Thursday, August 22, 2013

Customer Service Goes to School

School is about learning, getting better, focusing on fundamentals and being part of a

community. At the recent convocation, I had the chance to hear Dr. Brett Jacobsen, Head

of School at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School, pose an interesting question to the

students, teachers and staff. The question starts with, “How might we?” This question

will change during the year but the first three words will remain the same. At convocation

the question was “How might we make the world more awesome?” It didn’t take long for

me to see how this question relates to customer service in all businesses. Here are some

endings to this question to make the customer experience one that creates loyalty.

  • How might we improve one single process immediately to make the company more reliable?

  • How might we find the gaps and work to reduce the customer’s hassle?

  • How might we create a customer experience that is memorable?

  • How might we be more responsive via social media?

  • How might we create an improved first impression?

  • How might we make a difference with every customer everyday?

Ask the team for the answers and allow them to create new ones. Get the team involved

for ownership over the implementation of improvements. Get involvement from across

departments to make a real impact.  Mary Cantwell, one of 24 teachers in the nation to

be named a Teacher of the Future by the National Association of Independent Schools,

said, “Find the cracks, discover the gaps or focus on what may be broken.” She is vigilant

in looking for ways to make education better.  Take this advice and check your basics

and fundamentals. Everything can be improved. It’s time to go back to school – learn,

improve, fix and innovate. Your customers will be glad you did.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Customer Service that Nearly Brought Me to Tears

And it was NOT happy tears from being overwhelmed with an incredible act of service.
Recently I had to order textbooks from a major publisher for my daughter. I attempted
to do it online however I could not get through the security check. To order the algebra
books, an account was required. At the end of filling in my information, I was asked to
prove I was a real person by retyping the letters and numbers. After about 12 attempts,
I gave up and assumed something was wrong with the website. I tried again the next
morning and had the same problem. This also caused me to wonder why is this security
check necessary to order an educational textbook.

As a last resort, the 800 number was my option. It was an amazing laborious process.
I gave my name, address, credit card and email three times to the same person, while
doing my best to keep my voice calm and even. Finally she gave me the total due which
was $62 more than the site quoted. She assured me that after my account was set up and
approved in 24 hours, the lower price would be applied. I’ve yet to figure that out. After
30 minutes, my frustration level and amazement at the inadequate service left me close to

So you can imagine how thrilled I was when I discovered the online version was
required and not the hard copy textbook. Then back on the phone to cancel the previous
order, she had to check if it was possible to cancel. Fortunately, it was and the online
version was ordered. She needed all my information one more time. She was less than
enthusiastic but got the job done.

Two days later, a phone call came requesting my email address. I had given it to them at
least 4 times. It is truly beyond me that a major publisher could be this bad. My guess is
the systems and processes are the problem, which really means leadership is the culprit
and doesn’t have a clue. Or they know they have a monopoly on many textbooks and just
don’t care about the customer experience.

So what are the lessons for you? Ask these questions –
- What does your customer go through with your service processes and how
 much do poor systems cost you? 

- What happens online that causes them to give up and finally call you? (In my 
case, they will never know)

- What might you be doing that brings your customer to tears due to your 
inadequate service?

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Customer-Focused Culture is about Consistency

Customers want a consistent service experience. It seems like that would be easy
to deliver yet it is not the norm. Since it is not the norm, consistency becomes a
 customer differentiator. Check how well you deliver consistency with these strategies.

1. Be reliable. Get it right the first time. Whatever the customer needs, they want
you to be reliable and accurate. Customers don’t want to deal with an organization
multiple times due to your shortcomings. Deliver what you promise.

2. No surprises – unless they are positive ones. Most surprises are ones where the
company does not deliver as promised. Surprises can include interactions with
challenging employees, lack of follow-up, and slow responses to social media
communication. Surprises often create angry and vocal customers. Look at your
consistency in service standards and processes.

3. Team members “on board” with customer focus. Customers want to deal with
competent and caring employees. Your employees are a reflection of your culture.
They are the voice of your company and your best ambassadors. Don’t script
them but make certain they are armed with great information and empowered
to personalize their responses. Allow them to anticipate and act in ways that
drive customer loyalty. The consistency must be in hiring, training and coaching

Consistency is a selling point and a source of repeat business. Customers want simplicity,
ease and no hassles. Make consistency a strategy and a foundation of your customer-
focused culture.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Four Things to Stop Doing to Make the Customer Experience Better

The customer experience is all about doing things that will be memorable and of value to
the customer. Start with the basics and fundamentals. Once you have gotten them right, you
will have earned the customer’s trust and repeat business. To keep them loyal, break out
and be different. There are plenty of companies offering what you offer, so be decidedly
different. With that being said, there are things you must STOP doing if you want to
stand out.

1. Stop asking the customer to repeat information they have told you already. This
includes asking them to repeat identifying information already keyed in while
listening to prompts. Make certain transfers are smooth and seamless by sharing
key information with the next team member. Repetition only increases the
frustration factor.

2. Stop having all employees greet the customer when entering a bricks and mortar
store. Let one do it and then stop. It is amazing how employees are being asked
to look up from a current customer conversation or transaction to yell across the
floor to the just arrived customer. It is rude to the current customer and feels odd
to the one crossing the threshold.

3. Stop being oblivious and unaware. Get your team to recognize and learn current
customers. Encourage them to check the database and acknowledge the customer
specifically. If your team serves customers in person, show you know them. Learn
names and make connections.

4. Stop being scripted. Customers want a real person delivering sincere service.
Allow your team to build a relationship and use judgment. If you have hired and
trained well, then trust them to deliver memorable experiences.
There are plenty of things all organizations need to start doing but you start by stopping
certain irritating behaviors. It just gives the customer a chance to think about taking their
business to the competition.

What would you like for companies to stop doing?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Five Steps to Keep Your Customers

Customers are fickle, demanding and opinionated. Keeping your customers loyal,
satisfied and saying positive things about you is crucial. There are plenty of things that
must be done via your technology, people and processes to make your culture customer
focused. Here are 5 strategies that need to be incorporated into your daily efforts.

1. Be nice. Sounds easy but we all know from recent service experiences that “nice”
does not always happen. When it does, we remember it. Jaume Tapies, chairman
of the luxury hotel group Relais and Chateaux, says, “The difference between a
good hotel and a bad one is one word: care. Find people who care and you will
have a great experience.” It is time to check your niceness factor.

2. Be easy. Reduce the hassle factor. No one wants to repeat the same information
twice. Customers want to talk to one person. Disney has reduced the hassle of the
waiting in line experience with advanced technology. Ask your teams – what
barriers and boundaries keep them from delivering an easy customer experience?

3. Say thank you. Customers want to feel special. Customers don’t want to be one
of many. Instead they want to feel connected to you and the brand. Apple store
employees use a process called The Five Steps of Service and the fifth step is a
fond farewell and an invitation to return. How do you end the contact with the
customer and do they feel appreciated? The lasting impression makes a difference
in the customer’s decision to return.

4. Do something extra. Call your customers within 30 days of a purchase to check
on satisfaction or tell of a new offer. Write a handwritten thank you note. Send an
extra item with an order. It is pretty easy to wow the customer with simple acts.

5. Connect 24/7. A Sitel Study shows 57% of customers search online first for
a solution when experiencing a problem. Customers want you to know where
they’ve been, what they’ve done and what they need. Working in silos will cause
your customers to flee fast and be vocal about it as they leave. How well are you
managing all the touchpoints?

Customers want to be loyal. It is easier and saves them time. These 5 strategies will help
create the experience that will keep them returning.