Examples To Learn By

Posted November 4, 2009 by businessabundance
Categories: Customer Service

Tags: , , ,

We’ve all had personal experience of average or even poor customer service and there are times when customer service was reasonably good but could have been much better.  So what can we as business owners do to raise the level of customer service for our businesses?

The best way to illustrate this is through examples so I have a couple of case studies, the first was to elevate their customer’s experience from mediocrity to very good and the second was to elevate a poor customer experience in an otherwise vibrant and customer friendly environment.  In both these cases we were able to vastly improve the level of service and experience for the customer.

Case Study One
The situation that occurred in this business is a common one.  The business in question is Meridian Productions a business that produces maps for various purposes.  They had a good business but where they excelled in map production they lacked in they way they communicated with their customers.

Through a program of explaining and identifying their “moments of truth”, how to best to answer the phone (the message and the attitude) and how to exceed customers expectations through a number of simple but effective actions we were able to increase their average $ sale by 23% and increase their turnover by 28% in a 3 month period.

Case Study Two
The bustling Oaktree cafe & bar in Oakleigh was very busy and very popular with the locals.  The service was good, friendly and polite and the food and drinks were of good quality which reflected why they were usually busy.  The also hold events from time to time and advertised on their website. 

However, what happened for them was a scheduled maintenance day they have each year that they advertised on their website and they also put a sign up on the window near the entrance sliding door.  The problem was that many customers didn’t see the sign as it sort of blended in with other notices and signs that were in the front window.  On maintenance day they had a number of customers who turned up only to be turned away because these customers simply didn’t know. 

The solution that we proposed benefited them twofold.  We had them politely ask for each customer’s first name and mobile phone number so they would be notified of upcoming events and any scheduled maintenance days.  Most customers were happy so long as rubbish text messages weren’t sent to them. Their details got added to their database and they implemented an SMS solution through NxtComm which only cost $70 per month + minor setup fees whereby they were able to text customers of great events coming up. 

The business owner also understands the need to have staff verbally tell each customer in the week preceding maintenance that the business will be closed on the given day.  This ultimately increased their attendance at events and will reduce the number of customers that turn up and are disappointed next time maintenance is scheduled.

So a couple of examples of what is possible.  The important thing to remember is that business owners often can’t see the forest through the trees as they are so close to their businesses each and every day so they don’t see the customer’s experiences as the customer does and they never bother to ask.  Maybe a Customer Service Audit is what’s needed.

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What Is A Customer Service Mindset?

Posted October 26, 2009 by businessabundance
Categories: Customer Service

Tags: , ,

I was asked this question indirectly when I saw Pat Mesiti speaking at the Mega Networking Event this weekend.  Wow what a great event for meeting prospective strategic alliance partners.  Pat is the Mindset King and his presentation got me thinking what sort of mindset does a business owner need in order to provide an outstanding customer experience?

 Firstly comes the mindset of wanting to know all about your customers; what they think, what motivates them, what their needs and wants are, what values they have and finally what their hot buttons are.  Of course I am talking collectively not individually here .

Next comes the mindset of doing what is needed to grow the business.  It’s that desire to continually improve the systems, to be creative and innovative, that willingness to impart excellence in your team members and the way they interact with the customers.

Finally and most importantly comes the mindset of truly wanting to help and benefit the customer.  It’s that desire to provide the best possible experience for the customer and an empathetic ear when things are not right that makes for a leader to drive their business towards customer service excellence.

Without these mindsets how can the customer experience anything more outstanding than the levels of customer service mediocrity that pervades Australian businesses and the expectation of mediocrity that is so prevalent in our society?

It’s The Little Things That Count

Posted October 21, 2009 by businessabundance
Categories: Customer Service

Tags: , ,

When I speak to business owners about exceptional customer service I often hear them say things like “We pride ourselves on getting the job done on time and on budget.” And so they should be proud but surely that is only what is expected by the customer, that is simply doing a good job.  It certainly isn’t exceptional and it has nothing to do with customer service.

You may or may not agree with my thoughts but the fact of the matter is that if you are simply doing a good job then that alone is nothing to hang your hat on.  And whilst you may standout somewhat from the crowd by doing a good job (goodness knows there are enough businesses who can’t even do a good job) imagine how you would stand out if you were to do the little things that make a big difference.  Consider the following examples:

A Fine Example
It is well known that women are often uncomfortable about taking their vehicles to be repaired or to have tyres replaced.  So one clever tyre dealer decided to break down the barriers of all female customers by placing a long stem rose on the passengers seat with a lovely hand written note saying “Thank you so much for letting us attend to your tyre needs.  We certainly appreciate your custom and please accept this gift as a thank you.”  It certainly did the trick because word soon spread and his business did too.

Another Fine Example
The hotel in question was certainly on the ball by having a plate of freshly baked biscuits (cookies) on the front desk between 5pm and 7pm for hotel guests checking in.  One rather exhausted traveller mentioned to the desk clerk how much he appreciated the thought and the next night a nice note and 3 cookies awaited him in his room.  It doesn’t take much to make a difference but it meant a lot to the recipient.   

So what can you do for your customers that goes way beyond their expectations?  What barriers can you break down by being extra friendly and gracious?  What little things can you think of in your business that would make a difference?

Please feel free to leave your thoughts.

Warmly

Steve

Your Moments of Truth

Posted October 17, 2009 by businessabundance
Categories: Customer Service

Tags: , ,

The first and last impressions mentioned in my previous post and all of the impressions in between are so important.  It is what makes up the Customer Experience that I have mentioned before. 

Former Scandanavian Airlines President Jan Carlzon coined the phrase “moments of truth” to describe these impressionable moments which in effect are any time a customer comes in contact with your business.  So what are your business’s moments of truth?  The obvious ones are as follows:

  • any advertisements your prospects see
  • when they call you or your team on the phone
  • when they visit your store/factory/display centre etc
  • when the service person visits them
  • whenever you email or fax them

Can you think of any other moments of truth?  Well for starters when they call you on the phone, vist your store or email you it could be for a miriad of reasons such as:

  • to collect information on opening hours, location, product, service, price, quality, suitability, availability, reliability, specials, discounts etc.
  • to purchase a product
  • to return a faulty product and get a refund
  • to complain about a problem
  • to find out why their delivery hasn’t arrived
  • to get technical support
  • to get account details or to pay an outstanding bill
  • and much more…

So are you starting to get an idea of all the places in your business that are moments of truth?  Does it make sense that you look at all of these areas in your business to see how you are leaving impressions?  How can you turn these moments of truth in to moments of excellence?

We’d love to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment below.

Warmly

Steve

First and Last Impressions

Posted October 12, 2009 by businessabundance
Categories: Customer Service

Tags: , , ,

Do you judge people and businesses by first impressions?  Think about the last time you visited a store for the first time.  What was going through your mind?  Were you checking out how clean/dirty it was, how nice/rude the salesperson was, how easy/hard it was to purchase or get assistance?  These are some of the things we all consider with our consumer interactions.

So putting the focus onto your business, have you ever considered what your prospects first impressions are of you and your business?  Are you even aware that their first impression of you will determine whether they stay or walk away?  And what about their last impression of you?  Do you think your customers parting impression has any significance?  Would it have any impact on whether they return or not?  If you don’t, think again.

What can you and your team say to prospects and customers each time they interact with you in person or on the phone?  Using an example of XYZ Furniture, when in person do you simply ask “How may I help you?” like most other businesses or can you be creative and put some energy into your greetings?  How would the following greeting sound?…“Welcome to XYZ Furniture store. I’d be delighted to show you around or if you prefer you can just browse and call me over at any time.”  And how about on the phone with the example above would you answer “XYZ Furniture, John speaking”? Or could you answer “Thank you for calling XYZ Furniture, my name’s John, how may I be of assistance today?”

And what about the last impressions. Do you simply say “Okay bye.” or could you entertain the possibility of saying “It was a pleasure speaking to you today Mrs Wilson and we look forward to seeing you again soon.”  These examples are for retail which are consumer targeted businesses so the message would be different for service, distribution, import/export &  manufacturing businesses especially if you are in the B2B market.  Of course your message needs to be tailored to your business and to the culture and values you hold as important.

A Brief Story

A few months ago I was in a dry cleaners to pickup my suit for an important business meeting and was in a rush.  After I got it home I found there was a stain on the sleeve which I didn’t see when picking it up.  I called the dry cleaners to ask what to do as I didn’t have time to take it back.  To my surprise they didn’t seem willing to help.  They said “There is nothing I can do but bring it back.”  When I asked why they didn’t check it after the job they said “It wasn’t their responsibility. It was my job to check the finished product when I picked it up.”  What a cheek, what a lasting negative impression of their business.  They certainly won’t be getting my custom in the future.

I’m sure you have many stories to tell about customer experiences that were below expectations.  I’d love to hear your stories or comments on this subject.

Warmly

Steve

Customer Service – What’s All The Fuss About?

Posted October 5, 2009 by businessabundance
Categories: Customer Service

Tags: ,

You might be asking what’s all the fuss about customer service.  Surely all we need to do as business owners is to make sure our team are not rude, make sure we have some good products and sell them to anyone we can.

Thankfully most business owners don’t think like that otherwise we would be having absolutely diabolical experiences every day as consumers and in the B2B market.  Well actually on some days it does seem like this is the pervasive attitude of businesses.  I’d like to think that days like this are simply rare blips on the radar of terror.

Well you’ll be happy to hear that customer service for the most part is at mediocre levels.  That’s good isn’t it?  After all, so long as sales people aren’t being rude to us or selling us things we don’t really want and the shop assistants know enough about their products and where they are displayed then we’ re being adequately served…Right?   Well, no it isn’t good and it’s far from good enough.  But the problem we face in Australia and around the world is that mediocrity in customer service is what we expect because few businesses are doing much better and when everyone is doing the same thing one tends to get numbed by it all.

My Story
Customer service and the customer experience is something we are passionate about at Business Abundance.  And I don’t say that flippantly…let me tell you why.  I had worked in retail for a number of years in my father’s Toyworld shop as a teenager, sorting and stacking shelves and then behind the counter as a sales assistant.  My father had taught me from an early age that a smile and an interest in the customer would  always make a difference even when the customer was unhappy about something and I always remember the effect that this had on customers.  I compare that even back then to my own experiences as a teenager in other retail stores and how I was not treated particularly nicely and rarely received a smile.

Fast forward to 2005 when I read Michael Gerber’s E-Myth Revisited which is a story about Sarah the “All About Pies” business owner who was taught by her Aunt to put love into everything she did when baking pies but who lacked the skills to adequately run her business.  Michael Gerber as a young business coach helped her with her business and it shone (for a while at least).  BTW I thoroughly recommend you buy, borrow or swap to read this book as it teaches important fundamentals of business.  Anyway back to the book and another story of Michael’s experience in the ultimate customer-centric hotel located on the verge of a redwood grove just North of  San Francisco, California named “Venetia” which ignited my passion for customer service  from my youth in a way that surprised me.

Questions
So what is customer service and the customer service experience really?  Has true customer service that was experienced in the past been killed off forever? How do we elevate the customer service experience for our customers? Why are most businesses only providing a mediocre customer service experience?  And what makes for a good, great or exception customer experience and how would that make a business shine?  These questions and more will be discussed in future blogs that I know will make a difference to your customers and your business.

If you have some ideas or answers to any of the above questions please feel free to leave a comment.  Similarly if you have a poor or fantastic customer service experience I’d love to hear from you…spell it out in all it’s gory or glory details.

Until next time, serve your customers well.

Warmly

Steve

Welcome To Our Blog

Posted September 28, 2009 by businessabundance
Categories: Welcome

Tags: , , ,

Welcome to our Abundance of Business blog.   As the blog name and our business name Business Abundance suggests we are a team of business coaches, consultants and trainers who are committed to providing an abundance of leads, sales and profits to your business. 

However, where our passion truly lies is in Customer Service or Customer Experience Management.  We believe that customer service in Australia is at best mediocre and we are dedicated to lifting the level of customer service in Australia to great heights.  However, more on this wonderful subject in other posts. 

Please visit our About page (see the side link) to view information about the Business Abundance partners Silvia Wright-Davies and Stephen Lee-Burman who will be posting on this blog.

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to finally get a blog going.  I’m certainly not shy and I’m not technophobic so why did it take so long?  I guess you could say I just got so busy with clients, marketing, writing articles for our Weekly Discoveries newsletter and all other business that keeps us up late at night.  It’s really as simple as that.   However, as we already write a fortnightly newsletter the need for a blog wasn’t as obvious. 

You know the main reason for jumping in the deep end with this blog is because I am writing an article for Weekly Discoveries on The Power of Social Media for Business and in order to write an informative article one not only needs to have the knowledge but also walk the walk before talking the talk.  I found the subject so fascinating that I have been totally absorbed in it and have spent over 20 hours researching, asking questions, installing, trying out, making mistakes, retrying and succeeding at blogs (this one), Twitter and Linkedin.

For any of you that have been following us for the last few years as clients or as interested parties through our newsletters we thank you.  The newsletters will continue to be fortnightly for the most part with one serious topic being discussed.  Eventually we envisage that the newsletter will be monthly with 3-4 articles to choose from.  This blog, however, will be posted to as often as there is something of interest to inform our readership of and we will be tweeting away as regularly as we can too. So come back and check this blog out every week or so to keep up to date.

So until next time think about how your customers feel about their interactions with you and your team.

Warmly,

Steve