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Management Skills Do Create Customer Experiences

When leaving a recent late lunch with a good friend here in Houston, Texas, we witnessed something that I personally had never seen before. The manager of the restaurant was loudly chewing out a waiter – right in front of customers! My friend and I were both taken aback by this behavior. What level of service did the manager expect the waiter to deliver after receiving a public tongue lashing? In continuing our series on tangibles that create customer experiences, let’s identify a few ingredients for successfully managing others and how a set of management skills can shape customer experiences.

Communicate Respectfully
In the above mentioned example, the manager’s behavior was most disrespectful to the waiter. Managers must be mindful to remember that employees are people and not machines. Heck, if you disrespect a machine by not recognizing its need for maintenance or adhering to proper operating procedures, it too will soon cause anguish via being less productive and eventually becoming non-productive! Humans are the same. Strive to always preserve their dignity as people. When it becomes necessary to issue a reprimand, do so in a manner which allows the employee to receive it. Stick to the facts of the situation. Never, ever reprimand an employee in front of peers or customers. Doing so is sure to result in a decreased level of service provided to customers.

Take Responsibility for Employee Success
It’s often been said that employees must be responsible for their success within an organization. In my opinion, managers are responsible for the success of those over whom they have authority. Being in this mindset is critical when those one is responsible for interacts directly with customers. Make sure that your management skills repertoire includes the ability to create skilled employees. Are they receiving adequate training? How much time are you spending with employees to insure they are able to successfully apply the training to their everyday tasks. Now I can hear some managers say “I’m too busy to spend time with my employees.” My response to that is – Take a look at what is keeping you busy. Are you busy putting out fires? Are you busy returning calls or visiting with upset or unhappy customers? Perhaps spending time with your employees might result in a decrease in your firefighting duties. These are opportunities to insure tasks are handled properly as well as to identify additional training needs. In addition, your employees will appreciate the personal attention!

Recognize and Reward Excellent Service
Make it a point to identify and celebrate the positive aspects of employee performance. Customers are the beneficiary when managers take the time to let employees know how they are positively contributing to the success of the company. When employees are recognized for their positive actions, high morale is usually not too far behind. An atmosphere of high morale results in customers receiving a high level of service. Develop performance standards that encourage employees to provide great service to both external and internal customers. Make sure that speed is not the primary factor in your standards as this will surely encourage a lower quality of service received by customers. Take all of the factors that are important to customers into consideration when developing performance criteria. Doing so insures that you are rewarding employees for creating great customer experiences vs meeting a speed goal. Make a big deal out of rewarding excellent service!

As a manager, always remember that you are ultimately responsible for both the customer’s and your employee’s experience. Think about Communicating Respectively with employees, Take Responsibility for Employee Success and Recognize and Reward Excellent Service. These three simple steps for employee management will certainly create great customer experiences.

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The Five Big No No’s of Customer Service – by Adele Halsall

If you’ve worked in customer service for any length of time, you’ll know by now what NOT to do when assisting and conversing with customers.

However, it never hurts to get reacquainted with the basics every now and then, especially when new employees are welcomed into your team. With so many different approaches, methods and technology being built around improving customer service, it can be easy to get lost in the fog and lose sight of what customer service is really all about.

So keep things simple by avoiding these five major no no’s of customer service. Set your goals and practices around this motive, and everything else should fall into place.

Promise What Is Impossible
It may be tempting, especially in the stages of advertising and marketing your business to the consumer audience, to make grand claims about things that your product or service is capable of. Whether you simply exaggerate, tell customers what you think they wish to hear, or entice them with an outright fabrication…it’s all very much a recipe for disaster.

Building a durable customer relationship starts with demonstrating honesty and exercising transparency within your business. It is always better to set customer expectations within the boundaries of what is realistic and then surprise them, rather than raise their hopes and disappoint them. This is also especially important in times of crisis, when an explanation is most certainly likely to be requested by the customer. British airline Flybe’s customer services were publically criticised for their lack of transparency when informing customers of cancelled flights just days before departure.

Remember to keep your promises simple. If your service seems too good to be true, customers will know it.

Tell The Customer What They Want
A dedicated customer service is all about listening carefully to the customers’ needs and wants, whether on a mass scale or in a face-to-face sales interaction. Once employees know what a customer wants, they can set about finding them a tailored product that best suits their needs, rather than push a slow-seller.

This is something Rowena Bird, co-founder of LUSH Cosmetics, strongly recommends.

“It is vital that our teams understand the products they are selling so they can find the correct product for each customer,” she says. “Not just sell them the latest favourite.”

Be Rude, Irritated And/Or Bored
Customers are sensitive to the reactions and behaviours of employees, and will instantly pick up on negative attitudes. When there is a problem, you should see it not as an annoyance but as an opportunity to impress.

The importance of positive communication therefore cannot be overstated, regardless of the time of day, the type of customer or the difficulty of their query. Simple tactics like smiling, using the customer’s name and asking them how they feel that day are all effective ways to boost their confidence and their mood. This ensures they’ll be more likely to leave happy even if their issue does not get resolved.

Customer service speaker John Tschohl is one expert who speaks strongly of the habits of courtesy.

“In seconds a customer can tell if they are loved or not loved, whether it’s in the tone of voice or the body language,” he says. “In seconds they can just tell. And to be nice, it doesn’t take any more time.”

Pass Off Responsibility Of Knowledge
This applies to both knowing the company’s products and services, and the ability to perform required tasks or processes. Customers don’t expect employees to know or be able to do absolutely everything, but they do expect them to go some way towards finding the answer.

All employees should be trained thoroughly on the line of products and services being sold by the company – even a basic knowledge will stand them in good stead to answer customers’ questions. When an employee doesn’t know an answer, they should ask another employee or do some quick research on the customer’s behalf.

By the same token, employees shouldn’t ignore or refuse a customer request just because they don’t have the knowledge or authority to perform a task, or because it is ‘not their responsibility’. Employees should seek to learn a new skill, or refer the customer immediately to someone who is better equipped to help them.

Let Policies & Procedures Become More Important Than The Customer
When sticking to the rules or company policies is going to create an unhappy customer, this is not good customer service. This could be anything from opening hours, to shipping or refund policies, or rules regarding payment. Even with all these rules in place, you should be prepared to listen to the customer’s story and see how you can bend the rules to ensure they walk away satisfied.

“Customer service is all about taking care of your customers,” customer service speaker Shep Hyken explains. “It’s about going the extra mile to fulfil customer needs, even if it stretches slightly outside of your company’s day-to-day routine. If somebody is capable of helping, they should do it.”

When you refuse to help a customer because of a minor rule or regulation, you are placing greater importance on bureaucracy than your customer’s happiness. And that’s just dumb.

About AdeleAdele
Adele Halsall is a writer and researcher for Customer Service Guru. She is passionate about retail and consumer trends, and how this is shaped and governed by advertising and social marketing.

She is particularly experienced in marketing and customer engagement, and enjoys contributing to ongoing debates related to best business practices, start-up culture, and the culture of customer relations. Email her at adele@customerserviceguru.co.uk or @gurucustomers

Visit the Customer Service Guru website at: http://www.customerserviceguru.co.uk/

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Service Recovery – Regaining Your Customer’s Trust

I know from personal experience that mistakes will happen when servicing customers. Providing the wrong information, delivering the wrong goods or perhaps even charging the wrong amount for services can sometimes happen because of the people factor involved. It’s simple – we’re human and we can make mistakes! The key is to determine what one must do to right the situation while at the same time preserving the relationship between the customer and your organization. Here are a few steps that are critical to regaining the customer’s trust.

Acknowledge the Error
The first part of service recovery is to acknowledge that the customer’s expectation of having a great customer experience has not been met. During the customer’s explanation of what has gone wrong from their perspective, make sure to listen intently for the issue. If verification is needed, do this as quickly as possible to show the customer that you too are concerned about the situation. Once you have in fact determined that an error has occurred, acknowledge and apologize as these two go hand in hand in attempting to regain your customer’s trust. It’s been my own experience that once customers feel heard and their situation acknowledged, their anguish level is lowered significantly.

Here’s What We’ll Do
When attempting to preserve the relationship with customers after an error, correcting the situation in a timely manner will score lots of recovery points. The longer it takes to develop and then provide a resolution, the lower your possibility of retaining the impacted customer. Make sure your customer facing employees have options for quickly resolving issues in order to increase the chances of recovering and retaining customers. Get the customer’s buy-in with the proposed resolution. Doing so helps in getting the situation resolved as the customer feels you made them a participant in developing a satisfactory resolution. Most customers understand that mistakes can and do happen. Don’t take that understanding attitude for granted. Promptly make the customer whole if retention is your goal.

Recently a friend offered a story of how the wrong piece of furniture was delivered twice to her residence. After the second error, she called the store and just by chance the owner answered the phone. After explaining the situation, the store owner advised my friend that he would have the correct piece sent out the same day and reimburse her the amount she paid for the piece. While one may not be in a position to offer quite the same resolution as this store owner, imagine how my friend felt about getting the piece for free. Did the store have to go to such lengths to correct the mistake? My friend stated that she just wanted to get the correct piece – she did not anticipate or expect to get it for free. This store will be where she goes for furniture forever!

Are You Still in Love With Us?
After applying the resolution, I suggest that someone follow-up with the customer, if possible, to verify or “take the customer’s temperature” regarding their satisfaction level. The goal is to determine if the customer will continue to purchase goods or services. This step might be the one to win the customer over after the resolution. Questions such as “How satisfied are you with the resolution?” “How likely are you to make a purchase with us in the future?” or “If you could rate our ability to resolve this situation to your satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 10, where would we rate?” The answers to these questions can help to gauge the effectiveness of your service recovery actions. If yours is an organization where customers make frequent purchases, monitor their accounts for continued activity and or changes in purchasing patterns as these will be true indicators of your customer’s attitude toward your organization.

Service recovery is important to sustaining a solid business reputation. While mistakes do happen, the customer is depending upon you to quickly correct the situation. It’s important to Acknowledge the Error, determine Here’s What We Will Do to correct the situation and get the customer’s buy-in, then determine Are You Still in Love With Us? by following up to determine if your customer is likely to make future purchases with your organization. Earn back your customer’s trust with these simple steps.

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Performance Appraisals Do Create Customer Experiences

During my corporate customer service career, I learned very early the importance of a having a system in place for fair performance appraisals. Believe it or not, providing objective performance evaluations does impact the level of service received by your customers. When employees feel the performance appraisal process is objective and fair, morale is positively impacted. This can surely lead to customers receiving a great customer experience. Let’s talk about a few ways to ensure employees receive a fair appraisal.

Job Description
This is where the performance appraisal process begins. Every position within your company should have a job description as it’s the framework of the performance evaluation. When provided with a job description, employees are made aware of the primary tasks for which they are held responsible. While most job descriptions carry disclaimers which state that the tasks listed are not all-encompassing as employees may be asked from time to time to perform tasks not listed, one is still aware of one’s primary duties. Providing a job description sets the tone for the employee experience.

Performance Standards
Once a job description is in place, it’s time to add performance standards to the appraisal equation. In other words, once an employee is made aware of their position tasks, you want to provide them with information regarding how their tasks will be measured for evaluation. The key in establishing performance standards is to properly establish the standard. If the standard is number based, determine what the right number should be. Okay, so how do I do that Errol? I suggest spending time observing employees performing their specific tasks or even performing them yourself. Doing so gives one a good idea of what’s the right number should be. Also remember to think about the level of quality that is necessary to meet the customer’s (both internal and external) expectation when performing the task. This is also important when establishing a numbers based standard. What should that product look like when the customer receives it? How many quality installations can be done by an employee in the time allotted for his/her shift? How many minutes is the right number of minutes in order for an agent to provide a quality experience on the phone or when web chatting with customers? Remember to include quality when establishing numbers based standards as this will surely help to prevent rework – additional phone calls from unsatisfied customers or perhaps a return trip to a customer’s home or place of business. When the number is set unrealistically high, quality usually goes out of the window as employees are more focused on “getting that number.”

The Period Performance Appraisals
It always a good idea to meet with employees periodically during the appraisal period to talk about where the employee is in regards to the performance standards. Most employees want to know where they are in regards to meeting performance expectations. Periodic communication provides the opportunity to let the employee know where they are currently meeting or exceeding performance standards and perhaps identify areas of opportunity for improvement. These conversations are crucial as employees feel that they have been provided ample time to correct certain behaviors prior to the actual performance appraisal. Make it a practice to spend time with employees and offer coaching and guidance to insure employees know that you care about their success.

The Appraisal
Now if one has taken the time to develop job descriptions, performance standards and provide periodic updates during the appraisal period this should be the easiest part of the appraisal review system. There should be no surprises as this stage of the appraisal process. Employees should be fully aware of where they stand in regards to their performance. The appraisal meeting should be conducted in the most positive manner possible. Highlight the good performance and then provide feedback on the areas requiring improvement. Get agreement on a plan to address these areas as this requires the employee to buy-in to the process. Allow the employee to express his/her opinion in regards to their performance rating. Always refer back to the periodic reviews when addressing an employee’s disagreement with a performance rating. Doing so will assist in keep the appraisal review on track.

When employees feel that they are held accountable to reasonable performance standards and provided with objective evaluations, they are more inclined to provide a higher level of service to customers. Remember, it’s critical to develop Job Descriptions and Performance Standards, provide periodic updates during the Appraisal Period and conduct objective Appraisals. Happy employees create happy customers!

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