Corporate Training

Can You Teach Friendly? Customer Service & Reputation Management, especially during the Christmas Crunch


What a Visit to Puerto Rico Taught Me

A Story of Resilience

Let me start with a story of resilience. I was in Puerto Rico recently and conducted a presentation (more like a “Think Tank”, using my “I Can Fix That” concepts). Before I arrived, I was not sure what attitudes to expect of these groups attending a conference dedicated to bringing more tourism back to the Island and rebuilding to previous levels. Puerto Rico is an incredible place! From the vibrancy of San Juan, to the stunning views from the beaches and luxurious hotels, golf courses, even a rain forest (with no mosquitoes), vibrant music, tasty food and ohhhhh-so-friendly people. The people and businesses of P.R. are struggling with some very big challenges, including the Zika virus like many areas in the region, along with economic woes. After my presentation, during the workshop portion, the room filled with serious conversations on the effects and the science of this virus, the economic issues it has created, and the serious and tragic side effects it causes to unborn children. The attendees got to work and filled up over five flip chart pages of what they could do right now “on the ground” at their hotels, resorts and golf courses to help fix some of these significant challenges. The people in the room provided each other a path forward, while the world waits for a vaccine or other clinical or scientific methods to deal with putting a viral crisis under control. I was impressed with how they brought these ideas together.

What Does Friendly Look Like?

Let’s rewind a little….I arrived at the airport in the wee hours of the night (this, after three consecutive flights in the same day, including a weather delay), and I was looking forward to getting to my hotel. I had no checked luggage so I thought this was going to be easy. Unfortunately, my pre-ordered ground transportation was not there: there was nobody in the luggage area; no sign with my name on it; no car waiting curbside or even a bus in sight. Needless to say, I was bleary-eyed and cranky. I was wrinkled, needed to brush my teeth from too much coffee, and needed sleep NOW. Seeing virtually nobody in the airport, my sense of bewilderment increased. I found two security guards at each end of the arrivals hall about 1,000 feet away from each other. They were not TSA or security screeners, but the ones who are dedicated to luggage areas and stand behind a small kiosk. I was expecting a language barrier and a lackluster reception where they would just point. However, they both jumped to my aid, coordinating efforts by calling my hotel and arranging a taxi – doing anything to get me there (which was still another 45-minute drive). Their only concern was to “fix” my plight. Where I had expected, “Sorry, we can’t help”, I got friendly concern and a show of competency. A demonstration of the “3 C’s” I speak about.

After their calls to the hotel, a shuttle showed up for me (not the company I had previously arranged). At that time of night, I was expecting the language barrier again, however my driver was super friendly, empathetic, and even apologized, even though she was not responsible for my original ride and was with a completely different company. Everyone who got involved simply did not want me stranded. Imagine: people caring so much that they took on the responsibility to find a solution even though they were not responsible for causing the problem? I thought “Can you teach this stuff?”

The driver did have to drop off other guests at another hotel first, but “Hey, no problem. I didn’t have to wait and it felt hardly out of the way because of the great conversation”. For the duration of my trip in Puerto Rico, things continued to be great: there was a noticeable difference of “friendly” at every touch-point. Not only at the airport but throughout the city, the people I met, the concierge, the hotel and restaurant staff, and everyone in between. I mean, it was not a “put-on” friendly but something more genuine….not a “because I have to … because I’m in the tourism industry”, but a warm, honest-to-goodness genuine warmth from everyone I met.

I’ve traveled most of the globe as a flight crew member, business owner, speaker and author. I’m often really picky, and so often one location blends into another. So I really notice when things are really good and have often asked myself – Can You Teach Friendly?

How to create a culture of “friendly”

Here are my top 3 things to know, if you want to create a culture of friendly:

  1. Leaders begin with messaging and actions that exemplify a “We Can Fix That” attitude”. They work towards solving problems not away from them or feeling defeated. I recently noticed the Chicago Cubs’ coach Joe Madden speak on how he discounted “the curse” and only worked on what “they could do” in the 7th game tied in the 10th inning of the World Series (where there had not been a win for 108 years). This mindset comes from within, a belief from each person, an understanding that they can make a difference and contribution, even when things don’t go as planned. Leaders look at these “oops” as opportunities to figure it out to help the team solve problems.
  2. Resilience actually creates more resilience. Teams don’t shy away from challenges or a crisis. Once teams realize that when they get through one crisis, the next one can come along pretty quickly. If there is a pattern of “we got through that one, we can get through this one, let’s figure it out” – they move more quickly to resolve (and avoid resistance). When actions are taken to solve problems (contribute), people see results, and this continues a cycle of more results. Teams start self-managing each other and correct each other. You will hear them actually encouraging each other to find solutions instead of complaining.
  3. Teams know how to handle conflicts, to get to resolve. They understand that to debate a position, they must learn how to argue with intelligence (facts, knowledge on the topic), and bring it forward with respect. They must move to interest-based issues not attacks. There is a module on conflict resolution and how to handle visibly upset people with grace, in my Online learning modules. See an excerpt here. Scroll down to FREE PREVIEW “The Cabin Story”

We know things will not always go as planned, and this is where you really need people to want to put up their hand and say “I Can Fix That”. As the season of travel, shopping, and shipping is upon us, many realize that orders can be delayed, products will break, servers will go down, hiring enough people can be tough, and you can’t automate everything. Everyone who focuses on creativity and thoughtfulness of both those working on the inside and those face-to-face with the customer will prevail. By creating a culture of care at all touch-points, I think you can teach “friendly”. Be nice everyone; ’tis the Season.

With online reviews just a click away from customers’ fingertips, now is the time to give your staff some Fall Training. Want a FREE ONLINE ORGANIZATIONAL ASSESSMENT? Go to: FREE ORGANIZATIONAL ASSESSMENT

Get the Training now Anywhere, Anytime on Any Device.

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Does Online Learning for “Customer Service” Skills Work?

online_courseI’m considering moving my training programs to online learning, partly due to the number of requests I’ve had from my clients. The concern we all have (my clients included), is: Can you move courses that result in behavioural changes (vs. technical training for procedures and processes) to a flat-screen online learning environment? Are the results as successful?

Clients are rightfully requesting the service because it’s been demonstrated that online learning programs offer the following benefits:

  1. Just-in-time
    The organization or learner can get ready access, whether it’s when they are hired or when they need a refresher given an incident or increase in customer service issues.
  2. Anytime, Anywhere
    This benefit offers no need to check my calendar for conflicts, pay for travel expenses or incur other costs typically associated with holding live training events. Just log in and start learning.
  3. Fewer Scheduling or Logistic Headaches
    Learners are directed to a link, sign up and take the course and are presented with a Certificate of Completion. Some learning management systems (LMS) even offer the reports for quick look up and there is no further need to track. However, these can be costly for the smaller organization, so a Certificate of Completion could suffice and be provided to the organization for tracking.
  4. Community & Communication
    Feeling “plugged in” to online community could be especially helpful if staff or participants work different shifts or in different geographic regions. It gives them a forum like a classroom environment to discuss and work out challenges together that a live classroom environment offers. Note: I still believe there will always be a need to “rub-shoulders” at events and meetings – a lot can get done in the hallways..
  5. Multi-Sensory Experience
    If the online design is done right – and includes not just flat-screen text and graphics, but sound, audio, and video along with interactive activities and even gamification – it could meet a lot of requirements that aid in learning. Sometimes the multi-media that is available online is too expensive to recreate in the classroom, but can be added quickly as plug-ins to create a multi-sensory experience.
  6. Immediate Feedback
    As a learner goes through modules and is quizzed (or “polled”) on their key learnings, the learner gets to confirm if they are retaining things or are on track. This helps course designers make improvements more quickly.

So, because you’ve asked, I wanted to let you know that I have been reviewing a multitude of online courses, interviewing my clients and finding out what they have, what they like, what they hate and what I can do differently. Online learning may be in our near future!

If you have any feedback or ideas, please email me via my website. I’m looking for creative ideas.

* * * *

For those of you near Vancouver – I’m offering a
FREE Training Program: “I Can Fix That”
3-Hour Program
May 7, 2016

Space is limited to just 30 and Pre-Registration is required.

The program will be videotaped and the lessons moved to an online environment with many features that we’ve recognized together will be incorporated into my online learning.

For more Information and to register, visit

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How Hard is it to Keep Customers Happy When Companies Make Changes to Their Products?

Things change fast and it can be disruptive to the customers’ experience. Technology and automation change, demographics change, trends and tastes change, and even regulation or laws change that impact a business. For example, on July 1st Canada’s “Implied Consent” for internet communications change. I believe I have followed all the rules in that you signed up for my newsletter – and you can always unsubscribe.

A company’s big changes create a lot of little effects (and irritations) for us customers. For example, in the past month my credit card company recently switched to another banking institution and I was issued a new card, and my “points” or level seems to be changing so fast I can’t keep up with what I have or don’t have! My vacation property listing company is also making sweeping changes to their web portal in just a few days; this leaves me with quite a bit of work to update new photos and match items. Even my long-time favorite brands of face makeup and hair gel have changed their product formulas; I can’t replace them with the same quality and am now forced to look at their competitors.

On a grander physical scale, when airports get new terminals and sometimes even new “rail service” (such as in Toronto and Honolulu), these, too, cause changes that affect hurried travellers on a deadline to make their next flight.

How does a company keep up and keep customers happy? I’ve called the call centres, I’ve written emails to the company to check what they could recommend, and even went into the retail store to compare and find something suitable. It can be an exercise in futility for both the service representative and the customer. Often the customer will walk out if they don’t feel they’ve been guided or directed to a possible solution or option.

So what are some simple steps to aid in the transition of a product change? It comes down to training both your customer and staff. In other words, have a change management training program in place.

1. Identify and clearly communicate to staff what the changes are.
2. Gather a list from your staff of the fears they have around these changes. They may be able to anticipate a customer’s complaint and you can be prepared.
3. Use these challenges to identify best possible solutions so your company is “armed” with appropriate answers, suggestions and recommendations. In fact, the company should have identified and implemented the changes or have the “work-around” in place before the new product launch.
4. Determine a communications plan on how you will arm your staff with the information, such as “job aids”, cheat sheets, possible scenarios.
5. Determine a communications plan on how you will “teach” your customers what the differences are. Know how you will use website, emails, newsletters, ads, letters, and phone calls to ensure you are pointing out the “benefits” to the customer (even though the company may be doing the change for its own benefit). Ensure your staff are equipped with the “why” the change and “how” it helps the customer.
6. Ensure that staff members are equipped with a list of possible options (products or solutions) to the expected problems, and that they are clearly matched to a customer’s particular challenge that the change will impact.

Example: Hair gel product discontinued.
Customer Problem – New product does not give same lift
Possible Solutions
• Put all product lines with descriptions on website and guide customer to a selection (This will provide a resource for call centres as well as in-store retail staff to guide customers to)

Example: New Terminal for Departing Airlines
Customer Problem – Traveller gets lost; the taxi or person dropping them off is unaware of the new location. Someone may miss their flight.
Possible Solution
• Airport and airline use social media and internet to get word out.
• When tickets are issued online, an announcement about the changes is highlighted in RED.
• Staff are encouraged to announce the change and suggest ideas pre-emptively
• Provide maps or QR codes with map, or a mobile “app”.
• All ground transportation and local taxi companies are notified.
• Maps are distributed and requested they be put on all websites for related companies.
• Post signage for a period of time both before and after the changes

These are just a few examples to highlight the challenge of keeping customers happy during change. For each change your company will go through, use the power of the whiteboard with a group of leaders and front-line staff to prepare and develop communications and training programs to help everyone including your customers through the transition.

Change is hard on your employees, leaders and customers. Your strategic plan for the change should always have your customer in mind.

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The Real Cost of Losing a Customer

They Now Tell 500+ Friends Before They Get to the Parking Lot

One of the most fascinating things that I witness from time to time is when a company can’t handle the discerning customer. This is someone who provides feedback and complains and if the substance of the feedback was actually listened to— it can dramatically help a business improve. Often with just a few tweaks, suggested by the customer, a business can actually save the company time, money and keep their brand promise intact.

Tragically, the feedback of a discerning customer can backfire if the company tries to defend vs. fixing the problem. The business “fires” the customer inadvertently. I think of a recent instance of a dissatisfied customer making some appropriate (and factual) comments to another customer. The owner of the business learned of it defended their position, and terminated the relationship without giving any credit to the substance of the feedback, which pertained to broken equipment and lack of cleanliness. Unfortunately for the business owner, the cost of firing this customer resulted in the loss of 9 other customers also. Someone with over 500+ friends will have told everyone about the interaction before they got to the parking lot.

When a business gets a customer complaint, it’s likely that there are a hundred more with the same opinion, so best to do something about it. The hundred customers that you have not heard from – talk behind your back and now online to hundreds more at a time. Have you ever heard the saying “The Customer is Always Right”? In most cases, they are. I do have a Caveat: If there is an act of violence or someone’s safety is in jeopardy, get immediate assistance; you are probably justified in firing (losing) the customer.

Let’s look at the cost losing a customer by contrasting it to the “life time value” of a customer. The following formula does not include the cost of acquiring a new customer. Here is the sample cost breakdown of losing a customer from the scenario I described above.

    Lifetime Value of a Customer

Scenario: a fitness club, at which equipment maintenance and cleanliness have deteriorated. Membership revenue is generated monthly (/mo).

LOSSES: 1 customer leaves and convinces 8 friends to leave.
9 memberships x $35 /mo = $315 /mo x 12 months = $3,780
5 years (expected length of a typical membership) = $18,900

Firing “one customer” cost that business almost $19,000 in revenue. Do you think it will fix equipment and improve cleaning to retain other customers? How long do you think a company will be in business with these kinds of losses?

Lesson: If you own or help run a business, you better pay close attention to how your customers feel. Failure to do this will be the loss to your business in (1) revenue when the customer walks and (2) potential revenue when they then tell the world. (3) Not to mention potential loss of the entire business and personal loss of income for the owner, all the employees (jobs), and all your suppliers! Ouch!

Granted, sometimes a customer is not your correct demographic. For example, someone who normally travels First Class will have a tough time traveling on a discount carrier, and you’ll never please them no matter what you do. In cases like this, there is a way to “inform” or teach customers about the different aspects of your business so they understand why something is happening. Refer to my other blogs for the “Knock it Off Nicely” technique where you have no choice but to deal with a situation without causing hard feelings.

This blog addresses the feedback that a customer provides to a business that is “right” and could dramatically help identify vulnerabilities and opportunities to improve. It’s always best to REALLY listen. This is where training staff becomes vitally important; it is no longer optional for companies if they don’t have the skill to handle difficult or unhappy customers. Unfortunately, I often see an employee or even a business owner trying to defend “their” company because they are personally vested. They take any slight or negative criticism personally and may get angry back at the customer. As you know, this just ends up in ill will for both parties. The company always loses, the customer just goes elsewhere. Meanwhile the customer is telling 500+ friends on Facebook what just happened and if the story is “juicy” enough it goes viral. Your business loses in the end.

To avoid the costly scenario of firing a customer, put better customer service practices into your business plan for daily implementation. Every business should look at how to effectively handle customer feedback, whether received face-to-face (often with frustration and anger), or through e-mail, letters, and every form of social media. Remember, it’s not just “1” complaining customer; they are simply the voice of others who are also sharing their “horror stories”. If you don’t listen and go looking for the feedback in the first place, you won’t get a chance to fix it. There is no way to stop the consequences that an unhappy customer can cause to your business these days if you are not dealing with the problems.

Go looking for feedback: create a Google alert to see what others are saying about you. This is often the BEST form of feedback for a company to follow how they could improve. It used to cost tens of thousands of dollars for focus groups and mystery shoppers; now, the feedback is at every business owner’s fingertips.

How you treat the customer effects our entire economy as well as job loss and employment rates directly within our communities and nationally. The world is now competing for our customers. If you feel it is time to bring a new or improved culture of care to get your business to the next level, don’t hesitate to contact me at:

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Are You Serving Broccoli and Chocolate?


Give Customers What they Need So They Stay for What They Want.

If you were to ask your child what they wanted for dinner, would they say broccoli or chocolate? Chances are it would not be the broccoli, although as parents we know they need it. Most businesses get lost in trying to deliver the “chocolate” when delivering customer service, and get distracted from their customers’ core needs (the “broccoli”) – the needs that made a customer decide to come to you in the first place.

Take travel for instance. When a customer buys a ticket for a flight or a train ride, they need to move – to be transported! You can give all sorts of bells and whistles along the way, but that train or plane better get a customer to where they’re going. If they’re not moving, the next thing they absolutely need is to be informed. Just look down the aisle of any airplane at 9:02 when it should have left at 9:00. The entire plane is looking around at the flight crew wondering what is going on. They are thankful when the staff make an announcement with an update and they all go back to their reading. Keeping customers moving and informed is what I call the “broccoli” of providing customer needs in this industry. A business must know their essential service and not lose sight of it.

Think also of fast food restaurants. As customers, we need efficient, affordable and clean places to eat with working and “clean” bathrooms. Miss these fundamentals (the “broccoli”) and the customer will probably go elsewhere. Businesses should understand their absolute musts (the “broccoli bits”) of their business to meet customer needs so they and their teams can make decisions and prioritize – especially when things don’t go as planned.

The “chocolate”, on the other hand, are your extras, often known as the things that set you apart or the cool stuff. The whip cream or swirl on top of your coffee; the sleeve so you don’t burn your hand from a hot cup; the pickles; the type of dishes; the decor; a pillow or blanket on a flight. The options are endless, and every business knows what they need to constantly update their “chocolate” to stand out in the crowd. However, those companies who have longevity don’t lose their focus on the “broccoli bits” that their customers need before dishing up the “chocolate” to keep them coming back for more.

If you need a customer service keynote, customer service training, or assistance defining or being reminded of the “broccoli” and the “chocolate” of your business, send us an email to find out how we can help.

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The Top 5 Customer Service Complaints During the Christmas Rush and What Leaders and Staff Can Do About Them!!!

Frustrated ShoppersBeware shoppers may bring this to your business!

We’re all in the middle of the final countdown to Christmas and seasonal celebrations that could make just about anyone wish they would get ploughed down by a reindeer. If you are in retail, then there will be returns shortly thereafter. From buying gifts, food, alcohol parties and everything in between, we all need the extra time and strategies – including the staff who are working during the rush. Most people are not on their regular clock and they are getting pushy and cranky out there. This includes service staff in any of those industries that won’t breathe until about January 5th. If staff have to hear music by “Alvin & The Chipmunks” one more time this week, they probably want to @#$%^ scream!

So how do service staff keep their sanity? By helping them prepare for the things that don’t go as planned or the frankly the service breakdowns that are caused by the rush.

Before a shift, customer service staff could discuss how to handle the different service breakdowns that happen during this season by using some of these ideas and brainstorm further or discuss a breakdown that happened yesterday that they could not seem to find a solution to. The focus should be on how to proactively handle it (find 3rd ways), so staff are ready when it does happen because they know it will happen again.

Top Service Breakdowns and Some Possible Solutions
Use this for Customer Service Training Meetings before a shift to get the discussions started.

For each of the service breakdowns, I suggest some possible solutions below. Leaders and staff can use this to brainstorm for more ideas pertinent to their business.

1. Lineups at the cashier.

  • Ensure stanchions are correctly used or place product tables to guide people; no one likes a “cutter”.
  • Staff should know how to politely guide people and exercise crowd control and not be afraid to let people know where and how they could line up.
  • Offer to hold the products for a specified time . If someone is really upset, offer to hold and place their name on items, especially if they have other shopping to complete. Suggest they could also come back at a quieter time, the end of day, or the following day, or give a time limit (if you think they might not come back and you know you could sell the items).
  • Have separate lineups for cash and debit/credit card purchases.

2. The computer system goes down during busy times.

  • Start a cash lineup separate from the debit/credit card purchases. Post a “CASH ONLY” sign if possible.
  • Depending how long the system will be down, offer to hold products and for them to come back.

3. You are out of stock or a certain size.

  • Offer an alternative gift idea by finding out who it is for, then think “what else?” and show them other options.
  • Order online (make sure you note the website and actual product name or SKU number for them). Even better, show them how to, or do it for them (time permitting). Many big stores now have the internet kiosk right in their stores and you can ship it directly to the customer. Don’t wait for the customer to leave the store.
  • Offer a gift card.

4. A customer has an adult temper tantrum.
This can be really hard on staff if they’ve never witnessed an adult having a hissy fit. It is often not the staff member they are mad at; more likely, it’s just the situation or the 15th thing that has gone wrong that day and their blood pressure or heart rate has just hit the max.

  • Don’t speak while the customer rants. Let them finish; be attentive and show sympathy.
  • Put on an imaginary shield. Don’t take it personally, try to figure out their plight.
  • Don’t tell them your policy or say “you can’t speak to me that way” (this just increases the intensity). Show concern by asking questions like when, where, how, and what to find out more about the problem; this often calms someone down, and shows you’re actually thinking or trying to get to a solution.
  • Move them to the side of the counter or to a more private place, or offer to see if the manager can help or if someone can contact them if you find out more.
  • Look for 3rd ways to solve their problem. Creative staff always win if they are focused on solving even the worst customer’s problem. They are often loud, and will tell everyone how good you were – because they often know how bad they were.

5. There is no one around to help.
Staff shortages, poor layout of stores, or even new processes can cause havoc on a frustrated shopper, and they may “abort mission” real fast. The sale is lost and they most likely won’t come back in January.

  • Have a sign suggesting: Can’t find what you are looking for? A gift card may work.
  • Ensure most popular items are easily accessible, stocked and sized before store opening and replenished on a regular schedule.
  • Staff do call in sick over the holidays, sometimes more often due to the number of contacts they are having. It can be tough for the remaining staff to squeeze in a 15-minute or lunch break during this season. Call on each other (rally staff) to stagger breaks during slower times or take shorter breaks to refresh, then offer a “sleep-in day” (come in fifteen minutes or an hour later) or get off earlier on a slower day in January.

For now, everyone does have to make concessions this time of year. It won’t be like this in mid-January if you are in retail! I promise!!

If you know an organization, or you’d like to improve your customer service contact the Customer Service Expert Elaine Allison visit to learn about her Keynotes & Learning Programs.

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What does “Internal” Customer Service Really Mean?

Customer ServiceMost people understand that “customer service” refers to serving those who purchase a product or service. That’s “External Customer Service”. But what about “Internal Customer Service”. What is it, and what happens when things break down on the inside of a company?

Internal Customer Service refers to the interactions between all the employees who support the company and those who work on the front line with “The Customer”. Regardless of the department – whether marketing and sales, operations, legal, human resources, I.T., or any other department – the way that these employees treat each other and work on solutions internally actually affects the customer and the bottom line.

Although you may think the customer doesn’t see it, I guarantee that if internal customer service is breaking down, your external customer service feels the hit eventually. This not only dilutes your ability to attract new customers; it also affects how you retain customers. If internal customer service is suffering, a large marketing budget can be wasted expense.

Sample Breakdowns of Internal Customer Service

The following examples show how problems internally can have external effects:

  1. A payroll person makes an error on someone’s pay check, the employee can become frustrated, and the customer notices the indifferent attitude of the employee.
  2. Inadequate or frayed order entry processes delay delivery of products or services. The customer service representatives who are trying to deliver the product or conduct the transaction are constantly trying to appease the customer, often with costly ramifications both in reconciliation and time. Those who understand the complications of supply chain management can prepare customers, seek alternatives (3rd ways) to the customers’ immediately problems, lessen the impact and stress on colleagues and their customers.
  3. Two employees are not speaking to each other or are blaming each other’s departments. When two people ignore, avoid or blame each other because they don’t have the tools to resolve issues, there are service breakdowns internally and further along the line. Honest communication is key, and working towards “resolve” and how to fix things without ill feelings will always catapult an organization forward.

How to Improve Internal Customer Service

Let me help work with your organization with my “I Can Fix That” programs. Your attendees will learn that the focus should be on recognizing their internal service breakdown without blaming and working towards resolve. I’ll help reprogram their thinking to focus on problem solving. In the interactive keynotes and workshops, I teach a variety of techniques so they realize the only thing that counts is fixing the problem. Both employees and customers benefit from these key learning’s, and the behaviours are often enacted the next day.

Email me today to see how we can help improve your Internal Customer Service. or visit my YouTube Channel:

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In Customer Service Does the Second Impression Count as Much?? Sir Richard Branson Says Yes!!

Sir Richard BransonSir Richard Branson (of Virgin) says that although the first impression counts in customer service, so does the second one — and the second one is when the customer is calling his company because of a problem!

Are your staff trained to handle issues especially when things don’t go as planned? I’ve worked with airports for many years and, as a former flight crew member, know that this environment is prone to things going wrong. There are just too many different companies involved in making an airplane park, pull up to a gate, unload, load and then soar off again. Sometimes 20 different stakeholders with competing agendas must cooperate to make it happen. Unfortunately, the customer always gets the brunt of the service breakdown, regardless of who caused it.

Whether the issues are mechanical problems, baggage belts breaking, power outages, bad weather, shortage of supplies or cost-cutting measures – everyone gets grumpy, both employees and customers. The more people feel they can’t do anything about things, the more frustrated everyone becomes — and believe me, the customer won’t come back. How an employee effectively and positively handles the day-to-day “oops” (regardless of who caused it) always leaves a better impression than if everything had worked as planned. This is called the Second Impression that a customer has of your company and if it is handled well – they give your organization an instant testimonial.

How Does a Company Create the Wow Factor?
Companies come to me all the time asking, “How do we get our staff to create magic moments, go the extra mile, WOW them, or – as said in a famous training video – Give em the Pickle™.

One of the best ways to create this magic is to get your employees focused on making a great Second Impression by finding “3rd ways” to solve the problem. Even if you can’t wave a magic wand to make it happen, there is always something else that can be done.

Take airline delays for example: I witnessed one smart customer service airline employee make an announcement by asking how many people “wished they had more time to read?” (It was done with fun in mind and to try to change the mood of the delay). He then simply said that this delay gave them the gift of having more time to read, and then he let them know the book store was just down from their gate (he created a third way to solve the problem). He also mentioned that the newsstand had Nicorette™ gum for those who could not get out of the airport for a cigarette. The customers actually complied and went to the stores, and I’m sure the retailer was very happy.

How are your staff handling the oops situations? Do they know how not to say “No” to a customer; but always think “what else” or “what other options” could I suggest with this predicament? Can your staff think creatively?. This is a culture that can be taught to your employees, and there are many training techniques that can be used to create this culture.

If you’d like more information on how to create a great Second Impression or to bring the “I Can Fix That” keynote to your upcoming meeting or conference, contact me today:

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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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