Trusted Advisor Blog Posts by Jeff Mowatt
Mini quiz reveals what your texts, posts, and emails really say about you
In today’s workplace employees spend less time talking and more time emailing, texting, and engaging on social media. Ever consider how those messages are perceived by your customers, coworkers, and even by your employer? To ensure your electronic image reflects your best self, take this mini quiz.
1. There’s a big difference in what you officially write at work, vs comments you post online on your own time.
a) True b) False
Ans: b). While theoretically there may be some anonymity in what you post “privately,” in reality your online presence makes no distinction between your personal and professional image. Virtually anyone can find out what you are supporting, denouncing, or commenting about online. Assume any comment you make about anyone will be read by that person, and possibly by others including your employer and customer. Any image or comment you post that comes across as mean spirited, inappropriate, or biased will hurt your reputation. Think twice before you hit send or post; both at work and at home.
2. Your email subject line most often:
a) Consists of a generic topic ie Anderson account or file 958303
b) Includes an action or a call to action ie Anderson account – yes they received the shipment
Better answer is b). Actions get noticed and calls to action get faster replies. The easier you make it for others to quickly get what you want or what you’re providing (by simply viewing your subject line), the more they’ll consider you to be efficient and easy to work with.
3. Your email signature line includes:
a) Your full name, title, and contact info including physical work address.
b) A generic title only ie “ABC company support service.”
c) There is no signature line when you email from your phone.
Best answer is a) Remember to include your full name and business contact info (even from your phone). The more anonymous you are, the more it appears to customers that you are hiding behind a veil of bureaucracy, and that you are avoiding taking responsibility. Conversely, by volunteering your full name and contact info, you demonstrate that you are comfortable being held accountable. Your stature is instantly elevated.
4. You provide written info in this order:
a) Sequentially – beginning with background info, then providing the conclusion or call to action.
b) Start with your main conclusion or call to action up front, then providing additional background, if needed.
Better answer is b). Get to the point. If you haven’t corresponded recently then it’s fine to start with hope you are well. Then get to the gist of what you’re trying to say. The background stuff if needed can come later. Short emails get read while long email get scanned and forgotten. Keep in mind when you’re communicating up the chain of command that senior managers rarely need or want all the background. When they ask for the temperature outside, they don’t want to know how to make a thermometer.
5. When communicating with customers you tend to:
a) Stick to providing facts about your products or services.
b) Provide products and service facts and how they benefit the customer.
The better answer is b). While in question #4 we stressed the importance of short messages, we don’t want customers to be short changed. To create extra perceived value simply add the words, “So that…” For example, rather than, “We’ll deliver it,” instead write, “We’ll deliver it so that it saves you a trip.
6. When giving someone bad news you:
a) Send a text, email, or letter so you don’t have to deal with their reaction.
b) Pick up the phone and talk to them, or at least leave a voice mail.
c) Go in person and talk to them.
Best answer is c) go in person, followed by b) phone them and follow-up in writing. Giving bad news in writing practically guarantees the recipient will want more information. If they don’t receive that additional info instantly, they’re more likely to either reply with a rant or opt to no longer deal with you, and instead escalate the matter further up the chain of command. You save zero time by writing bad news communiques. The written part should only be a confirmation of what you’ve discussed.
Bottom Line – Increasingly our interactions with customers, colleagues, and even with family members are taking the form of text on a screen. The sheer volume can lead to sloppiness and slipups that result in misinterpretation, hard feelings and even lawsuits. Keep in mind your written messages are permanent records. Since it’s your reputation that’s at stake, take a few moments to decide if you should post. Then use these tips to enhance what you post.
You may have noticed that while we are often on our best behavior when taking care of external customers, we sometimes forget how to treat our own coworkers. Check out this 2 minute video where I share a simple tip I learned from my mom and dad on how to improve relationships with coworkers and even with family members.
Which would you say describes your organization’s website?
a) Our website makes it easy for customers to
communicate with employees in a variety of ways.
b) Our website makes it difficult for customers to
actually talk with our employees.
I believe the better answer is a), yet it’s surprising how many managers – sometimes unknowingly – allow b) to happen on their websites.Evidently, many organizations are afraid to be accessible to their customers. Their websites hide or bury their contact information (particularly phone numbers) or don’t display an email address. Instead, they insist customers fill in online feedback forms. I understand the cost savings of having customers serve themselves with online information and artificial intelligence chat boxes. But that only works when you execute flawlessly, and customers understand exactly how to find out about, order, and use your products. If this isn’t the case all the time, then make it easy for customers to ask questions. Keep in mind that a single two minute phone conversation can often prevent several emails that end up taking 20 minutes of staff time to address. An easy competitive advantage in today’s e-commerce planet is simply being more accessible to customers.
4 strategies for dealing with reluctant customers
How do you think your customers would prefer to spend $1,000: a) towards a vacation of their choice or b) towards purchasing your products and services? If you hesitate because some customers might indeed opt for your company’s offerings over the vacation, then ignore the rest of this article. It means you sell fun stuff or experiences customers actually enjoy buying. Maybe you provide spa services, or sell luxury cars or upscale clothing. If on the other hand, you sell products and services that people buy because they have to; supplies for their business, winter tires, liability insurance, house repairs, braces for their kids, etc., then read on. After over 25 years of advising companies that deal primarily with reluctant customers, I’ve developed these 4 strategies for helping customers feel better about spending money on grudge purchases.
1. Focus on Task over Mood
If you sense your customers are rushed or frustrated, don’t ask them how they are. That question just reminds them that they’re not having a good experience. Instead, ask, “What can I do to make your day go a little better?” It helps keep the conversation positive while indicating you’re aware that they have other things they’d rather be doing.
Speaking of better word choices, avoid asking reluctant customers what they want or what they’d like. Frankly they don’t want to be there at all. Instead, phrase your questions along the lines of, “Would it be useful…?” “Would it make sense…?” “Would it be helpful…?” In general, we get better results with task oriented questions that focus on resolving the customer’s problem, than with questions that encourage customers to think about their mood.
2. Acknowledge Delays
A couple enjoying an appetizer at a fancy restaurant may not mind waiting if the main course is slightly delayed. On the other hand, a parent kept waiting past appointment time with a fidgety child in a crowded dental office needs an explanation. The dentist shouldn’t just ignore being late. She should start with, “Thanks for your patience today. A previous patient had a serious condition I needed to spend a little more time with. Rest assured we’ll take all the time we need to take care of you. Before I do, how’s your time – are we OK?” When customers agree to proceed they feel less taken for granted, more like they’ve regained control, and become more receptive to your service.
3. Share your Strategic Intent
Let begrudging customers know that you understand what they really want. An employee at a license plate registry office would do well to tell a customer who’s obviously running errands during lunchtime, “Let’s take care of this quickly so you can hopefully get a chance to eat.” A plumber replacing a hot water tank mentions, “At least now when you leave the house you’ll know that you won’t come home to a flood.” Customers may be focused on the immediate painful purchase. You need to remind them of the more positive strategic outcome.
4. Offer Pricing Perspective
By definition, people don’t enjoy spending money on grudge purchases. So with big ticket purchases it’s helpful to break the price down into something that sounds less daunting. So, rather than saying to a customer, “The new roof will be ten thousand dollars,” Instead say, “The new roof will be 10k.” Then compare that figure with their overall investment. “Keep in mind the new roof is protecting your seven hundred thousand dollar home investment. Whatever you invest in the roof is likely to increase the value of your home by at least that amount. Plus, of course you don’t have to worry about a hidden leak causing mold damage in your walls that can run into staggering costs and cause health issues.”
Bottom line – Too often, service providers fail to realize just how much customers don’t want to be there. That’s when employees appear to customers to be oblivious and uncaring. Meanwhile, these same employees wonder why customers are so demanding and grouchy. The good news is with a little training, employees can come across as wonderfully astute and empathetic. That makes for a more pleasant experience for everyone. Most importantly for your bottom line – customers become less resentful about sending their dollars your way.
It stands to reason that being a Trusted Advisor requires understanding customer and co-worker needs. The challenge is we may have plenty of knowledge, yet ironically have little impact. It happens when we quickly assess in our own minds the customer’s problem, then go straight to offering a solution. Simply being quiet and offering a solution doesn’t confirm that you really understand them. You’ll have more impact when you prove you understand their needs by stating, “It sounds like…” Then summarize your understanding of their needs. If you merely listen to a customer and offer a solution, the customer feels PROCESSED. If on the other hand, you listen and verify your understanding of their needs, then move to solution, your service now feels PERSONALIZED.
Jeff Mowatt is a customer service strategist, award-winning speaker, and bestselling author. For more tips, training tools or to inquire about engaging Jeff for your team visit www.JeffMowatt.com
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Ignore this tip if you manage a multibillion dollar brand like Apple, Coke, or McDonalds. Those companies are so established that customers have an emotional attachment to the brand name itself. If on the other hand, you manage a smaller organization, then chances are your customers have little attachment to your company name. Instead, they associate your brand with individual employees with whom they interact. That means you can spend money on marketing, product development, facilities, distribution etc, but if your customer interacts with just one employee who is having a bad day, or who isn’t fully trained on how to interact with stressed or rushed customers – then your entire brand (and all those other investments) takes the hit.
The only way to ensure all employees deliver consistent high quality service is through proper training. That’s a major challenge for companies who have high turnover or seasonal staffing issues. That’s why it makes sense to work with a training provider who offers the option of supplying a videographer to film the training to use as an orientation for future new hires. Bottom line – consistent service doesn’t happen by accident. If service isn’t consistent, don’t blame employees. Blame the manager who allocates resources to other corporate priorities; while neglecting training.
In marketing terms, your company’s Net Promoter Score indicates your customers’ willingness to recommend your products and services. Bringing this concept closer to home, ever wondered how likely people are to recommend you personally? For example, would your supervisor go to bat for you to support you receiving a pay raise? Are your competitors hearing about you from your customers and considering offering you a job? The likelihood of these kinds of recommendations is based on what I call your Trust Equity Score. The higher your trust equity, the more inclined people will be to recommend you to others, and be willing to pay a premium – literally – to do business with you. Take this quiz to discover your score out of 45 possible points…
Do you keep your promises?
Subtract 5 points if you occasionally use these phrases: I’ll try, I’ll do my best, I won’t be able to do it until tomorrow. Add 10 points if instead you often say, You’ll have it within 24 hours (and consistently deliver on that promise). It’s specific and positive, and when conveyed in precise hours, rather than in a day, it sounds shorter and more intentional. Tip – when you do deliver within 24 hours start your communication with, “As promised…” That way, it actually registers with others that you keep your word.
Do coworkers and customers see you as their friend or trusted advisor?
Give yourself a zero if most people at work see you as a friend. Add 5 points if they would describe you as a trusted advisor. Keep my little rhyme in mind: Friends compare and overshare. Advisors ask and stay on task. It’s a reminder to talk less and listen more. Focus the conversation on the other person and what their overall objectives are and why. People value the input of a strong listener over that of a smooth talker.
Do you look like a professional?
If you are often dressed and groomed more casually than your peers, and are in worse physical shape, subtract 5 points. If you are dressed and groomed slightly sharper than your peers, and are in better shape, add 5 points. In the real world whether it’s fair or not, people judge you by outward appearances. It’s a reflection of your self-esteem, self-discipline, and attention to detail. It should look like you put some effort (including exercising) into your appearance.
Are you involved in your profession?
Subtract 5 points if you are not a member of your professional/ industry/ trade association and never go to meetings. If you are a member and attend meetings add 5 points. If you also volunteer and serve in some capacity in your association, add 5 more points. Professional/trade associations give you the opportunity to network with peers in your industry. You learn from competitors who are actually willing to share. And you have the opportunity to give back while raising your profile. Do your personal brand a favour – pay your dues and get involved.
Do you ask for permission or forgiveness?
If you have a tendency to check with others before taking action, subtract 5 points. If you’re more inclined to adhere to the adage that, it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, add 5 points. Whatever your job title may be, people have more respect for those who are inclined to take action than those who wait to be told or given permission. If your organization penalizes people who take initiative, find someplace else to work.
Where are you when the chips are down?
When it comes to visiting people in hospitals, attending funerals, or dealing with upset customers, you tend to either: a) find an excuse to be somewhere else (subtract 5 points). Or b) show up even though you don’t want to be there (add 10 points). No one likes hospitals, funerals, or dealing with upset customers. That’s why when times are tough, people do notice who shows up. And yes they also notice those who don’t. There’s always an excuse for avoiding unpleasant situations, which is why showing up like a grown-up does so much for your reputation.
Your score out of 45?
Chances are if you took this quiz you probably scored pretty high. The fact that you’re reading this article indicates you are interested in learning and development: a strong trait. Increasing your trust equity and enhancing the value of your personal brand is simple – just take the steps outlined. Of course simple doesn’t mean easy. Trust-worthiness is after all, something we all have to earn.
Ignore this tip if you work for a monopoly. If however, your customers do have options to do business elsewhere, consider this. If your employees were able to generate more referrals by saying one sentence more often, imagine the impact to your bottom line. Keep in mind this money making strategy costs you nothing, reduces the need to discount your prices to gain new business, and strengthens the loyalty of your current customers.
I learned this technique from Corinne Lyall, Broker/Owner of Royal LePage Benchmark with over 150 associates. She’s also served as President of the Calgary Real Estate Board. She’s so sharp I asked her to be one of our panelists at the Customer Service Leadership Summit. Her tip for asking for and getting referrals is this… After you’ve provided exceptional service, the customer will usually thank you. The typical response to being thanked is, “You’re welcome.” In this case however, instead say to the customer, “The best thanks you can give me is to pass my name to other people who are just like you, because I LOVED working with you!” It tells customers (without being pushy) that you want them to recommend you, and who they should recommend you to, while simultaneously complimenting the customer. Not bad results for a simple sentence.
Dealing with upset customers is like feeding bears. Most will be happy you’re there, but a few will get really ugly if you don’t give them what they want. When things go wrong, how well is your team equipped? Having trained customer service teams for over 25 years – particularly those dealing with customers who are frustrated or stressed – I’ve put together this list of frequently asked questions about how to deal with internet trolls and regain lost trust with upset customers.
How should you respond to internet trolls and customers who post rude or unfair comments?
First gather the facts to determine whether this is an actual customer expressing a legitimate concern, or just an internet troll trying to provoke a response. In the case of a troll comment like, “This place is horrible” (with no details), don’t reply. The sooner that negative post is buried by overwhelmingly positive customer comments the better. When you do receive unflattering comments from actual customers, first try to contact them by phone to resolve the matter offline. If that’s not possible, then when replying in writing, stick to facts (not opinions), and remain professional and reasoned – not emotional. If there was indeed an error on your team’s part, apologize for the hassle and offer a remedy. Mention the steps you’ll take to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Express your appreciation for the customer bringing it to your attention.
How do you deal with a customer who’s swearing at you on the phone?
Say this: “I want to help you. Using that language is preventing me from focusing on resolving this for you, so I’m going to ask you to talk with me without using that language.” If they continue the profanity then say, “As I said before, I want to help you. However, I’m not going to do so when you’re using that language, so I’m going to hang up. Please call back when you’re ready to talk about this without that language. Good bye.” Then tell your supervisor about the conversation so they’ll be forewarned when the customer calls back demanding to speak to a manager.
What’s the fastest way to get an angry customer to calm down?
Listen without interrupting. After they finish venting, your first words should be, “That sounds frustrating.” Consider how this misstep may be affecting the customer and let them know that you get it. Take ownership and apologize for any shortfall or misunderstanding.
Why are customers ruder on the phone than in person?
Anonymity. Like road raging drivers in cars, people phoning in think they won’t be recognized. That’s why it’s important to begin the phone conversation by introducing yourself with your first and last name. Then immediately ask them for their name. The quicker they identify themselves the less likely they’ll become abusive.
What are other strategies for dealing with upset customers?
Tone it down – literally. By slowing your rate of speech and slightly lowering your voice tone, you sound less emotional and more rational. Speaking of speaking, don’t dumb down your language or over use filler words: kinda, sorta, like, ya know. The more articulate you are, the more intelligent you’ll be perceived to be, and the more respect you garner.
How can I get my staff to really care about unhappy customers?
Begin by hiring people who have some history in caring for others. Check if they volunteered or played on sports teams; indicating they’ve learned to work with others, and it isn’t always about them. Then provide them with proper customer communication training. Fortunately, employees don’t have to become proverbial bleeding hearts to effectively resolve customer concerns. They do however, need to learn techniques to put customers’ minds at ease. Contrast for example, when an untrained employee says, “I’ll deal with it,” versus, after we train them, employees instead say, “I’ll take care of it for you.” By simply changing a few words, service providers create better feelings for everyone.
Bottom line – by equipping employees with the proper customer service training, you end up with less staff turnover and fewer social media comments that bruise your brand. Best of all, employees discover that when you learn how to recover trust with unhappy customers, those formerly angry bruins can actually become teddy bears.
REDUCE CUSTOMER CONFLICTS
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