A close friend mentioned that he was in a restaurant recently and was astonished at how poor the customer service had been – this was particularly disappointing as it was a good quality restaurant and still relatively new.
This comment coincided with another made to me by a friend who commented that she only ever seems to go to a restaurant 3 times – first to try it out and be pleased, the second time to take others as she has recommended it and after the third she would swear never to go to that restaurant again due mostly to variable food and poor customer service.
You may have a great product, but if the service is poor, consumers will not bother and this can make or break your business. None of us much patience for lousy customer service and easily get tired of waiting for a menu or that first drink you are gasping for. We get fed up trying to get a live person on the line, going through an interrogation to return something or trying to communicate through a language barrier.
Whatever business you run, if you provide your customers with a simple, efficient, pleasant experience they will revisit your business over and over. More importantly, they might tell others how good your business is!
There are a number of secrets to good customer service, the first one is knowing exactly what YOU want.
You are the captain of the ship and the visionary for the future of your business, so you need to have a clearly defined plan for your business and that must include customer service. There are 3 main goals you need to consider:
- It needs to be easy for your customers to do business with you. You can do this with help guides, advertised discounts, easy-to-follow prompts, your website and other technology based programmes to help them shop.
- Doing business with you needs to be a warm and pleasant experience. Your staff must be knowledgeable, approachable, warm and patient. Regular training is an essential part of investing in your staff’s knowledge. Most importantly, your customers need to feel like they are getting a good value for their time and money. Perceived value goes beyond the price of the products and extends to their entire shopping experience.
- You must change your mind set and ask yourself “How can I NOT afford to do these things?” This shouldn’t be a question of expenses, but making and keep happy customers.
With these thoughts in mind, regardless of how big or small your business, you also need to take a few things into consideration when deciding on the actual programmes and standards you’ll put into place.
- Share your customer service vision with the rest of your staff – make sure they’re on board.
- Connect your staff incentive programmes and bonuses directly to customer service.
- Monitor the level of customer service your staff is putting out by regularly surveying your customers.
- Know when you can ignore what your customers want.
- Continuously focus on your business goals.
Now, that you know what you want, you can starting thinking about how to meet those wants and create a positive customer service experience.
Remember, if your customers have a good experience of your business, they might tell others how good it was – if they have a bad experience, they absolutely will tell everyone they know about that too!!
If you’re having a hard time deciding on what you want, the tools, resources and coaches in our FREE test drive can help you define the wants and needs of your company in relation to customer service.
I’d like to share a story with you that a previous boss told me many years ago that has stayed with me ever since. It’s a story that I have referred back to many times and have found to be true in both business and personal lives!
As a boss, one of his (many) strengths was that he used very visual examples to make a point – and this is one fantastic example!
Let me start first with a little history.
From the moment we took to the oceans, our wooden bottomed ships were plagued by barnacles that attached themselves to the hull. These barnacles weaken the ships structure and made them much slower and more difficult to steer.
These barnacles had to be scraped off the hull and this typically took several weeks and needed to be done every 2 to 3 months.
There were only 2 ways to do this.
Either bring the ship into a dry dock or beach it in shallow water at high tide – this was known as heeling and the hull could then be scraped or careened.
Alternatively, with the ship in deep water, the crew would move the ships load (canons, supplies etc) to one side, which would tilt the ship to allow access to the side of the hull at a time – this ‘parliamentary heeling‘ process was quicker but extremely dangerous and many ships were lost as a result of a misjudgment.
This process of scraping was physically demanding – and the crew hated it!
A much more pleasant task was to stay on deck and polish the brass. Whilst it was important to make the ship look shiny and well cared for (as this suggested a disciplined and well-organised) it did absolutely nothing for the performance of the ship.
And this brings us neatly to the point that my old boss was demonstrating.
We often choose to polish the brass rather than remove the barnacles.
In life and business, we can very easily fill our time with tasks and activities that make us look good, but actually do nothing to improve our business. This is because these are usually easier and more enjoyable. We often find ourselves sacrificing the important as a result of the need to deal with the urgent!
But we need to ask what are the issues and challenges that are slowing down our business growth?
What exactly is it that makes us inflexible, cumbersome or slow to respond?
Or from a different perspective, what could we do to make us faster, more agile and ultimately more effective?
This is the point of the story:
Make sure you remove the barnacles – only then should you polish that brass!
I am sure that in homes and offices across the land, this debate happens as often as the Bath and Barth discussion, the Scon and Scown skirmish and the old favourite the Wedensday v Wensday wars – but the Onvelope v Envelope debate took a new turn in our household over the weekend!
As usual, the argument started when I asked my wife; “Why do you say ‘onvelope’ when the word is ‘envelope’? It starts with an ‘e’ as in egg, not an ‘o’ as in omelette!”
“Because that’s the way you are supposed to say it. Everyone knows it comes from 16th century french word ‘envoluper’ pronounced with an ‘o’ at its start.”
“But we aren’t French” I countered as usual, “we are English, and we say egg, not ogg!”
The debate rapidly descends, again as usual, to the raising eyeballs, huffing and rueful looks stage!
However, this weekend, a change came when I asked …
“So what do you say when you have many of them?”
“Onvelopes” came the stern, forceful answer, pronounced with both the ‘o’ at the beginning and the ‘s’ at the end!
This, for me provided ammunition the killer blow in this debate of all debates!
“The French do not pronounce the ‘s’ on the end of Onvelopes” I proclaimed (and I didn’t even mention the fact that in French the word actually has two ‘p’s).
So, the solution is clear either one pronounces ‘onvelopes’ in a french way, doesn’t pronounce the ‘s’ and adds another ‘p’ in there somewhere …
.. or we say it properly – envelopes with an ‘E’!!
I rest my case!!
And surely you must agree ….. ?
Have you ever sat in a meeting and not had a clue about what is being discussed?
This happened to me not long ago, when I sat with a supplier who was explaining that:
“The BDU working with the EBU was struggling to nail down all the NPD and so have an issue with the use of the MDF!”
Later in the discussion, they were talking about how;
“BYOD was a game-changer for many SMB’s as the ROI impact would significant as long as company LAN’s could cope!”
Now to be truthful, I got most of this, but I had to work at it.
The presenter ground to a halt when I asked;
“If you could just clarify the TLA position please, I’d be very grateful”
It is the communicators responsibility to ensure that the message that is being delivered is understandable, and TLA’s, three letter acronyms are the scourge of clear communication!
In an internal company environment where all employees are at the same level of understanding there is perhaps a place for these short-hand snippets. But a communicator should never assume that an audience automatically understands what they mean.
Now, this might sound obvious, but when you are next in a ‘big’ meeting, or sitting listening to a presentation, just count up the number of TLA’s that get used and you can add fun to the game, but also counting up the number of times cliché’s are used. To be clear, a cliché is not inherently bad, if it used effectively and appropriately, and not just used as a gap filler!
But TLA’s are bad – so next time you hear a tirade of unfathomable abbreviations, just ask the communicator if they wouldn’t mind clarifying their TLA Strategy, and then sit back and enjoy the uncomfortable silence!
Whether you are a ‘dog person’ or not, you can’t help but smile when you see an excited puppy, tail wagging, tongue hanging out, just waiting for a treat, a ball to be thrown or just being really pleased to see you.
I had the pleasure of meeting a very enthusiastic chair supplier recently and whilst I wouldn’t describe him as a bouncing puppy, I found that I was carried along with his upbeat approach and the obvious pride he took in his product.
The real secret of success is enthusiasm – Walter Chrysler, founded of Chrysler automotive
The truth is that, like smiling, many emotions are infectious. Have you tried watching the You Tube video below of the man laughing at the bus stop and, for no apparent reason, complete strangers start laughing along with him?
The scientific explanation for this is emotional contagion and there is lots of evidence that this human characteristic leads us to mimic the emotions we see in each other. But this is not the complete picture.
Often emotions like enthusiasm, cynicism, passion and disdain can all be ‘caught’ by one member of staff from another because of a desire to fit in or to be seen to ‘doing the right thing’. This is especially true when new staff join a company or organisation and ‘go native‘ very quickly i.e. they start mimicking the comments and behaviours of those around them within a very short time of joining, positive or negative!
There is also a big difference between excitement and enthusiasm – a difference between short term and long term, if you like. For example, you might be excited about the prospect of eating a cake, but you would be more likely to have real enthusiasm for baking!
The entrepreneur, Peter Jones once said;
Believe in yourself, never give up and go about your business with passion drive and enthusiasm.
The inevitable conclusion here is that in any environment, business or social, people around you will pick up on your emotional cues and are likely to mimic them.
So, in a business environment, what emotional cues do you want people around you to pick up on? – If, like that chair supplier, you pervade a genuine enthusiasm for what you are doing, then don’t be surprised if those around you start becoming more enthusiastic about it too.