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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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6 Characteristics of Great Customer Service

In order to be successful at any endeavor, one has to identify the essentials required to accomplish that feat. It’s the same in customer service. What essentials are required to create great customer experiences which lead to maximum customer retention? I’ll give you six characteristics that I feel are key ingredients.

Reliability – Customers expect product/service providers to be dependable and accurate during interactions. Take your home electricity – as long as you pay the bill you expect the lights to come on when you flip that switch. Do customers consider your organization to be reliable? Are you rated high for dependability? Can your customers trust that you will do what you say you will do? These are key factors to providing a great customer experience.

Competence – This characteristic measures knowledge and skill level in regards to one’s product/services. If you surveyed your customer, what would they say about the level of competency exhibited by those within your organization? Internet access allows today’s customer to gain knowledge about yours and your competitor’s organization. Once the interaction begins, will your customer know more about your products/services than front line personnel and others within your organization? Make sure that everyone within your organization is a product/service expert in order to receive a high rating for competency.

Responsiveness – When customers enter your brick and mortar location, call on the phone, email or initiate a web chat, how long does it take for someone to acknowledge their presence? One of the most dreaded customer experiences is waiting to be serviced or even just to be acknowledged! How long are your customers waiting for service? When issues arise, how long before the situation is addressed and a resolution provided to the customer? The responsiveness clock is ticking in your customer’s head while waiting to be serviced or to receive a reply to inquiry.

Courtesy – In my opinion, this one is the easiest characteristics to exhibit. If there is one thing that we can all control is our ability to be kind and polite. All customers deserve common courtesy. Courtesy goes a long way with customers, especially when they’re unhappy with your product/service. Body language and facial expressions also contribute to the courtesy factor. What score will your customer contact personnel receive for courtesy?

Credibility – Can your customer deem your organization as credible? This characteristic is an image builder. We’re taking about trustworthiness here! Does your performance match what you advertise? Does your organization deliver on its promises? Choosing to take the steps necessary to ensure credibility helps to create a reputation for believability. One act by one person which puts your organization’s credibility into question can be an image killer. Protect your organization’s future by insisting that everyone perform their duties in a manner that passes the credibility test.

Consistency – This is the glue that holds it all together. Consistency creates long term customers. Consider this – If your organization is consistently reliable, competent, responsive, courteous and credible, you’re probably providing many great customer experiences. Consistency means establishing a pattern of behavior. Does your customer’s rating of your organization indicate a pattern of great behavior in regards to the customer experience? Can your customer depend upon your organization to provide a high level of service every time they choose to utilize your products/services? The ability to intermittently exercise the five aforementioned characteristics will not help in your quest to provide great customer service. When consistency is added, long term retention is usually the result.

I’ll say it again – Be Consistently Reliable, Competent, Responsive, Courteous and Credible. Exercising these characteristics will assist your organization in its quest to provide great customer experiences!

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3 Words New Employees Should Avoid

While assisting my wife in preparing for one of her workshops, it became apparent that a few more seats were needed. As I was familiar with this location, I proceeded to the storage room to retrieve the chairs but found the door locked. While speaking with the new receptionist in regards to gaining access to the storage room, she utilized the three words new employees should avoid – “I’m new here and I have no idea where the keys are located.” When one finds him or herself in the position of a new employee, it’s important to refrain from using these three words. Let’s talk about why.

Does Anyone Really Need To Know? – I have often heard supervisors or employers apologizing for the actions of an employee by stating – “I’m sorry, but he/she is new here.” Does the customer really need to know that and furthermore do they really care? Customers are usually unconcerned about a service provider’s tenure with an organization. As we’ve all been that “new employee”, there are times when one may not know the necessary actions to take to handle a particular situation. The apprehension felt by a new employee when presented with a situation for which we may not have an immediate resolution can be overwhelming. It’s important to maintain your composure and do what the veteran employees do – Stall! Ask the customer to allow you a few minutes to get the answer, develop a resolution, etc. Most people are understanding and will grant your request. The customer does not have to know that you’re new and you might even impress your supervisor/manager by taking the necessary actions to provide the best solution. In my example at the beginning of this article, the receptionist could have stated “Sure sir, let me locate those keys.” As she is the receptionist and is responsible for incoming calls, I understood that she was unable to leave the front desk. It would have been okay with me if she had called another employee to assist in locating the keys.

It Sounds Like An Excuse – When a new employee uses the three words “I’m new here” it may be perceived by the customer as an excuse for not being fully prepared to provide a great experience. The organization has a responsibility to provide comprehensive training to new employees which should assist in instilling confidence. Even when equipped with the best training, there will moments when new employees will either “go blank” (a temporary memory lapse) or just have no idea what to do in a given situation. In either case, it’s real easy to resort to that old standby – “I’m new here.” I suggest that one not get into the habit of using these three words as it usually results in a supervisor or manager intervening to provide whatever is needed for that particular situation. Pretty soon everyone grows weary from a new employee’s usage of those three words. Watch, listen and learn from more tenured staff as they handle various situations.

Their Confidence Is At Stake – Should a new employee decide to utilize the dreaded three words in an attempt to garner a customer’s sympathy, it most often results in a blow to the employee’s confidence. Usually, utilization of these words really means “I don’t know what I’m doing.” It’s important for new employees to gain and maintain confidence as quickly as possible. Repeated exposure to situations and scenarios that new employees are ill-equipped to handle can lead to a loss of confidence and increased anxiety or frustration. It doesn’t feel good to be face to face or on the phone with a customer when one is not prepared to provide a great customer experience. Make sure new employees are placed in areas where they can experience early success with customer interactions. Otherwise, sooner or later, someone will surely resort to “Sorry, but I’m new here.“

New employees are dependent upon the organization for proper product/service knowledge training. The use of “I’m new here.” is a sure sign that the employee may not yet be comfortable in their role. Remind new employees to ask themselves before using those three words – Does Anyone Really Need To Know? Remind them that It Sounds Like An Excuse when advising customers that “I’m new here.” Make sure they are properly trained because Their Confidence Is At Stake.

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