If wanting happy customers and an engaged staff was enough – everyone would have them. Instead, customer complaints are common and nearly 75% of employees are reportedly disengaged. What can you do to get customer service right? We found a great source of customer service tips from a health care professional in metro Detroit. 

 Meet Kristen Maike, PT WCS. She’s the Supervisor of the Adult Physical and Occupational Therapy Clinic at Beaumont Health System. Kristen is a service super-star – a board-certified clinical specialist in women’s health with a concentration in pelvic health. Working in a highly sensitive arena, she’s taken great care to create an environment that inspires both her employees and her customers to succeed. Here are three customer service tips based on Kristen’s approach:

#1. Go beyond listening.

Kristen’s approach to listening combines empathy with whole-self solution-finding. She listens for the underlying reasons that a patient may not be getting better.  Health and wellbeing depends on many variables. When stress at work, money issues or a relationship problem impacts the patient’s health, Kristen goes beyond listening and refers patients with confidence to other sources. That confidence comes from a collaborative effort.

Her highly skilled group has built a community of other health care professionals that include counselors and therapists who can aid in the patient’s ultimate success. “It sounds cliché, but it’s true. When you build a team of connectors and collaborators, customers feel better cared for and supported,” Kristen said, “Realize that you’re not an island.”

What about you?

·       In your industry, what does it look like to go beyond listening?

·       What collaborative efforts do you use to solve your customers underlying issues?  

·        How can you take listening to the next level?

#2. Break down boundaries.

Every organization has rules to follow. “Certain regulations need to be followed to be legal and ethical,” Kristen said, “Then there are those rules – that we created – that can be bent when it becomes a barrier to delivering the best possible service to our patients.”

To break down boundaries, Kristen encourages her team to be creative by exploring possibilities. When a staff member says, “We have to do this because it’s the rule.” She reminds them, “We made the rule. We can change the rule.”

A case in point:

On a day she was scheduled to work in her West Bloomfield, Michigan office, Kristen had a dilemma. Her customer was driving a long distance for outpatient treatment. Kristen wanted to help her secure a comfortable, affordable hotel room but the nearby choices were limited.    

What did Kristen do?

She changed her schedule so she could see her patient at the hospital location – making it possible for her to stay at a nice hotel that better met her needs. “I knew that her treatment would be more successful if I made sure she was comfortable,” Kristen said, “She was very appreciative.”

A simple change in “the way you do things” can make a world of difference to the customer experience. Kristen’s focus is to maximize her patient’s treatment and outcome.  First, she actively listened in a way that gave her a full picture of the patient’s needs. Then she took the extra effort to break down a boundary to give her patient a more worthwhile experience.

What about you?

·       Can you identify rules that were put in place for internal convenience, but may be a barrier to customer satisfaction?

·       Have you talked with your staff about which rules are required and which ones are flexible?

·       In what ways can you break down boundaries to improve the customer experience?

#3. Engage with your staff.

As a supervisor, Kristen treats her staff as well as she expects them to treat patients. She says, “When they are happy and supported, then our patients will feel happy and supported.”

How does she create a happy and supportive workplace?

She’s created strong, personal connections with her team. “I’m their supervisor AND we’re colleagues,” Kristen said, “I have more responsibility, but we’re colleagues. I truly feel that way.” Kristen understands that, like customers, her colleagues have needs. So, she’s creative with them, the same way they are with customers.

For example:

Kristen didn’t want anyone on staff to miss out on their kids’ activities. The problem was they had a strict structure that made taking time off stressful for everybody – the staff, the front-office, and the patient.

By revising the way patients and staff were scheduled, they’ve made it easier and less burdensome for colleagues to take time to be with their family when they need to – in a way that no longer disrupted patient appointments. A staff member can now get blocked off the schedule ahead of time.  That way patients aren’t given a spot and then made to move, and the front desk doesn’t’ have to take valuable time to reschedule those appointments.  

The result? “The staff is hardworking and gives it their all,” Kristen said, “They feel supported and want to make the clinic successful.”  

What about you?

·       In what ways do you engage with your staff and show that you value them?

·       Are there stressful internal policies that could be improved with some creative problem solving?

·        What can you do to create an even happier and more supportive workplace environment?

Bottom line?

It’s all about finding solutions. “I say it to my kids, myself and my staff,” Kristen said, “There’s always a solution. But, if you lock yourself into one thing, and that doesn’t work, then you’ll feel like there’s no solution.” When you step back to look at the big picture, you’ll be better equipped to come up with a solution.

 

Written by Marilyn Suttle, conference speaker, trainer, and bestselling author who works with organizations to ensure a strong customer focus and successful leadership teams. Reach out to Marilyn by email at: Marilyn@MarilynSuttle.com

Resources to support your service excellence:

Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan by Marilyn Suttle and Lori Jo Vest is known as the business bible – a blueprint for client service success.

Taming Gladys! The Busy Leader’s Guide to Creating Fierce Customer Loyalty is filled with activities you can do with your staff to keep customer loyalty strong.

The Customer Service Roadmap is an in-house customer service training program designed for employees who have front line customer contact, face-to-face, telephone, email, chat, forums, etc. It’s a series of short, bite-sized courses focused on developing 7 core customer service skills.

It’s almost here! Customer Service Week starts October 2 and it’s THE BEST time to acknowledge your service providers. Making time to appreciate your team for taking care of your customers gets results – it encourages even more service excellence.

We’re suggesting “Building Trust” as the theme for the week. Use the whole week – in quick, easy meetings – to learn how they can create more trust in their customer relationships. When customers trust you, they want to do business with you. It’s good for loyalty, whether you’re a B2B or B2C business.

We’ve created a Customer Service Week Planning Guide to make it quick and easy for you to celebrate your team’s service excellence and inspire them to amp up their skills.

Plan Your Own Customer Service Week Celebration with These Guidelines

You can download the plan for the week here: WYG-2017-Customer-Service-Week-Planning-Guide

Watch Our Introductory Video

We introduce the week’s activities and provide some tips for maximizing effectiveness in this video:

About the Authors

Marilyn Suttle (Novi, MI) is the President of Suttle Enterprises LLC, through which she has spent 20 years keynoting and training people across the country on how to have happier, more productive relationships, stay calm under pressure and gain the trust and cooperation of customers, coworkers, family and friends.

Lori Jo Vest (Troy , MI) spent 20+ years of her career in customer-facing sales and leadership positions. Her time in the trenches has informed her approach to service, which is focused on helping people learn how to think in a way that has stellar service become a natural “way we do things.”

Marilyn Suttle and Lori Jo Vest were selected by AMACOM (the American Management Association’s publishing arm) to create their first customer service book, Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan. The book launched in 2009, becoming an instant bestseller. Publisher’s Weekly said, in their review of Who’s Your Gladys?:

It’s the substantive, down-to-earth advice that sets this book apart from its competitors, as well as the helpful chapter-end sections, which contain practical points and thought-provoking questions and answers. The whole is an extremely well-organized and easy to use guide illuminated by the authors’ obvious passion for customer service.” 

These authors created a second book – Taming Gladys! The Busy Leader’s Guide to Creating Fierce Customer Loyalty – after seeing a need for an internal training tool for their clients who wished to maintain their customer service focus after a live program had been completed. The book contains content for twelve service-focused meetings that can be held with little or no advance preparation.

Suttle and Vest are also the featured experts in The Customer Service Road Map online course, having been handpicked from over 150 of North America’s top authors, speakers and trainers by the supplier of the course. This course takes a “micro-learning” approach, delivering service skills lessons in short, bite-sized segments. The expertise and communication skills of Suttle and Vest, combined with a patent-pending learning model, resulted in an engaging learning program that guarantees results.

 

 

People who work in Customer Operations know of the “Alphabet Soup” of customer service performance metrics. There’s the old-school customer satisfaction (CSAT) score, i.e. simply asking customers if they’re satisfied. Then there are the productivity metrics, like Average Speed of Answer (ASA), Average Handling Time (AHT), and After Call Work (ACW). Some focus on the customer’s call experience by measuring Customer Effort (CE) score, which considers transfers, hold-times and channels they used to resolve their concern.

Many companies also turn to Net Promoter Score (NPS) after Fred Reichheld identified in the early 2000’s that this key metric is heavily correlated to company performance. This is a fantastic metric, if this correlation is true for your organization. In stark reality, NPS is interesting although not necessarily actionable. If your scores aren’t where you want them to be, how do you know what you need to do to improve them? You’ll need to analyze demographics, customer tenure, geographic segment, product choices and more.

So what is the most important metric? We’ll get to that in a bit.

I met Brian Powers at a at a SOCAP event (yet another acronym – Society of Customer Affairs Professionals) in Michigan. He spoke about reinventing customer service with a fun, interactive presentation, based on his consulting and personal experience managing contact centers.

Brian’s perspective is based on overseeing 300+ Verizon team members at two centers, followed by fifteen years of consulting. He knows first-hand the ins and outs of the critical Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and how each one impacts performance, based in the 100s of centers he’s advised.

“Focusing on KPIs has the net effect of squeezing a proverbial balloon,” he told us. “When we improve on one, assume there can be a corresponding change to another.”

Brian shared a story of a leadership team that wanted to focus on handling time, intending that shorter handling time would help ASA and possibly allow them to put fewer reps on each shift shift. The Quality Assurance monitoring saw an immediate deterioration in performance as Reps skipped critical closing statements, bypassed account security or provided incomplete answers to customer questions. They satisfied the goal of lower AHT but customer experience suffered and compliance risks increased.

So what’s Brian’s take on all of these KPIs? The best measure of a company’s customer experience is support needs (self-service, IVR, app, phone, email, chat, etc.) per year and especially during the first 30 days. He said, “The idea is to create a frictionless customer experience where the customer needs are anticipated and satisfied before it becomes an issue.”

Companies that buy into this philosophy use their data. They analyze feedback and call disposition records to identify missed expectations, then use an empowered cross-company customer experience team to improve collateral, ensure a consistent omni-channel sales message, and properly set expectations from day one.

This is especially important in today’s subscription-based economy where so many of our purchases are services with renewable contracts – consider cable/satellite TV, cellular phone plans, music streaming services and shopping memberships like Costco and Amazon Prime. A majority of customers who switch decide to do so in the very first month of service. They wait for their earliest opportunity to change and they’re gone!

Another reason to adopt this approach? Younger consumers overwhelmingly prefer resolving issues themselves. Today, 67% of contact centers are investing in live chat options. Before a call to service, 72% of customers will search your website for answers, so be sure it’s set up to help customers help themselves. A growing trend is enabling them to help each other by setting up user portals or monitored sites to let them collaborate to resolve common issues and share user best practices. And – bonus – those sites also provide valuable insights to the company on what ails customers the most.

In summary, the most important KPI is customers seeking support over a certain time period. Document your customer’s typical experience to identify pain points and moments of truth. Turn to your employees to help identify ways to improve processes. They truly want to handle complex issues and help you automate mundane tasks. As for the alphabet soup of KPI’s, choose the golden few and ensure the focus on the ones you pick doesn’t degrade other KPI’s to an extreme.

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Lori Jo Vest is the co-author of “Who’s Your Gladys?” and “Taming Gladys!” Learn more about Lori on LinkedIn: Lori Jo Vest, Consultant/Author

Brian Powers is certified in customer experience by the CXPA and is a keynote speaker & blogger on the industry. He’s passionate about customer experience and completes every survey opportunity he ever receives. https://www.linkedin.com/in/brianpowersatlanta/

Consider the following resources to support your team’s customer service efforts:

Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan by Marilyn Suttle and Lori Jo Vest  – a blueprint for client service success

Taming Gladys! The Busy Leader’s Guide to Creating Fierce Customer Loyalty is filled with activities you can do with your staff to keep customer loyalty strong.

The Customer Service Roadmap is an in-house customer service training program designed for employees who have front line customer contact, face-to-face, telephone, email, chat, forums, etc. It’s a series of short, bite-sized courses focused on developing 7 core customer service skills.

Ever feel like the human connections in customer service are at risk? Even with advancements in artificial intelligence, combined with more use of chatbots and pre-recorded messages, creating strong, human connections with customers reigns supreme when it comes to customer loyalty.

I got a call the other night from the Red Cross. As a regular blood donor, I get calls with incentives (t-shirts and the like) to schedule an appointment at a blood drive in my area. On this particular evening, I was making dinner, so it was a bit unusual that I even picked up the phone.

The gentlemen that called me began with what I’m sure was a scripted introduction. As we got into our conversation, I would tell him what I was doing – chopping onions, slicing potatoes, and so on. I was making breakfast for dinner, with the usual fried potatoes, scrambled eggs and toast. I mentioned how much my husband loved it when I made it and the Red Cross rep – let’s call him David – joined me in my cooking conversation. Apparently, breakfast for dinner is one of his favorites, too.

David kept going through his script, though I noticed that he was great at making it more personal and adding his own touches. Then there came a point in the conversation where he needed to look up blood drives in my area on the computer. And it was s-l-o-o-o-o-w!

While we waited for the computer to catch up, we went on to more cooking and food-related subjects. Apparently, David is a 40 year old man who, despite his age,  can eat whatever he wants, and besides breakfast for dinner, he LOVES barbecue. How did I get that information? David had a gift of connection. I felt like talking and he went with me. We ended up laughing and sharing a few quick stories during what could have been a frustrating wait for technology. (I must admit, I was hoping that David’s service scores weren’t getting “dinged” by our lengthy conversation.)

In the end, the blood drive list came up and I scheduled an appointment to give a pint. (Of course!)

According to recent research from Accenture, 83% of customers prefer to talk to customer service PEOPLE over trying to get customer service issues solved through digital channels. Companies that continue to emphasize human connections in customer service – even if they increase their use of automation and take advantage of advances in technology and artificial intelligence – are sure to notice a positive difference in their customer satisfaction scores.

So how can you ensure your team is making a human connection with your customers?

Have a Mantra. We like to emphasize that customers are “people, not problems.” While it may sound a bit trite, haven’t we all been on a call or a meeting and just wanted the customer to GO AWAY because they’re being challenging, difficult or annoying? Of course! During those times, it helps to remember the human factor. There are a million different reasons that a customer might be upset, and if you can remind yourself of their humanity, it’s usually easier to provide better service. “People, not problems” is short and easy to remember. Feel free to use it!

Train on Soft Skills. Training on skills like composure, compassion and customer focus works. Your team can only deliver service that creates a strong human connection if they’ve been trained to provide it. This also ensures consistency, so customers don’t experience different levels or styles of service with different staff members.

Huddle. Having a pre-shift or morning “huddle,” i.e. a quick 10- to 15-minute team meeting, ensures that everyone is on the same page, knows what’s up for the day, and feels prepared. You can sprinkle in tips for managing difficult customers and share day-to-day examples of strong customer engagement, emphasizing creating the human connection in customer service.

These tips come from our book “Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan.”

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Lori Jo Vest is the co-author of “Who’s Your Gladys?” and “Taming Gladys!” Learn more about Lori on LinkedIn: Lori Jo Vest, Consultant/Author

Like our posts?

Pick up our customer service bootcamp-in-a-book: Taming Gladys! The Busy Leader’s Guide to Creating Fierce Customer Loyalty

Read our first book: Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan

Check Out Our Turnkey, In-house Customer Service Training Program:  The Customer Service Roadmap

Book a dynamic keynote or training.

 

 

 

 

National news, Twitter and YouTube are loaded with examples of customer service gone wrong. While there are lessons to learn from service breakdowns, there’s even more value in following leaders who share a consistent set of guiding principles for “getting service right.” Harry D. Cohen and his wife Jan Cohen excel at leadership for customer service excellence.

The Cohens own the Black Pearl Restaurant in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The reasons this upscale seafood and martini bar is successful go far beyond the delicious food and quality customer experience. They stem from a clear and consistent approach to leadership. It’s simple enough that any company can adapt it, and yet so simple that it’s easy to overlook.

KNOWING ISN’T DOING

Harry invited me to have dinner at The Black Pearl to discuss his approach to achieving high profitability, engaged employees and customer retention. Basically, they follow a set of principles like being a good listener, showing compassion, earning trust, and using kindness in all situations. In addition to the restaurant, Harry owns a management consulting practice, offers executive coaching, and has earned a PhD in psychology.

Turns out, The Black Pearl is not simply a restaurant, it’s a place where Harry puts into practice what he’s been teaching other businesses to do for years.

BE THE SUN, NOT THE SALT

I first heard about Harry D. Cohen from a client who sent me a link to Harry’s must-watch TEDx Talk on positive leadership. Harry explained that in nature, there is what’s called a Heleotropic Effect – a tendency to move towards energy that is life sustaining, and away from what is life depleting. A plant’s leaves lean toward the sun. Though, when you pour salt water in the soil, the plants roots contract away from the salt.

It’s a great analogy for leadership. People who take a positive approach to leading and serving customers make people feel great. While, those who act “salty” – being negative, indifferent or self-involved – cause people to pull away and retreat.

YOUR PEOPLE TELL THE STORY

What would your employees say about working at your organization? Would they rave about their coworkers and leadership? Roll their eyes? Or something in between? Are they happy with the support and training they receive? It’s easy for a leader to talk about creating positive experiences for their staff and customers, but putting it into practice takes action.

Harry was confident in his team’s happiness, so he let me to talk with some of his employees. The woman who greeted me when I arrived had only been with the company for a couple of weeks. “Everyone has been so welcoming and supportive,” she told me. As she talked about her position, her coworkers and her training, it wasn’t so much her words but her “being” that I was paying attention to.  Like the difference between a fake and a real smile, you can just tell when someone is genuinely happy with their work environment.

 

I also spoke with a server who had been with The Black Pearl for an extended period of time. Have you noticed that in negative workplace environments, long time employees tend to slip into resignation or robotic behavior? Not this server. He was energized, serving our table with care and charisma. When I asked him about working at The Black Pearl, his eyes lit up. He was a great example of what happens when your leader is a positive energizing manager. It’s contagious! Leadership concepts – like teamwork, respect, forgiveness when things go wrong, and compassionate guidance when it’s needed – are not just great in theory. They work when they’re put into practice every day.

THE VALUE OF SELF-AWARENESS

Leaders sometimes respond to the pressures of responsibility with hostility, especially when employees make mistakes that cause customers to complain. Having strong self-awareness makes it easier to remain calm under pressure and stay true to the values of your organization. It doesn’t just happen. Self-awareness and resilience need to be developed and become part of a consistent daily practice.

I recognized strong self-awareness in Harry. The principles he leads with – authenticity, follow-through and commitment to your team – are simple, though using them consistently takes awareness and focus.

I asked Harry, “Have you done a lot of personal development work?”  He gave a resounding, “Yes!”  Continuous improvement isn’t just a great idea, it’s the way things are done for those who excel with customer service.

INNOVATION THROUGH LISTENING

To keep a business fresh, enticing and relevant over time means being receptive to new ideas and ways of serving customers. Harry and Jan have a friend who was starting a business growing micro greens. The Cohens were immediately interested. Micro greens are a flavorful nutrient-packed, visually pleasing power food – perfect for health conscious consumers and those who want something that tastes as good as it looks.

They invited their friend to use the lower level of the restaurant to grow microgreens. It took off! They now serve microgreen salads and sell the product to other local businesses. Harry took me on a tour of the lower level to see rows and rows of lit beds filled with luscious inch-long sprouting greens. They’re now exploring the idea of franchising the micro greens endeavor.

Listening is a critical skill to successful customer service. Listening to colleagues, customers, and trends in the market take customer experiences to greater heights.

WHAT’S NEXT?

In addition to the restaurant, Harry has a new book in the works based on his TEDx Talk. His first book, “Secrets of the Obvious,” challenges the assumption that personal improvement is an overly complex process that is difficult and challenging. A visit to The Black Pearl offers a shining example of how simple it can be. (Though we’d never imply it’s without effort!)

The best piece of advice I heard from Harry D. Cohen is this:  “Be the sun, not the salt. Leave an afterglow not an aftertaste.”

 

What about you? What practices have you put in place to create a positive workplace that that offers exceptional  customer service?

 

Written by Marilyn Suttle, conference speaker, trainer, and bestselling author who works with organizations to ensure a strong customer focus and successful leadership teams. Reach out to Marilyn by email at: Marilyn@MarilynSuttle.com  

Resources to support your service excellence:

Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan by bestselling authors Marilyn Suttle and Lori Jo Vest is known as the business bible – a blueprint for client service success.

Taming Gladys! The Busy Leader’s Guide to Creating Fierce Customer Loyalty is filled with activities you can do with your staff to keep customer loyalty strong.

The Customer Service Roadmap is an in-house customer service training program designed for employees who have front line customer contact — face to face, telephone, email, chat, forums, etc.  Instead of a one-time training event, we offer a series of short, bite-sized courses focused on developing 7 core customer service skills.

Kyle Mini

My son is a huge MINI Cooper fan and it’s not hard to figure out why. It’s all about the customer experience.

Kyle’s first car, purchased just a few short years ago, is a 2004 MINI Cooper S. Little did I know, when he made that purchase, he joined a cultish group of MINI fan(atics).

One of the ways that MINI USA keeps their customers connected with a stellar customer experinece is by holding events, like the bi-annual MINI Takes the States (MTTS), a caravan of the car company’s vehicle owners, along with representatives from both the dealers and the manufacturer.

The brand has managed to make their loyalists, even more loyal with these events, which allow their representatives to mix and mingle with their customers in a way that’s highly unusual.

Unique Customer Experience Equals Customer Loyalty

Here’s one consumer’s comment that I came across right after the MTTS event.

“A BIG Shout out goes to MINI USA for the way they treat their loyal customers. How many other car makers do you know that would even consider something like MTTS. This was a two and a half week mobile party that spanned our country. … It’s amazing anyone could throw a 15 day party, much less at different venues each morning and evening. The logistics must have been a great challenge, but they did it without a hitch. Not only the ‘Pit Crew’ members, but the MINI USA executives as well, pitched in and drove the entire way. They made themselves available to every Mini enthusiasts that wanted to talk, and they listened. In addition, they provided MINI Roadside Assistance and towing as necessary. Great effort on a job well done.” 

During the event, story after story gets posted on the event’s social media page about how the MTTS crew helps them with any car trouble or breakdowns they experience. Plus, this year’s event had a fundraising component that resulted in over a million meals being donated to Feeding America and even a marriage proposal and a wedding!

The MTTS 2018 Facebook page already has over 4,000 fans and counting. So, here’s a question to ponder as you read this article. What could your company or your department, or even you yourself, do to create stronger relationships and make your customers feel special?

Let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear how you enhance the customer experience for your customers!

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Like our posts?

Pick up our newest book: Taming Gladys! The Busy Leader’s Guide to Creating Fierce Customer Loyalty

Read our first book: Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan

Check Out Our Turnkey, In-house Customer Service Training Program:  The Customer Service Roadmap

Book a dynamic keynote or training.

dreamstime_xl_21158278While many companies like to combine stellar customer service with a subtle up-sell to grow their sales, there’s a fine line between an up-sell and a turn-off. Here’s a great example of what not to do.

I had 10 minutes to squeeze in a quick call. I rang my phone provider, asked my question, and got an answer. Easy-and-done! What happened next damaged the customer relationship and left me open to switching providers.  Could this be happening to your customers?

“Today is my birthday, so I want to do something nice for you,” the service rep said. He offered to take $5 off my monthly phone bill because I’m a good customer who also uses their internet and TV services.  Nice surprise!

“Thank you! And Happy Birthday,” I said.

“You’re welcome!” he said. “Since it’s my birthday I’m going to do even more for you.”

He offered to give me a $25 gift card if I purchased a service protection plan.

“It will work out to be only $1 a month,” he said.

I didn’t feel a need for the protection plan, but the value seemed to deem a few minutes of my time to hear him out.  He glossed over the details, focused heavy on the benefits and pushed me to agree.

Bending the Truth Damages Trust

I almost bit, but something wasn’t adding up. I insisted on confirming the details and discovered that it would cost me $97 a year.  He explained he was factoring in the $5 monthly phone savings, and gift card, and emphasized that I could cancel anytime.

“I appreciate the $5 off my phone bill, but I don’t want the service protection program,” I said.

“You can only have the $5 monthly savings on your phone if you take the service protection plan,” he said.

Was he serious? I was under the impression that one had nothing to do with the other. When I questioned him, his reply was, “This is a good offer. It’s my birthday today and I really want to make you happy.”

Inauthentic Communication Kills Connection

He was milking the birthday thing. Mentioning it three times smacked of manipulation – an inauthentic tactic to make his customers more agreeable.

I noticed the time. My quick call had turned into a 20-minute time suck.

“You wasted my time with a bait and switch and turned me into a very unhappy customer,” I said.

Before the call, I was a long-time loyal customer of 18 years.  Now, I’m left wondering – is the company’s leadership supporting this smarmy approach to up-selling? Could this be a single service provider’s ineffective approach? Either way, leadership is accountable for the results. And the result is they’ve lost my trust and respect. Can they earn it back? Perhaps. Though, once lost, trust is not easily restored. Customers don’t always stick around to give you the chance.

What can you do to keep inauthentic communication from killing customer loyalty?

Bring this post to your next leadership meeting to discuss.

When it comes to communicating with customers:

  • What is the company doing well?
  • How might you be encouraging (or being blind to) tactics that ultimately damage customer trust?
  • What processes are in place (or need to be added) to ensure quality communication?

When you create ongoing cycles to evaluate, improve, and measure the customer experience at each point of contact, you’ll also create marked improvement in service quality.

Want help with training and consulting to bring out the best in every customer, even Gladys? Contact us today.

Marilyn Suttle is a customer experience expert, international speaker, and coauthor of the bestselling book, Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan  and Taming Gladys! The Busy Leader’s Guide to Creating Fierce Customer Loyalty. Marilyn delivers customer service and communication keynotes and workshops to help her audiences create strong, productive relationships in every area of life. For more information, email: marilyn@marilynsuttle.com 

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Like our posts?  Get more:

Pick up our NEW BOOK RELEASE: Taming Gladys! The Busy Leader’s Guide to Creating Fierce Customer Loyalty

Buy our first book: “Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan”

Check Out Our Turnkey, In-house Customer Service Training Program:  The Customer Service Roadmap

Book a dynamic workshop or training.

 

Frame from Trailer for New Customer Service BookUse this quick exercise to help everyone on your team to sharpen their service skills. It comes from our game-changing new customer service book, Taming Gladys: The Busy Leader’s Guide to Creating Fierce Customer Loyalty which officially launches TODAY!

Team Exercise:

 Ask everyone on the team to pretend to be the customer and come up with one request that your company would have to reject. One by one, make the request and have each person write down his or her responses. 

Once written, have one person collect the answers and read them out loud. Repeat this with each team member’s customer request. You’ll notice the team becoming more skillful after each round. 

Why it works:

This simple exercise creates lasting changes in the way your team thinks and acts with customers. Why? They get to hear how their peers handle tough situations. They get to collaborate and practice new ways of approaching tough situations and share what they do that works. Doing this type of exercise will create positive changes in the way customers feel about your company.

Watch this trailer about our customer service book to learn more about Taming Gladys:

Our new customer service book Taming Gladys!gives you quick, easy-to-use-right-now ways of creating lasting customer loyalty that produces higher profits, word of mouth referrals and ongoing business success. Order your copy now and get a copy for everyone on your team. Check out our bonus offer at: www.TamingGladys.com

 

 

 

No one wakes up in the morning thinking, “Today I’m going to alienate my customers.” Yet, epic fails in customer service occur every day. Could you be sabotaging your success without realizing it? Check out these top ten common things that cause customers to stop working with you and seek out the competition.

1. Wing it. You may intuitively know how to handle customers well, but consistent high level service across all team members is what keeps them coming back. Customers expect all service providers to offer the same responsiveness, the same attention to detail, and the same high level of care. Does every employee in your organization have the same definition of what it means to be responsive? Does everyone set out to make the customer feel valued? Are standards in place so that the customer experience is consistently great? If not, you’re sending mixed messages. Don’t wing it. Set clear standards for positive client experiences to increase your number of happy customers.

 2. Call all the shots. Confidence is a good thing, though even if you’re brilliant, have good instincts, and a great track record, you can’t know what you don’t know. Everyone has blind spots. Rather than assume you always know what’s best, make a practice of asking for the ideas of people in different areas and departments. There’s knowledge to be gained from those who work closely with customers, vendors or other team members. There is brilliance within your company just waiting to be found. Encourage everyone to share their best ideas and factor it into your decisions to produce the best possible results.

 3. Avoid uncomfortable conversations. Customers sometimes leave scathing emails and angry voice mail messages. Coworkers cop attitudes. Those in positions above (and below) you sometimes lack insight into how service breakdowns could be avoided. People shy away from uncomfortable conversations when they’re afraid of conflict or worry that things will only get worse if they call out what’s wrong. That avoidance becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. Conflict, well-handled, creates clarity, awareness and stronger relationships. Approach uncomfortable conversations with compassion and curiosity. Set out to understand the other person’s point of view and share your thoughts with the intention of making things better for everyone. Some conversations take preparation so you’re in a responsive instead of reactive state of mind, but don’t let that “preparation” be an excuse for putting it off too long. Ask for help when you need it, and communicate in a way that turn even the most upset people into a happy customers.

4. Put tasks before people. If you’ve ever waited while a service provider refills a napkin dispenser, tends to paperwork, or takes a lengthy phone call, you know how irritating it can be. Put the customer relationship first. Tasks must get done, but there are ways of making customers feel important, even when there’s a short wait involved. Make eye contact, greet them, or take a moment to pause and say, “I’ll be off this phone call very soon. Sorry for the wait.” Review any point of customer contact where tasks interfere with your ability to be attentive to the customer to find solutions that create a more positive impression.

5. Pit internal team members against each other. You may not intend to drive down sales with internal competition, though are you? A CEO I worked with saw sales go up dramatically when he changed individual commissions to a commission pool. His sales team now works collaboratively so that customers experience seamless service that’s not dependent on individual sales staff schedules. When team members feel it’s not safe to work collaboratively or share problems, progress is slowed. Teams that support one another are more likely to find solutions and make the customer happy more quickly.

6. See customers as problems, not people. Your body language and tone of voice contribute more to communication that you might expect. Customers can read your dislike or mistrust of them. It impacts their experience and the likelihood of ongoing business with them. Your mindset matters. When a customer is angry or complains, don’t take it personally. See each customer as a person first – someone who needs your help. When their words are harsh, realize that they’re doing the best they know how to do in that moment. See it as a call for help and give yourself the challenge of converting them from upset to utterly pleased. You have the power to increase your number of happy customers, but only when you focus on strengthening the relationship.

7. Solve problems too quickly. When customers complain, they want you to listen. They need to have their concerns heard and validated. Don’t interrupt their complaints by jumping in with a solution. Doing so leaves them feeling dismissed and frustrated. They’ll be receptive to a solution only after they feel heard and understood. Slow down and let the customer vent. Validate their feelings and needs first. Then, offer a solution.

8. Stop investing in yourself. You’ll never be done learning, especially not if you want to stay relevant in your field. Invest in continuous improvement. The more you improve your competencies and those of your team, the more relevant you will be to your customers. Read books. Stay current on trends in your industry, and regularly invest time and money in training.

9. Let the few ruin it for the many. There will always be that customer who tries to take advantage, lie, or cheat. While that may be true, most customers are good people. It’s easy to get jaded and make good customers jump through hoops to resolve service issues. Review your policies to find those that may be having a negative impact on customers. Don’t make customers go through extremes to resolve a problem that could be easily handled. The easier you make it to do business with you, the more business customers will bring you.

10. Forget to make good last impressions. A lot is said about making good first impressions, but what about the value of last impressions? At the end of every customer interaction you have an opportunity to leave them feeling good about working with you. And those last impressions leave a lasting impression. Check in with customers by asking, “Is there anything else I can help you with today?” Review what’s been done. Thank the customer for their business, and take a moment to say, “I look forward to working with you again!” How you treat the customer after a service or sale matters. It influences how likely they’ll be to come back and what they tell their friends and family about their experience. Make those last moments count.

What about you? Have you found this top ten list helpful? What would you add?

Marilyn Suttle is a customer experience expert, professional conference speaker, and coauthor of the bestselling book, Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan. Marilyn delivers customer service and communication skills keynotes and workshops, to help her audiences create strong, productive relationships in every area of life. For more information email: marilyn@marilynsuttle.com or visit www.whosyourgladys.com.

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