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Quality Standards Create Great Customer Experiences

While spending the day with an installation technician during my most recent consulting assignment, it became apparent that this individual was focused on the quality of his work. The way he took measurements and utilized his various tools were indications that he was interested in providing a quality installation. When asked the reason for his methods, here’s his reply – “Errol, when I finish this installation, I don’t want to return because of a mistake that could have been prevented had I taken my time to do the job properly.” As he continued with the installation, I made notes on what I felt were items that would create a quality standard for this particular installation. When the technician completed the installation, we spoke about my notes. “If I were to prepare a quality checklist for an installation of this type, do my notes contain everything that should be on that checklist?” I asked. After reviewing the notes for a few minutes, he gave me a few additional items for the checklist. The idea for the checklist was to create a standard for all of the technicians to follow in order to ensure the customer has a great customer experience with the product after the technician departs. Here are a few ways quality standards assist in creating great customer experiences.

Standards Assist in Communicating the Customer Experience Goals – When developing quality standards, determine what the end result should look like and work backwards. It’s important that the individual service providers have a clear picture of their individual goals. Individual methods such as step sequence may be slightly different regarding task completion, but the end result should be the same. A customer should receive the same level of service no matter the individual service provider. Make sure the standard for the end result is based upon what’s important to the customer. Service organizations such as hotels, restaurants, in home services and others where tasks are somewhat repetitive are good candidates for incorporating quality standards. Service providers can self – check their work against the standard to insure their task performance is contributing to a great customer experience.

Standards Assist In Reducing the Need for Rework – When service providers are provided with quality standards along with the proper training to perform their respective tasks, a reduction in the amount of rework usually follows. Standards combined with competence are a potent combination when attempting to provide a great customer experience. The individual service provider must be properly trained in whatever tasks for which they’re held responsible. It’s been my experience that inadequate training leads to rework, which can lead to an unhappy customer. Take in home services for instance; usually the customer must be present in order to receive service. Should the customer have to request an additional service call due to the initial issue not being fully resolved or perhaps the product is not functioning properly, that means the customer must once again be available. As a service provider, it’s critical to remember to value your customer’s time. If proper training contributes to creating a great customer experience, then it’s important to make sure service providers are properly trained before providing service to customers. Rework is both expensive and a deterrent to establishing a long-term relationship with customers. When service provider training is aligned with quality standards, great customer experiences are sure to follow.

Standards Assist in Evaluating Performance – Once quality standards are properly developed and communicated, the task of evaluating performance becomes simplified. Individual service providers’ task evaluations should be objectively based upon the standards. Utilize your quality standards to assist in creating performance standards. Objective evaluations lead to better employee morale as objectivity – even when the employee’s performance falls beneath what’s required – is better than subjectivity. Employees are more likely to better receive a negative objective evaluation than a negative subjective evaluation. Employee morale is important when attempting to create great customer experiences. Happy employees who understand how they’re being evaluated assist in creating great customer experiences.

Developing quality standards can be beneficial to your organization. Under most circumstances, creating standards is not a one-day project, but one that requires patience and long-term thinking. When making the decision on whether or not to develop and implement organizational standards, remember to think about these three points: Standards Assist in Communicating the Customer Experience Goals, Standards Assist In Reducing the Need for Rework and Standards Assist In Evaluating Performance.

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Marketing Does Create Customer Experiences

Recently my wife contacted a carpet cleaning company for service after receiving a promotional mailer. During the conversation she was informed that this particular promotion was not available after a certain date, which by the way was the previous day. After hearing this news and reviewing the mailer, my wife advised the representative that she did not see the “good until” information on the document. The representative apologized and stated that yes this was her company’s error. My wife then asked if the promotion would be honored because of the error, to which the representative replied “Ma’am, yes we will honor your request. Believe me; we’ve received a multitude of calls because of this mistake.” Marketing plays an integral role in the success of any business. It’s necessary to promote one’s products or services to gain exposure and hopefully new customers. It’s also important to remember that your marketing efforts do create customer experiences. There’s more to a marketing campaign than just creating a marketing message. Let’s examine this a little further.

Whose Involvement Is Required? – Unless one is a soloprenuer or ultra small business, it’s rare that the marketing department develops, implements and processes the influx of phone, walk-in or internet traffic. Usually customer service personnel are tasked with responding to customer inquiries, order requests, etc. in regards to the marketing campaign. It’s crucial to identify what internal services are required to make the marketing campaign a resounding success! Asking simple questions such as what are we promoting? How long will the promotion run? What are we asking our prospective respondents to do? What will we have to do internally to process respondents? In answering these and other questions, you will certainly identify the persons or departments necessary for a seamless campaign implementation.

Say What You Mean To Say – In the above carpet cleaning company scenario, the representative was in the hot seat. It appears that she may have been instructed to hold to the deadline, even though it was not included on the promotional. If the customer did not bother to mention the fact that the deadline was not evident, then don’t offer to honor the promotional. If the customer does mention that the deadline was missing from the promotional then go ahead and honor it. The fact that the deadline was missing from the promotional assisted in creating my wife’s initial experience with this company. Make sure that your marketing material contains all the necessary/intended information for prospective respondents. Imagine how many more calls the company may have received as respondents sought to take advantage of the promotion before the deadline if it was plainly visible on the mailer. I wonder how many respondents actually mentioned the missing deadline and how much it actually cost the company to honor the promotion. Your marketing materials are often potential customers’ first experience with your organization. It’s best to start any relationship off on the right foot.

Are We Ready? After laying out all of the plans, make sure that the persons handling the hoped for traffic are fully educated on the marketing campaign. Pricing, product/service features, shipping times, refund process and guarantees are just a few items to cover during your marketing campaign education. Persons assigned to speak with campaign respondents create a customer experience through their ability to confidently answer questions and process new sales. If your marketing campaign requires respondents to receive service in their homes as in my wife’s scenario, are you adequately staffed to do so in a timely manner? Your ability to quickly provide whatever campaign respondents purchased is crucial to the success of the marketing campaign. When utilizing the Internet for marketing purposes, how easy is it for respondents to get the same information provided via an inbound phone call? Is the purchase acknowledged and a timeframe given for expected receipt of goods/services? As more and more of today’s customers are utilizing the Internet to make purchases, make sure this option receives attention in regards to your marketing campaigns

Developing and implementing marketing campaigns are integral part of an organization’s growth. Remember that the reason for marketing your products/services is to get people to take action. Make sure that your marketing campaigns are created with the understanding that they create customer experiences. If one takes the time to determine Who’s Involvement Is Required, reviews marketing materials to insure the marketing message Says What You Mean It To Say and considers what’s required to process responses in order to say Yes when asked Are We Ready?, then there is a great possibility that great customer experiences are sure to follow!

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5 Tips for Creating Great Field Service Experiences

During my last corporate stint, I spent countless hours servicing customers in the field. This experience has proven invaluable when working with clients with field service personnel. Servicing customers in the field requires one to possess both the skills necessary to meet the customer’s needs as well as customer service skills to provide a complete experience. It’s my opinion that it’s critical that customers receive the best of both skills from field service personnel. Here are five tips that will help to insure your field personnel are providing great customer experiences.
Verify Skill Set – When field service personnel encounter customers, more often than not they find themselves on the customer’s turf. The customer is depending upon the field service person to possess the skill set to perform the required tasks. Before putting your field service personnel in front of the customer, take the time to make sure that they possess the skills to address, resolve, repair, install, build, test or whatever it is that they’re required to perform for the customer. Provide sufficient product/service training to insure your field service personnel can confidently answer customer questions. Develop scenarios that field service personnel will face when servicing customers and gauge their ability to complete the task. Make sure your field service personnel understand that exercises of this type allow you to identify training opportunities. Let them know that you want them to be confident in their ability to exhibit the highest possible level of skills when servicing customers. Monitor your field service rework levels as this too may be an indicator that certain field personnel may need additional training. Your customer certainly receives a better experience when your field service personnel possess the proper skills to complete the task right the first time.

Balance the Workload – My own experience shows that field service personnel can possess the proper skill set, but may not provide the best quality of work because they may find themselves distracted by something in the near future – the next assignment. When one is faced with more assignments than can be properly completed during the workday, sooner or later the tendency to take short cuts becomes an issue. This is a tw0 headed dragon as this can lead to both employee and customer dissatisfaction. Remember that your dispatch/work assignment procedure impacts the experience received by your paying customer. Does your customer complain that your field service personnel seem to be in a hurry? Are they short on conversation when answering customer questions? These may be indicators that your field service personnel may not be allotted the proper time to provide a great customer experience. Remember that we mentioned rework earlier? Concern with checking off each assignment as completed at the end of the day may lead to work quality issues which more than likely will require rework to resolve. How much does rework cost your organization?

Tag Along! – Here’s one of my favorite ways to get an employee’s perspective of their daily experiences. Regularly schedule time to ride with your field personnel. Get in their environment to see what they encounter when providing service. Ask open ended questions that allow them to elaborate on how they feel about your organization. Take notes on improvement opportunities. Are the “office people” negatively impacting field service personnel? Are field personnel receiving enough pertinent appointment information? Does anyone understand just what information is deemed critical by field personnel? Make others within the organization aware of what’s important to the field service personnel. When “tagging along” with field service personnel, jump in to assist with the various tasks. It’s okay to get those hands (or feet or maybe both!) dirty. More than likely you’ll get an education on “real world” scenarios when you spend time in the field.

Develop Standards – Are all of your customers receiving the same level of service? Are your field service personnel aware of what their finished product (repair, installation, test, build-out, etc.) should look like? Make it easy for them by developing standards. Doing so not only makes it easy for the field personnel to gauge their performance against the standard, but it also helps to insure that all customers receive the same level of service. The ability to consistently meet the customer’s requirements helps to build a long term service provider/customer relationship. Random inspections after service completion is a simple way to measure field service personnel performance to the set standards. Standards also provide an opportunity to afford field service personnel with an objective performance evaluation. On another note about standards, how should your field service personnel present themselves to your customer? If your industry requires your field personnel to get dirty, sweaty, etc when providing services – how about a clean uniform at every appointment – especially when entering the customer’s premises! What about the company vehicle – Is it clearly marked? Is it clean? Include standards that address customer perceptions about your organization.

Provide Basic Customer Service Skills Training – In knowing that your field service personnel will have direct face to face customer contact, remember to provide basic customer service skills training. Don’t assume or leave to chance that they should know how to deal with a customer. Remember we just said they’re more than likely meeting face to face with your customer – and more than likely on the customer’s turf! Educate them on the importance of voice tone, voice inflections and body language. Stress the importance of refraining from the usage of industry jargon when communicating with customers. Stress the importance of providing timely updates and regular status reports. Some customers may be angry or upset for whatever reason so equip your field personnel with the skills to effectively deal with someone who is not so happy with your products or services.

If field service personnel actions are critical to your organization’s success it’s probably a good idea to Verify Skill Set, Balance The Workload, Tag Along, Develop Standards and Provide Basic Customer Service Skills Training. Taking these basic steps will surely drive up both employee and customer retention.

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(CACV+CT+EFMP)=GCE*C=CR A Customer Experience Formula

While assisting a client with developing a customer experience strategy, a formula crossed my mind. Now I can hear someone asking – Errol, a formula related to customer experience? Bear with me on this – CACV + CT + EFMP = GCE*C = CR. Let’s walk through this.

CACV – This component of the formula means the Creation and Application of Core Values. When any organization takes the time to create core values, that’s a step in the right direction. What’s even more important is the actual application of the core values. Actively practice your core values. Make sure that they are more than just a list posted on your website or in the company conference room. Incorporate core value indoctrination into your new hire training. If you contacted customers and asked if their experience with your company was a reflection of your core values, are you confident that they would respond positively? Yes – it takes time to develop a great set of core values. However in doing so, you’re determining the future of your company. When making decisions, one should take into consideration how the outcome is aligned with the core values. Every department, every employee and every customer is impacted by your core values.

CT – Now this component is one that must not be overlooked. CT represents Comprehensive Training. Companies that practice this component have a higher potential to retain customers as well as employees. Properly conducted, comprehensive training provides employees with the tools necessary to provide a great customer experience. Comprehensively trained employees tend to perform their duties with the entire organization in mind. Having received a broad overview of the organization, their actions more often than not bring about positive results for both the customer and employer. Confidence in one’s ability to successfully perform daily tasks is paramount to a new employee. Training criteria should include teaching the new employee the fine art of internal customer service. Make sure that they can identify who and what is impacted by the performance of their tasks. Help them to understand what services they provide within the organization. Place their finished product (whatever it may be – sales invoice, service ticket, purchase order, etc.) in their hands and compare it to the requirements of those who will utilize it next. Doing so enlightens new employees on the importance of realizing that someone will probably use what you create.

EFMP – according to Tom Peters, the famous leadership expert, the number one cause for employee dissatisfaction is the quality of the first line supervisor. The EFMP component of the formula requires an organization to Exercise Fair Management Practices. What must an organization do to ensure that this happens? Here’s several ways to get this accomplished. 1. Develop job descriptions that accurately reflect the position duties. 2. Add performance standards which act as the barometer for measuring how well one is performing. Be careful with this one! Be sure to take all tasks into consideration when creating performance standards. I know from personal experience that this can be a major contributor to employee satisfaction. When employees feel that performance standards accurately reflect what they face on a daily basis, your customers are the beneficiaries. Should you leave this one out, shortcuts and mistakes are sure to follow. You can count on an increase in your rework rate. What does rework look like in your organization – a second phone call from the customer, a second dispatch of a field technician or perhaps an escalation to a supervisor/manager? There’s a threefold effect of inaccurate performance standards – employee frustration, employee turnover and poor customer service experiences. 3. Utilize the job description and performance standards to conduct an objective performance review. It’s important to discuss an employee’s performance based on solid information. It’s dangerous to solely utilize personal feelings to rate someone’s job performance – that’s why it’s necessary to create accurate performance standards. 4. Provide management training, especially first time management training. One should not assume that because an employee is great in their current role, that they will make a great manager. This position requires one to wear possess multiple skills – coach, leader and mediator among others. Remember that employees are people – you have to be willing to deal with the whole person. Now I hear someone saying “I expect employees to be professional once they arrive for work.” I feel the same, but the great leaders spend time understanding what motivates each individual for whom they’re responsible. I think it should be mandatory for managers to regularly spend time side by side with their direct reports. This creates a better work environment as both persons can gain mutual respect for one another’s role within the organization.

GCE – When an organization focuses on developing the first three formula components, the fourth – Great Customer Experiences – is sure to follow. Creating and applying core values, providing comprehensive training and exercising effective management principles trickles down to the paying customer. When employees receive the proper product/service training coupled with a comprehensive view of the organization and how their role contributes to the organization’s success the paying customer is beneficiary. When fair management practices are in place, employees will more likely than not go the extra mile to create great customer experiences. When an organization sound internal interaction practices in place, it’s almost a given that the paying customer receives outstanding service.

C – As I’ve said before, this component of the formula is the one that keeps the customers coming back. Consistency is necessary for any organization to be successful. Can you consistently provide a great experience? Will your customers receive the same level of service from all of your employees? Can they count on you to provide a great experience irregardless of the time of day they choose to visit or call your location? If your organization has multiple locations, will your customers receive at great experience at every location? When chatting online, will it matter which employee is providing assistance? No matter how often a customer chooses to do business with your organization, a great customer experience is what they expect to receive. What is the outcome (product) when you multiply Great Customer Experiences (multiplicand) by Consistency (multiplier)? Let’s continue on to find out!

CR – This is the product of Great Customer Experiences multiplied by Consistency. Customer Retention will remain high as long as an organization consistently provides great customer experiences. How many of your customers are repeat customers. How many of your repeat customers refer you to prospective customers. Are you able to identify the revenue created as a result of your ability to retain customers? Customer retention drives the long-term business success. When one thinks of how much is spent to gain a new customer, it quickly becomes apparent that it’s much more cost-effective to retain present customers. Should you feel that it’s okay to spend more time seeking new customers vs. satisfying your present customers, think again. If one has a great product or service concept yet neglects the customer after the sale, that’s not conducive to business longevity. You can have the best marketing campaigns to gain new customers, but what will your customers experience once they buy into your organization. Should your sales strategy not be followed up by great customer service, it’s just simply a waste of marketing dollars. Customer retention is the key to long-term success.

Okay now, let’s go over that formula again – The Creation and Application of Core Values + Comprehensive Training + Effective Management Practices = Great Customer Experiences * Consistency = Customer Retention. Make sure to include all of these formula components to get the best end result!

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