September, 2012:

Is The Apple Store Customer Service Secret Really Out?

Apple Customer ServiceIt was so simple when I read it. In fact, it was such “primary” introductory Customer Service Skills that I couldn’t believe they even used the acronym and got their staff to buy in without rolling their eyes in the classroom. But if this is such common sense for customer service delivery, why is it still not common practice elsewhere?

Apple’s customer service secret to success is:

Approach customers with a personalized, warm welcome.
Probe politely to understand the customer’s needs (ask closed- and open-ended questions).
Present a solution for the customer to take home today.
Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns.
End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.

I truly believe the secret is NOT just in “training staff in customer service”. The secret is getting your staff to consistently deliver it by buying in to your culture of care.

What is your “customer service culture”? Do you even have one, besides a page in your orientation manual? Without a strong customer service program, you won’t keep customers in today’s competitive environment. If you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business and therefore no need for marketing, human resources, operations, or accounting departments.

Guess who a Customer Service culture starts with? You guessed it: the leadership, and more specifically, the CEO and/or the owner of the company with their senior team. One has to take the time to have a vision, gather commitment and define the scope of what your Customer Service and Culture of Care looks like. I help organizations all the time define why they exist. Why does the customer show up, buy from you and continue to tell everyone about you?

6 Ways to Create Your Culture Of Care

1) Define why your company exists in 3-5 words. Ask, what are the top things your customers absolutely require and expect from you? For example: McDonalds = Consistent, Affordable, Clean and Efficient. Their employees know the decisions they make are based on these 4 words and the importance of the delivery systems in place.

2) Design and deliver Customer Service Training that is customized. These include your typical touch points to deliver excellent service as well as where to up-sell additional products and services.

3) Ensure that training is designed with exercises that are based on “your” customer interactions with your key messaging, brand and culture around your 3-5 words and other areas you want to embed.

4) Train your leaders in programs that are customized specifically for you. Include leadership and supervisory skills that are based on your own company’s culture of customer service. Sending managers out to other generic supervisory and leadership courses often end up with just the “flavour of the month”.

5) Train all your staff to be solution oriented, internally and externally. If you trace service breakdowns that are happening in the accounting department, you will see the customer (external) is probably also suffering from the effects of the breakdown (internal). The keynotes and a large component of my Customer Service Training is focused on leaving participants with an “I Can Fix That” mindset. We’ve found that the company or organization can soar when everyone is “Finding 3rd Ways”, troubleshooting service breakdowns and ensuring that problems are resolved, especially when things don’t go as planned on a day-to-day basis.

6) Lastly, don’t forget to celebrate, share and reward success as your scores improve.

If you always remember to fix the customers’ problem(s), and you do this on a consistent basis, you will easily beat any competitor and have customers coming back and referring you for life.

The difference is in the way you set up your standards and not only teach in initial training and orientation, but also bring them in for refreshers to deal with service breakdowns and generate possible solutions. Your staff actually know what could be done, but often don’t tell management; they just get irritated and often stay stuck. The sessions I customize for clients generate a plethora of ideas and solutions for “3rd ways” to fix customer challenges. Some are so easy and immediate that you wonder why you never thought of them.

APPLE went much further than these elementary skills — just ask any business, teenager or the parent who is buying these little expensive computers for them to carry around. Most kids insist on having an Apple device these days (witness the soaring sales of iPhones and iPads). Apple – as many now know – searches websites, blogs, and comments on social media to learn what people dislike about their devices, what they want and then SOLVES those problems in their products. They then market the solutions to these problems. After you buy; they want to continue to solve your problems. They know that, in this competitive environment, the cost of not creating a culture of care through training and leadership is far more expensive than the cost of implementing it.

What is your Customer Service or “Culture of Care”? If you need help in getting started, revising your existing plans, or just to enhance your customer service levels, call or email me today to find out how our customized consulting (facilitation, needs analysis, summary and reporting), keynotes or training services can help you move to the next level:

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