Archive for the ‘customer service’ Category

Truly Priceless, The First Customer Service Experience

In relocating from NW Indiana to NW Arizona, we have had to outreach to several businesses.  Once again I realized how truly priceless the first customer service experience really is.

first-customer-service-experience

Credit www.pixabay.com

Must Have Internet

My business depends on the Internet.  Having a reputable Internet firm is essential. I did my research and discovered Data-Max Wireless. The frontline person who opened the account and scheduled the service call was incredibly friendly and competent.  Then the service technicians also demonstrated outstanding professionalism from being on time and making recommendations for a better wireless router.

Must Have Working Oven

When we purchased our new home, we knew the built in oven was not working.  Again, doing Internet research product and reviews, I called Attwoods Appliance and scheduled a service call.  The serviceman was on time and again very professional. He only reaffirmed my first customer service experience with the Repair Department at Attwoods.

Unfortunately, the part needed for the 35 year old Tappan built in oven was no longer made.  So based upon our first customer service experience, my husband and I visited the store and ordered not only a replacement oven but a freezer as well. So a $75 service call turned into an over $2,000 sale. This is why the experience is priceless.

Must Have Working Plumbing

One of the challenges in buying a 35 year old home is there will be unforeseen problems.  We had an outside sillcock that would not shut off on a Sunday afternoon.  My husband did a temporary fix and  I called our realtor, Elise Harron of Dirt Road Real Estate for a recommendation. She recommended Truelove Plumbing.

Again, the first customer experience of scheduling the appointment and the subsequent actual service was exceptional.  Having 22 plus years in the plumbing industry, I recognized someone who understood plumbing.  The plumber also reviewed our pump and pressure tank (water storage system) and made some significant recommendations.  We took those to heart and he is coming back to install a new pump and pressure tank along with the necessary cut off value and pressure gauge.

Each of these local small businesses made that first customer service experience delightful and then backed up that experience with competent service personnel.  Unless these firms demonstrate some significant negative behavior, they have earned my customer loyalty and hence my business as long as we live here.

So far we have infused thousands of dollars into the local small business economy.  And these expenditures have all been fostered by that priceless first customer service experience.

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Lies Do Not Inspire Customer Loyalty

When will customer service people from wait staff to store clerks to everyone else in between realize lies do not inspire customer service loyalty. No lies do exactly the opposite. Lies build distrust and turn existing loyal customers into finding other solution providers.

customer-loyaltyRecently we had breakfast at a national chain that features home cooking.  When the waitress took my order, I asked for extra syrup. The waitress replied “Absolutely.”  Another waitress brought our breakfast and again I had to ask for extra syrups. This waitress replied “No problem.”

Our waitress stopped by when I was halfway through my meal and I mentioned the extra syrup. She replied “Of course.” Finally when I was finished with my breakfast, she brought the extra syrup.

Then told my husband and myself the reason for the delay was she was attending a mandatory staff meeting.  She apologized when I told her to forget the syrup as I was finished with my meal.  Again, she apologized and mentioned the mandatory meeting a second time. As a sales and management consultant, my first thought was “Talk about stupid management having a meeting during a prime time” and my second thought was “Hmm I wonder if the waitress lied to cover her own bad customer service?”

At checkout I was asked “How was the food?”  I replied the food was great, but the customer service not so much so.  The clerk asked me what happened and I responded.

She then asked me to tell the manager directly which I did.  The manager was nice enough not to charge us for the pancakes and said the meeting was not a mandatory staff meeting.  In other words, the waitress lied.  Requesting an item 3 times is not the fault of management, but the fault of the wait staff. And yes there was plenty of wait staff as this was the usual busy Saturday morning

Customer loyalty especially for service industries such as restaurants, grocery stores, etc. where there is low profit margin is essential in today’s highly competitive B2C marketplace. Losing one customer can equate to hundreds if not thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the customer.

Very few people will fess up and acknowledge when they are at fault. This is human nature. Yet to lie to customer is not the answer for ongoing customer loyalty that is built upon expectations based upon past customer experiences.

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Always Remember Customer Service Is SALES!

How many times do those in B2B or even B2C industries fail to understand customer service is sales.  A new report just released by Astound Commerce through secret shoppers recognized seven retailers who excel in customer service through:

customer service

  • Must have website
  • Visibility
  • Overall customer service
  • Speed of delivery
  • Efficiency of checkout

One of the top seven performers was The Home Depot. I know from personal experience this firm understands how serving the customers within the store will increase sales.  Here in Valparaiso IN, the store has hired certified and licensed electricians, plumbers and carpenters to assist customers with their questions. Even though my husband is an engineer, he has been advised by these professional tradesmen of better ways to do home improvement as well as some of the new products.

For example, toilets for years had a wax ring that attached to the bottom of the toilet and closet flange.  Over time the wax dries out and cracks.  Several years ago through the plumber at Home Depot, my husband learned of a neoprene boot that is attached to the bottom of the toilet and then fits past the closet flange.  The end result is a far better seal and one that does not not replacement.  The cost of a wax ring under $5.00 versus the cost of the neoprene boot around $15.00.  Husband spent $30 instead of $10 has he replaced not just one wax ring, but two.

Today I read Home Depot’s quarterly earning were ahead of expectations. Much of this was due to improved housing market and I also believe much was due to increase sales by loyal customers.

All SMBs have a 7-step-sales-process-advsys Within these 7 steps are third phases:

  • Marketing
  • Selling
  • Keeping

The third and final phase of keeping is one where both salespeople and customer service people work to keep those loyal customers.

Yes customer service is sales and if as a SMB owner or sales professional you forget this simple fact, you may be exposing yourself decreasing sales, declining profits and increasing stress.

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The Economic Collision of Customer Service and Social Media

customer-serviceThe customer has evolved from being King or Queen to being an Internet socially connected King or Queen.  No longer must he or she hang on for minutes to speak to your customer service department. Today, social media has expanded communication and has created a very loud and significant economic collision with customer service.

Sprout Social Index recently released some customer service research that suggests seven out of eight messages on social media are ignored within the first 72 hours.  Add this research to other research that suggests bad customer service costs US businesses $41 billion annually (New Voice Media) and one can almost hear this economic collision.

This past week I reached out to a local small business through a website that advertised handyman services.  I then received an automated message from this small business about being contacted by this firm’s office person and asking if there was anything else the firm could do.  First I was never contacted by the office person and second the email I sent has remained unanswered for well past 72 hours.

Additionally this study revealed that four out of 10 messages required an immediate response from the business.  Better customer service is a motivation for switching brands or businesses for 40% of customers as reported by Zendesk.

From all the data, social media is not only another marketing channel, it has become an economic customer service channel. Failure to recognize the importance of this evolution will cost small business sales leads as well as customer loyalty.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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Eating Workplace Culture One Bite at a Time – Part 04

We have all heard the customer is king or queen.  Yet if we look at customer service research, the workplace culture may not believe in the implied royalty within the customers or clients being served. Poor customer service is a reflection of the workplace culture.

workplace-culture

Credit www.gratisography.com

Just a quick search for customer service statistics revealed 99,400,000 Google hits and here are just a few of the newer highlights:

Salesforce.com

  • $41 billion cost to US businesses for poor customer service
  • 68% of all complaints handled by phone; only 3% through social media\
  • Loyal customers on average worth 10 times as much as their first purchase

Zendesk:

  • 82% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company because of bad customer service
  • 95% of customers share bad experiences with others

Here are some other often cited customer service statistics:

  •  Accenture – 66% of customers switch companies due to poor customer service
  • American Express – 58% of customers are willing to spend more on companies that provide excellent customer service
  •  Bain & Co – To acquire a new customer costs 6 to 7 times more than to retain an existing one
  • Lee Resource – For every customer complaint there are 26 others unhappy customers who have remained silent
  • White House Office of Consumer Affairs – A dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience while 13% of dissatisfied customers will tell more than 20 people

By now the evidence is overwhelming customer service and market focus are essential to building a mid-size to small business that goes beyond just surviving to one that is thriving.

The workplace culture reflects the customer service experience and in many instances also reflects what the executive leadership and management team choose not to see or do not see.

Employees know for example by their interactions with executive leadership and management if the customers are getting the runaround.

For many mid-size to small businesses, there is no process in place to track customer complaints and given that the majority of customers do not complain, possibly other metrics are needed.

The values of the workplace culture are also present within the customer service experience.

Employees know if the organization is committed to its customers.

When good behavior is recognized and rewarded by executive leadership to management, employees take notice.  This recognition will have a positive impact on workplace culture.

Finally, the customer loyalty net promoter score of how likely to recommend this company is just as critical for employees. If your employees will not recommend your business, then the workplace culture is probably more negative than your executive leadership and management team realizes.

Please feel free to check out this holistic cultural assessment tool that allows even the smallest firms to start identifying the barriers to effective execution of current business growth strategies including customer service and market focus.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn

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“Are You a Customer?” Is a Dangerous Question

This past week I drove through my bank’s outside drive through  teller lane to quickly deposit several checks. Well I thought it would be quick because 3 of the 4 lanes were empty.  Unfortunately I must have drawn the slowest teller imaginable and one who was not thinking.

are-you-customer

Credit www.gratisography.com

After waiting several minutes for an acknowledgement that the teller would be with me, I pressed the “Call” button. A young lady (probably late teens early twenties) answered.  I asked if she had received my deposit and she responded rather quickly:

“Are you a customer?”

My brain immediately replied in a rather loud voice “Am I a customer?”  Why do you think the deposit ticket has your bank’s name printed on it along with my account number?  Are you serious, am I a customer?” Suddenly I felt more like “chopped liver” than a loyal customer of 20 plus years.

Now I understand this question is one that sometimes is required.  However when the customer has some form of identification and especially several printed bank deposit tickets with checks endorsed to that person, then such a question is potentially insulting.

Possibly the teller might not know a particular customer and may require some additional identification.  That is also a reality today with all the identify theft.  Then the proper response might be ” Ms. Hoagland-Smith may we see your photo ID to confirm your identify?” Asking “Are you a customer?” is just a poor business practice and potentially reflects a lazy organizational culture.

So many businesses fail to realize the first words spoken have the greatest impact on customer loyalty. How those words are spoken with sincerity and presence also matters.  An unenthusiastic “Good Morning” greeting by a noticeable gum chewing cashier resonates far differently than a sincere, energized “Good Morning” greeting with a full smile minus the gum.

“Are you a customer?” is a very dangerous question because it provides a foundation for customer disloyalty.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn

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Two Tales of Customer Service

Great customer service makes or breaks any business from the smallest mom and pop shop to the national franchise. These past weeks while on vacation I have experienced the best of customer service and the worst of it.

customer-serviceYesterday I shared the excuse of “We only have one server” was a poor customer loyalty strategy. Today I want to share what happened after we walked out of that national franchise restaurant known for its international pancakes.

Within 5 minutes my husband and I went to another national franchise restaurant known for building your own “grand slam” breakfasts.  Also I noticed this restaurant did have two servers and the manager was very visible even though the restaurant had the same number of customers enjoying breakfast compared to the restaurant we had just left.  The hostess, a little older than the one we just met at the previous restaurant, sat us immediately and within seconds the server appeared.  We had coffee and water along with our order taken within minutes.

Our breakfast was served almost immediately and the server continued to be attentive even though he suddenly was serving 8 new customers. The manager was also very engaged and stopped by our table to learn if everything was Okay.

Within one hour, my husband and I experienced the best and the worse of customer service times. Here is a recap of my customer service observations:

Observation Restaurant #1:Bad Customer Service Restaurant #2:Great Customer Service
Hostess Very Young under 20 Older between 25 and 35
Manager Not visible; disengaged Very visible; actively engaged
Servers Only one, never seen Two servers, both attentive
Business activity 6 customers 6 customers
Breakfast menu prices $10-$15 $7-$10
Coffee prices $2.50 cup $2.50 cup
Cleanliness of facility Good Good
Overall Atmosphere Low energy High energy

Restaurant #2 appeared to have appreciated that delivering an exceptional customer experience is truly a bottom up as well as top down business growth strategy.  From our experience it appears everyone has embraced the motto we read on the coffee cups:

“A good diner has open doors, open arms ad open hearts.”

Having eaten at two of these restaurants within the same city, I can also testify the consistency of great customer service was present at both.  And consistency of customer service is another essential tactic when it comes to building customer loyalty.

 

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“We Only Have One Server” Fails as a Customer Loyalty Strategy

Most will agree that a customer loyalty strategy is essential especially among national chains.However my customer service experience today shows even the national restaurant chains fail to understand this business growth strategy must be present from the bottom up.

customer-loyalty-strategyToday while on holiday in San Diego, CA we went to a national franchise known for its international pancakes for breakfast and was seated by the very young hostess.  This particular restaurant was not busy, probably less than 6 customers.  My husband and I waited for almost 5 minutes and still did not receive coffee or water.

At my instance, I said we were leaving and we walked out.  I politely told the young hostess that we had waited long enough for  any customer service.  Her pitiful response was “We only have one server.” My immediate answer was “That is your problem, not mind.”  In the future I will not patronize this particular franchise.

I do not know the customer loyalty policy for this restaurant chain, but I am hard pressed not to believe the hostess could not have at least given us water and coffee.  Then to use the lamest excuse of “We have only one server” is beyond insulting.   Am I as the paying customer supposed to be understanding when I can walk out the door and go to at least three other restaurants within two to five minutes?

Possibly I should have asked for the manager, but I had not had my morning coffee. I did not want to engage in any additional conversation with a manager who was clueless as well.

This restaurant could have avoided losing this loyal customer by training all of its hostesses and hosts to help out when serving staff is limited.  Additionally, the manager should have been engaged as well and could have also pitched in to help the one server.  And maybe hiring the youngest person because she is the cheapest hire may not be the best customer loyalty strategy.

Remember, customers do not care if you have only one server or if you are very busy. Excellent customer service is a solid customer loyalty strategy and one that still appears in short supply.

Tomorrow I will share the second part of this story.

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What Monkey Calls Are Being Heard in Your Small Business?

small-businessDid you ever think the customer service or sales communication in your small business sounds like all the other communication your customers hear on a daily basis.  From the perfunctory “Did you find everything?” or “Your call is important to us” to  “Stay well,” these crafted customer service to sales scripts sound more like the monkey calls reverberating through the jungle than authentic, real, communication.

People buy from people.

To enhance that small business customer service buying experience requires all communication to be authentic, real and yes still be consistent.

When your customers begin to hear the same “monkey calls,” they may turn off that screaming monkey chatter or worse yet leave your small business for another that truly cares about them.

 

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The Continue Cry to Blame Customer Service

Yes by all accounts the cry to blame customer service is increasing. Outsourcing customer service to regions unknown where the native language is not shared by the customer and the customer service representative or where technology seems to rule appear to be the standard operating procedure for many businesses.

blame-customer-serviceAlso, there are exceptions to this blame customer service mentality. Those exceptional companies recognize customer service is what propels business growth from just surviving to thriving.

One of my small business clients who recognized how easy it was to blame customer service has this acronym hanging from the ceilings, on walls and on desks:

  • C
  • A
  • T
  • E
  • R

For Customers Are The Entire Reason (CATER) for his firm being in business. By being proactive and communicating this message every day because employees are people with short memories he has maintained a culture of high performance and removed the cry to blame customer service.

If there is a cry to blame customer service, then this is truly a symptom of the real problem that being poor executive leadership through the misalignment between strategy, structure, processes/systems, rewards and people as noted by Jay Galbraith in his 5 star model.

P.S. Sign up to receive a free customer loyalty assessment.

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