Tag Archives: Customer service

Learn to Let Go

Balloons letting go

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

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

Do you ever find yourself falling into this trap?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah, but… I hear some say.

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

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

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



Can a leopard change his spots?

It really doesn’t matter how much time and effort you invest in customer service training if you don’t have the right people in the first place!

Leopard lying on the treeHaving a happy, motivated and productive team is critical to delivering great customer service.

Your team can be your point of differentiation so what is the secret to having an engaged, motivated and eager to please team who will deliver outstanding customer service?

What so many people focus on when recruiting are the skills at the expense of the attitude. We then end up recruiting on aptitude, but firing on attitude.

Unless they have the right attitude in the first place you have little chance of changing it.

So recruit first on attitude then on aptitude.

There are of course times when previous experience or industry knowledge is imperative; your head chef obviously needs a combination of culinary and management skills, your maintenance engineer needs to be familiar with the technical and safety requirements, your fitness instructor needs to have the appropriate qualifications and licenses, your sommelier needs to know his or her wines.

But if you’re a tourist attraction appealing to young families then loving children (and having the ability to relate to them as well as parents) surely has to feature high up on the list of attributes.

If you’re a travel company you are selling an experience, so booking your holiday of a lifetime should become part of the experience, and the person they are dealing with has a huge role to play in this.

And whether you’re a 5 star country house hotel, an entertainments company or a sporting venue, don’t you want people who have a can do; nothing is too much trouble attitude? If so, add it to the top of your criteria.

Create an avatar of your ideal candidate

In marketing we’re told to create a customer avatar. Why not do the same for your team? What are the values, beliefs and attitudes that person needs to demonstrate to really excel in that role. If you have a particular philosophy that you stress as part of your identity and point of differentiation it’s important to recruit people who can relate to this.

Systems and procedures and basic skills can be taught, whereas an enthusiasm for your industry, product or customers can’t be.

If you use social media or your website to advertise vacancies use language that appeals to your ideal candidate. If you want someone enthusiastic, dynamic and lively make your ad enthusiastic, dynamic and lively too!  You’re not looking to attract anyone who’s desperate for a job; make it clear what you’re looking for and who fits the bill of the ideal candidate.

Build your network

Rather than waiting till you have a vacancy and you’re at desperation point to take anybody who comes along, start creating a list of the people you can call upon whom you’re confident share your values and would jump at the chance to work with you when the opportunity comes.

Don’t limit your recruitment search to people who respond to your adverts.  Use your network of business contacts, your existing team and even your customers to help you find the best candidates.

Network or socialise where your prospective staff are; this will not only help to build relationships and reputation but will give you an opportunity to see people in a more relaxed environment. Start developing a “candidate pool” rather than waiting until you suddenly have a vacancy to fill.

Develop relationships with agencies as well as recruitment officers from local colleges and universities. Allow your existing team to participate in professional associations and training where they’re likely to be in contact with potential candidates.

Might the position be suitable for an apprentice? It potentially involves more input from you, but the rewards will often far outweigh the extra effort.

Become a great place to work

Make your business somewhere people love to work, and are happy to be advocates and ambassadors for your business. That way when you come to recruit you’ll be able to do so wisely and have a steady stream of people queueing up!

Create a culture where positive attitudes prevail, and build a reputation as a good employer so you attract the best people. A prerequisite is looking after your existing team; they are far more likely to recommend you to others and spread the word it’s a great place to work.

Monitor the reputation of your business; listen to what your staff say, especially those who leave.

Put yourself forward for awards to help build your repetition as a good employer.

Measure against your criteria

If attitude is more important to you than skills plan in advance how you’re going to measure these less specific or less tangible aspects; those attitudinal things.

Know what you want beforehand, think about what might demonstrate those attributes, and then don’t take their word for it; test it, challenge them and look for real examples.

You may ask about their past experience, how they’ve handled specific situations, or ask them to describe their own examples of when they have gone that extra mile for someone, or handled a particularly challenging customer. Even with a school leaver look for examples of things they have done outside school to demonstrate taking on responsibility, working as a team, and so on.

Not everything can be measured though via traditional interview questions.  Get creative. Use exercises to measure teamwork, problem solving, or creativity if these are important to the role. Spend the first 10 minutes of the interview talking about what motivates or inspires them. I do this on training courses – it’s so simple and really helps to get people talking…

If you’re not involved with the recruitment process yourself, ensure you train your management team how to recruit. Do they also know what values and attitudes you are looking for?

Better to find out in the interview if they haven’t got what it takes than after you’ve hired them and invested time and effort in customer service training.

You won’t change their spots, so look for people with the right spots!



Take stock of your Customer Service

On the twelth day of Christmas my true love sent to mechecklist

Tip #12

Take stock

What minor changes and improvements can you make to your customer service systems and processes to give your customers an even better experience?

Sometimes all it takes is a minor adjustment to make a big difference.

And if you can’t see the wood for the trees this might help…

 


Break the mould

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

Tip #9

Break the mould

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

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

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


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.
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  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?

Have you been an April fool?

staff-training

Your team represent your company. Whilst some of their actions might bring massive value to your business there may be those who have the potential to do more harm than good unless they’ve had the right customer service training.

Here are ten reasons why you’d be a fool not to invest in training your team in customer care…

  1. If you’re in a competitive market your customer service and the whole customer experience might be the one thing that sets you apart from your competition. I’m sure you wouldn’t let any of your other competitive advantages to chance, so why take a chance on your customers’ experience? Consistent customer service and a great customer experience doesn’t happen by accident.
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  2. Customers’ expectations for excellent service are rising all the time, and you want to make them happy, don’t you? Your customers aren’t stupid; they can soon spot when your team haven’t been given the skills, knowledge, authority and confidence to deliver this. If you want your customers to be loyal demonstrate you’re willing to invest in the service they receive.
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  3. The right training across your team means you’re in a stronger position to ensure consistency in the service your customers receive each and every time they visit so they won’t be disappointed on their second, seventh or even 70th visit.
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  4. Investing in training results in better employee engagement. This has to whole host of spin-offs, not only for the customer, but for the business as a whole. A happier team means lower staff turnover so you save on recruitment costs, the headache of staff shortages, and helps you maintain a continuum for your customers.
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  5. Skilled and competent team members mean you get better productivity and lower absenteeism which enables you to contain labour costs without compromising on service levels.
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  6. The more competent your team the easier it will be you to give them authority to deal with day-to-day events as well as resolving problems or complaints. This means issues can be dealt with quickly saving time, effort and heartache for the customer, the team member and you or your management team.
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  7. Knowledge and confidence to offer other services enables team members to spot opportunities to up-sell and cross sell when appropriate helping to increase sales (on the right products and services) and boost profit margins.
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  8. Training enables your team to see the bigger picture such as the importance of obtaining valuable feedback from customers, and generating ideas for delivering even better service so you can get their full buy in as you tweak your approach and keep exceeding your customers’ expectations with each visit they make.
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  9. Training enables your team to see and understand each of these roles thus promoting a willingness to cover and support each other at peak times so your customers get a seamless service and you don’t need to depend on unreliable temporary staff.
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  10. You can be confident your team can cope without you so you can focus on working on your business rather than being perpetually sucked into the day-to-day operation (and enable you to take a well earned break when you need to).

 

So don’t be a fooled into thinking of training as an unnecessary expense. Training is an investment for your business and should be budgeted for like any other investment you’d be making in your business.

If you’d like help with planning your training to make it as cost effective as possible then get in touch here or for more information go here

 


A Ray of Sunshine

I wasn’t in the best of spirits when I boarded the train home from Manchester yesterday. I’d already been kicking myself I hadn’t booked a taxi from my client’s premises as when I left it was pouring with rain; so naturally there wasn’t a cab in sight.wet and windy

Arriving at the station with only minutes to spare I decided it was quicker to walk the stairs than stand stationary amongst the crowd on the escalator; only to catch my heel near the top of the stairs and watch my suitcase skedaddle down the steps as I lay on all fours!

Minutes later we were pulling out of the station and as the PA announcements started I wasn’t paying any attention….

That was at least until the shop manager broke into the verse! This was a Virgin train, and so maybe he’d been inspired by the Virgin safety video (if you haven’t seen it, take a look below). Well, it certainly got everybody’s attention.

It was a little ray of sunshine on a wet Thursday afternoon.

Now, I’d have to admit if he’d said the same thing as we left every station it could have got a little tedious. But he didn’t. Every time he made a new announcement he came up with some other witty repartee.

So by then I was curious to see whether or not he could deliver all he promised! I wouldn’t normally make the walk through six or seven carriages for the sake of a cup of tea, but I was now intrigued to meet Damien.

I have to say I wasn’t disappointed. Every single passenger who walked through or stopped at the shop while I was there was greeted with a big smile and friendly banter. Service was helpful and swift. And what’s more he made suggestions and recommendations so I’m positive his sales increased as a result.

The mere fact I felt compelled to write about this proves this made a memorable customer experience. And this had nothing to do with Damien’s skills to make tea or handle cash. It was all down to personality and attitude.

So if you want to give your customers a little ray of sunshine, focus on recruiting people with the personality and attitude. You can teach the rest.

….. and here’s the Virgin safety video – a refreshing change don’t you think?

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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.



5 ingredients to deliver a consistent customer service

With Valentine ’s Day last Friday no doubt you had plenty of messages about love.

heartBut will all those who sent you these messages still love you tomorrow; or was it just a flash in the pan?

Make your customers feel loved every day, not just on Valentine’s Day.

Consistency in customer service is without a doubt a key ingredient to keep your customers happy. Being all over them one day, and ignoring them the next simply leaves them confused and they’ll soon be off elsewhere!

So just what are you doing to show your customers a bit of love every day?

Here are my 5 ingredients to help you do this…

Ingredient 1

Define the experience you want your customer to have. What will they be saying about you, doing or feeling as a result of buying from you? Focus on this every day with everything you do, and share this with your team

Ingredient 2

Review the whole of your customer journey from end to end. How well does this deliver the experience you envisaged above? What’s their first impression when they visit your website, a review site or social media? What’s the very last impression, the last thing they see, hear (or even smell) on their way out, or after their purchase?

Ingredient 3

Recruit people who have pre requisite skills and attitude to deliver the experience you’re aiming to give. Then give them customer service training to give them the skills, knowledge, confidence and authority to deliver this day in day out, so you don’t need to worry about what they’re doing whilst you’re not there. And your customers get the same level of service whoever they’re served by.

Ingredient 4

Check your resources and systems are designed around your customer experience expectations, to make it simple to deliver not hinder every step of the way. Too much red tape, insufficient manpower for peak periods, out dated systems, mal functioning equipment all have an impact on the customer as well as testing your team’s patience.

Ingredient 5

Engage your team, so they’re enthusiastic and happy. Nothing will impact a customer more than the emotional state of the people who serve them.

So just 5 things to think about and focus on to give your customers consistency.  Of course if you need any help with any of these, drop me an email to caroline@naturallyloyal.com  and we can talk…

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