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Posts Tagged ‘Customer Service & Sales’

Mummies: Great for Halloween, Bad for Customer Service

Monday, October 19th, 2009

In a world of pre-recorded phone service, automated banking, and downloaded technical support, it’s become common to expect a disembodied voice or just impersonal service from the companies we contact. It’s like…speaking to a mummy. So it’s more important than ever for customers to know there’s a friendly human they can speak to for answers and assistance. Customer service representatives give an organization heart, soul, and feelings. They are often the first point of contact for customers, a critical component in how customers judge and determine whether they’ll want to do business with an organization.

When a customer or potential customer calls or visits a company and speaks to a service representative, there is a “Moment of Truth” during which the customer evaluates the company. It may be a subconscious mental rating or, after a few encounters, a deliberate one.

People these days are demanding more personal attention from businesses. In response, companies expect their service representatives to provide the empathy, knowledge and problem-solving abilities that keep customers happy. That’s a lot to expect, but with the following basics, customer support can provide those satisfactory “Moments of Truth” that are beneficial to both the customer and the organization.

Think of the Worst Communicator You Know – Then Do the Opposite
Have you ever felt like you’re being talked at, rather than talked to? It makes you feel like you’re not part of the conversation; that you’re expected to listen, but not respond. When you start spouting technical jargon at a customer, that’s how they feel. You’re not connecting with them, and you’re probably making them even more frustrated. Sure, insurance company policies or seasonal utility rates seem simple to you, but it may be gibberish to the caller. Speak clearly to your customers in words they’ll understand, and question them to make sure they’re following you.

Think of how your voice sounds to the customer, and try not to drone as if you’re bored. If you act interested, you’ll sound interested! Also, asking questions raises your voice inflection and helps you learn what the customer needs.

Know Your Stuff!
In order to assure customers that you can help them, you have to prove that you know the answers to their questions. This not only aids the customer, but it also makes helping the customer easier and quicker for you. If you don’t have the information you need, knowing where to find it is the next best way to provide effective and efficient service. You might use a reference guide, or you might refer the customer to a supervisor or specially-trained staff.

Wow Them With Personalization
A customer interaction can be personal without being overly-familiar. Calling a person by name can make him or her feel more like an individual; although, make sure you pronounce the name correctly! If your customer service is taking place over the phone, see if you can identify information about the caller that you can use in your conversation, such as the topic of a previous call. Or, try to establish common ground by commenting on something you share with the customer, like bad weather, or maybe a current event. Sometimes it’s difficult to be empathetic, but always try to imagine yourself in your customer’s place. You might even discuss similar problems that you’ve had and how you felt.

Don’t Be a Smarty Pants (You May Not Know Everything)
Although it’s good to think ahead and anticipate customers’ questions and reactions, don’t assume you know what they’re thinking or how they’ll respond. Acting on your assumptions without verifying them can lead to misunderstanding. Listen closely, allowing the customer to explain the situation or problem completely, without interruption. If they’ve made a mistake, note it, but don’t interrupt. After the customer has finished, you can politely mention any errors, and ask questions to clarify any confusion.

Become a Professional Complaint-Solver
A service recovery plan should include steps to resolve any customer concerns or problems that can be handled immediately. It should also include steps to get at the underlying cause of the problem—especially if it has happened more than once or to more than one customer.

These are the basic steps to follow:

• ACKNOWLEDGE that an error or problem occurred. This doesn’t mean that you or your company must accept responsibility for every situation or incident. What matters, though, is that your customer has someone to agree that a problem exists and that it will be taken care of.
• APOLOGIZE. This doesn’t mean you’re taking the blame, unless the error is indeed yours or the organization’s. A sincere apology might be as simple as, “I’m sorry it happened.”
• CORRECT THE PROBLEM immediately, if possible. Remember, a major element of customer satisfaction is responsiveness. If your position doesn’t allow you to take immediate corrective action, you should discuss a solution with your supervisor.
• FOLLOW UP. Tell the customer what you intend to do, then follow up, if necessary, to report your action or results and to get feedback from the customer.

It’s Not About You
(How to Handle Irritated Customers)
People often vent their wrath on the first person they speak to, no matter what the source of irritation. Telephone service representatives are especially easy targets because they’re a faceless, depersonalized voice. Although you may be offended by the language and tone, it’s important to remember that it’s not aimed at you personally. A calm, easy tone can defuse explosive emotions, especially when your professional attitude is combined with genuine concern.

When people rant and rave, it’s a good idea to let them get it all out. Listen quietly until they’re ready to talk rationally, and document everything they say and how you respond. Repeat what they’ve said, and ask questions to confirm that you understand the problem and to reassure them that you’ve been listening. Ask customers about their expectations in cases where the problem can’t be solved through standard procedures, and use that information when discussing possible solutions. If you have to say “no” to their requests (or demands), politely explain why and try to come up with an alternate solution.

Just Because You’re in Customer Service, Doesn’t Mean You Can’t SELL
A customer calls to complain and you’re expected to sell something to them? It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds, because you’re in a great position to do the customer a favor. When customers complain because they’re upset about a particular product or service, they’re letting you know a need. They might not be aware of available options that can prevent similar problems in the future.

For example, someone complaining about a high phone bill might not realize that the phone company has other plans that can significantly reduce the cost of long distance calls. Rather than merely explaining the different rates for different times, you can respond to the customer’s needs by offering a better alternative to his or her current phone service.

Summary
As service becomes more depersonalized and daily tasks become more complex and technical, customers demand solutions and empathy when they make personal contact with a company. Service representatives are the ones who put a human face on increasingly inhuman organizations. They are also the crucial element that keeps a customer loyal to a service or product when competition gets tough. We all risk becoming mummies without the human touch. Customer service representatives provide that vital link between the needs of the organization and customer satisfaction.

~Excerpted from the Leader’s Guide for the CRM Learning video program, The Call of the Mummy.

Need help in this area? In today’s competitive marketplace, even just one bad experience can cause a customer to take their business to another company. The Call of the Mummy video shows employees how to identify moments of truth that they can use to retain their customers.

Ten Tips for Customer Service Supervisors

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

1.  Share stories of great service within your company, agency or location. Use bulletin boards, email or meetings—whatever you’ve got at your disposal.

 

2. Ask customers what they want! You can use surveys or focus groups to get feedback from customers directly OR ask employees what they’ve been hearing from customers in the way of wants, needs and desires.

 

3.  Look! Listen! Learn! Have employees actively check out what other organizations are doing –both good and  bad. (It’s especially great when you can have them observe what the competition is doing.)  Recognize or reward them when they bring forth observations your team can use to improve its service level.

 

4.  Regularly reward employees for giving great service. Small and inexpensive rewards can work well.  For example: movie tickets, coupons to leave work a half-hour early, a pass to park in the boss’s space for a week, etc.

 

5.  Post key customer service concepts in prominent places.  Add visuals and snappy phrases.  Post in the break room, cafeteria or on entry/exit doors.

 

6.  Ask employees to keep a lightbulb list nearby so they can jot down new ideas to improve customer service as they occur.  Reward and recognize employees whose ideas are implemented.

 

7.  Train employees by: providing brown bag lunch learning sessions where you bring in a guest speaker or motivational video; sending them offsite for a community college training course  or paying for them to take a course online; maintaining a lending library of self-study audio CDs, DVDs, books and periodicals.

 

8.  Job Rotation Day.  Designate one day a month when a number of employees cross-train and learn a little bit about somebody else’s job.  Draw names randomly so everyone gets a chance to do this over time.  This gives employees a chance to see the big picture of the workplace and gives employees who don’t typically interact with customers an opportunity to do so.

 

9.  Revolving Brainstorm Bulletin Board.  Set up a webpage or suggestion box for employees to bring forth customer service problems (anonymous is usually best). Post the problems and provide methods for other employees to propose possible solutions.

 

10.  Have fun at work!  Studies show happy employees are healthier and they give better service. Here are just a few ideas:

 

·         Awards – Create a rotating award relevant to your organization.  The awards can be funny or serious.  Once a month, give the award to a team member.

·         Decorate – Decorate the workplace for holidays or seasons.

·         No Reason Parties – Throw a little party for no reason at all.

·         Ice Cream Social – Walk around and hand out a selection of ice cream treats.  If your employees work on a retail floor, put them in the freezer for everyone to have on their break.

 

This material excerpted from the Leader’s Guides to the video programs Remember Me and Fun is Good.

 

Need more help in this area? CRM’s new video program, WAYMISH (Why Are You Making It So Hard…for me to give you my money), comes with a special video just for supervisors.  Find out why WAYMISH was voted a “Best Product 2009” by Training Media Review.

 

 

“What’s a Customer Worth?” Activity

Monday, April 6th, 2009

Here’s an activity to help you identify the “lifetime value” of a customer. Below are some figures that give customer lifetime values in different types of businesses.

Expenditures per visit for various industries & estimates of the 1- and 10-year values of one customer:

Industry Segment

Average Spent per Visit

# Visits per Week

Average Spent per Year (52 wks)

Average Total Spent in 10 Years

Convenience Store 1

$5.51

1

$286.52

$2,865

Grocery Store 2

$28.88

1.9

$2853.34

$28,533

Coffee Bar 3

$5.90

4.2

$1288.56

$12,886

 

Now let’s do the same for you. What’s your favorite store? Think about all the places you shop – clothing stores, grocery, electronics, home improvement stores, coffee shops, bookstores, pet stores, warehouse stores, online stores…How much do you spend each time you go in your favorite store? What’s your business worth to them over a year? 

Favorite Store

$ Spent per Visit

Shopping Frequency
(# visits per month)

$ Spent per month

$ Spent per Year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, think about one of your regular customers. Each one of them has a “lifetime value” to your company. Do some more math, and you’ll see how that customer’s value can grow! 

 

Average $ Spent per Purchase

# Purchases per Year

Average Spent per Year

Average Total Spent in 10 Years

A Customer of My Company

 

 

 

 

 

 If you’re a big store and have hundreds of customers a day, the impact could be staggering if you began to lose those regular customers!

Need more help in this area? CRM’s video program WAYMISH: Why Are You Making It So Hard…for me to give you my money? helps employees realize the value of customers, and teaches them how to give superior customer service.

1 SBDC, national average, estimated at one visit per week, not including purchase of gasoline (2003). http://sbdcnet.org/Snapshots/convenienceStore.pdf
2 Food Marketing Institute Inducstry Overview (2007). http://www.fmi.org/facts_figs/?fuseaction=superfact
3 A5 Consulting Group (2004). http://www.carmean.net/papers/Starbucks%20Marketing.doc
  

This material excerpted from the Leader’s Guide to the video program WAYMISH: Why Are You Making It So Hard…for me to give you my money?

Certain Principles in Uncertain Times

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

 “So much of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to work.”
     – Peter Drucker

A successful entrepreneur recently shared his management philosophy with me.
• Create a place where work is fun
• Hire management that has a positive attitude and people skills
• Build a team that works together to simplify and streamline processes
• Provide the best customer service possible

Four simple ideas that can make the difference between success or failure for any organization.

First of all, work should be fun. We ought to get up every day with the enthusiastic expectation of seeing our colleagues and taking satisfaction in making a difference for the organization. We spend more than a third of our lives at work. If it isn’t enjoyable we should look elsewhere. It is management’s job to instill a sense of joy in work by showing appreciation for what employees do.

Secondly, management sets the tone for the entire organization. Managers that have taken themselves and their work too seriously have a negative impact on morale because they tend to hold employees to strict (and often unfair) criteria. Flexibility and a love of people are what make good managers.

We have to see each individual as different. Having people skills requires us to coach when necessary but, more importantly, to play to strengths and ignore weaknesses.

Thirdly, being process focused is critical to organizational improvement and the key to providing what customers need. All processes must be seen as imperfect and the goal of management should be to get everyone working together to simplify and improve how things are done. The quickest path to successful process improvement is to solicit and use employee ideas.

Finally, we must be serious about customer service. Too many organizations just go through the motions when it comes to customers. They say they care but they seldom capture the input customers have that could improve the business. They measure satisfaction instead of customer needs. Customer satisfaction is neither a measurement of employee skill or customer retention. Lacking knowledge of what customers really want, organizations often muddle along not understanding why customers leave.

These are indeed certain and dependable principles for our uncertain times. Commitment to these four simple ideas will go farther than anything else to have motivated employees, retain long-term customers, and ensure a profitable business.

Copyright 2003. Reprinted with permission from www.hr.com,  your community for knowledge, expertise and resources.

Need help in this area? Try: Fun is Good
Who says work has to be serious all the time? Not the crew featured in this program, who show that happiness on the job comes when you discover your passion, bring a positive attitude and show people you care.

Think Customer Empowerment; Not Customer Service

Monday, October 13th, 2008

By Patricia B. Seybold

Has your company moved from enabling customer self service to empowering customers?
Notice these customer empowerment trends. How many of them are in play in your organization?

1. We are investing in providing better self-service tools:
• across the customer’s lifecycle (plan, explore, learn, evaluate, decide, buy, learn, use, improve, enhance, replenish/renew/update, or replace)
• across interaction channels/touchpoints (Web, email, phone, PDA, point of sale)
• across direct and indirect sales, distribution, fulfillment and service personnel, and ecosystem partners

2. We are investing resources and time in improving search, navigation, findability, and content quality for our customer-touching Web sites and portals, as well as our knowledgebases, online product catalogs, and e-tools and resources in all the languages with which our customers and partners interact with us.

3. We are developing “smarter” products–products and services that can gather data, provide feedback, monitor their own performance and report their status and usage; products and services that “know” who owns them, and what support, update or subscription services they’re entitled to receive; products and services with which customers interact directly; products and services that “phone home,” to provide and receive updates.

4. We’re converging our previously silo’d and specialized customer support organizations into “single point of contact” cross-functional customer support organizations. We are combining support for business issues (quotes, orders, contracts, credit approval, financing, licenses, maintenance agreements) with our support for usability or technical issues (is this the right solution for my needs, will this solve my problem, will this work with/go with what I already own, what are the possible downsides, e.g., tax consequences, hidden costs? How do I use this to do X? Why isn’t this working? Did I do something wrong? Can you help? How can I improve my performance/utilization? How can I reap greater benefits?)

5. We’re building out and nurturing customer communities–communities of customers who share a common context and common outcomes, customers who are willing to engage with us and to help each other.

I see these five trends as the building blocks for an integrated customer empowerment strategy.
If you’re engaging in one or more of these activities, you’re moving away from customer support and customer self-service to empowering customers and empowering your employees to empower customers.

You’re investing in giving customers the tools they need to help themselves and one another, to find what they need, to get things done, and to improve their performance. You’re realigning your organizations to empower customers to help them achieve their desired outcomes.

THINK CUSTOMER EMPOWERMENT; NOT CUSTOMER SERVICE

(http://outsideinnovation.blogs.com/pseybold/2006/11/think_customer_.html), by Patricia B. Seybold, November 22, 2006, Copyright 2006-2008, The Patricia Seybold Group, Inc.

Solution- Max and Max: Max the young college graduate and Max the dog both greet the day with energy, enthusiasm and fun ideas – but each of them has a “master” who squashes them flat. This program shows how to truly empower employees to use their natural instincts to do the right thing for the customer.
View Trailer or Full Length Preview

The Age of the Empowered Customer

Monday, October 13th, 2008

By Patrick Galvin

We live in the ‘”Age of the Empowered Consumer.’” Those companies that realize this will rise. Those who fail to grasp this new reality will fall.

When I studied marketing in the early 1990s, a professor said that a disgruntled consumer shares a negative buying experience with ten times as many people as a positive one. Today, upset customers can share their anger with the world.

Late in the evening of November 2001, two men arrived at a Doubletree Club Hotel in Houston, Texas where they had arranged guaranteed reservations. They were chagrined to discover that the rooms had long since been assigned, and they were miffed at finding themselves confronted with a desk clerk who was decidedly unapologetic about the mix-up, unsympathetic to their plight, and unhelpful at making alternate arrangements.

To express their displeasure, the two men used Microsoft’s PowerPoint software to prepare a humorous graphic complaint entitled “Yours is a Very Bad Hotel.” They sent the presentation to the hotel manager, two friends, and one of their mothers-in-law. That was it. On the last PowerPoint screen, they encouraged the recipients to spread the word.

Within a few months, the PowerPoint presentation was forwarded millions of times around the world and got prominent coverage in publications such as The Wall Street Journal and Forbes. Imagine what this negative exposure cost the Doubletree in terms of its reputation and lost reservations.

Now, it’s even easier for people to express frustration with a product or service that doesn’t meet their expectations. For reviews of just about any kind of service provider, from insurance agents to clowns who perform at birthday parties, check out Angie’s List.  Members of Angie’s List have access to a database of opinions that are posted by other members, who number 250,000 nationwide. The reviews follow a standard format that looks like a school report card. Contractors, for instance, are graded by parameters including workmanship, punctuality and friendliness. And there is a comment section where you can learn that while Bob is a terrific plumber, he’s colorblind – so don’t let him advise you on what to paint the bathroom.

Angie’s List is just one of many sites aimed at soliciting consumer reviews. Others with a national presence include the Better Business Bureau, Craigslist, City Search, Trip Advisor, and Epinions. In addition, many cities have local websites that give consumers a place to vent.

An irate consumer can also write about a negative experience with your company on a blog. According to Technorati, the largest blog search engine, there are now 29.3 million blogs and many contain entries about poor products and service.

Truly tweaked and technologically-savvy consumers can easily develop a website to communicate their displeasure to the world. Some good examples of this can be found at websites lodging complaints against Walmart, Home Depot, and PayPal.

While it might be tempting to ignore customer complaints when you have concerns that seem more pressing, your failure to assuage the complainer and to prevent similar incidents from occurring might cause the next “Yours Is A Very Bad Business” message to go around the world.

By taking good care of your customers, you are not only doing the right thing but also ensuring that your business will grow through positive word-of-mouth.

Patrick Galvin is “Chief Galvanizer’’ at Galvin Communications, a word-of-mouth marketing and PR firm in Portland, Oregon. http://www.galvincomm.com

Solution- Remember Me: An all-time best-seller for CRM, this is the ultimate guide to excellent – and bad – customer service, from the customer’s perspective. You’ll understand why dissatisfied customers take their business elsewhere, and tell lots of others about their bad experience.
View Trailer or Full Length Preview

6 Keys to Creating “Wow” Customer Service Experiences

Monday, October 13th, 2008

By Robert L Moment

Customers of every kind of business imaginable these days bemoan the state of customer service. While the global economy and the Internet have given businesses the opportunity to serve more clients than ever before, the trend has also given way to impersonal, lackluster customer service. It’s unfortunate that most businesses today don’t realize that they will regularly lose valuable customers if they don’t focus on providing an exceptional customer service experience.

In most businesses, once a customer begins dealing with the customer service department, he or she is already in a negative mindset. The best customer service representatives aren’t those that simply neutralize the problem. Outstanding customer service representatives take a negative and turn it into a positive that ensures the customer is not only happy, but is convinced he or she has had an outstanding experience – the Wow Factor – that he would not have gotten with any other company.

The key ingredients of the Wow experience are:

• Seamless Service
• Trustworthy Service
• Attentiveness
• Resourcefulness
• Courtesy
• Pro-active Service

Seamless Service means providing everything the customer needs, not just what is required to meet the minimum standards. It’s about making sure that they don’t have to wait and wonder. Customers will appreciate a smooth, seamless process for addressing their needs. If there are several steps needed to take care of their concerns, keep them in the loop – update them by e-mail or with a quick phone call so that they know you are working on the situation and progress is being made. By keeping them abreast of what is going on, you are letting them know you haven’t forgotten about them and that you understand their concerns – reassurance and communication are powerful customer service tools.

Trustworthy Service is essential to retaining customers. Promising a customer anything and delivering nothing is the surest way to not only lose a customer, but get the kind of “word of mouth” bad press that can ruin you. Under promise and over deliver – If you promise a satisfactory solution and then go the extra mile to not only satisfy the customer, but gain their appreciation and “Wow” them, you will get word of mouth that will bring new customers to you.

Attentive Service means paying attention during and after the initial contact. How many times have you contacted customer service and been subjected to an obviously scripted response from the customer service representative? Does it give you the feeling they aren’t really listening, but just trying to get to the end of their canned presentation?

Attentiveness should run through every customer service experience, from listening carefully to the customer’s concerns to following up after the exchange is over to make sure their needs have been met. Listening isn’t just about hearing – it is about understanding what is really being said. The words are just the beginning –what about the customer’s tone of voice? Her mood? Is she disappointed, angry or frustrated? Keying in to the customer’s mood and responding appropriately is essential, and it means not following a script.

Resourcefulness means finding solutions when there appear to be none. Many companies have iron-clad policies that must be followed whenever a problem arises; however, sometimes a customer won’t be satisfied by the “company line” approach. Resourceful customer service representatives know that there is always a way to move beyond the standard procedures in order to make a customer happy. Resourcefulness involves finding a solution when a solution isn’t apparent. This may mean moving up the chain of command before the customer demands to talk to your superior. Companies with excellent customer service also give their representatives some leeway so that they can come up with creative solutions on their own. When a customer senses that you are going beyond the norm to help them, they will feel valued and respected.

Courtesy is a commodity that is becoming rarer every day. It takes so little to be polite but it is becoming a lost art. Say please when you ask a customer a question, thank them for their information and take your time talking to them. Nothing makes a customer feel more devalued than being treated like a number. Use the person’s name, make requests rather than demands and know when to apologize. When something goes wrong for a customer, they want to hear that you understand their frustration and that you are genuinely sorry that they are being inconvenienced. It takes nothing to say, “I’m so sorry you aren’t satisfied and I hope we can do something to correct this.”

Pro-Active Service means not waiting for the customer to come up with a solution that you simply follow through on. A pro-active customer service representative anticipates the needs of the customer and follows through. Don’t wait for the customer to ask you what you are willing to do – anticipate the question and answer it before they can ask. If they call and say they aren’t satisfied, apologize and immediately suggest some solutions. Customers want you to take the lead – acknowledge their unhappiness, offer a solution or solutions and explain to them how you are going to follow through. Pro-Active service means taking the lead, which will reassure your customers that you know what you are doing and that you will follow through.

If you keep these six keys in mind – seamless service, trustworthiness, attentiveness, resourcefulness, courtesy and pro-active service – you will be able to offer every customer the Wow Customer Service Experience that inspires loyalty and keeps customers coming back for more.

Robert Moment is an innovative customer service consultant, business coach and author of “Invisible Profits: The Power of Exceptional Customer Service”.

Solution- WAYMISH (Why Are You Making it So Hard…for me to give you my money): CRM Learning’s newest video program shows what it’s like to be a customer who’s desperately trying to spend money, but it seems like no one really wants their business. Learn how to spot “WAYMISH” behaviors and stop them for good!

View Trailer or Full Length Preview


 

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