Customer Service

Another Dumb Idea

There is a trend where business coaches and time management gurus are telling their clients to only read and respond to email twice a day. They recommend the same type of action in returning phone calls and other communications. The idea is to both create scarcity and control time so that you can accomplish more.

It is a dumb idea.

Responding to client and prospect email is customer service. So is promptly returning phone calls, answering letters and anything that has to do with requests and communication. You need to deliver infinite customer service. That is how you retain clients and grow your business.

Why would you want to make it scarce?

Relationship Building Idea of the Week

Rylie_1st_visit_075 So there I was a couple of weeks ago taking photos of my 4 month old granddaughter, Rylie. I was using my Canon 1Ds Mark II with a 24-70 prime lens which weighs a total of 5 pounds 10 ounces. Heavy sucker! Not something you carry with you all the time unless you are a professional. And, I'm not anymore.

It got me to thinking that I need to get a small, quality camera – digital of course. Not just because of the weight but because I'm not doing one of the things that did for years which is a hit with clients, prospective clients and just people I meet.

I'm going to share the idea with you and I heartily recommend it. It's a fantastic relationship builder.

Here's what you do:

  1. Always have a small digital camera with you.
  2. Take a photograph of every client, prospect, friend, and new people you meet during the day.
  3. Make sure you have their address if you don't already.
  4. Within a couple of days, send them a print along with a short personal note.
  5. Better yet, have some cards made up that you can fold and enclose the print on one side and the handwritten note on the other side.

I have to give credit for this idea to my friend Frank C. Dawson. Frank is a long-time friend and mentor in East Liverpool, OH. As far as I am concerned, he is one of the world's experts at relationship building and leadership.Dawson_front

Since a picture is worth a thousand words (it is), I've put a copy of Frank's most recent photo gift and  card. You can see both the front folded and opened up. The card is made large enough so you can fold up the bottom to form two pockets to hold the photo.

Enjoy the photo tip and start putting it to use next week. The feedback you'll get will blow you away.

And, you'll have lots of fun too!

Dawson_card

What Would You Do – A Customer Service Story

This is a follow-up post to my story about the fresh fish supplier in Toms River, NJ that I posted about on July 6th. If you haven't read it you might want to read it here first.

I was hoping I would have a good customer service story to tell you about the company. But, I don't. When I hadn't heard from them by the 8th, I resent my email. That usually works in case someone isn't paying attention or it just slipped their minds. But, nada, nothing, not a word.

Not very good service but let's assume the boss is on vacation this week and nobody knows how to respond. I'm hoping to hear from them sometime early next week which is when I'll check back in with them. They have lots of good testimonials on their website so I'm thinking it must be some kind of oversight not to at least drop me a note.

We've always communicated by email before so it can't be they prefer another method.

Why do you think I haven't heard from them?

What would you do if you were them?

How Many Customers Don’t Tell You?

I don’t know about you but I really enjoy fresh yellow-fin tuna. I especially like it grilled outdoors over a very hot fire. While cooking out this past weekend, it came to me that I had done a disservice to my fish supplier.

For a couple of years now, I would put in an order for twenty or forty pounds of fresh tuna from a wholesale supplier on the northern Jersey coast. Most of his customers are restaurants or markets so he has a minimum size order. I get it in one or two large pieces so I can cut it up the way I like and so I can freeze some.

Last year for the 4th, I ordered the tuna and we had a party for some friends. The fish, like always, was fantastic quality.

This past Christmas, I once again placed an order for the same quality tuna in one large piece. When it came, I was dismayed to find it cut up in about ½ to ¾ slices as if it had come out of a retail showcase. And, I could see the tuna didn’t seem to be the same quality. It turned out it wasn’t.

It didn’t taste nearly as good as past orders and it was obvious to my family who by now knew what high-quality, fresh yellow-fin tastes like. I ended up throwing out the fish we froze because it just wasn’t any good.

For some reason, I never contacted the fish vendor to let him know that he had not only shipped me inferior fish but it wasn’t sent in one piece as ordered. I just never ordered from him again.

This weekend, when friends asked me if we were planning on having that “wonderful tuna” again, I realized I hadn’t really been fair to the owner. I never told him and I assumed he knew what he had shipped. However, I’m sure he was swamped during the holidays and he probably assumed that whoever packed my order shipped the correct quality in the manner I ordered.

So, I decided to let him know. I have his email address and I’m going to drop him a note. I’ll keep you posted as to his response.

Meanwhile, how many people don’t let you know when your service or product doesn’t meet expectations?

How many just never come back?

I’m sorry, but…

Have you ever had a disagreement with a customer? Of course you have! How you deal with the disagreement can not only save that sale but get you a customer for life.

Here's why. Too many people feel powerless in so many areas of their lives these days. And, when they feel they've been "wronged" by a salesperson or company, they are very willing to quickly go into anger and battle mode. It's up to you to turn that around.

The customer is not always right. Sometimes they are so wrong it can drive you to distraction. But, would you rather be right or would you rather keep the customer? One thing I see and hear too often is the salesperson or customer service rep say something like, "I'm sorry, but…" That is not the way to save the situation.

My friends Pace and Kyeli Smith in Austin, TX have written a book called "The Usual Error: Why We Don't Understand Each Other and 34 Ways to Make It Better." You can read about it on Amazon by clicking the cover of their book on the right of the screen. They also have a great website at Freak Revolution if you're interested in changing the world.

Here is what they say about saying "I'm sorry."

If you're about to say, "I'm sorry, but…", don't.

Instead, say "I'm sorry." Period. Full stop. If you have reasons or explanations, save them. If you're apologizing, simply apologize. Bring the rest of the story into it later, after feelings are soothed, or – here's a crazy idea – not until you're asked for it. They're not going to listen to your reasons or explanations when they're hurt or upset or angry – which they most likely are to some degree, if you're apologizing.

They will, however, be more open to listening and discussing the situation after they feel better, so wait to tell your story until then.

Communicate with compassion, and real communication will happen.

This is great advice for all of us – not only business people. There are plenty of books with advice and techniques for dealing with dissatisfied and angry customers. I like saying, "I'm sorry. What can I do to make things right?"

Then do what they ask. Nine times out of ten the demand won't be unreasonable. For that one that is I still recommend doing what they ask if possible. You'll get more good will and they will spread the story of how great you and your company are at taking care of their customers.

If you don't, you'll end up with blog posts and web sites spreading negative stories about you. Just Google Dell, Comcast or Verizon Sucks for examples.

Listen First – Make Things Right – Sell Again.

Turning a Marketing Drip Into a Sales Flood

Ever have a leaky faucet? You know, the kind that drips once a second. It's an annoyance but it seems like a little thing and there is always something else that is a priority. So, it drips.

Until you notice your water bill has really gone up. One faucet dripping once per second equates to 86,400 drips per day. That's approximately 2,082 gallons per year. It doesn't take long to see that you are creating a flood.

But, this isn't an article on plumbing. Social media marketing is like the dripping faucet. I'm pretty sure Seth Godin first termed the phrase, "Drip, Drip, Drip" relative to how you need to market today.

That drip, drip, drip will eventually wear a hole through the hardest rock. Not right away but over time. And, that's how you need to think about marketing. That part isn't new. Over night successes are seldom created. Success happens over time.

You need to engage in talking to your potential customers. You need to give them information they value. That means you have to create information content for them and you need to use social media channels to distribute it. It also means you have to be patient. You're dripping. You're not using a laser cutter. If I knew of a marketing laser cutter, I'd be the first to tell you about it.

There are still marketing tactics and strategy. They've just changed. But, by dripping consistently with good information and being patient you will eventually see the flood.

If you would like to learn more about social media marketing and how you can apply it to your business, click here and we'll send you "The New Marketing Guide." Just Click Here.

Who’s Fooling Who?

People can smell it when you're faking it. They'll intuitively know if what they are seeing and hearing is authentic. Oh, you can get away with deceiving some of the people some of the time. But, eventually living the lie will wear you out.

If you don't really care about the customer – if "what's in it for me" is your mantra – you're not fooling anyone.

But yourself.

Give Them More

Who sets the value of your products and services? Not you. You set the price but your customer always determines the value.

What do you think would happen if starting today, you began providing better service than you're being paid for? "But, that doesn't make sense." you say. How can I give more than I'm being paid for? Doesn't that fly in the face of good business?

Not if you want to be extraordinary. And, that's what it is going to take for you to be extraordinarily successful under the new rules of marketing.

Zappos understands that. They offer free shipping on their shoes (and now other products) both ways. It takes away the reluctance to buy shoes and clothing online. They did over a billion dollars in sales last year. They have a blog. They built a company on extraordinary service and by offering more than the customer "paid for." Read what their customers say about them here.

People spread the Zappos story to their friends.

What kind of stories are your customers spreading about you?

What if you started today to give them more?

What's stopping you?

A Slogan Is Easier Than Making a Change

Do you think the folks who run the airlines or Verizon or Comcast go to sleep every night thinking, "Another successful day. We've managed to make thousands of our customers miserable and unhappy?"

I doubt it. But, despite the fact that isn't their goal – they manage to do just that day after day. Is it impossible for them to correct the problems that make customer's hate them? Maybe. Maybe they are so big and their organizational structure is such that they cannot find their way out of the maze.

Don't make the same mistake. Start with your front-line employees who interact daily with your clients and reward them for making people happy – for thrilling them with the outcome of their time together. Budget plenty of money and time to train them so they understand how to deliver extraordinary service. Put the processes and technological systems in place so they can "do the right thing." Finally, remove the term "do things right" from their corporate vocabulary.

A while back I stated that "what gets rewarded gets done." You have to reward them for doing the right thing. And, how do you know if they are doing the right thing? You measure. You determine the metrics that are important to your particular organization and you measure.

Providing extraordinary customer is difficult to implement and requires work. If the CEO is not totally committed to making it happen – it won't.

Commit, reward, measure – day after day.

And, forget the cutesy customer service slogan.

I wonder why those big companies can't do the same thing?

I guess the slogan is a lot easier to implement.

We’re Talking But Not Listening

I recently wrote about being understood and communication. This entire process of talking, listening, understanding – communicating is so important that I want to discuss it again.

It is the foundation for all marketing and sales.

Without successful two-way communication – your marketing and sales efforts will be totally ineffective.

Dennis told me he was having a problem with a long-time client. They had a difference of opinion and had eventually stopped talking. The client was still doing business with the firm but Dennis and he still don't talk.

Today, Dennis told me they started talking again and they had a meeting earlier this week. I asked, "So, you resolved your problem?" "No," Dennis said, "We're just ignoring it. But, we are talking."

I agree with Dennis, they are talking – but they are not communicating. Because communicating requires both parties to listen and to understand what the other person is saying. In this instance, talking but not listening to how both parties feel about the original problem is likely to lead to further dissonance.

If establishing a business relationship is like dating, then maintaining the relationship is similar to maintaining a healthy marriage. All relationships experience conflict. How we deal with that conflict will determine the viability of our relationships – business and personal.

Communication requires good transmission skills. Too often we believe we are making our point while at the same time, the listener is hearing something totally different. Frustration escalates on everyone's part when the listener responds to what they thought they heard or interpreted.

As the listener, it is your job to be absolutely certain that you understand what the talker is saying. And, you need to communicate that understanding back to the talker. And, then change roles.

If you still feel like you are not being understood or that you don't understand what you've heard, you may need a third party to help. Better to engage a consultant to assist you than to allow a good relationship to deteriorate.