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……
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!
Virgin media have been using an email campaign recently informing customers about improvements to broadband speeds or the chance to buy tickets in advance to their music festivals – all referred to as a ‘Virgin Media tickle’ for their customers. I’m not sure they have the wording quite right here, some people just can’t stand to be tickled; but the sentiment is rather nice.
This got me thinking about the way in which we can offer a ‘cuddle’ for our customers – it’s doesn’t have to involve touching anyone of course:
- a social media cuddle – have you gone and posted some lovely #ff (follow Friday) on twitter yet today, informing your followers what’s great about your customer(s) or their businesses – or just plain thanking them for being great customers?
- sent a card, or an email (not very original) but making a gesture of some sort showing that your appreciate their custom still counts – a cuddle is just communication after all?
- created more of a WOW response by sending or doing something for your customers that is really different, creative, touching and personal to them.
I heard a brilliant example of this only last night – Simon Stevens lovely Business Growth Adviser for the Entrepreneur’s Circle and Print Entrepreneur was talking to one of his print customers recently and they asked him if they could borrow his roof box (Simon is a really friendly chap, and often finds that customers turn into friends – a perfect example of customer cuddling in action). Simon needed the roof box himself on the dates it was required by his customer, so he did no more than pop onto Ebay and buy a roof box and bars on behalf of his customer – really thinking outside of the ‘roof’box!
It’s so important to value our customers, thank them for being there and ensure they stick around for the future – so sitting down and giving some thought about how you can offer a ‘cuddle’ to your customers is a really smart thing to do!
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!
2012 is all about building better relationships for your business
Here we are at the start of our journey exploring how best to impress our customers and provide the best customer experience – so where should we start?
We have to take a moment here, to step back and contemplate. We need time to focus on exactly what our customers and clients WANT. This is not about us telling them what we do, it’s about understanding what they need from us to help them buy or stay!
Step one – know yourself
Self-awareness – that old cliché – but we need to know ourselves well:
- what motivates us
- what reactions are pre-programmed
- what our default settings are
- how we react to types of people and situations
Some of us are naturally self-aware, and some blissfully unaware, but we need to get better at understanding the way we work in order for our relationships to be successful with others.
Step two – your vision
You must clearly understand your ultimate goals, what success looks like for you and your business – or you will never get focus and clarity. It may take time to define, but once clearly thought through you must share and articulate your vision with your staff and customers.
Spend time thinking about who really stands out in the field – study them, read about them and try and emulate what they are doing best. Spend time, money and effort on personal development – mix with inspirational people who will help you achieve your goals.
Which companies or individuals are stand out for you? Who is/are your role model(s)?
Step three – your values
We must link everything to our values. Each of us is unique and we have some strong personal values that must be fulfilled in order for us to be able to continue and indeed succeed in our businesses.
It is all of these combined factors that will attribute to your success in customer experience excellence:
- customers will buy into your vision, from the passion your exude as you are clear on your journey and mission
- you will gain their respect from being true to your values
- your customers are buying you – the real you – not some phony ‘I must behave like this to win you over’ version of you!
It’s definitely all about YOU!
If you would like some help in working through some of the points raised above, I would be delighted to chat – please email in the first instance to email@example.com
(a version of this article first appeared on the Michelle Holmes blog)
I’m so excited about 2012 – as this marks the launch of my new consulting business as a customer experience champion!
I’m really delighted to be able to offer my services in helping UK business owners get better at their relationships with their existing and potential customers – through the quality and frequency of communications, events and of course my favourite medium social media!
I want us all to make some business resolutions for 2012 – it’s a tough commercial world out there – and our best shot and keeping and finding customers in 2012 is to become fantastic at creating a brilliant experience in interactions with our services or products. It’s not an overnight fix; we need to create or enhance our business personality, improve or create a reputation for customer service brilliance and really create a buzz around what we do.
Good luck for 2012 – but luck alone will not suffice – here’s to a year of forging fantastic relationships!