I had a great conversation with a client today. It was all about customer service. Something I noticed was a common theme that I’ve seen. My client was complaining about his customers. At first I thought he had a point. The more I listened the more I realized that he was the problem. He kept complaining about how hard his customers are to please. After just a few minutes, it was very obvious even to him that his customers just want what they purchased.
My client is the one that has changed his policies over the last few months and customer service has taken a backseat to profitability and payback. The payback is what got me. He has let a few clients take advantage of him in the past and to even things out, he is now charging everyone for services that were once included with their purchase. His customer support has basically gone from one extreme to the other.
This whole conversation got me thinking…
It seems like in this economy (by the way, the economy really isn’t that bad… Have you been to the mall or a restaurant lately? The lines in those places tell me a different story) you would want to do everything you can to keep customers and get new ones. But what I have seen is the opposite. A lot of companies are charging for things they never have before and customer service is at an all-time low in many places.
Here’s a great example of poor customer service. The other day I took our girls through McDonald’s. Now I don’t expect much from their support, but this was crazy. We waited a while in the line, but the kicker was when we got to the window. The girl at the window was very rude when she asked, “that soda, did you want ice with that?” My wife and I were both stunned. We were thinking, “is that extra now?” Maybe ice isn’t standard anymore? So the girl rolls her eyes and tosses our cup in the trash, shuts the window and walks off. I was quite stunned. The sad thing is that this girl will be stunned if she loses her job for poor performance. What a generation…
I don’t know about you, but I’m a pretty simple guy. When I buy something and the box says the product does something, call me CRAZY, but I expect it to do what it says! That isn’t expecting a lot if you ask me.
So what’s driving this behavior? A lot of things if you ask me. Here are my top 6 things causing this problem.
1. The dot.com boom started it. Simply put, people got lazy when they thought they could just build a website and the business would come. The concept of giving a damn about customers went out the window because millions would line up to buy their services.
2. The “ME” and “Gen X or Y” generation. The concept that “my” needs and feelings are more important than anyone or anything else makes it hard to find employees who really care about anything more than a paycheck.
3. What’s in it for me attitude. This one is tied closely to number 2, but shared by a lot of folks. It’s a strange attitude being shared by CEO’s and business owners these days. A what’s in it for me attitude asks, “What would I get out of this and what can you do for me?” instead of; “How can I help you?”
4. Lack of vision. This is a big killer in business. People just don’t realize how important vision is. If you don’t know where you are going, it makes it tough to get there. Without a vision, no one on your team will know what you are trying to accomplish. A great vision includes phrases like, “we are the best in the world at”, “we are global leaders in the market”, “and we provide exceptional customer service”. A vision defines who you are and where you are going as a company, but more importantly, it acts as a filter for decisions.
5. Poor leadership. Many business owners today are great at the business they do, they just suck as business owners. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s a fact. Think about it, the best plumber in the world probably doesn’t know jack about marketing and sales if they have never done it. So how can that person lead a team if they have never done it? Being a great leader is part learned behavior from watching great leaders and part educating yourself. But most business leaders are so distracted by their business that they don’t take the time to really develop themselves. And one last thing on this, you don’t lead by talking to people. You lead by DOing. Set an example by rolling up your sleeves and working in the trenches with your team! As you can see, I’m a bit passionate about this one.
6. Lack of accountability. This is a favorite of mine. One of the best things about being a coach is that I tell my clients right up front that they can’t fire me. They are now accountable to me. I also get their credit card on file and authorization to charge them anytime they break my rules. Now, we agree on the rules upfront and they have a chance to add or take away from the rules, but once the rules are locked it, it’s GAME ON! A lot of business owners and leaders get lazy in this area and don’t make themselves accountable to their team.
Now that we have discussed the reasons why customer service has gotten bad, here are 3 things you can do to change customer service in your organization forever. These are surefire, tried and true methods that will rock your clients’ world every time.
1. Get it right –When your customer orders something, start by getting the order right every time. I know this sounds like a no brain-er, but I’m telling you, this will keep them coming back.
TIP: One thing I like to do is repeat an order to a client. It just takes a couple of minutes to go over what they want to make sure you got it right and they have everything they need.
2. Get personal – Find a way to make your clients’ experience unique to them. Ask their name. Call them by name once you know it. Ask them where they are from, share a story with them if you have a funny one (if you are funny), comment on a nice necklace or ring or their car. Anything you can do to get the experience on their level.
3. The WOW factor– Do something to make them say WOW! A free upgrade for being so sweet or for being from Nashville or whatever. Walk them out of your business if you have a minute. Remember them… and their name. Introduce THEM to your team and introduce your TEAM to them. Here’s a great example, “Hey Jim, come over here and meet our new customer of the month from Nashville. Jenny here grew up just down the street, she loves those white chocolate cookies you brought in today, let’s make sure we have some on hand. Jenny is going to be back in a few days and I want to make sure we have her favorite cookies in the store.”
That’s a great “in-store” example. I’m sure you are thinking, yeah right? That’s crazy… Think about this. How would you feel about yourself if someone treated you that way? Would you buy from them again? I bet the answer is yes. Even if they were more expensive than the other guys. Can you say competitive advantage!
Now, suppose your clients are all over and you only talk to them via phone. Here’s a quick way to do the same thing.
“Hi Steve, how’s it going today in Tampa? I saw the weather forecast there this morning and it looks cold. Are you still planning on taking the kids to Disney next week? Steve, I really didn’t need anything today, I just wanted to check in with you to see how you are doing. I was thinking of you when I saw the weather this morning and just felt like checking up on you. You know what, Alex from support just walked by. Do you have a second for me to introduce you? I just want to make sure you know Alex if you ever need anything. Alex, this is Steve, he’s an amazing guy and one of our best customers. Please send Steve your contact info when you get back to your desk if he ever needs anything. Hey Steve, I’m going to let you get back to business. Be sure and let me know how Disney goes next week. I hope your boys have a better time than last year.”
See what I did there? I made it personal at ever turn I could.
Bonus TIP: BE GENUINE!
When you do this kind of thing, you have to mean it. It has to come from the heart and your clients have to feel it. You can’t fake this kind of thing or your clients will know it.
The bonus for you is that you will not only get more business by following these simple steps, you will feel great about your efforts each day.
One last thing to remember. It costs 6 times more to market to new businesses than it does to just keep the ones you have. Work on retention! Work on retention through customer service.