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Sales Tactics Do Create Customer Experiences

How often have you heard this statement from customer service personnel within your company – “I wish those salespeople would think about what they’re doing when making promises to customers. I’m tired of being yelled at for something that’s not my fault.” It’s important to remember to only promise what can be delivered when interacting with potential customers – especially when they are purchasing big-ticket items. Here are a few things to remember when using promises as sales tactics to sell products and services to customers.

Promise Only What Can Be Delivered
During my years in the corporate world, the issue of “Why did the salesperson promise that without verifying if we could meet that commitment” would often arise. That statement was usually followed up with “They only think about their commission!” While it’s understandable that salespeople are motivated by potential commissions, it’s critical to make sure that sales guidelines are in place to ensure a positive impact to those persons within the organization that have to service the customer. Whether it be customer service, accounts receivable or any other department that interacts with customers, salespeople must understand and adhere to the policies and or procedures when in the sales mode. Should the need arise for special consideration in order to “get the deal”, check in with those persons who will be impacted by whatever the consideration is before making promises to the customer. Remember – customers view the people within your company as “the company”.

Develop Internal Relationships
Years ago when beginning a corporate stint as an account manager/project manager, my first week was spent meeting those persons with whom I impacted in performing my role. My first question was – “How does what I do impact you?” That question was followed by this one – “What is it that you want me to do to make your job easy?” This question was followed by this one – “What is it that you don’t ever want me to do?” Asking these questions allowed these persons to elaborate on what they were held accountable for and how performing my job could either bring positive or negative consequences for them. By taking time to develop internal relationships, one communicates “We Are A Team” to others within the company. Yes, it takes additional time to ask these questions, but it’s well worth it later in the relationship!

Be Accountable for Your Actions
Should issues arise due to sales methods, it’s the responsibility of the salesperson to be accountable. I think salespeople should be kept abreast of every issue related to promises made, but not kept, that arise with their customers. Doing so would assist in understanding the impact of one’s actions. Persons required to service the customer after the sale should know that they will receive the same internal considerations afforded to the paying customer. When salespeople are held accountable for their sales methods, the level of employee morale increases as one does not fear having to regularly interact with customers who were provided unfulfilled promises during the sales process.

The sales component of a company’s business model is most likely the original experience for potential customers. Make sure that your salespeople understand their impact to the total customer experience by making sure they Promise Only What Can Be Delivered, by requiring them to Develop Internal Relationships and by encouraging them to Be Accountable for Their Actions.

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Angry Customer Prevention

Having been in the customer service industry for 25+ years, I’ve heard, seen, attended and listened to various programs/seminars regarding “how to handle an angry customer”. Most often, these programs/seminars are very informative and provide excellent guidance on dealing with a not so happy customer. My question has always been – Why is the customer unhappy and is there anything that can be done to diminish the number of unhappy customers? My instincts say take a proactive stance in the battle to prevent angry customers. Here are a few ways to do so.

Why Are Customers Unhappy?
Is there a pattern to the reasons that customers are unhappy? Is anyone in your organization tracking these reasons? It’s been my experience that if you have one customer complaining about an issue or situation, more than likely there are others complaining about the same things. During one call center stint, it was common for customers on certain billing cycles to experience problems with their bills – improper amounts, additional charges, etc. We all know that this issue will certainly create angry customers and additional phone calls. While it’s important for the agents to be equipped with “how to handle angry customers” skills, how about determining what’s causing the “angry customer” issues. Identify external and internal issues that might be contributing to your customers’ unhappiness with your organization. Doing so will surely diminish or even eliminate the need for the customers to call and for customer service personnel to exercise their “how to handle angry customers” skills for these particular issues. Oh yeah, be sure that your customer facing personnel are equipped with the proper customer interaction soft skills – voice tone, empathy, body language, etc. – so that they do not inadvertently create an angry customer!

Why Are Front Line Personnel Unhappy?
It’s been my experience that unhappy employees are an indicator that there may be organizational issues that negatively impact customers. Customer facing employees become frustrated and angry when it appears no one is interested in addressing issues which contribute to the creation of angry customers. Check with your customer facing employees regarding their experiences when dealing with customers. Are processes both customer and employee friendly? Is the training received sufficient to allow for successful customer interactions? Can employees count on the “system” functioning properly so that they can provide a great customer experience therefore preventing the need to exercise their “how to handle angry customers” skills? Take the time to get and act upon feedback provided by customer facing employees. You might be surprised by how doing so can assist in reducing the number of angry customers for your organization.

How Many Credits or Refunds Are You Issuing?
Another possible indicator of angry customers is the amount of products/services given away, account credits or refunds issued by your organization. Is anyone attaching a reason for these actions? Does your organization’s system allow for logging the reasons for refunds, account credits or other actions taken to appease angry customers? It’s important to monitor these areas as they may be an indicator that customers are not happy with your products or services. Allow your customer facing employees the ability to provide reasons for taking these actions. Analyze these reasons and identify ways to prevent their continuance. Determine how much these refunds, credits or provision of goods/services costs your organization. Spend time with customer facing personnel during their interactions with angry customers to get first hand experience of what appeasement actions are utilized. One’s willingness to take these steps will surely lead to a decrease in the number of angry customers.

It’s a great idea to equip customer facing personnel with “how to handle angry customers” skills. Doing so gives them the confidence to properly handle the situation. Take an additional step by proactively identifying and addressing issues which contribute to the number of angry customers your customer facing personnel encounter. I can guarantee both customers and employees will love you for that!

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3 Reasons To Listen To Your Front Line Employees

During my customer service career, I have often heard the statement – “It doesn’t matter what I think, no one’s listening to what I have to say anyway.” More often than not, these words were verbalized by a front line employee. It’s important to appreciate and listen to your front line employees. Here are three reasons not to take them for granted.

They Are the Face of the Company
Whether face to face, on the phone or web chatting with customers, front line employees are the company to your customers! By the very nature of the position, front line employees are able to provide invaluable insights into how customers really feel about your products/services. Remember to treat them in the same manner as they are required to treat the customer. Your willingness to do so sends the message that they are an important component of the organization. Sooner or later, it will be pretty easy to spot an unhappy employee – body language, voice tones, customer complaints, attendance or all clues to employee morale. It’s important to keep morale high as happy employees create happy customers.

They Have Solutions
It’s common for front line employees to create “custom” resolutions for reoccurring issues. Through personal experience, I have witnessed front line employees put their “custom” resolutions in motion in order to deliver a great customer experience. Maintain open communication with front line personnel as this encourages the sharing of information. Their solutions keep customers happy which contributes to the profitability of the company. During a corporate stint as an operations analyst, it was common to conduct process analysis projects. I often found that front line personnel knew the process and its shortcomings much better than their respective managers. Upon further examination, more often than not, a communication gap existed between management and front line personnel. The communication pattern was one of “do this because it’s your job” vs “if we ask you to do this, how does this impact your job?” When more of the latter exists, the customer benefits as frontline personnel feel that their opinion matters, which leads to the provision of a better customer experience.

They’re Human
Probably the most important reason to listen to your front line personnel is a simple one – they’re human. Front line personnel want to feel valued and respected for what they do. Not everyone is capable of servicing customers. I repeat – not everyone possesses the ability to provide customer service day after day, minute by minute. It takes patience coupled with a good attitude and a highly developed listening ear to consistently meet customer expectations. I often hear people say “Anyone can answer a phone.” or “It’s pretty simple to take customers’ orders.” Yes, anyone can answer a phone or take customers’ orders – the key is, do you know what to do next? Not everyone has the personality or demeanor to turn an angry customer into a long-term purchaser of the company’s products/services. The next time you feel like your front line personnel are not performing to company expectations, carve out some time to get in their shoes. Take on their duties. Ask questions and really listen to the replies. You might be surprised by the knowledge gained from this simple exercise.

Are your front line personnel an untapped information reservoir? Remember – They Are the Face of Your Company, They Have Solutions and They’re Human. Spend time with your front line personnel today!

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What Is Customer Service?

While being interviewed on a local radio show, one of the co-hosts posed this question – “Errol, exactly what is customer service?” I don’t ever remember being asked that particular question but here’s my reply -“Customer service is a methodology that when put in motion, creates a customer’s experience.” This definition is not specific to any particular industry nor does the size of the organization matter. Now someone is probably wondering what I mean by methodology. When defining customer service as a methodology, I’m speaking of the systems that an organization chooses to put in place to provide a customer experience. Ok, now someone may be asking “Errol, now what systems are you referring to? Allow me to explain.

When determining what your organization’s customer service methodology will be, you are actually determining the experience your customer will receive when interacting with those within your organization. For instance, when your customer calls and your inbound call methodology dictates that persons answering calls will perform certain tasks while on the call and do so within a certain time frame, those requirements lead to the customer’s experience. When that person’s performance review and salary increase is tied to their success in meeting the goals of that inbound call strategy, this too determines the customer’s experience with your organization. If your strategy induces this person to be more concerned with meeting goals than taking the necessary steps and time for each customer’s situation, this too creates an experience.

When creating core values for your organization, you are creating an experience for your customer. If words such as integrity, honesty, respect and valued are included in your core values, your customer should experience these words when interacting with your organization. Core values are the frame-work from which your customer service methodology is created. Every component of your strategy should be grounded in your core values.

When choosing your training methodology, once again you’re creating an experience for your customer. Your customer is depending upon customer contact personnel to be experts on your products and services. Keep the customer’s experience in mind when developing training programs. I suggest focusing on creating ambassadors for your organization. Are customer contact personnel educated on your various products or services? Have they actually utilized or experienced your products or services for themselves in order to gain the customer’s perspective? What tools will they need to provide a great customer experience? Be sure to equip them with basic soft skills training as one’s ability to be pleasant and professional goes a long way in creating a positive customer experience.

When choosing who gets the opportunity to be the face of your organization through your hiring methodology, here again you’re creating an experience for your customer. It’s important to carefully establish your hiring criteria. What characteristics are critical for your customer contact personnel? Is industry experience more important than personality traits? Remember, you’re attempting to create a great customer experience. Your hiring choices will bear fruit! Make sure it’s good fruit!

When exercising your personnel management methodology , remember that this too creates an experience for your customer. Just as you must strive to make sound customer contact personnel hiring decisions, it’s even more important to utilize sound management practices. Make sure managers have the proper tools required for this position – people skills, products and services knowledge, coaching skills, leadership skills and a good comprehensive understanding of the organization. Should your customer contact personnel become frustrated with management practices, your customer will eventually be impacted. Employee turnover, discontent and low productivity all create an experience for your customer. Manage employees in a way that will certainly lead to a great customer experience.

When developing complaint resolution methodology – you got it – you’re creating an experience for your customer. We all know that sometimes mistakes are made or things get left undone. When these errors happen, the need for a quick and thorough resolution is paramount. Is your methodology in this area customer-friendly? Does every resolution require a supervisor/manager’s approval or are your customer contact personnel equipped with options for a speedy resolution? Are you tracking customer complaints for patterns and trends? Doing so allows one to identify possible operational issues which once corrected will alleviate repeat complaints which in turn – you guessed it – creates a positive customer experience.

When choosing the methodology to get your customer’s opinion regarding your products or services – one more time – you’re creating an experience for your customer. We all know the value in getting the customer’s opinion. Most love the opportunity to let you know what they think of your organization. Make it easy for them to do so as the more customer feedback you receive, the more data you have to make decisions. Do you need to make adjustments to your product or services? Do your customer contact personnel need additional training? Provide regular feedback opportunities in order to stay current on what’s important to your customer.

These various methodology components create an organizational customer service system which in turn creates customer experiences. Examine your methodologies to insure that they all are geared toward providing what’s important to your customer. Now put them all in motion and create great customer experiences!

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