Tag Archives: Managing the customer experience

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.


What great looks like

Do your team know what great looks like?dart board

As part of your customer service training by defining what great customer service looks like the better your team understand your end goal and 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 it’s thinking about the whole of the customer experience from end to end.

Values

If you don’t already have your service criteria clearly defined you may want to start with a discussion on your company values and expectations towards the customer experience. What is the style and ethos of your business, and how is this reflected in the way you serve your customers?

What do your customers value most?

Understand your customer and who you’re targeting, and reflect on what it is that your customers expect and how they define great service.

If everyone understands what you’re aiming for it makes it so much easier to make decisions based on this outcome. It becomes a part of your culture and way of doing things. And it certainly makes training easier as you know exactly what you’re aiming for.

What’s the experience you’re trying to create?

Over 50% of the customer’s experience is down to emotions. The emotions you create for your customers will define your brand and ultimately build advocates. Focus on – and consistently deliver – the things that matter so your business stands out.

So define those emotions you’re looking to achieve. This then helps get a discussion going on how you might achieve these (which you can incorporate into your training), but this becomes a useful reference point for everyone if they know this is the end goal.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that if you are a business offering luxury services or products many of your team members may not have experienced these themselves first-hand. So do they really understand what’s expected of them or know when they have delivered it?

Exercise

Here’s a short exercise to see how you fare and where you might need to focus to get the best from your team in delivering a great customer experience.

  1. How would you define your customer service values?
  2. What aspects of service do your customers value most?
  3. How would you define the type of experience you’re trying to create?
  4. How readily could your team relate to this experience?
  5. What else needs to happen and who else do you need to involve in defining your customer service values?

Once you’ve completed it for yourself, ask your management team to answer each of the questions and finally ask your whole team to answer questions 1-3 (not just customer facing). It will be interesting to see if you all agree!



Keep your team informed

Here’s part 4 in my 12 blog series on

how to engage and motivate your team on their return from their Christmas breakWho's talking about you?

4. Keep them informed

Time off often gives people time for reflection and can prompt them to start thinking about other options, career moves or even career changes.

Keep your team up to date with what’s happening in your business so they feel involved and quash any feelings of insecurity.

Update them on your plans for the year ahead. If you don’t tell them yourself they’ll often invent their own version!

Take the opportunity to up date them on product knowledge, what’s happening in your industry, with your competitors, or anything in the press.

A knowledgeable team not only gives them confidence, it enables them to make decisions and help build trust with your customers.

 

Download my Free Guide7 reasons 3d image clear
“7 Reasons why Customer Service Training Fails”

 

 


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…

 


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?