Category Archives: Customer service

Learn to Let Go

Balloons letting go

I caught myself this week doing something I really should have delegated to someone else.

Not only was this tying up my valuable time when I could be doing something only I can do; the person who should have done it would have done a better job, and quite possibly in half the time!

Do you ever find yourself falling into this trap?

I’m not just referring to doing routine administrative or mundane tasks. There’s many a time that the things we do to respond to customers’ needs and expectations could also be done just as well (or even better) by others.

When we have an excellent relationship with customers it can be difficult to let go. We often feel guilty or obliged to that customer to look after them ourselves; to give them a personal service. And we’re potentially worried they won’t feel as valued if we delegate some aspects of the customer relationship to our team.

But in doing so we could actually be diluting our efforts and giving a poorer customer experience. What happens when we’re on holiday, tied up with other projects, or when two or more customers all need us at the same time?

We can’t do everything! We need to put our trust in others and delegate some of that responsibility.

But what if we’re not confident anyone in the team is up to it?

I’m not talking here about abdication. You if you were teaching your child to swim you wouldn’t just dump them in at the deep end and let them get on with it. You’d show them, coach them, support them until they were ready to go it alone. And even then you’d be watching at the poolside until you could see they were safe.

Ah, but… I hear some say.

  • “My customer trusts me and expects to deal with me”
    They expect to always deal with you because that’s what you’ve always given them. If they are never given the chance to speak to your team that will never change. Set expectations early on with your customers so they know who is the best person to speak to when. Introduce your customers to your team so they know who they’re dealing with and build trust (and their expectations) early on.
    .
  • “It takes too much time to explain, I can do it quicker”
    In the short-term yes, but in the longer term if you delegate you are saving time to attend to more important things to add value for your customer. Having simple systems in place for routine queries means you might only have to invest the time once.
  • “They aren’t yet capable”
    And never will be unless you start incorporating delegation and trust into your people development plans.
  • “They won’t do it as well as me”
    Maybe, but are you being too much of a perfectionist? Does the task need such a degree of excellence?  If not, maybe someone can deal with the task adequately in less time so the customer isn’t kept waiting. 
  • “They aren’t yet qualified, authorised or licenced to do that”
    Everyone has to start somewhere so get them involved and leave time for you to approve or endorse their efforts before it gets sign off or the rubber stamp. (None of us would ever pass our driving test if we weren’t able to actually get out on the road and drive; it just needs plenty of practice and handholding along the way until ready.)
  • “If they are left to deal with someone else my customer won’t be happy and I’ll lose their respect”
    You’ll upset customers far more and lose more respect by delaying your response and by not devoting enough time to the areas of expertise they’re paying you for because you are too distracted by routine and administrative issues.

So in regard to having an obligation to that customer to look after them and give them a personal service – yes you should. But you won’t be able to if you get sucked into tasks that don’t require your level of expertise or experience.

The skill is knowing when to let go of the day to day issues, and put your trust in someone else to get on with things, leaving you to focus on the more important aspects of your relationship that only you can do and on the more strategic aspects of the businesses.



Attracting talent for a good customer experience

At our local Institute of Directors event last week we discussed the topic of attracting and retaining talent in a tight market.Ensuring a consistent customer experience from seasonal staff

Of course having the right people on board is imperative for achieving a good customer experience. Not having sufficient people with the right skills will obviously impact service delivery.

But the way that service is delivered is of course dependent on the energy and enthusiasm of the people behind it.

Here’s a summary of some of the key points covered, with some of my own thoughts for good measure.

Why are they leaving?

If you are constantly striving to look for new staff then consider why you have a vacancy in the first place.

Fantastic news if it’s down to growth; but more often than not it’s down to labour turnover.

Unless we understand why staff are leaving it will be difficult to reverse the trend.

They say that people don’t quit jobs they quit bosses, so if someone has already made up their mind to leave be sensitive as to how you find out! But of course prevention is better than cure. Listening to, involving and engaging your team is a topic in itself, so I’m not going to cover this here.

But naturally if you’ve got good people you want to hang onto them. And of course they can make great ambassadors for your business.

Define what you’re looking for

It’s all too easy to focus on replacing like for like.

But when someone moves on it might be an ideal opportunity to restructure to open up opportunities for your existing loyal team members, and potentially giving you more flexibility in terms of potential candidates that can fulfil the new role.

In my experience when recruiting businesses tend to focus on skills and experience. But how often when we are reviewing somebody’s under performance do we focus on their attitude towards the work rather than capability? If team work and/or customer service are important to your business then define what attributes you are looking for so there are good fit for your company culture/aspirations.

Once you know what you’re looking for it’s a darn sight easier to use language that appeals to your ideal candidate. If you want someone enthusiastic, dynamic and lively make your ad enthusiastic, dynamic and lively too! You’re not looking to attract anyone who’s desperate for a job; make it clear what you’re looking for and who fits the bill of the ideal candidate.

Build your network and your pipeline

By the time you have a vacancy all your focus is on filling that vacancy as quickly as possible. Wouldn’t it be great to have a queue of people waiting with bated breath for you to get in touch to tell them you have that job they’ve been waiting for?!

Use your network of business contacts, connections with education, your existing team and even your customers to help develop a “candidate pool” from which you can pick the best candidates.  Network or socialise where your prospective staff are; this will not only help to build relationships and reputation but will give you an opportunity to see people in a more relaxed environment.

Keep this as an ongoing activity rather than waiting until you suddenly have a vacancy to fill.

Develop your talent

Promote from within whenever possible.  Always let your existing team members know when a position is available.  Even if this is not a step up, it may present a new challenge to keep someone motivated.

If you do have internal applicants treat them in the same way as your external ones – acknowledging receipt of their application, interviews, offer letters, salary details, etc.  If internal candidates do not get the job ensure you give feedback to help with their development and to encourage them to apply for future positions.

Become a great place to work

Create a culture where the best employees will want to work, and build a reputation as a good employer so you attract the best people.

This includes continuing to build your brand with applicants who haven’t been successful.

What does it mean to work for your organisation? Ask your existing employees for their perspective and to share what’s important to them about working for you.
If your existing team feel valued they are far more likely to recommend you to others and spread the word that it’s a great place to work.

No regrets

Start your induction process at the point they accept your job offer.

Let them know how much you are looking forward to them coming to work for you. Drip feed information that lets them know that they’re going to get a warm welcome. This might include a background to your business, your values and what’s important to you, current topical information, an invitation to any events/social activities happening between now and their start date, a copy of their induction programme and the point of contact for day one.

Doing all this before they start will make them feel more welcome and minimise that risk of any second thoughts.

Hit the ground running

During the first few weeks in the job people start to make up their mind whether or not this is the place they want to stay and whether or not they’re able to pursue their career here.

For new people it can sometimes feel to them as if they are not achieving much in the early days. So consider allocating a specific project that they can get stuck in to 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.

For more on employee engagement see https://www.naturallyloyal.com/engagement/


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:


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…

 


Break the mould

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love sent to meBe different Black sheep of the family

Tip #9

Break the mould

Stand out from competitors in the way you look after your customers. Just because something is not the norm for customer service in your industry shouldn’t mean that you don’t do it; it could be the perfect way to make you stand out.

Think back over the past few weeks when you’ve been a customer. What have you experienced that left you with the feel good factor?

Observe what other industries do that helps the overall customer experience and identify what you can borrow and adapt for your own industry or profession.


Give customers a warm welcome to the New Year

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love sent to memake training memorable

Tip #4

Give customers a warm welcome to the New Year

It’s all too easy after the holidays to feel a bit sluggish and slow to get back into the swing of things. But, behaviour breeds behaviour and so any lack of enthusiasm on your part rubs off on to your customers (and your team).

Look forward to the start of the New Year and welcome your customers with open arms…


Consistency +1%

graph

On the third day of Christmas my true love sent to me…

 

Tip #3

Consistency +1%

Do what you say you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it. Better still plus a little bit extra.

Everyone talks about going the extra mile, but in my book going the extra inch is enough as it gives you some leeway add something extra next time!

Whatever you deliver now effectively sets your promise for next time to. So ensure you’re able to maintain consistency, or consistency +1%


What irritates customers?

What irritates you?Why?

A couple of weeks ago the Sunday Times ran an article on what irritates hotel guests the most. I have to say it brought a wry smile to my face as nearly everything mentioned I’ve experienced myself.

But it’s not just hotels that can get the simplest of things wrong. Are you ever left puzzled and wondering why on earth a business does what it does when it has a negative impact on the customer?

What are the things that most irritate you when you are a customer?

I thought I’d share with you my top twelve most irritating practices. Forgive me if this comes over as a bit of a rant, but do you know of any businesses that are guilty of any of these? Maybe, as it’s the season of goodwill you might like to let them know so they can do something about it!

1. Road to nowhere

Hiding their postcode away on the website or worse still having a postcode that won’t work in helping you locate them. Yes, it might be an accurate postcode used by the Post Office, but 99.9% of people who are looking for a postcode will only wanted it to help locate them, not to be sent round the houses or to a back entrance.

What comes up on Google maps and satnavs for your postcode?

2. Everything’s out

When you ask a member of staff for something and all they can respond is ”Everything we have is out” doesn’t actually answer the question! It’s as good as saying “I don’t know and don’t much care”. Don’t they know what they have in stock?

Why would any customer want to go searching if the answer is no, and if the answer is yes for goodness sake help us find it!

3. Impracticalities

What I mean here is when something just can’t perform the tasks for which it was designed.

For example in a hotel room when the kettle is positioned so that it can’t reach the socket without having to rearrange everything on the table, or even putting the kettle on the floor so the cord reaches the socket. Worse still having moved said kettle and going back to your room later to find it moved back to its old position, so you have to do it all again.

Does your layout or process make it easy for customers and if they ask for something to be changed do you oblige or go back to your ‘standard’?

4. Look but don’t touch

You know in clothes stores when jumpers are all beautifully folded but you can’t see what they are really like without picking it up and feeling awkward in case you ruin the display?

Same goes for leaflets or useful info that’s all pristinely laid out.

Do you encourage customers to browse, or make them feel awkward?

5. Packaging

Taking delivery of a package that has so much tape on it it’s impossible to open it without taking to the knife and running the risk of ruining the contents inside as you do so.

Why are we so obsessed with so much packaging?

6. Do I need new specs?

Typefaces which are far too small to read. Small type on menus in romantically lit restaurants, working out which is the soap and which is the hand cream in the toilets without having to put your glasses on, business cards which require a magnifying glass to read the contact details…

Same applies online; dark fonts on a dark background (often the hyperlinks) that are all but invisible, log in areas or page menus tucked away in small fonts.

Have a thought for us oldies! As we get older our eyesight gets weaker so it’s not a good idea to rely on the views of trendy young thirty somethings!

7. Your call is important to us

It’s bad enough being put on hold, but when you’re not even asked first of all if you’re prepared to wait, and then left with atrocious deafening music. Even worse when you’re told “Your call is important to us”.

What do your customers get to hear when they are put on hold?

8. How much is it?

The saying goes “If you have to ask the price you probably can’t afford it” comes to mind when you can’t find a price tag. Why do some businesses insist on hiding the price away so you have to hunt for it leaving you wondering if the above statement is true?

How visible and transparent is your pricing?

9. Now where?

When you’re involved in a business day in day out you know where to go or what to do next. But of course customers are not so familiar.  We like guidelines and good signage that tell us where to go or what to do next.

How clear is it on your website what step to take next, or when arriving at your business which way to go?

10. Premium numbers

The whole concept of being charged a premium to call a business when I’m the customer is beyond me, yet how many businesses only list a number which if not premium from a landline will certainly be premium from a mobile.

Worse still not listing a phone number at all and making me go through web forms to make any kind of contact which of course is dependent on being online.

How easy is it for customers to contact you directly?

11. That’s not in my script

A script might be fine as a guideline. But when it’s followed to the letter irrespective of your responses, you may as well not bother.

Do all your team listen and know how to respond appropriately if they get an unexpected response from the customer?

12. Not delivering what’s promised

Stuff happens and there are times we really can’t deliver what’s been promised. But not letting me know till the last minute leaves me high and dry with fewer options.

How well do you keep your customers informed if you’re about to miss the target …even if it’s because you’re waiting on them for an answer…?

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So these are some of the things that most irritate me.

How about you? What are the things that bug you when you’re the customer?

p.s. The chances are that if any of these things irritate you, there’ll be things that irritate your customers in your business.

And if you’re not sure?

Two things you can do…

  1. Have everyone in your team (including you) experience as much of the customer journey as possible AS A CUSTOMER.
    .
  2. ASK YOUR CUSTOMERS directly for their feedback. What little things can you do to make it a smoother, quicker or all round better customer experience?

Closed for lunch

closed for lunch When we were in Italy last month I was surprised at just how many shops still close for lunch; even in tourist towns. But, the as the saying goes: “when in Rome….”

But back here in the UK I am still surprised – even shocked – at just how many businesses are either not open at a time suit their customers, or simply don’t gear themselves up sufficiently for their busy periods.

Of course not many places close for lunch these days. But are there times when you’re not as readily available as your customers might wish. Walk into many a high street bank at lunchtime and you’ll know what I mean. You certainly wouldn’t expect a restaurant to let staff go for lunch at lunchtime!

So here are my top 10 questions to review for your business:

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

Great customer service involves being open and available when your customers need you.

Not just when it’s convenient for you!

If you’d like help reviewing your customers’ experience and looking for simple cost effective ways to improve it, please give me a call on 07887 540914

For more articles and resources www.naturallyloyal.com