I emailed a company at the beginning of September with a question about a product I was interested in purchasing. To this day, I’ve not had a response. Without a reply, I am left with the lasting impression that they simply don’t care about me and my enquiry.
We often experience this ‘I don’t care’ attitude - from a supermarket sales assistant mindlessly flinging our eggs down the conveyor belt, to a manager who is not interested in resolving a complaint brought about by a mistake made by the company. As a customer on the receiving end of this attitude, I feel frustrated, angry, and resentful and eager to take my custom elsewhere.
So how can companies show customers they truly care and why is it so important?
Do you care about your premises?
I regularly walk past an office block in my town and for the past few months I’ve noticed a blind in the window is broken. The impression this gives to the passing traffic is one that the company doesn’t care that a blind is broken or even care about the image it’s portraying to the outside world. How much time and money would it actually take to fix the blind or install a new one? Probably not much in the big scheme of things. Yet it remains broken.
Taking care of your premises is key to creating the impression you are a company that cares. If a company spends time and energy looking after it’s premises, how much more will it spend looking after its staff and customers?
Making sure there are no rubbish or weeds outside the building, ensuring the hedges are regularly cut back, parking bays are clearly marked, company signage is clean and clear, the reception area is clean, warm, and welcoming are all little things that can make a big difference to a potentially new client visiting your premises.
It also shows your employees that you care about them too and are providing them a clean, safe, and enjoyable working environment.
Do you care about your reputation?
A business reputation is a combination of what a business does, how it acts and what others think of it.
Building and maintaining a powerful reputation is important when it comes to gaining and keeping employees and customers. A business reputation can take years to build up but just seconds to destroy if customers and staff are poorly treated.
Strive to develop a reputation for treating staff respectfully, keeping your promises, working in accordance to the company values, being organised and efficient, and being of value.
Do you care about your staff?
How often have you walked past an employee, stopped for a chat, and asked them about their day not just about work? Take time to get to know your team members; what they enjoy doing in their spare time, what are their priorities outside work, if they have a family or pets.Staff who feel valued and appreciated will invariably go above and beyond for both the company and the customer.
Do bear in mind though, not everyone is comfortable talking about their personal lives in the workplace, so show you care by being sensitive and discreet with any information that is given to you.
Do you care about your customers?
Customers will return to a company they like, trust, and feel valued. And the perfect way to make them feel valued is to show them you truly care.
There are many ways you can show the customer you care about them. Respond when they ask for information or leave feedback, take time to listen and understand their wants and needs, make them feel important rather than just another sale, provide the personal touch with a genuine warm and friendly welcome.
So, what do you care about?
Do you care about cost-cutting, the quick sale and profits or do you care about creating a safe, positive work environment with engaged, motivated staff delivering a consistently outstanding experience to your customers?
What an incredible week it was celebrating National Customer Service Week 2017.
In the course of 5 days, I have hosted, spoken at and organised various events across Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire, with the sole purpose of helping businesses deliver a first-class experience to their customers.
Now the dust has settled, I am reflecting on the week and the knowledge I’ve taken away from all the events.
The main fact I’ve discovered is that many businesses truly appreciate the key role Customer Service plays in the success of their company. The people who attended my workshops were all keen to improve their service standards and behaviours. They value their customers and want to ensure their customers receive a consistently high-quality experience. These principles are to be praised and encouraged as they are a shining example to others.
My Recognition and Reward seminar on the last day was interactive and inspirational. The businesses who attended this event all understood the principle of taking care of their staff and the powerful impact engaged and motivated employees have in successful customer interaction. We discussed ways to create a positive working environment and discovered what the top four motivators are. It was great to hear personal stories of how engaged staff truly make a difference to the customers.
The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that people love networking. I’ve personally enjoyed the opportunity of putting people in contact with other businesses, providing them the platform to discuss their products and services, find some common ground and build relationships. I firmly believe in the power of successful business relationships and the knowledge and benefit this brings companies, especially new businesses like myself.
As this year’s National Customer Service Week comes to an end, I want to take this opportunity of thanking everyone who attended my events, encourage you to take on board the information you heard and to continue delivering an outstanding customer experience – after all, without customers where will your business be?
I look forward to planning and hosting many more events during National Customer Service Week 2018!
Whilst not an essential, legal business requirement, many organisations choose to create and implement a Customer Service Charter.
So, what is this charter and how can it successfully impact a business?
A Customer Service Charter is a written policy defining the standards of service and the commitments made by an organisation to their customers.
It generally consists of several short, easy-to-read statements informing the customer what service they can expect to receive, how and where they can raise a complaint, and what role they play in the relationship with the company.
A Customer Service Charter can be used as an effective quality management tool, providing an opportunity to receive feedback and comments from customers on any issue; including products, service, and staff.
Once created, the service charter is a powerful marketing tool and can be used in all company material, both internally and externally – including staff handbooks, marketing campaigns, quotes/proposals, websites, and company premises. Companies who publicly display their charters present an open, honest and committed business that fills customers with confidence.
Companies who publicly declare and repeatedly adhere to their customer service commitments benefit in many ways; including -
Focused and engaged staff
Employees will have clear guidelines in place of the service standards customers expect to receive, ensuring all staff deliver a professional and efficient customer interaction every time.
Managing customer’s expectation
Clearly defining the company’s commitments* to the customer reduces the risk of misunderstandings, errors, missed deadlines and poor customer service. These commitments are individual to each organisation but can include – service, communication, returns, delivery, sourcing of products, finance, complaint handling.
*It is important to remember the commitments a company promises to deliver are realistic and achievable as customers will hold the company to their charter.
Stay true to the company’s values and vision
A customer service charter acts as a public commitment, powerfully highlighting the company’s values towards both its staff and customers. These values strengthen a company’s brand and sets them apart from their competitors.
Build a reputation
Consistently meeting and exceeding the customer’s expectations builds trust and respect ensuring the customer not only returns to the company but actively promotes it to others.
What are your company commitments to your customers?
In just under 4 days time, National Customer Service Week 2017 will be under way.
This week long event is celebrated throughout the world during the first full week of October, and is an ideal opportunity for organisations across every industry to take stock of their current Customer Service practices and re-focus on delivering a first-class service to both customers and staff.
Helen Pettifer Training will be embracing this week in two ways -
Firstly, I will be focusing on appreciating and valuing my customers for the trust and loyalty they have shown me throughout my first year of trading.
Secondly, I will be sharing advice, techniques and support to local businesses on many aspects of Customer Service during the week. Over 100 people have currently signed up to attend the various events I'm hosting across Buckinghamshire, all aiming to discover new and exciting ways to build long-term relationships with their customers.
If you are unable to attend any of my events, you can still celebrate National Customer Service Week within your organisation.
My Company Service Pack includes all the training materials required to train and motivate staff members in just 5 days. Priced at £25, this pack is a cost-effective way to train multiple employees on key Customer Service and Emotional Intelligence skills.
These 5 days are an important week in the business world and however you choose to celebrate it,
I want to wish you a very happy and successful National Customer Service Week 2017.
I post a daily Customer Service Tip of the Day on Facebook and Twitter and I thought I would share today's tip.
Map the customer's journey and ensure the experience works smoothly and efficiently.
It is essential you map out the journey your customer will be making with your company - from the moment they first browse your website to the last invoice paid.
Analyse in detail every stage and department your customer passes through, ensuring that processes and service are consistent, smooth, simple and customer-focused.
Why not even test out the journey and become a customer for a day? Gain an understanding from your customer's viewpoint and discover the stages that work efficiently and what needs improvement.
Asking customers for feedback will also be beneficial. Celebrate the positive comments and encourage staff to continue to perfect the processes that are working. Constructive criticism should be used to address any issues and implement change.
You are creating an experience for your customers, and this experience will determine whether or not they return and repeat the journey.
7 key mistakes companies make in Customer Service
Many business owners know their customers need to experience a certain level of service to ensure they return in the future, however a high number of these companies underestimate the effects poor customer service actually has on their business.
Here are the 7 common mistakes I see companies making on a daily basis, producing not only frustrated and unhappy customers but also staff who are unfocused and uninspired.
Customer service affects the bottom line of businesses
The most common mistake companies make is underestimating the power of customer service with regards business revenue.
Poor customer service cost British firms over £37bn last year, with consumers opting to either spend less with a company or buy from a rival company. (Ombudsman Services Report)
If a customer is unhappy with the level of service they receive, they will think carefully about returning to that company and may instead look for alternative options.
By fully understanding the importance of excellent customer service, businesses ensure customers remain the valued asset of the company resulting in repeat business and increased sales and profits.
Lengthy and ineffective complaint handling
Long, drawn-out complaint handling frustrates customers and leaves them feeling undervalued, resulting in the loss of customers and sales.
A report from Ombudsmen Services stated that 79% of respondents said they would be unlikely to shop again with a business which they felt had handled their complaint badly.
By investing in Customer Service training, staff are confident, empowered and motivated to assist clients with issues and fully focused on finding an acceptable solution for both parties.
Having a clear and well defined Customer Service Charter ensures consistency from all staff members and loyalty and trust from customers.
Customers are not being listened to
Customers need to know they have been listened to and are truly valued by the company.
An ignored or undervalued customer will look towards another company to meet their needs.
Effectively listening and responding to the customer builds rapport and will help in quickly determining what their needs are and efficiently resolving them.
Over-promising and under-delivering
It’s frustrating when promises are made and never kept.
It’s the same experience for customers - they expect companies to keep their word.
Failing to call when promised, arriving late for an appointment, or a product being delivered later than the agreed time are all broken promises, which run the risk of losing the customer’s trust and loyalty.
By setting realistic and achievable targets, companies not only manage their customer’s expectations but they have the opportunity of over-delivering and affirming they are a company that puts customer’s needs first.
Only training customer-facing staff
‘Customer service is not a department, it’s everyone’s job’ – Ken Blanchard
It is a common belief that only customer-facing staff require training on Customer Service excellence. This is a myth - EVERY employee in a company is responsible for Customer Service.
The accounts department are required to invoice correctly and on time, the warehouse staff need to ensure the goods are packaged correctly and delivered on time and undamaged, the cleaners are responsible for providing a safe and hygienic work environment for both staff and customers.
By fully training all employees in Customer Service and company policies, ensures the customer’s buying experience is consistent, smooth and positive and one they will want to repeat in the future.
Not being solution-focused
‘Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers’ – Seth Godin
Many companies are not training and motivating staff to be solution-focused.
Solving the customer’s problem should be the company’s main mission that all staff affirm to.
By focusing fully on finding a successful solution, businesses present an image of a company that truly cares and values customers.
Never following up
If you don’t follow up with your customers, how do you know they are happy?
Following up with a customer after a transaction ensures the product or service met their expectations (and hopefully exceeded them!) and makes the customer feel valued.
The feedback the customer provides is essential for business development and growth, and by hearing directly from customers, companies know sooner if they will be retaining their custom.
Key Mistake - Taking customers for granted.
It costs at least 5 times as much to gain a new customer than keep an existing one, and takes 56 days on average.
Customers, at the end of the day, are paying companies for a product or service.
If customers are lost due to poor customer service where does that leave the company?
Don’t make these common mistakes with your customers.
Fully training all staff on Customer Service excellence, ensures your customers are happy and loyal and your business has consistent successful growth.
Find out more about my training courses at www.helenpettifer.com
Yesterday, my sons and I found ourselves in a predicament.
We had arranged to meet someone at a coffee house in a town we hadn’t visited before. Unbeknownst to us, there are 2 branches of this coffee house in the town.
Yes, you guessed it – after placing our order, we realised we were in the wrong one.
Overhearing our conversation, the barista immediately offered to call the other branch to advise our friend to wait for us, put our drinks into take-away cups and gave us directions. Within a couple of minutes, we were on our way.
I am incredibly passionate about Customer Service excellence and strive every day to make a difference in people's lives. There are so many ways to make a difference to your customers, by creating an experience they will never forget. I won't forget this barista in a hurry.
He heard our predicament, and made a significant difference to our day. He could easily have ignored our conversation and continued serving other customers. Instead, he was solution focused, customer orientated and delivered Customer Service Excellence.
What difference have you made today?
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As a passionate advocate for customer service excellence, I hear stories daily of people who have been disappointed and left feeling undervalued by companies in the way they have been treated and communicated with.
I too have often been left wondering in disbelief at certain companies’ customer service skills.
However, on the flip side, some companies have outstanding customer service and go the extra mile, only to find they cannot please their customer no matter how hard they try.
Before Christmas, I was shopping in the supermarket and the customer ahead of me had 6 bottles of whisky loaded into his trolley, making good use of the promoted special offer. When he approached the checkout, the assistant advised him the offer was limited to 2 bottles per customer. Instead of calmly accepting this fact, the customer proceeded to raise his voice and state this was unacceptable and he would purchase 6 bottles if he wanted to. The young assistant was trying her best to stay calm but her supervisor was duly called over to alleviate the situation and return 4 bottles to the shelf. If this customer had accepted the company’s policies the scenario would have been very different and both customer and assistant would not have been left feeling jaded and frustrated.
We can all benefit from becoming better customers by following these simple tips:
Treat others as you wish to be treated
This is something our parents would say to us back in the days, but it still rings true today.
Probably more so. With hectic lives and busy schedules, we can easily forget to look after each other in the way we should. By taking a few minutes to smile and acknowledge people, hold open a door, or show kindness to someone in need, we can turn that person’s day around.
Manage your expectations
We all expect a high-quality customer experience. By understanding and managing our expectations of a company or situation, we are in a better position to stay in control of our emotions if our expectations are not met. The experience and level of service received from a 3 Star Michelin restaurant will be different from a low budget takeaway restaurant. We must adjust our expectations in keeping with the company or product we are dealing with.
Rules/policies are in place for reasons
Companies have policies in place which they need to adhere to.
The policy of 2 bottles per customer is in place to allow all customers to benefit from the promotion.
By offering a voucher that is known to be out of date and expecting it to be honoured not only causes embarrassment when it is rejected, it also puts the cashier in an awkward situation by refusing it.
Checkouts with less than 10 items are just that – they are not for full trolleys or 20 items.
By following the rules, we create a better experience for customers and staff.
P’s and Q’s
Again, another one from our parents, but basic manners go a long way. By saying please and thank you, we acknowledge and respect the person serving us and will receive the same level of respect back.
Do your research first
By investigating online or via the telephone for a specific item or service, we can ascertain if the company can fulfil our needs. It may be the item is out of stock and needs to be ordered in, or that it has been discontinued. By researching, we ensure that both ours and the company’s time is not wasted and there is no frustration when the company states they cannot fulfil our order as we expected.
Allow plenty of time
We’ve all done it. We’ve forgotten to get something and have a very limited time before the item is needed or we must be somewhere else at a certain time. When we are short of time and rushing, we find ourselves in the longest queue to pay, find the item has been moved from its usual location or discover it’s out of stock and will be in tomorrow which will be too late.
By planning ahead and allowing plenty of time, we are more in control of the situation.
Provide feedback – both positive and negative
Companies need customer feedback to grow. Knowing how to correctly provide feedback is key to a successful relationship with a company.
It’s all too easy nowadays to publish a poor customer service experience to social media – following the ‘naming and shaming’ policy.
However, the most successful way of providing negative feedback is to contact the company direct (and privately) stating where they have fallen short and what they can do to resolve the issue. Companies respect this form of communication and will ensure you receive a response and a solution to your issue.
It’s also important to provide positive feedback. By leaving a positive review online, commenting on social media linking the company and verbally telling family and friends we are ensuring that recognition is given when deserved. And who doesn’t like to receive a compliment every now and then?
Customer Service is a two-way relationship.
Being an exceptional customer may just result in you receiving exceptional customer service.
Try it next time and let me know what a difference it makes.
Last week I placed an order online for an item I needed urgently for a presentation. I specifically chose the quickest delivery method and a day I knew I would be available to take delivery. On the chosen day, the hours ticked by and no parcel was delivered. I checked my emails and the parcel tracking stated it was delayed but had no revised delivery date. The weekend came and still no parcel.
On Monday morning I telephoned the company and after explaining the urgency for the product, the advisor assured me the company would ship a new order for me on an express delivery before 1pm next day.
By 9am the next day my parcel had arrived!
Not only had she listened and understood my predicament she had taken action and kept her promise.
There are going to be times in your business when things don’t go as planned, but keeping your promises will build trust and loyalty and ensure customers come back for repeat business. I will certainly be using this company’s services again and will recommend them to friends and family.
Keeping your promises to customers comes in all shapes and sizes -
Do you call a customer back when you say you will?
Do you deliver your products in the time period stated to the customer?
Do you arrive on time to your appointments with clients?
What can you do to keep your promises and ensure a happy customer?
Be honest and open from the start
Customers appreciate honesty and it creates a relationship built on trust. People prefer to do business with people they trust.
If there’s a mistake, delay or issue with their order, inform them immediately and come up with solutions to resolve the issues.
Set realistic and achievable targets
Do not promise something you cannot deliver.
By setting realistic and achievable targets, you not only manage your customer’s expectations but you have the opportunity of over-delivering and affirming to your customer you are a company that puts customer’s needs first.
Ask your customers for feedback
By asking for feedback you discover if the service and promises you are currently offering is still what your customers are expecting. They may prefer shorter delivery times, more product lines or even just a friendly and knowledgeable voice answering the phone when they call your company.
By listening to your customers, you can analyse and re-address your company’s core values and customer service promises bringing them in line with your customer’s expectations.
And finally – Do what you say you will do.
Sounds simple, but that’s all the customer wants.
By keeping, and exceeding, your promises you give your customers the ‘WOW’ factor!
Every day has 24 hours in it.
We all have the same amount of time each day.
How you choose to spend your 24 hours is up to you, but managing your time and planning your day is one of the most important things you can do. Planning your day, and getting tasks done, gives you a sense of accomplishment and helps you achieve your goals.
In today’s world, it is easy to become distracted by emails, phone calls and social media. You may feel stressed and over-whelmed with the number of tasks you need to achieve, finding it hard to focus and concentrate on the important things, and by the end of the day you are left feeling that very little has been accomplished.
By following a few simple steps, you can plan your day, prioritise your tasks and achieve a happier work/life balance making you feel more in control of your life.
Plan your day the night before.
Spend 10 minutes at the end of each day planning the next.
Using a diary or journal to write down all the tasks you need to achieve will help you to remember everything, visualise your day and help you sleep better. By completing this at the end of the day, your unconscious mind can work on your list and come up with solutions or ideas for the tasks whilst you sleep.
Prioritise your tasks.
Prioritising is an essential tool to time management, especially when time is limited and your to-do list is exhaustive.
Make a list of all the things you need to achieve.
Determine the urgency – does it need to be completed tomorrow or can it wait a few days/weeks/months?
Determine how long each task will take to complete – be realistic and allow for interruptions.
Decide whether the task be delegated.
Put the tasks in order of priority and always make your most important task the first one you complete. Especially if it’s a difficult or unpleasant task, as you will keep wanting to put it off until you either run out of time or rush through it and not complete it to the best of your ability.
Review your workload regularly.
Look at your list at lunchtime and consider what you have achieved and what still needs to be done. Throughout the day re-focus on your task list and cross off the ones you have completed. There is nothing better than the feeling of achievement when you cross tasks off your list. Especially the last one!
Keep a record of how long tasks take to complete.
This will help if you have regular tasks – perhaps daily, weekly, or monthly. Logging how much time you spend on each activity will assist you in planning your day the next time the task comes around.
Don't over-load your task list each day.
Having a long to-do list will have a negative effect on you and your productivity level if you constantly leave tasks uncompleted at the end of each day.
Always be realistic with your to-do list and if you complete all your tasks before the end of your day
– fantastic! You can get stuck into tomorrow’s tasks. This feeling of over-achievement has a positive effect.
Allow for unexpected events
Sometimes though, however well you plan your day, something happens and it’s not on your task list – the car breaks down, a customer’s delivery hasn’t turned up, the computer system crashes.
Allocate time in your daily plan for the unexpected. This will ensure you are not taken by surprise and have enough time in the day to deal with any unforeseen circumstances.
Include fun tasks
Life is not all about work. Allocate time for relaxation and fun. Whether this is daily or weekly, it is important to rest and reward yourself. This may be a long soak in the bath, a trip to the theatre, a weekend away, or a games night with the family. Whatever you choose, you have earnt it so enjoy it.
All these steps may sound easy enough in concept but it takes time to develop positive planning habits and put them into practice. Managing your time needs to become a habit if you are to be successful and achieve all you need to in the time you have.
IF YOU FAIL TO PLAN, YOU PLAN TO FAIL