Tag Archives: customer service training

Big Rocks

Complaint handling

Complaint handling  – It’s all too easy to wait until something has gone wrong to discover your team are not that confident or competent in dealing with complaints, only to end up with a niggling customer complaint escalating into a major problem. That’s because it’s all too easy to let these proactive (big rocks) shift down the priority list.

But, before you get onto “Big Rocks” I have a big rock of my own, and could do with your help, please.

I’m currently working on a new programme to help businesses deliver their own customer service training in-house. I need to make sure I have considered everything, and this is where you come in. If you could have a private conversation with me about developing customer service skills, with your team, what 2 questions would you like to ask me? Just click here and send me your questions. I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to answer individually… But I will try to answer them in a future newsletter. Thank you.

As you plan for the year ahead here’s something to bear in mind…

You may have heard of Stephen Covey’s idea of the rocks and the jar. In case you haven’t it goes like this…

Covey takes a jar, into which he places a few big rocks. Then he adds a bunch of small pebbles, and finally some sand, which fits in around the rocks and pebbles.

The jar symbolises our time, the rocks represent our important priorities, the small pebbles represent things that matter, but that you could live without, and finally the sand which represents busy tasks that aren’t important, and are likely only done to waste time or get small tasks accomplished.

When you place the big rocks in the jar first, then put in the pebbles, and finally the sand, everything either fits in, or the only thing that won’t fit is excess sand.

The metaphor here is that if you try and do this in the reverse order putting sand in first, then the pebbles you can’t fit in the big rocks.

This holds true with the things you let into your life. If you spend all your time on the small and insignificant things, you will run out of room for the things that are actually important.

While you can always find time to work or do chores, it is important to manage the things that really matter first. The big rocks are your priorities, while the other things in your life are represented by pebbles and sand.

One such big rock is scheduling time for staff development, such as setting aside time for developing customer service skills, or any activity which helps develop your service culture.

Let’s take complaint handling as an example. It’s all too easy to wait until something has gone wrong to discover your team are not that confident or competent in dealing with complaints, only to end up with a niggling customer complaint escalating into a major problem. If team members had been trained and coached in complaint handling in advance such a situation could probably be avoided. But it’s all too easy to let these proactive (big rocks) shift down the priority list.

One of the challenges is that we see these big rocks as scary overwhelming tasks. But if your managers and supervisors have the skills to deliver training in-house (be that identifying customer needs, complaint handling, managing customer expectations). It means you can break down this training into bite-size sessions which you can schedule in over several days, several weeks, or simply make part of your weekly/monthly routine.

So, the moral of the story? As you plan for the year ahead, put in the big rocks first – the things that are important, such as staff development and training, even though they are not necessarily urgent yet, or else they won’t fit into the jar. i.e. schedule these into your calendar first.

p.s. please send me your questions- what 2 questions would you like to ask me about developing customer service skills? Just click reply to this email and send me your questions. I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to answer individually… But I will try to answer them in a future newsletter. Thank you.



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.



My Thank You to You

Until 6 pm on Tuesday 2nd October (BST), you can get my entire DEVELOPING SERVICE SUPERSTARS training system for HALF OFF.

It’s a ready-made customer service training programme, covering all the customer service training basics you need and including over 9 hours of transformational input.

So you can now turn your own team into Service Superstars to deliver a truly memorable Customer Experience to wow your customers, get them talking about you… and coming back for more!

Here’s where you can grab your copy for nearly £200 off

I’m holding this special sale as a way to celebrate National Customer Service Week (1-5 October) and as my THANK YOU for reading this Naturally Loyal training newsletter and blog.

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Ebbinghaus’ Curve of Forgetting

Ebbinghaus Effect

In 1885, Hermann Ebbinghaus a German doctor of philosophy published “Ebbinghaus’ Curve of Forgetting” showing that a given piece of learning is forgotten by more than half its audience within one hour.  The share of the audience that retains the message is reduced approximately 30% after one day, and to just 25% after only two days.

Which means potentially most training can be a complete waste of your time and effort.

Not a good investment of your training budget!

When you’re investing in training you want people to remember the messages; not just tomorrow, but next week, next month or even next year.

If you want your team to remember the messages it starts with engaging them in the training. And engaging them in the training starts with making the training engaging!

Here are 10 ideas to help make this happen…

  1. Keep things light hearted – it might be a serious subject, but the messages will stick far better if the team are happy and relaxed. Reinforce messages with quizzes and games to add an element of competition and fun.
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  2. Stop thinking about training purely as a classroom activity; get creative with your training. Recognise people’s different learning styles and vary the ways you communicate with your team to appeal to different preferences. Ask the team what training they think they need and how they’d like to learn it.
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  3. Use everyday activities as opportunities for development. Use team meetings to direct focus and reinforce messages. Assign tasks or projects on real business issues to develop team members.
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  4. Get everyone’s involvement. No one wants to sit through a ‘chalk and talk’ lecture. Use team exercises to encourage interaction, get opinions, and generate ideas so everyone benefits from each other’s insights and suggestions.
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  5. Add in fun energiser activities and ‘right brain’ exercises. These might seem trivial, but getting your team involved keeps them energised and in a better state of mind for learning.
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  6. Make full use of the senses. Use props and live examples that people can touch, smell and even taste if appropriate.
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  7. Add variety. Do something different to what people are used to, to make learning interesting or memorable, so everyone remembers the messages.
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  8. Take people away from their normal environment (as long as this doesn’t make them uncomfortable or become a distraction); go outside, use music; alter the layout, introduce unusual props; use interesting presenters or even actors (great for any interpersonal skills training).
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  9. Use role plays. Despite people’s reluctance they are a great way for people to practise what to say and how in a safe setting. So it’s easier when it comes to putting it into practice in the real world. Make these less intimidating by running in small groups with colleagues acting as an observer to give feedback.
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  10. Keep messages simple and use memory aids and support materials so people can remind themselves of the key messages when needed.

Of course, you still need to ensure people understand the relevance of what you are training and follow up afterwards to help them put it into practice and embed new habits and behaviours.

But taking one or two of these ideas will go some way to making your training memorable. And if you can build in several of these principles you’ll get people more engaged and give your training some real impact.

Action point

Review the next messages you need to cascade to your team and pick just one thing from the list above – one which you’re not already doing – and build it in to your training.



Yes, but …

Earlier this week I was conducting some complaint handling training for one of my clients.

It’s not an unusual reaction when faced with a complaint – particularly when you believe it’s unjustified, or it’s not your fault – to listen politely, but then respond with “yes, but…

Of course, as soon as the customer hears those words, they know they are likely to be contradicted.

So, here are 2 alternatives:

1. The But Flip

This is when you still use the word but, but you flip the structure of the sentence. So, instead of saying “I’d really like to help you with this, but it’s out of my control”, this becomes “It’s out of my control, but I’d really like to help you with this”.

What’s the difference? The first version ends the conversation, whilst the second version makes a natural transition into looking for a solution.

In essence, what you’re doing is telling the customer what you can’t do first, but then what you can do.

2. Yes, and…

In this instance you are replacing the word but with the word and. (Many people are tempted to use the word however, however… if you’re anything like me when I hear the word however I still know is going to be bad news!)

Yes, but is confrontational and doesn’t get you any further forward, whereas yes, and keeps the conversation positive, and shows you are listening.

Proving the point

Here’s a fun exercise you can use with your team which demonstrates the impact of yes, but and yes, and, whilst giving them an opportunity to practise the technique.

It’s based on improvisation, which means there are no scripts and participants don’t know what they’ll say until they’ve heard the other person. To be successful they have to be present, listen carefully, and contribute freely.

These skills are obviously valuable in a customer service environment, in which adaptability is crucial.

The “Yes, and…” story telling exercise can be carried out by two people or more.

One person starts with one sentence of a story, and the next person builds on that, either bouncing back and forth between two people or circling around in a larger group.

You can take the story in any direction, as long as it builds on top of the previous sentence with a “yes, and…”

It works best with a few simple rules:

  • Don’t deny or contradict
  • Don’t ask open ended questions
  • You don’t have to be funny
  • You can look good by making your partner look good
  • Tell a story

Besides the fun of seeing the story go in the strangest directions, this exercise reinforces a few crucial customer service skills.

One is listening skills. You have to build upon what was said last. Many people – particularly when under pressure – are so focused on what they want to say whilst the other person is talking, they miss half of what’s being said.

It also teaches flexibility. Instead of going against what’s been said, the aim is to build on top of it.

So, set your team a challenge to switch to the but flip or but, and



But, I do that already!

One of my clients was telling me last week of her frustration when her team were reluctant to get involved in training.  “They think they know it all already” she said.

Have you ever experienced that too? I know I have.

A big barrier to training, particularly customer service training or management skills, is when an employee thinks they know it all or are already doing everything correctly already. So they see the training as a criticism.

This means they are not receptive, which is not only frustrating for you, but means in all likelihood your training is a waste of time, money and effort.

Here are some ideas to get over this…

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I’ll have to get my manager

When you’re a customer and want to make a complaint the last thing you want to hear is “I’ll have to go and get my manager…”

Not only is it frustrating for you as the customer, it’s demeaning for the employee and time consuming of the manager.

This week I’ve been training line managers, giving them the skills and confidence to coach their own teams in how to handle customer complaints, so they can trust their team to handle them effectively.

This means customers get any complaints handled swiftly, team members feel empowered, and managers are freed up to get on with other things.

You can watch here to discover the 4 key areas we covered.

So what’s the process in your business when a customer has a complaint? Do your team have the skills and confidence to deal with complaints, and do their line managers have the skills and confidence to train, coach, and support them?

 


Who handles your customer complaints?

Coaching in Complaint Handling

When you’re a customer and want to make a complaint the last thing you want to hear is “I’ll have to go and get my manager…”

Not only is it frustrating for you as the customer, it’s demeaning for the employee and time consuming of the manager.

So what’s the process in your business when a customer has a complaint? Do your team have the skills and confidence to deal with complaints, and do their line managers have the skills and confidence to train, coach, and support them?



No time for customers?

One of the biggest barriers I come across when I’m helping business owners develop their customer service culture or delivering customer service training is when people believe they don’t have enough time to devote to customers and delivering a memorable customer experience.

In this short video I give some suggestions to help get over this.




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.