Category Archives: Service culture

Your Song

The new John Lewis Christmas advert was released last week. I have to confess, I’ve watched this several times on YouTube, as Elton John’s Your Song has to be one of my favourite songs of all time. As a teenager, when this was first released, I would play it over and over; it’s one of the few songs from which I could recite every word.  And because my mum loved it too, each time I hear it, it reminds me of her.

What has this got to do with your customer service culture?

This prompted me to think about 2 things which are important factors in creating a service culture:

Emotional triggers and anchors

We are surrounded by things that can impact our emotional state or our mood. And these are so easily picked up by customers. This is fine when it’s a positive emotional state, or a state that helps us to get into rapport with the customer.

Not so good when it’s a complete mismatch, or when we have negative emotions which are picked up by the customer, albeit subconsciously.

These emotional states can be prompted by the things other people say or do (when we’re surrounded by mood Hoovers, it’s inevitable this rubs off), the day’s events (e.g. missing the bus, or getting stuck in traffic, so we are late for work), or even our anticipation of future events (you’re not looking forward to speaking to that particularly difficult customer).

But, as in my case with hearing Your Song, it could be a sound, such as piece of music or birdsong, it could be a scent or a particular smell, it might be the touch or feel of something real or imagined. Or it might simply be recalling a scene from a movie, a fun night out with friends, or the first time you saw a particularly amazing view. Any of these things have the capacity to change someone’s emotional state, but it will be different triggers for different emotions and different triggers the different people.

So, how does all this relate to customer service?

If we know that some states will have a negative impact on the customer experience, we need to look to changing that state to one that is appropriate.

Firstly, we need to break the negative state. Simply by changing our physiology can help (think how we are on a car long journey and we are feeling sleepy, if we get out of the car and walk around for a few minutes we’ll normally feel more alert).

But we then want to replace this with a more positive state; so, the trick is to identify what triggers will work for you to elicit the right state.

Putting that into context, for me, hearing Your Song makes me feel rather sad, so although this very easily elicits an emotion, it might not be the emotion I want when I’m dealing with a customer. So, if I wanted to get into a very happy state, I know – for me – picturing a particular scene from the film The Full Monty always brings a smile to my face.

What’s Your Song? And the trigger that’s guaranteed to bring a smile to your face?

And just as important, what’s the one thing that is guaranteed to bring a smile to their face for each of your team. You don’t have to know what this is, but it’s important that they do, so they can get into that happy state, even when their day has got off to a bad start.

The second factor in creating a service culture? I’ll come back to that next week.

 

 


Another perspective

Both my grandfathers served in the First World War. My mum’s dad (Pop) was an officer in India. Dad’s dad (Granddad) a private in the trenches in northern France.

As you can imagine Pop and Granddad had very different experiences and very different perspectives of the war.

They also both responded in very different ways. Whilst in India Pop kept a diary which included drawings to illustrate events, effectively creating an historical document (since donated to the Imperial War Museum).

Granddad, on the other hand, never ever talked about the war. He simply wanted to block out the horrors he’d witnesses and endured. And who could blame him.

Whatever your own perspective, in the workplace it’s always useful to consider things from other people’s perspectives. Whether that is getting commitment from team members, dealing with customers, or merely seeking ideas or solutions to problems.

Let’s look at a few examples:

1. The Angry Customer

When I’m coaching managers to get the best from their team or training staff in dealing with customer complaints encouraging them to see things from other people’s perspectives is such an important part of resolving difficult situations.

Let’s focus on an example of a customer who is extremely angry and (to our mind) unreasonable. This customer is important to you because she spends a lot of money with you, but every time she visits or calls you anticipate some kind of confrontation or anger on their part. This is upsetting to you and your team but because they are a valuable customer you feel you need to do something to improve the relationship.

Your perspective

What I hear is a raised voice, curtness, demands for attention. What I feel is nervousness for what’s going to come next, frustration at her for doing this, defensiveness towards my team. What I’m saying out loud is calm, polite, but what I’m saying inside is how I’m determined I am not to be insulted. What I believe is this person is rude, arrogant and ignorant and likes to get her own way.

Customers perspective

As the customer I am stating what I want and the deadlines I need to meet. I hear someone who is meek and I’m not sure if they really understand my urgency and the pressure I’m under to get served quickly. I’m concerned that unless I make it very explicit I’m not going to get what I need, and I’m putting myself at risk of getting a hard time from my boss.

This second position (in this case getting into the customers shoes) helps create empathy and can give clues to a potential way forward. But although empathy will help it won’t necessarily lead to a solution both parties are happy with.

You both want the same thing – the customer getting what they need and going away happy

2. Poor Performance

When a team member isn’t acting appropriately or not doing what is asked of them. Imagine you’ve asked one of your team to carry out a refund for a customer. It’s a simple task, but when you check up on it later in the day you discover it’s not been done.

Your perspective

I’m irritated; I’ve given this person instructions on what’s needed. This is part of their job, and he should know what to do as he’s seen everyone else do it. If he doesn’t do it soon either the customer is going to get very irate, or someone else in the team will have to do it. I feel frustrated he’s not dealing with it, and appears to be putting it off.

Team members perspective

I’m confused. I’ve been asked to do this task (my old manager always processed refunds himself). Although I’ve seen others do it, I’m not really sure how to get the information I need. I was shown once but it was a while ago and I’ve forgotten all the details. I know it’s important for the customer to process these promptly, but also I’m nervous about getting it wrong. I’d ask for help, but everyone is really busy. I have 101 other things to do, so I’ll get on with those for now, and ask for help later.

You both want the same thing – the task done correctly

3. Making changes

When you need to get buy-in to a change, unless you consider others perspective you can find resistance to that change. Let’s imagine you are about to install a new system for taking bookings. You know it will mean fewer errors.

Your perspective

I’m relieved we are finally installing the new system as I know it will reduce errors such as double bookings or bookings left off the system altogether. It will streamline the process so making it easier for the team and reduce complaints from customers when there have been errors.

Teams perspective

Do they think it’s our fault? We believe it won’t make much difference as people prefer the personal touch, and probably won’t use it. Also, for regulars we know their personal preferences so if it’s all automated, we’ll end up with our regular customers being unhappy with their room or table allocation. If they aren’t happy they’ll moan to us and it’s bound to have an impact on our tips.

You both want the same thing – happy customers (who tip well!).

4. Finding solutions

It doesn’t just help in negative situations, it can also help clarify the way forward, when for example when you are stuck for a solution or a way forward on something that affects others.

For example: you have peaks and troughs of activity so when you’re quiet team members are sometimes under-utilised and end up wasting time. But at others you are really busy and then have an issue with customers being kept waiting.

Your perspective

I’m frustrated I’m paying wages for people to hang around doing nothing. But I know I need to have people there as when we are busy.

Their perspective – person A

We have a lot of hanging around, which is boring, and it makes the day go so slowly. I don’t want to be doing this job for the rest of my life and would love to get involved with some of the things happening in other departments. Why can’t I spend the downtime helping in other departments, and they help us when we are busy?

Their perspective – person B

I don’t know why I have to rush to get here so early as all we do for the first hour is hang around. I’d love to spend an extra hour with the kids before I come in, and I’d happily make up extra time if needed when we are busy.

You all want the same thing – not to have to hang around doing nothing.

In each of these scenarios you can see that the other person isn’t wrong, they just have a different perspective of the situation. Even when YOU think their belief is wrong or unfounded something must have led to their perception; to them this is the reality. Even if you believe you need to change their perception you must first seek to understand what it is and what it’s based on, and show you understand their perspective.

Then take a step back from an onlookers perspective to look for the areas of commonality so you can find a solution; ideally a joint solution that satisfies you both.

Related posts: Perceptual Positions 


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.




Valuing your Values

valuesYour values are your way of saying “this is what’s important to us”. They represent a way to share beliefs that define your culture.

When we talk about customer service values it’s a way of describing what we see as important in how we treat our customers.

Of course your customer service values must tie in with the whole ethos, culture and brand identity of the business.

The clearer your values the easier it is going to be to define how you will deliver them and communicate these to everyone else involved.

If you don’t already have your service criteria clearly defined start by defining 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?

Naturally there needs to be a correlation between what’s important to you and what’s important to your customers.

This has to start with an understanding of who your ideal customers are and what’s important for them, what your customers expect and how they define great service.

When everyone in your business has the same snapshot of the ideal customer it’s so much easier to define the ideal customer experience you’re working on. This in turn means it’s easier for every effort to add value.

Ask yourself not just who they are, but identify what need you’re meeting or problem you are solving.

Why do your customers buy from you specifically? What makes your business, venue, offer or service different? Why is your experience better than anyone or anywhere else?

Live by your values

Your values should be living and breathing, being evident in EVERYTHING you do. Not shut away in a filing cabinet!

Define how these values will be evident in the ideal customer experience. Define exactly what behaviours your team need to demonstrate to live by your values (i.e. what you expect to hear people say or see them do.)

And reinforce these consistently. Set an example so you are living by your values each and every day. Recognise when you team members demonstrate your values, and don’t let things go unchallenged when they are not being met.

So, what are your customer service values? What do your customers value most? And what can you do to be sure your team live by your values each and every day?


Misery loves company

misery loves companyAre you a glass half full or glass half empty type of person?

We are now exactly half way through the year. So while on the subject of halves are you more inclined to be saying “Gosh, where did that time go, half the year has gone already!” or “Hooray, we’ve still got half the year to go!

In this context being ‘half empty’ it may provide the motivation we need to take action on a goal, but in many cases the ‘glass half empty’ approach can be appear negative, demotivating and demoralising.

I’m sure we can all relate to the type of person who constantly looks at the downside of everything; the type of person who drains your energy and your enthusiasm the whole time; the ‘Mood Hoovers’ who have the ability to suck the life out of everything.

But…

Have you ever stopped to think about whether you ever have this impact on those around you, and in particular your team?

We all have our off days. Your football team lost last night, you had a row with your spouse this morning, someone cut you up in traffic on your way in, you’re fed up with the lousy weather, your boss has just set you an unrealistic deadline, or the topic on everyone’s lips at the moment… you’re worried about the impact of Brexit on you or your business.

Like it or not, your mood has a profound impact on the mood of all those around you. It influences your team’s attitude, their enthusiasm, their willingness to take responsibility, their confidence in you and the business and their loyalty towards you.

And in turn this certainly influences your customers’ perception of you and your team, their level of engagement and ultimately their loyalty to your business.

It’s important you remain self-motivated even when things are not going well; are you prone to displaying your frustration, doubts or hesitation; and resort to using negative language, expressing doubt in your own or others’ ability? In short, do you act as a role model for your team to follow?

Behaviour breeds behaviour

When you get home from work can you normally sense what sort of mood everyone else is in? Even when no words are spoken it’s usually pretty easy to tell. Our moods and emotions are usually evident to others from our behaviours, facial expressions and tone.

Certain emotions or unresourceful states will inevitably have a knock-on impact on everyone around us – family, friends, colleagues and customers alike. Such as miserable, worried, angry, bored, frustrated, resistant, confused, irritated, flustered, tired, impatient, or distracted.

When you, your team – any of us – are in these unresourceful states if faced with challenges: the tiniest problem can lead us to frustration or aggression; the slightest failure can lead to disappointment, blame or self-doubt; a hint of rejection can lead to anger or defensiveness.

If you want your team to be: enthusiastic, flexible, motivated, interested, confident, energetic, happy, welcoming, and friendly this has to start with you.

And from a position of these resourceful states we’ll much more readily find solutions to problems, learn from our failures and bounce back from rejection.

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What’s your commitment?

This week is customer service week.

thank-you

Customer Service Week, which is always the first full week in October, is an opportunity to raise awareness of customer service and the critical role it plays in running a successful business.

For a businesses it creates the perfect opportunity to raise awareness within your own team of their vital contribution and to remind customers how much we appreciate their business.

So what have you been up to to demonstrate your commitment to delivering great customer service and a great experience for your customers?

Here are 10 ideas you could use…

  1. Have some fun and celebrate with your team in recognition of their contribution to delivering a great customer experience
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  2. Remind your team of your customer service values and ask for their ideas on what else you can be doing to keep those values alive
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  3. Hold a brainstorming session with your team and/or key suppliers to identify ways to add (even more) value for your customers
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  4. Review your customer journey with your team and what ideas they have for making improvements
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  5. Run a fun quiz with your team to see how much they really understand about your business, your customers, your products and what adds value for customers
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  6. Pick up the phone to your most recent customers and ask for their feedback and what they think you can be doing to make your service even better
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  7. Send a thank you card to your most valued customers to simply to say thank you to show you appreciate their business
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  8. Invite some of your customers to a team event or out for lunch
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  9. Tell your suppliers how you appreciate their contribution and thank them for their support in ensuring your customers get a great experience
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  10. Enter your organisation for customer service awards relevant to your industry

So, what have you done this week to demonstrate your commitment to delivering great customer service?

Of course none of these ideas are limited to customer service week. So, hey, don’t worry if you’ve done nothing this week to mark the occasion. Pick one of them and do it next week instead. I’m sure your team or your customers won’t mind when you show your appreciation, just so long as you do it!


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“That’s not my job”

A true service culture is more than just a sheep dip customer service training exercise for your front line team.

Service is everyone’s responsibility

Customer service training

It’s part of your DNA and reflected in everything you do. A bit like a stick of rock – no matter where you break it the core message is still the same.

This means it goes far beyond how your customer facing teams interact with customers.

It isn’t just the responsibility of the sales team, the receptionists or customer service desk.

Everyone in your business contributes in some way to the customer experience either directly or indirectly (or why are they there?).

This includes how your support teams not only interact and serve your external customers, but how they serve the internal customer. How your customer facing teams are supported and treated internally will inevitably have a knock on effect on your customers. So include them too in your customer service training.

The more customers are kept in mind for every decision taken in the business the easier it will be to give a consistent level of service to your customers. This includes the design of your internal as well as customer facing systems. It means recruiting the right people; i.e. not just for their technical skills but those who are aligned with your customer service culture.

Everyone in your business must understand the basics, what good service looks like and recognise the role they play in achieving this. Not by having endless policies, but by having the freedom to use their initiative to do what’s right for the customer; be they internal or external.

Your customer service ethos has to be demonstrated by everyone in your business not just the front line team.