Blog

helloThink Long Term When Servicing Your Customer
Think Long Term When Servicing Your Customer

When I receive or am told of subpar customer service, I often wonder if the service provider is thinking about the long-term impact of this type of performance.

Providing a service or product to your customers requires one to always think long-term. Customer service decisions made today impact your company’s future.

Thinking long term first of all should mean that the customer is at the forefront of your business strategy. Interactions with your customer should be done in a manner that promotes repeat business.

Customer service personnel must be trained to think long-term and provided with options that allow them to resolve customer issues from a long-term perspective.

A good friend here in Houston called me while he waited for service at a big box retailer. During our conversation, he paused to ask a store employee “So you’re going to bring another person in front of me? You have yet to ask me what I need!” What the store employee didn’t know was that my friend planned to purchase a laptop for his daughter.

Well, he didn’t after this encounter! An acknowledgment of my friend’s presence along with an explanation of the employee’s actions may have led to the purchase of the laptop. Just a moment to consider the long-term impact of ignoring a customer may have led to my friend becoming a long-term customer.

Thinking long-term requires one to consider how to handle a customer complaint. The old adage of “the customer is always right” is not necessarily true in all situations. The customer may have misunderstood, misinterpreted, misread, or just plain wants to have his/her way.

What’s important for the long term is the handling of the situation. Your demeanor, voice tone, body language during phone or face-to-face interactions, and verbiage utilized when interacting via chat or email play a huge role in retaining this customer. Think long-term when formulating solutions to the issue.

Preserve the customer’s dignity when you know that they are just plain wrong. Don’t allow your ego to enter into this interaction. Go into your INP mode. INP means It’s Not Personal. Take a deep breath and think long-term! Weigh the cost of resolving the situation in the customer’s favor against the possibility of losing long-term revenue.

Think long-term when considering changing your service concept or product. How will your customer be impacted by your decision? Is the change the result of customer input? If not, have you considered getting your customer’s feedback on your proposed change? I think we all remember what happened when a famous soft drink company changed the formula for its popular product. Although focus group results appeared positive before launching the change, customers in the southern U.S. held the original formula dear to their hearts.

The backlash from this region was tremendous. Who holds your product or service dear to their hearts? Long-term thinking will help you to ask the right questions of the right people when you’re considering making changes to your service concept or product.

The trash service provider for my subdivision sent out a letter stating that they were changing the truck type from one that requires a crew of three to one that only requires a one-person crew. Now I think that’s great for the expense categories of their budget, but how will this change impact the customer? The new truck’s retractable lift arms called for the customers to utilize a new garbage can – one that is specially made for the lift arms.

I called the company and asked if the customer was responsible for obtaining the proper garbage can or will it be provided by the company. That was six months ago – I’m still waiting for an answer. If the answer comes back that requires customers to purchase the new garbage can, the company will more than likely lose the contract.

My subdivision is small with only 87 homes, but that contract represents about $17500.00 of annual revenue. Long-term thinking is required by the company in making the decision as to who is responsible for purchasing the new garbage cans.

The willingness to think long-term when servicing customers is one of the most important business strategies that you can incorporate into your day-to-day operations. Make sure everyone within the organization is thinking long-term in regard to customer service. Thinking long-term requires one to always ask – “If I proceed in this manner, what is the long-term effect for both the customer and the company?”

0

read more
helloThe Impact Of Performance Goals On Customer Service
The Impact Of Performance Goals On Customer Service

Does this sound familiar? “I can’t possibly complete all of this work and meet the goals to receive a raise. It just doesn’t seem fair. I don’t think management understands what it takes to actually do this job”. Employees today are experiencing more stress than ever in this era of economic uncertainty.

It’s very important to align workload and performance goals for long-term positive employee morale, long-term profitability, and long-term productivity. Your customers (both external and internal) are impacted by your performance goals. Here are a few issues to consider.

Performance Goals – Is That The Right Number?

When establishing performance goals, take into consideration the total process required for task completion. Base goals on outcomes over which the employee has control. Where the employee has accountability for additional tasks, factor this into goal setting for the employee’s primary responsibility.

This will lead to setting realistic goals. Spend time with the employees as they actually perform their duties to get a “real world” feel for what it takes to perform the job. Include the employees who actually perform the job in establishing goals. An environment of mutual respect will exist as the employees will feel that they were able to participate in creating their own goals.

The level of service provided to the customer is higher when employees are not overly concerned and stressed out daily about meeting performance goals. Taking these steps has a three-fold effect: 1. Improvement in employee morale. 2. You may be able to create a better process. 3. You should be able to determine if the stated goal is the right goal.

Quality Vs Quantity – Which Is Primary?

Does your reward system encourage quality work? A reward system based on unrealistic performance goals tends to promote quantity over quality. As employees struggle to meet the stated goals, quality will surely suffer as shortcuts become the norm in completing tasks.

This can lead to poor work audit results, rework (how much does this cost at your company?), and customer dissatisfaction. Employees are prone to display a sense of hurriedness when interacting with customers if the workload and performance goals are not balanced.

Those employees choosing quality over quantity will become frustrated as their efforts to perform the job properly are rewarded with inquiries regarding their inability to reach the stated goal. In the quantity-over-quality environment created by unrealistic performance goals, long-term productivity is sacrificed for the short-term goal.

Focus on systemic thinking and make this a high priority when designing reward systems. Reward actions that insure fluid cross-functional handoffs. This helps to build a culture of holistic, systemic-minded employees who understand the impact of their work on the product/service system.

Work Environment – Is This A Healthy Place To Work?

It is very important to create a positive work environment as your bottom line is directly impacted by employee morale. An environment where performance goals are fair and obtainable fosters an atmosphere of teamwork as employees do not feel the need to protect their “numbers”.

Unrealistic goals lead to either unwillingness – for fear of not meeting their own goals or inability – due to unrealistic workload – to truly work as a team. Long-term employee frustration usually results in a lower quality of work which ultimately impacts the external customer.

Stress levels increase possibly leading to health issues. Employee turnover increases, as well as some, will seek relief from an atmosphere they deem unfair and unhealthy.

This directly impacts your bottom line as the level of customer service delivered suffers via productivity lost to the need to hire and train new employees. How much does a dissatisfied customer cost your company? Promote employee quality of life versus the “my work is my life” mindset. Give employees a reason to feel good about coming to work.

Performance goals and reward systems are key components of the business environment. Strive to base both on a “real world” workload. Your long-term success depends on it.

Your customer will feel the impact of performance goals and the workload. Balance these two in order to insure that the customer is positively impacted and gets great customer service.

20

read more
helloSales Tactics Do Create Customer Experiences
Sales Tactics Do Create Customer Experiences

How often have you heard this statement from customer service personnel within your company – “I wish those salespeople would think about what they’re doing when making promises to customers.

I’m tired of being yelled at for something that’s not my fault.” It’s important to remember to only promise what can be delivered when interacting with potential customers – especially when they are purchasing big-ticket items.

Here are a few things to remember when using promises as sales tactics to sell products and services to customers.

Promise Only What Can Be Delivered

During my years in the corporate world, the issue of “Why did the salesperson promise that without verifying if we could meet that commitment” would often arise. That statement was usually followed up with “They only think about their commission!” While it’s understandable that salespeople are motivated by potential commissions, it’s critical to make sure that sales guidelines are in place to ensure a positive impact on those persons within the organization that have to service the customer.

Whether it be customer service, accounts receivable or any other department that interacts with customers, salespeople must understand and adhere to the policies and or procedures when in sales mode.

Should the need arise for special consideration in order to “get the deal”, check in with those persons who will be impacted by whatever the consideration is before making promises to the customer? Remember – customers view the people within your company as “the company”.

Develop Internal Relationships

Years ago when beginning a corporate stint as an account manager/project manager, my first week was spent meeting those persons with whom I impacted in performing my role. My first question was – “How does what I do impact you?” That question was followed by this one – “What is it that you want me to do to make your job easy?” This question was followed by this one – “What is it that you don’t ever want me to do?” Asking these questions allowed these persons to elaborate on what they were held accountable for and how performing my job could either bring positive or negative consequences for them. By taking time to develop internal relationships, one communicates “We Are A Team” to others within the company. Yes, it takes additional time to ask these questions, but it’s well worth it later in the relationship!

Be Accountable for Your Actions

Should issues arise due to sales methods, it’s the responsibility of the salesperson to be accountable. I think salespeople should be kept abreast of every issue related to promises made, but not kept, that arise with their customers.

Doing so would assist in understanding the impact of one’s actions. Persons required to service the customer after the sale should know that they will receive the same internal considerations afforded to the paying customer.

When salespeople are held accountable for their sales methods, the level of employee morale increases as one does not fear having to regularly interact with customers who were provided unfulfilled promises during the sales process.

The sales component of a company’s business model is most likely the original experience for potential customers. Make sure that your salespeople understand their impact on the total customer experience by making sure they Promise Only What Can Be Delivered, by requiring them to Develop Internal Relationships, and by encouraging them to Be Accountable for Their Actions.

0

read more
helloAngry Customer Prevention
Angry Customer Prevention

Having been in the customer service industry for 25+ years, I’ve heard, seen, attended, and listened to various programs/seminars regarding “how to handle an angry customer”. Most often, these programs/seminars are very informative and provide excellent guidance on dealing with a not-so-happy customer.

My question has always been – Why is the customer unhappy and is there anything that can be done to diminish the number of unhappy customers? My instincts say to take a proactive stance in the battle to prevent angry customers.

Here are a few ways to do so.

Why Are Customers Unhappy?

Is there a pattern to the reasons that customers are unhappy? Is anyone in your organization tracking these reasons? It’s been my experience that if you have one customer complaining about an issue or situation, more than likely there are others complaining about the same things.

During one call center stint, it was common for customers on certain billing cycles to experience problems with their bills – improper amounts, additional charges, etc. We all know that this issue will certainly create angry customers and additional phone calls. While it’s important for the agents to be equipped with “how to handle angry customers” skills, how about determining what’s causing the “angry customer” issues?

Identify external and internal issues that might be contributing to your customers’ unhappiness with your organization. Doing so will surely diminish or even eliminate the need for the customers to call and for customer service personnel to exercise their “how to handle angry customers” skills for these particular issues.

Oh yeah, be sure that your customer-facing personnel is equipped with the proper customer interaction soft skills – voice tone, empathy, body language, etc. – so that they do not inadvertently create an angry customer!

Why Are Front Line Personnel Unhappy?

It’s been my experience that unhappy employees are an indicator that there may be organizational issues that negatively impact customers. Customer-facing employees become frustrated and angry when it appears no one is interested in addressing issues which contributes to the creation of angry customers.

Check with your customer-facing employees regarding their experiences when dealing with customers. Are processes both customer and employee-friendly? Is the training received sufficient to allow for successful customer interactions? Can employees count on the “system” functioning properly so that they can provide a great customer experience, therefore, preventing the need to exercise their “how to handle angry customers” skills? Take the time to get and act upon feedback provided by customer-facing employees. You might be surprised by how doing so can assist in reducing the number of angry customers for your organization.

How Many Credits or Refunds Are You Issuing?

Another possible indicator of angry customers is the amount of products/services given away, account credits, or refunds issued by your organization. Is anyone attaching a reason for these actions? Does your organization’s system allow for logging the reasons for refunds, account credits, or other actions taken to appease angry customers? It’s important to monitor these areas as they may be an indicator that customers are not happy with your products or services.

Allow your customer-facing employees the ability to provide reasons for taking these actions. Analyze these reasons and identify ways to prevent their continuance. Determine how much these refunds, credits, or provision of goods/services cost your organization.

Spend time with customer-facing personnel during their interactions with angry customers to get first-hand experience of what appeasement actions are utilized. One’s willingness to take these steps will surely lead to a decrease in the number of angry customers.

It’s a great idea to equip customer-facing personnel with “how to handle angry customers” skills. Doing so gives them the confidence to properly handle the situation.

Take an additional step by proactively identifying and addressing issues that contribute to the number of angry customers your customer-facing personnel encounter. I can guarantee both customers and employees will love you for that!

0

read more