I’m writing this blog after hosting a great charity event yesterday – and after calming down from the buzz, why was the event so much more than the funds that we raised for the charity?
1. The charity event was a perfect fit for my (chocolate) business. Easy to keep everything relevant and ‘on-brand’ for any on-going business opportunities!
2. It’s an important part of my ethics/values to ‘give back’ in some way. By demonstrating publicly you are giving your time and efforts to charitable causes, others will understand and respect your values too.
3. It was great in terms of relationship building with my current audience – a way to keep in touch and make some noise about something a little different to the norm and all for a great cause.
4. On the back of the event, I was able to gain valuable PR, reach out to celebrities endorsing the charity’s activities, and create momentum on social media channels.
5. I gained new contacts, followers and ‘likers’ – growing my audience and potential customers for future non-charitable events.
6. The event itself was fun, well-attended and enjoyed by all – it’s so good to meet people face-to-face and thank them for their support now and again.
7. It left me feeling exhausted, happy and fulfilled – it’s a good feeling doing stuff for others less fortunate than yourself from time to time!
I can’t wait to sign up and do it all again next year – The Big Chocolate Tea Party in aid of The Sick Children’s Trust
with thanks to Sharon Cooper Photography
My passion for providing the best customer experience started with chocolate……
The Melting Pot – a vat of delicious molten chocolate and an eclectic mix of people!
The concept for my first business providing chocolate-making workshops, was born from the desire to find an activity that would involve working with food and people in some capacity from my then called ‘shed’ at the bottom of the garden. Inspired by other locals providing flower-arranging and sewing classes – I racked my brains to come up with something exciting. Suddenly it came to me – chocolate – it had to be chocolate workshops too, I am not the sort of person to spend days on my own producing chocolates to sell – I wanted to spend time with people enjoying chocolate together!
At the time I was working part-time in people development for a property recruitment company. The market crashed and I lost my job at the end of June 2009. What an opportunity – I spent the next two months working furiously with my husband on the refurbishment of ‘the summerhouse’ and launched the new business in September 09.
I had many sleepless nights and lived with a level of fear for the first few months. I kept saying the well-known mantra ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ and as uncomfortable as it was, I just kept going.
Some of the things I love about running my own business is the way I can stamp my personality on all that I do, everything can reflect my values and my desire to create the right atmosphere. Being a huge fan of customer service excellence I have to ensure that all my clients enjoy far more than a real chocolate treat.
I find it amazing the therapeutic effect that a workshop has – it’s been a great privilege to share so many stories over the tank and to make people feel valued and special is something that I take a huge amount of pleasure from. We have lots of fun and laughs too, and I have discovered that it is so good for people to take a couple of hours out of their ‘real lives’ and do something creative and rewarding. For someone to really care that they have a good time, that they deserve just that and more…..(well they do get to take home all their lovely chocolate creations too of course) is what makes a workshop experience so much more than chocolate. I really love what I do, I so enjoy meeting all the different people that come to the summerhouse and I can’t express enough the importance of providing the best possible experience that you can for each and every person that is involved with your business.
Find your passion – add a little chocolate perhaps and the rest should be easy…..
Chocolate-making workshops for adults, children and corporate team building www.makechocolates.co.uk
I’ve recently hosted two corporate events at different venues around the UK The first was at a very high-end luxury hotel and the second a 4-star dedicated conference venue. So what do we expect in terms of service from each establishment, and how have the staff been trained to deal with their guests?
The luxury hotel had a luxury price tag and obviously attracts a certain discerning clientele – I wondered how their service would match up to their price? Interestingly staff were very young – I thought that inexperience might be an issue. However they were extremely friendly, charming and helpful (and yes, the odd little flash of immaturity did show itself, but somehow added to the charm). What was interesting to note, was that the plush surroundings relaxed and reassured residents. Staff were attentive and nothing was too much trouble. They were totally used to helping their guests and each request was met with a ‘can-do’ attitude – they had been empowered and encouraged to meet needs! The management had really anticipated needs too, wellies, bikes, toiletries and other bathroom necessities were all on hand to make their guests feel more than welcome and very comfortable.
So next to the 4-star dedicated conference venue, part of a large chain and a much larger, conference style event to host. The venue was in beautiful grounds, but the hotel itself sadly slightly resembled an over-decorated prison! There were lots of requests for change and deviation on the conference agenda, and these were more difficult for staff to handle. There was a very strict rule book that everyone had been taught to work from – change and ‘different’ requests were more awkward for them, they often had to check if it was OK. The willingness and helpfulness of the staff was just as good as the luxury outfit, but the mode of operation that had been taught was completely different. The venue was set up more like a conference machine, and lacked the flexibility and personality of the luxury outfit. People were not feeling so relaxed and charmed by the environment and staff were not given enough responsibility to make sensible decisions in their own right to keep the customer happy. It felt as if the large chain had set very firm rules to maximise profits from each event, cutting corners whenever possible, and looking quite cheap on occasion, without the foresight that fantastic customer service and more emphasis on quality might lead to repeat business!
“It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.”
It’s much harder to build rapport when you are not face to face with a client – and the client phoning doesn’t know or care what sort of workload you are trying to get through, the time pressures you might be under or the fact that you had too many beers last night at the footie and have a bit of headache! So once you hear the phone ringing, take a deep breath and prepare for the caller……
1. Say ‘hello’ with a smile (you can tell in someone’s voice whether they are smiling or not!)
2. Give your name
3. Be yourself, but a friendly and upbeat version of yourself
4. Ask for their name, write it down and use it in the conversation
5. Don’t pass them around the system – deal with the issue yourself until the caller is satisfied with the outcome
6. Write down the caller’s number and repeat it back to them if you need to phone them back (wrong numbers are bad news)
7. Let angry people let off steam, it’s not about you, it’s about the service or issue they have had difficulties with (obviously never let anyone abuse you personally, that is totally unacceptable)
8. Empathise, listen carefully, make notes, make the right noises in order to build rapport and trust
9. Be interested and professional (never promise anything you know you are unable to deliver, or be derogatory about the organisation you work for)
10. Explain what you can do to help, when you will be able to do it, and follow through
I was chatting recently with a fellow advocate of customer service excellence – the lovely Paul Warner of When I Was a Kid (a great traditional and wooden toy company) about what makes people fantastic at providing customer service, and why so many sadly fail. Paul is perfectly qualified to have such an opinion – his toy shop has won awards for customer service and recently Paul appeared as subject matter in an article in the Guardian about providing random acts for kindness for customers! He really does always go the extra mile for customers (and people in general, they don’t even need to be customers to be on the receiving end of kind act from Paul or a member of his team!).
I’m always talking to my clients about putting yourself in the customers shoes – trying to see what your customers are experiencing from their view point – it can be a bit tricky and we can only guess, as of course we are all hard-wired with our own personalities and life experiences. However only if we try to see from another’s prospective can we have the chance to make the experience the best it can be for them (and not us!).
Paul, myself and many of you who like and get ‘people’ will find that this sort of thing comes very easily – it’s a natural way for you to behave – an inherent part of your personality. In fact, Paul and I went on to define customer service as pure common sense. It is so obvious to you what the other person wants, needs or would like, that you just know what to do or say to make them feel that they are special and you really care! Well maybe the ‘common sense’ tag comes from being a natural at this sort of thing – as thinking more deeply about this subject, it is definitely common sense, but also about being incredibly emotionally intelligent too.
The article in the Guardian went on to expand about the importance of customer service in today’s business arena – it really is so vital as business owners that you get fantastic at providing excellent service for your customers or they will go elsewhere. You must create a relationship with them and a reason to stay with you. Getting customers to buy on price alone will just put you out of business in the end – it’s a fact.
So are you a business owner with oodles of common sense and deeply emotionally intelligent? Time to look in the mirror and be really honest here. If not, find someone in your organisation who is, and put them in charge of relationships with your customers and watch how they fly (and do wonders for your business too)!
If you need any help identifying your customer service stars, please get in contact – I can help you spot and develop the right person to make customer experience a huge success for your organisation. You know it makes sense!