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Why Are Your Customers Waiting?

During a recent client assignment, I noticed the frequency in which customers found themselves in the waiting mode. Waiting to be told what to do next. Waiting to be acknowledged. Waiting to be serviced. Now there’s one thing that customers delight in and that’s being provided with service in a timely manner. Waiting is high on the how to antagonize customers list. Can you put your finger on the reasons your customers wait? Here’s a few of the more common reasons customers wait.

Supply vs Demand
Oftentimes there’s just not enough personnel available (supply) to handle the number of customers (demand). Is the demand the result of a marketing campaign or new product release? Perhaps a glitch in your product has created an unexpected influx of customer inquiries or complaints. When you know what the issue is, take a moment to proactively advise your customers. If yours is a call center, utilize the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) to advise customers that you’re aware of the issue and include an estimated resolution time, instructions to obtain a replacement product or whatever it is that you want to communicate. Most customers will simply choose to take this as enough information and disconnect the call. Is it possible to place the same information on your website? Perhaps in a retail environment, data mining can assist in determining the peak periods for customer/employee interactions resulting in proper scheduling of personnel in accordance to historical data. These are just two examples for possibly alleviating stress for both customers and employees.

Seasoned vs Non-Seasoned Employee Ratio
Perhaps the “seasoned to not quite seasoned” employee ratio is somewhat on the low side resulting in a longer than normal transaction/customer interaction time. When there are not enough properly trained personnel available for customer interactions, more often than not, customers will find themselves in the wait mode. However you describe this mode – queue, line, column, etc – most customers prefer not to be there. It’s important to combine great training with great employee relations to reduce personnel turnover. The more tenure an employee obtains, the more nimble he or she becomes at servicing customers. I have a saying – “Knowledge coupled with repetition creates experience. Experience assists in creating efficient interactions.”

Options for Self Service
It’s a good idea where possible to allow your customer to self-serve. Most customers today don’t mind serving themselves as long as the transaction is easy to complete. Oftentimes when given the option to self-serve for the checkout procedure, I’ll choose to do so rather than wait in line to be checked out by an employee. What self-service opportunities are available within your organization? When the customer has the option to order products and services or set appointments via your website, is the process seamless and easy to complete? Are you able to verify the number of transactions actually completed via your self-service options vs those customers choosing to opt out to a live person (either via phone, web chat or in person)? Monitor your self-service options to insure customers find it easy to complete interactions.

Customers are depending upon companies to provide prompt efficient service. Make sure your company is ready by checking to insure Supply Meets Demand, that the Seasoned Vs Non-Seasoned Ratio indicates you’re successfully retaining tenured personnel and that your Options for Self Service are efficient and effective for the “I Like To Do It Myself” customer.

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Keys To a Great In-Home Service Experience

There are a multitude of in-home service providers in today’s economy. Carpet cleaners, appliance installation/repair, cable TV/internet service just to name a few. When providing in-home service at the customer’s residence, it’s important to have a plan for providing a great customer experience. Take the following into consideration when developing your plan.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Timely communication is a key aspect of your in-home service plan. When your customer sets an appointment, advise the customer that you will contact them again 24 or 48 hours prior just to verify that they will be available at the scheduled time. Provide your customer with instructions on how to cancel or reschedule their appointment. Call the customer again the day of the scheduled appointment. Verify the service to be provided. Make sure that the service provider is clear on the service he/she is to provide. If possible, have the service provider call when en route to the customer’s residence. Your willingness to effectively communicate will set your business apart from the competition.

Before You Ring the Door Bell
I remember having an issue with my home AC unit where service was required. When the service provider arrived, I couldn’t tell what company he represented. No signage on his truck. No uniform. No company ID. And his girlfriend was in the truck with him! Not the way to make the customer feel at ease. It’s important to make a good presentation of one’s company at the customer’s residence. Is the company or contractor vehicle clean with company signage readily visible? Is the service provider dressed in a clean company uniform? Does the service provider present his/her company ID before entering the customer’s residence? Has the service provider slipped on shoe covers so as not to inadvertently soil a customer’s floors? These are all things to consider before ringing the doorbell!

The Service Experience
When it comes to the providing a great in-home service experience, two key ingredients are one’s ability to ask the right questions coupled with excellent listening skills. As a service provider, it’s a good idea to establish the service the customer is expecting to receive during your visit. “Sir/Ma’am – I here today to -” just to make sure you and the customer are on the same page before starting the actual physical service process. When at a customer’s residence to resolve an issue another key ingredient to add to your skill set is the ability to ask the right questions? When did the problem start? Where is the noise located? What time of day is the issue most prevalent? By allowing your customer to answer questions, you make them a part of the service experience. Most customers appreciate being asked these questions and it helps one to possibly pinpoint the issue or maybe change resolution strategies.

Rate My In-Home Service Please!
It’s important to know how your customer feels about the level of service provided during their in-home service. Customer feedback is important to consistently providing great in-home service experience. While in the customer’s residence, provide a short (5 to 10 questions) survey for the customer to complete right on the spot. The experience is fresh in the customer’s mind which oftentimes leads to a more accurate rating. Offer the survey right before removing equipment, tools or whatever is required for service completion. The customer can complete the survey while you’re loading the truck. Create the survey with what’s important to the customer in mind: Timeliness, Effective Communication, Level of Service Provided and Service Provider Appearance (clean uniform, shoe covers, company ID, etc.) among other possible categories. Customers love to give feedback – let them give their opinion regarding your service. It helps service providers stay on their toes and helps one to determine what’s really important to customers.

In-home service is a big deal in today’s world. Make sure you’re creating great in-home customer experiences by Communicating, making sure service providers create the right impression Before Ringing the Doorbell, providing a great Service Experience and allowing the customer Rate Your Services.

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One Sure Fire Way To Impress Your Customers

Several years ago I decided to relocate to a different part of Houston, Tx. Because I was moving to a newly built home, I chose to utilize professional movers – didn’t want to scratch those new walls! One thing that thoroughly impressed me with the moving company was their frequent reminders and updates. “Mr. Allen we’re calling to confirm your move for next Tuesday.” “Mr. Allen we’re calling to remind you of your scheduled move for tomorrow. The crew will arrive between 8:00 and 8:30 am.” One sure-fire way to impress your customers is by providing timely updates, confirmations and progress reports. Let’s take a look at three reasons why it’s important to do so.

Customers Love It! – Customers really appreciate companies that provide timely updates and progress reports. Doing so means customers spend less time calling or emailing for information. This simple task creates goodwill for your company and will surely lead to referrals from your present customers. While it may appear to be time-consuming to keep customers informed, believe me it’s time well spent. If a customer has to call you for an update or progress report, you’ve just lost crucial customer experience points.

It Means You’re On Top of Your Game! – When a company makes it a point to provide confirmations, updates and progress reports, customers feel that you’re on top of your game!. It shows that you spend time tracking progress and status of situations which impact your customer’s experience with your organization. Maintaining situational awareness is a critical exercise as it allows one to proactively identify issues which may negatively impact the customer. One can usually quickly resolve these issues to prevent delays in completing the service paid for by the customer. Be proactive to stay on top of your customer experience game.

Repeat Business Will Blossom – Because you take the steps to keep your customers informed, it’s most likely they will choose to utilize your services again when the need arises. Customers are more prone to continue to do business with proactive companies. The less work the customer has to do, the higher the probability that you’ve just created a repeat customer. As your repeat business grows, look for new business to grow as well. Satisfied customers will share their experience with others in need of your services. Make it a point to keep this in mind when deciding whether or not your company will proactively provide service updates.

With the competitive climate in the service industry, it’s critical to do something that sets your company apart. Choose to keep your customer informed because Customers Love It, It Means You’re On Top of Your Game and Repeat Business Will Blossom.

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Who’s Responsible for the Customer’s Experience?

Once while speaking to a group regarding attributes necessary to deliver a great customer experience, one of the attendees mentioned the difficulty he experienced when attempting to renew his driver’s license. “The employees seemed not to care or concerned with how long the lines were and the resulting customer frustration.” Now I can certainly understand how this might be an unpleasant situation for the customers, but are the employees totally at fault? Who’s really responsible for the customer’s experience. Here’s several points that I asked that attendee to consider.

Is Leadership Actively Engaged? – In the above scenario, here are several questions that come to mind: How does leadership respond to the situation? Are they actively engaged with the daily business operations? Are they in tune with the front line employees? Are they open to input from the front line? Is there commitment to providing adequate operational resources – not necessarily additional employees, but updated technology or improved processes? Do leaders regularly service customers themselves to stay in touch with the “real world”? Does leadership regularly review customer surveys? Are leaders required to contact unhappy customers to insure they remain a customer? All of these are crucial in leadership’s willingness to be actively engaged in creating positive customer experiences.

Does Leadership Exercise Positive Motivation? – While it’s the responsibility of customer facing employees to create great customer experiences, it’s also the responsibility of leadership to utilize positive motivational incentives. It does not have to be extra money (this might be nice though!). Make a big deal out of the reduction in customer complaints. Did someone offer an idea that resulted in cost reductions? Celebrate that! When a customer offers a compliment about an employee’s performance, let the whole company know! Who doesn’t want to be recognized for a job well done or the extra effort taken to insure a customer’s satisfaction with the product or service? Provide positive reinforcement as this helps in creating the right atmosphere for providing great customer experiences.

Does Leadership Encourage Teamwork? – In order to create great customer experiences, teamwork is a necessity. Is leadership encouraging teamwork within the organization? Do performance standards include an element relative to teamwork? Is the importance of serving one’s internal customer well communicated on a regular basis? Is leadership encouraging cross functional communication between departments or functions? Can employees communicate how they impact others within the organization? How well can employees identify the product they create within the organization? How well does their product meet the standards of their internal customer? Is anyone accumulating data on internal customer complaints? Leadership’s willingness to make teamwork a major ingredient in the organization’s culture is crucial to creating great customer experiences.

Is Leadership in Tune with Customers? – It’s always amazing what one can learn from personally servicing customers. What the customers like and prefer. What service delivery processes are effective or may need some improvement. Is leadership in tune with the customer? Do leaders regularly spend time with customers and or service providers? Can leadership actually deliver the services themselves? Are leaders able to effectively communicate the features and benefits of the companies products and or services? Do leaders set the example for other employees on how to treat customers. Are the leaders seen interacting with and or resolving customer issues? When leaders set the pace for the organization in regards to creating great customer experiences, a boost in morale is more than likely to follow.

When determining who’s responsible for the customer’s experience, I say hands down it’s leadership! Leaders should be Actively Engaged, Exercise Positive Motivation, Encourage Teamwork and be In Tune with the Customer.

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