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Change Implementation Does Create Customer Experiences

Change is a natural part of any vibrant enterprise. New services or products can certainly contribute to a company’s bottom line. An important item to consider when making changes is the implementation strategy necessary to ensure a positive impact to both customers and employees. My Dad had a saying when I was a kid – Haste makes waste boy. What he meant was that it’s wise to take the time to think things through instead of rushing headlong without any thought whatsoever. Let’s look at a few things to remember when approaching change implementation.

Who’s Impacted by the Change?
Take a moment to ask – If we make this change, who will be impacted? How will current and potential customers be affected by the change you’re considering? Who within your company will be impacted by the change? What will the change create for employee workloads? Are there any external persons or entities to consider before making this change? These questions must be considered and discussed before implementing any changes within your company. I can guarantee that if you choose this method, your change implementation has a greater chance for success.

How Will You Communicate the Change?
Now after answering the ”who’s impacted?” questions, it becomes necessary to determine how you will communicate the change. What will your change message look like? Who will be responsible for delivering the message? What methods will be utilized to deliver the message? How will you ensure the message is communicated in the same manner? How long before the actual change will the message be delivered? Remember – it’s important to begin change communications before change implementation. The goal is to minimize the volume of change questions received from customers.

How Will You Respond to Questions Regarding the Change?
One thing is for sure – after your change is implemented, customers will have questions. No matter how well or by what method you communicate the change, not everyone who receives the message will actually read what you are communicating. It’s just normal human nature. One must anticipate and plan for this situation. In preparing for this, think about questions you might receive from customers. Putting yourself in your customers’ shoes should assist in developing potential question and answer scenarios. What questions would you have as a customer in regards to the changes under consideration? Be sure to involve employees who will be responsible for communicating with customers in this “What questions would I have if I were the customer?” exercise. If possible, contact several loyal customers and get their feedback on your proposed changes. What questions did they present in regards to your changes? Consider developing answer scripts for customer questions so that customer contact employees communicate the same message. Place information regarding changes in an easily visible area on your company website as an additional option.

Change is important for a company’s growth. Take the time to increase your chances for successful changes by asking 1. Who’s Impacted by the Change? 2. How Will You Communicate the Change? and 3. How Will You Respond to Questions Regarding the Change?

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Silence is not Golden in Customer Service

I have witnessed this phenomenon more than once during both my corporate career and as a consultant. Team meetings are conducted without employee input. Even when prompted with “Does anyone have questions are comments, employees are reluctant to speak up. The one sign that employees are either afraid of what may happen should they speak up or just don’t care is Silence. This is a sound (or lack thereof) in my opinion, any company or organization should strive to keep far, far away. Silence is not good for your customers nor is it good for your company. Here are a few things that may be contributing to employees’ choice to remain silent.

Organizational Culture
Probably the #1 reason that employees tend to exercise silence in the workplace is due to the culture of the organization. What behaviors do members of management model to their subordinates? Do these behaviors encourage employees to be more open? Are these behaviors conducive to creating a long term positive work environment? Are employees treated with respect when voicing their opinion about the work environment? Should the answer be no to either of these questions, employee silence will inevitably show up in the workplace. Leaders must strive to set the pace in any organization. Management must make sure that they are both approachable and sincere when interacting with their subordinates.

Non-Inclusion of Employees in Decision Making
Employees often have the answers to issues that if utilized, more than likely will result in both a better experience for themselves and customers. When recommendations for change go without acknowledgement or management exhibits a lack of interest, employees eventually shut down. This is another form of silence that should never exist within an organization. Proactively seek out employee input and implement recommendations that make sense. This gives an instant boost to employee morale. Whether they are production or front line employees, their ideas come from a “I do this everyday.” perspective, which should be respected and not taken for granted.

Non-Communication Across Departments
As a consultant, I often run across instances of non-communication across departments within companies. I usually ask both managers and employees why is this the case. “It’s so busy here that we don’t have time to check with them before we do…… is one answer that I hear on a regular basis. When this is the case, the next thing that I usually see is everyone with their “head down” working – just trying to make it through the day. Cross-functional communication must be a priority in order to create the best possible customer and employee experience.

Is employee silence a component of your company’s culture? Take an honest look at what might be contributing to this scenario. Your customers are directly impacted by the silence within your company. Remember – Silence is not golden in customer service.

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Creating “Crazy” Customers

As I sit in the front area of a client’s business watching the walk-in traffic, one effect is constant – the excited look on most customers faces! This client is a bakery and their products are beautifully displayed in glass cases. I’m watching crazy customers eyes widen as they approach the product cases. Some laugh as they can’t make up their mind regarding which product to choose. Others almost run to get to the cases to pick their favorite product. The employees are so upbeat and ready to serve, patiently waiting for the customer to make a decision. Some customers make jokes – “Is this stuff sugar-free?” “How many can I eat before I ruin my diet?” Now this does not happen just by chance. Let’s talk about what I feel contributes to these customers being just “crazy” about this business.

Reputation
This bakery has carefully established a reputation for providing it’s customers with the best products possible. The owners take pride in maintaining the reputation established 66 years ago by the founders. The products are made fresh daily in order to give customers that “it was made today” comfort level. The general manager has worked tirelessly to create systems to insure product freshness. One must be concerned about both establishing and maintaining a positive reputation with customers and within one’s community. A positive reputation builds trust and credibility with current and future clients. It’s pretty easy for customers to refer you to others when your reputation is intact.

Engaging Employees
I’ve watched how the employees greet each customer individually – even when engaged with other customers. Genuine smiles – even when some customers are a bit gruff. Proactive employees immediately draw customers to them – especially during a face to face encounter. An employee with a delightful attitude bodes well in the quest to provide a great customer experience. It’s important to have the right people in front of your customers. I always advise companies to put “people persons” in front of their customers. I am a firm believer that “people persons” provide great service from the heart. It doesn’t matter what the product or service is, “people persons” look forward to putting smiles on customers’ faces. Be sure to get the right people in front of your customers. Get the ones who “run toward” the customer to make sure the experience is a great one!

Engaged Leadership
Leadership at this bakery is determined to keep customers coming back. The General Manager is tasked with finding ways to make sure the bakery and two satellite stores run smoothly on a daily basis. The need to have engaged leadership is important to a successful enterprise. At the beginning of my stint with this client, we held a “Pet Peeve Conference” to address the “pet peeves” of the owners, management, department heads and employees. This was an all day conference where solutions were developed to remove the need for internal personnel to be “peeved. The recognition by the owners of the need to address these “pet peeves” is an indicator of their desire to make sure that all is well within the organization. When leadership is truly engaged in the day-to-day operations, both employees and customers are beneficiaries.

Do you want customers that are “crazy” about your business? Remember it’s important to maintain a positive Reputation in order to increase customer retention. Make sure you have Engaging Employees interacting with customers and never forget that Engaged Leadership is most critical to your organization’s success.

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Stuck in the Middle – Do Customers Belong Here?

While on a client engagement, I could hear customer service personnel repeatedly apologizing to customers. When asked why, they informed me of a scenario where customers make purchases and are promised a 24hr installation of the product by one department, when in fact, the department in question had no idea if the promise could be met. The customer was stuck in the middle between the sales department and the installation department. It’s important to remember to make sure your customer’s experience is as seamless as possible. Let’s look at a few ways to accomplish this feat.

Establish Customer – Focused Policies
When developing policies and procedures for customer service personnel to follow, it’s important to remember to get their input. After all, they’re being held accountable for both adhering to the policy and providing a great customer experience. They know what drives the customer crazy about your company’s policies and procedures. For instance – if your company has a product return policy, be sure to take into consideration how this will impact both customers and customer service personnel. Will you allow returns for specific reasons? Make sure the customer is fully aware of your return policy when they make a purchase. If your customer purchases your product online, make sure that your return policy is prominently displayed on the page where the purchase is completed. Will you allow blanket returns – or in other words – can they just bring it or send it back for whatever reason? Think about this – Do your policies make sense? Are they easily understandable by customers? Will they encourage repeat business? Will they incent customers to refer your company to potential customers? These are some issues to consider when developing policies and procedures.

Create Employee Autonomy
Often times the customer ends up in the middle of your policies when customer service personnel are not provided with the power to make decisions. When working with a hospitality client recently, it became apparent that front desk personnel were not equipped with options to deal with a variety of situations they faced when dealing with hotel guests. After about 15 minutes of identifying issues which required they contact either the hotel general manager or assistant general manager, we were able to create options that could be utilized without the need to contact anyone. The front desk personnel were visibly relieved upon the completion of this exercise as they could now feel good about their ability to make decisions that were both good for guests and for the hotel. Give customer facing personnel options that can be executed autonomously. It’s a good idea for both customers and customer facing personnel.

Communicate Internally
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, it’s of the utmost importance to make sure that there is good cross functional communication within your company. Make sure that everyone understands how their roles impact other employees, departments, etc. Your customer need not be caught in the middle due to poor communication within your company. The goal should be to ensure that the customer receives a great experience. This requires setting customer expectations that are achievable by personnel who will actually perform what the customer requires. When developing policies and procedures that impact customers, remember to get input from all departments that contribute to and or participate in the process of providing a great customer experience. As my Dad used to say – “Everything you do affects someone else. You do nothing in isolation.” One should never hear this statement from a customer – “It seems as though you all do not communicate with each other there.” If you do, it’s an indication that you probably need to work on improving internal communications.

Well, there you have it. In order to make sure your customer is not “stuck in the middle”, be sure to Establish Customer-Focused Policies, Create Employee Autonomy and Communicate Internally. Doing so will lead to both great customer and employee experiences.

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