Stop Before You Start

Julie Pedroncelli St. John from Pedroncelli Winery sent me a great article by Barry Stuckey who has spent much of his career in Hospitality. The article was about a waitress he encountered in an eatery at Heathrow Airport. I have pulled out some of the key points, as the article was too long for this blog. The article really encapsulated a lot of the finer point of excellent service, whether you work in a retail business or are selling B2B.

The first point, which to me is the most important, is to be conscious of what you are doing before you begin speaking to a customer. Before you approach the customer or pick up the phone to call them, STOP… Clear your mind of what you have been working on or thinking about and focus your attention on the person to whom you are speaking. As you are approaching the customer or waiting for them to answer the phone, put yourself into listening mode (you are probably already in talking mode). Once you have approached the customer smile, and tell them your name. You should also be smiling if you are on the phone, people can tell.

This small act of separation from what you were doing, or from the last customer allows you to move on to a new customer. Your focus on them will transmit itself to the customer. You will appear engaged and ready to help them. The customer will also become engaged as they realize that your attention is directed to them. Because you are more engaged you will be more apt to listen and really hear what your customer is saying. You will also be more likely to pick up non-verbal signals such as their tone of voice or the fact that their stance shows you they are or are not interested.

When a customer asks you a question, smile in response and, before you speak, lean in just slightly. This creates an impression that you care what your customer is saying.

These are small things that will make big differences to the comfort of your customers and to their connection with you, the business and the products.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Assessing Customer Experiences

Last week this blog delved into statistics regarding customers who may have had a less than stellar experience when they visited your business. We discovered that the percentage of customers that you think were satisfied with their visit was not necessarily in line with the number of customers who actually were satisfied.

Also, we learned that only a small percentage of dissatisfied customers take the time to complain. The rest just don’t return.

After publication of this blog, I received an email from one reader regarding the best ways to contact customers. He was concerned that calling people may be intrusive and they may not be comfortable telling you what they really think. Good point and one that is raised regularly during seminars and conference sessions.

The first thing to do is to ask customers how they would like to be contacted. Would they be open to a phone call or prefer to be contacted via email, text or mail. How customers prefer to be contacted many times has to do with their generation. Text is the favorite for Millennials and younger people, while some Gen X or Boomers may prefer email or even mail. Step one is always to identify the wishes of individual customers.

If you don’t have this information on your individual customer records, procuring the information gives you a reason to call your regular customers and double check. Most of your regular customers are not going to mind an occasional phone call. In fact, in many cases it is going to strengthen your relationship with these customers as you are initiating a more personal interaction. While you are on the phone and the opportunity presents itself, this is a great time to tell the customer of any exciting opportunities to purchase. Remember that these people are regular customers because they like you and your products.

Once you have the information on how they want to be contacted, make sure you have the address or phone number in order to follow up. Also get their agreement (in writing) with a follow up email that you as them to sign and return.

Your consideration for how your customers wish to be contacted will just deepen the relationship you have with them and they will appreciate the courtesy.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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You May Not Get Many Complaints but That Doesn’t Mean Your Customers Are Happy

I have been researching customer service lately and have found some interesting statistics from a number of different sources. The main thing that came through in virtually all the sites I researched was: Only a small, small percentage of customers who are dissatisfied actually register a complaint with the company. The rest of them don’t come back.

Here are some “Customer Service Facts, Quotes & Statistics” from Help Scout:

 

On average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase.

Take a look at the average first purchase of your customers and multiply that by 10.

 

Probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20% while the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 -70%.

Engaging and connecting with first time visitors is much more likely to bring them back to buy from you again.

 

For every customer who bothers to complain, 26 other customers remain silent.

Create an easy process for customers to give you feedback. Pay attention to the feedback and use the information for staff training.

 

Any business with customers is in the “people” business.

We tend to define our businesses by the products or services we sell. Though the most important thing to remember is that we are in the business of providing good experiences for customers, no matter what the product.

 

“Although your customers won’t love you if you give bad service, your competitors will.” – Kate Zabriskie

I doubt that your main reason for being in business is to make life easier for your competitors, though if you are not focusing on customer service that’s exactly what’s happening.

 

80% of companies say they deliver “superior” customer service. 8% of people think these same companies deliver “superior” customer service.

In other words: Don’t believe everything your think. Follow up your opinions with real data but ask your customers in person, through surveys or over the phone, how they feel about your company.

 

There will be more customer service insights in next week’s blog.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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The Best and Less of Customer Service

Last week was an interesting week for me. Tuesday, I went for a walk with a friend of mine in the local regional park. While there I tripped over a rock and eventually found out that I had fractured my distal femur condyle (a u-shaped bone just above my knee). A bone that, until this time, I had never heard of. Think of it looking like a goblet with a u-shaped indentation at the top, rather like a wishbone. Take the two parts of a wishbone and pull the two sides apart. Usually, one side shears off. That was my femur condyle.

The orthopedic doc operated that night, putting in a plate and some screws. I spent the rest of the week in the hospital being poked and prodded. They took enough blood out of me that more had to be added. Of course, there was the startling awakening at 4 a.m. each morning for more blood to be taken.

In all my years (and there have been many of them) I have never (not even when I was born) spent a night in a hospital. I had no idea what to expect and so was amazed at the impressive attention to customer service, engagement and the cheerfulness of the nursing, therapy, cleaning, and services staff. They were all amazing.

The doctors seem to have a harder time with customer service, and while no one was rude, it was almost as if they had not been taught to interact with patients. They were good when explaining what was wrong but seemed to have no idea on what terms to use when addressing me. I am not sure that doctors are taught how to put people at ease. So perhaps as a sideline I can start presenting seminars on Customer Service for Medical Professionals.

A tip of the glass (if I can tip it while I am holding onto the walker) from me to you!

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Take a Step Back

The approach of summer and the good weather during this season bring more customers out of their houses and into your winery, store, restaurant or other retail business.

During the height of the busy season, it is often more of a challenge to provide the levels of customer service that encourage people to buy your products or services and to return. To accomplish your sales and service goals during the busy season it helps if, before it starts, you have a plan. So take a few minutes to create a plan for your sales and service team (if you are an owner or a manager) or for yourself (if you are on the front lines).

How are you going to ensure that each customer is treated well, appreciated and given the attention s/he needs to go away with the opinion that s/he is a valued customer?

Here are a few tips:

Put Your Assumptions on Hold

Unless the person who walks through the door is a regular customer, try not to make assumptions about who they are, what they may or may not know or whether they will buy or not.

Give the Customer a Chance to Talk

Ask the customer questions that will give you the information you need to meet their needs and expectations. When you are giving the customer the answers to their questions, you can also work in how you can fulfill their needs and expectations.

Make the Customer an Insider

What do you know about your product or service, company or owners that your customer might like to know and pass along to their friends? Most of us like to have information our friends don’t have. Also never underestimate people’s willingness to buy to impress their friends.

Let Customers Know You Like Them

  • Give your customers something they weren’t expecting.
  • Let them know you enjoyed their visit.
  • Thank them for coming.
  • If you have the opportunity walk them to the door.

These are simple tips that will make customers buy from you, return to buy more and recommend your business to their friends.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Customer Service: The Good, The Bad, And The Very Ugly

After watching a segment on the television about a couple of companies that offer customer service that is above and beyond the norm, earlier this week, I decided to write my blog on customer service, talking about some companies that really go out of their way.

On Monday along came the story about United Airlines dragging a paying customer out of his seat and off an airplane. I was amazed. Not only at the removal of the man by airline security people but also by the fact that none of these people gave any thought to the fact that cell phones (which are ubiquitous these days) have cameras. It was not a pretty video.

This was followed up by a less than stellar “apology” from the CEO of United Airlines. All in all an extremely bad day for United, its employees and (it seems from the internet) its share prices.

That takes care of the bad and very ugly, as this incident definitely fits into both those categories.

On the other side, there are some great examples of customer service. Land’s End company will always refund the purchase price of any item. In fact, the information on the Land’s End website states:

“Guaranteed. Period.

If you are not satisfied with any item, return it to us at any time for an exchange or refund of its purchase price.”

That type of service with no questions asked is bound to make consumers life-long customers of Land’s End.

Another shining example is Nordstrom, a company known for the excellent treatment of their customers.

Of course, it’s not only no hassle return policies, it’s also the quality of service, being polite, friendly, interested in the customer and ready to help. All these will increase your sales and keep your customers coming back again and again.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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First Emails to Customers

I was at the US Bev X conference and trade show in Washington DC in February.  It was a great conference with lots of pertinent information on a host of topics pertinent to all facets of the beverage industry.

In one of my sessions this question was asked:

“When a visitor comes to your winery and gives you their email address so you may send them information, how do you create that first email to engage with them further?”

This was an excellent question as that first email is crucial in strengthening the connection between your business and the new customer. My answer was that you have to go back to the initial encounter. This person came first to your tasting room and that is where the connection has to start. The staff members who interact with the visitors have to create the relationship from the beginning of the visit.

It is up to them to take the first steps in learning about these visitors:

Their names

Where they are from

What brought them to you

Their wants and needs, likes and dislikes

How much interest they have in the product.

These questions sprinkled throughout the conversation (rather than being asked one after the other) will be the beginning of the visitors’ relationship with the company and with the individual staff members. The staff members should also offer information, not only on the product but a trade of information about themselves, starting with their names. As the visit progresses staff members can mention the things that they may have in common with the visitors as well as giving them information that the visitors will be interested in.

These are the things that will make visitors give you their email and may turn these (possibly one-time visitors) into long-term customers, even if they live far away.

So back to that first email? It should be sent within a day or two after the visitors’ first visit. The email should be signed by the person or people the visitors connected with during their visit. It will renew the personal contact and should have some of the information they learned from the visitors. Remind them of what they enjoyed about the visit. Let them know how much their visit meant to you and that you look forward to seeing or hearing from them again.  There is plenty of time to sell to them in subsequent emails. Use the first one to engage emotions.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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