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!
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!
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……
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.”
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 🙂
I’ve been watching the new show on the BBC – The Voice. If you haven’t seen it or can’t face another ‘talent’ show – the concept is simple; people who have a great singing voice get to sing live in front of four celebrity judges – each of the judges have their backs to the stage – they cannot see who is singing, they are purely judging the act on their voice alone – if they like what they hear, they turn their chair around.
What has been rather fascinating to observe are the entrants – because they are not being judged on appearance at all – it has meant that people who are conscious of being overweight, being ‘too old’, looking ‘different’, having no hair for instance have the confidence to take part and try their luck on the merits of their great voice. Interestingly some very glamorous people, who more than fit the stereotype of ‘star looks’ have not been picked (the general singing standard is very good). The reactions from the judges has been plain to see in such cases – there seems to be a genuine disappointment at missing out on the package of great looks and a good voice! Proving that what we see in front of us definitely clouds our judgement – the short dumpy person with an amazing voice versus the tall slim person with a good voice usually would win out hands down (although Susan Boyle would seem to buck this assumption!).
In business we are often very much reliant on our ‘voice’ alone – through our websites, emails, letters, newsletters and social media we are relying on creating a personality without being there in person – a great opportunity to create a ‘star quality’ to everything you do and say and really make an impact with your customers and potential customers out there!
I recently celebrated a colleague’s birthday and headed off to a new, smart French restaurant (part of a small chain) called Aubaine in the West End of London. We were a party of nine, it was lunchtime and we were all heading back to the office straight afterwards. We collectively agreed on main courses and desserts only (lightweights I know!).
There was a lovely ambiance in the restaurant, a lively buzz and wonderful decor. A delicious menu was presented as well as some lovely artisan breads to munch on whilst we made our choices. All great stuff!
We each chose our main course and the charming waitress politely mentioned that as we were a party of nine, our mains would take a little time to prepare – perhaps we would like to share some starters instead? Of course we did, we ordered three between the nine of us! (Smoothly executed up-sell – and done so charmingly one ‘hardly’ noticed – great staff training in action here!)
Our mains duly arrived and it was totally delicious – yum!
Now this next bit I felt was rather inspired – a modern take on the old-fashioned dessert trolley! We were not presented with a menu for desserts, but each dessert on offer was presented on a fancy slate platter – it was bought to you personally so you could see, drool over and actually point at what you wanted. Now at this stage in a meal, some are really feeling that they would rather not have a pud – and on reading a just a menu it’s much easier to say “no thank you” – but seeing the finished article looking all inviting and luscious right in front of your eyes – now that is hard to resist!
Well done Aubaine on creating a great customer experience alongside some great up-selling techniques!
I ran a workshop last Friday – I had a bunch of lively, receptive people all wanting to make a difference for their customers – and together we did ‘a WOW workout‘! This workshop is designed to make attendees really think about their every interaction with customers. How to build stronger relationships, and gain the WOW response from as many customers as possible! If you want to see exactly what’s covered in a workshop, take a look at the content and some feedback here.
Each and every attendee remarked how valuable it was to get away from their very busy roles and give some time to thinking about how they interact with their customers. Space to think about the ways in which they can create those all important WOW factors to make customers really stick going forward. It was the act of physically moving away from their desk, sitting down together and collectively sharing their experiences and ideas within the structure of the workshop which really enabled them to focus on creating clear action plans that will make a difference. Having ‘missed’ a morning by attending the workshop, they returned to an even busier workload in the afternoon; but with a renewed energy, focus and a positive mindset to make a difference!
Create some energy and focus in your business and ensure you create time and space to think about your customers – as without them you won’t have a business to think about at all!
Boy, that’s been the case for me this past week – I’ve been feeling quite far out of my comfort zone with some of the activities I agreed to get involved in! But now I’m sitting here the other side of some of the uncomfortable acts I’ve been lucky enough to have the chance at doing, I’m feeling on top of the world actually – really pumped and excited about what I made myself do!
My first ‘uncomfortable’ zone was to speak at a conference for over 100 people – I was first up, and my remit was to welcome and introduce our celebrity speaker. I’d prepped of course, read websites and bios, but I also went and introduced myself to our celebrity and asked if I had pitched my intro in the way they wanted – a couple of tweaks were suggested (more discomfort as last minute changes are not always what you wish for) but we got there. It’s a slightly surreal experience, speaking to a large room of people – and it can be hard to judge how you are doing, but definitely worth seeking feedback from people who will tell you straight!
A couple of days later, wearing my chocolate hat, I was on a BBC foodie radio show with other chefs for two hours on a Saturday afternoon. Now much credit here must go to the presenter, who put us all at our ease, asking good questions and made it fun and interactive for the audience – a real professional. Sitting in a studio, wearing headphones, speaking into a mike, eating live on air and making comments about food to thousands of listeners is not a normal activity for me and once again I found myself feeling very uncomfortable at first! Now, it seems usual practice for the radio peeps to just throw you in at the deep end – they literally tell you it will be fine, and stick you right in front of a the mike and your are off. I was talking to the producer after the show and suggested that more ‘induction’ would be helpful to guests – but she pointed out that if guests are too nervous, it’s the presenter’s job to fill in and make it work and most guests warm up and get used to it! I never forgot the live element of the show, the time pressures and that there is an audience out there listening, but I did relax, start to quip and become more confident the longer the show aired – so they were proved right!
So what lessons will I take from these experiences:
- Preparation is everything – whether introducing a speaker or chatting about a specific subject – you need to really know your stuff
- Practice – I doubt many people are born fantastic at presenting and speaking, but by studying the greats, you know what brilliant looks like and can practice, practice, practice
- Be yourself
- Think about your audience – what do they want to hear, how do they want to hear it?
- Smile, speak clearly
- Ask for feedback and take points on board
- Say yes to opportunities!
1. Smile – always
(I’m sometimes referred to as Mrs Smiles – I could be called far worse things, but I make a great big friendly smile a trademark of mine. If you always greet people with a warm and welcoming smile, it sets the right tone – and take it as a good sign if your cheeks ache at the end of any event!)
2. Be friendly, helpful and above all professional at all times
(Be in the right ‘uniform’ – that doesn’t mean you need to be bland and uninteresting in your choice of outfit, but give some thought to how you wish others to perceive you, at first glance. If someone presents as stressed and anxious, don’t be impatient and unforgiving – you don’t know what sort of day they have had so far – you could make the difference for them.)
3. Go the extra mile
(Why not physically take people to where they need to go, run an errand, hand them a drink – whatever would add a little extra to their experience.)
4. Introduce people to each other
(Especially if you see someone standing on their own, or they are ‘first-timers’ to the event you are running for example. Don’t just give the names of the people you are introducing, offer a fuller introduction of what they each do, and why you think they would find talking to each other useful.)
5. Never underestimate who you are talking to
(Be as friendly to the receptionist as you would to the CEO – we have all heard the stories about CEO’s ringing down to reception to ask their first impression of someone – that could be YOU!)
Last night I went to a local meeting of the Entrepreneur’s Circle (an organisation I belong to that helps business owners focus on doing the things that will make their business successful) and the subject matter was making yourself interesting!
I agree wholeheartedly that you need to stand out in this world, and perhaps my focus is usually on creating the best experience for people once they are involved with your business, however you have to get them there in the first place! So standing out and providing a great product/service once they arrive, are certainly key for success in today’s crowded market.
However, the most powerful piece of advice we shared last night (which I try to follow myself) is the power of a story! Certainly not something made up or untrue, but something either you or someone you know has experienced that helps you convey your message in a completely compelling and interesting way!
I talk about the power of social media in building better relationships – blah blah, we have heard that before; but when I tell the story about how I was featured in The Sun, The Independent and won an iPad2 from some successful relationships built on twitter – then people really take notice of what I’m saying!
My last blog post focused on getting passionate about what you do – I didn’t just tell you to get passionate, I shared a story of success from doing just that – so I urge you to tell stories and embrace Jackanory time and engage your customers (and be really interesting!)
Once upon a time………
I’m obviously not referring to your romantic aspirations here – but being truly passionate about your business is worth giving some serious thought to.
I recently went to see a client about providing some social media training solutions for their new membership business. In the course of our chat, the client asked what my ‘life purpose’ was in terms of my business aims and ambitions. That’s an interesting questions isn’t it? How often would someone ask you such a deep question? Would you be ready with an answer? However, I had done some serious thinking about this – and I had my answer right there. I started to talk about my passion for customer experience excellence. Now, I didn’t just chat casually about my concept of helping business owners build better relationships with their customers in a ‘spouting the spiel’ manner , I got really animated about why I wanted to do this. I articulated my vision, my values and my true belief that helping UK business owners get better at building good relationships with their clients would make the world a better place – I truly believe it’s that big!
And guess what – I didn’t get the social media contract – but I did get my first client for my customer experience consultancy!
It pays to be passionate!