s feedback, ideas and suggestions. Show them you value their opinion: ask for their advice or suggestions on matters that affect them or where they may be able to present a different perspective.

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.

4. 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, and use these to get feedback from your team on any customers’ comments, or discuss any questions or suggestions that arise about operational issues.

Keep your team up to date with the bigger picture: what’s happening in your business, in your industry, and with your competitors.

5. Invest in your team’s development

Provide development opportunities to tap into their strengths and keep them stretched. Not everyone wants to progress but it doesn’t mean to say they don’t want to be stretched given opportunities for new challenges. A bored employee is unlikely to wow your customers.

Give everyone an opportunity to learn something new; it’s a win-win as the business will benefit too. Add variety, set them a challenge and trust your team to make decisions to do what’s best.

6. Promote teamwork

Upskill and cross train your team to cover other’s responsibilities so everyone is confident the job still gets covered even when they’re sick, on holiday or have an extra heavy workload. This also promotes a greater appreciation at each other’s roles as well as making it easier to create a culture where everyone takes responsibility when necessary rather than passing the buck.

It doesn’t have to be all about work. It’s difficult to please everyone but if you can find something that appeals to everyone’s tastes, personal commitments and budget, social activities is a great way to bring the team together. Even if this is simply some after hours team activities in the workplace that taps into the interest, talents or expertise of your team.

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.

Every business has its times when things go wrong, so 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 or your management team used the same criteria for awarding 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. Recognise and reward success

Recognise those who go beyond the call of duty. Give public recognition when you receive positive feedback from a customer.

Share your good news to give everyone a boost and recognise those who have contributed. Make any rewards meaningful; not everyone is motivated by the same things to consider what’s important to the individual.

Have some fun. You might be dealing with serious subjects but 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!

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. Send a handwritten letter or a thank you card when they’ve gone the extra mile; a physical letter or card will have 10 times more impact than an email.

These ideas can go a long way towards creating staff loyalty which in turn will contribute to customer loyalty.


You’re only as good as your weakest link

You are only as good as your weakest link. That means if you have just one person failing to deliver good customer service or giving a poor customer experience this will impact your customers perception of your business as a whole.

And that person might not even be one of your own team. Any one of your suppliers or third party providers who can impact your customer experience could be leaving your customers wanting to go elsewhere.

 

So who are the weak links in your business?



Creating Service Superstars

I’m super excited to announce my book ‘Creating Service Superstars’ is now published.

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It is a manager’s guide to building your team’s confidence, initiative and commitment to creating a memorable customer experience.

I’ve kept it nice and short (69 pages) so it’s an easy read and hopefully doesn’t become one of those tomes gathering dust on the book shelf and never gets read.

This is some of the feedback I’ve had to date…

“I love love love your book.  I can hear you in the pages.  Much of what we discussed is echoed here in your book.  This tells me that you have a command of your craft and are a true subject matter expert. 

“I find the book extremely easy to read and easy to follow.  I love how your examples cover various industries. I find the “Actions” section at the end of the chapters very helpful.

“I consider you an authority on the topic and am so humbled you asking me to read your book pre-release.”

“Caroline’s new book is a treasure trove of ideas for any customer service team member – and any manager or leader involved in this critical area of the business. In fact – it should be mandatory reading for anyone who touches a customer – regardless of their job title or function.

“This book is a self-learning tool anyone interested in improving service will benefit from as they apply the ideas, methods and systems.

“ Creating Superstars is an essential guide for the service industry, whichever sector you work in. This book brings to life Caroline’s  extremely effective customer service  workshops. Starting with a  clear vision from the leaders to enthusing the team and generating that essential oxygen of customer loyalty”

“I do not hesitate in recommending this book to anyone who really wants to grow their business.”

“I think it is fabulous, I started off thinking this is exactly how I think and I want to give it to my staff telling them that this is what I am talking about, please read it three times over and start embracing! I think for some people it will be a light on moment.”

It’s available NOW on Amazon. You can get instant access to the Kindle version for just 99p from Amazon UK or $1.22 on Amazon.com. It will only be available at this launch price until next weekend (15th January) so order it now while you can.

And if you like the book and would be happy to write a review for me on Amazon I’d be delighted to send you a complimentary copy as a thank you. (I just ask you pay a contribution to postage if sending to outside the UK). You can always pass it on to a customer or a supplier if you don’t want to read it again!

p.s. here are the links again to grab your copy by Sunday 15th

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Creating-Service-Superstars-confidence-initiative-ebook/dp/B01NAL0898/

Rest of world: https://www.amazon.com/Creating-Service-Superstars-confidence-initiative-ebook/dp/B01NAL0898/

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p.p.s. To claim your complimentary copy drop me an email to let me know you’ve written a review and tell me the name you’ve used (as I’d love to find out what you thought!).

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Is your customers’ experience in for a dive?

dive into the water

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

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

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

1. Set expectations

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

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

2. Prepare for the unexpected

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

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

3. Systems

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

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

4. Practice makes perfect

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

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

5. Ownership

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

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

6. What’s going on

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

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

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

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

7. When you return

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

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

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

 

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


Are you losing your customers?

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

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

In short you are lost!

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

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

Probably arriving late and in a bad mood.

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

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

1. Make your post code prominent

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

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

2. Check your postcode actually comes up

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

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

3. Check it out

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

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

4. Give alternatives

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

5. Update your Google listing

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

6. Keep your eyes open

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

7. Road closed

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

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

8. Provide old fashioned directions

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

9. Reserved Parking

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

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

10. Applying the principles

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

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

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



Exceeding customer expectations with GLUE

I often refer to GLUE with my clients or when I’m delivering customer service training.

According to Gartner, by 2016, 89% of businesses will compete mostly on customer experience.

G.L.U.E, is the practice of giving little unexpected extras to exceed expectations. Doing the little signature things that can make a big difference.

Stan Phelps in this TEDx talk sums up the principle beautifully:


Lessons in Loyalty

Happy  Anniversary

This week my husband and I have been celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary.

So I’ve been reflecting on the lessons we can learn from a successful marriage that can be applied equally to a successful customer relationship, ultimately leading to customer loyalty and retention.

5 themes immediately came to mind.

1. Show you care

Taking time to listen (and showing you’re listening) not only demonstrates your interest, but also helps identify what’s important and to clarify expectations.

Recognise others might have different priorities, interests and needs and understanding what these are makes it a lot easier to achieve a win-win.

This might involve problem-solving and frequently requires a degree of flexibility. We all know digging in our heels or sulking gets us nowhere!

 

2. Keep things fresh

Add an element of surprise, spontaneity and the unexpected. Providing of course it’s a pleasant surprise! I often talk about adding GLUE – giving little unexpected extras. These work equally well at home as they do in business.

 

3. Don’t take them for granted

Remember to show your appreciation for even the smallest gesture and say thank you. Keep your promises even if it means doing something that seems insignificant to you. If problems arise nip them in the bud so they don’t fester.

And own up to mistakes and admit when you’re in the wrong. Yes, I know this can be tough, but it certainly earns you brownie points when you do.

 

4. Let them know you’re thinking of them

When you’re not together stay in touch, and stay on their radar. Whether it’s a letter, birthday card, email, or simply a text, it lets your loved one (or customer) know they’re still important to you. Or maybe you spot something that is perfect for them and give it to them saying “I saw this and thought of you”.

 

5. Celebrate

Join in when they want to celebrate, even if you’re not quite in the mood! There’s no better way to dampen someone’s enthusiasm (and potentially sour a relationship) than failing to share in their moment. Find a reason to ask them to share your celebrations too. And simply have some fun together.

 


Do your customers feel appreciated?

thank your customers

 

It’s estimated that over two thirds of customers will fail to return if they feel unappreciated. This is probably the number one reason businesses lose customers.

So when speaking at a professional services group members meeting this week I was surprised by their reaction to the idea of saying thank you. To them this felt uncomfortable.

But how you say thanks is less important. It’s the fact you do something – anything – to show you appreciate your customer choosing to do business with you over and above all the other people or businesses they could have chosen.

What do you do to say thanks to your loyal customers so they feel appreciated?

Here are 5 things you could be doing if you’re not already…

1. Simply saying thank you

The easiest way to do this is of course is a sincere thank you in person.

But depending on the nature of your business and the value and relationship with each individual customer you could follow up with a simple thank you message.

By this I mean a personalised physical thank you note. Some think in this web based age this is out dated; but how would your customers react to receiving a handwritten personal note in the post, rather than another bland email clogging up their inbox?

It might be more appropriate to say thank you to a whole team of people. I’ve yet to find a team who doesn’t appreciate a special treat they can share in the office over coffee.

If your relationship is an ongoing one find an ‘excuse’ to make a thank you gesture. An anniversary, perhaps; a proud moment; moving house; or even to mark a special date in your own calendar, such as achieving an award; launching a new service; etc.

Which brings us nicely onto the next item…

2. Exclusivity

Give them privileged access to services, events, information or facilities which are only available to existing or your most valued customers, and not available to new customers. The more exclusive the better!

How does it make you feel when you see promotions offering special deals for new customers that aren’t available to you as an existing customer?

Make your loyal customers feel valued and special. Think of it like a members club, that delivers real benefits to members.

3. Remember them

Not only addressing your customers by name (although don’t under estimate the impact of this, especially when you aren’t expecting it). It’s also about remembering their preferences.

Do they have any particular likes and dislikes; special requirements, or preferences?

Do we know their important dates? How do they take their coffee? Remembering simple details will always be appreciated.

Record personal details and any special requirements so the service they receive is consistent whoever attends to them.

4. Ask for feedback

I know I’ve already mentioned this recently on this blog, but I’ll say it again…

Never take your regulars for granted; ask for their feedback and resolve any shortfalls quickly.

Problems or challenges are often your opportunity to shine and leave a positive lasting impression if dealt with positively. Now’s a chance to exceed expectations.

Face to face will always win over a questionnaire.

Ask customers what they like and what (if anything) disappoints; learn from this and continually improve. Customers appreciate you asking for their opinions as long as you follow through.

Keep them updated to demonstrate you’ve been listening. What better excuse to invite them back to show the changes you’ve implemented?

5. Show you care

Be attentive to your customers’ individual needs and specific circumstances. Listen, engage and take time to show your genuine interest in them.

Take every opportunity to give spontaneous and unexpected little extras that they won’t get from your competitors.

These may be totally unrelated to your products or services, but simply something you know they’d appreciate. They’ve mentioned something in passing they love, but can’t’ get hold of it; they have a problem in some other aspect of their life, but you happen to see something you think might help; you know it’s a loved one’s birthday and you happen to have something you think they’d enjoy…

Pay attention to detail, be consistent, do that little bit extra when needed, so your customers always feel appreciated.

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I’d love to hear what do you do to say thanks to your loyal customers?


Take stock of your Customer Service

On the twelth day of Christmas my true love sent to mechecklist

Tip #12

Take stock

What minor changes and improvements can you make to your customer service systems and processes to give your customers an even better experience?

Sometimes all it takes is a minor adjustment to make a big difference.

And if you can’t see the wood for the trees this might help…

 


Last impressions

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love sent to me…thanks for visiting hanging sign

Top Tip #6

Last impressions

You’re only as good as your last encounter with the customer.

What’s the very last thing your customers see, hear, smell, taste or feel as they leave?

What will your customers remember most about doing business with you?

Whatever happens in the last few moments of their transaction that will undoubtedly influence their lasting impression.

What’s the one thing they remember when they get home, or next time they’re thinking of doing business with you….