April News Letter 2009

How to keep your customers     

Most likely you've heard the adage which holds that a person, upset with a company, tells ten friends and then those ten tell ten more. Before long, the statement maintains, a hundred people know about his bad experience.

With the Internet, of course, news travels faster. If the ten-to-100 figures give you chills, ten-to-10 million will likely knock you off your feet.

Frightening? You bet.

If your company shows little regard for customer service, your patrons will likely remind you that they have choices by taking their money elsewhere.

As Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores, says, "There is only one boss: the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down simply by spending his money somewhere else."

But remember this: If your company truly values great customer service and proves it with actions, you have a good foundation to survive an occasional dissatisfied customer.

What customers expect
So what do your customers expect? To find out, ask them. Some of their answers will pertain only to your business, but many customer answers are universal. Here, from various surveys, is a sampling of what customers want:

  • Knowledgeable, helpful staff If you carry a popular appliance brand but your sales people can't answer questions about your products, or your service or delivery department has a poor reputation for timeliness, your whole company operates at a disadvantage.
  • Flexibility Do you operate by a rigid set of one-size-fits-all rules? Or do you know your customers well enough to know their special needs? Do you listen when they have a problem? If a customer needs help now, not tomorrow or the next day, can you deliver? 
  • Value that fits price paid Are you prepared to refund a customer whose purchased item fails under normal circumstances? By doing so, you may gain a customer for life and probably learn an important lesson about the product – and maybe about your vendor. 
  • Convenience Are you easy to find in the phone book? On the Internet? Can customers find and identify your store easily? Is parking readily available? If you use an automated phone system, is it clear and easy-to-operate? 
  • Help when they need it Twenty-four hour service is good only if you deliver service for 24 hours. Don't promise more than you can deliver. Additionally, don't put phone customers on hold for "a minute" and stretch the time into five minutes, then seven, then more. Offer to call the customer back that same day, and then do it.

This customer wish list is deceptively simple. Just because it makes sense, don't assume all your workers agree with it and follow it.

You should polish the customer service skills of everyone in your organization. That's right — everyone. Since acquiring a new customer costs ten times more than keeping a customer, you must continually train your employees and monitor customer service. But that's only half the job. You must also hire people who buy into your organization's values.

Excellent customer service can attract many happy customers. When that happens, you'll really need to worry about math. So many happy customers will tell so many others that you and your employees will have to work hard to keep up with demand.

Nine tips for calming angry customers  

No matter how good your products are or how good your customer service, you will occasionally encounter an angry customer.

Here are nine tips for turning a complaint into a more positive experience for your customer:

  1. Don't take the complaint personally. 
    Customers complain because they want you to address a perceived wrong, not because they don't like you.
  2. Listen.
    By listening you will understand the customer's distress; it also helps exorcize some of your customer's initial anger.
  3. Don't interrupt.
    If you let complainants vent their anger, you'll reason with them more easily afterward.
  4. Remain calm. Clarify.
    Empathize. Show that you understand why your customer is so upset, that you understand the problem and that you will seek a solution.
  5. If it's your fault say so; if it's not, don't.
    When you fully understand the problem and if it's clearly your company's fault, admit it. Don't pass the buck; don't hide. Accept responsibility.
  6. Solve the problem.
    Suggest a solution and agree with the customer about what steps you will take and when. Take responsibility for resolving the problem.
  7. Don't accept abuse.
    Calmly explain that you will address problems but only if your complainant speaks and acts courteously and respectfully.
  8. Pin down moving targets.
    If a problem grows and changes during discussion, ask your customer to put her complaint in writing.
  9. Prevent future complaints.
    At point of purchase, tell customers that it's your policy to resolve difficulties. Confidence that they will receive good support will lower their stress levels when complaining. In addition, contact customers you recognize a problem and before it becomes an issue. And finally, when a customer identifies a problem, change your practices to minimize the chance the problem will recur.

If you consider customer complaints in a positive frame of mind and see them as suggestions for improving your products and the way you do business, you'll make customer complaints work for you. 

Customers who take the time to complain are telling you they want to continue doing business with you…but with some changes. Put a high priority on resolving their difficulties.

Your solution toolbox: Spreading customer service acumen to every employee

HR Consulting
For many organizations, the next step is to seek professional assistance to find out how to improve the effectiveness of your customer service acumen.  Let’s Talk! We offer a no obligation consultation to informally assess your current policies, procedures, and practices. This may help determine what’s missing in your current programs to meet the above recommendations. 

Measuring What Matters
Your accomplished customer service employees work magic using the right words, empathy, tactfulness, intelligence, sensitivity and a sense of humor. Beyond that, they know your business inside out. I'll bet you've wanted to clone them.

Obviously cloning is out of the question. But what if you could spread their approach and behavior throughout your organization?

Profiles International's Customer Service Profile™ assessment tool can provide invaluable help so you can do just that. The Customer Service Profile™ assesses beliefs and customer service proficiency of employees and job candidates giving you critical information you need to

  1. hire people with the skills you desire,
  2. improve training in vital areas, and
  3. increase awareness that every employee is its representative.  
The Customer Service Profile™ measures characteristics such as tact, trust, empathy, conformity, focus and flexibility. It also measures vocabulary and mathematical skill levels. And it measures how a person's customer service perspective aligns with your organization's policies and attitudes.

In other words, this tool can help you ensure that customer service is integral to everyone's job.

Call me today if you are interested in learning more about Profile's Customer Service Profile™.

Call me, too, if you are seeking assistance in creating a customer service mentality among all your employees. MG Assessments provides consulting services to help you
 …learn how to hire the people who match your company's high standards,
 …pinpoint areas where your organization would benefit from coaching,
 …solve human resources management challenges
 …and more.  

Call 952-322-3330 or send an email to mgorski@mgassessments.com.

Finally check out MG assessments on the Web at mgassessments.com, and for timely HR information, See my blog: Updated regularly, it focuses on the hottest HR issues.

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