Have you noticed lately how many suspicious emails seem to arrive with attached (likely virus laden) documents? Hackers claim to either be Microsoft or tech support or announce that our Google passwords are about to expire. The scammers go as far as copying corporate logos to make the email seem legit. No wonder customers are leery about electronic messages. That brings me to you and your emails, and whether they enhance or reduce your credibility.
In my Trusted Advisor Customer Service seminars, we discuss how every interaction, whether in-person or electronically, either enhances or reduces trust. That means in-person we’ll gain more trust by simply introducing ourselves with our first and last names. By sharing our last name, we demonstrate a) we’re important enough to know - establishing status. And b) we are comfortable being held accountable. We’re not trying to hide or remain anonymous.
As for our emails to customers, similarly we sometimes don’t provide enough information in our email signature lines. If we don’t provide our first and last names, title, company name, and physical address and phone numbers, it looks like we may not be who we claim to be. It makes earning customer trust more difficult.
The simple lesson for earning trust faster with customers - when you have nothing to hide in your emails, then don’t make it seem like you’re hiding something. Simply ensure that your signature lines are open about who you are, where your company is based, and how to reach you.
In a perfect world, customer complaints wouldn't exist. In reality, there are lots of triggers that create customer frustration. Whether it's delayed deliveries, staffing shortages, or price increases, handling these concerns effectively is crucial - not only for your organization – but also for you and your team’s morale. Check out this short video where I reveal 5 tips for converting angry customers into a raving fans.
6 Tips for Reducing Customer Frustration
Are you noticing how customers are becoming more demanding? When managers bring me in to deliver customer service training for their teams, one of the most frequent concerns they share is how customers seem to be angrier, more frustrated, and more rushed than ever. But is that really true?
My experience over the 30 plus years that I’ve been speaking and training on the topic, is that customers aren’t necessarily grumpier. It’s that they occasionally receive service that’s faster than expected, like Amazon’s overnight delivery. And they’re also doing business with organizations like Uber that report real time the driver’s location, and exactly when they’ll arrive. So, customers aren’t necessarily grumpier, but their service expectations are higher.
The good news for managers and frontline staff is we don’t necessarily need to speed up our service; especially when there are staffing shortages and supply chain issues. We just need to improve the way we manage customer expectations. Here are 6 easy ways to make that happen.
1. Opt for Trust over People Pleasing
No one likes dealing with aggressive customers. To avoid confrontations, frontline staff may simply give-in and tell customers what they want to hear. Or employees appease customers with commitments like, “I’ll try” or “I’ll do my best”. The problem is customers interpret those remarks as promises. And when those promises aren’t fulfilled, we lose trust.
That’s why in our Trusted Advisor Customer Service training sessions, team members learn that we build more trust by saying ‘no’ to a customer - and instead set realistic timelines - than by being wishy washy about commitments.
2. Mention Typical Industry Timelines
Interior designers ordering custom furniture are quick to remind clients about 12 week turnaround times. Factory ordered vehicles generally have months long wait times. So, share your industry average delivery times along with any steps your organization takes to beat that average.
3. Tell – Don’t Ask
A common reaction when a customer or coworker asks you to complete a task is to ask, “When do you need that completed?” Unfortunately, asking that question tells the person that you plan on putting it off as long as possible. Not good. So don’t ask customers or co-workers for their timelines. Instead, proactively offer yours: “I’m on it, and I’ll have it all ready for you by end of business day on Thursday.”
4. Sound Cheerful, not Grudging
The tone of our communications has a surprisingly large influence on customer perception. For example:
- Rather than saying, “I’ll have to check our inventory and get back to you.”, instead say, “I’ll be happy to check our inventory and get back to you.”
- Rather than saying, “We won’t be able to get a service person there until Wednesday,” instead say, “We can have a service person there as soon as Wednesday.”
Choosing positive wording over negative helps customers become less frustrated and more cooperative.
5. Aim to Exceed Expectations
When things go wrong and we do indeed mess-up on delivery times, we of course need to fix the problem, and more importantly, fix the relationship. It’s not enough to finally give the customer what they should have received in the first place. We also need to address their frustration and the hassle factor. In some cases that might mean offering a price adjustment or bonus. However, before offering extras we need to find out the customer’s expectation.
You might say for example, “We value your business and we want to do the fair thing. What do you think would be fair?” In my experience most customers become so relieved at hearing this that their requests become minimal. Then you can add a slight extra that exceeds their expectations – without giving away the proverbial store. That’s when customer becomes so thrilled, they become more loyal - not despite the foul-up - but because of it.
6. Dial for Dollars
Often, we jump through hoops behind the scenes to ensure our products and services are delivered on time, but we get little credit for the success. Customers are so focused on their own priorities, that our service becomes background wallpaper; barely noticeable.
So customer-centric organizations incorporate after sales and service follow-up courtesy calls to ensure the customer is happy with solution. It’s also an opportunity to suggest ways the customer can use the product or service to full advantage. Plus, you can plant seeds for additional products and services to augment their purchase. Everyone wins.
Bottom line: Work becomes easier and less stressful for customers, team members, and suppliers when employees learn how to managing customer expectations. How about you and your team? Could they use a tune-up of their customer communication skills?
By Jeff Mowatt (original content – not AI generated).
Could your team use a tune-up with their customer communications? Let’s talk! Call us at 1-800-JMowatt (566-9288), or email [email protected]. We’ll schedule a brief zoom call for you and Jeff to chat about your needs. Then if it looks like a possible fit, Jeff will put something in writing for you to consider. We look forward to hearing from you!
Is your social media helping or hurting you?
Ever receive one of those holiday newsletters from a friend or relative summarizing their family’s news of the year? “Roger is now managing the Eastern division at work. Sarah graduated from elementary school. And we had a fabulous vacation in Cancun, Mexico.” I’ve no doubt the senders were well intended. To me though, many come across as self-absorbed bragging. Unfortunately, the same may be true of your social media marketing.
While attempting to post fun, interesting social media tidbits with customers and prospects, you may in fact be sowing seeds of resentment and disconnection. I’m not suggesting that you stop posting online. Heavens, if you’re running a business and communicating with customers, social media marketing is a vital tool. But what if rather than bragging about our brilliance, success, and popularity, we instead use what I call the humility advantage?
What if we also posted humorous bits about our failings and foibles?
Of course you want customers and prospects to view you and your colleagues as experts in your chosen field. That’s why my customer service training programs are about being perceived as your customers’ trusted advisor. I’m not suggesting posting announcements about failed projects for customers. But on top of our successes, what if we also demonstrate that we are human and don’t take ourselves too seriously?
The problem with trying to come across as brilliant, successful, and popular, is it makes you unrelatable. Every mature adult entrusted to make buying decisions on behalf of their organization knows that no one is perfect. When your social media marketing posts also reveal your less than perfect life, you demonstrate that you’re authentic. Authenticity builds trust. And trust builds businesses, careers, and relationships.
So, in addition to posting corporate success stories, consider sharing a morsel of personal news with some self-deprecating humour. “Enjoyed Cancun, Mexico. Well, mostly the restrooms. Turns out Montezuma is seriously vengeful. Hate that guy!” Lighten up and laugh at yourself a bit. People love it. And they’ll want to get to know you better.
That’s the humility advantage.
Over the three decades I’ve worked with teams to enhance customer service, I’ve discovered that those employees who are the most popular with customers and co-workers, are not those who have lived so-called charmed lives. It’s not that their life journey has been without significant losses. It’s that they don’t let the events of life define their outlook on life.
It’s not about waking up and feeling wonderful about our circumstances. Heavens, I don’t know anyone who has lived beyond 40 who hasn’t suffered through a significant loss or tragedy. Instead, as my professional speaking colleague and friend Darci Lang shares in her “Focus on the 90%” messages, it’s more about appreciating the positive aspects of life. Easier said than done, right? Actually, it may be as easy as choosing different words to describe your life situation.
For example, what do each of these three words mean to you:
Lucky - Many of life’s triumphs and tragedies may indeed be attributed to good or bad luck: being born into wealth or poverty, natural disasters, disease and genetics, accidents… all impact our lives. Yet we all know of people who have managed to educate and work themselves out of poverty, change their geography, and taken steps to safeguard their health. Yes, we can thank or blame ‘luck’ for our situation, but luck is rarely the only factor.
Fortunate - You recognize that luck has played a significant role in your life. But you also give yourself credit (if only in your own mind) for making plans, having the gumption, taking steps and doing the work to overcome obstacles and improve your circumstances. Thinking of yourself and others as being ‘fortunate’ is to also recognize the value of resilience and perseverance. That mindset puts you in a stronger position to face future challenges.
Grateful - When tragedy strikes, we may experience the five classic stages of loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance - natural human emotions. Sometimes we may wallow in this darkness. Beyond considering getting medical assistance and counselling, we can also tap into the restorative power of gratitude. In even the most dire of circumstances there are aspects of life for which we can be thankful. If we choose to remind ourselves about them.
Here’s what I’ve learned. Team members who brighten the day for customers and co-workers are not necessarily those who have been lucky in life. Instead, they consciously remind themselves about the many little gifts of day to day living for which they are grateful. That gratitude gives them the strength and motivation to keep moving forward. And that progress creates positive results for which they consider themselves to be fortunate. In other words, the more grateful you feel, the more fortunate you’ll become.
Marriage experts say the biggest predictor of divorce is contempt. The opposite is not affection or love; it’s appreciation. So rather than focusing on our partner’s flaws, we remind ourselves - and them - what we appreciate about them. Working with teams to enhance customer service for over 30 years, I’ve found this practice also applies to our relationships with customers.
Some customers are inconsiderate and demanding. When we are swamped, our words, tone, and body language may send customers the message that they’re not welcome. Then again, without those customers we wouldn’t have a business/ job/ income. So next time you’re feeling less than warmly towards a cranky customer, take a breath and remind yourself what you appreciate about them. Even more maturely, take a moment to tell them. Watch how those few words make the encounter go better for everyone.
As an employee, there may have been times in your career where your have disagreed or been unhappy with a boss. The mature response would be discussing concerns directly with that individual. If that doesn’t work, then consider going above them, or as a last resort finding work elsewhere. Unfortunately, many employees take a passive/ aggressive approach and instead complain about their bosses to coworkers or even to customers. That’s a problem for everyone.
Whining about a boss hurts our own reputation more than that of the management about whom we are complaining. There are loads of jobs out there for competent people. Telling others about the ineptitude of management makes people wonder if we are too lazy or too unemployable to seek work elsewhere. It also shows disloyalty, disrespect, and a lack of discretion of what should be shared; especially with customers. The life lesson: Stop complaining. Do something about it.