5 Tips for Managing Your Customers’ Experience

5 Tips for Managing Your Customers’ Experience

Building serviceRecently my neighbors and I have been besieged by relentless unremitting building noise. It’s been a part of our experience everyday from 7 am for many weeks now.

After trying several channels to resolve this problem, with varying degrees of success, I eventually decided to contact the company’s overall project management team. They sent someone out to see me and the matter appears to be finally resolved.

The experience prompted me to reflect on ways the builders could have better managed the situation from the start, lessons that every business can take on board.

5 Tips for Managing your Customers’ Experience

1. Be accessible

There are going to be times when people need to speak with you as a matter of some urgency. They may need to alter an appointment, want to discuss a change in their requirements, feel compelled to share details of something they’re unhappy about.

When you’re accessible people come to regard you as someone who’s easy to talk to, who’s keen to do your best for them, who wants them to be happy with your business and continue to use your goods and services. When they feel supported they’re confident about recommending you to others. Being friendly and approachable stops issues blowing up out of proportion and becoming a big deal.

2. Monitor social media

Many people use social media, Twitter, Facebook, etc to praise and/or complain about the treatment they’ve received from businesses. I’ve read somewhere that a happy client will tell three people about you whilst an unhappy one will tell eleven. Those figures become magnified when social media is fully utilized. Monitor how you’re being talked about, then you can react quickly to fix a problem, so turning potentially bad press into a good PR result.

3. Pretend to be your own customer

This is how you’ll discover what it’s like to visit your business. The management team for my noisy builders said that they’re office based and only visit the site once a month! They were clearly relying on others to be their eyes and ears!

But we want to be more proactive, more hands on than that, don’t we? With that in mind try phoning your business with an order, a query, a complaint or use a secret shopper to visit your premises to see how tidy, efficient, friendly the service is. That way you remain aware of what a typical customer experience is like.

4. Communicate what’s going on in your business

Acquaint your customers and clients with any changes to staff, trading hours, terms and conditions. Give away helpful tips and advice. Maybe provide seasonal offers and customer rewards to keep your customers incentivized. Provide training days or workshops to teach your customers better skills. Take the lead and so manage your customers’ experience.

5. Take responsibility

If things aren’t going quite right or are even going wrong for a customer, admit it straight away and then you can start to discuss effective ways to fix things. Most people are reasonable when they are dealt with respectfully.

Being open and honest about errors or omissions as soon as possible allows for them to be dealt with in the best way for all concerned. So long as it doesn’t happen too often you’ll find that you maintain good relations with your customers and are able to keep them happy.

Treat others as you would like to be treated is a familiar saying that has a particular resonance when you’re dealing with a client or customer. Taking these tips on board can enable you to manage a positive, successful customer experience and keep everyone happy.

About the Author

Customer Service Manager

Susan Leigh is a Counsellor and Hypnotherapist and works with business clients to support the health and motivation levels of individuals and teams.

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10 Ways to Identify (and Lose) Bad Customers

10 Ways to Identify (and Lose) Bad Customers

Downsides of Working Remotely

We all know bad customers are unpleasant to deal with. The consequences of bad customers can reach into other aspects of your business, too.

They contribute to churn when they don’t listen to you and don’t realize value from your offering. They take up more than their share of resources in terms of time and money. And wreck your metrics across so many categories: customer health, customer satisfaction, accounts receivable, and more.

The best customers reward us through revenue, referrals, and loyalty. Unfortunately, toxic customers hinder your ability to serve profitable customers. And that means bad news for everyone.

That’s why it’s so important to identify and deal with dissatisfied customers. We’ve outlined some common types of unfit customers and we’ll show you how to spot them, and what to do next.

10 Ways to Identify Bad Customers

Most bad customers:

1) They Don’t Pay On-Time (Or Ever)

You’re in business to make money. And customers that don’t pay don’t make you any money. In fact, they cost money.

Unpaid invoices reduce your cash flow. Is cash flow or profit is more important to a business? The answer is both.

According to Investopedia, a business may see a profit every month, but its money is tied up in accounts receivable, and there is no cash to pay employees.  You definitely don’t want to find yourself in that position.

Not only do you lose out on that invoice, but you also spend resources trying to collect your payment. Each bill you send costs you money and costs your staff time.

Even if you leverage technology to collect accounts receivable, you have to pay collections companies or lawyers to get customers to pay.

2) They Don’t Pay Enough (Or Don’t Want To Pay)

Some customers will nickel and dime you to death. This type of client puts you on the defensive from the start. During the sales process, they question your pricing.

For example, if you produce a creative product, they may ask why they’re paying you so much to do a few hours of work. They don’t understand the investment you made acquiring the education and experience to deliver your offering efficiently.

That doesn’t mean that anyone looking for a good deal is a bad customer. After all, that’s just good business. Instead, be wary of customers who complain about the pricing, don’t seem to understand your answers or justification, and then sign their contract anyway.

These customers are often overly demanding once they hire you. They want to make sure they squeeze every penny out of you. They’ll send things back over and over and will likely undervalue the work you do.

3) They Have Unclear or Changing Demands

Often, many harmful customers have unclear or changing demands.

Imagine you and your team spend weeks preparing a proposal for a client.  Nothing is worse than delivering on a project only to be told your work doesn’t meet their objectives. You know, the objectives they didn’t tell you about to begin with.

Mistakes do happen, of course. Sometimes poor communication is the root cause of not meeting expectations. However, when you give a customer what they ask for, and they’re still unhappy, that’s another problem entirely.

When the customer moves the goal post, nobody scores. You have a wasted effort and an unhappy customer on your hands. And if you point out their behavior, you look like you’re making excuses.

Identify these clients early by their shifting expectations and their lack of engagement at check-in meetings.

Their demands early on are often vague and disorganized. It’s nearly impossible to provide great customer service when you don’t know what the customer wants.

4) They Want ALL the Attention

Each customer is different, and some will take more of your time than others. Additionally, it’s reasonable to expect that newer customers will need more hand-holding. However, you need to watch out for customers who take too much time.

If you’re a small business, you may not have the resources to deal with these clients. And even if you do, it doesn’t make sense to spend all your team’s time on one customer. So, how do you identify the attention seekers?

Start with data. Find out which clients are generating the most tickets. Identify how long their interactions take and how many touchpoints they require. Beware of anyone taking more than their fair share.

And talk to your staff. Your employees should feel empowered to tell you when customers are being unreasonable or asking too much. Then document their concerns and act on them when appropriate.

Related: How to Handle Difficult Customers Like a Pro

Avoid communication dead-ends with
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5) They Aren’t Available

While some bad customers are unprofitable because they consume many resources, some cause problems because they don’t speak to you enough.

Consider the client who won’t return your calls or emails. How much time do you waste trying to track them down? Or what about the clients who schedule meetings and ghosts you. That’s an hour of your day you could have spent more productively.

In addition to the time and productivity costs, unresponsive clients also miss out on the value your offering could provide.

For example, a customer who doesn’t show up for their onboarding meetings won’t know how to use your product and won’t be as successful as those who attend.

This can mean higher demands on your customer support team, poor customer success metrics, and higher levels of churn. Sure, we all miss a meeting from time to time. But identify these customers by a pattern of absence and raise the red flag.

6) Bad Customers Aren’t Honest

The customer is always right—wrong. In fact, some deceptive customers may lie to you on purpose. And that’s a big red flag.

Common lies include:

  • Claiming you promised to deliver things you never promised
  • Telling you that another employee made promises
  • They claim to have had a bad customer service experience
  • Making up stories about the actions of your employees
  • Under-representing their needs during the sales process
  • Under-representing their ability to pay

In each of these situations, their dishonesty causes problems for your business. You can trust what they say so you can’t act on it. Plus, their lies can also foster distrust among your team.

If you catch a customer in a lie once, give them the benefit of the doubt. If it becomes a pattern, you should document the behavior. Honesty is in everyone’s best interest.

Related: 21 Tactical Tips to Uncover Real Customer Insights

7) They are Abusive or Threaten Your Staff

Sometimes rudeness or bad behavior is the result of a bad day or a bad week. And that can happen to anyone. What you’re looking for here is a pattern of behavior.

Customer horror stories are everywhere. Watch out for things like this:

  • Egregious personal attacks
  • Aggressive accusations of bad customer service
  • Threats consisting of personal harm or property damage
  • Shaming, especially when others are present

Nobody deserves to be treated like this. You need to act fast to deal with customer threats. Rude or abusive clients put undue stress on you and your staff. If a call rises to the level of abuse, it is best to record calls for further review, or even for law enforcement purposes. (Need automatic call recording in your phone system? Nextiva includes it with their business phone service.)

And stressful work environments can lead to higher levels of staff turnover. Studies show the cost of turnover can run you $15,000 per employee.

A good employer will “foster a great employee experience.”  What’s more, a negative employee experience can affect your employer brand. Things like bad reviews on LinkedIn and similar sites can make it more difficult for you to hire good people going forward.

Any good company wants to provide good customer support. And so they train their teams with the customer service skills to do just that.

A bad customer will take advantage of your kindness and ethical business practices. And they may even accuse you of poor customer service.

Finally, a customer service CRM that
doesn’t your waste time.

8) They Make Unreasonable Demands

Most customers just want their needs to be met. And if you’ve done a good job acquiring customers, you’ll be able to do that, no problem. But some customers will ask for more than you can deliver.

Not all of those customers are bad. In fact, many just don’t clearly understand what you offer. However, a customer crosses the line when they won’t take no for an answer.

Beware of customers requesting numerous revisions above and beyond what was promised. Other common problems include expecting you or your team to be instantly available to them at any moment.  Of course you’ll do your best, but no business can attend to every client every minute of every day.

Unreasonable demands pull resources from loyal customers you can help. And like rude or abusive behaviors, unreasonable demands affect your employee experience.

9) They Complain to Anyone Who Will Listen

Complaints are a normal part of doing business. And with social media, it’s easier than ever for upset customers to make you look bad, too. The cost of a simple tweet can be very high.

According to Moz, a vast majority of customers are influenced by bad reviews.

“Businesses risk losing as many as 22% of customers when just one negative article is found by users considering buying their product. If three negative articles pop up in a search query, the potential for lost customers increases to 59.2%. Have four or more negative articles about your company or product appearing in Google search results? You’re likely to lose 70% of potential customers.”

A chart showing the influence bad customer reviews have on future sales. (Source: Moz)

Clearly, you can’t afford to ignore online reviews. And if those reviews are unfair, their impact goes way beyond one bad customer.

10) They Don’t Listen to You

Customers who don’t take your advice are also bad for business. They’re wasting your time and their money. Plus, they won’t see returns on your services.

For example, if you’re a financial planner, your job is to give your clients sound advice to meet their goals. If the client doesn’t take your recommendations, they run the risk of failing.

And clients who don’t reach their goals are unhappy clients. They may end up blaming you or, worse, giving you a bad review. And they probably won’t use your services in the future.

Additionally, their failures reflect poorly on your business metrics and KPIs. You can’t show off your great stats when customers aren’t successful.

Related: Are You Tracking These 18 Customer Service Metrics?

What should you do with bad customers?

1) Assess Their Value

The costs of customer acquisition are certainly higher than the costs of customer retention. So the question you need to ask is, “What is the value of keeping this customer?”

Here are some key things to consider:

  • Their cost versus their profit. Here’s where you’re going to want solid data. Strong ticketing systems can easily pull up useful metrics like how many tickets a customer generates, how many touchpoints are required, and their invoice history. If they’re costing you more than you’re paying, that’s a red flag.
  • If your bad customer is a high-profile customer, then they may be worth the headaches they cause. Make sure you’re ready to deal with any loss of prestige or social media consequences.
  • What are the consequences of losing this client? You may be in a situation where the risk is too great.

2) Have a Real Conversation

Communication is key. Any change in your relationship is going to have to start with talking to the customer. The goal of this conversation is to move your relationship in the direction you’ve chosen when you assessed the customer value.

  • Be transparent and honest about your concerns.
  • Manage their expectations. Clearly explain what you can and can’t do for them. If you’re keeping them as a client, then make sure they know what to expect going forward.
  • Get on the same page. Make sure you understand their needs and that they align with yours.

3) Refer Them

Sometimes, a bad customer is just a bad fit for your business. In that case, one way to deal with them is to help them find a better fit.

If you know your competition, you’re in a position to suggest someone else. If you do a good job suggesting a good fit, then you make friends in the industry and make a happy customer.

One possible downside is that the company you refer to might not appreciate their business. Don’t refer truly bad customers to anyone whose opinion you value. And if you’re unsure, it doesn’t hurt to ask the other company if they do want the referral.

4) Fire Them

Sometimes the right answer is to walk away.

So, how do you deliver bad news to customers? Gracefully. Here are some tips for moving on with a minimum of fuss:

  • Get the right person to deliver the news. A manager or higher-level employee will have authority. And if the customer has a problem with an employee, definitely keep that person out of the conversation.
  • Be direct. With a clear and direct explanation, you will minimize the likelihood of a misunderstanding.
  • Be decisive. Prior to the call, you made your decision. There should be nothing to sway your decision.
  • Be kind. After all, even the worst customers deserve to be treated with respect. Demonstrate empathy and offer a graceful transition plan out of your business.

5) Don’t Acquire Bad Customers to Begin With!

As the list above suggests, many bad customer relationships stem from mismatches and poor communication and unclear expectations. So, you want customers who are a great fit.

Here are ways to attract better customers who admire your company:

  • Develop a detailed customer persona to help you identify your best customers.
  • Verify all marketing claims for accuracy on your website, blog, social media, and emails.
  • During the sales process, confirm there’s a real demand for your product. Just because someone seems like a good fit at first glance doesn’t mean they are ready to implement it.
  • Ensure all expectations and contracts are crystal-clear from the outset.
  • Don’t sign on new customers you can’t serve. As a business owner, it can be tempting to see any customer as a good customer.
  • Price your services appropriately. High-touch services generally require more financial investment from clients.

Related: 15 Steps to Create a Killer Communication Plan Template

Conclusion

Bad customers may be a fact of life, but there’s plenty you can do to keep a bad experience with them from ruining everything. By identifying those bad apples, you can deal with them effectively.

In many cases, it’s not the customer’s fault per se, but the company shares responsibility in their experience along the way. Recognize and prune unfit customers before they harm your reputation. Likewise, nurture and wow your existing customers so they can’t help but tell others about their experience.

Deliver the ultimate customer experience.
 
Author:

As the SEO & Content Lead at Nextiva, Alina combines her expert skills in content strategy, SEO, conversion optimization, and copywriting to drive more high-intent organic traffic. Top brands she has worked with include Sales Hacker, Outreach.io, and Freshworks.

 

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Marketing + Sales: The customer experience journey

Marketing + Sales: The customer experience journey

Rising customer expectations calls for rising expectations about how marketing and sales work together.
 
The changing CMO-head of sales relationship

The changes we’re seeing are driven by the customer experience. Customers’ expectations have fundamentally changed. They want you to know who they are, what they’ve bought, and what they like. So if you cold call them and don’t have any information about their company and their industry, if you don’t know what they’ve purchased, what they called for service help on, they’re going to hang up on you.

Because customer expectations have changed so much, it’s even more important for sales and marketing to work closer together. Gone are the days when marketing would throw the leads over the wall and say, “Okay, marketing qualified lead. It’s all you, sales.” Now we have to look at the customer journey holistically.

Every single company is trying to build deeper, more meaningful relationships with its customers. What has changed is how we’re doing that. You need to have that single view of the customer that different organizations across the company can share, so that when you’re interacting with that customer, whether it’s online, on the phone, or face-to-face, you know who they are and what they like. You need to think about the personal journeys that you can provide for that customer. If they’ve already purchased one item, what else might they like? What else might they need? In what areas can you add more value?

Transparency and innovation: The foundation for marketing & sales collaboration

In the partnership between marketing and sales, making sure that you have both transparency and visibility for what each is doing is absolutely vital. For example, before, the sales team did not have a ton of visibility into pipeline, campaigns, and budgets. There was always a sense of “What’s marketing up to? Where are they making their investments?” Our philosophy is to be completely transparent, and to show the investments we’re making by segment, by geography, by region, by cloud, by campaign. We’re being completely transparent, both with the investments and the results.

Here’s a great example of an innovative way marketing and sales are working together: Stanley Black & Decker is traditionally a tool company. You’d think, “How can a tool company provide more value to customers?” Well, they’re creating an SOS button right in the wrench. Or if you forget to lock your toolbox, it alerts you via an app. So what used to be a one-time experience when you sold a product becomes a continuing engagement with the customer through their use of that product.

We’re constantly thinking about that customer journey, and a customer doesn’t care whether you work in sales or marketing or service. They just want a common experience with you.

Making sales your customer

I’ve always viewed sales as my customer. So I want to make sure that, from a marketing perspective, we are helping our sales team make their numbers. The ability we now have to track and measure and see the impact we’re having didn’t exist five years ago.

You can, with fine precision, understand if I make bets here, how that impacts here. I think that relationship between sales and marketing is only getting stronger and tighter, and it’s necessitated by having a common experience for the customer. Customers don’t care if you are in sales or marketing or service. They want one touchpoint with you as a company, as a brand.

I talk with my sales team at least once a day, whether by phone, email, or on chatter. We have constant communication, which has helped build a strong relationship between marketing and sales. I encourage all marketers and all CMOs to really think about building bridges with the sales team and viewing your sales team as your customer, so that you can make them successful. Because when you make each other successful, it’s just incredible.

Working with sales to manage the pipeline

We’re constantly looking at the overall sales pipeline and asking, “Are we getting the right types of leads coming in? Are those leads converting into opportunities, and what opportunities are closing?” When you think about marketing’s engagement across the pipeline, it’s not just around the awareness piece. Anytime you have a complex sales cycle with multiple buyers, you’ve got to look at pipe maturation and what marketing can do across those multiple touchpoints.

The relationship with the customer doesn’t end at closing the sale. It’s also about how you serve that customer. When you’re in a business like salesforce.com, which is a subscription-based model, our success is completely predicated on our customer success. Once they buy, we want to make sure our customers are incredibly successful with salesforce.com. It’s a journey that we go through with sales, with marketing, and with the service teams.

The customer relationship is based on delivering value

We believe in permission marketing and that the reason you download apps on your phone is because you’re getting real value from those apps. You’re opting in. You’re giving permission to that company and saying, “Hey, I have a Fitbit. I want you to track how many steps I take. I want you to notify me when I’ve hit 10,000.”

Customers, prospects, and consumers are opting into these apps and these experiences because of the value. You’ve got to be providing real value to them or they won’t be using the app, and they won’t be using your service.

Creating customers for life

Every business is fundamentally thinking about how to create deeper, more meaningful relationships with their customers. We ask, “How do we create brand loyalists?” or “How do we provide more value to our customers so that they continue to want more and buy more?”

Service teams used to be measured on how fast they could get a customer off the phone. That model has completely changed. A customer calling in to your service desk is an amazing opportunity to engage with your customer, to find out what they like, what they don’t like, how you can better serve them, and how you can think about that whole customer journey. It’s really thinking about customers for life and thinking through how you continually add value to that customer across every single touchpoint, across every single organization, across your entire company.

It’s about insights, not data

Every company is transforming itself into a software company. Because if they haven’t already, they won’t be able to really know and understand their customer at every single touchpoint, whether that’s in the store, online socially, or through the web. You need to take all that data and take meaningful action on that data.

With big data, now I can know so much more about my prospects and about my customers. I can get a much better view of their interests. With all that data I can also create more automated, personalized journeys. The challenge is that it’s really not about the data; it’s about the insights that you can derive from that data.

Everything is getting connected through your mobile phone, so this is becoming the dashboard to your life. But what’s important is that behind all these devices, behind all these products, behind all this data, is the most important thing of all, and that’s a customer.

The CMO as an agent of change

If you’re not currently transforming your business, you will be obsolete. And every single CEO, every single company right now is in a state of transformation and is trying to connect with their customers and deepen those relationships. As a CMO, if you’re not an agent of change, if you’re not constantly innovating, if you’re not constantly changing, if you’re not constantly pushing the boundaries, then you’re going to be working at a company that will be obsolete in five to ten years.

We have a philosophy at salesforce.com of better, better, better. Never best. And so everyone in the company is constantly pushing and innovating.

Author:

McKinsey & Company

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Your Success is Our Number 1 Focus.

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7 Essentials of Great Customer Service

7 Essentials of Great Customer Service

The goal of customer service is to transform an unhappy customer into a customer who feels thrilled about how well they were taken care of.

There is no greater value to any corporation than their customer service.

Recently I invested in an expensive treadmill. I paid for its delivery and assembly but it hasn’t work properly from day one. The contracted company who delivered my equipment did nothing more than show up, put it together and leave. I had previously purchased a spin bike from a different company, and when it was delivered their people assembled the bike and walked me through a step-by-step process on how to use the bike and access the live spin classes. Further, they left me with a business card in case I had questions or needed help. When I tried contacting the company about my treadmill, not only did I spend 30-40 min on hold, but once I got to speak to someone live, they suggested I contact another branch of their company that deals with the subscription package of workouts before they would help me. I spent another 30-40 min on hold for the subscription branch only to have them tell me to contact the original branch I had just hung up with.

To add to my frustration, their business hours are Eastern Standard Time, and I am Pacific Standard Time. My workday and their available hours made it very difficult to call and find a solution, but they did not offer any available weekend hours. This experience showed what a clear difference customer service makes for the customer. It is obvious to a customer when they are the priority and when they are not by how they are handled when things go wrong.

1. Great customer service is caring.

Great customer service comes down to caring. Not only should the corporation care about the quality of their products, but should care even more-so about customer satisfaction. Companies should take the time to ensure the customer is delivered a product that works, and that the customer understands how to use and operate their product. Companies who pride themselves on great customer service take great value in creating referrals. To ensure this possibility, they make themselves available to their customers for any questions, repairs and or concerns, and if necessary offer to replace, compensate or refund what isn’t working. The customer should never feel dismissed, “put out,” and frustrated by long wait times on the phone, no access to help during weekend hours, or being transferred from one place to the next at each effort put toward resolving their problem.

2. Passion

Passion is the foundation of great customer service people and their organizations. Customer service is the “it” factor. It is passion which separates those individuals and organizations who excel from those who offer the customer the bare minimum to get by. When a company is passionate about what they do, they have no desire to treat customers as impersonal objects that don’t matter. When passion is present, corporations push the extra mile to ensure high-quality products and customer satisfaction. Passion in service, makes the act of serving the reward for companies who value their customers. When a corporation responds to customer complaints dismissiviely or totally ignores them all together, money is the only important commodity to that corporation. This is immediately clear to the customer.

3. Communication

Solid communication is crucial when it comes to customer service. Communication requires effort, flexibility and a tremendous amount of patience and self-control on the part of the customer service agent. The customer, in most cases, should be treated as correct. And, customers are wrong sometimes as well. However, to be successful with customer service, a corporation must train their employees in how to calm down and problem solve for rightfully frustrated and disgruntled customer. Because the customer is feeling duped, they will often become demanding and impatient. If a corporation is to be demonstrative about the motto they promote around valuing their customers, these trespasses with customers will be handled with openness, flexibly and geared toward a solution that benefits the customer. Dissatisfied customers are expecting solutions, which is where good communication comes in. Customers must be left feeling that whatever is being done to resolve the problem is being put into action now.

4. Willingness

The customer who is expressing a lack of satisfaction doesn’t become a more pleasant person when met with automated systems with unreasonable hold times, and one transfer after another once they have finally gotten someone live on the phone. Customers must be met with another human being who is willing and there to help. People are busy. Customers are also in careers and do not have time to waste on the phone. Human to human conversation, 24/7 technical support, on-line chats, and weekend hours are essential for great customer care. When a product is delivered, the company should set their product up to ensure it’s working before they leave and the customer has no access to getting the help they need. The types of corporations who do anything less than this clearly lack in their ethics, integrity and in taking the kind of care of their customers that the customer paid for.

5. Service minded

Corporations that value customer service don’t just enforce procedures and shout instructions to their customers as an approach to problem solving. It is the responsibility of each corporation to develop a culture of service and to see the undeniable value of serving those who purchase their products. Customer service agents must be trained to not be antagonistic toward displeased customers, but rather, to hold the mindset to serve the customer’s need in any way possible to remedy the problem. Customer service isn’t a policy, it should be valued as an individual and organizational mission that proves to represent what the corporation stands for. Without impeccable service, a corporation lacks in its own quality.

6. No extra fees

Never should a corporation deliver a malfunctioning piece of equipment, especially when assembly was paid for by the customer, and turn around and charge storage, packing, or return fees to the customer who never had a working product to begin with. Running this type of operation is not only corrupt and unethical, but shameful. The customer should not be punished with extra charges for something they did not cause. Great customer service should be based on replenishing, fixing and helping, not dropping off a product and washing their hands of responsibility.

7. Repeat customers

Customer service should not be solely focused on taking care of customers. Effective customer service must also be largely geared toward a good reputation and the desire for repeat customers. For this reason, it is vital corporations focus on who their customers are, what the need-base is and how they can best serve them. In my situation, I would have thought someone who purchases an expensive piece of exercise equipment would be viewed as a motivated and hard-working person. This is not a person you want to leave unsatisfied. The goal of customer service is to transform an unhappy customer into a customer who feels thrilled about how well they were taken care of when they reached for out for assistance. When this type of trust is present, customers will not only return again to purchase more products, but are more than willing to refer the corporation and their stellar customer care to everyone they know who is interested in this type of purchase.

Author:

Entrepreneur

Sherrie Campbell
Psychologist, Author, Speaker

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Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers

Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers

The idea that companies must “delight” their customers has become so entrenched that managers rarely examine it. But ask yourself this: How often does someone patronize a company specifically because of its over-the-top service? You can probably think of a few examples, such as the traveler who makes a point of returning to a hotel that has a particularly attentive staff. But you probably can’t come up with many.

Now ask yourself: How often do consumers cut companies loose because of terrible service? All the time. They exact revenge on airlines that lose their bags, cable providers whose technicians keep them waiting, cellular companies whose reps put them on permanent hold, and dry cleaners who don’t understand what “rush order” means.

Consumers’ impulse to punish bad service—at least more readily than to reward delightful service—plays out dramatically in both phone-based and self-service interactions, which are most companies’ largest customer service channels. In those settings, our research shows, loyalty has a lot more to do with how well companies deliver on their basic, even plain-vanilla promises than on how dazzling the service experience might be. Yet most companies have failed to realize this and pay dearly in terms of wasted investments and lost customers.

To examine the links between customer service and loyalty, the Customer Contact Council, a division of the Corporate Executive Board, conducted a study of more than 75,000 people who had interacted over the phone with contact-center representatives or through self-service channels such as the web, voice prompts, chat, and e-mail. We also held hundreds of structured interviews with customer service leaders and their functional counterparts in large companies throughout the world. (For more detail, see the sidebar “About the Research.”) Our research addressed three questions:

  • How important is customer service to loyalty?
  • Which customer service activities increase loyalty, and which don’t?
  • Can companies increase loyalty without raising their customer service operating costs?

Two critical findings emerged that should affect every company’s customer service strategy. First, delighting customers doesn’t build loyalty; reducing their effort—the work they must do to get their problem solved—does. Second, acting deliberately on this insight can help improve customer service, reduce customer service costs, and decrease customer churn.

Trying Too Hard

According to conventional wisdom, customers are more loyal to firms that go above and beyond. But our research shows that exceeding their expectations during service interactions (for example, by offering a refund, a free product, or a free service such as expedited shipping) makes customers only marginally more loyal than simply meeting their needs.

For leaders who cut their teeth in the service department, this is an alarming finding. What contact center doesn’t have a wall plastered with letters and e-mails from customers praising the extra work that service reps went to on their behalf? Indeed, 89 of the 100 customer service heads we surveyed said that their main strategy is to exceed expectations. But despite these Herculean—and costly—efforts, 84% of customers told us that their expectations had not been exceeded during their most recent interaction.

One reason for the focus on exceeding expectations is that fully 80% of customer service organizations use customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores as the primary metric for gauging the customer’s experience. And managers often assume that the more satisfied customers are, the more loyal they will be. But, like others before us (most notably Fred Reichheld), we find little relationship between satisfaction and loyalty. Twenty percent of the “satisfied” customers in our study said they intended to leave the company in question; 28% of the “dissatisfied” customers intended to stay.

The picture gets bleaker still. Although customer service can do little to increase loyalty, it can (and typically does) do a great deal to undermine it. Customers are four times more likely to leave a service interaction disloyal than loyal.

Another way to think about the sources of customer loyalty is to imagine two pies—one containing things that drive loyalty and the other containing things that drive disloyalty. The loyalty pie consists largely of slices such as product quality and brand; the slice for service is quite small. But service accounts for most of the disloyalty pie. We buy from a company because it delivers quality products, great value, or a compelling brand. We leave one, more often than not, because it fails to deliver on customer service.

Make It Easy

Let’s return to the key implication of our research: When it comes to service, companies create loyal customers primarily by helping them solve their problems quickly and easily. Armed with this understanding, we can fundamentally change the emphasis of customer service interactions. Framing the service challenge in terms of making it easy for the customer can be highly illuminating, even liberating, especially for companies that have been struggling to delight. Telling frontline reps to exceed customers’ expectations is apt to yield confusion, wasted time and effort, and costly giveaways. Telling them to “make it easy” gives them a solid foundation for action.

Telling reps to exceed customers’ expectations is apt to yield confusion, wasted time and effort, and costly giveaways.

What exactly does “make it easy” mean? Simply: Remove obstacles. We identified several recurring complaints about service interactions, including three that focus specifically on customer effort. Customers resent having to contact the company repeatedly (or be transferred) to get an issue resolved, having to repeat information, and having to switch from one service channel to another (for instance, needing to call after trying unsuccessfully to solve a problem through the website). Well over half the customers we surveyed reported encountering difficulties of this sort. Companies can reduce these types of effort and measure the effects with a new metric, the Customer Effort Score (CES), which assigns ratings from 1 to 5, with 5 representing very high effort. (For details, see the sidebar “Introducing the Customer Effort Score.”)

During our study, we saw many companies that had successfully implemented low-customer-effort approaches to service. Following are five of the tactics they used—tactics that every company should adopt.

1. Don’t just resolve the current issue—head off the next one.

By far the biggest cause of excessive customer effort is the need to call back. Many companies believe they’re performing well in this regard, because they have strong first-contact-resolution (FCR) scores. (See the sidebar “What Should You Measure?”) However, 22% of repeat calls involve downstream issues related to the problem that prompted the original call, even if that problem itself was adequately addressed the first time around. Although companies are well equipped to anticipate and “forward-resolve” these issues, they rarely do so, generally because they’re overly focused on managing call time. They need to realize that customers gauge the effort they expend not just in terms of how an individual call is handled but also according to how the company manages evolving service events, such as taking out a mortgage or setting up cable service, that typically require several calls.

Bell Canada met this challenge by mining its customer interaction data to understand the relationships among various customer issues. Using what it learned about “event clusters,” Bell began training its reps not only to resolve the customer’s primary issue but also to anticipate and address common downstream issues. For instance, a high percentage of customers who ordered a particular feature called back for instructions on using it. The company’s service reps now give a quick tutorial to customers about key aspects of the feature before hanging up. This sort of forward resolution enabled Bell to reduce its “calls per event” by 16% and its customer churn by 6%. For complex downstream issues that would take excessive time to address in the initial call, the company sends follow-up e-mails—for example, explaining how to interpret the first billing statement. Bell Canada is currently weaving this issue-prediction approach into the call-routing experience for the customer.

Fidelity uses a similar concept on its self-service website, offering “suggested next steps” to customers executing certain transactions. Often customers who change their address online call later to order new checks or ask about homeowners’ or renters’ insurance; therefore, Fidelity directs them to these topics before they leave the site. Twenty-five percent of all self-service transactions on Fidelity’s website are now generated by similar “next issue” prompts, and calls per household have dropped by 5% since the policy began.

2. Arm reps to address the emotional side of customer interactions.

Twenty-four percent of the repeat calls in our study stemmed from emotional disconnects between customers and reps—situations in which, for instance, the customer didn’t trust the rep’s information or didn’t like the answer given and had the impression that the rep was just hiding behind general company policy. With some basic instruction, reps can eliminate many interpersonal issues and thereby reduce repeat calls.

One UK-based mortgage company teaches its reps how to listen for clues to a customer’s personality type. They quickly assess whether they are talking to a “controller,” a “thinker,” a “feeler,” or an “entertainer,” and tailor their responses accordingly, offering the customer the balance of detail and speed appropriate for the personality type diagnosed. This strategy has reduced repeat calls by a remarkable 40%.

One company teaches its reps how to listen for clues to a customer’s personality type and tailor their responses accordingly.

The lighting company Osram Sylvania sifts through its call transcripts to pinpoint words that tend to trigger negative reactions and drive repeat calls—words like “can’t,” “won’t,” and “don’t”—and coaches its reps on alternate phrasing. Instead of saying “We don’t have that item in stock,” a rep might explain, “We’ll have stock availability for that item in two weeks.” Through such simple changes in language, Osram Sylvania has lowered its Customer Effort Score from 2.8 to 2.2—18.5% below the average we see for B2B companies.

LoyaltyOne, the operator of the AIR MILES reward program, teaches reps to probe for information they can use to better position potentially disappointing outcomes. A rep dealing with a customer who wants to redeem miles for an unavailable flight might learn that the caller is traveling to an important business meeting and use this fact to put a positive spin on the need to book a different flight. The rep might say, “It sounds like this is something you can’t be late for. The Monday morning flight isn’t available, but with potential delays, you’d be cutting it close anyway. I’d recommend a Sunday evening flight so that you don’t risk missing your meeting.” This strategy has resulted in an 11% decrease in repeat contacts.

3. Minimize channel switching by increasing self-service channel “stickiness.”

Many companies ask, “How can we get our customers to go to our self-service website?” Our research shows that in fact many customers have already been there: Fifty-seven percent of inbound calls came from customers who went to the website first. Despite their desire to have customers turn to the web, companies tend to resist making improvements to their sites, assuming that only heavy spending and technology upgrades will induce customers to stay there. (And even when costly upgrades are made, they often prove counterproductive, because companies tend to add complicated and confusing features in an attempt to keep up with their competitors.)

Customers may become overwhelmed by the profusion of self-service channels—interactive voice response, websites, e-mail, chat, online support communities, social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and so on—and often lack the ability to make the best choice for themselves. For example, technically unsophisticated users, left to their own devices, may go to highly technical online support communities. As a result, customers may expend a lot of effort bouncing between channels, only to pick up the phone in the end.

Cisco Consumer Products now guides customers to the channel it determines will suit them best, on the basis of segment-specific hypotheses generated by the company’s customer experience team. Language on the site’s home page nudges technology gurus toward the online support community; those with less technical expertise are steered toward knowledge articles by the promise of simple step-by-step instructions. The company eliminated the e-mail option, having found that it didn’t reliably reduce customer effort. (Our research shows that 2.4 e-mails, on average, are needed to resolve an issue, compared with 1.7 calls.) When Cisco Consumer Products began this program, in 2006, only 30% of its customer contacts were handled through self-service; the figure today is 84%, and the volume of calls has dropped accordingly.

Travelocity reduced customer effort just by improving the help section of its website. It had learned that many customers who sought solutions there were stymied and resorted to the phone. By eliminating jargon, simplifying the layout, and otherwise improving readability, the company doubled the use of its “top searches” and decreased calls by 5%.

4. Use feedback from disgruntled or struggling customers to reduce customer effort.

Many companies conduct postcall surveys to measure internal performance; however, they may neglect to use the data they collect to learn from unhappy customers. But consider National Australia Group’s approach. The company has frontline reps specifically trained to call customers who have given it low marks. The reps focus first on resolving the customers’ issues, but they also collect feedback that informs service improvements. The company’s issue-resolution rate has risen by 31%.

Such learning and intervention isn’t limited to the phone channel. Some companies monitor online behavior in order to identify customers who are struggling. EarthLink has a dedicated team of reps who step in as needed with clients on its self-service website—for example, by initiating a chat with a customer who has spent more than 90 seconds in the knowledge center or clicked on the “Contact Us” link. This program has reduced calls by 8%.

5. Empower the front line to deliver a low-effort experience.

Incentive systems that value speed over quality may pose the single greatest barrier to reducing customer effort. Most customer service organizations still emphasize productivity metrics such as average handle time when assessing rep performance. They would be better off removing the productivity “governors” that get in the way of making the customer’s experience easy.

An Australian telecommunications provider eliminated all productivity metrics from its frontline reps’ performance scorecards. Although handle time increased slightly, repeat calls fell by 58%. Today the company evaluates its reps solely on the basis of short, direct interviews with customers, essentially asking them if the service they received met their needs.

Freed to focus on reducing customer effort, frontline reps can easily pick low-hanging fruit. Ameriprise Financial, for example, asks its customer service reps to capture every instance in which they are forced to tell a customer no. While auditing the “no’s,” the company found many legacy policies that had been outmoded by regulatory changes or system or process improvements. During its first year of “capturing the no’s,” Ameriprise modified or eliminated 26 policies. It has since expanded the program by asking frontline reps to come up with other process efficiencies, generating $1.2 million in savings as a result.

Some companies have gone even further, making low customer effort the cornerstone of their service value proposition and branding. South Africa’s Nedbank, for instance, instituted an “AskOnce” promise, which guarantees that the rep who picks up the phone will own the customer’s issue from start to finish.

The immediate mission is clear: Corporate leaders must focus their service organizations on mitigating disloyalty by reducing customer effort. But service managers fretting about how to reengineer their contact centers—departments built on a foundation of delighting the customer—should consider this: A massive shift is under way in terms of customers’ service preferences. Although most companies believe that customers overwhelmingly prefer live phone service to self-service, our most recent data show that customers are, in fact, indifferent. This is an important tipping point and probably presages the end of phone-based service as the primary channel for customer service interactions. For enterprising service managers, it presents an opportunity to rebuild their organizations around self-service and, in the process, to put reducing customer effort firmly at the core, where it belongs.

About The Author:
Harvard Business News

Matthew Dixon is Chief Product & Research Officer at Tethr and is co-author of The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty (Portfolio, 2013).


Karen Freeman is managing director at Corporate Executive Board.


Nicholas Toman is the practice leader of CEB’s sales practice. He is a coauthor (with Brent Adamson, Matthew Dixon, and Pat Spenner) of The Challenger Customer: Selling to the Hidden Influencer Who Can Multiply Your Results.

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Telephone Greetings That Customers, Prospects, And Employees Love- Three Easy Steps To Success

Telephone Greetings That Customers, Prospects, And Employees Love- Three Easy Steps To Success

Talk about first impressions; telephone greetings are critical. Prospects are deciding whether or not to do business with you. Irate customers are deciding how helpful and competent you are. Yet many companies convolute the telephone greeting to the point that employees hate saying it and customers and prospects dread listening to it. There is power in simplicity. For best results, incorporate three easy elements: pleasantry, brevity, and sincerity.

Pleasantry
A pleasant greeting is essential to a successful call because it sets the stage emotionally. In general, listeners tend to mirror or “catch” the emotional states of speakers. This is a principle of communication that holds true whether one is speaking to a group of 1000, a small meeting of 10, or a single customer over the telephone. In other words, people respond in kind. If we answer the phone gruffly, chances are the caller will become gruff. If we answer the phone pleasantly, chances are the caller will be pleasant, and we all know which caller is easier to work with.

Imagine you are a customer calling a place of business. The professional on the other end of the phone sounds irritated. What is your response to a greeting like that? When I’m a customer, my response tends to be irritation. I start thinking to myself, “Well, you think you’re irritated now? Wait until you get finished with me, then you’ll know what irritation is!” I wasn’t even irritated when I called the company. I simply caught the professional’s irritation.

I’ve had the opposite experience as a customer too. I am irritated, highly irritated. I really want to let somebody have it. I call the company, but the person who answers the phone is so nice and professional I can’t bring myself to yell at them. I hate when that happens. This time I’ve caught their professionalism.

One of the easiest ways to attain an emotional state quickly, like being pleasant, is to use body language. Research conducted by John Grinder and Richard Bandler suggests that body language helps create emotional states. If we carry ourselves with slumped shoulders, frowning face, bowed head, averted eyes, and shallow breathing, we will probably feel depressed. If we smile, breath deeply, pull our shoulders back, and look straight ahead, we will probably feel good. How do you carry yourself all day at work?

I recommend that professionals establish a ritual before answering the phone. In order to sound pleasant, we need to be carrying ourselves accordingly. My ritual is to sit up on the edge of my seat, pull shoulders back, take a deep breath, smile, let the phone ring twice, then answer. I never answer my phone unless I’ve gone through my ritual. My business is too important. Sometimes I’ll even stand before I answer the phone if I need an extra jolt of energy. Stand on your head. Do jumping jacks. Do whatever is necessary to attain a pleasant state before answering the phone. (Within limits of course.)

Sincerity
No scripts. I am against scripting greetings because they sound insincere, irritate callers, and discourage employees. Scripted greetings usually include some kind of slogan. “Hello. It’s a beautiful day here at the XYZ Company.” Now I don’t care where you work. It can’t be that good all day. At some point saying, “It’s a beautiful day…” is going to be a stretch or insincere. The other risk is that the caller is irate. An employee from a furniture company confided to me that she hated answering the phone, “It’s a beautiful day…” because irate callers would snap back, “Well it’s not a beautiful day where I am and get over here and fix this thing!” Is it any wonder why employees and customers hate scripted greetings?

You want the greeting to be natural, which also makes it easier to sound pleasant consistently. The key elements of a telephone greeting are: department or company name, your name, an offer of assistance. An example of a switchboard greeting might sound like this, “XYZ Company, this is Bob. How may I direct your call?” A greeting from someone in the accounting department might sound like this, “Accounting, this is Bob. How may I help you?”

State the company or department name so that customers and prospects know they are in the right place. How many times have you been five minutes into a call only to realize the caller would be better served in another department? Always state your name because it is a sign of authority. Stating your name implies that you are accountable. It also creates a personal touch. Lastly, end with a question that expresses your desire to serve the caller.

Brevity
Keep it short. I have heard telephone greetings that are so long, I feared the person answering the phone was going to hyperventilate and go into cardiac arrest trying to get it out in one breath. Excessively long greetings are unprofessional for many reasons. They don’t sound pleasant or sincere because technically they are impossible to execute. Employees hate them and those feelings come through. Callers hate them because they waste their time. Fortunately, by following the guidelines above brevity is assured.

Summary
Telephone greetings are a powerful part of doing business. To be successful, keep greetings simple. Practice a ritual to be pleasant. Remain unscripted. Be brief.

Author:

About Mary Sandro

Mary Sandro helps organizations deliver exceptional customer service and standout presentations. In 1994 she founded ProEdge Skills, Inc. to deliver engaging training programs, videos, coaching, and train-the-trainer licenses that empower employees to achieve goals. Learn more at www.ProEdgeSkills.com or call 800-731-0601.

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How to Establish a Good Customer Service as a Real Estate Agent

How to Establish a Good Customer Service as a Real Estate Agent

Establishing good customer service is important in almost every field, but when talking about real estate, the significant increases. Real estate offers its clients to buy and sell properties and generate profit through the processes involved. Agents and brokers gain their share of profit by providing services in real estate transactions.

In real estate, agents must provide an empathetic and helpful service to their customers to retain good relationships with clients.

The following are some tactics to build outstanding customer relations, creating loyal customers and establishing brand goodwill.

Quick response

Timely response creates a sense of responsibility from your side. If you want to help with managing customer relationships, then investing in a good CRM (Customer Relationship Management) will be required to respond to them quickly. Quick response makes aspirants feel comfortable in discussing their needs with their clients. Customers feel secure and safe when their client is there for them in time of need. They think they can get back to their service provider whenever there is a problem and it creates a connection that may turn into loyalty in the future.

Anticipating client need

Good real estate agents always know what their customers may need. Anticipating their needs helps in building better relationships with them and customers feel more accepted. Every customer is different and they need services according to their demand. Perceiving their requirements timely helps in providing customers, their desired outcomes.

A good real estate agent can foresee what their customer needs and cite them even before asking out. A professional real estate agent doesn’t wait or expect customers to say what they want. He already has everything on a plate.

Give information to clients

A client has every right to know about the details of their future agreements and transactions. Knowing how the process works or what can be possibilities, alternatives, or choices that they might extract through deals make customers feel more empowered and less confused.

Giving them the opportunities to know how they can benefit from the technicalities that are not commonly known otherwise retain customers making them loyal towards your services.

Make business easy for your clients

In real estate, customers buy, sell or move along the properties on a moment’s notice. If you could provide ease to your customers, like making business easier through online payments, offering them automatic reminders to ensure on-time payments and making it simple and user friendly for them then you will see a noticeable rise in customer loyalty and retention. Be a click away for your customers. The more they can reach you, the more they will be in number. 

Build a strong connection with your customers

Despite getting very personal with your customers is not at all recommended, but some nice gestures like sending them birthday cards or wishing them on occasions help in building a strong bond with your customers. Your customers feel more valued and these little doings can turn your potential customers into your loyal clients.

Patience is a key 

To establish good customer service as a real estate agent, always be patient with your clients. A little showdown with patience can affect customer satisfaction and loyalty extensively. As a real estate company, when providing them with service agents, try to fill their form patiently. It’s better to leave a position unfilled rather than scooting to hire someone incompatible. Normally speaking, client excellence is most fully attained once you become an expert at recruiting, selecting, training, evaluating and consolidating the measures of service personnel.

Try to make your time count with customers

Your customers always remember what you said, so try to make your time count. Interact carefully and tactfully with your customers as they are going to remember everything you said. Avoid making false promises and providing them with wrong information. It can have an adverse effect on customer allegiance later on if they found out they were misled by you.

Be competitive

Customers always choose for themselves based on what they think is best. You need to be competitive enough to gain more loyal customers. Analyze and compare your services with what your competitors are offering. Try to raise your bars by offering better. Some good marketers will also add up your value. Remember, if your customer thinks you are the best in the market, then undoubtedly you are the best. Embrace it!

Customer relationship management has its significance and must never be ignored while dealing with clients. No company can achieve customer loyalty without providing them satisfaction and these little tips can help you in eliciting more satisfied customers.

Author:

Mihai Cristea

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4 Lessons in Customer Service From the Real Estate Industry

4 Lessons in Customer Service From the Real Estate Industry

Interact with a few successful real estate agents and you’ll discover one consistent thread between them: they’re all skilled at customer service. As someone who works in another profession, there are a number of lessons you can learn by studying how they handle this important aspect of business.

4 Customer Service Lessons You Must Learn

 

It doesn’t matter your industry – you’d do well to spend a day riding around with a top real estate agent in your market. Simply being a fly on the wall will give you a chance to see how they treat their clients, as well as how their treatment positively influences their business. Here are a few of the lessons you’d likely discover:

1. Always Pick Up the Phone

A real estate agent’s phone rings all day, every day. As tempting as it may be to ignore a call, leading agents make a point to pick up the phone as much as they possibly can. Having a real person answer the phone speaks volumes and ensures a positive relationship.

Even if you can’t personally answer the phone every time someone calls your business, you should have someone who can. An automated answering system might save you a little bit of time, but it removes some of that personal touch your customers want. Even if you have to pay an hourly employee to sit by the phone, it’s worth every penny.

2. Provide Specialized Content

It’s impossible to provide outstanding customer service in today’s business world without having some sort of online presence. Furthermore, you need more than a basic website. You need to supply your customers with specialized content that answers questions and provides tangible value.

Check out agent Michael Flynn’s website as an example of what it looks like to provide specialized content. Notice how all of his content is centered on Pierce County, Washington – his target market. The specialized nature of his content keeps his clients coming back for more.

Can you provide specialized content to your clients? Instead of location-specific, your content may be pain point-specific or price point-specific. Whatever your customers want, that’s what you need to provide.

 

3. Let Empathy Guide Decision Making

It’s easy to get cynical when you’re dealing with emotional people all day every day. Successful real estate agents know this better than anyone, yet they tend to be the most empathetic people around. Regardless of how many times they’ve dealt with the same issue in the past, leading agents are willing and able to put themselves in the shoes of their clients.

Being empathetic doesn’t make you weak. Instead, it helps you connect with your customers. Even if you feel like the customer is wrong, you need to think about the situation from their perspective.

“Studies have shown that people judge an experience based on its most intense point and its end. In customer service, that means ending each interaction on a high note so customers come away feeling great. That may mean solving the problem, it may not,” entrepreneur Gareth Goh says. “I have personally had experiences where the service rep was unable to accommodate my request, but I still came away with a good feeling because I know she did everything she could and she genuinely cared about helping.”

4. Be Patient

Patience is huge in customer service. Real estate agents – especially those who work in residential real estate – have to be super patient. There’s no purchase decision that’s more emotionally charged than buying a house. As tempting as it is to say something like “make up your mind already,” agents patiently and carefully walk through the decision making process with their clients.

In your own business, there’s tremendous value in being patient with your customers. While it takes some discipline on your part, patience ultimately fosters a stronger connection between you and your clients. It also makes them feel cared for and understood – something that’s especially important in service-based businesses. This is probably something you’ll have to continually work at in order to eventually master, but the benefits far outweigh the inputs.

Prioritize Customer Service

Did you know that 81 percent of companies that deliver excellent customer service outperform their direct competition? In other words, if you commit to providing outstanding customer service, you’re going to see results.

 

A real estate agent stands no chance of being successful if he doesn’t place a heavy emphasis on customer service. Keeping clients happy and engaged is half the battle. Whether you’re in retail, ecommerce, a service-based business, or anything in between, learning how to master customer service will all but guarantee growth. Now’s the time to refocus your attention.

Author:

CustomerThink

Larry Alton
Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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4 Keys to Acting With Empathy in Customer Service

4 Keys to Acting With Empathy in Customer Service

4 Keys to Acting With Empathy in Customer Service

 

What is empathy? It is something as simple but important as the ability to put ourselves in other people’s shoes. In the field of customer service, practicing empathy is vital to the success of our business and the image generated by our brand to the general public.

These are the 4 keys to acting with empathy:

1. Discovering what the customer actually wants

Customer services are used to assisting hundreds of customers every day. Among so many requests, it is very common to find a customer who sounds quite annoyed, and their protests may be concealing their real needs. Taking notes and acting with empathy is the key to finding the solution.

Thinking like that customer will help us analyze, first, what has happened. Writing it down will be useful to enunciate a solution which will solve the doubts and problems we are being asked about. “This is what has happened, and you want this”, i.e., to really find out what the customer wants, above the tone of anger or reproach we are listening to. We must understand that they are at a moment when they are feeling upset with the service. As soon as we act with empathy, they will cease to be and change their perception.

2. Considering what customers know and what they do not

A good way to find out what the customer wants is to ask oneself what they know and what they do not know. Many times we can take it for granted that the users we are assisting know the procedure or product as well as we do, but most times that is not the case.

That is why you have to ask yourself the question: “what information do they have, what information are they lacking?” Only then will we be able to know their real situation and provide them with a solution.

3. Showing we want to help

What is empathy? The most important thing for a customer is to know they are being listened to and that their customer service is willing to help. Listening is the only way to find out what is happening to them and gather the necessary information to give our customer a logical answer.

The fact of listening and our willingness to provide solutions to the user, is in itself a process that requires empathy.

Take a look to these 7 Customer Service Skills That Your Employees Must Know

4. Practicing empathy in any form

Do not think that empathy can only be “used” face to face or by telephone. Actually, we can also practice it via email, chat, or support sites (helpdesk).

What is empathy? The tone of voice is important but it is not everything: we can also choose the right words if we are communicating with customers in writing. Showing that the problem posed by the consumer has a solution is what makes possible the connection between the user and our organization. It is therefore important that we care to be empathetic at all times, especially in difficult situations (it is easy is to act with empathy when everything goes smoothly).

And you, what are your keys to acting with empathy with your customers?

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5 “Golden Rules” of Excellent Real Estate Customer Service

5 "Golden Rules" of Excellent Real Estate Customer Service

photodune-267921-thank-you-note-coffee-s“I’m never too busy for your referrals!” This popular tagline is front and center in countless real estate agent email signatures.  Though I agree it doesn’t hurt to remind clients to recommend you to their friends and family, referrals should be a natural outcome of providing excellent service and a job well done. When you provide a great customer experience, people can’t help but boast about you!

As a customer service manager, I analyze how I am treated during interactions with vendors (both in personal and professional settings) and use my experiences to motivate my own behavior and guidance on how customers should be treated. I draw from THE Golden Rule we are all taught as children: Treat others as you would like to be treated. The easiest way to learn how to provide great service is to act like a customer, an especially critical thing to remember when you’re working in an industry where emotions and stakes are always running high.

I recommend everyone in a customer-oriented position follow this practice. Become aware of what a great customer experience feels like and use that insight to identify what it takes to create that experience. I used my experiences to develop 5 “Golden Rules” that you can use to build a pipeline of lifelong customers.

  1. Let empathy be your guide:

    Having empathy means having the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand what that person is feeling. No matter the circumstances (first time buyer, investor, downsizer, re-locator) a real estate transaction is a big deal and it’s always personal. Whether you have to deliver bad news or you feel like a client is being a pest, take a step back and put yourself in their shoes. Empathy not only helps you to relate to your clients, but feeling empathetic will also help guide your ability to communicate, problem-solve, react and at the very least make the customer feel understood.

  2. Be engaged & responsive:

    Clients expect immediate follow up (which makes lead nurturing software like Zurple great, especially for new leads). In real estate, you aren’t treated like an organization with business hours – you will get calls and emails after hours and on weekends.

    The key isn’t necessarily being available to answer emails at 1am (work/life balance is a great topic for another day). Instead, the key is reacting in a timely manner – and if you don’t have all the answers don’t leave your customer hanging. Keep them updated and try to give accurate timeframes whenever possible. Make it a priority to follow through when you say you will.

  3. Remember abc – always be communicative:

    Good, clear communication is highly underrated in a high speed world of “lol” and “omg”. How you communicate and how well you communicate will leave a strong impression on a client. Taking time to construct a thoughtful, well-written email or calling instead of texting for more important discussions will give your client great comfort that they are in good hands.

  1. Go the extra mile:

    Give your clients a “wow” moment whenever possible – and keep in mind that wow moments don’t have to be complicated. They can be as simple as providing additional information that was not requested. Think beyond the stated question and seek the implied follow up question – so when your client asks “what are the HOAs at this condo?” don’t just provide the HOAs for that one unit. Follow up with more information – maybe some comparable condos where HOAs are lower and ask questions about what amenities are important to them so you can guide their search.

     

  1. Show your appreciation:

    You are nothing without your customers so be sure to show them how much you care. Make sure your clients feel appreciated for choosing to work with you. Many agents do this with a closing gift (already a great concept), but rather than going the generic route, choose something meaningful. We compiled a list of a few ideas here.

    A handwritten “thank you” note makes a great impression too. To show true appreciation let them know why you enjoyed working with them (i.e. were they patient, funny, knowledgeable, easy-going?). Also try sending them a note or give them a call to wish them a “Happy Anniversary” to celebrate the date they closed or moved in. There are countless ways to make people feel special but these small acts of kindness can go a long way in building personal connections with your clients.

Empathy may sound easy, but if you are having a bad day it can be difficult to see someone else’s perspective. It’s easy to have a great idea for a closing gift but it takes effort to make the purchase. It’s easy to find out the HOA fees on that condo but it takes enterprise to dig deeper. Real estate is all about relationships and the strongest relationships take effort.

Providing great real estate customer service is an incredible way to build trust and loyalty. Apply these “Golden Rules” diligently to wow your clients and increase referral business.

Author

Zurple

by Michelle Salatto

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