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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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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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The Big E Word in Customer Service

When speaking with managers in the customer service industry, this comment is often repeated – “I just wish I could get my people to show more empathy towards to the customer.” Empathy – The big E word in customer service. One’s ability to sincerely interject this trait in customer service is critical. It’s important to properly express empathy when customers are upset or angry with your company’s products or services. Let’s look at a few ways to express empathy.

How Would I Feel?
Empathy is the art of putting one’s self in another’s shoes. One can ask one’s self – If I were in this situation, how would I feel? The action of mentally pausing to consider this question allows one to “feel” what the other person is actually experiencing. When customers are unhappy, upset or disgruntled, they usually just want someone to listen to and acknowledge their particular situation. When customers feel “heard”, more often than not their level of discontentment is reduced. It’s important to place one’s self in the customer’s shoes!

What Would I Expect?
When exercising one’s empathy skills, it’s should be natural to ask one’s self: What would I expect as a resolution if I was experiencing this situation? If you know what you would expect, examine your options for the best way to resolve the customer’s situation. Should your options not include what you feel might be the best solution, make suggestions to upper management to get additional options included to insure customers are satisfied with your offerings for resolving the situation. When customers feel that you’ve provided the optimal solution for their situation, the chances of retaining them as customers are greatly enhanced.

Do I Trust You?
When assisting an unhappy, upset or disgruntled customer, exercising empathy helps to build rapport and establish trust. Think about it – if someone is indifferent towards your situation, how can you trust that they will put forth their best efforts to provide the appropriate resolution? Ask yourself, how can I get this person to know that I understand and truly empathize with their situation? Once the person truly feels that you are sincere when exercising empathy, they are more than likely to accept the offered resolution.

Are You Listening?
In order to empathize with others, one must first be willing to listen to their story. Utilizing effective listening skills is paramount to the customer feeling that you are being empathetic. When face to face with customers, be sure to maintain eye contact as this indicates to the customer that you’re focused on them. Watch your body language and facial expressions as these are indicators of how you truly feel about the customer’s situation. It’s pretty easy for customers to determine if you’re really paying attention to what they’re saying when face to face. When on the phone with customers, your voice tone and inflections provide assurance that you are listening. Allow the customer to get their whole story out before attempting to offer a solution. Interject with ” I understand your frustration.” or “I too would be unhappy if in this situation.” when the customer pauses while voicing their displeasure as these are indicators to the customer that you are in fact listening. Restate the customer’s issue to reassure the customer that you were in fact listening and understand their situation. Effective listening skills are the foundation for empathizing with customers. Remember, more listening and less talking leads to retaining an upset customer.

Employing the art of empathy can be the difference in one’s attempt to retain an angry customer. Empathize sincerely by asking yourself – How Would I Feel?, What Would I Expect?, Do I Trust You? and Are You Listening?

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