Is Your Customer Service Transparent Enough?

Transparent Customer ServiceEveryone gives lip service to the importance of customer service, but few actually do it well. As a result, service gets “rubber-stamped” if delivered at all. Since your customers are human beings (not just a number or dollar sign) how might you give them more of what they really want rather than what is convenient for you?

Let me explain what I mean about being more transparent and giving the customer what they want with a little story. A few weeks ago I had gone out to eat to a brand new restaurant and bar. They had literally had their grand opening that same week. So, they were working out the kinks. That’s just the reality of things. I have no problem with that if it is handled right.

We each ordered entrees and then waited. And waited. And waited. All the tables around us were getting their food, finishing up, leaving, and we were still in a holding pattern. The waiter came by a few times to apologize for the delay and assure us our food was coming soon. Frankly after the second time it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t in a hurry or anything, I just wanted to know what was going on. Most “customer service” stops where this waiter stopped. However, the manager went a step further. She came over and explained to us why everything was delayed. She shared that when they cooked my dish the first time it simply didn’t meet their standards. So, rather than send out a dish that was less than acceptable, they chose to start over and cook a new one. That is why there was such a delay. Our first round of drinks and dessert would be on the house.

Now THAT is transparency. To me that makes the difference between “ok” service that may or may not have me return as a customer and service that makes me feel good and yearn to return. They could’ve just kept apologizing vaguely or blamed the kitchen or blamed it on just opening up. But they didn’t! They gave me a rational explanation for the delay that I could not only understand but also respect (wow – they have standards! They take pride in what comes out of their kitchen!). That takes courage, confidence, and a willingness to not hide behind smoke and mirrors.

Now, apply this to your business.

First the inner awareness: When something does not go as intended, are you afraid of being vulnerable so you find yourself hiding, avoiding, or being vague? What would it take for you to be confident and transparent about a circumstance?

Now the practical action: What will you do differently next time there is an opportunity to serve your customer better? Will you get on the phone and speak directly? Share more information and be more transparent (as appropriate)?

The great companies know how to do this and make it a habit (think: REI, Zappos, LL Bean, Ritz Carlton). Whether you are a company of millions or a company of one, you can do it too.

Need help dissecting what’s working and what’s not in your business? Contact me for a discovery session to explore how I can help you grow your business.

photo credit: Ben Zvan via photopin cc

10 Ways to Express Your Gratitude to Clients and Colleagues

GratitudeGratitude is a worthwhile daily practice.  The words “thank you” are so simple to say and can have such a huge impact on others.  There is no better time than now to tell people you’re grateful for that they matter to you and have made a difference.  With Thanksgiving and the holiday season on the way, opportunities abound to express your sentiments of gratitude.

First, make a list of all the people you are most grateful for. These are all the people you are glad to have in your life.

Within your business these might include:

  • Current and past clients
  • Joint Venture partners
  • Mentors, colleagues, and other supporters
  • Referral partners
  • Friends

Don’t let the gratitude stop at the office, though… keep listing those who make a difference for your life:

  • Friends
  • Family
  • Neighbors
  • Service providers (healers, health care practitioners, your auto mechanic, vet, etc.)
  • Spiritual mentors, church community, other community organizations you belong to
  • Your children’s teachers, coaches, babysitters
  • Anyone who goes the extra mile to serve you

Here are 10 ways you could express your gratitude today and any time you want to let them know they matter to you. [Read more…]

The Little Things DO Matter – What REALLY Sets You Apart

This week I experienced a personal heartbreak.  It was during that time that I was once again reminded what truly sets someone (and their business) apart.  It has nothing to do with flashy stuff, extra letters after your name, or a snappy elevator pitch.  It is all about having heart, caring about the little things, and showing up to serve as a real, authentic, and caring human being.

CopperOur beloved cat Copper who was 16 had been experiencing old age kidney decline for the last 18 months, the last 3 of them being a high-maintenance, roller-coaster ride of giving her subcutaneous fluids and medication at home.  Any cat lover knows just how much fun giving a cat an IV and pills is, so you can imagine the stress of this time. She was a total trooper and such a good, sweet kitty the whole way for which we were grateful.

That is why it was so heartbreaking to have to put her down this week.  As I reflect on this experience, I was reminded how blessed I am to have so many of the service providers in my life be such top notch.

There are probably at least 5 veterinarians within a 4 mile radius of my house. Yet the one I have used through my years in this town far surpasses what it means to be of service.  It’s like a lesson in customer service and differentiating yourself from the competition every time I meet with them (and this includes not just the doctors but the extended staff). And, it has nothing to do with a sales pitch.

In just this 3 month period the good people at Telford Veterinary Hospital have:

  • Guided us wisely through the almost constant ups and downs of kidney failure and bladder infections.
  • Saved us untold upset by recommending one of their vet technicians to care for our cat and her medical needs when we had to travel for personal or business. (She went above and beyond and then some for us… I love this woman!)
  • Treated our cat and equally important us (the humans/owners part of the equation) with nothing but the most personal and compassionate care and communication.
  • Regularly followed up with us via phone and accommodated last minute appointment needs as the situation warranted.

You might think – well that’s just part of running a business, right?

Perhaps…But… [Read more…]

7 Surefire Ways to Lose Someone’s Trust (and Business)

Losing Someone's TrustRecently I was on the receiving end of an incredibly poor bit of customer service from someone I know and trust.  I am an incredibly local customer and a pretty reasonable person (hey, I know stuff happens and can roll with it) and yet there are some things that are simply deal breakers.

I’ll be the first to say that it pains me when I have to say goodbye to a service provider or company I love. Yet what I’ve learned the hard way is that hanging on or trying to sweep your concerns under the carpet because you don’t want anyone to feel badly is a fast path to compromising your own values, ignoring your own needs and deteriorating a relationship until it sours irrevocably.

I’d invite you to read the rest of this article through two lenses: The first lens: that of a business owner serving customers and the second lens: that of a customer partaking in someone else’s service.   Why?

If you’re a business owner you can’t possibly make these mistakes and expect to have positive customer relationships and a thriving business.  If you’re a customer (and we are all customers), you deserve to be respected and valued.  Your choice of where you spend your money and energy speaks volumes and is a direct reflection of the priorities in your life and your own self-esteem.

  1. Not Doing What You Say
    Nothing breeds distrust and unreliability like saying one thing and doing another.  It’s not hard to do what you say. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver.  And by all means don’t say something if you don’t mean it.
  2. Not Showing Up
    Just as destructive as not doing what you say, blowing people off feels even worse.  It sends the message to them that they don’t matter and that you don’t respect them. If something out of the ordinary happens and you need to miss an appointment/connection with a customer you absolutely need to make things right by communicating swiftly and fully.
  3. Lack of Communication
    Mistakes happen. Deadlines get missed.  Emergencies and life moments intervene into even the best-laid plans and intentions.  People understand this. That said, you must communicate. Nothing puts the nail in the coffin and fuels an exodus like nonexistent or questionable communication.
  4. Not Listening to What Your Customers Say
    Do you actually listen to what your customers tell you?  Or do you let it go in one ear and out the other while nodding politely?  I can think of one service provider I worked with who never ever listened to what I said.  I felt ignored and after repeated attempts at making my concerns known (and subsequently ignored), I simply gave up and took my business elsewhere.
  5. Inconsistent/Nonexistent Follow Up and Follow Through
    Do you vanish into the mist after you promise something? Very similar to not doing what you say, not following through just screams unreliable.  Who wants to work with someone that is unreliable? No one I know.  You can put on a great show and network like crazy but if you don’t follow through you may as well stay home on the couch.
  6. Ignoring Customer Needs and Requests
    No one is better at ignoring requests than my local gym.  Like a suave politician, the owner pretends he cares, but then answers you in a way that lets you know he doesn’t care and isn’t doing anything about it.  While you certainly cannot bend to every customer whim and desire (that’s a recipe for failure) you do want to honestly acknowledge and respond to the needs and requests of those you serve.  If you keep hearing the same request over and over, see if there is a way you can meet that need in a way that feels good to you (new offering, service, referral, etc.).
  7. Doing a Half-Baked Job
    A quality job and a job done right is crucial.  Performance is a reflection of attitude. In today’s world with so many instances of slipshod work and poor customer service, you can set yourself apart with attention to detail and high quality service.

 

It’s not hard to avoid these 7 deadly sins…it just takes a conscious mindset and a willingness to be present with those you serve (and are served by).  And it makes all the difference in the world to your business and those you serve.  Go above and beyond and appreciate those you work with.  A simple note of gratitude warms the heart on both sides.

 

Credit Image: llreadll on Flickr

How to Prioritize When Everything is a Priority

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