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Are You Using Band Aids or Cement to Improve Your Customer’s Experience?

When I was a kid, my father would often say “Why try to fix something with a band-aid, when you know cement is required?” Ever noticed what’s required when utilizing cement? A little more effort is required when attempting to put something that will last for a while in place. This made me think about strategies that are often used to “fix” a customer service delivery problem. Let’s take a look at some of these “band-aids” as a way to improve your customer’s experience and why cement is the better option.

Motivational Talks
While motivational talks are a great tool to utilize, they are but a spoke in the wheel of creating great customer experiences. Now, everyone needs a little motivation now and then, but be careful not to totally rely on this option. Attempting to “motivate the troops” without first listening to the troops is in my opinion a tactical error in the quest to provide great customer service. A common military tactic is to send out a “point man” ahead of the troops to look for and report back on hazards that the platoon might encounter. To ignore the point man’s communication would be unwise as this information was key to the mission’s success and to the safety of the entire platoon. It’s the same in customer service. The people who service the customer as well as the people who service the people who service your customer are your company’s “point personnel”. Here’s the cement: Get their opinions regarding the state of your current customer experience strategies. They can identify “hazards” that may cause a significant decrease in customer satisfaction and revenue. Here’s a formula for you: Motivational talks before investigation usually results in disengagement. Motivational talks, when utilized in isolation, will just like a band-aid slowly lose its ability to stick. The result is the underlying issue reappears.

Customer Service Training
Often I hear managers or business owners say that their employees need customer service training. Now you would think that as a customer service training provider, I would be excited to hear about that need. My first question is always “Why do you feel your employees need customer service training?” Some of the answers that I receive are “I want them to learn how to be nice to our customers.”, “I want them to understand how important our customers are to the company.” or “I want them to learn how to handle angry customers.” Now these are all some legitimate reasons to consider customer service training as a solution, but when used in isolation might be considered a temporary band-aid. Customer service personnel might for a time exercise some of the skills learned in training sessions, but if the internal issues which create problems for employees during their customer interactions go unaddressed, then the concrete has not yet been utilized.

Manipulation
Some managers and supervisors use this tactic in hopes of getting improved results. Comparing their team’s results to another team within the same organization, or to another location – in another state or maybe even on the other side of the world without considering the various dynamics that may be at work. This is a band-aid laced with poison. Most people do not enjoy having their performance negatively compared to someone else’s. Some companies feel that “a little competitiveness” is okay amongst employees. Make sure that this “competitiveness” does not induce cheating to stay under the numbers radar. The cement to be applied is to allow employees the proper time to take care of the situational needs of customers. When monitoring service interactions, make sure to consider whether or not the actions taken were such that the customer should not have to come back,, call back, email again or engage in an additional web chat conversation. To base performance incentives strictly on meeting a number is somewhat dangerous to the work culture. Did the actions taken not only meet the purchasing customer’s needs, but also those of the internal customers? Was someone else negatively impacted by an employees quest to “meet the numbers” goal? Beware of manipulation. You may in fact be creating additional work when utilizing this band-aid.

Remember – using a band-aid in the quest to create great customer service experiences is but a short-term solution. Get the cement out and develop an environment that thrives on providing the best service for each individual customer’s situation.

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Customer Service Does Impact Your Brand Image

It’s important for customers and potential customers to be familiar with your brand if you want to attract and keep their business. It’s just as important to protect your brand image by consistently providing great customer experiences. Let’s take a look at a couple of reasons why protecting your brand is imperative.

Brand Recognition Development Cost
Let’s consider the cost to gain brand recognition for your product or service. Capital is required to establish a presence with your target market. How much does it cost to get in front of your customers? Developing your brand recognition strategy requires time and effort. Can you place a cost on your marketing team’s time and effort? Once your strategy is developed and ready to roll out, how much are the actual advertising costs? For some companies, this can be millions of dollars. Make sure that you back up the cost of brand recognition with excellent customer experiences.

Reputation Cost
It’s amazing to see the number of companies that receive negative comments about their product or service on Twitter. Try searching for “poor customer service” and review the results. Some of the companies have national and international brands. YouTube is another medium customers can use to speak about their dissatisfaction with companies. Should one of these complaints go viral, the company’s reputation might take a huge hit. How much damage to its reputation can a company stand? What will be the cost to put out this particular “fire”? What might be the impact to future revenue? How might competitors take advantage of this particular situation? These are questions to consider in regards to the importance of protecting your reputation by creating excellent customer experiences.

Always, always remember the importance of protecting your brand image. With every customer interaction, your brand’s reputation is at stake. Customer facing personnel – sales, service, etc. – are all crucial to keeping your company’s image intact. One negative tweet or video containing a bad customer experience can quickly spiral out of control. Be sure to educate everyone within your company on the importance of creating great customer experiences. Constantly remind them of how are important they are to protecting your company’s reputation. Share information regarding the cost of brand development with all employees. Today’s customer has many available options to express how they feel about your products and services. Strive to ensure that your brand is protected by providing great customer experiences!

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Take the “We Will Provide Great Customer Service!” Pledge

The advent of social media, specifically Twitter, provides an avenue for customers to express their happiness and unhappiness with products and services. Just search for “bad customer service” or “poor customer service” and you’ll be presented with a plethora of comments regarding customer service experiences gone wrong. There are, however, companies and organizations that strive to provide great customer experiences. I am issuing the challenge for 10,000 businesses – large and small, across all industries – worldwide to take the “We Will Provide Great Customer Service! Pledge. Let’s talk about what I am challenging businesses to pledge to exercise:

1. Reliability – Our customers can believe that our products and services will meet their standards. Our customers can unconsciously trust us.
2. Credibility – We will strive to maintain a positive reputation with our customers and employees. We will do what we say we will do.
3. Competence – We will take the time to properly train our employees to ensure they are fully knowledgeable about our products and or services. We also provide basic customer service skills training to all employees – especially those who interact with customers on a daily basis.
4. Accessibility – Our customers can easily reach and communicate with us – whether that be via phone, face-to-face, web chat, email or SMS text. If we have brick and mortar locations, we will utilize customer friendly signage to allow for quick locating and retrieval of our products. Our website will be customer friendly – easy to navigate and free of industry jargon.
5. Responsiveness – We are serious about responding to customer inquiries, requests and complaints. We will set time standards for responding to customer emails, chat requests and especially customer complaints. In addition, we will proactively provide updates and progress reports when working on projects. We will develop update criteria with the customer – #of updates, frequency and method.
6. Courtesy – We will remember and exercise the principle that everyone, customers and employees, deserves a measure of respect. We will courteously acknowledge our customers presence – via whatever method they choose to engage with us. When customers are angry, we will remain courteous to ensure that we do all we can to resolve the issue and retain their business.
7. Consistency – We will strive to consistently apply the aforementioned six keys as our ability to do so day in and day out, month after month, year after year is what will makes us great at providing an excellent customer experience.
Is your company up for the challenge? Go ahead and commit to the pledge today!

Commit To The Pledge!

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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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