30 Service Energisers
Get to know me.
Make a point of introducing me, your customer, to each member of your staff who has anything to do with me. That means everyone from the receptionist to the managing director.
Invite me to your premises and introduce me around within seven days of our first contact. And make sure that your personnel visit me at my premises within 30 days of our initial interaction.
Don't stop the visits. Make sure that I have face-to-face contact with your team at least once every three months.
And the best way to apply this? Be Specific.
Tell me that you'll deliver my car, the documents, or phone me back by three o'clock this afternoon. Then deliver above expectation. Deliver on your promise before three.
So, make a point of being specific in every statement that you make. Never use phrases like "as soon as possible". They're a waste of time. I need to know exactly when you are going to deliver.
Penalise yourself every time you don't keep your promise.
Give your customers the pledge: "If I don't deliver it within say, 30 minutes, you get it for free."
What about this one? "If you have to wait in line for longer than three minutes, we'll pay you 20 bucks."
And guess who pays? You do. Not the company that you work for. You personally, because you made the promise, and you broke it. Doesn't matter if it was someone else's fault.
Manage your customers' expectations.
Delegates have often come up to me after I've delivered a presentation and asked: "But what about difficult customers?"
The only effective answer is: manage their expectations.
Here's the way to get you the outcome that we both want. Start with the result. Then work your way backwards, dividing the project into steps that I, the customer, can see and understand. Decide on a checklist with me, so that we can both evaluate your performance. Diarise the dates and times that we'll communicate. And finally, insert self-imposed penalties. What are you prepared to give to me if you fail to deliver?
Be pro-active, not reactive.
This is so simple. Once I have contacted you, the supplier, to make the initial enquiry, that is the last time that I should have to contact you. Ever.
After that, it's up to you to contact me. In other words, if your customers are bugging you, you are doing something terribly wrong. But if you are contacting us, you're doing something wonderfully right.
Become a performer.
Today there should be no such thing as the saying, "I'm not a people person. I'm just a backroom boy." Nowadays, we need people-oriented people. It doesn't matter what position you hold in your company, it's vital to give your customers a performance. A consistent, delightful performance.
I'm the customer and I'm the audience. I don't only applaud the leading actor or actress. Even the walk-on parts can make or break the performance.
Emphasise service bookends.
A service bookend is the beginning and the end of every single interaction that you have with your customers, be it face-to-face, written, or telephonic. What happens when I'm your customer and I phone you?
Do I have to wait for hours on end listening to some corny rendition of In an English Country Garden?
What happens when I visit your premises?
Am I left to sit in some ho-hum reception area to read a ridiculous corporate mission statement hanging proudly on the wall, or listen to the receptionist while she chats on the phone to her friend, ignoring me completely?
Ensure that I wait in the reception area for no longer that 3 minutes. Penalise anyone who doesn't greet me, or generally make me feel welcome.
Make me into a member of your club. Remember, we the customers are no longer buying from the staff of a business. We are buying from the leaders of the club. We are the members of your club, and you are the leaders.
Invite my input, face-to-face, at least once every six months. Include me in your focus groups once every two years. Ask me to deliver a presentation to your staff about what I do, and the importance of your roles in helping me to produce the results that I need.
Become my fountain of knowledge.
When you give us access to knowledge, our loyalty to you grows. Whether you sell antiques, hair dressing, or gold bars, invite me to an annual seminar. Get in guest speakers. You are my expert. Prove it. Offer knowledge.
Develop a relationship.
Look at it this way. When I contact you or walk into your premises, you've convinced me that your company is the one that I want to deal with. In addition to an immediate sale, I'm inviting you to establish an ongoing relationship.
To develop profitable relationships, create a Customer Contact Programme. This is nothing more than a computerised database in which you store all the details of your customers. This will become your most valuable asset. Yet it's amazing how many businesses let this prize possession slide into oblivion.
So, update your database every six months.
Communicate with me.
Use the information in your Customer Contact Programme to communicate with me regularly. Publicise your ideas. Tell us what you're doing. Send us mailings at least four times a year. The trick here is to ensure that you address my interests, not yours.
Get all the members of your team together. And examine ways in which you can add value to my experience with you.
Hold a team meeting once a month. And don't be afraid of inviting your customers to the meetings where you can ask us: "What can we do for you that we're not doing at the moment?"
Brainstorm at least 10 ideas at each meeting - that's 10 new ideas every month.
Give your brainstorm meetings a name. Call them the Bright Ideas sessions. Encourage each of your team members to come up with new ideas. And reward them.
"That's a great idea. Here's 200 bucks. Do it. Try it. Make it happen. And if it works, if we run with your idea, you get paid a whole lot more." Generate enthusiasm. Beware of management put-downs like: "We've tried that idea before, and it didn't work."
Develop staff loyalty.
Remember that great service is related directly to staff satisfaction. But like customer loyalty, employee loyalty has to be earned. You don't hire people with built-in loyalty to your cause. This is a lesson that many companies ignore - they dump workers when earnings go down. I think that this is really shortsighted.
Let's face it. When the going gets tough, key staff who've developed a bond of loyalty to the company will do their utmost to see it through the storm.
So to keep your customers, and your star employees, reward members of your staff who've managed to keep customers. Single out any employee who has kept a customer happy for three or more years for a special award - and don't be stingy.
Develop a black-box mentality.
When an aeroplane crashes, investigators search until they find the so-called black box. Then they'll spend whatever it costs to establish the cause of the accident. In other words, before you can correct a fault, you've got to find it.
So, find out why customers have left you to go to your competitors. Ask them. Learn from customer defections. Get to the root causes, and sort them out. Now.
Walk your talk.
Customers should always take priority over admin. tasks. Leave your desks, and spend time mingling and chatting to customers. By the way, when was the last time that someone from your bank came and chatted to you, while you were waiting in the line? And on the flip side, when was the last time that you chatted to your customers?
Reward long-term customer delight.
Give worthwhile rewards to employees who keep customers happy. Regularly delight your staff by making worthwhile rewards for extra-special customer service. Write them into your budget.
Dish out rewards to deserving employees once a month. Then select an overall winner for the year and shower that member of staff with accolades. It does wonders for their self-image. As consultant and author Edward de Bono says in his book Tactics: "I would name self-image as the prime motivator."
The key benefit of high-level employee loyalty: customer retention.
Apply self-imposed penalties.
What are you going to give me if you break your promise? Yes, you personally. I, the customer, want to know exactly what I'll get from you if you fail to deliver what you promise, when you promise it. And the best offer wins my business. We, the customers aren't interested in supplier excuses like, "the vehicle broke down", or, "I was held up with other customers". It's a case of taking on the responsibility of the job from beginning to end - and becoming accountable for your actions. Make me say "Wow. That was fantastic."
Ask for input.
Let me, the customer, define what is important. Don't you love the airline in the United States, which even asks frequent fliers to interview prospective cabin attendants? I think that's just great.
Spend time asking your customers the following questions:
1. Why do we use your product or service?
2. How can you make it more useful to us?
3. What difficulties do we experience?
4. How else can we use you?
5. How can you improve your support functions?
Don't settle for second best.
Never accept even the smallest defect. Let's suppose that you've designed a glossy, full colour brochure. You've printed the lot, and then you find an error.
What do you do? Pretend it doesn't exist, hope that no one will notice, and send them out? Or do you dump them? The answer is quite simple. Reprint. Error free. Never deliver or present anything that is sub-standard. Reject poor quality out of hand.
Follow up on lost sales.
Former customers can be a gold mine. The average firm loses between 10% and 30% of its customers every year, and isn't even aware of it.
Let me ask you a question. How many quotes, or people asking you for prices, or even simple advice, have you had in the last two months? Now how many of those have you converted into sales? Perhaps 20%? 30%? Well, figures show that just by following up on these lost sales, you can increase those percentages to 60% or 70%. Yet there are thousands of suppliers chasing after new clients, new customers all the time, instead of following up on lost sales.
Tell the truth.
Don't keep me in the dark. The more information you can give to your customers, the more money you will make. We the customers want to be fully in the picture. Please, don't pull the wool over our eyes. Those of you who've been in hospital for an operation recently will know that those patients who are told in great detail about the pain that they'll experience after the operation, and for how long they'll experience that pain, will recover up to three times faster than those patients who are left in the dark.
Make your business fun to deal with.
Invite me, your customer, to your theatre of business. That's right. Your business is your theatre. And so your ability to entertain me plays an important role in keeping me as a long-term customer.
Remember that when you're in the presence of a customer, you're on stage. The curtain is up and the spotlight is on you. To survive, you must deliver a good performance, whether it's face-to-face contact, telephonic communication, or even written. It doesn't matter what business you're in or what position you have in the company, we want to be entertained.
Get involved in my business.
It's very simple. None of us are really interested on what our suppliers can do: we are only interested in what they can do for us. Let me tell you a story. Mary had just returned from her honeymoon. She was having coffee with her friend Jane. Jane was confused. She couldn't understand why Mary had married John. After all, she thought, Bill was a much better prospect.
"Actually," said Mary, "Bill is Mr Everything. He's good looking, well educated and successful. In fact, when I was with Bill, I felt that he was the most wonderful person in the world."
"Then why did you marry John?" asked Jane. "Because when I'm with John, I feel like I'm the most wonderful person in the world."
Give me what I want.
Don't give me what you think I want. How's this for a good example? Hospitals have a public relations problem. Nobody wants to go there. In the United States, a group of hospital administrators were sent to experience a business totally dependent on intensive care.
Eight of them went on separate, weeklong cruises. The aim: to learn how to cater to every need. They paid attention to every aspect of service: how they were welcomed aboard; they way in which the stewards showed them to their cabins; how their tables were set; how the food was displayed. They were told to focus on the attitude and demeanour of the staff; on how they felt about being on the receiving end of intensive care.
The cruise experiment led to changes in the décor, the training of nurses and admin. staff, uniforms, and the food. Flowers were put into the halls. They even employed "greeters" to welcome patients. They put
hospitality back into hospitals. Profitability increased by 15%.
Own the experience.
I have often wondered why I enjoy doing business with certain companies. What makes shopping in one store better than another? Why do I order from some companies and not others?
It all comes down to people - individuals who have gone out of their way to make themselves memorable. Somehow they've created a distinct identity in my eyes. They've developed a trademark way of giving service that sets them apart. They own the experience of delivering remarkable service.
Deliver the same result every time.
To own the experience, you must be able to replicate it over and over again. If you don't own it, you just become one among many who sells commodities. What you sell is irrelevant. I don't want computers or hamburgers or cars. I want to be heard. And to hear me - really hear me - you have to deliver the same result in an absolutely predictable fashion. If you don't, it's not your version, it's anybody's version. You don't own it. It'll never work.
So create a systematic way of getting a result that you can produce for your customers that no one else can. Unpredictability is what creates chaos in the mind of the customers, and is what causes you to lose us. Become predictable. Become reliable.
Make me a member of your family.
If you value me as a customer, don't keep me on the outside looking in. Invite me into the fold. Make me feel welcome. Show me around. Explain how things work. Ask me for suggestions and advice. In effect, invite me to become a part of your research and development team. After all, I'm the one who's going to be using your product or service.
Provide quick feedback.
Okay, so even in the very best companies, things go wrong. For one reason or another, you may not be able to deliver what you promised, when you promised it. The point is that if there's a problem, I, the customer, want to know about it. Quickly. And I want to know what you're doing to correct it. Don't try to shift the blame, or fob me off with lame excuses like staff shortages, a wholesaler let you down, or your technician is on leave. They're not my concern. Tell me straight. Tell me fast. And do something positive about it.
Speak my language.
Say what you mean. Say it clearly in a language that I understand. Don't try and baffle me with professional high-tech lingo. Basically, don't try to educate me into your system. I'm not interested in learning to speak "banker", or "Internet" for that matter.
And beyond that, avoid using the three words that are guaranteed to kill any business. They are, "That's our policy". The only point of a policy document in today's environment is to protect the supplier. It provides a way out if they've made a mistake. The expression "That's our policy" is simply a screen behind which to hide when the supplier refuses to take responsibility for his or her actions.
I'm your customer. Isn't it amazing how many suppliers simply forget about us once they've concluded the deal? For example, can you remember the name of your life insurance salesman? I can't. And what about the agent who sold you your house, or your car?
Yet there are these people chasing after new sales, new customers, new clients, when they've got this whole pot of gold waiting to be tapped into. Follow up with your existing customers. Keep in touch. Offer some constructive suggestions. Remember, you should become my fountain of knowledge on your particular subject.
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