Tag Archives: customer experience

One Bad Apple

We have 4 apple trees in our garden and I love this time of year when you can just pick an apple off the tree. We have more than we can eat, and as we all know, if you inadvertently store a bad apple along with others ultimately all the others will go rotten too. They look OK, but open up the box in a few months’ time and you soon discover your mistake.

It can be the same in your business too.

One of my clients has one of these bad apples in her team. It wasn’t obvious at first, but over time the issues are immerging. Tasks left half done, customers given inaccurate information, other team members left to deal with more challenging tasks.

Unfortunately, these disengaged employees on the surface look the same as everyone else.

They manage to come to work on time, they do what’s asked of them and they say “Yes” to your requests.

But…

When you’re not around things get missed. They only do the minimum expected. They seldom go out of their way to support others, and they manage to avoid doing those jobs everyone hates.

They may not be consciously unhappy, but nor are they enthusiastic, excited or energised about the job.

And the worst of it is …

they are like the bad apples. If we don’t spot them soon enough they bring everyone else along with them.

It only takes one negative or obstructive person to get in the way and undo all your efforts. These people can have a massive impact on employee engagement, people’s performance and ultimately on your customer service levels.

Do you have any rotten apples in your business?

P.S. If it makes sense to measure financial and sales performance, it also makes sense to measure engagement.  Peter Drucker said it beautifully: “If you don’t measure it, how can you manage it?

Why not find out exactly where you are now.

Get your company’s engagement score in under 10 minutes, FREE

https://www.engagementmultiplier.com/en-gb/partner/naturallyloyal/



7 Reminders

Yesterday I attended the Visitor Attraction Conference in London. There was an excellent cross section of speakers, but in recognition of National Customer Service Week this week I thought it pertinent to pick out some of the observations and insights into the overall customer experience.

In a visitor attraction it is more than ever about the experience – how you leave the visitor feeling before, during and as a result of their visit. But I believe all of the points below are equally relevant in any business, be that hospitality, leisure, retail or professional services.

In fact, the experience your customers, visitors, patients, guests or clients receive might be the one thing that sets you apart from your competitors.

So, what were the points re-iterated yesterday?

Here are 7 customer service principles I was reminded of:

  1. Everyone wants value for money. This doesn’t mean cheap. There are plenty who are willing to pay higher prices providing they still see it as good value. So it’s not about discounting, but adding value.
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  2. Customers’ expectations are changing. Everyone wants an instant response, be that a confirmation of booking, returning a phone call or responding to a comment on Twitter. What are the things your customers expect as standard e.g. Wifi in public places? Customers want to share their experiences with others. Is your product ‘Instagram-able’? Let them do your marketing for you.
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  3. Customers want authenticity. This translates into helping your team members take pride in what they do and have the okay to be themselves; to say and do what they think best to meet customers’ expectations, not work from a robotic stilted script.
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  4. Make it easy for customers. Simple things like checking your website gives you all the information a customer needs to take the next step – be that placing an order, making a booking, phoning or travelling to you. I know this sounds obvious, but it’s so easy to miss key information such as how to reach you by public transport or the correct postcode to use in their sat nav to reach your entrance rather than a dead end!
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  5. Create a loyal following of local ambassadors. Involve them, invite them to see what you’re up to and if relevant to your business, offer them some incentive to use your facility, services or product. This is easy to do for a B2C business e.g. in the visitor attraction world that might mean offering a free ticket if they bring 3 friends or family along to your attraction. If you’re a B2B business, you could do something along similar lines for neighbouring or complementary local businesses.
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  6. When customers give you feedback, particularly via Social Media whether it’s good, bad or indifferent, it pays to acknowledge it: thank people for the compliments, express concern for criticisms. Not just for the sake of the customer commenting, but to demonstrate to others that you care.
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  7. Acknowledge and thank people when they’ve done business with you. This is important at the end of the ‘transaction’, but even more powerful when you thank them at the outset for choosing you in the first place. (By the way in visitor attractions when visitors are thanked when they leave it has been shown to have a 20% rise in recommendations.)

Of course, all the above can only be delivered with an enthusiastic and engaged team, and backed up by regular inspiring, engaging and memorable customer service training, so your team have the confidence and skills to meet these ever more demanding customer expectations.

Action

If you only do 1 thing:

Discuss these 7 points at your next team meeting and get your team’s perspective on how well they think you do as a business on each of these points.



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