Superb Customer Service?

28 07 2009

Superb Customer Service?

Customers are on edge much more during this recession than in normal time.  Everyone understands this as sales have slumped and the salesperson’s pocketbook is being emptied.  The heat doesn’t help, and the daily saga in the news of the ongoing recession (is it over?  Are we at the beginning of the end?  Will it go on for another year?) pulls at our nerves harshly.  But we must continue to try to be as professional and courteous as we have always been.  A challenge in such challenge times.  The below article has helped us as a group recognize and deal with the upset customer.

http://www.ccis.edu/connections/article.asp?i=33&a=209

Surprise, Surprise

30Jul09

Why are we so surprised when we get good service?  I guess that says something about the nature of service.  I know I often find myself preparing for the battle when something has gone wrong.  Let the salesperson know as soon as possible, be ready to go over her head if necessary, make a scene so that she will do what I want quickly, and I can get out of the store.  I think I’ve avoided returning things just because I feared the battle.  But on occasion, things go better than even I can imagine.

http://getsatisfaction.com/westerndigital/topics/excellent_customer_service3

I would hire this person.

Below is a complete copy of the email I sent to staff this morning.  Feel free to piggy back and plagiarize.

If any of you have ever done any gardening or farming, you know that there is a time to prepare the soil, a time to plant the seeds or seedlings, a time of growing, and then a time of harvest.  There simply is no other way to produce a small garden or a few acres of tomatoes or a vast farming enterprise.  Each part of growing has its time, and if you try to get out of order, then you can count on the failure of your crop, or at least, a very poor crop.

We are going through a time of preparing the soil and planting the seeds.  Some growth is taking place, because we are continuing to get orders, but we know that this is a time of smaller harvest.  So what do we do now?  We prepare and plant.  This is a time of preparing and planting.  And how do we do this?

First, our marketing continues.  That is an important part of preparing and planting.  Scott, Pam, and Marlana continue with every feasible inexpensive avenue of getting our name in front of customers and distributors.  But, as you know, everything we offer our customer from the voice who answers to the shipping of product is essentially part of marketing.  We are all in marketing.  Never forget that.

But, beyond that, what can YOU do to enable us to harvest more in the future?

  • For customer service, select a group of customers you have not heard from in a long time. (I think I can run a report for each of you).  Call your customer, and simply ask how business is.  Let them know that you haven’t forgotten about them, and that you are looking forward to doing business together in the future.  
  • Have something you want to tell them in mind. 
    • Tell them about any changes we have going on here – a new product idea, the website, a creative order which you have received, the digital items we are now offering – anything that suggests possible future orders for them. 
    • Ask them if they know about our webinars and inform them that these can teach them how to sell more of our products and what industries will purchase.
  • The important thing is to stay in touch. 
    • You may want to create a kind of calling excel sheet with names and phone numbers of favorite customers. 
    • Make the effort to stay in touch. 
      • I know that each of you continue to be busy, but I also know there is time for one phone call a day or every other day to create contacts which may result in future business – which enhances your pay.  Let me know how I can help with such a project for you.

 This means GETTING OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE.  And getting out of that zone means you will grow.  And growing in this manner means more money in your pocket.  That really is it in a nutshell.  How much do you want to grow?  How much more money do you want to make?

You as customer service have the ears of the distributors.  You can be a hugely positive influence on these relationships which bring business into our company.  How can you grow and improve your personal sales?

Again, the key is to stay in touch, to indicate interest in their business and to find out how the business world is changing.  I don’t believe that business as usual will be the norm in a year.  I think there are going to be sweeping changes in how many of us do business, and you can be on the cusp of this if you keep your eyes and ears open. 

I am going to be searching for (small) articles from trade mags that will offer you insight into what is happening in this business.  I think each of you (everyone) will have the chance to grow substantially during this phase, and it’s quite important that you make the effort.  You can influence the business that comes into our company.  You can create more by taking these steps: 

1)      Make a list of customers to call and simply interact with.

2)      Ask on EVERY call (incoming and outgoing) – How is your business? 

3)      Write down or email to us what kinds of responses you are getting – especially encouraging ones.

Read this AND MAKE NOTES TO YOURSELF.  What are you willing to challenge yourself with and how will you go about that?  Let’s focus on preparing and planting, and when we get out of this recession, regardless of how and when that happens, we (and you) will be ready to rock and roll. 

  CHALLENGE YOURSELF TO GROW!

Similarities in Superb Service

26Jul09

What are the similarities when you read about or experience superb service?  Think about the lists and the columns which you read.  What are the ongoing actions that make people feel and believe they had the best service available?

1)  Listening.  Active engaged listening.  You will know if you do it because it may make you feel fatigued at first.  If you or your staff don’t know how to do it, consider assertiveness training.

2) Delivering more than was asked for.  This is a tough one in many instances.  Just getting an order produced can be jumping through hoops.  But a hand written note to the good and returning customer is more.  A phone call later to ask about satisfaction is more.  More does not have to be difficult and time consuming.  It just has to be more.

3) Quick responsiveness to a customer inquiry.  At our company, everyone is having to perform multiple jobs and wear many hats.  Do NOT bog your customer service people down with anything else than service if you want them to offer Superb Service.

4) Good Communication.  If your staff struggles with this (and you will know by the complaints that you get), get some training.  See assertiveness training above.  Active listening skills is a must to offer the best service. 

Please add anything else you can think of which makes you consider a company’s service to be superb.

24Jul09

If you think word of mouth can’t hurt you, take a look.  Technology can create momentum that potentially causes this airline a 10% drop in value!

http://www.facebook.com/ext/share.php?sid=123685217496&h=-C0P6&u=Va334&ref=nf

Keep looking for the fit

24Jul09

For those of us who strive for superb service for our customers, it is important to read what other industries or organizations to to accomplish that goal.  Here is an interesting post on website preparation.  Sometimes we may forget how important creativity can be.  But when selling the basic item, perhaps putting a creative spin on it will make it more palatable for the customer who doesn’t want bells and whistles, but wants to feel that they are indeed purchasing something special.

http://webworkerdaily.com/2009/07/22/customer-service-at-the-end-of-the-line/

Regular Research

23Jul09

To truly have superb service, you must be on top of the best reading.  We all know that there are thousands of articles, books, interviews on customer service.  But the best ones – sometimes the innovative ones and sometimes just the basic ones – are what you want to inundate yourself with each week so that YOU remember what it is, and YOU reinforce it with your customer service staff. 

Here’s a great one that introduces an idea I had not considered as carefully as I needed to – picking the right customers.  Does that mean ignoring or not serving the others?  No, it doesn’t mean that.  But it does mean a little kid glove activity with the ones you really want to court.

http://www.entrepreneur.com/magazine/entrepreneur/1999/march/17274.html

Why the paranthesis?

22Jul09

Superb (Customer) Service – why the bookends?  The phrase, “Customer Service”, no longer has a very good connotation in the US.  In my own business, I have attempted to come up with a different lable, but the distributors who call us always ask for customer service.  I don’t think I can retrain the 3000+ customer base which we have, so I’m approaching this blog with a different attitude.  In the end, it is always about the service, isn’t it?  When you call Sears, or Home Depot (try to get those guys to answer), or Starbucks, you want service.  When you show up at the counter, you don’t want the salesperson to answer the phone because you took the time and expense (time and gas) to drive to the store.  When you dial into your phone or electric company, you are sick of the never-ending buttons you have to choose to get to a human being to get help.  You want service.  So this blog is going to tackle the ins and outs of good service, because it is almost an oxymoron to say “Customer-Service” – isn’t it always the customer we are trying to serve? 

I want to offer some of my own ideas about service, and I will research the web to offer you the best I can find about developing good customer service.  I have done consultation work to help other companies improve their customer service, and to establish norms and regulations for processing orders, and the thing I have learned most clearly and loudly is that service starts at the top.  It starts with the head of your organization.  If that person never ever waits on a customer, you are going to struggle to have good service.  Trust me on this one.  Unless your CEO has the best he can buy as sales management, it is going to be a tough row to hoe. 

One thing I read today that I had never thought about (link at bottom) is to trust your customer.  Years ago, I gave up the belief that the customer is always right.  She’s not.  That’s it in a nutshell.  But I also know that the customer who complains the loudest could end up being your best customer.  If someone cares enough to let you know they are disgruntled, you’ve got an ace in your hand.  Treat that customer with kid gloves, do what it takes to keep their business, and thank them for the complaint.  Teach your salespeople to do the same.  Because IF you fix it, they will return.  Again and again.  If you don’t fix it, or get angry with the customer (so that she knows you are angry), you will burn more than one person.  Because no one likes to talk as much as the customer who has been wronged (in her eyes).

I want to share an experience I had last week.  I was in line at the deli at Publix.  I love their sandwiches but hate how long it takes to make them.  I keep going back, though, so I don’t hate it that badly.  There was a heavy-set bulging lady at the counter who began to yell at the woman behind the counter.  She called her everything but po white trash, and demanded – loudly – that her sandwiches be fixed.  All while she kept talking on her cell phone.  The woman behind the counter kept her cool.  She told the woman she would do whatever it took to make her happy.  And she did.  The woman continued to complain loudly – now that there was NO reason to do so – but the Publix employee kept her cool.  When I got to the front of the line, I took several minutes to tell the deli counter lady how impressed I was, how well she handled a very difficult customer, and that I wanted to share that with her manager. Which I did.

Everyone should have to work for the public for at least 2 years.  Service can be taught, and Superb Service should always be the goal.

Here’s the link:  

http://www.allbusiness.com/sales/customer-service/1023-1.html

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