Customer Engagement Reminders

Black Friday and the December holidays are quickly approaching, which means you are busy, busy, busy for a couple of months. As most people seem to be rather stressed at this time, it helps if you go out of your way to be patient, polite and professional with all your customers. Here are a few tips that may help in the busy times.

The Customer May Be Wrong

However, if you have to tell them so, do it in a pleasant way.

Ask Questions

If you know what your customer wants, you are better able to meet their needs quickly and accurately.

Understand the Customers Make Buying Decisions Emotionally

It is easier to think that buying is an intellectual process, though the actual decision is made through the emotions.

Listen More Than You Speak

Let the customer do most of the talking. Try not to interrupt, as it will take longer to get to the root of the request or concern.

Customers Should Feel Appreciated. 

Customers are happier if they feel, Important… Liked… Right. If you can manage all three that is fantastic, though any one of the three will help.

Saying Yes has great power

When you can say Yes to customers, even when the request is simple, the customer feels as if s/he is important to you. Sometimes you have to say no. At those times, find an alternate solution.

Give More Than Is Expected

When you go that extra mile (or even an inch) you receive in return the appreciation of the customer. This means the customer is more willing to buy your products.

Promise Only What You Can Deliver

Don’t overpromise. Better to let customers know if you can’t meet their expectations. However, promise that you will do everything you can to make it happen.

Apologize

An apology goes a long way to keeping a customer happy, even if you are not at fault.

“I am so sorry this happened, let me see what I can do.”

“I don’t think we can have it (the requested item)  to you by Monday,

but we will ship it to you as soon as it comes in.”

Don’t Forget To Smile

Your smile helps smooth any transaction. So keep smiling and mean it, even when you don’t feel like it.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Ramifications of Bad Customer Service

As I was wandering through the Internet, I found some great information on customer service on Help Scout. The article was actually a compilation of quotes, facts and statistics from different companies and individuals focused on the ramifications of bad customer service and the benefits of positive engagement with customers. I thought I would pull some of these out for this week’s blog.

American Express Customer Service Barometer (2017)

“More than half of Americans have scrapped a planned purchase transaction because of bad service.”

Salesforce

“74% of people are likely to switch brands if they find the purchasing process too difficult.”

New Voice Media

“After one negative experience, 51% of customers will never do business with that company again. “

“U.S. companies lose more than $62 billion annually due to poor customer service.”

Those are some powerful numbers and some amazing findings, showing that the attitude companies have towards the importance of positive engagement with customers can seriously affect the bottom line.

It’s important to spend time accessing your company’s customer service through all lines of communication: in person, via email, phone, mail, on social media and in any other ways that you are in touch with your customers.

Every person who works for the winery, no matter what their job, is responsible for being available to help customers if they come into contact with them. Each and every employee should have some customer service training. Though employees who work in the cellar or in the back office may not encounter many visitors, if they happen to run into a visitor, they should make eye contact, smile and be available to help if needed (even if it is merely directing someone to where they want to go).

How long has it been since you did a customer service review in your business? Are you overseeing at least one customer service training session per year for all your employees and offering more training for those who are on the front lines of customer interaction?

Good customer engagement will raise your sales, according to the 2017 Customer Service Barometer from American Express:

7 out of 10 U.S. consumers say they’ve spent more money to do business with a company that delivers good service.

A simple upgrade to your customer service should mean more wine sold, more return customers and a strong uptick to your bottom line.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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A Successful Brand

There are brands that stand out in the minds of consumers. How did they get to that place of prominence and how do you get there, too? Some companies make it by putting large amounts of money, time and branding professionals behind their brands, which you may not be able to do. Though it is not only those things that make a successful brand.

Starbucks, for example, has been very successful. Their store designs are good, their products are good, and the staff members in their stores are invariably cheerful. What sets them apart in my mind though is how they handle problems when they crop up.

Starbucks recently went through a problem in one of their Philadelphia stores when an employee asked two black men to leave because they asked to use the restroom though had not bought anything. When they said they were not going to leave, as they were waiting for a friend, the employee called the police who arrested them both. They were later released with no charges filed.

This was a terrible situation that could have caused a lot of problems for Starbucks bottom-line and customer loyalty. However, Starbucks handled the situation extremely well. The CEO immediately apologized profusely and quickly and put the employee on leave pending more information. The event happened on Thursday and by Friday, Starbucks was all over the news with their apologies.

By Monday, the CEO had sat face to face with the gentlemen in question to apologize and by Tuesday Starbucks had announced that they would close all 8,000 of their stores for an afternoon in May to hold racial bias training for their staff.

Starbucks may not have mitigated all the damage that was done by the incident but their strong and hitherto unheard of response was well received by crisis management and diversity experts.

It was a terrible situation but the company stood up to the problem, sought solutions and sorted out the problem, saving their brand from a lot more losses than they sustained from closing all their stores for an afternoon.

My point, if someone complains, whether it is a small or large complaint and whether they complain publicly or privately, take care of the problem. If it is a public complaint, you may wish to resolve it privately, but report the solution to the problem publicly so all your customers who may have seen it on Facebook or Twitter or wherever know that you took care of it.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Elizabeth Slater

Customer Engagement & Sales Training

707.953.1289, E@inshortmarketing.com

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Creating Connected Customers

It’s interesting that businesses want customers to be more connected with them, though many businesses are afraid to give the customers what they want, which is connection with the people in the business.

Customer connection is a big part of the wine industry in general, and particularly true for customers who belong to wine clubs especially when the winery is a “small, family-owned winery.” Though even with wine clubs in corporate wineries, the members are still looking for connection.

There are many reasons why people may choose to join wine clubs… yes they like the wine, yes they enjoy the events, and yes they like to bring their friends and be able to taste for free. All these things are definite perks. Though there are two defining reasons: Connection and Access.

The majority, though not all, look for connection with the winery owners, the winemaker, and the staff. They like being recognized when they walk into the tasting room and the staff person knows their name. For those of you who are old enough, think about the TV show Cheers. Having those connections allows them to tell their friends:

“I was just at Bahoula Winery, talking to the winemaker, Susan, do you know her? Lovely person and she said…”

There is a great deal of pleasure to be had by being one up on your friends.

The other reason people like to be a “special” customer at a winery, like one who is in the wine club, is access. They have access to events, to the wine clubroom, if there is one and to other parts of the winery that regular customers may not see.

They also get access to more information about the wines and the option to buy older wines, newer wines before the general release and large format, limited release bottles.  There are a lot of perks to being part of the wine club if wineries understand what it is that their customers are looking for.

Although these perks should not only be for wine club members. They should also be for those people who, while they may not belong to your wine club, spend a lot of money with you or bring others to your winery who spend money.

Make sure that your best customers have access to you and feel connected. Drop them a personal email once in a while to ask them what they thought of a wine they just received from you. Or have pictures of your best customers on their customer record so you recognize them and call them by name. You never know you might make some new friends.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Elizabeth Slater

Customer Engagement & Sales Training

707.953.1289, E@inshortmarketing.com

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Customer Service at Warp Speed

I have read that the average attention span is down from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to eight seconds now, which is less than the nine-second attention span of your average goldfish.

However, according to an article I read on BBC News about experts who study human attention, these experts don’t know where those numbers came from. They believe that the people’s attention spans are not getting shorter.

So perhaps it is not a shorter attention span, as it is that people do not have as much patience as they used to. In the days before telephones, computers, the internet, email, Twitter, Facebook, etc., we actually had to take the time to go the see someone about a customer service problem. Sometimes it could take days just to get there as most of the shops closed at 5 p.m. just as people were getting out of work.

We also could not berate the business or product in question on their lack of service to a large audience because there were no platforms that reached thousands or millions of people in less than 3 seconds. We could tell our neighbors, or write a letter to the newspaper but that was about it.

The nice thing about it taking longer to get a problem solved was that it gave the person with the problem more time to think it through, create some perspective and perhaps get expectations in order.

Nowadays, our ideas of what we can and should expect may sometimes be unrealistic and as much as customer service professionals do their best to meet our every expectation (and will if we give them a little time) we want instant results.

According to information from Forrester research, almost 70% of business leaders want to use the customer service experience as a competitive advantage. Unfortunately, only 37% have a dedicated budget for customer service improvement initiatives.

Most of us, when we have a complaint or problem, are looking for a more personal approach. We want the answer to our question now if we are talking to a person or the information that could provide the answer we expect it to be if we are online.

So perhaps a little more patience would not go amiss. As patience is something I don’t possess a lot of, I am working on it and have found that slowing down life a little, is not necessarily a bad thing. Life is going fast enough without me hurrying it along.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Elizabeth Slater

Customer Engagement & Sales Training

707.953.1289, E@inshortmarketing.com

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WHAT, HOW, WHO, and WHY of Customer Sales & Retention

Before we even get on the sales floor, there are a number of questions (and the answers to these questions) that we have to know. If we don’t know the answers there is no way we can be as successful as we would like to be or convert one-time visitors into life-long customers.

Those four questions are:

  1. What are you offering
  2. How are you presenting the information?
  3. Who is buying your products?
  4. Why are you doing this?

What are you offering?

Everyone in the organization should have a clear idea of what is being offered. Not only what the products are but also what is being offered in the way of customer service and general information. All this information (and a lot more) should be available in written form to all employees and talked about in staff meetings.

Employees, even those who do not regularly see the public, may run into a customer who may need information. It is part of everyone’s job to understand customer service and rudimentary selling techniques.

How are you presenting the information?

When someone walks into your winery, are they going to have a unique or, at least, an uncommon experience? Or are they going to walk away without a precise memory of why your company, products or service?

So many visits to wineries are indistinguishable to many customers.

Who is buying your products?

Know your customers, not only what they buy, but who they are and the demographics they fall into. Most wineries, these days, have CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software, most of which has a section that allows you to create robust customer records.  Take advantage of this opportunity to record as much information about customers as you can. The most important letter in CRM is the R.  If you don’t have strong relationships with your customers you will eventually lose them.

Why are you doing this?

Let your customers know why you do what you do. It isn’t enough to say you grow grapes, make wine or work in the tasting room; you have to let them know WHY you do it. The WHY will inspire your customers because you telling them about your passion, your spirit and your commitment to what you do. Inspired customers also buy more.

At your next staff meeting, ask your staff and managers these four questions and see what answers they come up with. Once you know where the weak spots are you can start training.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Customer Service in the Airline Industry

The airlines have not been getting kudos lately as far as their customer service towards passengers goes. For a while, it has been one thing after another.

I have been traveling quite a bit and been spending a fair amount of time in airports and on planes. In November, I was scheduled to fly from Spokane to Seattle and then home to Sonoma County, after being away for two weeks. On day one, the flight to Seattle was late due to a mechanical problem, so late that there was no chance that I would make my connection. So the airline booked me on a flight for the next day. The bag I had checked was retrieved from the airline and, after five hours in the airport, I headed for the hotel.

The next morning, I was up at 6 a.m. to catch the 7 a.m. shuttle from the hotel back to the airport for a 9 a.m. flight. Unfortunately, the flight was coming from Seattle, which was in the midst of a winter storm and low visibility. This was causing delays in planes being able to take off (337 planes delayed and 41 canceled) so, again, everything was late. This put me back in the queue, with a long line of other disgruntled travelers. To add to the travails, it was also Friday, which meant that the airport was very busy with people heading home, and heading out for the weekend or longer.

So what does this have to do with my blog? The answer is customer service. The airline representatives for Alaska Airlines that I spoke to were absolutely terrific. They had long lines of frustrated customers, who were handled with patience and courtesy. Never once did the young woman I dealt with ever respond to the frustration of customers (including me). She got on her computer and moved travelers to other flights, and other airlines, bumping people up to better seats and generally doing everything she could to make it work. After retrieving my bags once more from Alaska (the check-in people knew me by name by that time) I was assigned to United Airlines (first class, woohoo!) coming to San Francisco rather than Sonoma County, but at least I was close to home. I also got a credit from the airline to use on my next flight.

I have to congratulate the airport personnel at Alaska Airlines in Spokane, who did a great job in sorting out hundreds of travelers in difficult circumstances.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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