Great piece of information pasted from:
One of the most important questions people ask when they are focused on improving their quantity and quality of business is: "What is my competitive advantage? What makes me unique, memorable, special? what truly sets me apart from the rest?"
While there are no definitively right answers to that question, most people come to some conclusion that customer service is a critical component of your competitive advantage. For most businesses, the service they offer can vary from exceptional to not so hot, depending upon circumstances.
Why is that? Why does the same company, and even the same people within that company provide world class service some of the time, and marginal service (or worse) other times?
That answer can be found in asking a different question: "What makes you (or your staff) happy when serving your customers?" While these answers also vary, most people come up with some sort of variation of "I am happy when my customer is happy."
Do we enjoy dealing with agitated or disgruntled people? Normally not. We derive our joy from delivering value, by making others feel good about their experience, and by exceeding people's expectations.
What comes first then? The happy customer or the happy person serving the customer? This is not the chicken or the egg quandary. The happy person serving the customer NEEDS to come first, because it is a very unusual day when your customer comes into your business looking to cheer YOU up.
This all seems very obvious. At the same time that many people realize this truth, it is rare that people consciously take steps to make sure that their greatest customer service assets are being serviced too - whether that person in on your staff, in another department, or if that person is YOU. It is critical that you continually improve the emotional, physical and mental support you are supplying to the people serving your customers.
One of my friends and colleagues, Paul Wesselemann, shared a story about his time working at an HIV/AIDS support network. He explained how it was absolutely unacceptable to come to work when you were feeling even a bit ill, as even the smallest cold could be extremely dangerous for someone with HIV. He was REQUIRED first and foremost to take care of himself, make sure he was 100% before he was allowed to offer help and support to others.
How committed are you to taking the same care of YOUR needs? Your task for the month is to identify and act upon a couple of ways to keep you in proper shape so you can take care of your always important customers.
You Never Know Who You're Serving when customers turn irate.I think of myself as a reasonable person. It takes a lot to upset me, but upset I am.
A number of years ago, I bought a new television set. I had seen a flyer from Lechmere's that had TV's on sale. I called, got through the voice mail menu and asked the salesperson who answered, if the particular model advertised was available.
No, it wasn't but another, equally as good was at only $20 more.
I went to the store and examined a number of TV's. A knowledgeable, helpful salesman approached and patiently answered my questions. Finally, I made my choice and paid for it. I asked if they would hold it for me while I did some further shopping and was told that of course they would.
I was pleased with myself, with the store and with the purchase I'd made.
When I picked up the TV, it was so big, the young man who brought it out to the car had to take it out of the box to get it into my car.
My son brought it into the house for me and started to set it up when he asked, "Where's the antenna?"
My first thought was, "Oh no, it was left in the box."
I called the store to check. A young woman answered and said she'd put me through to the appropriate department. The on-hold music blared uncomfortably. I held the phone away from my ear when suddenly I heard the dial tone! I'd been disconnected. I re-dialed, went through the voice mail menu again, got the same young woman who said she'd put me through to "George". The loud music again irritated my ears as I waited and waited and waited for "George" to answer the phone. As the minutes ticked by, my irritation grew at a rapidly escalating rate. When he didn't answer the phone, I hung up and re-dialed. Again, I got the voice mail menu (which I now had memorized), punched in the correct extension, got the ringing of the phone, interrupted with short bursts of loud music, followed by more ringing which alternated with the loud music in my ear over 12 times.
I was now an irate customer. In less than 5 minutes I had been transformed from a very happy customer, into one of those crazy customers you dread speaking to. When the phone was finally answered, I let loose on the poor, unsuspecting salesperson. I told him that I had been disconnect, put on hold, ignored, gone practically deaf, and I was now VERY angry. He placidly replied, "That's because we're busy, Ma'am. We have a lot of customers here today."
"I don't care!" I loudly proclaimed ? my son, who had walked into the room at that moment, looked at me as though I had turned into a stranger in front of his eyes. He is unaccustomed to seeing me lose my temper.
"I am your customer and I am not getting good service." I then explained irately about my missing antenna. He asked me what size TV and I told him 27", he said that no 27" TV comes with an antenna.
Of course this put me over the top. I went from being an irate customer to the customer from hell. Why hadn't I been told?
Furious, I made another trip to the store and asked for the manager who cynically informed me that he was surprised to hear a complaint about the TV department. The defensiveness of the manager was the last thing I wanted to hear while I was still in a state of anger.
He didn't do anything to assuage my temper. He told me that everyone today had cable TV, therefore there's no need to include antennas. I told him that I for one don't have cable. I explained it might be a good idea to ask customers if they had cable.
He then asked a salesperson to find me an antenna. It looked like two wires attached by a plastic tripod. I asked how effective this would be and was told that it wouldn't be very effective but a "sound amplified" antenna would be what I needed.
Bottom line, I ended up paying for a $62.00 antenna.
No discount, no heartfelt apology, no attempt to make me feel that I was an important customer. But, just like most customers that get less than deserved service I got my revenge. Irate customers tell on average, 10-20 other people about the bad service they receive. I have already told many audiences and now am sharing this in my newsletter.
I started out as a reasonable customer, I would have cheerfully bought the antenna, but because of the chain of events, it brought out my evil twin. Not my most flattering nor most comfortable mode of behavior.
Contrast this incident to an experience I had, that Marty at the Hyatt Hotel in Austin, TX handled.
During a stay in that hotel, I was woken up through out my first night's stay by an intermittent whooshing noise I couldn't identify. When I got up the next morning and walked into the bathroom the toilet greet me with the same noise that had annoyed me all night.
I called the front desk who sent an engineer to the room. In explaining the situation and how it had woken me during the night, Marty, the engineer, gave me a pass to the restaurant and told me that breakfast was on him. He said, "No one should be woken during the night by a noise."
I have to say that his response was surprising to me. At most hotels I stay at the engineer would have to get permission to give away a meal.
His service attitude made my stay at the Hyatt memorable
As Alan Weiss (guru to the savvy consultant) says:
"It is actually difficult to contact clients too much. It is easy to fail to contact them frequently enough. If there is anyone anywhere who has ever sent you a check for your services and with whom you haven't communicated in the past 6 months, then you will never reach your growth potential. The secret is simple: Establish an ongoing dialogue with clients. In the worst case, a monologue will do."
You don't get business you don't ask for. You don't get remembered if you don't keep in your clients' minds.
But how can you keep your name on the tip of their tongues?
Here's 38 ways:
Letters; brochures; newsletters; article reprints; job aids and checklists; posters and sayings; cartoons; testimonials and examples of completed assignments.
Calls to 'stay in touch'; a 1800 (or 800 in USA) number and hot-line help to encourage use; information relayed on meetings or events of interest; reminders of long-term follow-up responsibilities and dates; introductions to third parties (that is, customers for your client).
Interviews with the client for industry journals; attendance at industry and professional meetings that the client attends; hosting periodic conferences on topics of interest; acting as an intermediary with other clients for mutual learning.
Web page updates and additions; 'password' website reserved for clients; regular email contact; branding in your email signature file; email with ideas and suggestions; references and/or hyperlinks to relevant sites; a chat room on your website; an extranet
Visits to the client without any particular agenda; entertaining key clients; sending holiday cards or gifts (as permitted); participating in mutual charity events and fund-raisers; seeking out common community and social events; sending "I'll be in the area" cards.
Co-authoring articles with the client; sending fax messages and information; advertising in industry publications the client reads; exhibiting at trade shows that key clients will attend; asking the client to help you as a critiquer, advisor, editor, etc.; inviting the client to be on your advisory board; breakfast or lunch meetings you sponsor on relevant topics.
Obviously, not all of these methods will lend themselves to your own business. But I am amazed and ashamed that there are so many more ways I can be keeping in contact with my clients than I currently am.
What might be useful is to compile a Communications Strategy for each of your clients, utilising a checklist of the most appropriate of these methods for each individual client.
When you match consumer psychology with effective communication styles you get a powerful combination. Lee Hopkins can show you how to communicate better for better business results. At Hopkins-Business-Communication-Traini ng.com you can find the secrets to communication success.
Is customer service a lost art? Before you answer that question, take a moment and think about the last few times you have gone shopping or out to dinner. Okay, now that you have really thought about it, is your answer any different? Why is it that when we actually DO receive excellent customer service that it makes such an impression on us that we usually choose to go back? Why - because the occurrences are so few and far between!!!
As a home business owner, it is imperative to my business that customer service is ALWAYS a top priority. Remember the saying: "If you don't take care of your customer, somebody else will". I'm sure you have read or heard it somewhere before.....and how true it is.
Here are a few ways to improve customer service at your business:
· SMILE - Sounds too simple, right? As a customer, would you prefer to be serviced by a smiling face, or a scowl that would befit a guard dog?
· LISTEN - Always be slow to speak and quick to listen. Let customers express themselves without you trying to do it for them. Nobody likes being interrupted.
· DON'T BE TOO PUSHY - Yeah, I know - the bottom line is sales, right?
There is a fine line between suggesting products/services and pushing them down a customer's throat. If you are too pushy, your customer will probably walk away and take their business elsewhere.
There is a fine line between suggesting products/services and pushing them down a customer's throat. If you are too pushy, your customer will probably walk away and take their business elsewhere.
· PHONE ETTIQUETTE - Whether you are answering or initiating a call, always remember who the customer is. Be polite. Try "Yes sir/ma'am" instead of "yeah" and "nope". If you don't have an answer for your customer - offer to do some research to find what they are inquiring about.
· THANK YOU - ALWAYS thank your customers. Even if you could not help them or they decided not to purchase from you. Leave them with a positive impression of your business before they leave.
· TRAINING - Train your employees. Don't let an untrained employee ruin your track record of excellent customer service. Train your employees on-the-job for as long as necessary to teach them good customer service.
"And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise"
In conclusion: Customer service may be THE most important aspect of your business plan. I know of many people who are willing to pay a little more for a product or service in order receive excellent customer care. Price, advertising, and location are all vital to a business---- but whatever you do, don't overlook the all-important "Good Customer Service".
Customer service is increasingly seen as one of the most valuable uses for a commercial World Wide Web site. Your Web site is available on a 24 hour, seven days a week basis. So it is well worth exploring ways in which your customers can virtually "serve themselves," without the need for overtime staff, or lengthy voice mail procedures.
James Feldman is President of JFA, Inc., an online business offering high quality and unique gift items including automatic watch winders, Grundig shortwave pocket radios, and nitroglycerine pill fobs. The JFA Web site has been online since 1997, and has doubled its income every year - it's now a multi-million dollar e-commerce enterprise.
Jim, who's also a professional speaker and expert on customer service, highlighted for me how the online buying experience differs from the bricks-and-mortar model.
Buying online eliminates the physical presence and personality of the salesperson from the process. This makes the Web site copy critical in creating a one-to-one relationship with the customer or prospect.
Which echoes one of my favorite mantras:
Every page of your site should be written from the visitor's point of view, not yours.
A visitor should be able to look at your offerings, and immediately answer the questions:
"Why me?" - that is, is your Web site the right place for me?
"Why should I care?" - does this copy convince me that you can meet my needs?
"Why should I care?" - does this copy convince me that you can meet my needs?
It's much easier and immediate to jump from Web site to Web site than to move between real-world stores. So the visitor has far more freedom of choice online. Jim says that the challenge for customer service is therefore very clearly to focus on one customer, one purchase at a time. E-customers expect great service, with little or no direct interaction. They will tolerate some mistakes, but not many.
Jim offers five rules for effective online customer service:
1. Be accessible. Show very clearly on your site all the ways that your customer can contact you - including e-mail, phone and fax numbers, and your office hours.
And, if it's practical for your business, be personal - give your visitors a real person to call who has a name, as opposed to email@example.com
Of course, if you're really upscale, you can include a "Call-me" button on your site.
2. Return every e-mail or phone call in the same day, as far as reasonably possible. This may sound simplistic, but a recent experiment with the top Fortune 100 companies showed that nearly a third failed to respond to e-mail sent through their Web site within one month! Some of these companies still don't provide a usable e-mail address on their sites at all.
3. Acknowledge all orders. Send e-mail confirmations (this can be done very effectively with autoresponders), and if you're shipping actual products, give tracking numbers and expected delivery dates.
4. Provide a clear return policy, honor it and learn from it. This may give you more information about what's working and what's not. Jim's products are sometimes returned with no explanation, so his staff always call the customer to establish and resolve the problem.
5. Expect more phone calls. Jim says: "Customers can't read or write!" If your Web site traffic and response rates grow (which is, of course, what we want), so will the volume of phone calls, whatever your business or industry.
Regardless of the site quality, clear returns and privacy policies, secure servers, etc., people still require human interaction. All of my clients report talking to customers on the phone, and walking them through the Web site, where their questions are clearly answered. Maybe these psychological barriers will lessen, but right now, they are very much there.
If you can get the customer service aspects of your business working well, there'll be a definite bottom line impact. Jim is quite clear that his business has grown substantially through repeat business and referrals from satisfied customers.
And in contrast, we can see the impact of poor customer service and fulfillment procedures in many of the dot.coms that failed. Jim says that people buy things online in the expectation of getting something more valuable than the actual money they spend.
Does your Web site do this??
Anyone who knows me knows my favorite fast food restaurant is Chick-fil-A. Aside from the fact their chicken is especially good and I can always get sweet tea, I have a valuable business reason for eating there ? they serve up amazing customer service. And these lessons aren't just served in my nearest location. But in any city, any town, any time I have been to a Chick-fil-A, I have left feeling like the most valuable Customer.
Now you may wonder what you can learn for your business, from a fast food restaurant. In short, plenty. Just because your business is different does not mean you can't take someone else's ideas or techniques and make them applicable to what you do. So I challenge you to be open to what you can learn from a chicken.
They are focused.
Chick-fil-a knows their expertise is making good chicken. You don't drive up to their window with options such as beef, pork or fish. Their focus stays on what they know. No empty promises of the best steak in town or a delicious oriental creation, just chicken. We should do the same for our Customers.
Don't pretend to have expertise where you can't deliver. Customers are good at sniffing us out. If you promise something you can't deliver just to get their business; you will be without a Customer.
They give me what I want.
I love Polynesian sauce (dipping sauce for nuggets) for my French fries. Chick-fil-A never charges me extra even though I don't order their nuggets. They are happy to give me what I want.
How many times to we charge our Customers all these added fees if they want something that is not the standard? When your Customer is hungry for something different ? make it easy for them to eat.
I often crave chicken on lazy Sunday afternoons but Chick-fil-A is never open for business due to clear company values and beliefs. They choose Sundays as a day to rest. They are never open, no exceptions, and according to their business plan they never will.
So often we cheat our Customers by not breaking from our work. Too much work can lesson our ability to concentrate, cloud our focus, and leave a bitter taste in our mouth. How much help are we to Customers if we are burned out?
They train their employees.
At a Chick-fil-A visit you will hear things like, "It is my pleasure to serve you." "Please." "Thank you." "I look forward to seeing you at the window." The atmosphere includes smiles, laughter, and happy workers who appear to love their job. And I doubt their happiness is based on a love for chicken ? they have been trained to value the Customer.
If you want to excel as a business, hire superstars that believe the Customer writes their paycheck. Set expectations with your employees and staff that outstanding Customer Service is expected, not optional. Add Customer Service as a major part of an employee's orientation. And most importantly lead by example. S.Truett Cathy, chose to do things his way by taking care of Customers and employees by hiring operators and managers that believed in his philosophy. To date, Chick-fil-A, the company he founded has more than a billion in sales annually.
I encourage you to visit a Chick-fil-A when you get the chance. I will continue my weekly visits to reaffirm my Customer service beliefs (and to get a chicken sandwich, no pickle with a large sweet tea!). p.s. You will notice in both articles the word Customer and Client are capitalized. Capitalizing the word is just one way we can remind ourselves of the great importance Customers have for our businesses. After all, without them, we wouldn't be in business
Customer Service is a critical factor for keeping your clients coming back and ensuring they'll refer you to others. Growing your business will be a difficult task at best if you don't perform, meet and exceed your client's expectations, and provide service that creates customers for life.
Customer service is all about the customer's perception. You have to do more than just get the job done. You must deliver on all the things (big and small) that affect the relationship with your client. Consider opportunities for improvement in the following areas.
1. Setting/Reviewing Expectations. Do you work with your client to set clear, appropriate, realistic expectations that you can always meet or exceed? Are you clear about the responsibilities (both yours' and the client's), timelines, and expectations of results? Are you then willing to go back and review these expectations with the client at key points along the way?
2. Communication. Do you have mechanisms in place to ensure you're communicating with clients at every stage of the engagement, from the sales process through to completion of the project? Being clear about where you're at, what's been completed, what's coming up next, who's responsible, what results you can expect, etc.? Has the client ever had to ask you for these things?
3. Organization. Are you organized? Punctual? Reliable? When you show up to work with your clients, have you done the work and are you prepared to make them feel comfortable and taken care of? Even though you've done it hundreds, maybe thousands of times before, do you take the time to organize and prepare to make it the best client experience possible?
4. Committing to the Little Things. Don't ever dismiss the power of all the little things. Together they can make all the difference and really separate you from the competition. Returning calls and emails in a timely manner. Providing useful information to folks on a regular basis. Showing appreciation for your clients through things like thank you notes, exclusive client-only briefings, and open house, etc.
Clearly these are not the only relevant areas for creating great customer service. I'm sure you can think of more. But, pick just one of these areas and create an action plan to improve it in your business today. Make a commitment to continuously improve the level of service you're providing and see how it pays off. When you've done it, pick another area and work on it.
This article offers five ways to help you deal with angry customers. While the goal of all businesses is to have only happy customers, we also have to be realistic and realize sometimes we are going to anger a customer. Isn't it best to know in advance how to deal with an angry one, of course it is. Read on?..
Handle the person first, then the problem. Let angry people vent their frustrations. This alone will go a long way toward resolving the problem. Many times people just need to let off some steam and you are their sounding board, whether you deserve to be or not.
Apologize. This is crucial. It shows you are committed to the relationship. Remember, the customer is always right, whether they are or not. So apologize, whether or not it was your fault.
Show empathy. Assure your customer that he or she has every right to be angry and disappointed and that you would feel the same way if it happened to you. Make them feel understood. Use your own experiences to show empathy.
Find a solution. Resolve the problem with your customer, not for the customer. Ask questions that will get the customer involved in the process, such as "How would you like to see this problem resolved?" or If you were in my position, how might you resolve this kind of problem for your customer?"
Follow up. After resolving the problem, you must follow up. Make sure things are satisfactory, but also look for additional needs that represent selling opportunities.
So, employ the above strategies and turn angry customers into happy ones!
In the competitive world of the 20th century, we generally viewed competitors as the enemy. And a competitor was anyone who sold to the same target audience as us - even if they sold a different item. After all, since there was a finite group of customers and a limited amount of money, if they spent it with your competitor, there was less for you.
Fast forward to the 21st century. We have a different view of the world. We now recognize that the pie is big enough for all of us. As Cavett Robert, co-founder of the National Speakers Association, said "The number of slices of pie is only limited by the size of the pie. Just make the pie bigger!" (paraphrased)
So how can you and your competitors create deals that benefit both of you - and your clients? Here are a few ideas:
1. If your competitor sells a product that is similar to yours, joint venture on a mailing to the list of people who have already purchased their product. You can offer your product and share in the profits. People in a target market are rarely satisfied with one item; instead, they will continue to buy items that are similar.
2. If your competitor publishes a book, ebook, or website, ask them to refer people to your site as a resource site. This can be included in their product or as a follow-up email to their clients.
3. If you offer a member site, ask your competitor to refer people to your site - for an affiliate commission. For example, SellYourBrain.com is a member site that helps people finish information projects like ebooks. The natural competitors are ebook authors who tell people how to write ebooks. However, by their referring their purchasers to SellYourBrain, the client is more likely to finish their ebook - making the ebook author look better in their eyes.
4. In turn, offer your competitor's product for sale on your member site. Again, SellYourBrain offers a monthly discount coupon good toward the purchase of ebooks on how to write ebooks.
5. When you're interviewed for a story about your product or service, offer to give the reporter related resources. The reporter will love having additional people to round out the story and your competitors will appreciate your referral. You come out as the hero to both groups.
Newsletters can be wonderful tools for communicating with your customers or prospects. Because of their format, they're often infused with more credibility than traditional brochures. If your newsletter is little more than blatant self-promotion, however, it's likely to hit the wastebasket before it hits your target's desk.
By following a few basic tips, you can cultivate interest in your newsletter and make it an effective marketing tool.
Keep it interesting. Whether you're informing prospects or current customers, provide useful content and avoid the temptation of use a hard-sell approach. For example, include a how-to article about some aspect of home buying or selling. While these topics relate to your field and reinforce your message, they also offer valuable advice and will help cultivate a loyal audience.
Do it yourself . . . or not. The abundance of desktop publishing programs on the market makes it easy for virtually anyone to create a newsletter. However, poor knowledge of design basics and overzealous use of difficult-to-read fonts has led to more than one design disaster. Before you try to do it yourself, consider hiring a professional graphic designer to create a template into which you or a staff member can input copy. If you still want to give it a shot yourself, pick up a book on graphic design basics before you create your masterpiece.
Find your look. Depending on your budget, you can choose from a variety of styles-from a simple, one-color piece to a multi-page, full-color format. Factors such as the number of colors and pages, type of paper, and paper size can mean big differences in cost, so ask for quotations on different specifications from several printers.
Keep it short. Generally, it's best to limit your newsletter to eight pages or fewer and keep articles at 300 words or fewer. If you have a lengthy or complex issue to address, try to break it up into two articles or one longer article accompanied by a short sidebar piece.
Remember what a picture's worth. Photographs add interesting elements to your piece-as long as you use something more creative than the traditional "smiling head" shots. If you choose not to use a full-color format, keep in mind that photographs reproduce best in shades of black.
Don't ignore the details. Triple-check spelling and grammar. Typographical errors can quickly damage your credibility and distract your reader. In addition to running the document through spelling and grammar checkers, have someone proofread it-preferably someone who hasn't seen the article before. He or she will be more likely than you are to catch any errors.
Include a feedback mechanism. Make it easy for readers to respond by including a contact name, phone and fax numbers, and postal and e-mail addresses.