Monday, 30 June 2014

Are These The 13 Worst Customer Service Mistakes Ever? By Micah Solomon

Here’s my list of 13 cringe worthy customer service mistakes I see companies make again and again and again. All fixable (which keeps me in business), but all tragic in their little, or more than little, way.

1.Refusing to say you’re sorry.

2.Saying you’re sorry in a way that makes it obvious that you aren’t, really.

3.Being late, being misleading about timetables, being insensitive to the timing issues and pacing preferences and expectations of your customers.  Remember: a perfect product, delivered late, is a defect.

4.Treating your employees like dirt and expecting them to treat their customers like gold. You get a lot better results (not to mention karma) by emulating institutions like the Ritz-Carlton with its central operating philosophy of  putting employees and customers first: “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.”

5.Burning your customers (and therefore yourself) because something bad happened once, or even never.  Not taking checks, for instance, because one time someone bounced one.

6.Forgetting it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it, specifically, it’s the language you use.   Language needs to be gentle, kind, and brand appropriate—without sounding stilted. And language includes getting the “words without words” right at your company as well: yielding the right of way to customers, never having your back to a guest, and so on.

7.Failing the “cues to quality” test: customers in every setting pick up cues to quality from the darnedest places. Typos in your signs, dirty shoelaces on your nurses—this stuff matters.

8.Getting everything right except the beginning and the ending—the two most important moments as far as a customer’s memory is concerned.

9.Not realizing the beginning starts before the beginning—that customers are picking up info and implications about you before they ever arrive at your official website or the front door of your establishment.

10.Hiring the wrong people and expecting that you’ll be able to provide good customer service anyway.

11.Hiring the right people but then failing to give them power: power to help customers in ways you haven’t thought of, power to design their tasks differently, power to do their best for you.

12.Trying to be all Dale Carnegie by inserting your customer’s name into every other line of a conversation – but using the wrong pronunciation.  Or, personalizing your correspondence with a customer – but misspelling her name.

13.Getting excited about your newly-installed self-service channel, and then forcing every customer to use it, whether it suits them or not.

What did I leave out?  Do any of these not deserve to be on the list?  Any great examples (tragic examples) of anything on the list? I’d enjoy hearing from experts and civilians alike in the comments below, and I’ll update the article as great ones come up.

Micah Solomon is a customer experience consultant, customer service speaker, and author.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

When Business is Good, Customer Service Gets Tested By Shep Hyken

You know your company is doing well when new business comes in the door, and old customers keep coming back. During growth spurts, time gets tight. That’s when customer care is most in jeopardy.

It starts with a whisper that creeps into even the most dedicated minds saying things like:

 “I don’t have time to follow up on that email. It will have to wait.” Followed later with, “I think I’m forgetting something.”Gently nagging while dozing off to sleep, “Did I ever respond to William about his order request for George?”

That whisper will have you weighing which customers are “worth” your limited time, and which ones can be put off “for just a while.

It can hypnotize you to “reach for the nearest cookie” for comfort when you’re feeling time-starved and overwhelmed.  Over time, it rewrites each employee’s definition of “this is the way we do things.”

Customer service can appear to be intangible – hard to measure, and hard to track. It’s not an impossible metric. The issue most people fail to factor in is this – customer service always needs immediate attention, though the bottom-line impacting results are not immediate.

As you look around your business at the height of success, what you’re seeing isn’t your current customer service culture at work. You’re seeing the results of your PAST service efforts.

That whisper that shows up during times of growth, much like a new puppy, needs to be trained so it doesn’t make a mess of things.

What can you do about it?

ACKNOWLEDGE TEMPTATIONS. Pay attention to thoughts that tempt you to skimp on the customer experience and congratulate yourself for noticing it. You can’t make positive adjustments unless you notice what needs adjusting.

HAVE BRAVE CONVERSATIONS. Talk to your team and “out” yourself. Talk about your own struggles with service levels and check in to see if others have had similar issues due to time constraints and growing demands. Your authenticity will make it easier for others to share concerns openly.

FOCUS ON SOLUTIONS. Brainstorm ways to minimize any growing pains your clients experience as you put new systems in place to handle the new work load your company’s success has created.

PRACTICE ACCOUNTABILITY. Hold yourself and your company accountable to maintaining a culture of customer care. Growth is a good problem to have as long as the commitment to uphold service values stays intact.

Today’s Marketing Keeps Customers Coming Back: Customer Service Is the New Marketing By Shep Hyken

Traditional marketing was used to get customers “in the door.”  But today’s marketing keeps customers coming back.  It’s more than a marketing message.  It’s a marketing experience.

More and more, the case for customer service and experience is being closely linked, if not actually one in the same, with marketing becoming stronger.  The marketing department has always been responsible for delivering a message or brand promise that makes customers want to do business with you.  At one time marketing was all about the product.  In some cases, it still is.  However, the smart companies are recognizing that what they sell is a commodity; in that most of the time their customers can find the exact product, or something very similar, at another business or website.  The smart companies market more than the product.  They market the benefit of buying that product from them.  And, the benefit that is commonly used is the promise of customer service and an amazing experience.

Think about the advertising on TV, radio, print and online that touts various customer service awards, such as JD Power.  These companies want you to know they deliver value beyond the product.  That is what they do to de-commoditize themselves from their competition.

The “New Marketing” continues long after customers hear or see the original message. It happens throughout the entire customer journey, and when the customer comes back, it repeats itself.  The new way of marketing is to be so good throughout the customer’s journey – at every interaction or touch-point – that the customer not only wants to come back, but also evangelizes on behalf of the company.  Hence, the term, word-of-mouth marketing.  The perfect situation is when the customer tells their friends, family members and business associates about not only the product they love, but the company from which they bought it.

Tom Baldwin, the former Chairman and CEO of Morton’s The Steakhouse, used to say that the restaurant chain’s best marketing didn’t come from any traditional advertising on television, radio, newspapers or magazines.  It came from the employees doing what they were supposed to do; deliver an exceptional experience that made their guests want to come back and talk about it to their friends.

The key is to manage all of the contact that your customers have with you throughout and after their experience that reinforces, that they made the right decision to do business with you.  It’s about how you handle the touch-points and interactions that the customer has with your people, your website, your support channels and more.

Customer service drives the customer experience.  That’s your best marketing.  That’s the New Marketing.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The 5 Words You Can Never Speak In Customer Service, By Micah Solomon

When a customer contacts you to complain about your service or product, or needs your help in addressing a service-related breakdown – what I refer to (as a consultant and keynote speaker) as “service recovery” – there’s almost nothing that matters more to your ultimate success than the language that you use.  For this reason, service-recovery language needs to be chosen intentionally in your business, ideally codified and immortalized in a “language lexicon” that all can refer to.

The language of calming, apology, and probing

You’ll never successfully calm an upset customer without the right words and phrasing. ‘‘I’m sorry, I apologize’’ are the words, delivered sincerely, that your customer wants to hear. Phrases like ‘‘It’s our policy’’ and any synonyms for ‘‘You’re wrong’’ must be banished. (If, in fact, the customer is wrong and there is a bona fide – e.g., safety-related or legally required – reason to point this out, you need words that express this obliquely, such as ‘‘Our records seem to indicate…’’ and ‘‘Perhaps… ’’ so that she can realize her error but also save face.

The five words you can never say to a customer: “Did You Plug It In?”

There is a specific moment in service recovery where the language used (and the timing of when you use that language) comes most crucially into play.  When a customer is looking to resolve an issue, you are often put in an exploratory position that requires you to ask rudimentary questions like:

‘‘Are you sure you, uh, typed in your password correctly?’’

I refer to these as DYPII (‘‘Did You Plug It In?’’) questions. DYPII questions (pronounced “dippy”), no matter how justified, are highly likely to raise customer hackles. If you bring up DYPII questions right away, before you’ve taken the time to sincerely apologize to the customer for a service breakdown—and before your customer has accepted your apology—they’ll almost universally be considered offensive.

But after you’ve apologized, and taken the time to help your customer develop a spirit of collaboration with you, the same questions are generally tolerated well, if you use the correct language.

Every industry has its own, often predictable, set of “DYPII” questions.    Plan for them.  Find new phrases to use.  It makes all the difference.

In fact, the classically infuriating DYPII question, ‘‘Did you plug it in?’’ can be rendered as ‘‘Maybe the wall connection is loose. Can you do me a favor and check where it plugs into the socket?’’

The Customer Service Habit: Why Your Company Culture Needs To Catch It, By Micah Solomon

Want to deliver customer service so good it knocks your competition out of the running? If so, you can’t leave it to happenstance.  Extraordinary customer service comes from building an organizational, cultural habit: making sure great customer service feels like the norm, the expectation in your company culture, rather than an exception, a fluke.

Habit is the customer service secret that many otherwise successful organizations are missing.  It’s necessary if you want to get beyond offering a pretty good level of customer service, some of the time, to offering a reliably high level of customer service almost all the time. And that’s what this article is about.

But first I have a true confession. (Don’t get too excited; it has to do with seat belts.)
Today, I didn’t use my safety belt. For about 11 seconds. I was turning my Volvo (yes) around in my driveway and consciously thought to myself, as I put the key in the ignition, “I’m going to live on the edge. I’m just in my own driveway, and it’s just for a moment.”

Let me tell you. Those 11 seconds were uncomfortable.  Panicky. A poison ivy level of personal discomfort.  Halfway into the maneuver, I had to break down and belt myself in after all, in order to feel all right.

Why? Because when we were kids my parents, bless them, never ever allowed a key to turn in an ignition until everyone in the car was strapped in.  Didn’t matter if it was our car, a rental, a taxi, or one of those little shuttle buses. So doing the right thing in the area of safety isn’t something I get to be proud of. It’s something I can’t help doing.

Onward to customer service. Any employee, and I mean any, can rise to giving good service once in a while:  Perhaps when it’s really slow, when the employee really clicks with a particular customer, when the employee is especially well rested and especially in-hungover.

But great customer service, the kind that over time  makes your competition entirely irrelevant to your customers, has to happen day in and day out, and with customers who have funky attitudes, who don’t treat you like you’d prefer to be treated, who interrupt you when you are trying to make sense of conflicting priorities on very little sleep.

This is where my seat-belt theorem comes into play. Your organization needs to ooze habitual (habitually ooze?) customer service excellence.  Not “some of the time, it’s OK if we do, OK if we don’t” customer service, but true customer service excellence.

While this depends first, of course, on hiring people who are appropriate to customer service, to customer facing positions  and then depends on you to train and inspire employees to give extraordinary service, it depends, in the long run, on developing habit. On employees building up the habit of great customer service, by observing their leaders in the act, and  by  working side by side with great peers who consistently deliver great service, day in and day out. Doing it to the point that, for example, being abrupt with a guest or not helping a customer in obvious need (she’s looking at a map, for example, but you don’t offer to help her get where they’re going),  feels awkward, itchy, squirm-inducing.

If you’re lucky, these habits start long before the employee was even hired: they learned them, as I learned the seat-belt habit, from their parents.  But you can’t count on that.  So, as a leader, generate and reinforce the right habits by:

• Always–always–insisting employees provide the very best service: not “minimum daily requirement” service, not inoffensive service, but the best service.

• Modeling the highest level of customer service yourself as a manager.

• Surrounding your employees with only great employees, for positive peer pressure that makes it even more impossible to do things wrong. (This is why it’s sometimes better to leave a position temporarily unfilled rather than to hire someone for it who isn’t up to your organization’s level of commitment to customer service standards.)

This is the way to give extraordinary service, consistently, day in and day out, in good times and bad, easy circumstances and hard.

But here’s the problem: Sadly, habit also works in reverse.  Even if you hire as carefully as possible, and train as hard as the dickens, if your employees see, at work, that an attitude of “we’re doing the customer a favor,” or “we’ll do as little as seems reasonable to avoid going out of our way,” is tolerated, that will become the habit.  And it’s a hard, hard one to dig out once its roots get dug in.

Micah Solomon is a customer service consultant, company culture speaker, and author.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Customer Service Skills that Every Employee Needs By Gregory Ciotti

There are certain customer service skills that every employee must master if they are forward-facing with customers.
Without them, you run the risk of finding your business in an embarrassing customer service train-wreck, or simply losing customers as your service continues to let people down.
Luckily, there are a few universal skills that every support member can master that will drastically improve their interactions with customers.
Below I'll go over the 15 most-needed skills that matter to this incredibly important position.
The Customer Service Skills that Matter
When most business publications talk about customer service skills, things like "being a people person" tend to take the spotlight. It's not that this trait is outright wrong, but it's so vague and generic that it is hardly a help to those looking to get involved in support positions within a company, and certainly doesn't help out entrepreneurs/founders who are looking for the right set of skills when hiring the all-important folks who will be taking care of their customers.
With that said, let's get into some SPECIFIC skills that every support employee can master to WOW" the customers that they interact with on a daily basis.
1. Patience
If you don't see this near the top of a customer service skills list, you should just stop reading. Not only is patience important to customers, who often reach out to support when they are confused and frustrated, but it's also important to the business at large. Yet patience shouldn't be used as an excuse for slothful service either!
Derek Sivers explained his view on "slower" service as being an interaction where the time spent with the customer was used to better understand their problems and needs from the company.
If you deal with customers on a daily basis, be sure to stay patient when they come to you stumped and frustrated, but also be sure to take the time to truly figure out what they want — they'd rather get competent service than be rushed out the door!

2. Attentiveness
The ability to really listen to customers is so crucial for providing great service for a number of reasons. Listening to customer feedback is a must for many businesses who are looking to innovate.
Not only is it important to pay attention to individual customer interactions (watching the language/terms that they use to describe their problems), but it's also important to be mindful and attentive to the feedback that you receive at large.

3. Clear Communication Skills
For all of the "mumblers" and people who love to ramble on (that's me!), you need to listen up! It's okay to find out more about your customers, but make sure you're getting to the problem at hand quickly; customers don't need your life story or to hear about how your day is going.
More importantly, you need to be cautious about how some of your communication habits translate to customers, and it's best to err on the side of caution whenever you find yourself questioning a situation.
An example: The last time I went to get work done on my car, I was told by an employee that if I wanted to get an oil change, it would be "included" in my final bill.
I thought that meant I'd be getting it for free, yet as it turns out, that wasn't the case. The employee apologized and I truly believe it was an accident (they just worked there), but I haven't been back to that shop since because of the miscommunication.
When it comes to important points that you need to relay clearly to customers, keep it simple and leave nothing to doubt.

4. Knowledge of the Product
As a non-technical guy, this is one I try to work on every single day. The best forward-facing employees in your company will work on having a deep knowledge of how your product works.
It's not that every single team member should be able to build your product from scratch, but rather they should know the ins and outs of how your product works, just like a customer who uses it everyday would.
Without knowing your product from front-to-back, you won't know how to help customers when they run into problems.

5. Ability to Use "Positive Language"
Sounds like fluffy nonsense, but your ability to make minor changes in your conversational patterns can truly go a long way in creating happy customers.
Language is a very important part of persuasion, and people (especially customers) create perceptions about you and your company based off of the language that you use.
Here's an example: Let's say a customer contacts you with an interest in a particular product, but that product happens to be backordered until next month. Small changes that utilize "positive language" can greatly affect how the customer hears your response...
    Without positive language: "I can't get you that product until next month; it is back-ordered and unavailable at this time."
    With positive language: "That product will be available next month. I can place the order for you right now and make sure that it is sent to you as soon as it reaches our warehouse."
The first example isn't negative by any means, but the tone that it conveys feels abrupt and impersonal, and can be taken the wrong way by customers.
Conversely, the second example is stating the same thing (the item is unavailable), but instead focuses on when/how the customer will get to their resolution rather than focusing on the negative.

6. Acting Skills
Let's get real honest here... sometimes you're going to come across people that you'll never be able to make happy. Situations outside of your control (they had a terrible day, or they are just a natural-born complainer) will sometimes creep into your usual support routine, and you'll be greeted with those "barnacle" customers that seem to want nothing else but to pull you down.
Every great customer service rep will have those basic acting skills necessary to maintain their usual cheery persona in spite of dealing with people who may be just plain grumpy.

7. Time Management Skills
Hey, despite my many research-backed rants on why you should spend more time with customers, the bottom line is that there is a limit, and you need to be concerned with getting customers what they want in an efficient manner.
The trick here is that this should also be applied when realizing when you simply cannot help a customer. If you don't know the solution to a problem, the best kind of support member will get a customer over to someone who does.
Don't waste time trying to go above and beyond for a customer in an area where you will just end up wasting both of your time!

8. Ability to "Read" Customers
You won't always be able to see customers face-to-face, and in many instances (nowadays) you won't even hear a customer's voice! That doesn't exempt you from understanding some basic principles of behavioral psychology and being able to "read" the customer's current emotional state. This is an important part of the personalization process as well, because it takes knowing your customers to create a personal experience for them. More importantly though, this skill is essential because you don't want to mis-read a customer and end up losing them due to confusion and miscommunication.
Look and listen for subtle clues about their current mood, patience level, personality, etc., and you'll go far in keeping your customer interactions positive.

9. A Calming Presence
There's a lot of metaphors for this type of personality: "keeps their cool," "staying cool under pressure," etc., but it all represents the same thing... the ability that some people have to stay calm and even influence others when things get a little hectic.
I've had my fair share of hairy hosting situations, and I can tell you in all honesty that the #1 reason I stick with certain hosting companies is due to the ability of their customer support team to keep me from pulling my hair out.
The best customer service reps know that they cannot let a heated customer force them to lose their cool; in fact it is their job to try to be the "rock" for a customer who thinks the world is falling down due to their current problem.

10. Goal Oriented Focus
This may seem like a strange thing to list as a customer service skill, but I assure you that it is vitally important.
In my article on empowering employees, I noted that many customer service experts have shown how giving employees unfettered power to "WOW" customers doesn't always generated the returns that many businesses expect to see.
That's because it leaves employees without goals, and business goals + customer happiness can work hand-in-hand without resulting in poor service.
11. Ability to Handle Surprises
Despite what I had to say above, sometimes the customer support world is going to throw you a curveball! Maybe the problem you encounter isn't specifically covered in the company's guidelines, or maybe the customer isn't reacting how you thought they would.
Whatever the case, it's best to be able to think on your feet... but it's even better to create guidelines for yourself in these sorts of situations.
Let's say, for instance, you want to come up with a quick system for when you come across a customer who has a product problem you've never seen before...
Who? One thing you can decide right off the bat is who you should consider your "go-to" person when you don't know what to do. The CEO might be able to help you, but you can't go to them with every single question! Define a logical chain for yourself to use, then you won't be left wondering who you should forward the problem too.

What? When the problem is noticeably out of your league, what are you going to send to the people above? The full conversation, just the important parts, or maybe some highlights and an example of a similar ticket?

How? When it comes time to get someone else involved, how are you going to contact them? For instance, at Help Scout we prefer to solve small dilemmas over chat, and save bigger problems for email, keeping inbox clutter down to a minimum.
12. Persuasion Skills
This is one a lot of people didn't see coming! Experienced customer support personnel know that oftentimes, you will get messages in your inbox that are more about the curiosity of your company's product, rather than having problems with it.
To truly take your customer service skills to the next level, you need to have some mastery of persuasion so that you can convince interested customers that your product is right for them (if it truly is).
It's not about making a sales pitch in each email, but it is about not letting potential customers slip away because you couldn't create a compelling message that your company's product is worth purchasing!

13. Tenacity
Call it what you want, but a great work ethic and a willingness to do what needs to be done (and not take shorcuts) is a key skill when providing the kind of service that people talk about.
The many memorable customer service stories out there (many of which had a huge impact on the business) were created by a single employee who refused to just do the "status quo" when it came to helping someone out.
Remembering that your customers are people too, and knowing that putting in the extra effort will come back to you ten-fold should be your driving motivation to never "cheat" your customers with lazy service.

14. Closing Ability
To be clear, this has nothing to do with "closing sales" or other related terms. Being able to close with a customer means being able to end the conversation with confirmed satisfaction (or as close to it as you can achieve) and with the customer feeling that everything has been taken care of (or will be).
Getting booted after a customer service call or before all of their problems have been addressed is the last thing that customers want, so be sure to take the time to confirm with customers that each and every issue they had on deck has been entirely resolved.
Your willingness to do this shows the customer 3 very important things:
  •     That you care about getting it right
  •     That you're willing to keep going until you get it right
  •     That the customer is the one who determines what "right" is.
When you get a customer to, "Yes, I'm all set!" is when you know the conversation is over!

15. Willingness to Learn!
If you came across this article and read all the way to the bottom, you likely already have this skill (nice!). This is probably the most "general" skill on the list, but it's still necessary. Those who don't seek to improve what they do, whether it's building products, marketing businesses, or helping customers, will get left behind by the people willing to invest in their skills.

Friday, 13 June 2014

10 Ways to Engage Your Customers By Victoria Treyger

Customers are the most important part of any business because they are the lifeblood of your company. Without your customers, it is safe to assume you wouldn’t be in business at all. As the summer draws nearer, your relationship with your customers could go one of two ways:
(1) It could increase and result in high engagement or (2) it could decrease and you could lose touch with your target demographic.

Engaging with your customers is great for your marketing initiatives and for bettering your business overall. The more contact you have with the people who support your business, the more successful your business will become. Your customers are more likely to refer their friends if you have high engagement with them, so the more you connect with your consumer base, the more traction your business will gain!

Customer engagement is easier than ever due to social media. Reaching out to customers via your various social platforms will definitely increase your customer engagement levels, especially if you offer special promotions and campaigns. Here are a few tips on how to increase your customer engagement levels this summer!

1.) Build a Group
Building groups on your social media platforms that are designated as help groups or fan groups for your products or services is an easy and effective way to interact with and engage with your customers. You can create forums on Reddit or create groups on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+. Not only does this allow you to interact with your customer base but it also gives your consumers an opportunity to interact with each other and share their experiences.

2.) Be Assertive
Rather than coming on too strong or aggressive with your consumers, try to have an assertive communication style. This means all of your conversations with customers are a two-way road where you actively listen and then proactively build off of what you heard from your customer. This is the best way to solve any disputes or issues.

3.) Host a Contest
Contests and campaigns are heavily used in social media marketing for one particular reason: They work and they work well. Offering customers a prize for simply engaging with you on social media is an amazing incentive that is sure to get most of your target demographic talking. If your business has a highly visual aspect, host a contest on Instagram where your followers have to repost your picture and tag you to be entered to win. This gets your brand out to all of their followers and garners your business credibility because consumers are helping spread the word rather than advertisers.

4.) Ask Questions
The best way to get responses from your followers and customers is to pose a question on your social media platforms, especially Twitter. Hootsuite poses open-ended positive questions that are relevant to business owners on their Twitter account biweekly. Kabbage asks a trivia question each week to get our customers talking. As a general rule, make sure you are posing thoughtful, real questions that will give your target demographic something interesting to talk about, be involved in, and help them as consumers!

5.) Commission a Case Study
Bringing in a sample size of your target demographic to request feedback is a great option when it comes to engaging your customers. This way you have direct contact with your consumer, and they can ask you specific questions about your products or services.

6.) Celebrate
You can always host a party to celebrate your business and your loyal customers. When your business reaches milestones, you should reach out to your consumer base because they are the people who got you to where you are today. Celebrate your success with your customers, and make sure they know this is your big thank you to them!

7.) Beef Up Your Content
Offering your customers exclusive content that can increase their knowledge on your industry, services, or products is a great way to gain their trust and engage with them, as well. If you offer your target demographic content on your blog and website that isn’t available anywhere else, you are sure to garner a large following. Creative and exclusive content can also ramp up your organic website visits as well as SEO. You can make your content exclusive by requiring users to subscribe to your blog site; however, this doesn’t mean you have to charge for subscriptions. You are soliciting readers’ emails in order for them to have access to your content.

8.) Promote Your Customers
Kabbage features a customer each month on our blog as well as on our social media platforms in order to give them recognition for being loyal. By promoting your customers, you are giving them an even bigger reason to keep returning to your business. You can also promote the charities they choose to support!

9.) Respond to Reviews
Although all of your social media reviews may not be positive, these are some of your best opportunities to reach out and engage with customers. Always monitor your business reviews and make the extra effort to reach out to writers of negative reviews because it gives you an opportunity to fix their bad experience with your business or at the very least apologize and promise it will never happen again.

10.) Create Product Tours
Product tours that explain to your customers the full benefits of your products and services are a great way to reach out to your consumer base and engage them. You can easily create a tour of your business and upload it to your free YouTube account. It is sure to garner you a lot of attention once you post it on all of your social media platforms.

Engaging with your customers is an extremely important part of running any business. Not only does engagement allow you to reach out and give your customers better service but it also gives you the opportunity to understand what aspects of your business need more attention. Social media offers a very inexpensive way to get into contact with the people who keep your business running, so make your website contains links to all of your social platforms!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

The Ten Commandments of Great Customer Service By Susan A. Friedmann

Customer service is an integral part of our job and should not be seen as an extension of it. A company’s most vital asset is its customers. Without them, we would not and could not exist in business. When you satisfy our customers, they not only help us grow by continuing to do business with you, but recommend you to friends and associates.

The practice of customer service should be as present on the show floor as it is in any other sales environment.

The Ten Commandments of Customer Service

1.Know who is boss.
You are in business to service customer needs, and you can only do that if you know what it is your customers want. When you truly listen to your customers, they let you know what they want and how you can provide good service. Never forget that the customer pays our salary and makes your job possible.

2.Be a good listener.
Take the time to identify customer needs by asking questions and concentrating on what the customer is really saying. Listen to their words, tone of voice, body language, and most importantly, how they feel. Beware of making assumptions - thinking you intuitively know what the customer wants. Do you know what three things are most important to your customer? Effective listening and undivided attention are particularly important on the show floor where there is a great danger of preoccupation - looking around to see to whom else we could be selling to.

3.Identify and anticipate needs.
Customers don't buy products or services. They buy good feelings and solutions to problems. Most customer needs are emotional rather than logical. The more you know your customers, the better you become at anticipating their needs. Communicate regularly so that you are aware of problems or upcoming needs.

4.Make customers feel important and appreciated.
Treat them as individuals. Always use their name and find ways to compliment them, but be sincere. People value sincerity. It creates good feeling and trust. Think about ways to generate good feelings about doing business with you. Customers are very sensitive and know whether or not you really care about them. Thank them every time you get a chance. On the show floor be sure that your body language conveys sincerity. Your words and actions should be congruent.

5.Help customers understand your systems.
Your organization may have the world's best systems for getting things done, but if customers don't understand them, they can get confused, impatient and angry. Take time to explain how your systems work and how they simplify transactions. Be careful that your systems don't reduce the human element of your organization.

6.Appreciate the power of "Yes".
Always look for ways to help your customers. When they have a request (as long as it is reasonable) tell them that you can do it. Figure out how afterwards. Look for ways to make doing business with you easy. Always do what you say you are going to do.

7.Know how to apologize.
When something goes wrong, apologize. It's easy and customers like it. The customer may not always be right, but the customer must always win. Deal with problems immediately and let customers know what you have done. Make it simple for customers to complain. Value their complaints. As much as we dislike it, it gives us an opportunity to improve. Even if customers are having a bad day, go out of your way to make them feel comfortable.

8.Give more than expected.
Since the future of all companies lies in keeping customers happy, think of ways to elevate you above the competition. Consider the following:
  •         What can you give customers that they cannot get elsewhere?
  •         What can you do to follow-up and thank people even when they don't buy?
  •         What can you give customers that are totally unexpected?

9.Get regular feedback.
Encourage and welcome suggestions about how you could improve. There are several ways in which you can find out what customers think and feel about your services.
  •         Listen carefully to what they say.
  •         Check back regularly to see how things are going.
  •         Provide a method that invites constructive criticism, comments and suggestions.
10.Treat employees well.
Employees are your internal customers and need a regular dose of appreciation. Thank them and find ways to let them know how important they are. Treat your employees with respect and chances are they will have a higher regard for customers. Appreciation stems from the top. Treating customers and employees well is equally important.

Monday, 9 June 2014

8 Rules For Good Customer Service

Good customer service is the life blood of any business. You can offer promotions and slash prices to bring in as many new customers as you want, but unless you can get some of those customers to comeback, your business won't be profitable for long.

Good customer service is all about bringing customers back. And about sending them away happy - happy enough to pass positive feedback about your business along to others, who may then try the product or service you offer for themselves and in their turn become repeat customers.

If you're a good salesperson, you can sell anything to anyone once. But it will be your approach to customer service that determines whether or not you’ll ever be able to sell that person anything else. The essence of good customer service is forming a relationship with customers – a relationship that that individual customer feels that he would like to pursue.

How do you go about forming such a relationship? By remembering the one true secret of good customer service and acting accordingly; "You will be judged by what you do, not what you say."

I know this verges on the kind of statement that's often seen on a sampler, but providing good customer service IS a simple thing.If you truly want to have good customer service, all you have to do is ensure that your business consistently does these things:

1) Answer your phone.

Get call forwarding. Or an answering service. Hire staff if you need to. But make sure that someone is picking up the phone when someone calls your business. (Notice I say "someone". People who call want to talk to a live person, not a fake "recorded robot".) For more on answering the phone, see our former article on 'From little things, big business grows' . Register @

2) Don't make promises unless you will keep them.

Not plan to keep them. Will keep them. Reliability is one of the keys to any good relationship, and good customer service is no exception. If you say, “Your new bedroom furniture will be delivered on Tuesday”, make sure it is delivered on Tuesday. Otherwise, don't say it. The same rule applies to client appointments, deadlines, etc.. Think before you give any promise - because nothing annoys customers more than a broken one. Register

3) Listen to your customers.

Is there anything more exasperating than telling someone what you want or what your problem is and then discovering that that person hasn't been paying attention and needs to have it explained again? From a customer's point of view, I doubt it. Can the sales pitches and the product babble. Let your customer talk and show him that you are listening by making the appropriate responses, such as suggesting how to solve the problem.

4) Deal with complaints.

No one likes hearing complaints, and many of us have developed a reflex shrug, saying, "You can't please all the people all the time". Maybe not, but if you give the complaint your attention, you may be able to please this one person this one time - and position your business to reap the benefits of good customer service.

5) Be helpful - even if there's no immediate profit in it.

The other day I popped into a local watch shop because I had lost the small piece that clips the pieces of my watch band together. When I explained the problem, the proprietor said that he thought he might have one lying around. He found it, attached it to my watch band – and charged me nothing! Where do you think I'll go when I need a new watch band or even a new watch? And how many people do you think I've told this story to?

6) Train your staff (if you have any) to be always helpful, courteous, and knowledgeable.

Do it yourself or hire someone to train them. Talk to them about good customer service and what it is (and isn't) regularly. (Good Customer Service: How to Help a Customer explains the basics of ensuring positive staff-customer interactions.) Most importantly, give every member of your staff enough information and power to make those small customer-pleasing decisions, so he never has to say, "I don't know, but so-and-so will be back at..."

That is why we have Made an avenue for a Training:
Register, acquire the principles of quality customer experience and become a globally recognized Certified Service Professional (CSP).

Attain your certification under the world’s industry leading Service Capability & Performance (SCP) Career Certification program from Service Strategies Corporation USA.

Who Should Attend
·        Customer service representatives
·        Customer service officers
·        Customer service executives
·        Marketers
·        Sales Representatives
·        Business development executives
·        Operations Staff
·        Call coordinators and service dispatchers
·        Anyone in contact with a customer

New Class Starts: June 21, 2014.
Time:10am prompt.

Mode of Training
·        Online training
·        Class room training (Lagos,Port Harcourt & Abuja only).
·        Weekends (Saturdays only): 3weeks


7) Take the extra step.

For instance, if someone walks into your store and asks you to help them find something, don't just say, "It's in Aisle3". Lead the customer to the item. Better yet, wait and see if he has questions about it, or further needs. Whatever the extra step may be, if you want to provide good customer service, take it. They may not say so to you, but people notice when people make an extra effort and will tell other people.

8) Throw in something extra.

Whether it's a coupon for a future discount, additional information on how to use the product, or a genuine smile, people love to get more than they thought they were getting. And don’t think that a gesture has to be large to be effective. The local art framer that we use attaches a package of picture hangers to every picture he frames. A small thing, but so appreciated.

If you apply these eight simple rules consistently, your business will become known for its good customer service. And the best part? The irony of good customer service is that over time it will bring in more new customers than promotions and price slashing ever did!

For more of these Register @

Monday, 2 June 2014

Benefits of Certified Service Professional Programme

  •     Learn to be transformed with a brand new mind-set to embark on a career in the booming Services Industry
  •     As a Certified Service Professional, you are distinguished, differentiated and recognized from the other huge numbers of job seekers in the market with unique abilities.
  •     You are also well-positioned and job-ready for the multitude of job opportunities available in the upcoming service sector jobs in Integrated Resorts and other new retail and hospitality establishments
  •    Upon successful completion of the Certified Service Professional (CSP) programme, you will be awarded a 'Certified Service Professional' Certificate under the world’s industry leading Service Capability& Performance (SCP) Career Certification program from Service Strategies Corporation USA.
New Class Starts: June 21, 2014.
Time:10am prompt.

Mode of Training
  •         Online training
  •         Class room training (Lagos, Port Harcourt & Abuja only).
Weekends (Saturdays only): 3weeks

Installments payment allowed.
Cedars&Oaks Consults Ltd. is the sole licensed partner of Service Strategies Corporation USA in Nigeria.
6B Bendel Close off Bishop Aboyade Cole Victoria Island, Lagos.Phone: 08134099411, 08162314354