Tag Archives | customer service

How to ensure your team gives exceptional customer service

Whether your business sells a product or service, your customers want their experience with your business to be a positive one. And the basis of any memorable experience is exceptional customer service.

Tourists want to come to your town, city or region and feel welcomed, valued, and to have a memorable stay. What you provide them may not be the whole reason they come, but at the very least it can be a supportive and enjoyable addition to their visit.

Locals want to have a trusted place to come back to time and time again, with the surety of a great time.

So what is it that all customers really want? What will make their experience memorable?

How to ensure your staff provide your customers with exceptional customer service

It’s the Vibe

We believe it’s the people they encounter when dealing with your business, and the feeling they create. In the words of Dennis Denuto in the classic Australian movie The Castle: “It’s the vibe.”

The design of the space and the colours, music, and furnishings all create the ambiance. But people create the vibe and energy. Exceptional customer service is provided by happy and engaged staff.

You’ve heard the saying that people will forget what you do and say, but will remember how you make them feel. That’s the vibe that’s left over long after the details are forgotten.

A great hotel is not just about polished marble floors, an extensive wine selection and the comfort of the bed.  It’s the smile of the front desk attendant who greets you by name, the friendliness of the housekeeping staff, and the Concierge who goes out of their way to give you recommendations and directions.

A top restaurant is not just the quality of the food and the ambiance. It’s the warm welcome as you enter, the interest of the wait staff in who you are (not just what you order), or their unobtrusiveness on a special date.

Your experience of a service business is not just the outcome of the meeting you have in the boardroom. It’s the friendliness and professionalism of the receptionist when you make the appointment, the offer of a glass of water when you arrive, and everyone greeting you by name.

The people make the experience

Every business has a culture. Customers feel it the minute they interact with your staff, even if it’s just via email exchange. A business’s true culture is what happens when no-one is watching … in other words, when the boss isn’t around.

If you’re a business owner, you may be passionate about customer service and know that your clientele is happy when you serve them. You may not be so certain of how your team members are looking after them when you’re not there.

What vibe does your business give out to your customers? How do you ensure your team is working as hard as you are to please your customers?

Creating a great team culture in your business is the basis of ensuring your staff provides exceptional customer service. To find out how, grab your copy of our e-book here.

Difficult Customers: How to deal with them effectively

Dealing with difficult customers is a common part of most businesses.

You’ve no doubt heard the adage The Customer Is Always Right. But if you’ve ever dealt with a difficult customer, you’ll know for a fact that’s not true!

Difficult customers are often simply disappointed because their expectations haven’t been met. If they complain and don’t feel heard, they can become angry, disrespectful, or even continue to argue their point when they’re clearly in the wrong!

So how do you deal with a difficult customer while maintaining your professionalism?

Difficult Customer, Customer Service, Small Business

Apologise

The first thing to do for difficult customers is to apologise to them. You don’t necessarily need to take responsibility for what’s been done or not done, but you can apologise that they feel the way they do.

Difficult customers are usually feeling frustrated because they didn’t get the product or service they expected. So here’s something you can always say:

“I apologise that your expectations haven’t been met.”

This applies whether or not your customer’s expecations are fair or downright ludicrous!

Your customer may have realistic expecations, for example that their coffee is hot, that their goods will be delivered intact, or that their tradesman will turn up on time. If you establish that their expectations were reasonable and should have been met, offer to fix things straight away. For example:

“Do you have time to wait while I make you a fresh hot coffee? I’ll throw in a pastry of your choice to make it up to you.”

In this instance all your customer wants is fair exchange for the product or service they purchased.

Be Effective Rather Than Right

If your customer’s expectations aren’t reasonable, it’s important to be effective rather than right.

Just say you’d arranged your tradesman to be at your customer’s premises between 10am and 12pm. The tradesman turned up at 11am, but your customer has called to complain that they were an hour late.

You remember your discussion with the customer that the tradesman would arrive sometime in that two hour window. Clearly you are in the right, but arguing with your customer will not help at all. In this instance you could say:

“I apologise that you were expecting the tradesman at 10am. I take full responsibility for our miscommunication about his arrival time. Has the work been completed to your satisfaction?”

Apologising for the miscommunication might seem unfair, as you remember what you said. But true communication isn’t what you say, it’s what’s been understood. You may be tempted to remind them of your conversation about the arrival time window, or that it clearly states on your website that job start times can’t be guaranteed. All this will do is frustrate your customer further!

Make them feel valued

What your customer really wants is to feel valued and important. If you can choose to be effective rather than right you can win the customer over rather than driving them away.

Please note that you don’t always need to offer compensation when your customer is dissatisfied. If it’s easy to do, go ahead – such as the free pastry, or free coffee next visit. If the customer demands unrealistic compensation you may need to see what your legal obligations are before discussing it with them. You could say:

“I agree that you deserve to receive quality products and service. Please allow me to look into this matter further. May I call you back at 5pm to discuss a solution?”

(And for goodness sake, make sure you call back at the time you agreed, even if you don’t have a solution yet! If you don’t you’ll be adding fuel to the fire).

What to do if your difficult customers complain online …

If you read online reviews, the sub-text behind every customer complaint is clear: “I just didn’t feel valued”. Whether the complaint is about phone calls not being returned, having to wait for service, or problems not being well-handled, the customer didn’t feel that their issue was resolved.

Often they feel upset enough to take their complaint to a larger online audience in the hope of receiving some empathy. Getting sympathy from friends and even complete strangers over the web justifies their frustration and makes them feel that someone cares about them and their experience.

If you need to respond to a negative online review, refer to our guide to dealing with customer complaints here.

When you give your customer the understanding and care they need at the initial moment of frustration, this escalation can be avoided.

If you’d like to improve customer service in your business, talk to us about our business coaching services and customer service training.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Why You Don’t Want Satisfied Customers

7 Reasons to Improve Your Customer Service in 2017

Matthew had an anniversary surprise for his wife – a limousine trip to the city, dinner at a fancy restaurant, and a night in a suite at a 5-star hotel. He had planned it for weeks, and was excited to spoil her with a special weekend away.

A week later we ran into them and asked her how it was. “It was satisfactory” she said. When she saw us exchange puzzled glances, she explained, “I was satisfied with the food, the room and the service.”

customer service

Now exactly the response Matt was hoping for!

And the restaurant and hotel probably wouldn’t be too happy with her feedback either.

Now of course this is a metaphor, and hopefully any thoughtful person would at least act more excited about such a kind gesture from their spouse.

But let’s relate this to business for a moment. You started your business to romance your customers and provide them with something special, right? A quality product, outstanding service, and enough ‘wow’ factor to keep them coming back and telling all their friends.

Most business owners start out excited to provide something exemplary, and to delight their customers.

But somewhere along the way they get jaded. Customer complaints trickle in despite their best efforts, and it seems some customers are just never happy. Their energy and effort slips, and so does the level of customer service. And when team members see the business owner feeling defeated, they also drop their standards.

Sound familiar?

Even if you haven’t given up completely, you may be thinking that if your customers are satisfied that’s all you can hope for. But wouldn’t you rather have delighted customers?

We believe that if you want a successful business, it’s not only desirable, but essential that you focus on customer service.

Here are 7 reasons to focus on improving the customer service your business provides in 2017…

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1. People have a lot of choice

Unless you have a truly unique product or service, or are the only provider in your region, people will have other options. If you don’t give them the level of customer service they want, someone else will. You might remember the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld and think that if your product is good enough, people will come regardless! Rarely is a product that incredible (and if you have one, you’ll know about it).

2. Word gets around

We’ve heard that a dissatisfied customer will tell between 9 and 15 people about their experience. That’s in person. Now with online communication they could reach 2000 or even 200,000 easily. If you don’t believe us, read about American restaurant chain Applebees’ social media crisis.

This example also shows how important your online response to customer service complaints is – you want to calm the storm, not fuel the fire!

customer service

3. When you do it right, it’s free advertising

Happy customers don’t spread the word as far and wide as unhappy ones, but word still gets around. It’s human nature to ask people for recommendations, as we don’t want to make a mistake when choosing from several options. How often have you asked a friend what butcher they go to, their favourite restaurant, or how a movie was? Social proof is the psychological concept of trusting what others say and wanting to go with majority opinion (and people believe what others say about your business far more than what your advertising says!).

4. Happy customers are less sensitive to price increases

One mistake businesses can make is increasing prices without first considering if their customers are happy. As their customers leave in droves, they hear “you give us an ordinary product and bad service, and now you want to charge us more for it?” When customers love what you offer they will be more likely to stick with you when inevitable price rises occur.

5. You outplay your competition

While we don’t advocate a business strategy based solely on crushing your competitors, we do encourage you to be the absolute best you can be. When you continually improve your levels of customer service, your customers will be less likely to shop elsewhere.

6. It meets two fundamental human needs

Anthony Robbins talks about the six needs that drive human behaviour. Two of these are the need for significance and contribution. By giving great customer service, you contribute to the happiness of your customer and the success of the business. You are also likely to feel significant when your customer, employer or P&L is grateful for your efforts! We believe the majority of customer complaints occur when the customer does not feel valued or heard. Great customer service makes people feel important to you, meeting their need for significance.

7. Because it’s what we’re designed to do …

This quote from Winston Churchill sums it up:

customer service

And Albert Einstein said, “The high destiny of the individual is to serve rather than to rule.” Who are we to argue with a genuis?

– Andrew Masi & Julianne Schwenke

Why you don’t want your customers to be satisfied…

A key goal in business is satisfying your customers, right?

Wrong. Satisfaction is a word that has become synonymous with customer service, but we don’t believe it’s good enough.

In legal terms satisfaction can mean repayment of a debt. It can also mean having your expectations met.

Sure, when you go to a store you want to be repaid in goods or services for the money you’ve handed over. This completes the transaction. You also have an expectation that when you pay your  money, the goods or services will be provided as you expected them to be. Again, the business has been settled.

But is that what customers are really after? A satisfactory transaction that meets their expectations? Yes and no. We say it’s the bare minimum of what your business should provide, not its ultimate goal.

Satisfactory service keeps your customers staying – for a while. At least until they get a better offer. Delighted customers keep coming back time and time again, and bring their friends. You want to provide the kind of service that gets people talking about your business, and turns your customers into a tribe of loyal followers that wouldn’t go anywhere else.

When teaching our own clients about how to provide exceptional customer service, we first ask them when they’ve experienced it. For some it might have been when a business has gone above and beyond to fix a problem, thereby turning a bad experience into an exceptional one.

customer service, business advice, business coaching

One of our clients had checked into a hotel room which wasn’t cleaned (there was even still dirty sheets on the bed). The hotel fixed this by providing an apology, a clean room, and a return stay for free in the best suite of the hotel. They fixed the unsatisfactory service with an exceptional experience.

Another client checked into a hotel and the room wasn’t ready when promised. They were given free drinks at the bar while they waited, and their drinks for the remainder of their stay were complimentary.

It’s natural for businesses to make mistakes now and then, but how they fix them can either break their relationship with the customer, or get them a customer for life.

Of course, the best customer service is given straight off the bat. As a customer, when have you received something unexpected, surprising or delightful?

I once attended a hair salon in the U.S. that had its own DJ spinning tunes, and wine by the glass. That was unexpected. A week after that visit, I received in the mail a hand-written card from my stylist, saying how much she’d enjoyed our discussion about a particular topic. That was delightful. Did I go back? You bet.

If you want to assess your current level of customer service, write a list of all the things you provide your customers under two headings:

Expected | Desired

Your customers need certain things from you. This is what they pay for and what they expect. There are also certain things you could provide that they desire. This is what delights them.

You may find that things you are currently doing (eg. appointment reminders, coffee on arrival, gift on their birthday) have actually become expected, and are no longer adding extra value to your customers. They would expect to get them from anyone who provides your product or service.

There are other things that you can do above and beyond that they would love. Have their favourite coffee ready for them at the start of their appointment, ask how their son’s soccer grand final went, buy them a book you know they’ll love for no reason, serve pastries from their favourite patisserie at your next meeting. It doesn’t always have to be a grand gesture to be delightful service that makes them feel appreciated.

Think about things you’ve done for your customers in the past that have delighted them. Do more of those. Ask your clients: What would delightful service look like to you? What would keep you coming back time and time again?

And if you mess up? Make up for it with exceptional customer service, something that will get them talking about how you made up for the mistake rather than the mistake you made.

As a business owner, it can be hard to see from the outside in to get your customer’s point of view. Your business coach can help. Call (02) 4933 6622 if you’d like to find out how.

How Should I Stay In Touch With My Customers?

As a business owner, you probably spend considerable time, effort and money getting new customers. If you want to grow your business, you are no doubt actively advertising, marketing and asking for referrals.

But are you investing enough time and energy in keeping your existing customers?

You’ve no doubt heard the saying that it’s six to seven times as costly to obtain a new customer than to retain an existing one. Despite this, it’s surprising how many businesses don’t regularly contact their customers to make them feel appreciated, offer additional products or services, or check on their satisfaction.

Some businesses don’t keep contact details for their past and existing customers at all, and some do purely to ‘have them in the system’.

Why Should I Keep Customer Details?

Having contact information allows you to build a relationship, familiarity and trust. If you are providing regular, interesting information to your customers you will keep top of mind in a world where competition is rife! This is called Recency and Frequency. To take action to use your business, customers need to have heard from you frequently and recently to have you top of mind.

pablo-5 copyHow Do I Get Customer Contact Details?

This depends on the type of work the customer uses you for. A professional services firm may obtain contact details on a signed agreement; an allied health provider may ask clients to fill in a form on their first visit; and a telecommunications company may need contact details to provide accurate services. Even if you regularly request customer contact details as part of providing your service, ask permission to contact your customers and their preferred method of contact.

If you use an enrolment or registration form it could include tick-boxes to be contacted via email with special deals, by SMS for appointments, or by mobile phone for customer service calls.

Of course, some businesses don’t need to get customer details to operate (for example, a retail outlet or restaurant). The obvious choice here is to create a ‘tribe’ of loyal customers by asking them if they’d like to join your VIP club for which they get special benefits. Examples may be a free meal on their birthday, regular recipes via email, or VIP-only sales.

Another option is to hold an in-store competition whereby customers must leave their details to enter. Please once again have a check-box asking them if they’d like to be contacted with deals, updates and offers, and how.

Which Details Should I Get? 

Quite simply, it depends on how you want to contact them and how they prefer to be contacted. If you’d like to contact them via phone, ask for mobile details. If you prefer sending information in the mail, get their postal address. If you want to send an e-newsletter, grab their email address.

As well as contact details, other information can be beneficial to record, depending on the type of business you have. Most customers appreciate receiving messages or gifts on their birthday, regardless of the type of product or service you provide. Anniversary dates may be applicable for hotels, restaurants, florists, beauty and hair salons. Children’s names and birth dates may come in handy for toy stores. Some hotel chains even record the pillow-loft preferences of their regular guests!

What Mistakes Should I Avoid? 

The most common mistake we see is businesses sending irrelevant information about their own business. Please remember that your customers don’t care about you, they care about what you can do for them. People like to be entertained, given interesting information, and shown how they can save time, save money, or make money.

Sending too many emails, texts, or letters is another pitfall to avoid. The quickest way to get an ‘unsubscribe’ is to bombard your contacts!

You could ask your clients how often they would appreciate being contacted, and what kind of information they would find valuable.

Of course, sending any communication without consent is a no-no (a link is provided below to find out how to avoid spamming). And make sure every marketing communication you send has an unsubscribe function, including SMS.

How Do I Record Customer Contact Details?

We suggest you create an electronic database. This could be a simple app such as “Contacts” in Mac, or a more sophisticated CRM system such as Infusionsoft. If you want to contact your customers via SMS, an easy place to start is with SMSBroadcast, which can cost as little as 4.7 cents per text message. E-newsletters can be created quickly through MailChimp, which is currently free for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails a month.

Segmenting your customers into groups is the next step. Examples are Prospects (inquired but not yet bought), Customers (bought once or twice) or Regulars. You may even choose to create a list of inactive clients, to which you could transfer customers if they haven’t bought from you for 6 months or so. You could also create groups according to the service they use you for, or the product they buy.

Some Examples:

  • An insurance firm could email all customers who have bought business insurance through them, offering a special deal on car insurance
  • A lawyer could mail his clients (for whom he hasn’t done a recent Will) with an offer of a free Will review
  • A hairdresser could call clients the week after their appointment, asking how their style and colour is holding up
  • A cafe could SMS customers they haven’t seen for a month with an offer of free coffee with every piece of cake purchased for that day only, or perhaps free dessert with every main
  • An environmental consultancy could e-mail clients once a quarter with information on environmental policy changes and industry news that may affect them.

Please also remember that your customers may have a favourite product or service, but not be aware of everything you sell. When customers already trust you and buy one of your products or services, it’s a great time to introduce them to your full range. Perhaps you could include a “menu” of your range in your next newsletter or mailout, or feature the benefits of different products or services in each newsletter.

As you can see, the options are endless. The most important thing to remember is that your customers care about what you can do for them, so make the information you send to them relevant, important, and useful.

Are you making the most of the contact details you have for your existing client base? We help businesses improve their customer service and sales to current clients, as well as generate new leads. To see how your business can improve, call Andrew Masi or Julianne Schwenke on (02) 4933 6622.

For more information and to make sure you don’t spam, please visit: http://www.acma.gov.au/Industry/Marketers/Anti-Spam