Category Archives: Customer Service

Sound Advice

We’ve been saying this for years… one size never fits all.

Identify the BEST customers for your business, and knock yourself out trying to astound them with your service.

Don’t Grow Your Business With Bad Customers

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Take the time to discover which customers add the most value to your business.

Saying Thank You to Your Customers

Some thoughts as Thanksgiving approaches…

Your mama taught you the magic words: “Please,” “Thank You,” and “You’re Welcome.”  Now that you are a grown-up businessperson, these words are still useful, if not exactly magic.

Most of us remember to say Thank You to a customer when our transaction is complete, and yes, that is very nice.  However, it is also very common, to the point where it is almost a throw-away phrase, like “How ya doin’?”  Expressing your gratitude to your customers should be more than just a knee-jerk catch phrase that follows the cha-ching of your cash register.

The best way to show appreciation to your customers is to do things that make your customers feel good.  This will take on a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes, based on the nature of your business and the types of customers you have. Real gratitude is shown when you give your customer something of value that they were not expecting, that goes above and beyond what they contacted you for in the first place.  But please, not the pens or baseball caps with your logo on them!  Most folks have plenty of writing utensils and headwear, so the “value” of these types of promotional gifts is really the free advertising YOU get, if/when the customer uses these gifts in public.

Providing an outstanding Customer Experience is the key to expressing thanks to your customers.  A clean, comfortable business environment.  A friendly greeting and an offer to help, if needed.  A few well-chosen words of personal interaction – not about the weather, but about something the customer has, or says, or wants to purchase.  Connecting, even briefly, is a way of letting the customer know that you appreciate their taking the time to connect with your business.  But make the effort to be sincere.  Complimenting someone on the white tee shirt they are wearing may come off as a bit contrived.

Granted, this is all Service 101.  Yet so many businesses fail at this fundamental aspect of commerce.  But I guarantee you, the customer who feels appreciated is a customer who will return to you, and will bring her friends / colleagues.  This is how your business grows best.

So think about your mom.  Think about how she’d want you to treat those nice customers.  Then do it!  And not just around the holidays; do it every day, with every customer.  Customers have choices.  Show the ones who have chosen you some kindness and gratitude, and watch how much they will come to appreciate you!

— Chuck Dennis

8 Steps to Recovering “Lost” Customers

Because we’re so focused on generating new business, recovering old accounts is usually not a priority. But it’s a great revenue strategy to identify recovery targets and develop an action plan to go get them. Here are some steps to get you started:

1.  Research your customer database for all customers that have not done business with you for one year or more.

2.  Segment the list into groups of one year, two years, three-plus – and then sort by sales territory.

3.  Review each list with customer service and the territory sales rep to see if they have any intelligence on why the customer left.

4.  Check in with other key personnel who have been with your company for a while and have had customer contact, to see if there is any anecdotal information.

5.  Categorize the reasons for leaving and work with marketing to construct tailored messages for the major categories.

6.  Create a multi-touch field campaign to start to re-engage – holding out those you know had a service issue.  The goal is to get agreement for a preliminary live conversation with a sales rep.

7.  Do NOT try to sell them anything in the first live meeting. This is only step one in earning back their business.

8.  For service-issue customers, re-engagement requires a personal touch. Determine what the nature of the issue was, and what you can offer them now that might be worth reconsidering you as a vendor.

For this to work, you need patience and consistency. So make Customer Recovery a key aspect of every monthly sales meeting. Track and report on the process of recovery for each of the identified targets and make sure everyone in the company knows what is happening, and when you win them back or why you didn’t.

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Death by Scorecard

Love this new blog post by Adrian C. Ott on Harvard Business Review’s blog page.  It’s titled “Are Scorecards and Metrics Killing Employee Engagement?,” and it is spot on, at least to my way of thinking.  I have never believed that the long list of the usual call center netrics were of any value.  The only metric that matters, at the end of the interaction, is this: was the customer completely happy?

The other metrics… they are for management’s amusement.  They can kick at the tires, and poke at them with a stick, and make certain tweaks that could result in shaving another 0.358 seconds off the average call.

But the only people who really care about that are the higher-up management, and shareholders in their quarterly dog & pony show.  All your customer cares about is getting her issue successfully addressed in an attentive and courteous manner.  This is about hiring the right people, and training those people to “do right things,” as opposed to “doing things right.”

Hiring robots who quote company policy might save you some money but will cost you a lot of customer love.  Never a good trade-off.

— Chuck Dennis

ViewsHound | Your customer service is mo

ViewsHound | Your customer service is more important than your product http://ow.ly/5C013 You must believe this to be successful! #service

All Together Now

All businesses know that is imperative to have marketing and sales familiar with all of the features, benefits, uses, and details of their products and services.  Certainly, before these departments can sell to customers outside the company, the products and services need to be “sold” internally.    This is part of marketing and sales training.

But it does not not end there.  For a business to successfully sell its wares to customers and prospects, it needs to sell it internally to other departments, as well.  Because customer contact does not begin and end with marketing and sales.  All departments need to be singing from the same page.

First of all, it is not typically marketing or sales that answers the phone or the email when customers have questions.  So customer service needs to have a firm grasp of the details of each product and service in order to sufficiently answer those questions, and even upsell or cross-sell an appropriate product.

If there are technical or workability issues with a product, the customer support staff not only has to understand how the product works, but how the customer wants it to work.

And how about finance?  The folks who handle the money need to understand the value of the company’s products or services to the customer, and how they use them.

And it looks really bad if the executives don’t have a firm grasp of the finer points of the business’ offerings.  They are the ones out there, being the face of the company, getting interviewed or representing the company in public forums and events.

Bottom line, someone in your organization has to be part choir director and part diplomat to get everyone singing the same tune.  It isn’t easy, but it is necessary.  Now, a-one and a-two…

— Lisa Dennis

Explore this idea further here.

Take a 360 Degree View of Your Customer

Do all the external-facing departments in your company see the world through your customer’s eyes?  All customer touch points, including marketing, sales, customer  service, technical support and accounts receivables, should be integrated with each other.

No matter who your customers connect with in your company, their experience must be consistent, clear and coordinated, an integrated “360-degree” view of your customer,  ensuring that promise and delivery are in sync.

Three elements of a company propel its business: marketing, sales and customer service.  Most companies know, theoretically, that these three elements need to work  together effectively to produce steady sales, revenue growth and happy customers.

Frequently, however, there are aspects of human nature that get in the way of each of these elements, preventing them from performing at peak opportunity. Ego, compensation models, bonus programs often take precident over customer concerns.  The ability to identify, address and resolve these issues goes a long way towards building a loyal customer base that keeps coming back.

— Lisa Dennis

Social Media Makes It Too Easy to Complain? Boo-Hoo!

A recent article in the NY Times titled Consumer Complaints Made Easy. Maybe Too Easy. discusses a company called Gripe, where customers can post complaints or kudos about companies they’ve dealt with, and these comments are posted to the customer’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as to the company in question’s service department.

Personally, I think this is an awesome idea, and frankly, so should businesses.  I do think Gripe’s company name is a bit of a misnomer, as it does allow consumers to praise a business’ positive service delivery as easily as it allows for complaints.  And while some businesses still cling to the idea that their reputation is (or should be) one of complete customer satisfaction and perfection, c’mon, let’s add a dose of reality here, shall we?

No business is perfect.  No business magnificently serves all their customers, all of the time.  Fact.  But along with that fact, it should be mentioned that many studies (including one by Technical Assistance Research Programs) show that customers who have had a problem resolved successfully and amicably tend to be more loyal than customers who have never experienced a problem with a particular business.

So, Gripe lets customers air their complaints in a public forum, but it also allows businesses to resolve those complaints in public, too.  I see this as a big boost for the concept of customer service, in general.  For customers AND for businesses.  Readers of this space know that we are complete advocates of customer rights, but we love to see businesses step up their service game and shine.  It’s all good, as the young people say.

What I don’t get is the article’s author wondering if Gripe makes it TOO EASY for consumers to complain!  He seems to indicate that there should be some kind of effort in persistence  for complaining customers in order to have their complaint heard.  I’m thinking that he fears such a forum will make it too easy for wackos to air their real or imagined slights to the world, thus creating “a din of complaints.”  Whereas, I feel that every customer, and every complaint, deserves to be heard, and every business that cares about its customers and its reputation should be eager to hear, and resolve, such complaints.  In this way, a business’ service delivery and remedies can actually become a vehicle for positive marketing.  Yes, it does raise the bar for service departments across the globe, but given the overall decline in service worldwide, this is not a bad thing.

So businesses, dry your eyes, blow your nose, hike up your bloomers, and get serious about your customers on social media!

— Chuck Dennis

Thank You is Always in Good Taste

You may have noticed that LinkedIn, the online business networking site, recently went over 100 million members.  One hundred million. 1, followed by eight zeros.  A lot of members.

ThankYouLanguage-main_Full But instead of chest-thumping and crowing, Linkedin co-founder and chairman, Reid Hoffman, took a much more subtle approach.  He sent out thank yous to each of the organizations members, not just the premium members from whom they make money, but even the cheapo freebie members like me!  And it was personalized, not only with my name, but with my place in the long line of LinkedIn members.  (I’m #735127, nice to meet you!)

Granted, the personalization is not difficult to do, nor is the emailing to the organization’s 100,000,000 members.  But this is not about degree of difficulty.  Nor is it about “getting” any prizes or discounts.  Hell, it’s a free service – that’s my prize!

What is cool about this is that an organization that has not only impacted millions of lives, but has changed the way the world does business, actually thought of its customers, and stopped and THANKED THEM for being part of the organization’s success.

To quote from Mr. Hoffman’s email: “I want to personally thank you because you were one of LinkedIn’s first million members (member number 735127 in fact!*). In any technology adoption lifecycle, there are the early adopters, those who help lead the way. That was you.”

That was ME!  He not only thanked me, but gave me a reason why I was being thanked.  No, I haven’t put any money in Mr. Hoffman’s pocket, but he nonetheless thanked me for using his organization’s product, and the impact that I (and many others) made in facilitating its success.

I thought it was kind of cool that, while celebrating a significant milestone for his business, he went out of his way to thank the people who made it possible.  A small gesture, but an important one.  You heard from Mark Zuckerberg lately?  Me neither.

Businesses: mind your manners.  Didn’t your mommas teach to say THANK YOU?  You don’t have to make a big production out of it.  You don’t have to offer “discounts” so that people will buy more from you to help celebrate your success.  You can just say thanks, and mean it.

— Chuck Dennis

Fly Me to the Moon

People don’t mind paying for premium service.  They don’t mind cost so much when they know what to expect.  But imagine dining in a restaurant, ordering from a nice menu, and then discovering that there are extra charges for the dishes, glasses, and silverware.  That glass of water?  Extra.  Oh, and remember when you asked to move away from the table by the kitchen door, to that empty booth in the corner?  That's another BIG extra charge.

In this crazy scenario, I believe that most level-headed would soon stop dining out.  But isn't this exactly what the airlines are doing?   
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In the 2nd Quarter of 2010, U.S. airlines collected $2.1 billion in fees and extra charges from passengers in the, up 13 percent from the first three months of the year. This is from the US Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ recent quarterly report.  This $2.1 billion has been collected for the following "services": baggage fees, reservation change fees and miscellaneous operating revenue, including pet transportation, sale of frequent flyer award miles to airline business partners and standby passenger fees, as well as revenue from seating assignments and on-board sales of food, drink, pillows, blankets, and entertainment.  None of these are listed "on the menu" when one buys a ticket.

Oh, and by the way, I haven’t noticed a whole lot of customer service awards being granted to airlines these days. Seems like all of them regularly run behind schedule, and a lot of their personnel are pretty grumpy. There are a couple of airlines that seem to “get it,” but for the most part, the customer experience is pretty mediocre-to-poor.  So what’s a customer to do?  

Well, the Consumer Travel Alliance , the Business Travel Coalition, and the American Society of Travel Agents have launched the website MadAsHellAboutHiddenFees.com.  To date, they have collected over 50,000 signatures, including mine, on a petition they plan to present to the Department of Transportation (DOT) today (9/23/2010).  I think when fifty thousand of your customers speak up against how you are running your business, and they are mad enough to go to the government about it, you kinda hafta listen, dontcha?

I will be very interested in seeing how this plays out.  At least one of the airlines that “get it” is making the fact that they do NOT charge for checked baggage a big part of their advertising campaign.  Good idea on their part, but at the same time, kind of sad that NOT charging a hidden fee is viewed as a competitive advantage.

 – Chuck Dennis

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