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helloPut Your Customer's Shoes On
Put Your Customer’s Shoes On

Now I want you to put your consumer hat on for a minute. How often have you as a consumer grumbled about a not-so-great customer experience? The product or service did not meet your expectation. The service provider was a little curt during the interaction. It was somewhat difficult to locate the items you wanted to purchase. The website was not very user-friendly.

An issue was resolved in a less-than-timely manner. These are just a few items that can cause a customer to refrain from doing business with your organization. In knowing how you feel when in the “consumer mode”, how about “putting your customer’s shoes on” and examining your organization from the customer’s perspective? Here are a few ways to do this.

Put Your Customer’s Shoes On and call your organization to see what your customer encounters. Is the receptionist robotic or pleasant and courteous?  It’s important to put the right person in front of your customer.

Did you know that your receptionist or other persons answering the phone are the faces of your organization? This initial encounter is an opportunity to make a lasting impression on a customer. What about that other robot – the interactive voice response system (IVR)? Are the menus user-friendly or do you become confused or worn out? If it’s confusing to you, it’s probably confusing to your customer.

Put Your Customer’s Shoes On and visit your organization. Ok now I hear someone saying “Errol, I’m already here at my organization!” Ok then determine where a physical visit starts for your customer. Usually, when customer physically visits an organization, their experience begins outside and down the street.

Can they easily spot your organization’s signage? In what condition is that signage? Is it visible during your evening hours? The next step for most customers is your parking lot. In what condition is it? Is it well-lit for evening-hour customers? Depending upon your industry (the medical industry comes to mind – hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices, etc), distance from your parking lot to your organization’s entrance may be an issue for your customer.

Taking that into consideration and your customer, is there adequate parking available? What options can you think of that may improve the exterior experience for your customer? Now let’s go inside. What does the customer see upon entering? What about your interior signage? If there is a receptionist available, is he or she pleasant? (You may have to observe this behavior from a distance.) Is it easy to locate items or specific areas within your facility? If it’s difficult for you, it’s probably difficult for your customer.

Put Your Customer’s Shoes On and visit your organization’s website. How often do you visit your organization’s website as a customer? Attempt to make a purchase just as your customer would. How easy is it to do so? Were you allowed to confirm what you were purchasing? Did you receive a confirmation of your purchase and expected delivery date? Did you get a follow-up email providing tracking information?

Are items easy to locate on your website? Is the information regarding your products and services up to date? Is that information clear and easily understandable? Is the information free from industry acronyms and unexplained jargon? Are all of the links fully functional? Whatever you experienced, your customer is experiencing the same.

If your site offers web chat, put in your customer’s shoes and chat with your organization. Is the “conversation” tone friendly and upbeat? Are you asked open-end questions that allow you to elaborate on your reason for chatting? Does the chat person able to quickly provide the information to address your needs or issue? Again, whatever you experience, your customer is probably experiencing the same.

Put Your Customer’s Shoes On and file a complaint. Try doing this via the phone, website email, or chat. How long does it take for your complaint to be acknowledged? What type of questions are you asked in regard to your complaint? What steps are taken to resolve the issue? How long does it take to resolve the issue? Once again, whatever you experience, your customer probably experiences the same.

Remember, it’s important to know what your customer is experiencing when interacting with your organization. To get their perspective – Put Your Customer’s Shoes On!

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helloAngry Customer Prevention
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 to 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 is 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 contributes 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 cost 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 that 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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helloThe Five Big No No’s of Customer Service
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 criticized for their lack of transparency when informing customers of canceled 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

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 pushes 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 favorite.”

Be Rude, Irritated And/Or Bored

Customers are sensitive to the reactions and behaviors 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 toward 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 fulfill 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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helloElementary Questions Lead to Customer Insights
Elementary Questions Lead to Customer Insights

In today’s marketplace, customers have multiple methods to interact and or purchase goods/services. It’s important to have a clear understanding of your customer’s habits as it assists in developing products/services, marketing methods, and customer service strategies.

Most of us were taught a simple method of gaining information back in elementary school – ask Who? What? When? Where? How? and Why?. These basic questions are invaluable for gaining customer insights. My analytical side takes over on this topic! Let’s take a look at these questions.

Who?

The first step is determining who is your customer. It’s important to obtain as much information as possible about your individual customers. Gender, age, and location are just a few items to capture about your customers.

One can then determine purchasing habits of particular age groups, male vs female in those age groups and locations of males and females in those particular age groups! The results can be invaluable when determining who’s utilizing your products/services.

What?

Now let’s add the next question – What do my customers want? To gather insights for this question, add What? to Who? What are your customers of either gender purchasing? What are your customers of particular age groups purchasing? What are your customers of either gender in particular age groups purchasing? What are your customers of either gender in a particular age group from a particular area purchasing? What are your customers of a particular age group requiring assistance with when calling your organization? Of what particular gender or age group are the customers requiring the most assistance? These are just a few insights one can gain by asking the What? question.

When?

The next insight question to add to the Who? and What? is When? When are your customers purchasing your products/services? When are particular age groups purchasing your products/services? When are your customers of a particular gender within a specific age group purchasing a particular product or service? When are customers visiting your brick and mortar locations to conduct business? When are customers of a particular gender within a particular age group visiting your brick-and-mortar locations?

Where?

Okay, now let’s ask the next insight question – Where? Where are your customers purchasing your products/services? Where are your customers of a particular age group purchasing/your products services? Is there a preferred location or are they purchasing online? Are females more apt to purchase online than males? Which age group prefers to purchase online? Answering these questions can assist in aligning customer experience strategies with customer behavior.

How?

This insight question seeks to determine how your customer chooses to do business with you. Is a particular age group utilizing the mobile phone to interact? What about a particular gender within an age group – are females between the ages of 25 to 40 utilizing mobile phones more than females in a different age group when conducting business with your company? Are males in a particular age group making online purchases from the laptops vs their mobile phones?

How are customers choosing to complain? Are they emailing or calling? Which age group prefers emailing? Which gender prefers calling? Which age group prefers to utilize your web chat channel to communicate? The answers to How? helps one to develop methods to reach those customers as well as develop customer experience strategies for those channels.

Why?

Getting answers to this question requires interaction with the customer. You can accomplish this via surveys or personal interaction. Seek to gain insights into – Why are customers of a particular gender more likely to purchase online vs. visit your brick-and-mortar location? Why does a customer choose a specific location over others? Why does a specific age group prefer to make reservations via your mobile website vs making a phone call? Why does a specific gender within a specific age group utilize your web chat channel to request assistance? In knowing the “Why?” an organization gains insight into the way its customers think when making decisions to utilize your products or services.

Remember, in order to gain insight into your customer’s behavior just begin with elementary questions – Who? What?When? Where? How? and Why?

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