Sometimes employees need a wakeup-call about wowing customers. Best if that message comes from the CEO. Certainly managers, supervisors, and outside specialists like me can remind team members about how no one can afford to have customers merely satisfied. Instead, customers need to think of you as REMARK-able. Satisfied customers think you're adequate. In other words, they're not really thinking about you at all. Nor are they recommending you; live or online or in social media. Average service makes you a commodity; pressuring your prices and profits. On top of customer service reminders from normal sources, it's the CEO who needs to refocus everyone's attention. Consider the example of Gary Friedman, head of Restoration Hardware Holdings, who, after discovering customers were cancelling orders, blasted off this building on fire message to all employees. Imagine receiving this Alarming message from the CEO .
Most managers and business owners know that in today's competitive marketplace, a key strategy to differentiate your company – without slashing prices and profits – is through your team’s service. Unfortunately, when it comes to customer service training, there are plenty of pitfalls that can undermine the best intentions. To differentiate your team’s service, ask these seven critical questions.
1. Is this a flavor of the month?
You can almost hear employees’ eyes rolling when the boss quotes a new business book or TEDx presentation the team is supposed to adopt to wow customers. It’s great to learn from books, seminars, etc. However, I encourage managers to introduce subtle changes without fanfare. Skip the buzzwords that eventually become passé. Employees more readily adopt subtle shifts than wholesale changes.
2. Will management be there?
Worse than bosses espousing too many shiny new customer service fads, is when leaders themselves don’t participate in training. There’s a word for managers who expect their staff to attend training, while managers remain in their offices. It’s called hypocrisy. It sends a mixed message that undermines employee buy-in.
3. Will this motivate my team?
Sometimes I’m referred to as a motivational speaker. Frankly, I can’t motivate anyone to do anything they don’t want to do. Pep-rally type messages get employees temporarily pumped-up, but it wears-off. That’s why when I work with teams, we brainstorm why… why certain approaches are better: for customers, for your organization, and especially for employees themselves. Talking about why we do something is just as important as what we do. Motivation is more about motive than mood.
4. What if some employees miss-out?
If you have turnover challenges or circumstances when not everyone can attend a training session, you’d be forced to bring-in trainers a lot. That’s not efficient. Instead, work with trainers who are open to having the session filmed. When we work with clients, I often arrange to bring in my videographer so that the subsequent footage can be used to train additional current and future staff at a fraction of the cost.
5. Is there reinforcement?
One-shot seminars have value; they are certainly better than nothing. Like any new skill though, there needs to be ongoing reinforcement. Better to work with a training company with the depth of resources to offer coaching tools beyond the seminar that will keep the message fresh.
6. Will it be relevant?
Managers tell me that when it comes to training, they haven’t got time for interesting. Interesting is everywhere on the internet. What they need are tools that are relevant. Some topics are more applicable to enhancing service than others. Listening to an adventurer or professional athlete talk about their careers may be entertaining, but realistically it has little relevance to real jobs that deal with satisfying internal and external customers. What engages participants is choosing a presenter who specializes in employee/customer interactions; interviews several leaders before the training, and incorporates those insights into the messaging. That way it becomes a fascinating session because it’s about most people’s favorite topic - themselves.
7. Will it engage my team?
This time the fault lies not with the message; but with the messenger. You’ve likely had the misery of being imprisoned in a meeting room listening to a monotone presenter assault you with PowerPoint punishment. Conversely, there are some speakers who know how to enthrall, entertain, and engage. They skillfully customize their training to make it resonate for that particular team. Question becomes, “Who are the best customer service speakers to use?” A few suggestions…
Anyone can pay for a flashy website and present themselves as a speaker. That’s no guarantee of quality. To ensure your speaker is as good as their website, ask your colleagues who they’d recommend. Then, see if the speaker has written anything about customer interactions to indicate they’re a thought leader. After all, training begins by shifting people’s thinking. Then, check if they have earned their Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) or Hall of Fame (HoF) designation. Those are the highest credentials in the speaking profession. Bringing in a CSP or HoF speaker is as close as you can get to a written guarantee that your team won’t be bored and that they’ll actually remember the message. Then give that speaker a call and get the wheels in motion. Trust them with your employees and start reaping the rewards of a team whose service is so remarkable – it makes your prices less relevant.
A manager once explained to me, "My staff needs to know that just being friendly doesn't differentiate us." That's why in my seminars I remind teams to not merely be seen as their customer's friend; but rather to become valued as their customer's trusted advisor. Surprisingly, the trust meter is often advanced by little things. For example, when you send emails from your phone, does the message automatically attach a signature that details your full name and contact information? By including your contact information, you subtly convey three things to the recipient: 1) you are considering their convenience, 2) you pay attention to details and, 3) you are comfortable being held accountable; which is why you are disclosing exactly who you are and how you can be reached. Good return for the one-time 10 minutes it takes to add a signature line to mobile device emails.
Do your customers use your products or services for themselves, or for their organizations? As you know, in business to consumer interactions, your customers are buying for themselves out of their own pockets. However, when customers are buying on behalf of their organization (business to business), the money comes from their employer. That's why, when I do seminars for clients who provide products and services to companies, I remind them to focus on two (often overlooked) aspects of their service:
- Making your customer's job easier
- Making your customer look smarter to their supervisor
Focusing on these two areas means that - even if your price is higher than others - your customers have a personal interest in doing business with you over your competitors. If they have to pay more of their company's money to work with you, it's still in their own best interest to do so.
Often the easiest way to grow your business is to pivot existing customers towards your other products or services. Your current customers already know and trust you. And they obviously have the funds to do business with you. The question becomes, "What's an easy effective way to cross-sell your other products or services?" While there are several approaches I share in my seminars, one of the simplest involves doing a disservice. You might for example, explain to a customer, "Knowing your situation and your overall objective to (fill in blank with customer's goal), I'd be doing you a disservice if I didn't at least make you aware that we have another (division/product/ service) that does that." The phrase, I'd be doing you a disservice if I didn't at least... positions the conversation less as pushing or pestering; and more as an effort to assist
We all get the men's fashion trend to sport the 5 o'clock shadow. Unfortunately, what we're also seeing is some guys taking this as license to show-up to work looking slovenly. You may think your appearance at work is your business. That would be true if it wasn't for the fact that your co-workers and customers are the ones who have to look at you. If you're getting less respect, authority, or consideration from customers than you think you deserve, start by looking in the mirror. Does it look like you put some effort into getting ready for work? Seriously, do you look well-groomed? If not, it tells the world you lack attention to detail, and you focus on your own needs while being oblivious to others. If someone forwarded this tip to you, take the hint.
In my seminars where we talk about handling customers efficiently, I point out the danger of customers feeling more 'processed' than 'served'. That's when we focus more on the completing the transaction than advancing the relationship. Case-in-point is when employees finish recording their out-of-office voice mail messages, or complete customer transactions with the send-off, "Have a nice day." That mindlessly over-used cliché reminds the customer that the service provider is on auto-pilot, going through the motions of talking. That's why I was so wonderfully surprised by a simple send-off I received after "Joe" handed me a receipt for the coat I'd just purchased. Instead, of muttering, have a nice day... he looked me in the eye, nodded and said in a serious tone, "Thank you for your business." As a customer, I actually felt appreciated. Which is why I'll happily go back. Good results for changing a few words.
The Power of Empathy with a Simple Phrase
A service provider passed on to me a simple phrase that she uses to diffuse angry customers. After the customer expresses their concerns (vents), she confirms the details with the customer, empathized with their frustration, and then wraps it all together with the phrase, "I see your point." Whether or not we agree with the other person, the phrase, "I see your point," communicates that we've listened and that we understand their perspective. That's a big step towards preserving that valuable customer relationship. Bonus: it's also a great approach to use with family and friends.
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Jeff Mowatt is a customer service speaker, customer service training professional, award-winning speaker, and best selling author. To inquire about engaging Jeff for your team visit www.JeffMowatt.com
At one of my seminars, a participant asked me how to raise the subject of budget when the client invites you to make a proposal. "We go through the whole presentation," he explained, "And the client seems to like everything. But by the end of the meeting we still haven't discussed price. Later, we learn that what we proposed was beyond their budget." He was also concerned that it might appear rude or blunt just asking in advance, "What's your budget?" I agreed that asking about budget in advance makes sense. I suggested that to soften the bluntness he rephrase the inquiry to something like, "There are several options we can present depending on the budget you have in mind. Is there a budget I should be aware of?"
As a customer receiving poor service, you've no doubt wondered what the people in that organization were thinking. You inform an employee about a problem, and rather than apologize, they make excuses or act like they're doing you a favour fixing their mistake. One reason why this is so common is employees focus on the value of the transaction rather than the value of the relationship. In other words, what's at stake is not the $50 transaction - it's the customer's thousands of dollars' worth of that lifetime business. Not to mention the word-of-mouth publicity. The lesson - for greater long term profits, managers should waste less on expensive ads and price discounts trying to buy new business, and instead invest more on training employees on how to delight and retain customers they already have.