Shep21's Blog….Leadership, marketing & customer service through the printed words of many

It’s all about PERCEPTION December 10, 2010

Filed under: Customer Service — shep21 @ 12:20 pm

For 22 years as an administrator in professional baseball I would preach to our front office team, even have imprinted on our office walls, that “perception is reality”. It wouldn’t matter that our ballpark was beautiful , well kept and just a fun place to be if Mom had to experience urine all over toilet seats as she tried to find a place to appease her anxious three year old. It’s perception. “This restroom is filthy, I wonder what happens in the concession stands!?” Oops, no sale there. All the hours of hard work crafting, training, scripting, CARING…are out the window. It is an ongoing battle, one that requires an all out assualt to be won EVERY TIME. It’s about the team understanding that they have to consistently place themselves in the “other shoes”. Constant team reminders, refreshed training, practical examples. They have to live it, breathe it, be it! Try to accomplish that at $7.50 an hour. Auditioning & casting…that’s deserves a whole other blog post! The remainder of this post is an excerpt from a Service Untitled blog (they produce great stuff daily).

Excellent customer service, regardless of what the facts may be have to be especially sensitive to the customer’s viewpoint and perception of the issue. That’s where careful listening comes into play and suggesting solutions based on those very perceptions can make a profound impact. Insensitivity and indifference is a prelude to customer anger and the loss of the customer because they don’t really care who takes care of them since each representative is synonymous with the company. This is where standards of KPI or Key Performance Indicators come into play. Through training, monitoring, coaching, practice and new policies, employees understand that customers are driven by what they think about a business or service, and we want them to see positive perceptions.

You can see their entire article here


Five Steps To Customer Service Glory February 19, 2010

Filed under: Customer Service — shep21 @ 12:00 pm

We all know that providing exceptional customer service is the stated goal of every business leader, regardless of how large or small the company.

It’s common knowledge that customers are more loyal to companies who treat them as more than just a number.

Sadly, the personal touch customers want — and deserve — is often lost in the daily grind of doing business… especially in larger companies. Too often the leaders do not model the very behaviours they expect from their teams.
Here are five simple ways to keep your customers coming back, even after facing their problems or complaints.

Be Genuine: Personalize the Conversation
When a customer calls with a complaint or a concern, make the time to treat them like an individual. And ensure your employees do, too. While calling a customer ma’am or sir is respectful, it doesn’t offer a personal touch. Replying, “Yes sir, I understand,” is polite. And polite is good! But adding the customer’s name, as in “Yes Mr. Jones, I understand,” is so much better!

Using a customer’s name whenever possible helps her see you are truly engaged in serving her, regardless of the problems she’s brought to your attention. And it helps her realize she’s more important to your company than her cheque book.

Be Accountable: Don’t Pass the Buck
One of the most aggravating things a customer faces where customer care is concerned is being passed around like an old hat that no one wants. Impeccable service ensures that every company employee, regardless of rank, handles customers to the fullest extent of their abilities.

Never refer a customer to someone else simply because you don’t know how to handle his problem. Instead, take the time to help him fix the problem, if possible. Or at the least, if you must refer a customer, find someone who can resolve their issue and provide a warm hand-off.

Ensuring your customer achieves a desirable outcome will ensure you create a customer for life.

Be Empathetic: Listen, Acknowledge, Validate & Apologize
Listen to your customers. Sometimes people really do just need to vent, and rarely should a complaint be taken personally. Learn to acknowledge the customer’s issue, and train employees to do the same. It helps your customer to know that someone understands their concerns. Let them know you understand the way they are feeling and apologize even if you don’t feel you need to.

A sincere apology works wonders in creating happy, loyal customers, and confirms your willingness to take responsibility for the customer’s problem.

Be Innovative: Provide Solutions
Once you understand the customer’s problem, offer a solution. Refrain from telling the customer what you can’t do. Instead, focus on what you can do to remedy her situation, and offer some options. Working to solve your customer’s problem — even if not to the extent she may have hoped — will help her feel as if you care about her, and her business.

A solution focused attitude will keep customers coming back even after they’ve faced a problem with your company.

Be Trustworthy: Never Make Impossible Promises
Often, in an effort to appease a customer, an employee or company leader will make promises that are not only impractical, but which he or she is simply not able to honour. Instead, offer a realistic, workable solution that will allow you to rebuild your customer relationship and provide some satisfaction. It’s not necessary to “give away the store.” Just meet the situation realistically and your customer will appreciate the effort.

While these tips will help you provide quality care to your customers, there will be times when nothing anyone else does will be enough to keep a customer. Knowing you’ve offered impeccable service, however, will help you sleep better at night realizing there was nothing more you could have done to meet the customer’s needs.

Click to download a PDF copy to share with colleagues


5 Great Questions to Pose to Customers February 18, 2010

Filed under: Customer Service — shep21 @ 12:00 pm

Constantly seeking feedback from your customers is a great way to learn how to market your business more effectively. If you’ve never done this before, do it immediately as it is one of the best ways to discover what you do that actually differentiates you from your competition.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked with a small business that had no idea what its competitive advantage was until we heard it right from the mouths of happy customers. Seeking feedback is also a great way to get better and plug gaps. I can tell you that if you’re not receiving a large amount of your business by way of referral or word of mouth, you’ve probably got some gaps in your processes.

Below are five questions I like to pose to customers as they can provide a great discussion base for getting at what’s truly important to you and your customers. Create a form and get in the habit of surveying a handful of customers every month. I think you’ll be rewarded with tremendous insight and you’ll also find that your customers enjoy being asked what they think. One word of caution, don’t accept vague answers like “you provide good service.” While that may be true and good to hear, you can’t work with that. Push a bit and ask what good service looks like and maybe even if they can tell you about a specific instance in which they felt they got good service.

1. What made you decide to hire us/buy from us in the first place?

This is a good baseline question for your marketing. It can get at how effective your advertising, message and lead conversion processes are working. I’ve also heard customers talk about the personal connection or culture that felt right in this question.

2. What’s one thing we do better than others you do business with?

In this question you are trying to discover something that you can work with as a true differentiator. This is probably the question you’ll need to work hardest at getting specifics. You want to look for words and phrases and actual experiences that keep coming up over and over again, no matter how insignificant they may seem to you. If your customers are explaining what they value about what you do, you may want to consider making that the core marketing message for your business.

3. What’s one thing we could do to create a better experience for you?

On the surface this question could be looked at as a customer service improvement question, and it may be, but the true gold in this question is when your customers can identify an innovation. Sometimes we go along doing what we’ve always done and then out of the blue a customer says something like, “I sure wish it came like this,” and all of a sudden it’s painfully clear how you can create a meaningful innovation to your products, services and processes. Push your customers to describe the perfect experience buying what you sell.

4. Do you refer us to other, and if so, why?

This is the ultimate question of satisfaction because a truthful answer means your customer likes the product and likes the experience of getting the product. (You can substitute service here of course.) There’s an entire consulting industry cropping up around helping people discover what Fred Reichheld called the Net Promoter Score in his book The Ultimate Question.

Small businesses can take this a step deeper and start understanding specifically why they get referrals and perhaps the exact words and phrases a customer might use when describing to a friend why your company is the best.

5. What would you Google to find a business like ours?

This is the new lead generation question, but understanding what it implies is very important. If you want to get very, very good at being found online, around the world or around the town, you have to know everything you can about the actual terms and phrases your customers use when they go looking for companies like yours.

Far too often businesses optimize their web sites around industry jargon and technical terms when people really search for “stuff to make my life better.”

Bonus: I’m a big fan of building strategic partnerships and networks. Another question I would suggest you get in the habit of asking your customer is – “What other companies do you love to refer?” If you can start building a list of “best of class” companies, based on your customer’s say so, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve got a list of folks you should be building strategic relationships with.

This content from: Duct Tape Marketing


The Disney Experience February 16, 2010

Filed under: Customer Service — shep21 @ 11:59 am

A blog from Service Untitled.

Disney has perfected crowd control. Very few companies do a better job at managing crowds than Disney and whenever I was in line, I was impressed with how well Disney manages the waiting process. The waiting areas for the rides and attractions are well designed and well laid out. They’re visually appealing, usually feature some sort of thing to look at or do, and were mostly indoors (which means mostly in the air conditioning). Once people are done waiting in line, Disney fills seats with ease and makes sure that it guests know exactly where to go. Any company that deals with long lines and large crowds can learn a lot from Disney and how they manage lines and crowds.

Employees are everywhere. I visited Disney’s Hollywood Studios on a Saturday and the park was busy with guests and employees. Employees (called “Cast Members” at Disney) were all over the place. If you had a question for them, they were almost always very nice and almost always very knowledgeable. The Cast Members probably get asked the same questions over and over again, but from my experience, they answered the questions with a smile. It is a lot less stressful for customers when there are lots of employees around who are happy to answer questions.

Disney does a lot of research. I saw multiple people with “Disney Research” logos on their shirts and was asked to participate in two simple surveys during the day I spent at Disney. One focused on my demographic data and another focused more on the overall park experience. Collecting data and using it to improve the customer service experience is essential.

They try to go the extra mile. A friend I was traveling with had a special request and Cast Members did whatever they could to accommodate his request. The general demeanor of employees and of the way the parked seemed to function was consistent with what I saw; Cast Members were dedicated to helping however they could and would gladly go out of their way to help.

They keep the experience simple. Disney could make the customer experience a lot more complicated if they wanted. They could charge more for certain rides or certain sections and so on. Instead, they break it down by park and keep it simple. You don’t have to buy anything besides the park admission ticket if you don’t want to. The result is a speedier and more convenient park-going experience. Companies should never underestimate the power of simplicity. Whenever possible, make the experience simple. It’ll make customers happier and save a lot of time and effort.


Use concierge mindset for customer service February 15, 2010

Filed under: Customer Service — shep21 @ 6:00 am

The best concierge takes pride in orchestrating memorable experiences for their guests, so why shouldn’t every employee have a concierge mindset; after all as long as you have customers, you are in a service business. Of course, the initial recruitment and interview of potential candidates is of prime importance, so know what specific personnel requirements are needed, and structure hiring decisions based on attitude, proficiency, and enthusiasm.

The delivery of services should not be restricted by job title. Take the example of an employee stocking the shelves at a local hardware store. A customer comes in and asks the employee where she can find door handles. The employee walks the customer over to the aisle and asks if there is more he can do to help. The customer needs help sorting out the rows and rows of door handles to find one that fits her needs, and the employee assists her until her needs are met. Then the employee returns to stocking the shelves. Did the employee go beyond his job of stocking shelves? Absolutely, but the customer was so satisfied she made a point to congratulate the store manager about the excellent and helpful store employee.

In a local hair salon, a regular client was in the middle of a hair highlighting. The client had very long hair; the  foils were almost all applied, and her cell phone rang. The client’s 5th grade child called to tell her mother she had forgotten an important piece of her class project that was involved in the school fair and needed it immediately. The mom couldn’t leave the salon with bleach and tin foils. The receptionist volunteered to drive to the client’s home, pick up the piece the student needed and take it to her child’s school. Going out of her way? Absolutely, but the receptionist was able to break free and see her job as more than just a job title.

Going above and beyond sets any business apart. Instead of ever saying no, a business should always be able to present options or alternatives, but in order to encourage employees to perform in such positive ways as the above examples, the company has to empower employees and coach them in positive ways. Probably the most important aspect in being able to realize such outstanding service, is the company’s ability to present a positive approach to employees and help employees  work effectively with other departments. It is really hard to go above and beyond by yourself.

All good customer service is a result of an organized system and constantly improving what you want to achieve; the results can make a big difference. If a business just changes a little at a time and meets the customer’s needs beyond the product, the customer feels important, and that is what keeps customers coming back. 

The original post can be found st Service Untitled, here….


It’s nothing personal February 9, 2010

Filed under: Customer Service — shep21 @ 2:45 pm

Monday morning and an angry customer is walking into the office, and for your own self-preservation, you never want to trade insults, yell back, engage in sarcasm, or be intimidated. You must first understand an angry customer at the simplest level. They’re not angry at you; it’s only because you are an employee and representative of the company, but since you’re there in front of them, you naturally become the target. That angry woman who reminds you so much of your mother wants her problem solved, and your job is not to get her to that particularly hostile point we’ve all heard, ” Well it’s the principle,” because at this point even if you could work something out, she would still be dissatisfied. So what do you do? Let’s start at the beginning as the angry customer walks in:

– Observe body language. You never want to be blindsided by someone’s temper. Are their arms crossed, shoulders hunched, restless, staring or acting rude? You need to always remember the person isn’t mad at you, so try to be as unpolitical as you can be. Introduce yourself, and be polite. Ask the person her name and address her by name. Try not to make her wait; look up from your paper work immediately and never say “NEXT”.

– Listen to the customer. You must always let the customer tell her story. Do not interrupt her, and listen intently until she is finished speaking. Show her that you have been paying attention by paraphrasing her problem and assuring her you understand and intend to help.

– Phrases to avoid. An angry customer doesn’t do well with such stock phrases as: ” I only work here,” “It’s against our store policy,” or probably the most annoying of them all, ” I’m only following the rules.” Never come back with one of those answers, but again assure the person you will do your best to solve their problem. If the problem can not be solved at the time, make sure you confirm with the customer when you will have an answer, and make sure you follow through with a response at the agreed upon time. Check out the Big List of Things Not to Say for more tips.

– If I cannot help. If for any reason you feel that you can not mitigate the complaint, it is acceptable to refer the customer to your supervisor, but make sure you give the customer their name and their contact information. What you never want to do is just push the complaint on to the next person, and not have the customer’s complaint resolved. Angry customers are always going to be around as are Monday mornings, but why not start the week off by helping your company keep its professional image and customers as well as you competently helping to resolve conflicts.

Original blog post can be found here


Creating a Customer Service Culture January 29, 2010

Filed under: Customer Service — shep21 @ 6:30 am

1. Management must make the measurement of service quality and feedback from the customer a basic part of everyone’s work experience. This information must be available and understood by everyone, no matter what their level. The entire organization must become obsessed with what the customer wants. A printing firm has signs all over the shop saying, “Is it good enough? Ask the customer.” This statement serves as a constant reminder to everyone that customers are the ultimate judge of whether the service is what it should be, and that all employees must be constantly surveying customers for what and how they want it. The firm regularly sends out questionnaires about the quality of their service and then posts these results for all to see. When you survey your customers on the quality of service, make sure that everyone, from the top down, knows of the results and receives recognition for the things that are going well. Behavioral research has shown that you get more of the behavior you reward. So don’t make the mistake of mentioning only the area of poor performance; also mention and reward those who are doing well, and involve all employees in brainstorming ways to improve the things that are unsatisfactory.

2. Be very clear about specifying the behavior that employees are expected to deliver, both with external customers and their coworkers.

3. Explain why giving excellent customer service is important — not only for the company, but for the world. What does your company do that makes life easier for everyone? What does your product or service add? Be sure to include this in the reasons for achieving customer service excellence. A good example of this principle at work is in the field of health care. People are often drawn into this profession because they enjoy helping and caring for people. Smart health care organizations show how their desired customer service behaviors enable employees to help and care for the patients and their families. Reward people for their good service behaviors. Cash awards are nice, yes, but there are many other ways to say, “job well done.” Extra time off, for instance, or an article in the company newsletter, a trophy or plaque awarded at a special recognition dinner, tickets to special events tied to an employee’s interests, or a simple written note are all ways to reward the kinds of behaviors you want to see more of.

4. Create ways to communicate excellent examples of customer service both within and outside the company. Institute celebrations, recognition ceremonies, logos, and symbols of the customer service culture and its values. This is where you want the mugs, buttons, and banners. Have a customer service bulletin board to feature service incidents that were special. Seize every opportunity to publicize the times when employees do it right. A newsletter should be developed to boast of customer service successes so that the idea of service is constantly in front of everyone. One company, a major utility, devoted an entire issue of the company magazine to “24 Karat Customer Service.” It featured examples of how individual employees defined customer service, stories of humorous or unusual customer service situations, an article on the importance of internal customer service, and other ideas designed to keep employees aware of the importance of their efforts in achieving quality customer service. A hospital not only touts their customer service “hero stories” in their newsletter, they also have a giant pep rally once a quarter for everyone to share their stories. Individual teams get together often to focus on what has gone right as well as wrong in their patient and other customer relations. Even if you are a very small business with only a few employees, post instances of superior customer service of your own and others that you read about. Talk about customer service and its importance every day.

5. Indoctrinate and train everyone in the culture as soon as they are hired. Disney is famous for this. It puts all newcomers through a “traditions” course that details the company history with customer relations and how it is the backbone of Disney. Your orientation program is a key part of the ultimate success of your customer service efforts. Make sure that it contains more than an explanation of benefits and a tour of the facilities. It can be an important element in planting the customer service culture of the company so it can flourish and grow.

6. Encourage a sense of responsibility for group performance. Help employees see how their performance affects others. Emphasize the importance of “internal customer service.” Help everyone to see that if you don’t serve each other well, you can never hope to serve your ultimate customer. Does accounts payable or shipping see that the timeliness of their service to other employees makes a big difference in how the customer is served? Does the cook realize how important it is to get the order exactly right in the kitchen so the waitstaff can please the restaurant customer? Even something as seemingly insignificant as returning from lunch break on time can affect the quality of the customer service you offer by determining whether you have enough coverage to serve employees promptly. Repeat again and again that customer service is the responsibility of everyone in the organization, not just the “customer service department.”

7. Establish policies that are “customer friendly” and that show concern for your customers. Eliminate all routine and rigid policies and guidelines. Knock yourself out to be a company that is easy to do business with. Never let your customer service representatives say, “Those are the rules I have to follow; there’s nothing I can do about it.” There is always a way to satisfy the customer. You must give your employees the power to do so.

8. Remove any employees who do not show the behavior necessary to please customers. Too many companies allow frontline service representatives to remain on the job when they are not suited to a customer service position. If employees don’t want to serve the customer in the best way possible, document their behaviors and use this information to help them change or to move them to areas away from customer interaction. In order for a culture of customer service excellence to grow and thrive, management must have a burning desire for it to be that way and the energy to ensure that this desire spreads throughout the organization and remains there permanently. You must become a totally customer-focused organization. Everyone, from the top down, must believe that they work for the customer.

This material was excerpted from Customer Service — the Key to Your Competitive Edge, a common-sense guide to establishing a customer service program by Peggy Morrow. Morrow is a speaker, author, consultant, and president of Peggy Morrow & Associates, a training and development firm specializing in highly customized speeches, seminars, and workshops