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!
The Olympic Stadium
I was lucky enough to spend the morning helping a client deliver a business breakfast to invited senior property professionals. The speaker was Ian Crockford of the Olympic Delivery Authority and what a fascinating story he had to tell. Lots of amazing insights into the build and beyond – which if you’re interested, will be covered in full by the client very soon. The aspect that I wanted to focus in on was the people element (which incidentally, Ian said could fill a whole lecture in its own right).
There were 16,000 people involved at any one time on the Olympic build, and a total of 45,000 over the period of the project. The management constantly and clearly communicated with their team – everyone was always aware of key objectives, timescales and delivery plans. Health and safely were paramount, there were no fatalities or serious injuries on the build at all – beating industry standards. The had people in to talk to staff who had lost loved ones on projects and the impact it had had on their family, just to make sure that the message on health and safely really got through. Everyone took responsibility and helped each other.
They managed to create a real sense of community, turnover of staff was extremely low, there was no sabotage, racism and even swearing was at a minimum (can this be true!).
Having a clear vision, constantly and clearly communicating that vision to staff meant that the Olympic park build was a huge success – the secret of gold medal management obviously!
It’s not meant as a tongue twister, but I just wanted to make the obvious point that you can’t jump to the fun and creative stuff of creating WOW moments for your customers if you don’t have the fundamentals right in the first place!
What do your customers think of you?
Check your systems, are they smooth and efficient – are there glitches that you know you need to sort out? If there are, be honest, own up, apologise, explain what you are doing to fix things and then keep on informing about progress.
Which leads to – communication? Are you talking to people on a regular basis – are you sorting out their issues in a timely and efficient manner? Are you letting them know when you are not around, and informing them when you will be so they know when to expect your response, or a good time to get results?
Promises – do you do what you say you will do? That’s the minimum you need to do of course, if you make that promise you have to deliver at least what you said you would.
What about your staff – have you clearly communicated to them how you wish your customers to be treated – the exact same way on Monday morning to Friday afternoon!
Things go wrong, and certainly technology lets us down on a regular basis- everybody knows we can’t be perfect all the time – but it’s how we handle the imperfections that will really make us stand out from the crowd. Ignore the problems at your peril – for all the WOW moments you create will be drowned out by the noise of the disgruntled few.
What do your customers really think of your organisation and doing business with you – why not ask them? Create a great survey and say you want to understand and improve their experience, offer a prize or incentive for their time – and then comes the crucial part – implement and improve where necessary. When you have done all that – you can tell people what you did and why – happy WOWing!
Grabbing some positive attention is a great deal for any business and in these social media savvy times, you have more chance than ever before to grab your moment in the spotlight. You will gain real business benefit – driving valuable traffic to your website or helping you to build a bigger community, whatever the reason it’s definitely a good thing!
Are you gaining momentum or going downhill fast?
It can take quite a lot of ‘noise’ to gain any form of momentum for something you wish everyone to know about – but you do need to make some noise for it to gain attention in the first place!
Now comes the tricky part; in creating the noise you needed to shout about your thing, a ‘look at me’ or ‘look at what I’ve got’ type of approach, you got the reaction you hoped for and some momentum is built around your message/product etc, but if you just keep on shouting, people will stop listening; go on too much and they might never listen to you again!
Recognise that moment, stop pushing out your message and become part of the conversation, get involved in the discussion, encourage and engage with your audience – be humble, grateful and thankful – this is your chance to build valuable relationships. Get this right and next time you start to make a noise, you have a ready-built community that is happy and willing to help start that momentum all over again……
I’ve produced a FREE document for those that wish to WOW their customers – 100 Ways to WOW
Some obvious stuff like SMILE – and the biggest miss of all time LISTEN – but lots of fun and innovative ideas to help you boost loyalty and build great relationships with the people that matter most to your business!
The lovely George Clooney - it's enough to make me smile!
To get hold of your copy all you have to do is send me an email:
Put your first name, surname and your own email address and I will forward you a copy – SIMPLES!
I would love to hear what are your favourites on the list and most importantly – what your customers loved the best!
This simple post on my facebook page this week got the most likes:
“Creating WOW is not always doing something snazzy or delivering free gifts – the simple things really matter like listening, smiling and caring – solving a problem for someone makes a big difference and shows you heard them and you cared enough to help.”
Are you listening?
Many people agreed with this sentiment – and actually what you are often giving people in this scenario is the most precious gift of all – your time! It’s so important for you to understand the problems your customers and clients are facing – as once you understand this, you can make efforts to help. It doesn’t mean that you suddenly have to be expert in everything, you might be able to recommend an article, a website, an expert or a friend who can help. Sometimes it’s just simply listening that helps – so that the other person can share, air and hopefully feel better or start to find a solution themselves.
While everyone will appreciate the WOW gesture – the bottle of fizz or the lovely bunch of flowers – the gesture that truly helps fix some problems or issues is the one that will be remembered for far longer. And just to prove my point, I was once talking to someone at the Entrepreneur’s Circle about how I had too much to get done, and a couple of days later a copy of Dan Kennedy’s No BS Time Management for Entrepreneurs fell through my letterbox. It was a great read, it sits on my bedside table to remind me all that I learnt from reading it and of course where it came from 🙂