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The Power of Enthusiasm In Customer Service

A key ingredient to success in the customer service industry is enthusiasm. This component is crucial to both gaining and retaining customers. Whether you’re on the phone, face to face, emailing or web chatting, your level of enthusiasm is apparent to your customer. Have you ever noticed how most customers will mimic your actions? If you walk fast (not too fast!), they will walk fast. If you smile when speaking, they will smile when speaking. If you add enthusiastic punctuation when emailing or chatting, your customer does the same. Enthusiasm is contagious! Here are a few tips on enthusiasm.

1. Enthusiastically Acknowledge Your Customer – Your acknowledgement of your customer is the initial opportunity to put your enthusiasm on display. When you’re face to face with your customer, can they see the light in your eyes? Are you proactive in moving toward your customer or do you wish they would go in another direction? Your enthusiasm for what you do should make it easy for you to reach out to your customer. Can your customer hear the enthusiasm in your voice over the phone? Your voice tone and inflections tell your customer if you’re really interested in providing assistance. Did you know your enthusiasm level is evident when web chatting with or communicating via email with your customer? These two methods of communication can be somewhat cold and indifferent when improperly done. Recently I experienced a computer virus and contacted a repair company’s chat line via my smart phone. I started the conversation with “My laptop has a virus. I need assistance please.” The person responded by chatting “Sorry to hear that! We’re here to help! May I offer our on site service to you? We can have someone at your location within 45 minutes!” This person’s punctuations and word choice led me to believe that he really wanted to help. When web chatting, utilize word choice and punctuations that match how you would exhibit enthusiasm if you were face to face with the customer.

2. Enthusiastically Provide Assistance – I visited a big box home improvement store in search of a home alarm system battery. Right away upon entering not one, but two employees offered assistance. When advised of my reason for visiting, both offered to assist! One associate practically tore me away from the other stating, “I’m pretty sure we have that item. Let’s go and find it!” Now I don’t know if these employees received sales commissions – I was just happy that I didn’t have to walk all over the store in search of that battery! It’s important for your customer to see, feel and hear your enthusiasm. Make sure that the customer doesn’t feel that they are interrupting you when seeking assistance. Eye contact, facial expressions, voice tone, body language and word choice are all important during the service interaction. Ask questions to make sure you understand the needs of your customer. Your customer feels valued when you ask probing questions in order to provide the best solution to their needs. When done in an enthusiastic manner, you contribute to the building of a long-term relationship. I recently presented my “Now That’s Customer Service!” Award to a young man for his enthusiasm in attempting to locate a particular shirt during a visit to a local retail store. He searched high and low in the store for that shirt – with a smile on his face and pep in his step. When it became apparent that the shirt was not available in my neck size, he advised me that he could order the shirt and have it in the store within 3-5 days. How could I turn him down? I was infected with enthusiaminitis!

3. Enthusiastically Show Your Appreciation – Most customers want to feel appreciated after choosing to utilize your products or services. Can they see, hear and feel your enthusiasm after the service interaction/product purchase? First of all, provide an enthusiastic closing to the purchase or service transaction. A heartfelt smile or handshake administered with a touch of enthusiasm can go a long way in making your customer feel important. When ending your phone conversation with your customer, enthusiastically thank them for calling and remind them of how much they mean to your company. Do the same when ending your web chat or email session with your customer. Enthusiastic service coupled with an enthusiastic “Thank You” can endear a customer to your business. Most customers can tell the difference between a scripted (required) and a genuine “Thank You”. Make sure that your “Thank You” is enthusiastically genuine!

Enthusiasm is a powerful emotion. Incorporate enthusiasm into your service delivery experience to increase your chances of creating repeat business. Your customers have emotions. Remember your goal in customer service is to provide a great experience for your customers. Do so by Enthusiastically Acknowledging Your Customer, Enthusiastically Providing Assistance and Enthusiastically Showing Your Appreciation. A great experience produces positive emotions. Make sure that experience is filled with enthusiasm. It’s contagious!

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The Customer Is Wrong – Now What?

I remember this conversation like it was yesterday. After advising a customer that I would be handling her insurance claim, she stated that she was advised that her policy did not allow for the usage of a rental vehicle. “I have full coverage which means I should be put in a rental car while my vehicle is being repaired!” is what she emphatically repeated. After checking her policy, I advised her that unfortunately, her policy did not include rental coverage. She became extremely irate and accused the company of misleading her in the definition of full coverage. While I was not privy to the initial conversation when she became a policyholder, this was now a situation for me to handle.

The old adage “the customer is always right” is not always true. Whoever created that adage may have meant that even when the customer is wrong , they’re still right if you want to keep them as a customer. Periodically when servicing customers, it becomes apparent that the customer is wrong – “wrong as two left shoes” as my Dad used to say. They may have misread, misinterpreted, misunderstood or perhaps been misinformed by someone else within your organization. Whatever the case, it’s now up to you to navigate through these dangerous waters. Here are a few tips to assist in keeping yourself afloat:

1. Preserve the customer’s dignity – When it’s apparent that the customer is wrong, be careful not to “rub it in”. Refrain from statements such as ” That’s not correct.” or “I don’t know where you got that information.” Put your investigator hat on and ask questions such as “Can you please tell me where you received that information?” or “Would you allow me to verify that for you please?” Doing so has a two-fold effect: 1. It shows the customer that you’ve taken their statement into consideration 2. It gives you an opportunity to develop your plan of action to resolve the issue as well as retain the customer.

2. Apologize – Even though you know the customer is wrong, go ahead and apologize for the misunderstanding. Doing so will assist in removing some of the tension from the situation. Remember that the customer is a feeling, human being. Depending on the situation, the customer may be somewhat embarrassed by the predicament. Mentally place yourself in their shoes for a moment. Your apology creates a pause in the situation, thereby creating space for you to be heard by the customer. I have found that when one attempts to resolve an issue without acknowledging the customer’s frustration via an apology, it can take twice as long to bring the situation to a close.

3. Exhibit Kindness When Delivering Bad News – Where your resolution options allow for you to meet the customer’s request, it’s pretty simple – you just resolve the issue. Often when the customer is wrong, internal boundaries prevents one from resolving the issue in the customer’s favor. In my example with the policyholder, corporate policy did not provide the option for me to place the customer in a rental vehicle when rental coverage does not exist on the policy. It was now up to me to tell her that she was ineligible for a rental vehicle. It’s important to be kind when delivering unpleasant news. Someone within the organization may have provided incorrect information. Your customer will appreciate your willingness to empathize. I stated “I understand how frustrating this can be, especially now. Unfortunately, because the policy does not contain rental coverage, I am unable to place you in a rental vehicle. However I can call the rental car provider and request that you be given a discounted rate for a vehicle. May I do that for you? “While she was not totally pleased with the outcome, she was appreciative of my offer to save her some money on the rental car costs. If other options are available, utilize them. While they may not be exactly what your customer wants, they may assist in resolving the issue and providing some degree of satisfaction to your customer.

4. Educate Your Customer – Cautiously – When a customer is wrong, its important at some point during the interaction that they be provided with the proper information. Proceed with caution here. You must be able to gauge if your customer is receptive to this information. What’s their voice tone like? What is their body language saying. If chatting online with the customer, what words are they choosing to communicate? When I reached this moment with my customer, I asked “May I assist you in getting the rental coverage added to your policy? The cost is very minimal – in fact so minimal that it may surprise you.” She was agreeable to my request so I proceeded to conference her with the proper department in order to get the coverage added to her policy.

5. Apologize – Again – It always good to close this type of interaction with an additional apology. Okay, now I hear someone saying “I already apologized once. Isn’t that enough?” I say go ahead and go that extra mile. Remember, the customer really does not want to be wrong, so you want to reassure them that you want to retain their business. A simple closing statement such as ” I’d like to apologize once again for the misunderstanding” can go a long way in soothing the customer’s ego. Think long-term here!

Sometimes customers are just plain wrong. How you handle the situation will determine if they remain a customer. Remember to: 1. Preserve The Customer’s Dignity. 2 Apologize 3. Exhibit Kindness When Delivering Bad News 4. Educate Your Customer – Cautiously and 5. Apologize – Again.

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3 Reasons To Prep Before Interacting With Your Customers

Here in Houston, Tx , I award my “Now That’s Customer Service!” Award to individuals or companies that provide great customer service. I rate such things as time to acknowledge customer’s presence, demeanor during the service interaction, interaction consistency (if I am a repeat customer), product/service knowledge, exhibited the ability to address customer concerns and transaction speed. Customers service interactions are where the rubber meets the road for your business. These conversations and encounters can create loyal customers when handled efficiently and professionally. Preparation on a daily basis is necessary prior to these interactions. Here are three reasons why:

1. Your customer expects you to be ready to provide a great customer service experience. Most people have expectations regarding how they should be treated during customer service interactions. They expect simple things: a smiling voice on the other end of the phone, a pleasant greeting when they enter your establishment, a pleasant online chat demeanor, a great overall customer service experience. I believe that people who deliver great customer service just naturally have a service mindset. Before interacting with your first customer of the day, prepare by reminding yourself that you are available to serve. Doing so will help you to mentally get deeper into the service mode.

2. Your company deserves your best effort. Whether you’re the business owner or an employee of an organization, your best effort is needed when interacting with your customer. Providing great customer service requires one to maintain a high energy level throughout the day (or night). Your customer’s experience suffers when you’re running low on customer service fuel. It’s obvious to your customer when your energy starts to wane. I know from experience that the customer service industry can be somewhat stressful. Counter this stress by making sure to get the proper amount of rest and by spending time with non-job related activities. Doing so allows your mind to reset in preparation for the next round of customer interactions.

3, You owe it to yourself. It’s important that individual service providers feel good about the level of service they provide to their customers. To end one’s day with a sense of personal fulfillment is critical to one’s long-term well-being. Did I give my best effort today? Was I mentally prepared to provide a quality experience for customers? Taking the time to prepare before servicing your customer will assist you in being able to answer “Yes!” to these questions. Your confidence level zooms when you’re able to successful handle customer interactions. Your willingness to understand all aspects of product/service will enable you to efficiently and effectively handle customer inquiries or provide resolutions for product/service issues. Give yourself an edge by taking the time to prepare before interacting with your customer.

Customer service is best provided from a proactive stance. Be proactive by taking the time to prepare before interacting with your customer. Remember, your customer expects you to be prepared to provide service, your company deserves your best effort and you owe it to yourself. Be prepared!

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Voice of the Customer – Attributes of an Effective System – Part 2

In our last voice of the customer discussion, we focused on four attributes of an effective system according to John Goodman, author of Strategic Customer Service : 1. Unified Management of the Program 2. A Unified Data Collection Strategy 3. Integrated Data Analysis 4. Proactive Distribution of the Analysis. In this article we’ll discuss the Goodman’s four remaining attributes.

1. Assessment of Financial Implications and Priorities – Goodman stresses the importance of realizing how customer expectations and behaviour impacts revenue and profits. The main goal is to determine what is the cost of inaction. In order to get a true view of the customer service data , Goodman believes that it’s necessary to translate customer satisfaction, loyalty and word of mouth data into general financial impacts. The Voice of the Customer initiative must provide the economic impact information required for management to make the proper decisions. Properly assessing the financial impact creates an avenue for creating improvement priorities and actionable steps.

2. Defining Targets for Improvement – In addressing this attribute, Goodman identifies two roadblocks to success: 1. The person responsible for fixing an issue identified in the data analysis process is held accountable for doing so in addition to his/her day to day responsibilities. 2. A successful outcome is rarely defined for this person. Now we all know how important it is to have achievable targets when tasked with improving a situation. Goodman suggests one also refrain from the common exercise of “satisfaction planning”. An example of this is where a company is at a satisfaction level of 76 % and decides to raise next year’s acceptable level to 80% because 80% is higher than 76%. Goodman instead recommends using the Market-at-Risk analysis to identify which improvements to make, assign responsibility for implementation and suggest the expected rise in loyalty and satisfaction along with estimated cost and return on investment. This methods allows management to develop rational plans for reaching satisfaction levels and loyalty goals.

3. Tracking the Impact of Actions – Goodman strongly suggests the development of a process to ensure that things in fact do get fixed. This is the follow-up step to the creation of an action plan. Companies should be interested in knowing what percentage of issues identified by the voice of the customer initiative are actually addressed. Goodman feels that this information should be passed on to finance and senior management. The voice of the customer initiative can virtually die if this process is not put into place. Should this be allowed, what’s the financial impact of gathering data, man hours utilized to gather the data, analyzing the data and preparing reports, but not developing a follow-up system? Hopefully, the importance of tracking the impact of actions is very apparent.

4. Linking Incentives to the VOC Program – When the voice of the customer initiative is accepted as having the goal of proactively responding to customer needs and increasing customer loyalty, Goodman feels that the organization has accepted that voice of the customer initiative must be linked to both strategic and day-to-day decision making. The organization can accomplish this by senior management linking incentives to suggested actions and provides funding for those incentives. Goodman states that in his work with various organizations, he has found in order for the voice of the customer initiative to make a positive impact (meaning that management addresses most of the identified issues) at least 20% of incentive compensation must be linked to identified voice of the customer initiatives.

When developing your voice of the customer initiative, remember it’s important to perform an Assessment of Financial Implications and Priorities, then Define Targets for Improvement, follow that up by Tracking the Impact of Actions and to insure the success of your initiative Link Incentives to the VOC Program .

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