When things go wrong with technology – tell your customers! I recently had an experience with an on-line printing system that was not working for me. After many attempts and several calls to service representatives, I was told that the reason why my print job didn’t work was because the system had been down! If someone had mentioned that to me hours before, it would have saved me a lot of time!
Think about your process when things break down. What communication methods are you using so your representatives receive the correct information so that they can better inform their customer? How can you use multiple ways to get the word out to your customers? What proactive ways can you receive positive and negative feedback from your customers?
If you would like help designing an effective process to notify your customers when your system breaks, I’m here to help. Email me or give me a call to start updating your customers today.
What can you do to distinguish your business from other firms that do what you do? Larry with Larry’s Mufflers has made a reputation in his local community for using the sign board outside his facility to provide a laugh or a smile to those who drive by. His signs have been written up in the local paper through the years – and people have come to expect it. What will Larry say this week?
It’s a great reminder to think about your own business. What types of things can you create for your customers that can help you “stand out?” If your customers enjoy it, you can start doing these things on a consistent basis – so much so that they will be disappointed if you stop doing it. Not all of us have a reader board outside our business, but take a peek at some other ways I’ve experienced businesses “stand out” from their competition:
- Provide a follow-up call after your patient’s first visit to see how they are doing
- Offer to come to your customer’s home to help them with their new sewing machine
- Instead of just pointing to an item in a store, walk over with the customer to the item and engage that person in a conversation
There are countless ways you can delight your customer!
This concludes my series on Larry’s Mufflers – I sure am reminded about the big and small ways that can make a real difference for my customers and the people I work with! How about you?
I’m not that familiar with cars. So when I went to Larry’s Muffler to get a brand new muffler on my ’97 civic – I was expecting to sit in the waiting room, pay what I owed, and walk out of the store. But not at Larry’s. Lo and behold, Larry took me out to the garage and had me look under my vehicle to show me exactly where the holes were in the old muffler and what his team member would be replacing. I was blown away! I not only had an incredible, personalized experience as a customer, but I was treated with respect. Larry was willing to show me exactly what was wrong and how he planned to fix it.
What can you do to treat your customers with respect and individualized attention? I think this is especially when you have service encounters that involve things that a customer may not understand or be familiar with. Indeed, it is so important not to “talk down” to a customer in these types of interactions, but rather, treat them as a peer. Better yet, share with them some things related to their service so they walk away with some valuable education!
What kind of service do you provide for your employees? Larry at Larry’s Classic Quality Brake & Mufflers told me a few things he does to show his employees that he cares. Let me tell you a few of them:
- He buys lunch for each employee every day.
- On Fridays, if his staff has delivered great service, he treats them to a steak!
- He doesn’t ask his staff to clean the bathroom – he does.
- He gives his staff second chances. (One staff quit, he invited that employee back to work and now this man is one of his most loyal employees)
- He gives his staff “first” chances. (Larry gave a high school drop-out with an opportunity to succeed at repairing cars – today this young man is one of his most talented repairman in his garage)
- He sees his role to be a role model to his staff – promoting hard work and integrity and a positive attitude toward others
Think about practical ways you can show your staff that you care. Perhaps it is not buying them a meal – but maybe you can recognize their efforts, provide them with more opportunities, and treat them as your best customers – because that is who they are!
Have you ever had such a memorable and incredible experience at a local business that you feel compelled to share about it? I have. Let me tell you about Larry at Larry’s Classic Quality Brake & Mufflers in Bonney Lake, Washington. Larry’s is a locally owned and operated full-service automotive garage and has been in business for close to 20 years – and I can see why. I walked in the shop and immediately was greeted by Manager Larry – a friendly, personable, and engaging man who just loved to engage his customers. He told stories, educated me on mufflers, and made me laugh. I felt taken care of and more than that – I got a great education on some things he has done to service his customers.
Here’s a take-away for you and your business: How do you engage your customers? Are you treating your customers as you would your guest in your home? What things can you do to help create a comfortable environment for your “guests?” Larry had a clean and comfortable waiting room, with three current newspapers to read, coffee on the counter, and an entertaining and engaging personality that made my wait time (less than 30 minutes) go quickly! Oh yes, and his staff gave me a great new muffler!
Another “basic” of customer service is communication. We can have the smile, we can make sure we follow through and deliver to our customer, but if we don’t provide communication to the customer – we still are not keeping our organization “healthy” as it relates to service. Recently, my husband and I had some work done on our house. The workers were professional, friendly, and they did their job with the utmost care and quality. The problem was that anytime we had a question or concern, it took 2-3 calls or emails (and many days in between) to get a response.
Think about your team. What are your communication standards for your service professionals? How long does it take for people to get back to your customers? Does your team anticipate the most frequently asked questions and provide those answers proactively? How thorough are you training your team members to communicate the correct facts and information for your customers?
And don’t forget communication within your organization. Are your separate departments talking with each other?
Good communication is the lifeblood of good service. So get back to basics with your service – teach your team to smile, follow through on their promises, and communicate and you’ll have a healthy service culture!
What does a promise mean to you? A promise is a declaration or assurance that one will do a particular thing or that guarantees that a particular thing will happen. You may have a number of promises in your team or organization. Your promises may be general (We will satisfy our customers) or more specific (I will call you by 10 am tomorrow). When you keep your end of the promise to your customer, it tells your customer that you can be trusted, you can be relied upon. Why is this important? Because the more a customer trusts that someone on your team or in your organization will do what they say, the more excited they will be to become a member of your “sales force” as they talk positively about your company to others.
A general rule is that you never want to promise something to a customer that you can’t fulfill.
And often times, when customers feel they can trust you – several other things can occur:
- they are more likely to give feedback
- they are more willing to share with you their complaints
- they are more willing to be “fans” of your organization
What promise can you keep today?
To take care of ourselves, we need to get back the basics –healthy eating, plenty of exercise, and plenty of rest. The same holds true for business. I suggest there are three “basics” that can give your team and organization a consistently high competitive edge in their service level. Here’s one basic:
Smile – Isn’t it amazing what a simple smile can do to help brighten someone’s day? A smile says “I’m glad you are here,” “Thank you for calling,” (Yes, you can tell if someone is smiling on the phone), and “You are important to me.” Observe your workplace, especially those who are serving customers front-line and see how many people are smiling. It’s a simple gesture but can mean so much to a customer.
“A gentle word, a kind look, a good-natured smile can work wonders and accomplish miracles.” (William Hazlitt)
Phyllis Diller “A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.”
Stay tuned for the next 2 blogs that will cover the other basics.
Let’s talk about what a story is. In an essay entitled, “Praise of Stories,” Daniel Taylor writes, “A story is the telling of the significant actions of characters over time. Each element is important, both in the stories of literature and in those that shape our own lives. Remove or fail in any of these elements and you no longer have a story.” As Mr. Taylor says, “The central things that happen in important stories don’t happen to a character, but within a character. This is why significance is part of our definition of stories – the telling of significant action. Most writers on stories would agree that the best stories are about morality, values, and choices that we can relate with.
So stories are the telling of significant journeys with meaningful characters whose principled choices help us see ourselves.
Think about the stories you cherish. Did they not stir something within you? I would venture to say that stories can ignite us to think about things in new ways, ignite our spirits and emotions to actions, and enable us to see ourselves.
If you are feeling stagnant in your career or life…if you are desiring a boost to your service to your customers…if you feel the need to get out of your rut…if you are looking for new perspectives… I would encourage you to read a story.
My husband and I recently purchased some living room furniture. This has been a two year process! We were looking for some furniture that we could “cuddle” in as well as a new couch. We finally found two beautiful pieces at a local furniture story and after waiting 10 weeks, they were delivered to our home last week. You can imagine the disappointment we felt when I had neck pain after sitting in the chair for a 2 hour movie!
This is when this story becomes amazing. My husband called the salesperson and he was told “We want to make it right.” And they did. They first set up an appointment with the chair manufacturer to see if there was something that could be done with the chair. And when that didn’t work – we were told we could ”start over” and exchange what we had with something that would work better for us. What can we learn from this story?
When something goes wrong, we have an opportunity to “win back” our customers. Encourage your leaders to teach your customer service professionals to look at problems at opportunities. Recognize the positive impact that you can have on your customers when you can creatively brainstorm solutions. Take a look at your company policies and make sure they provide enough room for people to do what it takes to keep that customer relationship.
Guess what, this furniture store has made fans of us! What about you? We have got to “make it right for our customers!”