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This week we feature an article by John Boccuzzi Jr. who argues that digital transformation is bringing customer experience to an entirely different level. – Shep Hyken

If you had walked into a bank, clothing store or small local grocer 50 years ago, you likely would have found the manager or even the owner greeting you at the door, and the clerks may have called you by name and asked after your spouse and children. Communities were smaller, shopping was local, and technology wasn’t there to either help or confuse the customer. Some might say it was a simpler time with a more personal touch, and in some ways they would be right.

However, I would argue that digital transformation is bringing customer experience to an entirely different level. Customers are really looking for “any channel” access to their favorite brands; one day they hit the brick and mortar, and the next day they access the app from their phone. That same small business of 50 years ago can now attract new customers both locally and globally and can keep in touch with loyal customers through several channels.

By the end of 2019, 2.7 billion* people will carry a smart phone that allows them to order anything, anytime, from just about anywhere.

Loved that special ice wine you enjoyed on vacation last year? Good news: order it online today and it will arrive in time for that dinner party on Friday. All this progress requires businesses to provide an “always on, always available” customer experience.

Brick and mortar shopping isn’t going away, it’s evolving to meet the needs of the digital customer who wants options to shop local and global. Today’s customer is more informed and fully expects an increasingly personalized service, despite the fact that most of their shopping is virtual. Every aspect of a customer’s interaction with a company, product, or service affects the user’s perception and loyalty; by harnessing new technologies, cutting-edge companies are changing – and improving – the way they approach customer and user experience. Lowe’s, for example, is using artificial intelligence to track in-store inventory, and “Lowebots” are helping customers navigate the store and tracking items for restocking.

The options are endless; the key is picking the ones that are the best fit for a specific business’ customer. Some businesses fall in love with a new technology before they know if it’s something their customers need or want; instead, successful businesses focus on their customers’ entire experience, then look for ways digital solutions can streamline and enhance that customer experience. This is what Carnival Cruise Lines did when they developed the Medallion fleet, a fully customized travel experience that connects passengers to the ship with small, wearable tokens. Carnival Medallions access passengers’ data stored in the cloud, so everything from their name, cabin number, passport information and on-board charges is instantly available, powering faster check-in and boarding and an easier, more efficient experience throughout the cruise.

ISG is bringing together customer experience experts from major brands including Twitter, Oshkosh, Lowes and Muck Rack for a two-day Customer and User Experience Summit, April 17 – 18 in San Francisco to explore digital transformation and the impact it can have on the customer experience. If you have time, I would encourage you to attend so you do not miss the latest insights into this incredibly timely and important conversation. Ignoring the impact that technology can have on customer experience is like ignoring the impact digital cameras can have on the film business…and we know how that story ended.

John Boccuzzi Jr. is the senior director of ISG Research, a leader in subscription research, advisory and strategy consulting services for senior business and IT executives, technology and software vendors and business / IT services providers. 

For more articles from Shep Hyken and his guest contributors go to customerserviceblog.com.

Read Shep’s latest Forbes article: Using KonMari Methods To Tidy Up And Spark Joy Into Customer Service

*https://www.statista.com/statistics/330695/number-of-smartphone-users-worldwide/

The post Guest Blog: Digitizing the Customer Experience Without Losing the Customer appeared first on Shep Hyken.

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Not long ago, I wrote an article that featured Todd Hopkins, CEO of Office Pride, and his concept of core values being a decision filter. I had the chance to interview him for Amazing Business Radio and he dropped another big concept on us that’s worth bringing to our followers. He talked about an agreement he makes with all his new customers and employees, an upfront agreement tied to future communication.

Essentially, Todd asks his new customers to agree in writing that if there is ever an issue, problem, complaint, question – anything that impairs the customer’s experience – that they will communicate it with either Todd or another employee. The goal is to fix problems before they fester and become bigger than they need to be. Todd says, “If a customer isn’t happy, we want them to let us know. If they let us know, then we can fix it.”

That seems like common sense, but Todd knows that customers don’t always tell us when there’s a problem or issue. How many times have you wished you could be honest with someone about how you felt, but held back out of worry or fear of their reaction? This applies to both personal and professional relationships. Customers do the same thing; they keep quiet. They never say a word. Then one day they just disappear; they stop doing business with us. But we thought they were happy! They didn’t complain!

That’s why Todd has his upfront agreement. It’s in writing – in his contract. He makes it clear that when customers contact him when they’re unhappy, their problem will be taken care of with no hard feelings or defensive behavior – from either party.

Todd is emphatic about this strategy for communication, stating, “When it comes to customer service, I believe in establishing that upfront agreement. It sets you up for a beautiful relationship for years to come. Having that upfront agreement about how we’ll communicate has saved us so much heartburn.”

Not only does Todd believe this is important for customers, he also knows how effective it is for employees. The “open door” policy of communication for employees has served him well. He finds out what’s on the employee’s mind; if there is a way to work it out, they will. He fosters open dialogue that creates a positive culture for his company.

That’s the underlying lesson here – company culture. By nurturing that open workplace communication and positive company culture, Todd sets up his business for success. What’s felt on the inside of a company will radiate through to the outside. Having a solid system of communication will facilitate this flow, make everyone’s lives easier, and ensure a positive customer experience. Consider drafting an upfront agreement for your business and see how it shapes your future.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling business author. For information, contact 314-692-2200 or www.hyken.com. For information on The Customer Focus customer service training programs, go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

The post The Upfront Agreement of Future Communication appeared first on Shep Hyken.

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Habits for Success Fostering Good Customer Service Habits to Make Your Business Stand Out

Shep Hyken interviews Mark Copeman. They discuss his new book, Helpdesk Habits, which teaches employees how to turn good customer service practices into routine habits. They also talk about the importance of humanity within the employee and customer experience.


In Shep’s Opening Monologue…

He discusses if and when you should approach the CEO of a company about a problem you’ve experienced.

The Interview with Mark Copeman:
  • Copeman’s book is written for agents and other employees on the frontline of businesses. Its aim is to help those agents build habits that will result in excellent customer service.
  • One of the habits the books talks about is the “Service Recovery Paradox.” The principle here is that sometimes things will go wrong. What matters most is how you recover from and fix those problems.
  • If something goes wrong in the customer experience, customer loyalty will dip. However, customer loyalty will increase over time if the issue is resolved.
  • Copeman introduces the concept of the “Habit Loop,” which consists of three steps: trigger, routine, and reward. The most crucial step toward building a habit is reward, which must be associated with the routine.
  • Another habit is called “Lay It Out.” Copeman describes this as taking a little extra time to format emails so that the crucial information recipients need is easily accessible at a glance, whether by using bullet points or bold or italic text.
  • Copeman’s overarching theme throughout the book is “Human Customer Service.” The companies that thrive are the ones that allow and encourage their customer-facing employees to be themselves and let their personalities shine through. It takes very little effort, but the human element is what makes the biggest difference in the customer experience.
Quotes:

“Stuff goes wrong; what counts is how you fix it.” – Mark Copeman

“It is so easy to stand out as a business if you allow employees to have a personality, to be themselves, to be human and not robotic.” – Mark Copeman

About:

Mark Copeman is the founder of Wisecurve, a content and product studio. He refers to himself as a “serial entrepreneur” and just released his first book, Helpdesk Habits.

 Shep Hyken is a customer service and experience expert, New York Times bestselling author, award-winning keynote speaker, and your host of Amazing Business Radio.

This episode of Amazing Business Radio with Shep Hyken answers the following questions … and more:

  1. How do I build good work habits?
  2. How can I improve my customer service?
  3. What makes a good customer service agent?
  4. How should I react to problems in my CX?
  5. When should I take my problems to the CEO of a company?

The post Amazing Business Radio: Mark Copeman appeared first on Shep Hyken.

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Each week I read a number of customer service and customer experience articles from various resources. Here are my top five picks from last week. I have added my comment about each article and would like to hear what you think too.

10 Tips to Build a Customer Centric Work Culture by Vandita Grover

(MarTech Advisor) We list 10 customer experience (CX) tips that will establish customer centricity as the core philosophy of your organization and help create a customer-focused environment across your company.

My Comment: Consistent accolades about a company’s customer service and experience don’t happen by accident. It’s most likely a function of the company’s culture. When I speak at conferences in front of an organization’s leadership, I’m almost always asked about how to build the customer-focused culture. Here’s some sound ideas that will help you on that journey.

Why Omnichannel is the Future of Customer Interactions (And How You Can Get Started) by Josh Brown

(B2Community) Give your customers the seamless, expertly integrated buying experience they expect and your company becomes the real winner.

My Comment: The technical term “omnichannel” is really about a customer being able to connect with a company through any means they desire; phone, social media, messaging, etc. This article shares wisdom on the importance of an omnichannel strategy. Just know that the customer probably has never heard the word “omnichannel” before. All they care about is an easy way to get to the company they do business with. This article has plenty of information, stats and facts to get you thinking.

Improving NPS for a Better Customer Experience by Kathy Doering

(CustomerThink) Quality Assurance in the contact center is being used to improve NPS (Net Promoter Score) and overall customer experience

My Comment: If you’ve read my work and these weekly roundups, then you know that I’m a fan of the NPS survey. It’s one thing to implement the survey to get feedback. It’s another to properly use that feedback. And, that’s what this article is about.

CX in 2019: Top Customer Experience Trends to Keep on Your Radar by Gavin James

(Beyond The Arc) Based on our years helping companies with customer experience strategy and communications, the Beyond the Arc team shared insights on some top trends to keep on your radar this year

My Comment: It doesn’t hurt to be reminded of important trends in the customer service and CX world. While we’ve seen many of these before, I want to emphasize (and so does the article) the concept of focusing on the EX, which is the employee experience.

Leverage AI To Remove Friction From The Customer Service Experience by Puneet Mehta

(Forbes) Customer service could pose the biggest threat to companies in today’s consumer-centric culture.

My Comment: You can’t ignore the importance and improvements in the world of AI in customer service. Here’s a short article on ways that AI can remove friction from the customer’s experience. Note that as good as AI is (It’s much better than a year ago, and will be better a year from now.), you must be sure to have a seamless switch to a human support agent to back up the technology.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, professional speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information on The Customer Focus customer service training programs go to www.TheCustomerFocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

The post 5 Top Customer Service Articles for the Week of March 18, 2019 appeared first on Shep Hyken.

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This week we feature an article by Tom Buiocchi who writes about the importance of the “behind the scenes” work facilities managers do in order to enhance the customer experience. – Shep Hyken

When you think about how to provide excellent customer service, chances are facilities management might not be the first thing that comes to mind. This isn’t terribly surprising, given the work facilities managers do have been traditionally considered “behind the scenes” of the retail experience.

However, digital transformation has changed the game on who is responsible for delivering customer service and how. It’s all part of the critical need to deliver an overall positive retail customer experience that gives shoppers a reason to come into the stores instead of just surfing online. And when it comes to servicing customers well in any store, it begins with a warm, well-lit, safe, and welcoming facility.

So, all those “behind the scenes” work the facilities managers do – making sure all equipment is functioning properly, keeping stores clean, handling weather-related emergencies, managing contract workers, ensuring store security– is actually at the forefront as part of the customer experience. The goal is for all retail stores to maintain the highest levels of brand uptime, which directly correlates the state of a facility with the experience any brand wants its customers to experience.

3 Ways to Support Excellent Customer Service from Behind the Scenes 

There are three major ways to enhance customer experience and service through strategically managing your facilities:

1. Keep Up Appearances

It’s no secret that the Internet has reshaped the in-store shopping experience; where the physical store was once the only way to interact with a brand, now the role of brick and mortar store has morphed into a “showroom”, or a way for businesses to connect with consumers through experiences and amenities. This puts an even greater emphasis on store appearance. Stores must be clean, visuals like decorations, mirrors, shelving, and installations must be kept in top condition, and equipment like registers, HVAC units, and lights must be fully functional.

FMs do the work that makes all of this possible, like monitoring store conditions, managing all of the repair and maintenance work that keeps things in tip-top shape and tracking everything’s repair histories and warranties. Facilities managers are always looking ahead so that instead of reacting when things go wrong, they anticipate potential issues and address them before customers can even begin to notice. The result? Customers never experience burnt-out lights, snow-covered entranceways, broken air conditioning, dirty floors, or tumbling decorations, leaving them with only positive in-store experiences.

For businesses that have more than one location, consistency is another key aspect of customer service. Chain brands need to standardize customer experiences across locations; the look and feel of stores should be the same no matter which one a customer visits. Centralizing facilities management operations can help ensure this consistency.

2. Turn the Focus Back to Customers 

Often, retail businesses don’t have specialized facilities managers. Instead, they rely on individual store managers to handle repairs and maintenance, in addition to their regular duties. This can cause a number of issues because of the time-consuming nature of these tasks. The result is that store managers have significantly less time to focus on customers.

Implementing automation software that takes care of scheduling repairs on its own, as well as hiring experienced team members dedicated to FM, can free store managers from in-the-weeds facilities work and give them back the time and resources they need to give customers the best possible service.

3. Optimize Customer Flows

Strategic use of space is key to creating great in-store customer experiences; how and where amenities like dressing rooms, services such as cash registers, and products are situated within stores affects what customers see, how they move, and whether or not employees can serve them properly. Poor space planning can lead to negative consequences like crowds that block easy access to products and long lines that customers have to wait in to pay.

Facilities managers should be involved in space planning because they have unique perspectives and expertise in equipment and assets. They can ensure that assets both internal— pipes, wires, and ducts— and customer-facing— registers, shelves, tables—  are strategically located so that they create smooth customer movements.

Additionally, FMs can oversee space optimization initiatives like moving shelving or updating displays, which are especially important for creating special customer experiences during times like the holiday season. It’s facilities managers’ jobs to execute space changes during off-hours to minimize any impacts on customer experience.

Final Thoughts

Businesses are now competing in a marketplace where customer expectations are elevated. It’s no longer enough to just present products anymore; stores have to create in-store experiences that delight shoppers in order to earn their business. To be successful, companies need to maximize their stores’ potential and use in-store experiences to set themselves apart from the pack. Don’t sleep on facilities management, since it can be the difference between delighting customers in-store and driving them away.

Tom Buiocchi joined ServiceChannel as an Executive Director in 2014. Tom has more than 30 years of experience leading growth companies in both technology and energy services, including Drobo (CEO), Brocade Communications (CMO), Rhapsody Networks (VP Marketing), FMES (co-founder and COO), and Hewlett-Packard.

For more articles from Shep Hyken and his guest contributors go to customerserviceblog.com.

Read Shep’s latest Forbes article: The Other “E” In Customer Experience: Customer Effort

The post Guest Blog: Why Facilities Managers Are the Hidden Heroes of Great Customer Service appeared first on Shep Hyken.

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You’ve heard of the concept of Pay It Forward. Many people use the phrase to describe doing a good deed for someone with no other expectation than that person doing something nice for someone else and so on, creating a chain of good deeds. Don’t pay it back. Pay it forward.

Some people don’t realize that the Pay It Forward movement was started by a movie of the same name, which was based on a book by Catherine Ryan Hyde. A seventh-grade social studies teacher gives his class an assignment to come up with an idea that could change the world. Trevor, one of the students, comes up with the idea that if you do a favor for three people and each of those people did a favor for three more people and it continues, then it’s just a matter of time before it would spread across the whole world.

That brings us to my friend Dave Simon, former owner of Dave Simon’s Rock School, who’s taught thousands of kids how to play music and perform in a band. He emailed me the other day with an idea that he referred to as “Amaze it Forward.”

Not too long ago, Dave went to the dry cleaner to pick up his laundry. He planned to stop by the Starbucks next door after picking up his clothes. As the owner of the store handed him his change, Dave thought about what he calls “doing a Shep Hyken in reverse.” Dave asked, “Can I get you a coffee from Starbucks?”

The owner was flabbergasted by his kind offer and uttered, “Uh, uh… sure.  I’ll have a Café Americano!”  He was so moved to have someone he served offer to serve him.

We love when we receive amazing service, and I’m sure we all strive to provide an amazing service experience for our customers. Dave’s idea is to do something amazing for the people who serve you – the people who don’t expect you do to anything in return other than paying them for what they sell.

One of our Shepard Letter subscribers, Jeff Scott, wrote in with a similar example. He was staying at a nice hotel in Japan. Before his departure, he wrote a thank you note in Japanese, using Kanji characters, and left it with a box of chocolates. Jeff said of his gesture, “Trying to practice being amazing, even when I’m the customer!”

The next time someone gives you an amazing service experience, Amaze It Forward by doing something nice for them. It could be a cup of coffee, a gift card, or anything that will make them smile. When they thank you, let them know how much you appreciate them and that you hope that they will do the same for someone who is amazing to them. Being nice to others means they will be nice to you. Amazement works both ways!

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling business author. For information, contact 314-692-2200 or www.hyken.com. For information on The Customer Focus customer service training programs, go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

The post Amaze It Forward appeared first on Shep Hyken.

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Core Values and Company Culture Culture, Commitment, and Taking Care of Customers

Shep Hyken interviews Todd Hopkins. They discuss how having a company-wide culture can lead to better customer service and success for your business.


In Shep’s Opening Monologue…

He talks about what you should do with customer feedback once you get it.

The Interview with Todd Hopkins:
  • Core values can work as a filter to influence every decision you and your employees make. When faced with a difficult situation, employees can think about the core values and compare them to possible courses of action to determine what will best uphold the company’s values.
  • When a company has a set of core values, the entire organization can align itself together. This allows employees to create a better experience for their customers.
  • To motivate your employees, find out what their dreams and goals are. Help them connect the dots between those dreams and job they have with you, and passion and motivation will follow naturally. Integrate that human connection and you will create loyal, hardworking employees.
  • Establish an upfront agreement with both employees and customers that allows for future feedback free from emotion. This helps customers feel comfortable submitting feedback and allows you to have honest conversations with your employees to fix problems without worrying about hurt feelings. The more honest communication you can have inside and outside of your organization, the better.
  • Aim to be better than satisfactory on a consistent basis. That’s how you create amazing experiences, both for your customers and for your employees.
Quotes:

“I like to hire people that come to us with batteries included.” – Todd Hopkins

“Connect the dots between the dreams your employees are trying to accomplish and the job they have with you. That contributes to their motivation.” – Todd Hopkins

“If we want to take good care of our customers, we have to take good care of our employees.” – Todd Hopkins

“People don’t want to be average. They really want to be amazing.” – Todd Hopkins

About:

Todd Hopkins is the founder and CEO of Office Pride Commercial Cleaning Services, which has over 130 franchise locations in 24 states. He is also the internationally best-selling author and co-author of four books.

Shep Hyken is a customer service and experience expert, New York Times bestselling author, award-winning keynote speaker, and your host of Amazing Business Radio.

This episode of Amazing Business Radio with Shep Hyken answers the following questions … and more:

  1. What is a culture book?
  2. What should I do with customer feedback?
  3. How do I hire the right people for my company?
  4. How can I get more customer feedback?
  5. How can I motivate my employees?

The post Amazing Business Radio: Todd Hopkins appeared first on Shep Hyken.

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Each week I read a number of customer service and customer experience articles from various resources. Here are my top five picks from last week. I have added my comment about each article and would like to hear what you think too.

5 Ways AI can Revolutionize Customer Experience by Vandita Grover

(MarTech Advisor) Customer Experience (CX) is a competitive differentiator and driving force for a business’ success. For marketers, it is important to explore powerful opportunities that can drive improved customer engagement and interactions.

My Comment: If you’ve ever asked the question, “How AI can impact the customer experience?” then this article will give you the five best answers. Good basic information with excellent examples of how AI is changing the way we do business.

Five Negotiation Strategies When Traditional Customer Service Fails by Chris Westfall

(Forbes) When engaging in a difficult dialogue, it’s easy to see the adversarial relationship between two parties. There’s the company’s viewpoint and the customer’s viewpoint. But what about a counterpoint?

My Comment: What do you do when a customer’s complaint gets escalated to a level beyond support or a social thrashing on a social media channel. Here are five ways strategies to help you go from rants and threats to a resolution.

Keep the Customer Satisfied: 4 Tried and True Service Guidelines by Susan Steinbrecher

(Inc.) An outstanding product or service is not enough to attract — and maintain loyalty.

My Comment: What if the word HELP was an acronym, where H meant Hear the customer out, E stood for Empathy, L meant Leading the customer to a resolution and P was about Providing the right course of action. That’s what Susan Steinbrecher came up with in this short article about how to resolve customer complaints and problems.

Spark Customer Experience Innovation With These Three Strategies by Denise Lee Yohn

(Forbes) Even if you know that innovation in CX is the primary way to compete and win today, you might not know how to get started.  Here are three strategies to spark CX innovation.

My Comment: This short article focuses on CX innovation. One of the powerful ideas the author shares is about CX training for the entire organization. Spot on! I believe that CX, like customer service, isn’t a department. It’s a philosophy to be embraced by everyone in an organization. It’s in the culture of a company.

Happiness at Work: Workplace as a Source of Happy Life by Gennady Shkliarevsky

(International Policy Digest) Until relatively recently happiness was not an important factor in our corporate culture. The main concerns of business owners, managers and economists were generally about profits, supply and demand, efficiency, productivity and such like. Happiness rarely, if at all, entered into consideration as a category operational in a business environment.

My Comment: Happy employees are engaged employees. At least that’s a common belief, and I won’t argue with it. This article goes into detail about the importance of workplace happiness. What’s happening on the inside of an organization is felt on the outside by the customers. Taking care of employees – as in making them happy at work – is crucial to the success of a customer service and experience strategy.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, professional speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information on The Customer Focus customer service training programs go to www.TheCustomerFocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

The post 5 Top Customer Service Articles for the Week of March 11, 2019 appeared first on Shep Hyken.

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This week we feature an article by Jason Milleisen who shares three simple rules that will set you apart from your competition and help provide great customer service. – Shep Hyken

I once heard about a car dealership who had customer satisfaction scores that were the impressively high.  When asked about it, the owner explained one of the secrets to their success.

Every once in a while, they’d send out a car knowing there was a slight problem with it. You read that correctly. They let cars leave the lot with a defect on purpose. A missing knob, a dirty floor mat, things like that. Then, when the buyer reported the problem, the dealership sprang into action.

With lightning quick speed, the dealership offered to have someone come pick up the car, make the needed repair, then swiftly return it to the buyer.  They’d also throw in a free oil change and car wash to apologize for the inconvenience

While I’d certainly not advocate this kind of tactic, it highlights an important lesson that every small business owner needs to understand about customer service: a customer with a problem is an opportunity to leave a lasting, positive impression.

Let’s talk about 3 simple (yet powerfully effective) rules that will set you apart amid a sea of cranky reps, unreturned emails, and just plain bad customer service.

Remember The Golden Rule

We all learned this one a long time ago.  Treat others how you’d like to be treated. Easy enough. Yet many businesses, even the really large ones, seem to forget the golden rule on a regular basis.  I’m looking at you AT&T.  They owed me a refund of $920, and it took 10 separate phone calls to get my money back. Would any person on earth want to be treated like that?  Of course not!

And it’s not just large businesses who forget the golden rule.

We went out to dinner a few weeks back for my brother’s birthday.  Our reservation was for 7:30 pm.  Our entrees came out at 9:45 pm.  By that time, it was clear that we were tired, hungry, and frustrated.  When the kitchen is backed up, it’s not the servers fault.  Nonetheless, she was the face of the restaurant, so it was her job at that moment to find a way to make it right.

If you run a business for long enough, situations like that birthday dinner are bound to happen.  That’s life.  But as small business owners, we should recognize that a customer with a problem is an opportunity to send a clear message:  I hear you, I’m sorry this happened, and I’m going to make it right.

Unfortunately, on that night, the server chose to ignore the problem, and when we skipped dessert (that was included with our meal) she didn’t even offer to pack them up to go.  As a result, I’ll never go back to that restaurant.  Why?  Not because the kitchen was slow that night.  It’s because they made no attempt to make it right.  Give me a free appetizer, or take a drink off the bill.  Do something. Do anything to show me that you are sorry that your customer had a bad experience.  Otherwise, I’ll assume you don’t care if I come back or not.

Under-Promise and Over-Deliver

If you understand how to properly manage customer expectations, you will eliminate that angry phone call that nobody wants to get from an unhappy client. I practice the art of under-promising and over-delivering on a daily basis, and I can tell you first-hand that it yields amazing results.

Setting expectations is a powerful, yet overlooked tool that you can use to craft your customer’s perception of your business.  I always say that despite my inability to do anything handy, I should go into the home improvement business. Why?  Because any home improvement project I’ve ever hired for inevitably runs over budget on both time and money. Nothing makes me more annoyed than the 2 week project that runs 6 weeks. A simple solution to this issue? Tell me it’ll take 8 weeks, then finish it in 6. You’ll be a hero! Instead, you’re just another guy who talks a good game but can’t deliver.

I can hear you yelling at your screen already: But what about in a competitive situation? I need that customer so I need to be aggressive!

I get it. You are competing for customers, and in the midst of that, you want to promise the customer something that the competition can’t (or won’t). I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to be better than the competition. What I am saying is that when you make promises that you can’t keep, you’ll end up driving your customers into the arms of your competitors when you fail to deliver on your promises.

Embrace Your Size

I run a consulting shop that employs one person: me. I use that to my advantage, and you should too.

When a prospective customer calls me for a consultation, I make sure they know that I’m the only one who will handle their file, and it will never be passed off to someone else. Is there anyone else who could handle their file? Nope. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t value in me handling each and every full personally.

Small businesses often strive to appear to be a much larger organization than they actually are. “Fake it till you make it!” is the credo. In some cases, that makes total sense. You don’t want, for example, customers to know that your high-end shoe site is actually a drop-shipping operation run from your bedroom.

On the other hand, being small can be a selling point for you like it is for me. Have you ever sat on hold with the cable company for an hour, only to have a completely incompetent representative muck it up even further? Makes your blood boil, right? And therein lies the opportunity.

Embrace being a real person on the other end the phone that has the ability to resolve their problem quickly and cheerfully.

Who would you rather deal with? The generic customer service person, or Steve, Founder and Owner of ShoeCity.com. Do you know what Steve can do that nameless, faceless customer service reps can’t do? Steve can respond to urgent customer emails after business hours, and take phones call on a Sunday even though the business is technically closed. Nothing like that is going to happen at Amazon. Use that to your advantage.

Jason Milleisen is founder and owner of Distressed Loan Advisors, a consulting firm that assists small business owners who are facing SBA loan default and wish to pursue an SBA Offer In Compromise. 

For more articles from Shep Hyken and his guest contributors go to customerserviceblog.com.

Read Shep’s latest Forbes article: Ritz-Carlton Founder Reveals Secrets For Success

The post Guest Blog: 3 Ridiculously Simple Ways to Generate Customer Delight appeared first on Shep Hyken.

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Winter travel can be stressful with the concern of weather-related delays and cancellations. On a recent trip that had a connecting flight, I was notified the night before that my first flight was going to be delayed, which made me worry about missing my connection. I called the airlines and they suggested changing my connecting flight to a later one, which I was happy to do. Even though the flight was later, I would still arrive in time for my meeting. The customer service agent was happy to accommodate my request.

Then I started to think. She rebooked me on the later flight. I wondered if there was an earlier flight from my home airport that would allow me to keep my original connecting flight. Sure enough, there was. I called the airline back and, once again, they were happy to accommodate my request.

Here’s the point of the story. I shouldn’t have had to call back. The agent should have offered me the option of leaving on the earlier flight. She was very nice and willing to help. But she didn’t look past the obvious, which was to check on a later flight. Given that I called hours before the flight, she might have looked at the earlier flight, which was actually a better option.

This may sound like I’m criticizing her and I guess, in a way, I am. But, not about the way she treated me. She was a model customer service agent; friendly and helpful. However, the reality is that she should have thought to give me the option of taking the earlier flight. Proper training and coaching could have helped. I’m sure that if I had suggested looking at earlier flights she would have said, “Good idea.”

How many times do we find a solution to a problem and stop considering other options, potentially missing a better solution? After the fact you think, “Darn, I should have thought of that!”

One way to come up with an alternative solution is to think about the opposite. In our airline example, what would have happened if the agent asked herself, “What’s the opposite of being switched to a later flight?” The answer, of course, is an earlier flight. Then check to see if there is one.

Opposite thinking is just one way to get into creative problem solving. There are many others. The point is that if you’re working with a customer and trying to resolve a problem, consider all potential solutions, not just the first one you come up with. Even if the first one you think of turns out to be the best solution, you would know that you gave yourself and the customer other options to consider.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling business author. For information, contact 314-692-2200 or www.hyken.com. For information on The Customer Focus customer service training programs, go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

The post Look Past the Obvious for a Better Solution appeared first on Shep Hyken.

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