Customer Service is an Entire Company Endeavor

By Dana Borowka

“If you want to know how to retain customers, you need to step outside your own processes and consider what it is like from the customer’s perspective”, says Deb Brown, author of the upcoming book, Lifelong Loyal Clients.

Brown notes that a mere 5 percent increase in retention will increase profits anywhere from 25 percent to 95 percent, according to a Harvard Business School study (Reichheld and Schefter. “The Economics of E-Loyalty.” HBS Working Knowledge. July 10, 2000).

Clearly customer service has a bigger impact on the bottom line than acquiring new customers. Bain & Company (a leader in global business consulting) reports that repeat customers spend more with a company— up to 67 percent more in months thirty-one to thirty-six than months zero to six.

“Taking care of existing customers is a faster path to cash than pursuing new customers,” says Brown. “Long-term customers spend more and refer more. Knowing this, smart business owners focus on retaining customers.”

Brown runs a company called Touch Your Client’s Heart. She works with business owners who want to build better relationships and never let an important contact slip through the cracks.

In her book she also notes a study done by customer experience consulting firm, Walker, which predicted that by the year 2020, customer experience will be more important than price or product to customers.

“The experience the customer has determines their loyalty and retention,” says Brown. “Customer retention makes a huge impact on your bottom line.”

Nobody’s Perfect

“Customer service is often seen by customers as the place to go when things go wrong,” says Mike Wittenstein, an international customer service expert. “Designing service as an experience is how you can get things to go right in the first place.”

Wittenstein is the founder of StoryMiners, one of the world’s first customer experience design consultancies. Based in Atlanta, he is an accomplished consultant, designer, and speaker who works globally in four languages.

“Too many companies design their business around their expectations of a perfect customer’s needs,” says Wittenstein. “The problem is that most customers aren’t perfect. Most walk in expecting a business to fit the way they want to work.”

A big opportunity for customer service across most industries is to not only respond to customer requests when they ask—but to anticipate their needs earlier. Sensing what customers will need sooner means you can make them happier—and do it at lower cost to the business and with a lift for the brand.

“If you’re not supporting the customer or supporting those who do, what is the value of your job anyway?” says Wittenstein. “That’s a Home Depot adage. It applies to everyone. Customer service works best when it’s brought into the heart of operations. It is truly everyone’s job.”

Onboarding Customers is Job One

“Often, businesses focus on prospects,” says Brown. “They give attention, nurturing, and lots of touches to bring prospects though the sales process. Sometimes, when they come to the end of the sales process and make the sale, business owners breathe a sigh of relief and then stop paying attention.”

Brown says onboarding is where you can change the way you do business and make a big impact on your customers. Customers, at that time, may be feeling a little bit apprehensive about the investment they just made. They may be feeling excited about starting to work with your business, but if you stop the communication, the excitement wanes and they may be a little unsure about what comes next.

“Having a formal intake process can not only assure you have vital information like contact details and billing information, but also be a great way to start getting to know your customers.,” says Brown.

As you interact with your customers, continue to pay attention to details about them and about their lives. It’s those personal details that help you get to know them better and deepen your relationship with them. What are their hobbies, their families? Do they have kids, grandkids, or a significant other? Are there things going on in their extended families? Do they have parents they are caring for? All of these little details are very important to them, and when you pay attention to those details, you find out what matters most to your customers.

“Touching your customers’ hearts and really wowing them is the best way I know to build loyalty to your business,” says Brown.

According to Brown, there are several things you should know about your customers so that you can wow them in a personal way.

All Contact Info. We live in a virtual world and sometimes never meet face to face with customers. Other times, customers come to our place of business. It’s easy to think that the only information you need is a phone number and email address. Take the time to also get their mailing address.
Who Do They Care About Deeply? Most people have someone who is important to them, be it a significant other, children, parents, siblings, pets, or a close group of friends. They probably sacrifice for them and spend most of their free time with them.
What Are They Passionate About? Are there hobbies, activities, causes or organizations they spend their time with? Knowing what is important to them and what brings them joy helps you know them better as individuals.
How Do They Indulge Themselves? For some people, a piece of chocolate or a cup of coffee is the thing that makes them happy. Others enjoy going to the theater or reading a book. Knowing what your customers would do to treat themselves allows you to customize how you reward them.

We’re Sorry, So Sorry

Sometimes, you make one mistake and you can apologize and move on. Once in a while, however, you may feel the need to do a little more. It may be that you have dropped the ball more than once. If you need to apologize in a bigger way, it might be a good time to send an “I’m sorry” gift.

“It isn’t necessary to send a gift every time you make a mistake,” says Brown. “Often a simple apology in person or over the phone is enough to fix what went wrong. An email or personal note in the mail can add to your sincerity. Don’t overdo it. Once the other party has forgiven you, it is time to move on and let it go.”

An “I’m sorry” gift doesn’t necessarily have to cost a lot; it depends on how big the mistake was.

“The act of going the extra mile and sending something out to say you are sincerely sorry can do a lot to repair the trust you have broken,” says Brown. “You are showing your customer that you acknowledge whatever you’ve done to mess up his or her day or to take up his or her time. You understand the value of time and you’re willing to pay for it.”

When you take the time and effort to apologize with a gift, it goes a long way in repairing a situation. You are able to reestablish trust and that person is willing to try again with you. Hopefully you’ve learned your lesson and you won’t make the same mistake again.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2018

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”.  To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

Upset Clients? How to Flip Frowns Upside Down

By Eden Gillott Bowe

You’re a seasoned business traveler. There’s no traffic on your way to the airport because you know all the shortcuts. TSA waves you through with a smile. You even snag a spot for your luggage in the overhead compartment. All is wonderful in your world.

Then you hear an altercation, which turns into screaming and pleading. Welcome to United’s Flight 3411 from O’Hare to Louisville: a classic case of exactly how not to treat customers or clients.

THINGS TO CONSIDER

Practice mindful listening. Think back to the last time you felt truly listened to. Made you feel pretty good, right? In today’s hyper-connected world, people want results immediately and attention spans are shorter than ever. Train yourself to focus your attention on your clients. Make sure you’re truly listening rather than simply waiting for your turn to speak.

Put yourself in the client’s shoes. Based on what you hear, you’re better equipped to see things from their point of view. A multitude of things could be going on in their lives, and it’s up to you to cut through the noise and figure it out. What might they be going through? Are they directing their aggression towards you even though it’s really meant for someone else? Is it their busy season, so they’re complaining about having “yet another thing on my plate”?

Treat others like you’d like to be treated. This goes hand-in-hand with putting yourself in the client’s shoes. Don’t you prefer when someone listens to you and helps get to the bottom of an issue instead of treating you like an inconvenience?

No one wants to be on the receiving end of an angry email. One wedding caterer ended up in the hot seat after an employee went off on a client over “excessive” demands. The client then took to the internet to show the world what shockingly horrible customer service the company had. After months of bad press, word of mouth, and slumping business, the company threw in the towel and shuttered itself.

Some people simply enjoy complaining and won’t be happy with anything. Sometimes no matter how nice you are to clients, they have a permanently bad attitude. They don’t always channel their feelings properly. As a result, a domino effect of bad vibes ripples through their lives. Don’t pass it on.

Be careful what you put into writing. This is a double-edged sword and can be extremely dangerous if it’s not wielded properly. On one side, it’s good to document actions that were taken in order to CYA. On the other (more dangerous) side, committing things to writing may come back to bite you later. For example, don’t put confidential information in an email to someone who isn’t covered under privilege. Nor should you talk negatively about another person because, unbeknownst to you, they may be BCC’d when you hit Reply All.

WHAT TO DISCUSS WITH YOUR MANAGEMENT TEAM

What’s your current protocols for responding to unhappy clients? If you don’t have a system, get one fast.

Who’s responsible for responding to complaints? Does it make the most sense for the account manager or owner to respond? It depends on the nature of the situation. To the extent possible, empower those who work directly with clients with the flexibility to make decisions and take corrective action.

What form(s) is most appropriate? Automated email, personalized email, or telephone? Depending on the situation, it may also be beneficial have a combination.

What are you willing to do for the client? When’s it better to change vs. incurring the cost of attracting a new client? Does this vary depending on the client? If so, what are the cutoffs or metrics?

Are you receiving multiple complaints about the same thing? If so, how do you improve your offerings? Is this an opportunity for growth or a new service line? Can you reduce returns of defective products by looking at production?

Are clients researching you beforehand or are they pre-sold? More and more, clients are looking at online review sites such as Google, Yelp, Better Business Bureau, Trip Advisors, etc. Hence the first time potential clients “meet” you is online. Make sure your pages properly reflect your level of service.

NOW WHAT?

Breathe. If you feel you’re ready for battle or stressed out, take a moment to recalibrate.

Listen. You’d be amazed what you learn. There’s a reason you have two ears and one mouth.

Don’t take it personally (even if it is). This is especially hard when it’s about a decision you made, initiative you spearheaded, or a company you started. It’s your baby.

Don’t be defensive. No one wants to talk to someone who is confrontational.

Repeat back what you heard (or think you understand). Make sure the conversation is based on clarity. This reduces or eliminates miscommunication and misunderstanding.

Prepare (or refine) your customer service response plan. Now that you’ve brainstormed with your management team, put it into action.

Enhance your service and product offerings based on client feedback. Take customer service lemons and turn them into lemonade.

Learn more from wins and misses. When you document clients’ complaints/frustrations, don’t let them sit in a drawer and gather dust. Learn from them and make improvements.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2017

Eden Gillott Bowe is President of strategic communications firm Gillott Communications http://www.gillottcommunications.com/ and is a former business professor. She resolves issues both in and outside the media’s glare — from celebrity scandals and corporate fraud to criminal and civil litigation. Eden’s been interviewed about brands in crisis by the LA Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, the Washington Post, and Forbes. She’s worked in Manhattan, Seoul, and Los Angeles. She is the author of A Board Member’s Guide to Crisis PR and A Lawyer’s Guide to Crisis PR.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

To order the books, Cracking the Personality Code, Cracking the Business Code and Cracking the High-Performance Team Code, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.  We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

9 Ways To Attract and Retain Sales & Customer Service People With Personality Testing

By Dana & Ellen Borowka

How do you build up your sales and customer service force in a down economy? The quick answer is don’t be a dodo bird.

While researching our book, Cracking the Personality Code, we examined the essentials of what managers and business owners need to know about hiring and managing sales/customer service people with the help of personality testing.

dodo birdAn interesting sales management guru we discovered along the way is Lee B. Salz. In June 2007, his widely acclaimed book, Soar Despite Your Dodo Sales Manager was published. In it, he deals with one of the biggest problems companies face, the chasm between managers and sales and customer service people.

He uses the metaphor of the dodo to show what happens when one fails to adapt. Those who adapt, thrive. Those who don’t become extinct like the dodo bird of ages ago. Some laugh at the use of the word ‘dodo’, but there is nothing funny about a business losing its competitive edge due to unmanaged change.

To hire the best sales and customer service people and keep them on the team, your sales or customer service manager needs to know what makes them tick. We believe the sales and customer service personality code can be cracked. If that sounds like a bold declaration, consider this: Studies show that personality tests are a far more reliable predictor of performance than interviews and resumes.

A proper test should reach beyond simple profiles and decipher a sales or customer service person’s underlying needs. This is key for employee development, team building, conflict resolution and succession planning. If you want to retain the best, you need to treat them the way they want to be treated.

Below are nine ways to use personality testing in the workplace to attract and retain the right sales and customer service people with personality testing:

1. Get the real picture.

Of course, every sales and customer service candidate wants to put their best foot forward during an interview. However through a personality test, you uncover a great deal aboutartist their ability to work well with other personalities, their problem solving abilities, their thought processes and their ability to tolerate stress. Personality testing gives you objective information that can help you make an informed decision about if this person is a good fit for the job and for the team. If you decided to hire the person, the questions you ask during the hiring process will reduce your learning curve as a manager on how best to manage this person from day one.

2. Help them be all that they can be.

Every sales and customer service person has strengths and weaknesses. Find out the real truth with an objective measure. Once you pinpoint the good and the bad, then you place them in the right position and coach them on where to improve.

3. Take me to your leaders.

Personality testing gives the manager and sales or customer service team a common language about how they like to interact. The assessments can help you train future managers on how to get the best out of the team.

4. Know how to manage difficult people.

Face it, there will always be difficult people and flare ups on the job. Use objective personality assessments to diagnose potential sources of workplace conflict. The best way to deal with a problem is to prevent it in the first place.

5. Get everybody to play nice.

Sales and IT, customer service and marketing, operations and financial people have to interact to make the company run smoothly. Too many employees get frustrated with other co-workers and just wonder why everyone doesn’t act like them. Through the use of personality profiles, managers can coach employees how to interact better with peers.

6. Treat co-workers the way they want to be treated.

In today’s fast-paced world of business, there is little time to get to know many of your co-workers. Using personality assessments as the basis for team building exercises can quickly get everyone to have a healthier respect for other ways of seeing the world.

7. Make managers better leaders.

The days of seat of the pants leadership are over. When sales and customer service managers understand what makes their people tick, then they can be better leaders. Knowing personality traits can help with motivating teams, communicating change and delegating authority.

8. Pick better teams.

Today so much work is done by ad hoc teams that come together for a specific purpose. Before you assemble a sales or customer service team it pays to know the strengths and weaknesses of the team members. Sometimes this can be the difference between a productive team that gets the job done and one that pulls apart at the seams.

9. Set people up for success.

Sometimes we hire the right employee and put them in the wrong job. Understanding preferred work styles and where a person would be happiest goes a long way to improving retention and productivity.

man jumping bldgWhile personality testing can be a valuable resource before you hire sales and customer service people, perhaps the true value of any assessment comes in using the insights it provides along the entire spectrum of employment. Personality assessments lend objectivity to decisions that may otherwise be largely subjective.

Remember, it is not how many great people you hire. The true measure is how many great people you keep! To find out more please email us at reception@lighthouseconsulting.com or call 310-453-6556, ext 403.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2014

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO and Ellen Borowka, MA, Senior Analyst of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC with their organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. They also have a full service consulting division that provides domestic and international interpersonal coaching, executive onboarding, leadership training, global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training, operational productivity improvement, 360s and employee surveys as well as a variety of workshops. They have over 25 years of business and human behavioral consulting experience. They are nationally renowned speakers and radio personalities on this topic. They are the authors of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code”. To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Inspiration and Techniques for Building Championship-Level Performance – Lighthouse clients have one thing in common – all are committed to boosting the performance of their organizations. So, we are pleased to introduce our clients and friends to Boaz Rauchwerger — speaker, trainer, author and consultant. We highly recommend Boaz to you. Ask him to deliver one of his inspirational programs at your next executive retreat or strategic planning session.

One of our favorite Boaz programs is “Playing Like a Championship Team Every Day”. It helps you build on the strengths of everyone’s individual differences. This program helps you discover five steps to get everyone to join the building crew and resign from the wrecking crew. This is a very powerful and inspirational program that receives rave reviews every time.

• Master five techniques to inspire others to perform like champions
• Six recognition techniques including the powerful “good finder” program
• Learn four ways that your team can gain a competitive advantage
• Identify the three prerequisites for maximizing the team’s results
• Learn the two forms of keeping a daily score so everyone wins

Who is Boaz? Over a 30-year span, Boaz, author of The Tiberias Transformation – How To Change Your Life In Less Than 8 Minutes A Day, has conducted thousands of seminars internationally on goal setting and high achievement. He has taught over half a million people how to supercharge their lives, their careers and how to add Power to their goals. His innovative program, for individuals and corporations, is a simple and highly effective process for high achievement. He was voted Speaker of the Year by Vistage, an international organization of CEOs and business owners. How to Contact Boaz – Want more information on Boaz’s Power Program, including “Playing Like a Championship Team Every Day”? Just click here and we’ll be in touch.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

 

Is This the Year to Fix Your Sales & Customer Service Problems?

By Rob Hupp

[dropcaps type=”circle” color=”” background=””]I[/dropcaps]t is another new year and company presidents and business owners are busy rolling out their plans and strategies. If you own or lead a business (or part of a business), answer the following questions about your operation:

[ws_table id=”21″]

Self Score: Your answers as indicated:

  1. For Question 1-5, 7 and 10, each ‘yes’ is worth 1 point.
  2. For Question 6, each ‘no’ is worth 1 point.
  3. For Questions 8 and 9, each ‘proactive’ is worth 1 point.
  4. Total your points and award a school style letter grade.biz football plan

If your score and letter grade are less than stellar, take some momentary comfort in the fact that you are not alone. Is this the year to expend some concerted effort and initiative working on sales and customer service? If faced with a production problem, an engineering challenge, or financial hurdle, these same presidents/owners are inclined to tackle the problem head-on until a solution (or at least solid plan for the solution) is in place. However in the world of sales and customer service, sometimes a sense of fatalistic resignation sets in and mediocre results beget more mediocre results.

Let’s be clear here. Increasing sales and retaining customers is difficult challenging work. That said, business growth and valuations are largely influenced by a CEO’s ability to grow sales over time. What are the biggest challenges CEOs face in growing sales? First, they must overcome their own widely-held self-limiting beliefs around fixing the problem. Second, they must address the five most common reasons they and their people struggle in this pursuit.

Reason #1 – Buyers have a system, sales people usually don’t.

Buyers have an effective system to deal with salespeople. The buyer’s system is designed to get as much information as possible and to keep them in control of the situation. This system turns sales people into unpaid consultants, leads them on until the buyer has all of the information he needs, and often results in the buyer using their proposals to negotiate better deals with the current supplier or a competitor.

So how do most sales people deal with the buyer’s system?

bizpeople on chessbdMost play right in to it. Many don’t use a systematic approach to selling and find themselves ‘winging it.’ They allow the prospect to take total control of the sales process. They eagerly:

  1. Give their information
  2. Make commitments without getting any in return
  3. Waste resources on pursuing deals that will never close
  4. Make unneeded concessions
  5. Misinterpret the ubiquitous “I’ll think it over and get back to you” as a future sale
  6. Lose deals to competitors with strong sales people

The Solution?

A non-traditional approach to selling that provides a system that everyone 100% buys in to. The system should balance both the buyer’s and seller’s interests.

Reason #2 – Spending too much time with prospects who will never buy.

A sales manager recently evaluated two of her reps like this:

“Gary spends too much time with non-buyers, and gets too involved in non-productive activities. One root cause of this behavior is that he doesn’t ask the tough questions.”

“Amy is strong with users, but both she and Gary have lost deals because our competition has contact and influence at the CEO and Executive Director level, and they do not.”

Why is this true?

First, sales reps won’t ask the hard questions up-front for fear of making their prospects angry. Second, prospects don’t like to say no. They go to great lengths to avoid a direct ‘no.’ Third, sales people don’t get to real decision-makers. Instead most salespeople spend time with “comfort people” who are easier to get in front of, and with whom the salesperson is more comfortable talking.

Fact: 60% of a salesperson’s time is spent in front of people who will not or can not buy their product or service.

The Solution?

Sales reps need the tools to separate tire-kickers from buyers and an approach to obtain executive access and sponsorship early in the sales cycle. Learn to qualify your prospects out, not qualify them in. The top producers learn to ask the hard questions up-front, to save resources for real opportunities, and realize “NO” is an acceptable response from a buyer. “Going for the NO” requires a tremendous paradigm shift for most sales people, but it can take all the pressure off the rep and increase his productivity. The prospect is also a beneficiary, because it makes the process feel more like buying than being sold.

Reason #3 – Product training is over-emphasized, product knowledge misused, and selling becomes presenting.

Most training for sales personnel focuses on product knowledge. In fact, 80% of training provided for direct sales people and channel partners is product-oriented. Sales people, once filled with product features and benefits, are eager to share this information. The focus then becomes totally on the product or service, and not on the buyer and his problem, where it belongs.

The Solution?

Provide a systematic approach to selling so salespeople can lead the sales process, help buyers clearly define their problems, and co-build solutions that exactly fit their needs. Product knowledge is important, but how it’s used at each phase of the buying process is key.

Reason #4 – Lack of sufficient prospecting.

bizman exploring tunnelAll professional salespeople will eventually be faced with a bout of call reluctance. You know the story – they have so much paperwork on their desk they can’t possibly find the time to prospect for new business or they’re so busy calling on existing customers (who incidentally aren’t buying anything) there’s no way they could add any new appointments. Sound familiar?

The Solution?

A fresh approach to prospecting using tools and techniques to fill the pipeline with quality opportunities. Greater effectiveness and success leads to even more success. Nothing motivates professional salespeople like winning.

Reason #5 – Salespeople – and the leaders they work for – don’t treat sales as a profession.

Professionals like doctors, lawyers, engineers, consultants, educators, and CPA’s all have one thing in common – they went to school to learn what they needed to start their careers and they attend continuing education to maintain and increase their proficiency. Salespeople often lack formal education in selling skills and ongoing continuing education. How many salespeople are continually seeking new ways to increase their skills? How many have the attitude, “I’ve been selling for years, what more can I learn?”

This is a problem sales people can’t remedy on their own. Management must be supportive of investing the time and resources needed for salespeople to acquire, develop and retain critical selling skills.

The Solution?

Like top professional performers in any field, the top 20% of salespeople (and the business leaders they work for) look for ways to sharpen their skills to gain the fine edge that leads to consistent positive results.

By applying proven solutions to these common problems, it is possible to change how one sells and services and thereby achieve more consistent business results. This is not a quick-fix. It requires a level of commitment, investment and guidance to implement successfully. Is this your year to address your sales and customer service challenges?

Final Thoughts

According to Dana Borowka, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC (www.lighthouseconsulting.com), hiring the right people is key to future growth. If you would like additional bizman walking tallinformation on raising the hiring bar, please click here to see an article on this subject.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2014

Rob Hupp is President of Roth|Hupp Growth Partners, Inc., a business development consulting firm specializing in helping organizations and individuals increase their revenues through more effective sales and management practices. Rob can be reached at 310.890.3704 or via e-mail at rhupp@rhgp.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code” please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Customer Service: The Time For Thinkers Has Come!

By Dana Borowka & Judy Estrin

[dropcaps type=”circle” color=”” background=””]W[/dropcaps]hen it comes right down to it, the one definitive factor that separates us from our competitors is our quality of customer service. Customers can deal with the occasional problem if they are treated like jewels when they contact the company to rectify whatever the problem was.

rocket ladySure sounds easy, doesn’t it? Just be nice to everyone and customers will never leave you.

Tom Peters once addressed the argument that you can’t build a business on customer service as your differentiator because anyone can do it. He countered that, in fact, you can use customer service as a differentiator, because the truth is anyone can’t do it. It’s very hard, if not impossible, to replicate great customer service in an existing organization that doesn’t have it. Only with a leader who is a customer service fanatic can you even have a remote chance of doing it.

In today’s market, the objective is to have customers who are delighted with your service – over and over again. Customers who will make referrals who in turn become customers and the word spreads. Peggie Arvidson-Dailey, founder of Pet Care Business University and the Pet-Care Business Success System™. Author of “How to Make Your Customers Crazy…about You” advocates business owners become customer-enthusiasm gurus.

Take the time to focus on your customer in everything you do and follow these nine simple guidelines:

  1. Evaluate your customer base. Ask yourself who your best customers are and why. What similarities do they share? What are their core needs and how do you solve them?
  2. Keep the customer in mind. Before you initiate any new policy/procedures, ask yourself how it will benefit your ideal customers. Changing your hiring practice? Changing your billing process? Remember to look at everything from the customer’s perspective.
  3. Create systems that maintain customer contact. Don’t expect customers to return. Regularly invite them back!
  4. Communicate even when you have nothing to sell. Pay attention to them as individuals; show interest in your customer as a member of your community – no matter how large that community is!
  5. Ask for feedback and follow through. How can you serve your customers better? When you get suggestions, consider them seriously – and implement when appropriate. Developing ways to serve customers better based on their feedback leads to enthusiastic customers.
  6. Foster trust. Integrity is the key. Do what you say you do – and don’t pretend you can do or provide services you can’t.
  7. Be consistent. Branding works – from how you answer the phone to what you put in your promotional material.
  8. Be easy to work with. Make it easy for customers to buy.
  9. Create a customer-enthusiasm training program. Hire and train to the customer service level you want for your customers.bizwoman selecting items

Think you are on top of your game? Got the 9 steps down to a science? Take the Customer Service 101 quiz developed by Bill Werst founder of Growth Associates and author of Common Sense Managing: Simple Actions That Produce Results.

CUSTOMER SERVICE 101 QUIZ:

1. CUSTOMER DRIVEN VISION:
♦  Does your vision clearly focus on customer satisfaction?
♦  Do the people throughout your organization know and own the vision?

2. VALUED CUSTOMERS’ NEEDS and EXPECTATIONS:
♦  Do you know who your most valuable customers are?
♦  Do you know what it will take to meet the needs of your best customers?
♦  Is your market research sample reflecting your targeted customer base?
♦  Are you ‘listening’ to what the customers are saying or what you ‘want’ to hear?

3. CUSTOMER DRIVEN OPERATIONAL PLAN:
♦  Do your organization’s plans focus on doing the right things right?
♦  Will they result in meeting the needs of your best customers?

4. PLAN IMPLEMENTATION:
♦  Do your hiring practices complement your vision? Do you do:
–  Skill testing
–  Email and phone etiquette evaluation
–  In-depth work style and personality testing
♦  Does your training produce measurable results that further your vision?
♦  Does each person have the authority to fulfill his contribution to your vision?
♦  Are the people given timely feedback and recognition on their job performance?

5. SATISFACTION MEASUREMENT:
♦  Is your customer satisfaction measurement based on customer needs and expectations?
♦  Does it proactively identify opportunities for improvement?
♦  Are your customers satisfied?

6. CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT:
♦  Is your vision still current and appropriate?
♦  Have you reassessed who your most valuable customers in the last 6 – 12 months?
♦  Have you reassessed what your most valuable customers need in the last 6 – 12 months?
♦  How can your current plans be improved to further streamline customer driven actions?
♦  Are you measuring customer satisfaction on an ongoing and timely basis?
♦  What can you do right now that will improve your organization within the next 30 days? 90 days? 180 days?

FINAL EXAM:

Would your customers answer the above questions as you just did?

Looking inside, how would your staff answer these same questions? Do they know and understand the company vision? Have you conducted workshops to talk about how to have a shared vision and a living entity?

Are your employees free to make decisions on service without having to always ask a higher source? How do they treat each other? Internal customer service should hold equal value with external customer service!

Do you have a performance management system in place to train and develop your people? Do you hire for today or for the organization, as you want it to be?

Bottomline, it takes leadership and vision to instill a customer service philosophy in your company. It takes training, leadership and reinforcement to achieve the employee performance at your desired customer service level. It takes regular communication with your customers – those who are delighted and those who may not be – to ensure that you are consciously monitoring what your employees are doing and how customers perceive your business. It means moving into action and implementing changes at the very least in reaction to what you regularly learn if not ideally, being ahead of the curve, anticipating shifts and staying on top of your customers’ needs and expectations.

The theme repeated by all the customer service “gurus” is: know your customer, what their needs are, adapt accordingly, empower employees to act and hire for the BestFit®!

CONCLUSION: The Time for Thinkers Has Come!

It is vital to have ‘Thinkers’ in our organizations. A client of ours has several hundred customer services reps and encourages all the various teams to contribute ideas for improving processes, systems, customer interactions, etc. One individual was very frustrated with having to wait 10 seconds while the system updated information, thus having to make customers wait during the updating cycle. 10 seconds is a long time to wait – try it for yourself – count – 1 one thousand – 2 one thousand – 3 one thousand and you get the idea. So this person went to the IT/IS manager to share the challenge which then was followed by several group meetings with team leaders and within two weeks they reduced the time from 10 seconds down to 2 seconds. That’s huge! 8 second savings multiplied out by 200 customer services reps – you do the math. Everyone was so excited that they had a party to celebrate and provided the individual with a “thank you” check along with a three day cruise to Mexico.

bizwoman on ladder rainbowBy having just one thinker on board – someone willing to speak up – to be dissatisfied when customers are having to wait – to want to improve things in the work environment… amazing results can take place. We all need to have more of these types of thinkers on board. We need to create an environment so individuals are encouraged to contribute and share ideas that will increase client satisfaction as well as affecting the bottom line. Hiring is the key. Today is the day to add the key characteristics to your job descriptions so that you can begin to add to your teams the thinkers that will drive your organization to the next level!

If you hire the right people, you’ll not only have satisfied customers but you can also create potential savings and profit. It is imperative that every organization hire right the first time and do appropriate skills testing for grammar, computer, email, phone etiquette and understand how the person will interact with others and their learning style. This can be done through having them complete an in-depth work style and personality assessment. You can read more about the various options and how to select an instrument in our book, Cracking the Personality Code. To find out more, please give us a call at (310) 453-6556, ext. 403, email us at Dana@lighthouseconsulting.com or by visiting our website, www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2014

JorgensenHR is a BestPRACTICES human resource solutions firm that helps clients create additional value in their business or organization through well-designed, customized human resources management solutions. These include our BestHRSolutions products and services for HR outsourcing, training, affirmative action, investigations, policies, compensation, recruitment, HR assessments, and We Want to Know Hotline. For more information, please contact Linda Harris at (661)600-2070, email her at lharris@jorgensenhr.com or visit the company website, http://jorgensenhr.com/

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. They also have a full service consulting division that provides domestic and international interpersonal coaching, executive onboarding, leadership training, global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training, operational productivity improvement, 360s and employee surveys as well as a variety of workshops. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He provides workshops on hiring, managing for the future, and techniques to improve interpersonal communications that have a proven ROI. He is the co-author of the books, Cracking the Personality Code and Cracking the Business Code. To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, Dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

The Value of Customer Service: It Can Make You or Break You

By Patrick McClure

Thank Your Customers

What impact can one person have on the revenue performance of a large supermarket? Is it possible that one person can create a company-wide impact, sending shock waves of good cheer and driving ever-increasing repeat business? How can one person make such a difference?man holding rainbow

In one Midwestern supermarket chain, this is exactly what happened.

The following story was relayed to me by Barbara Glanz, a world-renowned professional speaker who delivers programs about how to create Legendary Customer service.

It was two days after she delivered one of her programs to a large supermarket chain when she received a telephone call from a 19-year old youngster – Johnny – who had Down syndrome. He bagged groceries at the supermarket. He told Barbara that he really enjoyed her program and had some ideas to make a difference in his company and wanted to know if she would approve. He wanted to create personal messages, handwritten, with inspirational ideas and thoughts and then wanted to drop these ideas into the grocery bags of his customers. Each of his customers would receive a message from Johnny. Barbara told him she thought this was a great idea, and with his manager’s approval that is what he did.

Two weeks later, Barbara received a call from the store manager. He reported that he now had a problem….there were long lines of people waiting at the cash register that Johnny was working. When he tried to move the customers into another less crowded line, they insisted on staying where they were. They wanted Johnny to bag their groceries, and to get his message.

Johnny’s actions inspired others in the store. The flower merchant began handing out spare flowers to young children and older ladies. The butcher wrapped his meat in special packages; the produce manager went out of his way to treat customers with special care. The entire store caught fire with a storm of amazing care and attention to their customers. Bottom line, the store traffic and revenues saw a huge boost, going on to become the most profitable store in the entire chain.

Delivering excellent customer service is not only personally gratifying, but it is immensely profitable. Thanking your customers, showing your appreciation in many small ways, is just good business. How many of you are working in firms, or for your own company, that need to adopt a similar strategy? How many Johnnys work at YOUR firm?

Statistics Show

Statistics show that it is far more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing customer. One of my clients, a medical device company, has estimated that their fully burdened cost of acquiring a qualified LEAD for their product is over $1000. When you add to this the sales and market costs as well as all other expenses involved, the total hands over earthcosts can be quite large. It’s time consuming, expensive, and very costly to acquire new customers. Once they have become customers, your company should be doing everything possible to retain them, by delivering excellent customer service.

Conversely, an upset customer is 5-10 times more likely to broadcast their dissatisfaction to the world. All of the good work you do can be negated by one thoughtless comment, one angry word, and one negative comment. In today’s social media world – everything connected to the internet – a negative customer service experience is easily shared with thousands of people and can actually go “viral” when it is broadcast to thousands.

The most successful companies have developed programs to deliver excellent customer service, and are doing everything possible to protect their market share. After all, there are dozens of competitors that would love to take your customers away, and all they need is the opportunity. Don’t give them the chance! Keep your customers happy!

In Focused or Customer Focused

Another key to successful customer relations is infusing your company to the core with the principals of quality customer service. Every member of your team—executive, manager, employee – has the responsibility to deliver first-rate service to your customers. 

There is a huge difference between a company that is inwardly-focused and a company that is customer focused. Here are some distinctions:

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See if you can spot where YOUR company fits. If you’re spending all your time thinking about internal issues, you’re headed for disaster. Remember, your customers are paying your salary and if you’re not working sincerely to earn their trust and support, they can always take their business elsewhere.men putting road together

One more point: when we use the word “customer” we are talking about your outside customers as well as your inside customers. If you are a manager, you are working daily with employees and all of the customer service skills you have developed apply equally to your employees. In many ways, if you are a manager your most important “customer” is a direct report.

Active Listening

We’ve all heard one of the core maxims in providing excellent customer service: “The customer is always right. “ This is used during training and by management to convey the important concept that when a customer is upset or concerned, it never works to argue with them or discount what they are saying. What it REALLY means is that the customer’s perception of what occurred is correct for them, regardless of what you think. Their experience, and how they feel about it, is the most important factor to be dealt with, and it must be listened to and understood.

If the customer is angry, their impression of what just occurred has lead them to respond with anger, regardless of your impression. This is not the time to react, but it is a time to put yourself into their place and actively listen to what their viewpoint is. You will never be able to deliver excellent service if you REACT to the customer or immediately conclude they are stupid, ignorant or unrealistic.

Whenever you react and make a snap decision about someone else, this decision will color how you view that person. It’s like your mind is a huge magnifying glass and it will automatically seek out the character traits that you’ve decided must be there! If you perceive that the customer in front of you is messy and disorganized, then you will automatically assume their entire life must be the same way. If you feel insulted by what the other person has said, then you will project this feeling on them and the situation will worsen.

The alternative is Active Listening, a much needed skill in the business world. This requires the following steps:

  1. Shut up, stop talking.
  2. Focus your attention on the other person, calmly and professionally.
  3. Listen to their verbal communication, as well as their emotions and attitudes. Train yourself to become very perceptive with the non-verbal messages that we all project.
  4. Ask questions to clarify as needed. Listen to their answers.
  5. Paraphrase, clarify or summarize what they said to make absolutely certain you received what they said and what they meant. You will be amazed at discovering how often you didn’t fully grasp what was said.

Remember, active listening is not about you. It’s all about the other person, so get out of yourself and put your focus and attention on them. Good communication and active listening man listening to groundskills are the core component of delivering excellent customer service.

The founder of one of the most successful (and largest) companies in the world had this to say:
“Our Goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best, but legendary.” – Sam Walton, Wal-Mart

Final Thoughts

According to Dana Borowka, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC (www.lighthouseconsulting.com) and author of Cracking the Personality Code hiring the right people is key to future growth. If you would like additional information on raising the hiring bar, please click here to see an article on this subject.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2017

Patrick McClure, Sr. Sales & Customer Service Training Consultant of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC, is a speaker, trainer, consultant, and author who enjoys working with individuals and corporations to help them achieve maximum performance. He has dedicated his practice to helping others become more successful. To learn more, email patrick@lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training.

To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code”, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.