I know you are waiting for me to reveal how I nearly burned alive last week, but fresh evidence is emerging and I am determined to give you the whole picture - so please be patient, it will be worth it.
So, on the subject of customer care.................
Most of us are involved in some form of business acquisition for our respective companies. We all know that winning business often requires a significant investment in time, resources and energy and that the thrill of the chase is an exciting one. Isn't it a shame that sometimes the customer, who you worked so hard to win, cancels the order during the initial stages because someone somewhere has let them down.
The sequence of events is often typical - an 'important' meeting of department heads is set up to find out who the culprit was and why, but its too late - all you can do is learn from the mistakes - or at least that's the logical outcome.
In this article, I want to cover issues which your company faces in retaining customers and look at:
• The value of customer service
• Moments of truth
• Recruiting, training and motivating customer service staff
• 10 ways to lose customers
The Value of Service
Looking around its easy to see how many companies have developed customer service strategies using the telephone. Take for example some of the fast food establishments who actively promote 0800 care lines, or the soft drinks cans with care line numbers on the packaging and the cleaning product companies with care lines. Care lines are increasing at a rapid pace in some industries.
So what is the value of good customer service? It increases spend, loyalty, reduces cost, promotes your company through positive word of mouth, differentiates you from your competition and can help you charge premium prices for your products and services.
We all want to deliver good customer service and want our customers to go out and recommend us to their friends, family and colleagues, yet finding the most efficient and cost effective way of doing this can be difficult. The telephone can play an important part in developing a comprehensive customer service strategy and should be looked at not just for the obvious applications of inbound care lines but for proactive applications that could pre-empt issues before they arise.
Think of the times when you have been driving along on a motorway and a large articulated lorry suddenly pulls out in front of you, without warning, causing you to brake sharply. Sometimes our reaction can be destructive (as in the case of road rage) however with the recent introduction of telephone numbers on the back of lorries as in the highly accredited "Good Lorry Code", your feedback can go straight back to the company responsible for the driver. It's not all bad news that should be reported though, often calls are taken on these numbers by appreciative members of the public who would like to say thank you for a kind gesture or just comment on how courteous the driver was. All of these contacts create a moment of truth that can be positive or negative.
Service isn't just about answering calls quickly (within 3 rings is what I usually hear). It's also important that the person you speak to has all the information and that you do not have to repeat yourself. Unfortunately, I have lost count of the number of times I have to do the latter with companies these days - even by some of the so called top service companies.
Looking at badly handled calls, many of us are aware that 86% of customers would prefer not doing business with a company again if a single call is badly handled but still many companies put inexperienced, poorly trained staff at the front end of their business. Worst of all, when you have a problem you can't get it resolved easily!
Unfortunately, customer care is still regarded by many as a costly activity or a burden on resources. Some organisations have already recognised the importance of customer care and a few are very advanced in its practice.
Every contact an existing or potential customer has with your company is a moment of truth. It could be how quickly their call was answered, how long it took your company to send out a brochure, what happens when the delivery driver turns up with the product, how accurate the invoice is etc.
Recognising all the moments of truth in your company will allow you to address weaker areas easily - for example, Jan Carlzon of SAS identified almost 1000 moments for customers using his airline. He then set his senior managers the task of improving each of these by just 1% resulting in a substantial increase in service!
Recruiting, training and motivating customer service staff
When recruiting staff use telephone screening - it sorts out the good from the bad very quickly and reduces wastage on your time. Use role-plays to check the ability of your potential candidates and score them based on their ability on the telephone, not how they come across face to face, if they never meet customers.
Make sure staff are trained properly not just on how to deal with different situations on the phone but on systems and even how to transfer calls efficiently and professional etiquette. When considering training, look at measuring performance before and after training so that the impact can be measured. Make the training fun as well as relevant.
Motivation of staff is often a problem area in a customer service environment, especially when some staff receive constant complaints.
To address this problem, make your workplace a fun place with regular competitions and recognition schemes. Consider reward schemes for the employee of the month or special incentives based on excellent customer service.
Remember that rewards can be demotivating if they are not thought out in enough detail - better to ask the staff what they want.
And Finally - 10 Ways To Lose Your Customers!
• Pass the customer around - whatever you do, make it virtually impossible for the customer to get what they want when they call you. Make them work by asking them to repeat themselves then to add that bit extra, get someone who doesn't know how to transfer a call to accidentally cut the customer off!
• Buy a system then fit your strategy around it - do like many companies do and buy a wonderful system for recording customer's details that does not make it easy for your own perspective.
• Rely on technology - forget the people and buy the best technology, then put it in front of your customer service operation. Best to make it really difficult for the customer so that they get confused and when they don't make a choice, route them to a really poor quality answering machine.
• Forget about training - just do what so many companies do today and put staff on the telephone without an iota of training. Better still, make sure they can't be easily understood and are good at arguing with customers.
• Don't reward loyalty - forget about all those loyal customers who have been with you for years. Instead go out of your way to attract new customers with better deals and tell your existing ones they can't have the same special offer despite how long they have been with your company and how much they have spent.
• Ignore the millions of people with speech or hearing difficulties - if you operate predominantly in the consumer sector then ignore all those who may not be able to communicate effectively with you - after all, who wants another x million potential customers!
• Ignore customer feedback - why don't you develop your services and ignore what your customers want. Don't ask them - they won't know, so why waste your time?
• Forget about third parties who work with your company - all those companies who work for you and communicate to your existing and prospective customers. Don't invest time in working with them - after all, if they can't help a customer then who cares, or if they give wrong advice and you get sued for misinformation so what?
• Forget about service - just sell, sell and sell. Don't waste time on nasty topics such as service - customers don't care about this so why bother? Just give them a keen price and rotten service and they'll come back in droves.
• Forget cultural differences - make everyone do things your way even if they can't speak your language or have different ways of saying things.
Tomorrow: Two very important weeks before we ease into the Christmas shutdown, so be sure to join me.
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