Tick Yes Blog

Tag - Customer Service

The Stupidity of Silence

For my sins, I’ve been brought up to say “please” and “thank you” and even, heaven forbid, open the door for ladies. I know that such behaviour is archaic, uncool and totally unexpected in today’s ‘every man for himself’ age, but it works for me.
That’s not to say that all people don’t appreciate manners. Take me, for example. Not surprisingly, I love it when people are polite. Mainly because it shows that they actually give a damn about our interaction.
That’s why it always astounds me when people in business don’t follow-up with a simple thank you email or even a note – when was the last time you received a handwritten thank you note? – after we’ve had some type of interaction.
This is particularly the case when someone has unsuccessfully asked for a meeting, a job or a sale. Most of the time, if I say “no thank you” I get nothing back. Silence. They’ve moved on to new prospects because I didn’t give them what they wanted.
How stupid. As the old sales expression goes ‘No doesn’t mean no, it just means not now.’
For the cost of spending 2 minutes writing a “Thanks, sorry we couldn’t do a deal this time. Maybe we can work together in the future…” email, their last impression with me would have been a positive one. Instead, their silence showed me that the decision not to work with them was probably the right one.
We’re all in sales, so rejection comes with the territory. You have to look beyond today’s no and focus on the long-term relationship you can form with the person who has just rejected what you’re offering. It’s important to remember that they didn’t reject you, they rejected what you were selling.
Some of the best clients I’ve ever worked with said no for several years until the time was right for them to say yes. The only person who misses out if you don’t keep in touch with the person who just said “thanks but no thanks” is you.

Keep in touch. Keep showing up. Show you care. It’s the smart thing to do.
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Rewards or Relationships

You have thousands of customers. They spend millions of dollars on your goods/services.
Collectively, these people add up to the financial and market share reports you pore over every day.
Individually, however, they’re a pain in the neck.
Whenever they write, ring or, heaven forbid, visit you, it’s invariably to complain about something.
You then have to deal with the fall-out when one of your 18 year old customer ‘service’ representatives was rude to them.
Social media has allowed individual customers to pass judgement on what you sell and how you sell it. Unless those customers post something funny, clever or outrageous however, it’s a faint cry in the wilderness.
In the early days, you were worried about social media disasters but time has shown that the chances of something going wrong are pretty slim.
Of course you value your customers. That’s why you created your Fly / Rewards / Advantage / Club loyalty program. Throw them a few points with a little bit of perceived value every time they buy something and bingo! Loyalty!
Your clever program does the heavy lifting of keeping your customers happy, leaving you free to focus on the big picture i.e. the fun stuff.
Don’t you think there’s something a little soulless about this scenario?
Giving customers small ethical bribes to keep them using your product/service may work in the short-term but it does nothing to emotionally bind customers to your brand.
We don’t buy Nike running shoes because of the extra pair of laces they throw in for free. We buy Nike because of how they make us feel and how they can help us to become the athlete we emotionally want to be. Logically, we know this is nonsense but it’s Nike for goodness sake! When I pull on my pair of Nikes, I CAN do it.
No matter what you sell, being trapped in a purely transactional vortex with your customers is not where you want to be.
Loyalty programs may keep the cash registers ringing but there’s a problem with that strategy: if that’s your main customer relationship play you will always be vulnerable to someone who comes along with a bigger, better or shinier ethical bribe.
Invest in unique and unforgettable experiences. What’s your brand’s equivalent of a book-reading with tea and scones at your local bookshop?
Create authentic and engaging content that customers can relate to. Done well, content can be a key asset and competitive advantage.
We’re not saying that you should discard the idea of launching a loyalty program; for some customers, companies and markets they can work incredibly well.
What we are saying is that we marketers need to engage the heart of our customers before moving on to the head.
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Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

What’s in a Social Media Policy?

Almost everything you post online is open for public viewing. This should come as no surprise but you wouldn’t believe how often a lack of common sense is the culprit in social media mishaps. Yes, there are numerous examples we could provide: People posting (what many of us would call inappropriately) silly videos of themselves on YouTube or tweets that were meant to be funny but took to Mama Mia’s leading story within minutes. Then there’s the occasional picture meant for a partner that in some way managed to reach the entire Instagram public. What people do in their free time is their business, but what if they are doing it whilst representing your business? The obvious solution is to ban social media, but as it turns out, it’s also a very bad idea (unless you’re going for a reign of terror, and employees will just find a way anyway).
What you need is a social media policy.
Ah, yes, one of those policy thingies. If it’s well put together, it could save you a lot of embarrassment whilst getting your brand out of harm’s way. But this goes beyond risk management; there are clear benefits in allowing, and encouraging, your employees to update their social media accounts at work (in moderation of course). As experts on most things related to your business they are ideal brand advocates, and all come with their own networks of potential customers.  Your employees are your extra marketing team, customer service team and in house support team. Allow them the opportunity to communicate amongst themselves and with the rest of the world and they will help your business grow. They do however need guidelines.
A social media policy should do two things; provide guidelines to the employees, preventing them from causing or getting into trouble and inform them of the disciplinary actions that will be taken if they do. You could of course Google another company’s policy and use that as a template, but the document will be that much more effective if it’s customised to your particular field with your employee’s particular positions in mind. Ask yourself these three questions;

        What’s the worst that could happen if employees are allowed access to social media?
        How does my social media policy prevent this worst case scenario?
        How would it have employees respond to it if it happened?

Be clear and concise in your policy. “Be professional in what you say on your social media profile” is a good start, however when not put into context this alone leaves a little too much for self interpretation (note, don’t be too precise either, or you’ll risk drowning the message in definitions). It should all be based on common sense; the policy should be a supportive document, not a hindrance. It won’t do you or your company any good if it diminishes social media efficiency.
So, what can be found in a valuable social media policy?

        A paragraph on who the document applies to – are freelancers and employees working from home included?
        Guidelines on what employees shouldn’t do online (what information to disclose, what not to share, what sites not to visit etc);
        Guidelines on what employees CAN do (encourage creative behaviour that indirectly hints at your amazing corporate culture);
        Information on disciplinary measures;
        An educating section on online behaviour, just in case;

The positive effect your employees’ online presence can have on your business is too good to pass up. Make sure to educate employees in the potential dangers of online activity and about sharing information too generously. Present them with so called “Cosmic Law”, coined by Jay Shepherd; always assume that the one you least want to see your post will in fact see it. With this in mind let your people get out there and endorse your brand to help it grow.
The Message is brought to you by Tick Yes – providing solutions for all your digital and content marketing needs.
Image courtesy: thesocialworkplace.com, socialnewsdaily.com

Keep it Simple Part 2 – A Business’ Perspective

The last post discussed the decision making process and the over abundance of information we’re exposed too every day. But what can your company gain from knowing about how people pick and choose?
In Part 1, we discussed how information overload can have a negative impact on the ability to make suitable decisions that will fulfill your needs. Shady companies could probably see all kinds of possibilities in this fact, but your company offers the best product/service out there, right? Not engaging with your company would be the WORST of decisions, wouldn’t it? This is why you need to keep things simple for the sake of your customers (and your business).
So how can you do this? Not only are you competing with other companies, but your information is also competing with other information. Some of it may be correct but a lot of it is, unfortunately, just bias or misinformation. Lesson number 1 – be honest! There, that’s not so hard is it?
There are a number of ways people cope with too much information. They can for example:

        Prioritise; now this one is a no brainer. Organise the information by relevance;
        Limit themselves; set limits for how much information they gather;
        Escape; remove distractions to be able to process the information properly;
        Filter; simply concentrate on the most important information, leaving out the rest.

You may see a pattern here. Relevance is king. In order for your customers to find you, your information needs to be appropriate. This is why “creating quality content” has become a mantra in online marketing; your information needs to be number one at the top of the search results.
For those of you who scrolled back up to the title – yes, you are still reading “Keeping it simple: Part 2”. The thing is; keeping things simple is not simple at all, at least not for companies. The next approach to take when trying to keep things simple for your customers is to make it easy for them to find you, and nowadays, getting on top of Google is a way of doing that.
Right, work away at SEO and content, what else is new? Chances are that customers have already found their way to your website and your next concern is how to keep them coming back. With that in mind, here are some other tactics that you can do to simplify things:
–        Be transparent; your customers know how to get a hold of information about your company. Spare them the extra work by providing it yourself – this way you can set the story straight from the start. Besides, an extra Google search may expose your customers to your competitors or a completely different solution to their problem.
–        Be YOU; your company may not be the market leader, therefore that simply means you have to work a little harder; devising something different about you that can be used to your advantage. Big is scary and we tend to root for the underdog.
–        Make your information easy to understand; this means having a clean website which is easy to get your head around (if you can’t navigate your website how do you expect your customers to?) and having several ways of contact, amongst others. Remember what we said about escaping? People escape distractions in order to process information properly – too many distractions on your website may have them break away from you altogether.
–        Offer the best customer service possible; another mantra and a hard one at that. You get what you put in and great customer service is a key factor to achieving company success. This way YOUR people answer the questions and provide the solutions, not some guy on an online forum (who maybe once fell victim to your BAD customer service). That being said, such online discussions cannot be avoided, therefore it’s important to be proactive and reduce the amount of disappointed customers.
At the very least, we’ve laid the foundations for you. Everything about your field makes perfect sense to you. But this is a reminder that you’re the expert at what you’re doing. It’s possible that your customers don’t have a clue, which is why keeping things simple will make them ever so thankful… and loyal.
The Message is brought to you by Tick Yes – providing solutions for all your digital and content marketing needs.
Image courtesy: vimeo.com, blog.experts-exchange.com

I’m not in the Mood for your Anger

By Martin Grunstein
I have been in the speaking business since 1985 and heard some atrocious stories of poor customer service over the years but I had an experience on my recent family holiday that is up there with the best of them.
My wife, two children and I spent a week at a five star Australian hotel that was part of a respected chain of hotels. As a hopelessly addicted golfer, one of the value add-eds of this hotel was a shuttle transfer to and from a nearby golf course and I arranged a couple of games before I went.
On the Thursday I was dropped at the golf course and told to ring from a certain phone to go straight through to the porters and they’d come and pick me up. I had a lovely game of golf and was in a good mood but looking forward to getting back to the hotel for a swim and to see my family.
I rang from the special phone and after a couple of minutes of hearing it ring I looked at my watch to see how long it would take to get through. It took five and a half minutes (that’s a lot of rings) and the polite lady said she would send a shuttle to pick me up straight away.  I had a drink, read a bit while waiting but after 28 minutes there was no shuttle so I rang back. I was on the line for EIGHT MINUTES with no answer so I hung up the phone and rang the hotel’s external number and after teleprompting I was put through to reception.

I had been waiting again for over four minutes with no answer when a staff member of the golf club asked me how I was going and could he do anything to help. I explained the situation briefly and this nice young man said he’d just finished his shift and would drive me back to the hotel which he did. He explained the hotel used to own the golf course but didn’t anymore and he’d seen quite a few angry customers waiting a long time for shuttles back to the hotel. I thanked him profusely for the lift and told of my experience to a person at reception. He asked if I wanted to see a manager and I told him I wasn’t interested in making a complaint, I just wanted to enjoy my holiday but I had arranged to play golf again on Saturday and didn’t want to have the same experience again.
Saturday comes and another enjoyable day on the golf course. I ring for the shuttle back and this time I wait six and a half minutes on the phone before I get through to the porter. He tells me he will send a shuttle straight away and I say to him “before you get off the phone, I need to tell you what happened on Thursday because I really don’t want that to happen again. I begged him to come soon or please send someone in the next ten minutes.” When he arrived I thanked him for coming to pick me up and told him I wasn’t angry at him, I was angry at the system that made me wait so long without the phone being answered.
He then hit me with possibly the worst line I have ever heard in the customer service business, let alone the hospitality industry which is reputed to be the best customer service industry in the world.
He said “I’M NOT IN THE MOOD FOR YOUR ANGER. I have 1000 guests at the hotel to look after, not just you”. I said “I am one of those guests and I think I have been treated really badly”. He told me he thought I was overreacting and I should “chill out”. I asked him if he’d done the training offered by his hotel and did he learn anything about empathy. He said he’d done lots of work on empathy and I told him I thought he’d failed in that area.
He told me I could take it up with his boss if I wasn’t satisfied and I told him I’d like to do that. His boss sat with me and did everything right. She apologised and said that she was embarrassed by the behaviour of the porter and said she would report this experience to the GM and would make sure things were changed. I gave her my business card and said that I wasn’t after any compensation or free gifts from the hotel, all I wanted to was to hear back from her that she had spoken to the appropriate people and no other guest of the hotel would be treated that way.
She promised sincerely she would.  I never heard from her!  I will never spend my money to stay at the hotel again and if my clients ask me my opinion about holding their conference there, I will encourage them to choose another venue.  The hotel let me down in three separate ways and each way was worse than the one before.
Firstly, all businesses have action standards for answering the phone. Some business like to answer within three rings, some within five rings but five minutes; eight minutes; six minutes; and four minutes, which are all over 100 or 200 rings, is just ridiculous. Remember, this happened four out of four times, it couldn’t be claimed to be a “one off” aberration.
Secondly, “I’M NOT IN THE MOOD FOR YOUR ANGER” may be an appropriate statement for a boxer or a wrestler but it is NEVER, EVER appropriate in business, especially in the “hospitality” industry where the word “hospitable” means friendly and welcoming to guests. The porter was so out of line I suggest that he should never have chosen a career in the hospitality industry.
Thirdly, the rooms manager, after doing everything right face to face, was the worst of all because she never came back to me after promising sincerely that she would and that is my last impression of the hotel and influences my perceptions, the stories I tell other people and was the trigger for me writing this article.
Here’s what the hotel could have done even if they weren’t able to change their phone system.
Ideally, after a senior manager was told about my experience on Thursday by the fellow at reception, he could have called me in my hotel room and apologised and told me it wouldn’t happen again on Saturday and he could have given me his mobile number and said if you can’t get through on the direct line call me and I’ll make sure a shuttle gets to you straight away.
That would have been outstanding and I would have told people about this brilliant manager who really cared and my perception of the hotel would have been a very positive one.
The next best thing would have been a porter with a great attitude. He would have told me he would be there to pick me up straight away, he would have apologised for what I had experienced on Thursday and said if there’s anything you need around the hotel, please ask for me and I’ll do whatever I can to help. He would have told the rooms manager of my experience and there would have been a bottle of wine delivered to my room with compliments of the GM as a token of the hotel’s embarrassment for the inconvenience I had experienced.

I would have walked away telling people of the bottle of wine and the good attitude of the porter rather than the miserable experience I had suffered.
But even if none of these were done, a simple phone call from the rooms manager telling me of the action she had taken to reprimand the porter and look at the system from a guest’s perspective so that what happened to me won’t happen again would have been appreciated.
I wouldn’t have been thrilled but that would have pacified me and stopped me telling negative stories about this hotel. But what I got instead was inconvenienced by a system; insulted by a staff member; and ignored by management. If you are looking for a recipe for corporate bankruptcy I think INCONVENIENCED; INSULTED; IGNORED would be about as good as you could get.
What I find amazing in this day and age is how few companies have their staff trained in the skills to deal with complaints. I appreciate it may be hard for a small business to justify investing in training in this area but even this international hotel group is not getting it right and if they have made the investment in training in this area, it is patently not working.
When a customer complains he(she/they) wants three things: They want to whinge without being interrupted; they want acknowledgement of their inconvenience; and they want to know what you can do, not what you can’t do.
Let me give you a real world example of the difference this can make to profitability.
Quite a few years ago I ran some seminars for a company called Pierlite who sell professional lighting solutions. Their policy was that if a delivery didn’t arrive on time via road train and the client complained, they would airfreight the delivery the next day. This was a very expensive exercise because the cost of airfreight almost always took away all the profit on the job.
I taught the front line people the basics of complaints handling. Let the customer whinge without interrupting them. Then apologise for the inconvenience they have been caused (an apology for inconvenience caused is not a legal admission of liability, it is an empathy statement) telling them you understand how that has affected the running of their business.

Then, instead of agreeing to airfreight the job the next day, I got them to ask the customer (after pacifying them) “what can we do to put it right?”
It turned out that over 80% of the clients did NOT need the delivery airfreighted the next day, they would say things like “just make sure it doesn’t happen again” or “make sure it’s on the next road train” or “tell the dispatcher he’s a dickhead”.
Pierlite arranged for the delivery to go on the next road train and with the top 20% of clients they included a nice bottle of red and a card from the customer service person saying “I am terribly sorry you were stuffed around, I hope you’ll accept this bottle of wine with our compliments as our way of saying sorry.”
Two things happened that affected profitability.  They saved airfreight costs in over 80% of cases of complaints. And they picked up referral business from word of mouth because their competitors, who also made mistakes, did nothing to pacify and acknowledge their customers when they got it wrong and some of them moved all their business to Pierlite.
The most important impressions in business are first impressions and last impressions. Do you want your customers’ last impressions after a complaint to be the apology and the bottle of wine ……. or INCONVENIENCED, INSULTED, IGNORED?
 
Martin Grunstein is this country’s most in-demand speaker on customer service. He is contactable on 0414 933 249 or through www.martingrunstein.com.au
 
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