Tag Archives: customer experience

Systems and resources

system daria-nepriakhina-474036Day 10 in my 12 days of Christmas mini blog series

10. Systems and resources

How often have we heard the phrase “I’m sorry, the system won’t allow me to do that.”?

Do you have any systems in place which make life difficult for your team members?

Poor systems can be frustrating for team members, but also impact productivity, the customer experience and ultimately your bottom line.

Here are a few to look out for:

  • No system in place for routine tasks so staff reinvent the wheel every time they carry out similar tasks.
  • Not fully understood, so not followed
  • Over complicated or cumbersome
  • Too much red tape or to-ing and fro-ing that slows everything down
  • Unworkable due to lack of time, right equipment, tools, or products

Poor systems or a lack of resources inevitably puts extra pressure on the team, particularly when there is a direct impact on customers…

Resulting in an inconsistent level of service, leaving the customers frustrated or disappointed.

It’s easy for us to become oblivious of how ineffective a system works or poor the equipment when we’re not using it every day. So, ask your team for their observations and feedback.

Very often the simplest of modifications is all that’s needed to make all the difference.

 



A Waiting Game

queueBusy periods should be great for business. But don’t let the bonus of being busy backfire.

With half term next week and the glorious weather of late you may be expecting a busy week ahead, particularly if you’re a visitor attraction or leisure business.

And quite possibly some of your customers will be visiting you for the first time. So naturally you’ll want to give them a great first impression. And keep your regulars happy, too.

So how can you ensure that even when you’re busy your customers get the same warm welcome and attention they do on every other day of the year.

When we’re busy one of the criticisms from customers can be queuing. Let’s face it; none of us like to be kept waiting. We always think of the 101 things we could be doing instead.

Here are 10 things to think about so your team can be prepared and your customers get the warm welcome they’re expecting …even if waiting.

1. Prevention is better than cure

Queues and being kept waiting are never going to be popular with your customers. Whether it’s waiting in a queue, being put on hold, waiting for a slow internet connection or waiting for your order to arrive, any of these situations can try our patience.

Estimate your busy times. If you know when your peak times are in the first instance warn customers of these times, with alternatives when they can avoid the rush – and potentially even out the pressure for you.

I know this sounds obvious, but adjust your staffing accordingly. This isn’t just a case of more staff when busy; it means more staff who are competent and confident to take on the extra workload, so ensure appropriate training is given to anyone who is redeployed to ‘help out’.

If you have self-service areas, or payment machines, help speed up the process by helping customers; you can avoid the time it takes them to read instructions, which might reduce your transaction time by half, thus reducing queues.

Can you divert people from queues to other options to achieve the same result? E.g.  to other tills, entrances or places with shorter queues. Give your team licence to cut red tape and open up alternative channels where you can.

2. Make use of waiting time to save time elsewhere

If people do have to wait, make this as painless as possible.

Can customers be doing other things whilst queuing or waiting to be served which will save time once they get served –  such as reading information that speeds up their buying decision, e.g. reading what’s on offer, finding out about specials, understanding what’s included in each price option?  Or learning of anything that isn’t available so they can be thinking of alternatives (and not have their hopes dashed when you tell them they can’t have their No 1 choice).

Can they be getting tickets or vouchers ready, filling out forms or processing payment. Can you take cash payments from people in the queue to speed things up?

Can customers be doing something that saves them time once served, e.g. reading menus or site maps to plan their visit?

3 A team effort

Even if you don’t have enough space, equipment or outlets to serve more customers at any one time, you can at least have people on hand to deal with any queries, printing out bills or acting as ‘runners’ for those dealing with customers.

Have empathy for the waiting customers; the waiting may not be your fault, but take some responsibility for action, not blame others for their wait.  If you rely on business partners or outsourced services, your customers don’t care if it’s down to them; as far as they are concerned you all represent your business.

4. Alleviate the pain

Make waiting time a pleasurable experience by offering your customers something to distract from the wait or maybe even compensate for their wait. Ask them to take a seat, or stand in the warm…

Maybe a little something to compensate for the wait may be appropriate: a drink, map, kids’ colouring in sheet or sticker, as appropriate for your business. Just a small token gift, just to say we appreciate your patience.

(And if you’re now subconsciously thinking you couldn’t afford to do this every time someone has to wait; maybe it’s time you reviewed your customer experience. Waiting should be the exception, not the norm. Compare this investment to the cost of losing the customer altogether!)

If people have been kept patiently waiting for even a few moments, at the very least acknowledge this and thank them for their patience.

5. Give alternatives

If there is a delay, does the customer wait, or do they opt for something that doesn’t involve waiting? That might of course depend on just how long they have to wait.

When we’re put on hold, if told we are 2nd in the queue we are far more likely to hang on than if we’re told we are 10th.

So let you customers know – is it expected to be a 2 minutes wait or half an hour? Disney have mastered this; you always know how long you’ll be waiting in line, so you aren’t agitated whilst you wait.

Being honest (and not making false promises and under estimating) allows the customer to make an informed decision. If you need to put someone on hold, ask them first if this is OK; don’t just assume they’re happy to hang on.

If you’ve a backlog of orders and they’ll have to wait 10 minutes for their Panini tell them so (and of course make sure it does only take 10 minutes or less!).

At the very least give notice if you can’t deliver your promise.

Being kept informed is not about making excuses!  It’s about keeping the customer informed of the situation and giving them options…

6. Streamline your operation

Review all the touch points on the customers’ journey – where can time be saved; waiting for web pages or images to load, phones being answered more quickly, keeping on top of orders so purchases can be dispatched/served quickly.

Do customers ever have to repeat information they’ve already given, double back to access things they need, duplicate processes, or re-queue for secondary transactions or information. This not only wastes their valuable time, but takes more effort on their part, (and potentially disrupts other queuing customers).

Just because this is how it’s always been done, isn’t a good enough reason to do it that way!

Do you give customers accurate information so they can get to speak to the right person first time around? Do you have some generic phone number that takes customers through 5 (or even more) options before they can even get to speak to a human being? Give them a direct number next time so as a valued customer they can jump the ‘queue’ to go directly to the right person.

If you’re not sure if there is any doubling up – ask your customers… And ask your team; I bet they know where things could be streamlined.

7. Save your customers time and effort

In the same way that anything that wastes time for your customers can be an irritation, anything that saves your customer time will add value.

Why not have an express service, line, process, phone number, etc. for your existing loyal customers. Make them feel special and valued. Even for new customers who are time poor, introduce a quick option that saves time – at a premium price if you need to – you may be surprised how many take you up on that.

A minute here, and a minute there may not seem much individually, but add them all together and you might save your customers considerably time.

8. Keep a balance

However, remember you don’t want customers to feel rushed, so apply time savings sensibly and appropriately.

Never compromise quality for speed or let your team use it as an excuse to cut corners or make mistakes.

It’s a fine balance. Test, review and ask your team for their ideas, then tweak accordingly.

9. 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?

Say thank you. A simple verbal thank you and acknowledgement as they leave, even if it’s just a smile and a nod of the head or wave is always appreciated by customers; it’s one of the simplest ways to make them feel appreciated.

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

What’s the one thing they remember when they get home, or next time they’re thinking of visiting you…?

10. Engage and enthuse your team for the busy time ahead

A happy team equals happy customers. Give your team all the information, support, resources and training they need.

Tap into people’s strengths and give experienced team members specific responsibilities to oversee key points on the customer journey.

Empower everyone to make decisions to do what’s in the customer’s best interest. Having to seek approval or authorisation at the best of times is annoying for the customer and demeaning for team members, but it becomes even more irritating when you’re busy.

Be the prefect role model. Stay enthusiastic and energised; staff and customers will soon pick it up if you’re not.

We talked about acknowledging customers, but at the end of the busy period it’s so important to acknowledge your team; thank you for their hard work over any busy periods. It doesn’t have to be lavish; a simple thank you for all their hard work goes a long way.

So make the most of your busy periods and don’t let the bonus of being busy backfire.


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?



What great looks like

checklistI was reminded again this week of the importance of defining the experience you want to create for your customers.

When I start working with a business I often find they don’t have any clearly defined ideas of what good service looks like; they just know they’ll recognise it when they see it.

This isn’t particularly helpful when you’re trying to convey to others what you expect!

Before we can hope to manage our customer experience we need to define what that experience is.

Lack of clarity leads to confusion for your team, inconsistencies for your customers and frustration for you.

What does great customer service look like, sound like or feel like for you?

Do your team know what great (or even good or acceptable) looks like? How will they know when they are doing things right? Do they know what they’re aiming for?

Although you may not want to be totally prescriptive, you’ll at least want to define minimum expectations, as everyone’s interpretation and perspective can differ.  The better they understand your end goal the easier it will be for them to deliver the customer experience you are aiming for.

It’s not just about the behaviours you expect your team to demonstrate in dealing with customers, but defining the whole of the customer experience from end to end.

Unless your team understands what you’re looking to achieve have to rely on guesswork to get it right, and it means decision making becomes really difficult unless everyone knows the outcome you expect.

Once you can define what great looks like it certainly makes training easier as you know exactly what you’re aiming for.


Systems and resources to support your customer service

Here’s part 8 in my 12 blog series onsystems

how to engage and motivate your team on their return from their Christmas break

8. Systems and resources

How often have we heard the phrase “I’m sorry, the system won’t allow me to do that.”?

Do you have systems in place which make it cumbersome for your customers? Or which mean people having to reinvent the wheel every time they carry out similar tasks; putting extra pressure on them, particularly those which have a direct impact on the customer, so the customer doesn’t get a consistent level of service?

Or is there so much red tape and to-ing and fro-ing that slows everything down?

Do you have all the right equipment, tools, or even products?

It’s easy for us to become oblivious of how ineffective a system works or poor the equipment when we’re not using it every day. So test it frequently, and ask your team for their observations and any feedback they’ve had from customers. Very often the simplest of modifications is all that’s needed to make all the difference.

 

If you’d like more ideas here are 28 Activities to Engage, Energise and Excite your Team in Customer Service



Continuous improvement in Customer Service

Here’s part 7 in my 12 blog series onbar-chart

how to engage and motivate your team on their return from their Christmas break

 

7. Continuous improvement

Customer Service isn’t something you tick off your list. It’s continually evolving, and there will always be little tweaks you can make to improve your service.

If you don’t do them already set up regular ‘buzz briefings’ which focus on customer service and continuous improvement, thus involving your team in discussions and spotting opportunities to improve service and make things easier for them to consistently deliver good service.

After all, many of them will spend more time with customers than you do and often spot things or hear things you might miss.

Each day (or as a minimum weekly) ask your team members for their feedback on the day to day operation and to come forward with suggestions on how things can be improved. Not just for the customer, but to make their lives easier too. Shaving 5 minutes off a task in one area can free up 5 more minutes to spend caring for customers elsewhere.

Even if you’ve tried something before and it hasn’t worked that doesn’t mean to say it’s not a good idea. Quash their ideas early on and they’ll be reluctant to come forward with suggestions in future.

 

Delivering great customer service is more than just a sheep dip exercise. read more here

 



Your customers’ journey

Here’s part 6 in my 12 blog series onCustomer Journey

how to engage and motivate your team on their return from their Christmas break

6. Your customers’ journey

Now’s a perfect time to review your entire customer journey and all the various touch points your customers experience.

I’m often amazed how frequently I come across employees who only know their tiny little bit of the customer journey, having never experienced anything else the customer gets to see or hear.

I strongly encourage any business to have every single employee experience every one of their customer touch points. It’s amazing what they pick up and the opportunities they see to improve the whole customer experience. Not forgetting the potential it opens up for spotting opportunities to add value or make recommendations to customers.

So if January is a quiet month for you, what better time to review this.

 

Delivering great customer service is more than just a sheep dip exercise. Find out more here

 



Set mini goals

Here’s part 5 in my 12 blog series on

how to engage and motivate your team on their return from their Christmas breakdart board

5. Set mini goals

It can often feel as if you’re not achieving much in the first few days or weeks back at work. So consider allocating some specific short term projects or goals that everyone can get stuck in to and for which they can see some results within the first few days back.

Even better if you can make these customer service related.

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

 

Delivering great customer service is more than just a sheep dip exercise. Find out more here

 



A first-hand experience

Shoes. Single flat color icon. Vector illustration.

How often do you or any of your team put yourselves in your customers’ shoes? Is it built into your customer service training?

I’m often amazed how frequently I come across employees who only know their tiny little bit of the customer journey, having never experienced anything else the customer gets to see or hear.

I strongly encourage all businesses to have every single employee experience every one of their customer touch points.

This has two spin offs.

Firstly you get a fresh pair of eyes (and ears) on what the customer sees, hears or experiences. Of course this is no substitute for your customers’ feedback, but it’s amazing what team members will spot as opportunities to enhance or modify the customer touch points to give a smoother or enhanced customer experience. Not forgetting the potential it opens up for spotting opportunities to add value or make recommendations to customers.

Secondly it helps your team members to engage more readily with your customers.

Because they’ve experienced everything first hand for themselves they are able to appreciate what’s important to the customer at that point, and can relate easily to them when discussing or describing any aspect of your service or products.

Of course it may not always be possible for team members to experience everything (let’s say you are a midwife or undertaker!) but even if you sell exotic holidays or exclusive wedding dresses there will still be plenty of opportunity to get a sense of what your customers experience particularly the various touch points your customer experiences before or after doing business with you, which so often get forgotten.

Because we can become oblivious to what we’re involved in every day (and sometimes quite protective) aim to mix things up a bit. Even old hands can give you another perspective by experiencing another department. And build it into your induction process as new team members will be experiencing things for the first time, giving you a fresh perspective.


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.