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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It’s Important To Be Important!

It’s nice to feel important. Think about the last time someone (a friend, family member or a business) made you feel important. What does that do to your mood in the moment or the way you feel for the rest of the day?

In order to make your visitors and customers important, you have to get to know them. In the case of first-time visitors, you start by observing as they walk through the door. First-time visitors who may not be familiar with wine tasting may be more hesitant when they arrive. Being aware of that fact gives you a clue as to their level of comfort or discomfort. If visitors are hesitant, you can start by making them comfortable. There are many people who come into wineries, who have never been to a winery before. They may be unsure of how things work and what is expected from them. So reassure them that knowing about wine is not a prerequisite to having a good time. Ditch the insider lingo and speak in terms the visitors will understand while still giving them information that will make them more knowledgeable. Ask for their names and become their friend.

Conversely, you make regular customers feel important by greeting them by name, telling them you are glad to see them again and asking them how life is going for them. This lets them and (sometimes more importantly) others in the room know that they are well liked and appreciated.

It sounds easy and it is as long as you are focusing on your visitors needs, wants and desires, rather than launching directly into your regular spiel about the products and winery.

Practice being aware of body language, questions asked and answers given. You will always gain more loyal customers and sell more when the focus is squarely on the customers and visitors. The primary goal is to make friends and to create connections.

After that, the sales will follow. People who are engaged are more willing to buy.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Using Customer Reviews to Improve Your Business

In this era of increasing customer involvement, you immediately know how many of your customers feel about your company as you can see what they think of your products and services on any number of review websites.

Most of us in business will look at Yelp and TripAdvisor, but think about other places where we can find reviews. If you sell through Amazon, or Angie’s List take a look at their customer reviews.  Also, check Consumer Reports, Google for Business, Yahoo listings and don’t forget Facebook and Twitter.

While I was researching this topic, I found an article by Ankit Roy that gives some tips on using reviews to market your brand. He also gives a number of statistics that you should find interesting:

  • 88% of people read reviews (Brightlocal.com).
  • 72% of consumers say possible reviews make them “trust a local business” (Moresocialsuccesspartners.com)
  • Reliability, experience and professionalism are the most important reputation traits for local businesses (Invespcro.com)
  • 88% of consumers trust online reviews “as much as personal recommendations (Mdfadvertising.com)
  • A customer is likely to “spend 31% more on a business” with excellent reviews (Webfeat.net)

Those are some impressive stats.

If you are not paying attention to reviews you are missing out on some important information from your customers. Reading them, of course, is only the beginning.

Once you have read the reviews, it’s important to respond to them in a timely manner, whether the reviews are positive or negative. A few words in answer to a positive review can make a customer who already likes you like you even more. A response to a negative review can help change a customer’s mind if your response is helpful and solves the problem. Some of the most loyal customers are those that have had a problem with a company and seen it resolved to their satisfaction.

So check the reviews regularly (all the time) and share good reviews in promotional emails with the rest of your customers.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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How Much Do You Know About Your Customers?

Kofi Annan the former UN Secretary General said, “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the promise and progress, in every society, in every family.”

The only addition I have to that Kofi Annan quote is… in every business. The business that has knowledge of its customers, what they want and what makes them happy is indeed powerful.
One way to gain this knowledge is to ask your customers directly through sending out surveys.

Create an easy to answer five to seven-question survey that can be mailed to your customers. Choose as many names as you wish of customers who regularly make purchases or come to your events and e-mail them the survey. Ask the customers to complete the survey and return it to you. You may wish to add an incentive. For example, upon return of the survey the customer will be sent a coupon for 10% off their next purchase. Give the person a reward for completing the survey that also gives them a reason to come back to the business. You may wish to ask questions about how they were treated generally, if they got all the information they needed or if they were told about a special that was going on during the time they were visiting. Whatever the information is that you want or need, include a question related to that information in the survey.

Leave a place on the survey form for comments. Some people, when asked for their opinion, love to tell you everything (and much of this information is valuable to you) while others just complete the questions. However, it is important to give people the opportunity to provide you with information.

Keep the survey short (not more than five to seven questions, which are open-ended so those receiving the survey may provide a short or long answer) and thank them for completed the survey. Make sure you add in a line that you are sending these questionnaires in order to provide them with better service…

You may also create surveys that you send to people after their first visit to your business or surveys to customers who regularly attend events.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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