What’s your Customer’s Budget?

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?"

Dissatisfied Customers – What’s Really at Stake?

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.

Common Blunders with “Please Hold” Messages

Arbeit oder LangeweileIf your company's in-bound calls are routed to a call-centre, check to see if your 'please-hold' recording includes any of these blunders:

"Due to overwheliming demand all our agents are busy..." This company is overwhelmed. Sounds like they're out of control and don't know what to do.

"Due to high call volumes..." I guess management wasn't expecting many customers to call. Or they're just incompetent at handling high demand.

"Your call is important to us..."They start the interaction by insulting our intelligence and lying. If our call was that important to them, they'd find a way to have someone pick up the phone.

Better to simply state, "Thank you for calling ABC Corp. Please remain on the line and you will be served faster than by redialing. Waiting time for the next available agent is approximately X minutes." It's to-the-point, informative and unlike the others, doesn't add insult to the injury of being on-hold.

The Value of the Slight Edge

Remember the old joke about two camping buddies being scared out of their tent by a rummaging grizzly? One scrambles to exit while the other stops to put on his running shoes. "What are you doing putting on those shoes? You'll never outrun a grizzly." Response: "I don't need to outrun the bear, I just need to outrun you!" I believe the same strategy applies to competing in business. You don't have to be the world's best - you just need a slight edge over the competition. So, as you compare your offerings to that of the competition, resist the temptation to stretch the truth. Exaggerating insults your customers' intelligence. Better to have a slight edge that wins all the business than to make an exaggerated claim that loses all your credibility.

How to Renew your Patience

Dog playing sports with dumbbells

Does your job involve dealing with customers or coworkers who are rushed or stressed? If so, consider exercising before arriving for work. Before you dismiss this out of hand, think about that great feeling you have after you work-out. It’s more than a temporary endorphin high; it’s also the sense of well-being and self-esteem you generate by doing something you know is good for you. It gives you more perspective and more patience with those other humans. Yes, it may mean getting-up earlier. Fine, get up earlier and go to bed earlier. At first it may be tough, but your body adapts. Just give it three weeks and you’ll find it becomes a doable healthy habit. Being kind to customers and coworkers starts with being kind to yourself. You’ll not only have better outlook, you’ll also have renewed patience when confronted with life’s daily challenges.

Courting Smarter Clients

As a customer, you’ve likely wondered how some organizations can be so insulting to your intelligence. Consider dental practices with signs: Now Accepting New Patients! (like it’s hard to find a dentist). Think of the number of businesses that claim they’re Number One. How about when the phone rings and the caller states, “We’re in your area…” offering a special on furnace cleaning? My take is there are two flaws with these strategies: 1) They’re dishonest. 2) They only work on people who are gullible; meaning these buyers typically don’t have a lot of money for long, so won’t be good long term customers. Conversely, the more you treat customers like intelligent, well-intentioned adults, the more you’ll generate a solid customer base that is ready, willing, and able to pay for the extra value you provide. Critical question: Do all of your communications show respect for your customers’ intelligence?

Ask without Accusing

In a perfect world, when people commit to do something it would absolutely be done and you'd never have to ask or remind them about it. In reality though, as you've no doubt experienced, customers, co-workers, friends and family members have other priorities and may neglect or forget to follow-through. Out of frustration, we might ask, "Did you (insert their commitment here) yet?" Unfortunately, that wording sounds slightly accusatory and puts the other person on the defensive; making them more inclined to rationalize the delay. That's not helpful. Instead, consider using the phrase, "have a chance to" as in, "Did you have a chance to...?".  That phrasing - while reminding the person of their commitment - comes across as empathic and forgiving. Ironically, the kindness it conveys is much more apt to compel the person to take action.


Was this helpful?   For additional information on this topic:  Influence and Persuasion Skills 

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Jeff Mowatt is a customer service speaker, customer service trainer, award-winning speaker, and best selling author. To inquire about engaging Jeff for your team visit www.JeffMowatt.com

Discuss customer concerns, not complaints

No one likes to hear customers complain. Employees become impatient and defensive when faced with these "trouble-makers." One of my seminar participants equated listening to customer complaints to undergoing amateur eyeball surgery. (That can't be good). To prevent this defensive mindset, employees need to be trained to treat customer complaints as concerns. Employees need to know that customers who express concerns are helping you to stay sharp and competitive. Focusing on customer concerns vs complaints will immediately shift a potentially negative situation into one that is positive and productive.

Dealing with Wealthy Customers – Five strategies for boosting your business with high net worth clients

Ever notice that sometimes folks act differently around wealthy people? I think it’s because (whether we admit it or not) most of us want rich people to like and accept us. After all, it’s not a bad thing when high net worth individuals want to do business with you. The problem I’ve noticed as a customer service strategist, is that sometimes when employees interact with customers who they perceive to be of higher status, they try too hard to impress. Or at the other extreme, some employees become too submissive ie. a doormat. Here are five strategies for building stronger relationships with high net worth customers. (Oh, and they happen to also work with the rest of your customers as well).

1. Get clear about your status

There’s no upside to acting either superior or inferior to your customers. If you act superior, you come across as arrogant and customers won’t like you.  If you act inferior, you’ll be perceived as obsequious and customers won’t respect you.  Better to put yourself at the same status as your customers. As they say at the Ritz Carlton, “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.”

The question is, what’s the relationship that customers value most with service providers? I’ll tell you what it’s not. Your relationship goal is not to become your customer’s friend. Your customers already have their own friends – and they’re free.  What customers value is a service provider who they regard as their Trusted Advisor. Customers will pay a premium (and show more respect) when dealing with a trusted advisor.

2. Earn early respect

When I’m conducting seminars for organizations whose customers are sometimes demanding, rushed, or frustrated, we talk about the importance of earning early respect. That means if a customer is trying to talk with you while chatting on their cellphone, it’s best to smile and respond with, “I’ll take care of you as soon as you’re finished your call.” If a customer asks you a question while staring down at their paperwork, don’t answer their question. Instead, wait till they actually look you in the eye, then say “Hello. Yes, I can help you with that.” By waiting until you have the person’s undivided attention, you convey that you are a human – not a doormat – who is worthy of respect. Customers are happier dealing with employees who earn their respect. Everyone wins.

3. Prove you're somebody

In general, when you introduce yourself to customers, share your first and last name. Often we just tell people our first name because we are being casual – like friends, right? But remember, you’re not trying to be your customer’s pal, you want to be seen as their trusted advisor. More importantly when you share your last name, you instantly convey the message, “If you have a question or concern you should ask for me (which is why I’m giving my full name). I’m not trying to hide or be anonymous. I’m comfortable being held accountable.” All by simply using first and last names. Easy and powerful.

4. Listen more. Talk Less

Perhaps the quickest way to turn-off customers is talking too much. Or talking when we should be listening. When listening, try to understand what lies beneath the customer’s surface request. The more you demonstrate that you understand your customer’s unexpressed and eventual needs, the more you’ll be seen as a trusted advisor.

5. Be the go-to person

Customers sometimes have requests that don’t fall neatly into your existing procedures. So, you may have to check with a senior manager.  When you’re in that position, do not tell your customer, “I’ll have to go ask my manager.” That makes the customer feel like they’re wasting their time dealing with you. It makes you look like you haven’t been adequately trained or trusted. And it makes your manager look like a micro-manager. Instead, tell the customer, “Let me look into this and see what I can come up with for you.” That’s right, I’m encouraging you to take the credit for the decision. That reflects more positively on everyone, including your manager.

Bottom line

Interestingly, dealing with high net worth clients is the same as dealing with any other customer. Everyone – including you and your team members – deserves respect and attention. Beyond these tips, the most important way to earn your customers’ trust and loyalty is to keep your promises; no matter what it costs you. That’s of course why we call it becoming a trusted advisor.

Anticipate and satisfy the NEXT need

ButlerThey used to say in Victorian England that good butlers do not respond to requests. Instead, they anticipate their employers’ needs and fulfill them so employers don’t need to ask. Today, the principle of anticipating needs – while the rest of the planet becomes increasingly focused on filling orders – is more important than ever in differentiating your service. An electrician for example, while looking at the wiring plan for a home renovation, suggests also installing lights in high use closets that activate when the closet door opens and closes. A hair stylist suggests a style that the client can easily recreate at home. An executive assistant briefs his supervisor on background info about the client for the supervisor’s upcoming meeting. In short, to be seen as a Trusted Advisor, you need to continually demonstrate that you’re focused on your customers’ and coworkers’ strategic needs; not just their immediate requests.


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