Ginaherald's Blog

August 20, 2010

You can cut the ad budget if you invest in customer service training

Filed under: Uncategorized — ginaherald @ 1:34 am

This economy, along with the competitive nature of the marketplace, you’d think would make companies get laser focused on things that are going to enhance their brand.  And maybe they are or they think they are.  Instead we find that marketing and training budgets are the first to get cut.  There’s little to no investment being made (by a lot of companies anyway), in strengthening their brand with existing customers or consistently putting it in front of potentially new customers.  And at a time when business is not as brisk is we’d like it to be, employees may have some time (unless of course they are doing the job of 3 people because of cut backs) to invest in professional development.

 This is a great time for companies to consider how they can invest in those employees who have “made the cut” and are still making a solid contribution to the company’s success.  Current leaders can use these slower times to do some focused work with up and comers who will be the next group of leaders.  It’s a perfect time to rededicate the team to exceptional customer experience.  If your company doesn’t have a clear service culture you’re missing out on a major opportunity to own your client’s loyalty over their lifetime as a customer.  Your customers have a lot of options these days and unless you set yourself apart in a meaningful way they’ll simply go elsewhere to spend what few dollars they are parting with right now.

Do you have a clear expectation set for your employees when it comes to customer experience?  Are they meeting the expectation?  Are they equipped and empowered to make decisions that serve your clients?  Do you set the example for them in everything you do as the owner, boss, manager, or leader?  Do you have a measurement in place?  How do you respond when the expectation is not met? 

It’s true that some people just think service, or the problem needs a solution by default and they make the job of customer service managers and leaders really easy.  For the rest they need someone to paint the picture for them and then provide an environment in which they can succeed.  Are you providing that at your company?  You won’t need as big of an ad budget if everyone is running around talking about how great it is to do business with your company, shop in your store, eat in your restaurant, stay in your hotel, be a member of your club, etc.  You can’t pay for that kind of advertising.  Got any thoughts on that?

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August 14, 2010

Characteristics of a customer service encounter

Filed under: Uncategorized — ginaherald @ 12:27 pm

Think about your favorite retail store, restaurant, car dealer, etc.   What is it about that company or establishment that makes it your favorite?  Great food?  Great service?  Great employees?  Great location? Great pricing?  A combination of the aforementioned qualities? When it comes to what we love about the companies we regularly do business with, most of them have some similarities based on customer surveys.

Among them are:  Fun/easy to do business with.  I know I love “easy to do business with” kind of companies.  Quick response/problem resolution (empowerment of front line employees).  Rather than anticipating a confrontation if we have a problem or concern (and we often go into them that way) these companies allow us to have a sense of relief that we’re going to get a quick and easy to accept resolution.  Follow up.  They do what they say they are going to do and check back in if necessary to confirm satisfaction.  Innovative.  We love innovation and creativity these days and appreciate those companies and organizations that demonstrate the ability to be innovators. They listen.  Wow.  Seems simple right?  Listening is a critical component of successful communication and one that few of us do often enough. Most folks when they have a problem are just glad that someone will actually show an interest in hearing them out and taking on the problem to get it solved. 

Our not so favorite companies have a few things in common too of course. They tend to be:  Indifferent and we can usually tell when someone has an attitude of indifference by body language as much as words.  They are difficult to do business with.  Could be due to location, business hours, return policy, service policy or any number of other things.  Management is out of touch with the customer and those who provide front line service to the customer.  Happens particularly when managers take an attitude of superiority to team members rather than the attitude of a servant.  Unresponsive.  They won’t return your call, expedite your shipment, refill your drinks.  They pass the buck.  It wasn’t my fault, my responsibility, someone else is to blame.  Many of us have heard that before. 

What astounds me is that struggling companies don’t see the error of their ways when they question why the competition is doing so much better.  Most of what we love are the kind of things that are very simple to implement. They take a commitment but it’s worth it in the long run to serve clients. 

What is it that you love about your favorite restaurant, retail store or service provider?

August 6, 2010

The simple truth about customer service

Filed under: Uncategorized — ginaherald @ 12:57 am

I know I’m a little crazy when it comes to this subject. I just continue to be amazed at the number of stories I hear on a daily basis about customer service when I engage people in conversations about the topic.  The good news is that I’ll probably never run out of things to chat about in this little blog post.  I hope along the way we’ll shift some paradigms and solve some problems while we’re chatting. 

 I hear a lot of recurring themes as I “span the globe” (and my little world here in Charlotte) chatting about my favorite subject.  Several things that most distressing customer service situations seem to have in common are:  A general expression of apathy on the part of the employee, no sense of urgency to correct a problem/deal with a situation, lack of knowledge and lack of empowerment. 

All of these things can be overcome pretty simply.  One of my favorite speakers/authors is Larry Winget, because I love people who tell the truth.  Larry says that “customer service doesn’t get better until people get better”.  He is correct on that statement of fact.  The great thing about that is that most people have the potential to get better.  (Those that don’t need to be gone from your organization, if I may be so bold as to tell the truth). 

The implication for leaders is your people don’t get better until you get better.  Until you set and manage clear service expectations.  Until you totally equip them with all the knowledge and tools they need to do the job you expect them to do.  Until you empower them to solve problems and then trust them to do just that and finally, until you live by example, what you expect. 

It’s a full circle of “E’s”.  The one “e” that’s missing is probably “easy”, because while it is indeed simple, it is by no means easy.  Don’t confuse the two.  You’re dealing with people and when we deal with people there are frequent possibilities for misunderstanding, miscommunication and mischief. 

 They way I see it though; it’s worth it to work with your team to overcome the customer service challenges you are facing.  It’s one sure way to increase customer loyalty, satisfaction, referrals and sales.  All those add up to increased profits for your company. 

 What new customer service tool have you implemented recently and what was the outcome?  I’d love to hear what’s happening out there.

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