Wednesday, 18 August 2010

"Bullseye Customer Service"

If you provide a customer service and want to go to the top of the league, there's only one way to do it: hit the bullseye every time. Here are 8 ways to hit the target plus one extra way to make yourself "bullseyeable" (hint: it's to do with the book cover on the right.)

B for Bang-on-Target

When you're "bang-on-target", you are able to respond to any customer need with speed, commitment, and dedication. The customer is not made to feel that they've gone to the bottom of a list and will have to wait their turn. They become priority number one.

The story is told of the customer with a blocked wash basin. She rang a local plumbing service at random. They promised a plumber would call the same night. 10 minutes later they called back to say he would be at the house within the hour.

45 minutes later the plumber was at the house, unblocked the basin and was paid.

40 minutes later the company phoned to check if everything was working alright. Two days later a letter arrived in the post thanking the customer and enclosing a sticker with their emergency phone number on.

That's "bang-on-target" commitment and the first step in being "bullseyeable".

U for Unforgettable

To score a bullseye every time with your customers, you have to find some way to deliver a service that people just can't forget. Whether it's your speed of response, your ability to empathise with your customer's needs, or the glow you leave behind, you've got to find a way to stand out from the competition. And if you can't work out how to do it, here's a clue: find out what really gets your customers angry, and then adjust your service to make them happy and content.

As top executive coach Patricia Fripp says, "It is not your client's or prospect's job to remember you. It is your responsibility to make sure they do not have the chance to forget you."

L is for Listen-to-them, Really Listen-to-them

When you know you deliver a great service, and have all the systems in place to respond quickly to your customers, it's very easy to go on auto-pilot. After all, you want to hit that bullseye every time, don't you? But hang on a minute. Are you sure you really know what your customers want?

To hit the bullseye every time, you and your team have got to know how to listen. And this sometimes means not taking what your customers say at face value. Find out what's bugging them, what keeps them awake at night, and what they really want from a customer bullseye-shooter like you. When you really listen, you show your customers respect, let them know they're not on their own, and find the solutions they're really after.

L is for Love What You Do

Every great customer service provider loves what they do. You don't feel they work for the money. They do it because they have a passion for it. The money just happens to come along afterwards, as if by chance.

Management guru Tom Peters loves great customer service providers. He's made a career out of finding them and celebrating them, from his local deli that delivers the best coffee in town to his car insurance firm that turned up inside 10 minutes when he had a minor bump on the Interstate highway.

And what's the secret to each of his star providers? They love what they do. Here's how he describes them:

"It's my show or your show. The auditorium lights up, the shop tills ring, the surgery door opens, the garage door clanks upwards, the class begins. It's our stage. Each day is a golden opportunity to experiment with a new approach. What are you going to be today? How are you going to connect? What's your new twist? What will you love to do?"

S for Service

To be a customer bullseye-hitter, you need to be a total service freak. Even if you deliver a product rather than a service, you still need to deliver it with style, on time, and with a touch of special class. Here are 3 ways to be a service freak:

a. make your customers feel good when you make contact with them. Remember to smile whether it's in person, on the phone, or even online. Everyone knows what a sincere service smile feels like. They'll feel so good that they'll tell their friends and come back for more.

b. don't equate "service" with "servility", they're not the same. Service isn't menial work, second-class work, or unnoticed work. It's what every business should be about. And it's what every bullseye-hitting business does every time.

c. the most committed customer carers are those who believe in the value of service. They don't see looking after customers as a way to increase sales, or make better profits or keep themselves in work - all of which are by-products of good service - but as a way to help others in their daily search for worthwhile living.

"Service to others is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth." (N. Eldon Tanner)

E is for Experienced

When you deal with a bullseye-hitting service provider, you immediately notice that they're a cut above the rest. The reason? They're experienced enough to know how to strike the right balance.

For example, they're…
a. knowledgeable but not over-technical
b. confident but not smarmy
c. smartly-dressed but not overpowering
d. attentive but not nosey
e. friendly but not too personal
f. helpful but not insistent
g. available but not intrusive
h. slick but not too quick
i. caring but not cloying.

Striking the right balance is like a discrete servant: visible and invisible, unnoticed but there if needed.

Y is for Your Responsibility

The great customer providers train their staff to accept total responsibility for what they do. They don't leave it to others, they don't duck and dive, and they don't pass the buck. When the chips are down, they accept responsibility for fixing things and get on with it.

Here is a true story from BT, the British telecoms company.

A customer went to a BT shop, only to find that the telephone he wanted was out of stock and wouldn't be available for a few weeks. He left his name and address and promised to call back in three weeks.

Meanwhile, the shop assistant took it upon herself to ring round every other BT shop in the area and found one with the right model in stock. She arranged to collect it on her way home from work and then set off to deliver it to the customer at his home that night. The customer was so delighted that he wrote a letter of commendation to BT's Managing Director.

That's taking response-ability and hitting the bullseye for you and your company.

E for Enquire if there's anything else you can do

If you've ever encountered a problem with a service provider and received a bullseye-hitting solution, you'll know that, even when the problem is fixed, they'll ask if there's anything else they can do for you. They're not soliciting new business or trying to cash in. They're just wanting to check you're OK.

The following letter is left with cars after a service at a garage that has an outstanding record for customer service.

Dear Customer,

My name is Joe and I have just completed the work on your car. The results and details of the servicing are on a separate sheet.

I hope you are happy with all aspects of my workmanship. Should there be any points that you wish to discuss, please ring our Service Reception and they will get in touch with me. Don't be afraid to mention anything you don't understand or are unsure about. I can guarantee that we will explain things to you in simple layman's terms.

Our company's success depends on satisfying our customers and reassuring them of our friendly service at all times.

Yours,

Joe

Those are the 8 features of the bullseye-hitting success companies.

And, now, here's the extra we promised you to make you really "bullseyeable".

Writer and "smokin-hot-piece-of-brain-candy" Scott Ginsberg has a new book out, called "-ABLE: 35 Strategies for Increasing the Probability of Success in Business and in Life". In it, you'll discover 35 new "-able" words that will guarantee you score a bullseye in your life and business every time.

Here's the link to the book (see the cover at the top of this blog):
http://www.amazon.com/-ABLE-Strategies-Increasing-Probability-Business/dp/0972649786/ref=sr_1_11?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1281984545&sr=1-11

And here's a link to Scott's blog:
http://www.hellomynameisblog.com/

Now go score you own bullseyes!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

"Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is"

The other day I read a newspaper article that challenged everything we'd ever thought about using praise to motivate people.

It came from research done at Stanford University, California, which found that students who are repeatedly praised become risk-averse, make less effort, and are less motivated.

According to Professor Carole Dweck, praising a student too often fails to help them for three reasons. First, they think they've succeeded so they don't try as hard. Second, praising them puts them under more pressure to do well with the result that they try too hard and fail. And, third, they know that sometimes praise is used as a not-so-subtle way to bribe them to do what others want.

But, of course, that doesn't mean you should stop praising people. In the right place, and given in the right way, genuine praise for a job well done is one of the keystones of managing people. What this new research suggests is that we should do it in a way that doesn't put people under pressure but helps them do even better.

There is a true story about Nathaniel Hawthorne, the American novellist, before he became famous.

One day, he came home from his job at a custom house to tell his wife, Sophia, that he had been fired. Heartbroken, he declared he was a failure.

To his surprise, Sophia exclaimed with joy, "But now you can write your book!"

"How can I?" he replied with sagging confidence. "What will we have to live on?"

To his amazement, Sophia opened a drawer and pulled out a large sum of money.

"Where on earth did you get that?" he exclaimed.

"I have always known you were a man of genius," she told him. "I knew that someday you would write a masterpiece. So, every week, out of the money you gave me for the housekeeping, I saved a little bit. There is enough to last us for a whole year."

By the end of the year, Nathaniel Hawthorne had written "The Scarlet Letter", which was destined to become one of the greatest novels of American literature. And all because of the trust and confidence of his wife in him.

If you want to motivate your staff, don't just praise them. That's easy. Show them that you believe in them with deeds as well as words. That's hard. But it's effective.

Lesson? Put your money where your mouth is.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

"Stone Soup"

For those of you are regulars of the ManageTrainLearn blog, you'll know that I love stories that coach.

Stories that coach are great ways to learn. They are fun to listen to and easy to remember. And the best stories always bring a smile to people's faces and a glow to their hearts.

If you want to see what I mean, read the following story on teamwork and the company of those we care about. It's called "Stone Soup".

There exists a tale, handed down from times long ago, of two travelers on a pilgrimage. Hungry and tired from a long day’s journey, they come to a small, impoverished village, where they decide to rest by the side of the road. One of the travelers builds a small fire, upon which he places a large pot, while the other, having drawn water from the town well, fills the pot and places into the vessel a simple stone. As the two men sit by the fire, bringing their "stone soup" to a boil, the local villagers become inquisitive of the curious antics of these strangers. Eventually, several townsfolk decide to investigate the matter and approach the two travelers to engage them in conversation.

Shortly thereafter, there is heard the sound of merriment, as the visitors, who turn out to be quite friendly, share their tales of the lands and people they have met throughout their journey and pilgrimage with the local villagers.

Finally, a young boy asks the travelers "But why, pray thee, are you boiling a stone?"

One of the pilgrims replies, "So we may eat stone soup."

"It must be terribly bland!" says an old woman. "But I have a cabbage, which will add some flavour!"

"And I, some carrots, which will add colour!" says another villager.

"Some potatoes!", offers another, until, shortly, by the contribution of a little by many, a hearty stew was made, upon which the entire village and the weary pilgrims dined... and while doing so, shared their tales, talents, and camaraderie throughout the night.

The very next day, the travelers (who by now could be called "strangers" no more), continued their journey, leaving the little town, and its people, behind. But the villagers never forgot them, and the lesson they had learned. In fact, during the hardest of times, in such a time as this tale, that little village thrived, because the townsfolk never forgot how to make "stone soup".

I love this story for its simplicity, truth, and wisdom. And, just like the villagers, I've added it to my blog in the hope that you, too, will never forget the lesson and pass the story on.

Friday, 8 January 2010

"The Year of the Visionary"

The New Year has always been a time for making new resolutions about the year ahead.

This year is no exception. About.com have even published a list of the most wanted resolutions for 2010, the top 5 being:

1. to spend more time with friends and family
2. to get fit
3. to lose weight
4. to quit smoking
5. to enjoy life more.

Of course, in reality, most of us who make New Year resolutions won't keep them. Research suggests that only 12% of us actually go on to achieve them. Which means that 88% of us fall by the wayside.

Why is this? Why are the vast majority of us no good at getting what we want?

Mike George of relax7.com says it's because when most of us set goals, we're in one of 6 modes. These are...

1. worriers, who as soon as they make a resolution to do something new, worry about how they're going to do it and what they'll have to give up.

2. hopers, who have a vague sense that somehow their resolutions will work out but have no plan or follow through.

3. followers, who make resolutions because everyone else does and then as quickly give up when everyone else does.

4. wanters, whose focus on the wanting results in more lack, or "wanting".

5. dreamers, who spend more time imagining the desired state than actually doing anything about it.

6. aimers, who put all their efforts into goal-setting and action planning so that, while they may achieve their aim, the effort needed to sustain it is too great and so the change doesn't last.

These are not the ways to achieve the changes you want in your life. The best way to do that is much more simple and subtle. It is to become the person who has already become what it is you want.

To do that, you have to turn the normal process on its head. Instead of first having the means to get what you want and then using that to be someone different, - the "have, do, be" cycle, - simply be the person you want to be and all the rest, the doing and having, will follow by itself. In other words, be, do and have.

Be the person who spends more time with their family and friends.
Be the person who takes the stairs not the lift.
Be the person who eats less.
Be the person who cherishes clean air not smoke.
Be the person who enjoys life in all its glory.

Mike George describes the person who lives this way as the "seer" or "visionary". Such a person is on a different plane entirely from the worriers, hopers, followers, wanters, dreamers, and aimers.

Here is how Mike describes them:

"The visionary either knows what lies up ahead or they know whatever they envision for their life is likely to evolve in the most natural way. The visionary forces nothing, least of all thoughts about the future. They know that if they sit quietly and pose a simple question, while being fully present in the moment called now, the sense of what is to unfold in their life will become clear. They are aware enough not to worry or desire, as they know that such habits block the emergence of clear insight into what will be. They trust their intuitive abilities. They surrender to whatever subtle insights and feelings may arise. And deep within their heart there is both gratitude and grace, and a clear awareness that life itself is the greatest gift, an opportunity to create beauty and a responsibility to show others the way ahead."

Now there's a resolution for a new year. And a new life.

A very happy New Year to you!

Monday, 14 December 2009

"The True Spirit of Christmas"

With Christmas just around the corner, and all my children away from home, my thoughts this week went back to the Nativity plays that we used to go to when they were at primary school.

I remember in particular one year when my youngest son played one of the Three Wise Men. He was only 6 and was supposed to hand over his gift of frankincense, a beautiful box made from a cereal packet that my wife had spent all night decorating.

He loved that box so much that when his turn came to hand it over to the baby Jesus, he wouldn't part with it. We, along with the whole audience, held our breath as he stood there unmoved. One of the teachers went up to him, spoke quietly in his ear, but he just shook his head defiantly. The teacher spoke to him again and this time he looked up to her as if to say, "Will that be alright then?", and then reached into his pocket and gave baby Jesus a bag of marbles.

I often remember his little gift when I watch the frenzy of gift-buying at Christmas. Every year, I wonder how much more meaningful it would be if, instead of giving shop-bought and Internet-bought gifts running into hundreds of pounds, we simply gave our friends and loved ones something uniquely of ourselves.

Paulo Coelho re-tells an Austrian legend about the Buckhard family, a man, woman, and boy, who used to amuse people at Christmas by reciting poetry, singing troubadour ballads, and juggling.

When the boy grew up, he told his parents that he wanted to take his first step to do what he had always dreamed of and become a priest.

Although they were poor, and hated to see him go, the family respected his wish and allowed him to enter the monastery at Melk.

That Christmas, a special miracle happened at Melk when Our Lady and the baby Jesus descended to earth to visit the monastery.

All the priests lined up to pay homage to the Madonna and her son. One priest brought a beautiful painting, another presented a hand-written Bible, and another recited the names of all the saints.

At the end of the line, young Buckhard waited his turn, with no gift to bring.

Finally, when his turn came, the young man stood before the Virgin and child. Feeling ashamed before the reproachful looks of the other priests, he reached into his pocket, took out some oranges and began to toss them into the air and catch them with his hands, just as he and his family used to do when they travelled to all the fairs in the region.

At that instant, the baby Jesus, lying in his mother's lap, clapped his hands with joy. And it was to young Buckhard that the Virgin held out her arms to let him hold the smiling child for a few moments.

This Christmas, whether you are struggling in the recession with no job and no money, or sipping champagne as you count your end-of-year bonus, I hope the most appreciated gift you give to others is the gift of yourself.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

"Turn Your Customers into Loyal Fans"

The other day I had a really nice email from a customer who wanted to thank me for the products they had bought.

As I started reading the email, I thought, "hey, that's kind of nice" but then, when they ended their email with the words, "I just love your stuff!", I thought, "Wow, that's amazing!"

That was when I knew that this person was a bit more than a customer and even a bit more than a regular. They were a Fan!

On our Customer Care courses at ManageTrainLearn, we train people to distinguish between 4 levels of customer service.

At the lowest level, there is customer satisfaction, which means making sure that the product or service you deliver to the customer does everything it's supposed to. This level is not much above the legal requirement of normal day-to-day trade and requires little extra effort on your part.

At the next level up, there is customer care, which suggests doing something a bit extra for your customer, such as making sure they get what they want, can get the best out of it, and hopefully will come back to you again in the future. You can do this by paying attention to good customer care policies and procedures such as guarantees, returns, and complaint resolutions.

At the third level up, there is customer delight. This is where we enter new territory. For delight means a mixture of joy and surprise. This happens when the experience that your customer has simply overwhelms them. It's not likely they will react this way to your policies. It is more likely they will react this way to the way they are treated by you and your team.

At the top level of our customer pyramid comes customer loyalty, the domain of the Fan. When customers love what you do so much that it goes beyond caring, policies, and one-off experiences, you know you've got a friend for life.

So, how do you turn your customers into fans? By doing the following 3 things:

1. Love What You Do. When you love what you do, your customers don't just get a great product or service, they pick up on a powerful energy as well. They see the "you" behind the product and service and that's what they buy into.

2. Put Your Heart and Soul Into It. What your fans want from you is the real authentic you. Even when a new product or change in service doesn't come up to scratch, and maybe even disappoints, your customer fans won't leave you. They'll stick around knowing that the next time, things will be back on track.

3. Give Them Value. A customer doesn't become a fan of yours if you simply see them as a source of revenue and profit. When what you deliver exceeds what they pay at the till, and even goes way beyond, then you'll have a paid-up member of your fan club.

What's great about having fans rather than customers is that you don't need to sell or market to them. They're even likely to be ahead of you eagerly awaiting your next product or service before you've even created it. And for one simple reason.

Because they "just love what you do".

Sunday, 29 November 2009

"The Point Is To Labour"

This last year has seen the spotlight on organisational values as never before. Particularly, but not exclusively, here in the UK.

First, we discovered that our big banks were no longer true to the values of thrift, prudence, and good housekeeping.

Then we found out that some of our top bankers cared more about the value of feathering their own nest than looking after their customers' cash.

And finally we saw how some of our politicians paid more attention to the value of personal profit than public service.

The resulting debate over values only serves to underline Alvin Toffler's quote that "every organisation has a values system and it is at least as important as, if not more important than, its accounting system and authority system."

Leadership expert John Maxwell says that values are an organisation's glue, compass, and identity. They are the glue because they knit everyone together. They are the compass because they give the guide to where people need to go. And they are the identity because they are what the organisation stands for.

When Unilever talk about the value of co-operation, and Mars talk about the value of efficiency, and IBM talk about the value of innovation, they're really saying "this is what matters to us, to our customers, and to those who work here." They are, quite simply, non-negotiable.

My favourite story about the value of values comes from Mother Teresa, the Catholic nun who founded the Mission of Charity in Kolkata in 1950 and worked tirelessly for the poor, the sick and the dying until her death in 1997.

The story is that a woman from America decided to go and work for Mother Teresa in her Kolkata refuge. The woman was married to a rich businessman and an accomplished fixer in her own right. She thought that her skills could make a real difference to Mother Teresa's work and at the same time bring her some enrichment and enlightenment.

When she arrived at the refuge, she saw the nuns on their knees cleaning the floors with old cloths. A month after observing the harsh conditions, she went to Mother Teresa and said, "Mother, I have noticed how hard you all work. I have a lot of connections back in the States and I can get you everything you need to clean this place. Brooms. Mops. Cleaning machines. And it won't cost you a penny."

"Cleaning machines?" replied Mother Teresa.

"Yes," replied the woman, "they'll save you time and labour."

"Labour-saving devices?" replied Mother Teresa. "But, my dear, the point is to labour," and, with that, she smiled and walked away.