There’s no doubt that taking the time to improve the customer service experience you and your team provides is time (and money) well spent. Your customers have more choices and louder voices than ever before. A Walker Study recently showed that by the year 2020, customer experience will overtake price & product as the key brand differentiator. They also found that 86% of buyers will actually pay more for a better customer experience. As anecdotal evidence, I personally do business with a couple of companies who charge more, but give me a better experience. When I ask my audiences across the country if you resonate with that statistic, a good portion of you raise your hands.
On the side of the coin, a New Voice Media study found that companies lose more than $62 billion due to poor service. These findings aren’t new and it’s why more and more leaders are looking for ways to improve the customer service experience. The question is, where do you start?
Here are 3 Ways to Improve the Customer Service Experience
- Make it easier to do business with you
- Provide a warmer welcome
- Add a little Celebrity Experience!
Make it Easier to Do Business With You: Ask yourselves, “Are we rolling out the red carpet, or the red tape?” You may recall, I wrote about the city of Ball Ground, GA in my blog a few weeks ago as well as in 501 Ways to Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your Customers. When they reviewed each policy, every bit of paperwork, and each piece of red tape getting in the
way of opening a business in Ball Ground, they found they could easily eliminate many of their current road blocks. As a result, they more and more companies opened up shop in Ball Ground. Even Hollywood came calling! Ball Ground registered as a Film Ready Community and they landed their first film – American Made, starring Tom Cruise. Says City Manager Eric Willmarth,”Sometimes people see Hollywood coming and think ‘how much can we charge them in permit fees.??’ We waived the permit fees, and they were thrilled. Instead we asked them to eat locally and use local businesses.”
Sometimes we don’t see the forest through the trees. We are so attached to “the way things are done” that we don’t realize how we better serve our customers, our team and our organization by making life easier and focusing on the big picture. It’s the premise of the book The Effortless Experience by Matthew Dixon, Nick Toman, and Nick Delisi. The authors found that what most people want is for you to make their lives easier. Consider the following:
- How many transfers do people go through before getting an answer to their question?
- How many times do customers have to repeat information?
- How many hoops do they have to jump through to do business with you?
- How many people do they have to talk to before getting a resolution to their complaint?
- How could you empower your team members to take care of customer concerns?
- Are there times you make them come to you when you could go to them?
- Are there needs you could better anticipate?
- Are there times when customers have to pull information out of you when you could simply offer it?
- Is there paperwork you could eliminate?
- Is there more than one way that customers could accomplish their goals?
Provide a Warmer Welcome: The friendlier you and your entire team are, the more customers you will attract. People like doing business with people they like. To improve the customer service experience, make sure you’re hiring friendly people who have empathy for others, and then provide them with customer service skills training and teach them ways to show that empathy and friendliness in the context of your business.
The thing to remember is that each interaction your customer has with an employee makes an impression. Depending on the specific employee, that could be a positive, neutral or negative interaction. The key is to get all team members speaking the same language in terms of customer service, and providing positive customer experiences at every touchpoint.
Do all your team members know how to:
- Take every opportunity to smile, make eye contact, and provide a friendly greeting?
- Discover and use customers’ names?
- Acknowledge people immediately and give proper time frames for service.
- Answer the phone in an upbeat manner and use words and phrases that build confidence in your customers?
- Personalize each customer interaction?
- Take ownership from start to finish?
- Respond with empathy and turn upset customers into happy customers?
- Surprise & Delight and add that Wow Factor in customer service?
- Make a first class LAST impression?
Of course, we all like to think that we have the best people on our teams! The question is, are they armed with the tools and training they need to provide a warm welcome and exceptional customer service experience, for every customer, at every opportunity, every single time?
Add a little Celebrity Experience: First, focus on friendliness and cutting out some of the red tape. Then, roll out the red carpets! Think about ways you could treat your customers like Hollywood STARS!
For instance, you could:
- Provide them with their favorite snacks or beverages
- Surprise them with a little swag (gift) bag as you send them on their way
- Add their name to the menu, a parking space, a welcome sign
- Send handwritten thank you notes
- Get to know them and anticipate their needs each time they visit
- Find ways to celebrate their birthdays, anniversaries and special days!
When I got to visit with the Guest Experience Director for the Atlanta Braves, she told me that their team monitors twitter and Facebook or mentions of the game. If someone tweets that they are there to celebrate a special occasion, the guest experience team will try to figure out where they are sitting (based on photos) and surprise them with treats for their big day!
Did I give you enough to think about? Here’s my advice. Focus on one area that will have the most impact in improving the customer service experience. Get your team on it and take the first step. Then work on the next area, and the next. Before you know it, you’ll be reaping the rewards that are reserved for people who give their customers the red carpet treatment!
Donna Cutting is the Founder & Chief Experience Officer of Red-Carpet Learning Systems, Inc., a firm which provides tools and training for customer-facing organizations to help them improve the customer service experience. She’s also the author of two books on red carpet customer service, including her recent Amazon bestseller, 501 Ways to Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your Customers.
Donna lives in Asheville, North Carolina with her husband Jim and their two rescue dogs Moxie and Tonks.