Tag Archives: customer service

Excellent Customer Service

Excellent Customer Service for 2012

1.     Focus on the Customer:  It may seem obvious that we must focus more on the customer in 2012, we all are sufficiently tempted by plenty of day-to-day distractions that divert your attention away from doing the things that engage and excite consumers about our product, service or brand.

Have a much greater focus on the customer experience and do everything you can to ensure that all of your systems, processes, programs, policies, initiatives and procedures have one end in mind: to strengthen your focus on the customer experience.

Everything you decide to do in the coming year, from a strategic, operational or budgeting perspective, must revolve around this one resolution: Putting Our Customers at the Very Top of Our Priority List … and Keeping Our Customers at the Top of the List.

2.  Focus on the Customer Service Representative:  The front-line employee who interacts directly with the customer is the single-most important ambassador a company has; they should be the standard-bearers of your Company’s Vision and Brand.   The company’s very reputation and Brand Promise must be conveyed to your valued customer.

As Customer Service Leaders, resolve in 2012 to start recognizing your front-line customer service representatives.  They are your customer service soldiers in their role.  As leaders, start understanding your role is to shape the resources, systems and processes as tools the front-line customer service representatives can use to heighten and improve the customer experience.  Make sure you are providing your customer service representatives with the competencies and skills to do their job well, and then reward them in tangible and meaningful ways when they are successful.

Invite them to be the face of the company in a meaningful way … then observe in wonder as they gain the ability and the motivation to knock the customer’s socks off.

3.  Focus on Each Individual Customer Service Touchpoint:  In 2012, focus on the critical value of the singular Customer Service Touchpoint with your customers; the one interaction – the next call, e-mail or chat – the single customer service interaction that might be your one chance to carry that customer to loyalty and maximum profitability.

The power of that one customer experience touchpoint is undeniable.  You have to do everything you possibly can to transform that customer experience touchpoint into a customer loyalty experience that will have the customer buzzing about the way you answered his question, solved his problem or gave him direction.

You just never know what might come out of the singular customer service touchpoint with a customer.  It could be that as soon as the customer disconnects from the call, email or chat or he walks out of your store that he will forget about you.  However, it could also very well be that immediately after having had a great customer service experience or a horrible experience that he tweets a message, posts something on his Facebook page or shares his experience with a party of six at lunch.

Copyright 2012. Reprinted with permission from Barbara Wold’s Retail & Consumer Tips

Customer Loyalty

Customer retention remains at the forefront of how to succeed in business.

This guest article from Barbara Wold contains some great information on this important topic!

Customer Loyalty

Trust + Loyalty are the key ways to brand your business right through a recession.

Having a solid brand strategy at the foundation of your business will help you succeed through lean times. That’s because, at the end of the day, there are really only FOUR fundamental ways to grow your business:
• Get more customers
• Get your current customers to buy more
• Get current customers to buy more frequently and for a longer period of time through loyalty
• Get your current customers to buy different products and services from your business rather             than jumping over to a competitor. This is done through upselling and cross-selling

So, how do you do it? By building trust and loyalty.

TRUST
Corporate scandals, wildly inappropriate executive compensation, failing institutions, all are signs of eroding trust in the marketplace. But people want to trust the companies they patronize.

You can build trust by creating and offering something of genuine value. Be clear about what your product or service promises, and then, over-deliver on your promises. Another way to build trust is through testimonials of satisfied customers.

Build trust through all your marketing and communications. Don’t stretch the truth. This applies to sales presentations, press releases, advertising, business cards, social media and websites. When this trust is infused in all you do and say, you’ve got a brand worth patronizing.

“Trust is probably the most basic human value,” said Fred Rogers from the children’s show, Mister Rogers Neighborhood.

LOYALTY
Once your customers completely trust you, they’ll become loyal followers. Walmart is no slouch at building trust and loyalty themselves. Shoppers automatically assume their prices really ARE lower.

One way to build loyalty is to practice extreme customer service. While customer service is a core expectation for all businesses, you can differentiate your business by bending over backwards for your customers and prospects.

Remember that even small improvements in customer retention from trust and loyalty can increase the profits in your company.

Copyright 2012. Reprinted with permission from Barbara Wold’s Retail & Consumer Tips

Succeed at Customer Retention

Knowing it is always more expensive to get a new customer than to retain an existing one, today I bring you a guest column from Barbara Wold on how to succeed at customer retention.

Succeed at Customer Retention

The current economic climate is causing customers to be more selective. Most businesses can only guess at the reasons customers leave, mainly because they don’t gather that information or develop a formal strategy to retain customers until after they leave.

1. Find out what customers want and what causes them to stay or leave.

First, conduct a survey with existing customers. Ask customers what they want and need, as well as which specific    aspects of your business, products, services they value most. In addition, conduct a separate survey with former customers to find out what specifically caused them to leave.

2. Proactively collect and promote customer feedback.

Don’t wait until there is a problem to contact or follow up with customers. Instead, set up communication channels to encourage sincere two-way communication with them, and then use those channels to actively solicit and collect their feedback.

3. Use technology to manage and analyze customer feedback, and ensure the right people see and hear it.

Companies can easily have as many as 35 or more tools in place to listen to the customer. These tools frequently duplicate efforts and constitute a tremendous amount of time and resources. By the time feedback is tabulated, analyzed and shared, the input is weeks or months old.

4. Analyze customer feedback to gain valuable insights.

Once you’ve gathered feedback from customers, analyze it to find out:
•  The type of customer feedback and the percentage in each category (complaints, suggestions, comments, concerns)
•  The channel most used by customers to provide feedback (Web, phone, in-person, etc.)
•  The underlying drivers of customer loyalty and engagement (i.e. the main reasons that customers do business with you, how they are emotionally connected to your business)
•  The current strength and depth of customer loyalty and engagement
•  New revenue and growth opportunities for your business

5. Immediately address customers’ complaints and concerns.

To make the most of your customer feedback, put together an action plan that focuses on addressing and resolving any areas that are causing customers concern. In conjunction, establish standards of excellence and share best practices with others in your organization.

6. Take action and Measure the Results.

Use customer feedback to make improvements, and then measure the impact of the changes you made. Some of the areas that you may want to consider measuring include customer retention rate, revenue per customer, customer referrals, customers saved due to feedback, etc.

7. Actively measure and monitor your customers’ loyalty and engagement.

Customers today are bombarded with attractive offers all the time. If they see a better deal based on price, quality or service, they feel pressure to switch brands or stores. To combat this, regularly measure and monitor your customers’ loyalty, satisfaction and engagement. Then use that information to make adjustments.

8. Create and nurture a company culture that embraces and is committed to using customer feedback.

Embrace feedback by dedicating resources to acting on customer feedback. This involves training all your employees on what they can do to assist you in building a more loyal customer base.

9. Keep asking, listening, analyzing and improving.

Customer needs, wants and concerns are constantly changing. So, keep asking and listening to customers’ feedback, and analyzing that feedback on an ongoing basis. By doing so, your business will be able to not only retain more customers, but continually tap into fresh, new customer preferences and attitudes that you can use to create new products, services, and programs tailored to their needs.

Copyright 2012. Reprinted with permission from Barbara Wold’s Retail & Consumer Tips, mail to: bwold@ix.netcom.com.

Customer Service – How Healthy is Yours?

We all know the truth.  It ALL comes down to relationship:  in business, in personal life, in community.  Some relationships are good, some are bad, some are downright toxic!  With your customers the relationship is called “customer service” and if this relationship between yourself, your staff and your customers isn’t healthy, vibrant and thriving, your business is either currently in, or will shortly be, in tough shape.

Before I get to today’s guest article and present Barbara’s 8 tips for healthy customer service, I’m going to give you a big one from me.

Right now, everyone wants *the reason* for business difficulty to be the default of “the economy” or “these economic times.”  I won’t sugar coat it for you. B.S.  Just B.S.  It is up to each business to find a reason, make a reason and then keep enforcing it, for customers to come in and come back.  Is your product or service valued as a “nice thing to have” or essential & valuable to your customer?  Is your business warm and inviting?  Are you and your staff friendly and positive?

The old adage still holds true for all business, when things are good they are “great!” And when they aren’t, they are “unbelievable!” (said with a big, genuine smile).  If you or your staff are talking within earshot of any customer or potential customer about how “bad things are,” you should just close your doors TODAY and be done with it.  If there was ever a self-fulfilling prophecy, it is “talk bad, get bad.”  Let me ask you, will you buy something for a business that may or may not be open in a month unless you are shopping a going out of business sale?  Your customers won’t either.

You may be thinking, “But, Cheryl! You are asking me to lie!”  Well, in this case, I’m telling you to fake it ’til you make it.    Just don’t talk about it!  Talk about positive things.  If you can’t find any, call me!  I’ll give you a whole handful of them!!

Thus ends today’s tough love segment of our program!  Now onto Barbara!  I love Barbara Wold’s retail tips.  They are smart, savvy and common sense.  Exactly what most of us need.

Eight Top Tactics for Healthy Customer Service

1. Hire the Best People You Can Find
The life blood of any service operation is the front line staff, the ones who have more contact with customers than anyone else.

2. Develop a Success Culture
The culture of a customer service organization is critically important. One or two bad apples can, and will, if not removed, ruin the barrel.

3. Look for the Real Source of Initial Customer Contacts
Most customers don’t contact your organization because of a customer service issue — at least not initially anyway. Look for what has caused the contact.

4. Look After and Empower Your Front-line People
Make sure your front-line people have the systems, information and processes they need to satisfy their customers during the first contact.

5. Be Proactive
If you have an on-going customer issue, never wait for them to contact you to check what has happened about their problem.

6. Focus on First Contact Fix
Focus on tracking, analyzing and removing the drivers of repeat contacts. Never fall into the trap of driving down contact resolution times to the extent that it risks not satisfying all of the customers’ questions or concerns.

7. Treat Complaints as a Blessing
Complaints are a gift — cherish them. Every complaint is an opportunity to make things right, review and improve your processes, and impress your customer. It’s the customers who don’t complain that go to a competitor — so make it easy to complain and put your best people at your complaint desk.

8. Coach, Coach and Coach Again
Training and then frequent coaching and feedback are a key factor in supporting customer service advisors to quickly achieve competence, and to build upon that to become role models for other staff.

Copyright 2011. Reprinted with permission from Barbara Wold’s Retail & Consumer Tips, bwold@ix.netcom.com.

Strategy #1: Customer Retention

Another guest article (I love great experts!!) for you to hopefully find interesting:
Strategy #1: Customer Retention

Whatever you do, make sure you do whatever you can to keep your current customers.  Customer retention is absolutely critical.

This economy makes customer retention strategies even more important because customer loyalty has weakened.

You need a customer retention plan. Keep in mind that it doesn’t need to be costly, time-consuming or difficult. You just need a few simple steps and always make it a priority:

1. Contact your top customers or clients regularly. Make a list of your top customers, at least 10-25. Call them each at least quarterly. Call, send notes, send articles and information that may be of interest.

2. Keep your name in front of all your customers. Advertise regularly. Network regularly. Send e-mail newsletters regularly. The key is doing this regularly.

3. Give your current customers good deals. We’re all used to come-on deals to attract new customers, but we then fail to offer similar discounts to current customers. Remember, your competitors are targeting your customers with deals.

4. Surprise them! Do something special and unexpected for some of your best customers. Send them a small gift. Add something extra to their order.

5. Keep track. Start a database, update your database, contact manager, digital address book. I’m always surprised by the number of businesses — especially small businesses — that do not have a good database of their past customers. Find a way to keep track of all your clients — past and present — so that you can easily and quickly contact them.  Your database is GOLD.

6. Communicate, communicate, communicate. All of us, myself included, take our customers for granted. As a result, we get so focused on doing our work, that we don’t take enough time out to meet with, talk to, and more importantly, listen to, our customers. Stay in touch. Ask them what they need and want. Be part of their lives and business.

A customer is a terrible thing to waste.

Copyright 2011. Reprinted with permission from Barbara Wold’s Retail & Consumer Tips, bwold@ix.netcom.com. To occasionally reprint portions of this newsletter, permission is not required. To reprint more than one article, please contact us at 949-675-8845 or bwold@ix.netcom.com. If you received this from someone else and would like to sign up for your own complimentary subscription, bwold@ix.netcom.com.

Turning the Ordinary into an Experience

A great post from the Michigan Main Street Center (I love that place!!) on customer service — customer experience.  If you have customers, I’d recommend reading this!!

By Joe Borgstrom, Director

Specialized Technical Assistance

& Revitalization Strategy Division

Michigan State Housing Development Authority

I have a confession to make. I am a customer service fanatic. No, you don’t understand. I’m so much of a customer service fanatic I don’t even use the term “customer service.” I use the term customer experience. Whenever my wife gets home from the weekly trip to the grocery store, I always ask, “How was your shopping experience?” In all seriousness, I probably need help.

Southwest Airlines is renowned for making the ordinary into an experience. You might have seen the YouTube video of the Southwest steward rapping the safety information. Or maybe you’ve seen Volkswagen’s Fun Theory videos replacing ordinary subway stairs with piano keys or its bottle recycling game. These examples give us a laugh when we see people’s reactions. They might even incite a little jealousy of, “Man, I wish that would happen to me.” Well, it can.

We’re very fortunate here at MSHDA to have receptionists that take the charge of turning the ordinary into an experience seriously, though they don’t think of it that way. They saw a problem. When people turned in items found in the parking lot, state cars, and things left in rooms that people just plain forgot, they would send an “All MSHDA” email. The problem was no one would claim anything because the emails generally went unread. Their solution: Make them worth reading. Just this morning we received this email:

This week’s parking lot find is a black, fuzzy ladies glove.  This classic, only run over once, hand warming device can be yours for the low, low introductory price of just $49.95.  Checks may be made payable to ’MSHDA Receptionists’ and left at the front desk.  In 4-6 weeks, your barely dirty black glove will be mailed to the destination of your choice (postage and handling extra).  Thank you for choosing ‘MSHDA Receptionists’ as your ONLY used glove outlet.

Their emails have resulted in many more items being claimed and have brightened the days of numerous employees. I, for one, make sure I open every email labeled “FOUND” not because I’ve lost anything, but because I want to see what they’re going to say about what they’ve found.

What can your district or business do? Plenty. Look for the little things that everyone takes for granted and make them special.  Create unique experiences.

Every day we have opportunities to make the ordinary into an experience. Downtowns businesses need every advantage to compete for customers, providing a unique experience in one of the biggest advantages they can have.  What are some of your favorites?