There’s much focus on giving our customers the best possible experience and getting fabulous at customer service, and rightly so – it’s increasingly important in this day of gaining any slight competitive edge to stand out from the crowd for all the right reasons. We need to build fantastic relationships with customers and potential customers so they stay with us, become loyal and buy again (and again). If you don’t think you are good enough at this aspect, follow this link for more information on our ‘getting sticky customers’ workshop.
So let’s assume that we are feeling OK about our customer service, we are pretty good at treating most of our good customers well, retention rates are not too bad, so fairly happy days (always room for improvement, but that’s another story).
Yes, we’re paying our hard-earned money for them to do a job for us, and being as they are the experts, they can get on with the job they have been paid to do with little input from us (hopefully if we have briefed them sufficiently and done our homework on getting the right person for the job). So now the boot is on the other foot and we are the customer – and our attitude has changed. We may now think that we have no customer service to worry about and can act quite differently?
Here’s the thing – your hired help may well be a potential customer, and certainly s/he will have friends, family and colleagues that are potential customers. Shoddy treatment of hired help says a lot about you and your company, and that experience will be reported to the wider world. Just because you are paying their bill, you still wish to greet them warmly, give them a cuppa, make necessary introductions, ensure they have everything they need from you to do the job efficiently, so they leave with a positive impression of your organisation and staff.
If your hired help leaves with the best impression, they might just become another member of your sales team and be recommending your great outfit to the perfect client – we love a bit of word of mouth marketing, and you just never know where it might come from! Treat everyone with the same level of quality service and you increase your chances of it being ANYONE who has dealings with you and your company!
Do ask them too – ask them how it was dealing with your company, did they get everything they needed from you to do their job properly (so you learn and next time you are even more efficient and organised when you need to hire in similar help again). If you’ve been delighted with their service, offer to tell your contacts about them. It’s also OK to ask them to spread the good word about what you do – give them leaflets, cards, special offers to give to their contacts if you leave on good terms (and have offered to reciprocate) you know there will be some great endorsement on offer for both sides.
Lady of the house: “Sheldon, I want you to stand at the front door and call the guests’ names as they arrive.”
Sheldon: “Very well, madam. I’ve been wanting to do that for years.”
(with thanks to the Butlers Guild)
I run chocolate workshops for adults, children and teams through my business, The Melting Pot.
The dynamics of a group on a workshop are always fascinating to me. I gather a group together and teach them how to make chocolates, but it’s always so much more complicated than just doing your thing!
I have to be quick to work out the personality types within a particular group and ensure each receives the best possible experience. Although this comes fairly naturally to me, it’s my mission to make everyone comfortable, happy and enjoy their workshop as much as possible.
The noisy ones love a bit of banter, and I’m happy to quip away with them, but they might need toning down if they get a little over excited – especially with quiet ones in the room, who can easily get drowned out.
I make a point of going up to quieter ones and speaking to them individually, ensuring I give them just as much attention as others who demand it. In this way, I’m talking to the quiet ones in the way that makes them feel more comfortable in a group situation.
I often get people who are timid, shy and lacking in confidence – I make it my mission to praise, encourage and support their efforts and to see them blossom and be proud of what they have made is a real boost. A couple of hours of chocolate therapy, delivered in the right way, does wonders for anyone!
I always ask for feedback, and I analyse every workshop to tweak and hone and continually improve experiences – the buzz I get from giving people a good time is why I just love what I do! When people leave my premises, with bags full of chocolates and a great big smile on their face, I’ve achieved my mission! I have 100’s of testimonials to back up my claims here, but I feel if you make other people’s enjoyment your absolute priority, then tailor what you are offering to suit every person, you are bound to get some great praise as well as lots of word of mouth recommendations along the way! Happy days!
Dawn started The Melting Pot from the summerhouse at the end of her garden in Hitchin in 2009. Despite the family name there is no family history of working with chocolate – Dawn just loved chocolate and people and decided to put the two together!
Dawn has developed a ‘WOW workout programme’ working with companies to improve their customer experience offering and to help motivate and empower customer-facing teams! She is currently writing her first book – ‘12 Steps to Getting Sticky Customers’ (that will include many more tales from the chocolate tank)! She has recently been nominated for a Customer Service Award at the National Entrepreneurs Convention.
The experience theme runs in the family as Dawn is married to blacksmith Jo Fry, who runs ‘Be a Blacksmith for a Day’ courses from his forge at Standalone Farm in Letchworth.
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!
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!
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!
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 🙂
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!)