Tag Archives: customer journey

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



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

 



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.


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…



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


Little hinges swing big doors

Some years ago I was fortunate enough to interview one of my mentors – Peter Thomson, and he shared an expression “Little hinges swing big doors”. I was reminded of this today when I learnt that it is NHS Change Day.

It really doesn’t take much to make quite a marked difference to someone’s perception or to a customer’s experience. In fact I’ve been following a discussion on LinkedIn over the past week where other customer service professionals have been sharing their thoughts on the little things that destroy the customer experience.

As the list is growing it’s obvious that these are often seen as potentially insignificant things, even done absent mindedly, but to the customer they can make or break the customer experience. And when two or three of these are added together can make a massive difference to the degree of trust and long term relationship.

What struck me from the discussion is just how much is down to the interaction and engagement of the team. Subtle things that take seconds. Such as that initial eye contact as soon as someone walks in, a genuine smile, looking organised and ready for business, using someone’s name, remembering someone’s preferences, the tone you use when saying hello or saying thank you, the use of I, you or we, the use of a positive language. All adding to that first and last impression.

Of course the quality of the product itself will have a bearing, but get these basics wrong – these little hinges – and you have to work a darn site harder on the other stuff to ensure your customers’ experience is a 5 star one.



What do your customers remember most about their customer experience?

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me… last impressions

A truly Memorable Last Impression

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 as they drive off into the sunset?

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

It could be the bill, and whether they see it as value for money. It might be the wait to part with their hard earned cash, or the way the payment is acknowledged.

It might be the attitude of the last person they speak to on the way out or in your car park. The offer of help (or not) carrying items to their car. It could be the route to the car via your backdoor, the view behind the scenes you’d rather they didn’t see; or a visit to your toilets, which might not be as pristine at the end of the day as they are at the start.

What’s the last conversation they hear as they leave? Is it all genuine smiles and sincere thank yous, or do they get to hear the back stage gossiping and gripes? Or the complaints about how busy they’ve been and how tired they are, or about how poor your payment process because of the slow internet connection which is why they’ve been kept waiting.

Do they feel appreciated and that you’re sorry to see them go?  Or are you unintentionally making signs that you’ve other more important things to be getting on with? The equivalent of impatiently looking at your watch or getting the hoover out! It may not be obvious, but letting them know you’re running late, that you’re relieved it’s home time or closing time, showing signs of rushing them out of the door or off the premises.

Any one of these could influence your customers’ lasting impression. The one they remember as they drive away, when they get home, or next time they’re thinking of doing business with you….



 

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