The Customer Disservice Department

January 21, 2020 7:22 am

I am a member of the Europcar Privilege Elite Program. Due to an issue I was having with booking a car, I called the Customer Service Department and was told that due to the nature of my request, I had to email (they don’t take calls) the department that looks after the Elite Customers.

Upon sending an email, this was the opening line of their automated reply: “Dear Customer. Thank you for contacting our Customer Services department, we will aim to respond to you within 7 working days.”

7 days???

I have been a member with them for years, have spent thousands of dollars and have recommended their services to others. When I am treated as a no-name customer and given a response time of 7 days, it makes me rethink who I should be using to hire cars and the referrals to them will cease.

On the flip side, I met with a large reputable building company this week and one of their stated values is: “We take ownership of our customer’s problems.” I love this and that is how it should be.

Taking ownership of customer problems means that responsiveness is quick (not seven days) and the company is on the front foot to drive a resolution for the customer. Too often it is not this way and we wonder why we don’t get repeat business.

You want to make sure your Customer Service Department is not the Customer Disservice Department.

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Sales is a Process, Not a Personality

July 23, 2019 6:11 pm

Once upon a time, two brothers and their father went into business together. Without them selling their services, there would be no business. One day, the younger brother said to the older one, “how will you ever be successful? You are way too quiet.” That older brother was me and at the time, I didn’t know that you were “supposed” to be an extrovert in order to sell effectively.

Fortunately, after his “motivational” speech, I recall hearing someone say they would rather employ an introverted salesperson than the extroverted for it was much easier to help the introvert open their mouth than help the extrovert shut their mouth. I’m still not convinced about that as I think anyone who wants to learn a skill can, despite their personality, but it gave me great encouragement at the time and has seen me involved in sales for almost 20 years, and successfully I must say, dear brother.

1. The Sales Foundation: An Interest in Others.
An interest in people and their well being is the foundation for a successful sales career. Yes, I can make a quick buck by not giving a damn but having a successful career with repeat customers is all about care for the person. Taking an interest in the well being of another has nothing to do with personality; it is simply part of our humanity. We choose to care, or we choose not to and that choice is ours.

2. Sales As a Process.
When I was a musician, I recall the importance of learning first the structure, then from that basis, to improvise. And when improvising, it was still centred around the structure.  Selling is no different. First, create the process, learn it and then the improvisation comes once that mental sequence is embedded.

3. An example of a Sales Process.

Enquiry Stage – Sales Assistant

  1. What does the customer want?
  2. Ascertain who the decision-maker is.
  3. Ask, “when do you want to do this?”
  4. Ask, “is there a budget you have in mind?”
  5. If qualified, arrange a time for the customer (decision maker) to meet with the salesperson.

Meeting Stage – Salesperson

  1. Document requirements on the quote form.
  2. Uncover emotional drivers.
  3. Reconfirm budget.
  4. Ask “are there any areas that we haven’t discussed that could prevent this project from moving forward?”
  5. Confirm when quote will be sent.
  6. Arrange a time to follow up quote via phone.

Quote follow up stage – Salesperson

Ask:
a) “was the quotation a reflection of what you wanted?”
b) “which option would you like to proceed with?”
c) “which day will suit you best for us to arrive onsite?”
d) “would you like to transfer the deposit or make it now over the phone?”

Your business will have its own sequence according to what you provide and what the customer requires but the documenting and memorisation of the process transforms sales volumes dramatically.

4. Objections and Rebuttals.

Here again, the process comes into play. List all the major objections you receive from prospective customers and create rebuttals to them. Having these embedded into the memory so you can respond in the moment is essential in making it easy for the customer.

5. Please make it easy.

When I purchase something, I want the salesperson to make it easy for me. It’s not their personality that interests me but it’s their interest in me that is most important.  I want them to guide me through the process so I end up with what I want (or what is best for me according to the salesperson’s expertise and suggestions). I want them to be confident and to answer my questions and objections adequately. I want them to stay focused on me and my needs, nothing else.

Whether introvert, ambivert or extrovert, all of us can sell if: (1) We want to; (2) Desire the best for our customers; (3) Have a pre-designed sales process to follow (4) Make it easy for people to do business with us.

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Don’t Lose Sight Of The Customer

June 13, 2018 7:01 am

Increasing quality and doing more with less is good business.

Quicker turn-around times; fewer people; less floor space; lighter inventory; pushing processing back onto the customer, e.g. self- checkouts; self-ordering; self-check-ins are part of today’s business world. This positively works on many fronts, but the area that it has the most significant potential for adverse impact is customer interaction.

I ate at a local hotel in Sydney last night and upon my order was given one of the buzzers that would alert me when my meal was ready – self-pickup. While I was ordering wine, the waitress engaged with me. She was real. She was friendly (despite her admission that she feels socially awkward which made the interaction even more significant). And even though there was an electronic process pushing back responsibility onto me the customer, there was a person there who was real and engaging.

And I think this is incredibly important for all organisations. Practice operational efficiency by all means.  Reduce overheads wherever possible but never, lose sight of engaging with the customer.

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Brilliant at the Basics

May 9, 2018 6:54 am

Not The Best Referral

If we invest in front-end marketing but neglect the basics of quality and quick turn-around times, we effectively shoot ourselves in the foot. Even the most basic form of respect in acknowledging someone’s call or email quickly is largely neglected these days.

The basics will always be with us so it’s worth becoming brilliant at them.

 

 

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Not Another Bloody Phone Call

April 26, 2018 11:51 am

Value Of The Next Call

How many times have you been meeting with someone, their phone rings, they grumble or swear, then answer it?

Customers detect overload.

All of us want to feel like we are the most important person at that time, particularly when we are buying a product or service. When we are treated in a rushed and gruff manner, we think twice about doing business with that person or company again.

If you find yourself on overload, overwhelmed and wishing you could throw your phone against a brick wall, try the following.

  • Give your phone to your receptionist or another relevant staff person for 30-60 minutes at a time so you can concentrate on important work. THEN, return any calls that require you to do so. If the calls that come through are urgent they can always advise you to call them immediately.
  • If you work on your own you can always employ the services of a Virtual Assistant to re-route your calls to.
  • Analyse your calls. I recall working with a General Manager who averaged 80-100 calls per day. A large percentage of those were able to be re-routed to others who were the more appropriate personnel to deal with such.
  • Train your clients. When I was working in finance many years ago, I created a business card for one of my key staff members and introduced her to all my clients as the best person to call, given that she knew what was happening with their files. I also said they I was always available to my key clients. Over a period of time, my calls reduced significantly.
  • Batch your calls. Most calls are not urgent and can be batch to be completed in scheduled blocks of time.

Treating people like they are the most important person in the world at the time of engagement goes a long way to fostering employee buy-in and increased customer sales and repeat business.

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The Fruit Platter. When Little Things Are Big Things

March 14, 2018 5:47 am

Fruit platter

A few years back, I stayed regularly in the same 5-star hotel on one of my travels. Everything about the place appeared to hum with efficiency. From concierge to the front desk personnel to the cleaning staff – all were pleasant and always willing to assist. Check-in was quick as was checking-out, with an express envelope arriving under my door on the day of departure to get me out of the place quickly. This I expect from a 5-star establishment.

However, I had noticed repeatedly that the process of meeting my preferences was largely neglected. My simple requests for a morning paper left at my door and a fruit platter on my arrival had not been attended to. I always had to ask for the wireless password and was only made aware of the business assistance available on my last visit, which ideally should have been outlined on my initial stay 12 months prior.

While they scored 10 out of 10 in most areas of service, they failed on the small things – those little things that can be really big things to a customer.

What was interesting, is that when I questioned them about my preferences being constantly over-looked, the check-in staff responded that when they get busy they forget to follow through. Surprising though how the bill always arrived, even when at capacity!

For your business, it’s the little things that matter to the customer – the sense of individual care one receives when dealing with your company.  They expect speed and efficiency, these are standard expectations. The small things, on the other hand, can make all the difference in the world, creating repeat customers and word of mouth referrals. These are the some of the feel-good emotional factors that come from interacting with you.

When considering your organisation, create a list of what customers expect, such as quick response to calls and emails, professional service and presentation, expert technical advice etc. Then make a list of what they don’t expect. The little things that would be big things. And often, it’s the little things that set you apart from your competition.

Your invoice won’t necessarily bring them back a second time but the fruit platter just might.

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Virgin Airlines – When A Gift Outweighs A Mistake

June 18, 2015 5:52 am

On a flight yesterday from Perth to Melbourne I requested headphones from two separate attendants. Both forgot. I fell asleep, missed my meal and then requested it upon waking – again forgotten.

One of the attendants who I had requested the headphones from saw me and profusely apologised for the neglect, stated a legitimate reason why she and the other girl had forgotten and promptly brought me the headphones. Five minutes later a complimentary cheese platter arrived.

We all make mistakes. That’s part of being human. But the larger mistake is when we try and cover up errors with excuses and do nothing to compensate.

Virgin Airlines get it right 99% of the time. This was the other 1% – a genuine human error. The authentic apology and the compensatory gift restored the disappointment.

We would do well to do the same in our businesses.

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Short Term Lies Costing Long Term Customers

June 10, 2015 3:08 am

A woman walks into a clothing boutique, tries on a dress that looks awful on her. “That suits you perfectly,” chimes in the shop assistant. Quick exit takes place from that store. The woman walks around the corner, tries on another dress that again makes her feel dismal. “Yes, not the most suitable for you but try these few on. I think they might be more what you’re after” says the store assistant. After a number of conversations, fittings and deliberations the woman settles on an outfit that makes her feel wonderful. As the sale comes to a close the woman says to the assistant “you know, you have been the most helpful person I have ever encountered in my clothing choices. You will definitely see me again.”

Diplomatic truth with some additional time taken results in very satisfied customers that will return over and over again.

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“I Will Just Grab Him”

March 19, 2015 10:09 pm

I called the office of a business owner who I know well. Upon my request for the owner the receptionist (male) said “I’ll just go grab him.” Now, being the visual person that I am,  my mind started up its visions of  the grabbing. When the owner picked up the call the brief conversation went as follows…

Owner: “Hi Ray.”
Me: “How did that feel?”
Owner: “What do you mean?”
Me : “Your receptionist said they were going to grab you.”
Owner: (not much to say but laughed sheepishly)

Language is important. Whether it might be the ever recurring “not a problem” by a well meaning assistant; addressing a table of diners as “yous”; the professional services receptionist dropping the ‘f’ bomb or the very visual “I’ll grab him” (all of which I’ve heard) – training our staff and ourselves the art of language etiquette is essential, both in personal and corporate life. People tend to respect more highly those who are well spoken and versed in language correctness while also saving them unnecessary mind replays of grabbing.

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A Dog Of A Receptionist

January 19, 2015 9:41 pm

After posting a blog last week about the importance of having the right people in roles that interface with the customer I paid a visit to a local business. I received one of the best greetings from the receptionist I’ve experienced in recent times.And she was a real dog…a Labrador to be precise. As soon as I walked in the door she came up to me, welcomed me, expressed gratitude and excitement at my presence. Given that the person I was waiting for was on the phone she kept me engaged, continued expressed interest and of course expected my full attention and nothing less.

If I had the choice between the ‘welcome’ from a grumpy, disinterested, half hearted receptionist or a friendly expressive Labrador I think I would choose the latter.

 

 

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Hospitality Front Lines

January 15, 2015 11:48 pm

I am constantly amazed by the number of people – whether that be waiters, attendants, check in personnel, concierge, customer services representatives, sales people, account managers etc. that are not good with people. That is, they are more focused on the task at hand than the person. They take the order, retrieve the bags, park the car and deliver ones drinks in a mechanical fashion devoid of personality. The challenges in hospitality are great enough without the addition of those who don’t know how or dislike interacting with their customers. Owners and managers of these establishments would do well in learning how to hire appropriately. Customers return when they are engaged with and cared for in a personal way. Those without great people skills are often fantastic in operational areas and those great with people should be on the front line.

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Front Of Mind or Out Of Mind

July 29, 2014 10:27 pm

I have long held the belief that those who, on a monthly basis, keep in touch with their key prospects and customers are in the top percentile of their industry. At a recent speaking engagement to 70 electricians I asked the question “how many of you keep in touch with your key prospects and customers at least monthly either by calling, monthly newsletter etc?” It was worse than my prediction. No hands went up.

So…if you keep in touch with your key customers and prospects at least once a month, not only will you be in the top one percent of those who do so, you will be the one they call when they need your services.
You want to be front of mind – not out of mind.

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The Expected and Unexpected

July 14, 2014 7:27 am

I recently found some notes I had taken on a visit to The Castle Inn Hotel in Rhode Island – USA. Here are my notations…

  • Arrived – car door opened by concierge (expected)
  • Luggage carried to reception (expected)
  • Asked if I would like coffee while I waited for the room (unexpected)
  • Given a welcome pack that also included weather forecast for next 3 days (unexpected)
  • Personally shown to my room (unexpected)
  • Given a personal tour of my room and how to use appliances, fireplace etc. (unexpected)
  • Lunch – personal service, great food and wine (expected)
  • Made something to my liking that wasn’t on the menu (unexpected)
  • Arrived back to my room after dinner to find chocolates and a robe laid out on my bed (unexpected); Bed was prepared for sleeping (unexpected); Radio playing classical music with mood lighting set (unexpected); Weather forecast note also laid on my bed (unexpected)

What if all businesses took some time to provide the unexpected. I’d expect customers would keep coming back, just like I will return to the Castle Inn

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Efficiency tip #4

April 22, 2014 12:28 am

Work on responding to all email within 24 hours.
Return phone calls within 3 hours where possible.
When providing a quote, advise when they will receive it.
Our current culture expects speed efficiency, undertakings to be kept with constant communication. Rapid turnaround times create increased business.

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Dismal customer service

October 2, 2012 12:40 pm

Catching a cab to the airport in a city I knew well, I communicated to the driver where I wanted to go. He then proceeded to take a route that I wouldn’t have taken. Here is the conversation that ensued.

Me. “Why are you going this way?”

Driver. “It’s the shortest.”

Me. “But the other way is quicker.”

Driver. “My customers want the shortest way.”

Me. “Why would they want the shortest when the quickest costs less?”

Driver. (Uncomfortably quiet and didn’t speak for the rest of the journey)

LESSON. If you want customers to return, treat them well and provide high value. Customers need to know that you are putting their interests first, even if it means you losing a few dollars in that transaction. Blow it here and you will miss out on further business from both them and the referrals they’ll send your way. But, if you’re in it for yourself, just screw them upfront and follow the cabbies example

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Feedback given to a hotel I stayed in

March 31, 2012 12:16 am

You asked for some feedback so happy to provide it. I am a business consultant so am always evaluating every business I interact with, and thought of some things while I wasthere that could assist you in getting more repeat business.

Apart from the fact that I know your rooms are being upgraded this year (and the room I stayed in this time wasn’t as good as the previous one I had been in) my experience just left me feeling with a lack of attention – both to me personally and also the room (eg finger marks left on windows and mirrors hadn’t been wiped off from the previous occupants). As far as personal attention, it was OK but not exceptional. Staff were pleasant but not actively trying to make my life better. Checkout was a longer than normal experience given that there was only one girl on reception.

If I managed your hotel, I would be looking to teach my people more active ways of being able to connect and assist our clients through eye contact, pro-active assistance, excellence in all areas (cleaning for eg) etc etc. I would also have some of my key people go and stay somewhere like the Pan Pacific Club rooms for a couple of days (where I am now) to learn exceptional service and attention to the small things. I think you could learn a lot from hotels like this.

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