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helloPut Your Customer's Shoes On
Put Your Customer’s Shoes On

Now I want you to put your consumer hat on for a minute. How often have you as a consumer grumbled about a not-so-great customer experience? The product or service did not meet your expectation. The service provider was a little curt during the interaction. It was somewhat difficult to locate the items you wanted to purchase. The website was not very user-friendly.

An issue was resolved in a less-than-timely manner. These are just a few items that can cause a customer to refrain from doing business with your organization. In knowing how you feel when in the “consumer mode”, how about “putting your customer’s shoes on” and examining your organization from the customer’s perspective? Here are a few ways to do this.

Put Your Customer’s Shoes On and call your organization to see what your customer encounters. Is the receptionist robotic or pleasant and courteous?  It’s important to put the right person in front of your customer.

Did you know that your receptionist or other persons answering the phone are the faces of your organization? This initial encounter is an opportunity to make a lasting impression on a customer. What about that other robot – the interactive voice response system (IVR)? Are the menus user-friendly or do you become confused or worn out? If it’s confusing to you, it’s probably confusing to your customer.

Put Your Customer’s Shoes On and visit your organization. Ok now I hear someone saying “Errol, I’m already here at my organization!” Ok then determine where a physical visit starts for your customer. Usually, when customer physically visits an organization, their experience begins outside and down the street.

Can they easily spot your organization’s signage? In what condition is that signage? Is it visible during your evening hours? The next step for most customers is your parking lot. In what condition is it? Is it well-lit for evening-hour customers? Depending upon your industry (the medical industry comes to mind – hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices, etc), distance from your parking lot to your organization’s entrance may be an issue for your customer.

Taking that into consideration and your customer, is there adequate parking available? What options can you think of that may improve the exterior experience for your customer? Now let’s go inside. What does the customer see upon entering? What about your interior signage? If there is a receptionist available, is he or she pleasant? (You may have to observe this behavior from a distance.) Is it easy to locate items or specific areas within your facility? If it’s difficult for you, it’s probably difficult for your customer.

Put Your Customer’s Shoes On and visit your organization’s website. How often do you visit your organization’s website as a customer? Attempt to make a purchase just as your customer would. How easy is it to do so? Were you allowed to confirm what you were purchasing? Did you receive a confirmation of your purchase and expected delivery date? Did you get a follow-up email providing tracking information?

Are items easy to locate on your website? Is the information regarding your products and services up to date? Is that information clear and easily understandable? Is the information free from industry acronyms and unexplained jargon? Are all of the links fully functional? Whatever you experienced, your customer is experiencing the same.

If your site offers web chat, put in your customer’s shoes and chat with your organization. Is the “conversation” tone friendly and upbeat? Are you asked open-end questions that allow you to elaborate on your reason for chatting? Does the chat person able to quickly provide the information to address your needs or issue? Again, whatever you experience, your customer is probably experiencing the same.

Put Your Customer’s Shoes On and file a complaint. Try doing this via the phone, website email, or chat. How long does it take for your complaint to be acknowledged? What type of questions are you asked in regard to your complaint? What steps are taken to resolve the issue? How long does it take to resolve the issue? Once again, whatever you experience, your customer probably experiences the same.

Remember, it’s important to know what your customer is experiencing when interacting with your organization. To get their perspective – Put Your Customer’s Shoes On!

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helloInternal Customers
Internal Customers – They’re Important Too!

During a corporate stint with a cable television service provider, I happened across a service installer with a not-so-pleasant look on his face. I inquired as to the source of his displeasure. He passed me his work orders while saying “Read those Errol and tell me what you would do!” After reading the work orders, it became apparent that he would encounter difficulty in determining what services the customer actually ordered.

I asked “Okay, so what will you do when you arrive at the customer’s home for the installation?” to which he replied, “I’ll ask the customer what they ordered.” That didn’t sound quite right so I asked another question “How does that make you feel?” He responded quickly – “It doesn’t make me feel too good Errol.

I should be verifying what they ordered, not asking!” While it’s important to make sure that a purchasing customer is satisfied, it’s also important to make sure that our internal customers are satisfied as well. Here are the steps that I recommend.

Identify What You Contribute

Get everyone within the organization to identify their product. In other words, what do you create within the organization? Are you able to express your product as a noun? While it’s quite easy to do in a manufacturing setting, it’s not always considered in the service industries. In the above scenario, the product is a work order.

A hospitality industry product might be a reservation. In the training industry, the product might be a manual. A product in the marketing industry could be a brochure. After identifying your product, let’s give it a specific name. Is it a report? What’s the name of the report? Perhaps it’s a sales report or production report. In the hospitality industry example, the reservation may be more specifically defined as a room reservation.

In the scenario above, the product is a work order, but more specifically it’s an installation work order. Be specific in naming your product. Doing so helps you to identify your internal customer. What you produce is more than likely utilized by someone within the organization.

Identify Who Utilizes What You Contribute

After everyone puts a name to their contribution; now get them to identify who utilizes their product. To continue the initial scenario, the product was identified as an installation work order. So quite naturally the installation department utilizes this product.

If equipment is required for the installation, inventory control and/or the equipment warehouse are probably users of this product. If the manual created within the training industry is a sales manual then the sales department is the likely user for this product. The user of the room reservation might be the check-in clerk or the housekeeping department. Now let’s move on to why it’s important to know who utilizes your product.

Identify The Requirements of Your Internal Customer 

I like to say that providing great internal customer service is like baking a cake – you have to know what ingredients are required for the finished product. While some people can probably bake a cake from memory, most of us would require a recipe to make sure we’re including the correct ingredients.

Do you know what ingredients are required by the users of your products? The easiest way to find out is to simply ask! In the room reservation scenario, might it be smart to ask the check-in clerk if the reservation contains pertinent information that allows for a timely customer check-in? If that is not the case, then simply inquire as to what ingredients are required in the quest to provide great customer service to the purchasing customer.

What about that production report? What information do the users of that product require? In what format? How often? Knowing the answers to questions like these helps one to design a product that fits the needs of their internal customers. Consider that patient appointment – what information does your internal customer require to provide great service to the patient?

Design Your Product According To Your Internal Customer’s Requirements 

Now that you’ve identified your internal customer’s requirements, design your product to meet their needs. Doing so insures that when your internal customer utilizes your product, they can do so without the need to make changes as this most often creates delays in workflow or decision-making. If your internal customer deals directly with the purchasing customer, a flawed product design may contribute to a less-than-great customer service experience.

Just as it’s important to design products and services to meet the needs of your purchasing customer, it’s just as important to do the same for your internal customer. You can accomplish this by Identifying What You Contribute, Identifying Your Internal Customer, Identifying the Requirements of Your Internal Customer and by Designing Your Product According To Your Internal Customer’s Requirements.

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hello
The People or the Process?

When issues arise when a customer is dissatisfied or a mistake occurs, it’s commonplace to blame employees for the customer’s discontent. Now I’m in the mindset that most people come to work to do a good job.

I believe that most people do not get up in the morning thinking “I’m going to purposely create chaos for customers and peers at work today!” Every once in a while you’ll find a knucklehead employee that just wants to do what they want to do, but that’s rare in my opinion. I’m more inclined to believe that it’s more than likely a process issue vs an employee issue.

When speaking of processes as the culprit, I’m thinking of two processes in particular:

The process/processes connected to the issue.
The employee training process for the process/processes connected to the issue.
Let’s take a look at each of these.

The Process/Processes Connected to the Issue

Identify and examine the process/processes connected to the issue. Are there gaps that create customer dissatisfaction? Employees create workarounds (Yep, I’ve done it too!) to bad processes.

Employees also create processes when an adequate one does not exist in an attempt to make sure things go smoothly. Remember, most people come to work to do a good job and often go to these lengths to do so.

The Employee Training Process for the Process/Processes Attached to the Issue

Now let’s say that the process is well-defined and contains all of the necessary elements of a good process. The next question to ask is – What does the employee training process look like? It doesn’t matter that you have a great process when the employee training process is lacking.

It’s imperative that employees are provided with the proper training to ensure that their actions do not negatively impact the processes in which they operate. Training should include verification that employees comprehend the training and can demonstrate the ability to correctly perform their process tasks.

When customer discontent presents itself, be more inclined to focus on processes. It’s not always a people issue.

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helloWhy is the Customer Angry
Why is the Customer Angry?

Why is the customer angry?

I see so much information about how to handle an angry customer. My question is – Why is the customer angry? Are multiple customers angry about the same thing? Does anybody know? I spent a lot of my corporate career asking this question.

There would be discussions regarding the need to properly handle customer complaint calls. My question would always be – “Why are we receiving customer complaint calls? Does anybody know? The complaint is a symptom of an underlying problem. Has anyone taken this into consideration?”

Customer complaints are often the product of broken processes. When one takes the time to identify and examine the process connected to the complaint, often there is evidence that the process is creating customer complaints.

During one corporate stop, a particular billing cycle created an inordinate amount of inbound calls from customers. I sat with a few customer service representatives to get an understanding of what about this particular billing cycle caused the inbound calls to spike, “It’s real simple Errol, the billing information received by the customer is wrong” is what I was told.

There was an error in the bill creation process for this cycle. After bringing this to the attention of the correct department, the error was corrected. Guess what? Yep, no more customer complaints because of improper billing on this billing cycle.

Are your processes creating angry customers? Are steps missing in the process that can create angry customers? Conduct angry customer prevention by examining processes that impact the customer. Take good luck with your customer-facing processes via process mapping to ensure they will not create customer complaints.

Mapping your processes step by step with the right people helps to identify improvement opportunities that can lead to the elimination of customer complaints. Remember – the goal is to not have a pattern of customer complaints vs focusing on learning how to handle customer complaints.

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