Tuesday, December 4, 2018

How to Respond to Challenging Customers

challenging customers

As the holiday season swings in to high gear, retail businesses and service organizations are likely to see a rise in the number of customers they serve each day – as well as stress levels associated with challenging customers.

The importance of excellent Customer Service cannot be overstated in today’s competitive markets. The reality is that people have many vendors, providers and merchants to choose from when making purchases, and if you want to keep them coming back to yours, you and your staff need to understand why it’s important and how to achieve it.

Let’s begin with the “Why”. Excellent customer service…

• Builds trust – According to business mogul Warren Buffet, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”

• Is more important than price – 9 out of 10 U.S. consumers say they would pay more to ensure a superior customer experience. (Harris Interactive/RightNow)

• Builds positive brand awareness

• Reduces problems for the company

• Appeals to the customer – 7 in 10 Americans said they were willing to spend more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service. (American Express)

As you train your staff to respond to challenging customers, here are 10 principles they need to put into practice:

1. Remain Calm and Listen – You cannot intelligently or effectively respond to someone’s problem without first hearing and accurately understanding it.

2. Empathize and Sympathize – Empathy is the ability to understand and mentally share the feelings of another. Sympathy is the ability to express compassion and sorrow for someone’s misfortune.

3. Agree when possible – Agreement on an issue, no matter how small, puts you in less of an adversarial role and helps to diffuse negative emotions.

4. Remember that others may be watching – Albert Einstein

Thursday, April 6, 2017

How NOT to Manage an Employee

manageAs a psychologist and executive coach, I am always interested to observe the way people demonstrate either good or bad habits in the way they conduct business. I remember well a time I was shopping at a well known chain store when I witnessed first-hand how those in leadership should NOT manage their employees.

The customer service specialist who was assisting me ran into a snag while trying to complete my transaction. After having pushed almost every button, she exhausted her personal knowledge base of solutions and had to request assistance from her store manager. By this time, it was obvious that she was feeling embarrassed and moderately anxious.

When the manager arrived he had a scowl on his face and looked put out by the request for help.  Without acknowledging his employee, or me (the customer spending money in his store), he abruptly punched some numbers into the computer, made a poorly veiled critical comment to his employee and stomped away. It was quite evident that the employee was even more embarrassed by the poor performance displayed by her “superior”.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Ask the Right Questions, Receive Better Answers – Part I

Here’s the scenario: It has just come to your attention that a customer filed a complaint about Mr. Smith, one of your employees. While your gut tells you that the customer may have overreacted a bit, there’s enough information to warrant a meeting with Mr. Smith. You know from past experience that he’s somewhat sensitive to criticism, but you have several legitimate concerns. How can you get the information you need without triggering a negative response from Mr. Smith?

Ask the Right Questions

Here’s another common office dilemma: You are meeting with a vendor who’s behind schedule and over budget on a project. You don’t want to jeopardize the job and you don’t want to burn a bridge with this company. However, you’re not at all satisfied with the way things are going and you need to take some answers back to your VP of Operations. What is your best approach?

Saturday, May 31, 2014

#1 Marketing Tool: Excellent Customer Service

Customer Service

I never cease to be amazed at the poor quality of service I sometimes receive at restaurants, stores and professional service companies. There is absolutely no excuse for a company to hire and/or retain people who are unable or unwilling to provide excellent customer service. Just this morning it took me over forty-five minutes to complete what should have been a five-minute transaction due to poor customer service.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The #1 Marketing Tool: Excellent Customer Service

I never cease to be amazed at the poor quality of service I sometimes receive at restaurants and stores.  There is absolutely no excuse for a company to hire and/or retain people who are unable or unwilling to provide excellent customer service.  I have found that the #1 marketing tool for businesses is excellent customer service!

The amount of revenue lost each year due to inferior customer service is staggering and it’s one of the major reasons why the vast majority of new businesses fold before reaching the five year mark.

Poor customer service can take the form of indifference, carelessness, ignorance, or a negative attitude. The cause typically stems from one (or more) of three factors: 1) inferior leadership or management practices; 2) deficient hiring and firing practices; and, 3) inadequate training and modeling.

Depending on the severity of a problem, studies show that an average customer will tell between 9 and 16 friends and acquaintances about a bad experience and approximately 13 percent will tell more than 20 people. With social media, the number of people hearing about someone’s bad experience with a business can multiply into the hundreds. That’s a lot of negative advertising! Furthermore, more than two out of three customers who received bad service will never patronize the business again.

We have a company in Tucson, Frost (www.FrostGelato.com) that makes delicious gelato, the Italian version of ice cream, only much better.  I not only enjoy the creamy smooth treats they serve, but I have yet to be disappointed by the service. The pleasant staff behind the counter consistently serves their customers with a smile.  Their training becomes evident as anywhere between 4 and 7 team members patiently offer samples and suggestions while customers try to decide which flavor to order, and they don’t