Archive for category Customer Service Dept

Let’s go to hell and back

You wanted to go to somewhere else but for today only we’re off to hell. You will run out of money, the staff will revolt in stupidly spectacular ways, the customers will stink (literally) and there seems to be nothing you can do about it. Perhaps you have a different version of events…

You don’t know it yet but you will just have to ride out this ‘tough time’ and write it all off to experience.

Perhaps you might start to wonder if the planets are aligned incorrectly, or the moon phases are out of kilter… Or maybe someone has put a curse on you!

Whatever the alternative theory you have about how this all came about the fact is it happened, seemingly it happens to you more than you might want to admit, but there you are roasting in the pits of hell.

Image courtesy of [image creator name] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Experience suggests you ride through it and hope you ‘toughen up’ after all is said and done. Then one day you see a quote, one of those inspirational ones that says “Stupidity – Doing the same thing and expecting different results” It dawns on  you, the same thing has been happening, you end up in hell and let it wash over you. Not any more.

Take a look at the past 12 months, has this type of ‘trip to hell’ happened often? Are the challenges you face the same when it occurs? Are specific people showing up each time this happens?

I hope you can see where I am going with this, if you can target a connection to the problem then it’s time to retrain, re group, rethink, strategize, explore otherwise the same thing will happen at some stage.

Now it’s up to you as the organisations leader to take action and achieve positive outcomes.

Engaging People in 6 Easy Steps

People is what business is all about, no people no customers or staff. Therefore it makes sense to get REALLY GOOD at finding ways to engage them. This will give you vital insights into what they want and need, your task is to then work with the information to provide effective timely answers. Your positive responses to their issues will earn you BIG points in the long term. Get good at doing the following six points and then teach/show others how to do it too, After all Leadership excellence has to start somewhere.

  1. Focus on one person or group at a time – They will probably be the ones right in front of you, or the ones you seek out, really focus on them, ask lots of questions and be ready to answer their concerns or at least suggest you will look into their concerns.
  2. Be flexible in your communication style to that group or person – If they talk slow, you do it too, if they are loud or brash, go on match that a little at least. If they use technical terms, use some as well. Get the idea, develop greater language flexibility then you will be able to relate to a wider audience fast.
  3. Attitudes and approaches can alter fast – A once happy customer or staff member may have had small things bothering them for some time, then all of a sudden you guessed you get it, right between the eyes… Didn’t see it coming did you.
  4. Get the power – Work from a powerful position, with customers get the power to be able to really help them, they spilt their coffee, “here’s another, no charge…” They have a complaint about something, ask “What would you like me to do to assist you?” Then LISTEN, it may be you don’t have the ability to do what they want, but you at least now have a point to start negotiating from. Staffing issues, pamper them occasionally, listen to them as well, ask “what are the challenges your team faces, what are the challenges  you face?”
  5. Assess, not judge – People will give you great feedback if you ask for it, if  you judge them on it and start to blame others, or them, you will soon end up on a tough position wishing you had never asked them anything… Get the information and assess, Can I do something positive, useful with the information I now have? Now figure out the answers. Oh and notice how doing this readily builds trust.
  6. Love, Love, Love… – The Beatles made that famous, now you can use it to your advantage. People love to be loved, a little pampering here and there may not cost much, but people will like it. e.g. a supervisor brings in cold drinks on a hot day when the team has been working hard on a new project. A special ‘morning tea’ is provided, just to say thanks. Start saying how you love their work (when it’s worthy.) Now make your own list of how you can LOVE your people. (Yes even the customers!)

If you have other ideas you think others should know which could expand this list, then please add to the comments for this post.

The new kid on the block

“So you’re new here…”

“Yes I am.”

“What do they have you doing for the first few days?”

“Oh I don’t know a bit of this and that, the person training me dropped in and said hello, told me to keep the front eating area clean, take my breaks and follow the Managers instructions. So yeah not much, mind you the Manager has given me a few things like putting together some orders when it’s quiet, so yeah, it’s alright I guess so far…”

“Did anyone give you instructions on how often to keep the front clean and show you what to do and or tell you about the chemicals you use to wipe down the surfaces?”

“Mmm nope not really… I mean the spray stuff is like we use at home so yeah that’s no big deal and I found where the cloths were kept to clean with, so yeah…”

“Did anyone discuss how you should act or look in front of customers?”

“Mmm no not really, well they gave me the uniform, and that’s about it, the rest is common sense really, I guess…”

“Well I’m asking because I can see you wandering about doing a bit of cleaning, but I thought you looked a bit ‘lost’ Not all together cheery…”

“Yeah well it’s a bit hard when you feel like you could be doing more but hey the Manager is busy and the training person is not here. They probably should have started me here on another day when the training person will be here for the whole day.”

“I agree… so in the meantime use your common sense and smile so the customers get a better message.”

“Ok.”

That’s the conversation I had today in a ‘food joint’ I think you get the idea, but the reason for me writing this is not that this is all that unusual, unfortunately I have seen this time and time again, and not just at this ‘food joint’.

These days you could set up a couple of videos for new staff to watch to ‘show them how’ even if it’s just some bullet points on a slide show but for goodness sake show them FIRST before letting them loose on customers. Here’s a few points which could be used.

  • Uniform – Present like you LOVE being in that uniform and LOVE serving people.
  • Smile! – You should reflect what customers love to see, a team of people happy to serve them, not a grumpy person who may not care.
  • You are the face of the company – People will get an impression about the company from you, speak  clearly, be pleasant, ask good questions to clarify their requests if you don’t know. Stand tall and be confident.
  • Ask the supervisor – Not sure where things are, or what to do, ask lots of the ‘silly questions’ to find out.
  • BE SAFE! – Ask… Who is the safety officer, the OHS officer, and where is the OHS incident book if an incident occurs? Followed up with… What happens in the case of… a fire – a Robbery – Any other form of accident, disaster etc.

Of course there will be other things to add to the list. but at the bare minimum, they should provide a great start by doing at the above. Perhaps it could be on their website as a way to introduce the new recruit to the business.

To the business owners/operators/managers of this store, Please don’t let it happen again…

Dear customer service guy…

So the customer service guy calls me for his six monthly “touch base” chat to see if everything is going OK. Yes it is thanks…

A few quick questions, an apology for calling in case it interrupted me… “No it hasn’t but go on…”

There was little point to the call other than to keep his name in the top of my mind, IF I wanted to buy a car from their dealership.” No I don’t but thanks…”

So where’s the value and how might he enhance the conversation to make it worth our while?

  • The value is that he has kept in touch, but that’s it.
  • The value could be enhanced if he had an offer for me, a test drive in a new model, the chance to go into a draw for some promo gift thingy to the value of… or even just sent a remember me gift (small cost effective thingy) or to tell me they have a new smart phone app or perhaps arrange an event to invite me to in their dealership.

Perhaps he could enhance the value by asking me a set of questions to establish if things have changed for us and our needs. A quick on the phone survey could give them great info (if they bothered to collect it).

It’s all about relationships, so is he managing to keep the relationship going or is he managing to just give me fodder for the blog J I like blog fodder!

Ok I like this guy, don’t get me wrong, but it must get hard for him just making these calls. Rather than being a cost to the company it could be a solid relationship building exercise, a wow factor exercise, an “Oh yeah and next time I want to buy a luxury vehicle, I will drop in and see you for sure…”. But it’s not, not yet.

Great Teams Communicate

Building great teams… ask yourself, what do all people have in common, the ability to communicate.  Therefore reading any article on team building should come up with the same key connector for creating high performing teams – Communication, open and effective communication.

With great communication happening, energy, creativity and shared commitment ‘kicks in’.

The guys at MIT – Harvard have found this as a conclusion to research they did in call centres. To put that into practical terms they worked with a team to find a simple way to overcome challenges they were having .

Their research with that team found the flagging results were directly connected with their level of communication. They advised the manager to alter one thing, the break times for the staff, this meant people got to connect with different people. Over time it meant a greater understanding of each other, a deeper connectedness and therefore greater tolerance and respect for others. This then led to greater workplace engagement.

Those with an understanding of 360deg feedback, NLP, personality types etc will see these findings as a ‘no brainer’. The challenge is to make the changes so the teams communicate elegantly so the other positive spin-offs can happen.

If altering break times did it for this team what might work for your team?

 

Let’s consider the following.

  • Teach – Better communication skills (active listening etc.)
  • Build team community – A great workplace will probably have ways for people to build a great team, so give them the chance to have input into how they might go about building a team. Get their ideas and explore how to implement those.
  • Explore the values – Have your team check out the organisations values and have them jointly write up a bunch of positive examples to each value then discuss them and explore any gaps.
  • Build corporate citizenship – Invite your team to come up with ideas to give back to the community, see what communication takes place and the ideas they explore. Now implement a few of those ideas.
  • Ask the team – How can we develop better service skills? Then explore the options
  • Have an open meeting – Call and meeting a pose one questions “what are our challenges” and jot down their responses, then explore some options to overcome the challenges. See what comes up and invite them to continue to explore the solutions.
  • Get personal – If you think the communication is improving, consider running a session where people share things they are not usually known for (positive things please!) a great way to start a meeting for example.
  • Get them to teach – Better communication skills to new team members.
  • Create a longer list – Of questions you can ask and brainstorm with them in an open meeting style, then use their input to get better results for the organisation.

These and other ideas you can come up with should start the ball rolling to build better communication. I think that in an ideal world it would be great to be able to do all this without the team knowing you want to get better results out of them, but that you are just trying to explore better ways of doing business (which happens to involve them) rather than causing the foundations of better business to be better i.e. communication skills.

Your Customer Relationship Executive and Your Business

Following on from a previous article on Customer Relationship Executives I thought you might like a few more pointers to make the process of building this role easier, here goes.

Your business has become big enough to have a person in this role, other businesses of your type and stature have them and it seems to work for them. So how about your business? The decision has been made and someone has to implement it. What to do next?

  • You’re leading them so ask what you want them to do and how you will support them to do it. (make a list FAST!)
  • Get a budget sorted their wage and ancillary costs, the resources they will need on a basic level and then the resources needed for them to excel at what they do.
  • What sort of person would you IDEALLY like to select for the role. Think personality type, adaptability, flexibility, nimbility, stunning phone manner, highly courteous at all times to ALL other personality types and so much more (another list!)
  • Where will you position them so they can feel part of the team but have the privacy their role may require?
  • How will you support, coach, mentor and support them?
  • How will they be seen by other staff who might currently do a part of this role as part of their usual duties… How will they be seen by other staff in terms of importance within the business?
  • What access to the database will they have?
  • What I.T. support will they get?
  • What Admin support will they have?
  • How will you measure their performance?
  • What will your expectations be of them?
  • How often will you meet with them?
  • What other people will have to interact with them so they can get their job done?
  • What sort of position description have you put together, does it include enough detail? Does it leave scope for them to add to the role?
  • What training will they need – to start with and along the way?
  • Who will fill in while they are away? Will this fill in person be able to effectively fill the gap and continue in a ‘business as usual’ kind of way or will they need to work one on one with the existing person to make the transition seamless?
Notice how there are lots of questions, stop and ask yourself, how will I cope with all this as well as my existing workload… hmm hope you have your ‘skates on’!
  • How will you make sure they are not under too much pressure from ‘moaning customers’ and those who want to yell and scream?
  • What strategies will you use to keep them motivated and highly engaged in their job?
  • How will you include them in planning sessions, showing them the stats, having them measure the stats…
  • What control will they have over the various situations which may arise… Feeding back info  to staff, dealing with difficult customers (what sorts of gifts can they send)?
  • What sort of ongoing ‘keep in touch program’ will you let them do, special occasion cards, reminder letters, promotional freebies and goodies.
Notice how what started out as ‘just another role in your business’ has become a major one, and the person has not started yet!
  • What limit will be set for their budget? Is it big enough or is it a bare minimum “we don’t know yet how big it should be, perhaps we should start out low and work up from there”?
  • What level of authority will they have? Can they go straight to HR to warn of  another staff member who is causing service ‘issues’ or so they have to ‘go through you’?
  • Will you require them to work after hours at special customer events?
  • Will they require the ability to think outside the square or is that left for the Marketing Department only?
  • Do  you want them to be loaded with ideas, or a person to ‘just do the job…’?
Okay you get the idea, this role is vital to your business, if you are not in a big enough position to have a person in this role perhaps there are a bunch of people who are in this ‘type of role’, if so how many of the above become applicable to them… Take a look at the organisations mission, vision, values, beliefs and ideals and see how highly customers are valued throughout that. Need to make changes?
So what is all this, a customer service initiative to cause customers to LOVE what your business does. Without this sort of thinking and action going on, your business just may as well fade into the sunset. 🙂

We Need a Customer Relationship Executive…

“Well team” Said the CEO excitedly “We need a Customer Relationship Executive and we need them now…” The rest of the team looked on knowingly and some slowly nodded in agreement.

One brave soul raised their hand and dared to ask “Why?” The CEO smiled widely and said “Glad you asked, you see other businesses in our industry have them, they say the sales have gone up because of that and the customer feedback has been very positive! We should do the same.”

There was little disagreement that day, a few minor questions, most leading to “what will they do?” The CEO responded with “Build customer relationships, short and long term. They will be busy chatting with people, getting feedback, feeding leads to the sales team etc.”

Any thoughts of ‘why’ were soon quashed and so the HR department had a task, get one, and get them up and happening fast. The big thing that needed to be asked though was “What will they do specifically, how will we measure it and what will the budget be, what resources will they need…” Followed by “who will lead this role the sales manager, HR, Marketing or Service?”

  • Clarify the role, what exactly is expected of them
  • What will their limitations be (if they have to make a customer happy how far can they go? How much can they spend)
  • Did the other organisations who have an exec in this sort of role just have a natural sales high or was the measurement really objective
  • Who will coach, support and lead this person?
  • Where will they have their space, office etc…
  • Does the values of the organisation fit to having a person in this type of role, does the organisation REALLY love customers this much?
  • Is there a track record of customer complaints that this new role will ‘magically fix’?
  • Will someone take their place when they go on holidays?
  • Will they have a support admin person allocated to them to do the ‘hack work’
  • Will the marketing team work with this person to assist them to get STUNNING results
  • Will the I.T. department be able to offer suitable solutions for a database, email auto responders, web access or any other I.T. resources? Or will they throw their arms in the air and say… ERRGH! we are too busy already.
Now that those issues have been put on the table, it’s time to look deeper and make the role really work. After all adding a new staff member should add value to the organisation, right?

 

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