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Award Winning Service!

I visited a local tire facility to address a slow leak from what I thought was a puncture. An employee immediately acknowledged my presence and asked how he might be of service. After explaining the issue, he proceeded to get all of the pertinent information required before servicing the vehicle. Before taking the vehicle inside to inspect the tire, he confirmed once again which tire was experiencing the loss of air. As I waited for completion of the repair, another employee approached and asked if I could follow him to the repair area. He then advised that the tire was fine, but there was an issue with the wheel. He explained and demonstrated how he would repair the wheel. When questioned about the safety of the repair, he guaranteed the repair as perfectly safe. The entire process from my arrival until completion of the repair took about thirty minutes. Let’s see: 1. Acknowledged customer’s presence immediately. 2. Listened for issue – slow leak. 3. Verified issue again – slow leak in right front tire. 4. Advised customer of problem found – wheel damage. 5. Advised customer of solution – wheel repair at no charge. 6. Addressed customer’s concerns – safe repair. 7. Repair time -thirty minutes. Now That’s Customer Service!



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Maintain Your Attitude of Service

My wife recently visited a major retail pharmacy with her mother to pick up medications. They arrived at the drive-through window about 30 minutes before closing and were immediately subjected to rude and abrupt behavior. Upon receiving the medications, her mother noticed that she did not need one of the medications provided. My wife pressed the drive through call button to advise the clerk of the need for a refund. After waiting for approximately 5 minutes for someone to respond, the clerk appeared and was advised of the need of a refund for the unneeded medication. Without verbally acknowledging the request, the clerk opened the drawer into which my wife placed the medication. The wheels really started to come off of this customer service interaction as the clerk proceeded to slam the drawer shut. She returned and requested that my wife sign the refund receipt which was attached to a clipboard. After placing the clipboard with the attached signed receipt back into the drawer, the clerk slammed the drawer with such force that the clipboard was broken. My wife advised the clerk that she would be reported for her rude behavior. Promptly upon arriving home, my wife initiated an online complaint to the company and received a return email advising her that she would receive an update within two business days. As promised, an update was received within the given timeframe apologizing for the clerk’s behavior and advising that the customer relations department initiated an investigation of the complaint. All of this was avoidable if the clerk had chosen to maintain a service attitude throughout her shift. Yes, it was close to closing time when my wife and mother-in-law arrived, but the service attitude is on duty as long as there is a customer to service. Are you and or your employees maintaining a service attitude with every customer? It’s important, as the failure to do so may result in someone having to restore a customer’s confidence in your company. Remember, your customers have options!

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Loyalty – A Two-Way Street

During my career in the customer service industry, I have often witnessed (along with being subjected to ) an imbalance in the level of value exhibited toward employees who are in turn expected to value the customers. Companies often forget that employees are humans and not robots. It is imperative for companies to strive to make their employees feel valued as that “feeling” has an immediate positive impact as it flows from the employee to the customer. It’s important to involve employees when setting performance standards, operational goals and developing improvement projects. If an employee considers their workload to be unrealistic and hampers their efforts to meet their performance goals, the internal/external customer is impacted via the employee’s hurried behavior, heightened frustration level and unwillingness to go the extra mile. Develop performance standards based on quality – not solely on quantity. This method incents the employee to give their full effort to the customer. Quality over quantity also promotes doing the job right the first time with an eye on reducing the necessity for rework.

Employees have the answers to most issues within a company. Create an environment where they feel safe in voicing their concerns or submitting ideas for improvement. Remove fear from the workplace as this “evil” will only cause stagnation throughout the enterprise. Just as customers will discontinue their relationship with your business without bothering to tell you why, employees will leave if their need to feel valued is not met. Don’t use the old cliché of ” The job market is pretty tough right now. You should be glad you have a job.” as a tool to mistreat or ignore your employees. They already know times are tough! Let your employees know you appreciate their efforts during the tough times. Utilize all of the brainpower available to make sure you survive during the tough times. When employees feel valued, they will naturally provide great service to each other and to the external customer.

I have witnessed first hand the power of valuing employees. While working as an operations analyst for a major telecommunications company, I was tasked with seeking out areas of the business as candidates for process improvement projects. My first action was to always just spend time with the employees as they performed the tasks for a full day without asking any questions. The next step was to get them involved by asking them to help me develop a flow chart of the process. The next step was to get all involved in the process in the same room so that they could all see the flowchart and identify areas of opportunity. A redesign of the process resulted in a more efficient process for all including the external customer. Their pride of ownership was easily detectable through their voice tones and body language when the new process was fully implemented. The customer ultimately benefited from this feeling of ” I had a part in this – my opinion matters.”

Remember to honor your employees as people in the same manner that you advise them to honor your customer. Just as you would survey your customers (you are surveying your customers – right??) for their opinion regarding your product/service, do the same for your employees regarding their work environment. How do they feel about their performance standards? What are their concerns regarding the work environment.? Just as you would seriously consider your customers feedback for product/service improvements , do the same with feedback from your employees. Implement ideas and suggestions to show employees you value their input. Reward employees for input that results in greater efficiency or cost savings. Take the time to properly train your employees as this instills confidence and directly impacts the level of service received by both internal and external customers. Managers should spend time servicing the customer in order to get the employee’s perspective on providing service to internal/external customers. Loyalty must be created inside of the company before it can flow out to the customer. Internal loyalty to employees leads to external customer loyalty. Internal loyalty to employees leads to employee retention which leads to external customer retention. Employee retention creates a higher level of service delivery as the internal/external customer receives the benefit of a more experienced service provider.

Before expecting employees to deliver great service in order to create loyal customers, create loyal employees by valuing them as capable, intelligent and industrious human beings. Your business will benefit when your employees believe that you care about them.

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Customer Retention – What’s Your Game Plan? Part 1

Customer retention can be considered the heartbeat of a company. In other words, without customer retention, your business is probably close to being non-existent. How does one maintain a high level of customer retention? Let’s consider one statistic: 68% of customer defections take place because customers feel poorly treated. I think that statistic should cause one to ask: What is important to my customer regarding my product or service? How do you determine what’s important? Simply take the time to ask your customer what’s important to them. Is it your willingness to customize to meet their needs? Perhaps it’s helpful and attentive employees? Maybe it’s how quickly they’re acknowledged when visiting your business whether in person, over the phone or via social media. Customer retention starts with determining what’s important to your customer.

You might ask, “Errol, when do I ask my customers what’s important to them about my product or service.” Glad you asked!   The best time to ask is at the beginning of the relationship –  when assessing your customer’s wants and needs. Their answers to your assessment questions should lead to your establishing what’s important to the customer.  Another method to consider for determining what’s important to your customer is to conduct a customer focus group. This method allows you to obtain feedback from multiple customers at the same time. At the other end of the relationship – after provision of the product/service – it’s a good idea to determine if what the customer received included what they deemed most important. Let’s talk about a simple method to determine if you were successful in meeting your customers expectations. Try a short survey that takes 2 to 5 minutes for your customer to complete.  Here’s an example: In preparation for a recent customer service presentation to the hair stylist industry, I gathered some data via Facebook regarding what hair stylist’s customers deem important. These are a couple of the statements utilized. “It is important that my services begin promptly upon my arrival at my scheduled appointment time.” “A reasonable amount of time for my stylist to complete my service is: 1 to 2 hrs, 2 to 3hrs, 3 to 4hrs or 4+hrs.” The answers received allowed me to gauge what’s most important to hair stylist’s customers. To create a survey from this data,  get the customer to give feedback on what they expect from your industry. The statement  “It is important that my services begin promptly upon my arrival at my scheduled appointment time.” gets your customer to speak about the industry. Now get your customer to speak about your business by using the statement “My services begin promptly upon my arrival at my scheduled appointment time”. This survey method allows you to both identify what’s most important to your customer and how well you are performing in relation to what’s most important.  A rating scale of  Disagree – Neutral – Agree – Strongly Agree was utilized for this statement. Here’s what it would look like on your survey:

It is important that my services begin promptly upon my arrival at my scheduled appointment time.

Disagree          Neutral      Agree     Strongly Agree

My services begin promptly upon my arrival at my scheduled appointment time.

Disagree         Neutral      Agree     Strongly Agree

If the customer states that they Strongly Agree that it’s important that their service begins promptly upon their arrival when answering the statement to rate the industry, any rating below Strongly Agree when rating your business is an opportunity for you to correct this area of your business in order to retain the customer. Share this information with everyone in your business so that all are one the same page regarding how your customers feel and all can participate in developing solutions to issues identified in the survey results.

Customer service surveys are an important piece of your game plan to retain customers. Be proactive in seeking out how your customers feel about your product/service. Responding to complaints puts you in the recovery mode which may result in your losing a customer.  Allow your customers to assist you in improving your product/service and in maintaining a high retention level by simply asking for their opinion. Doing so makes your customer feel that you care! We’ll discuss another component of your customer retention game plan next month.

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