Sunday, August 31, 2008

247 Customer Centric

Writen by Wally Adamchik

We live in a customer centric society. Consumers don't just go shopping anymore; they want to be comforted by a brand. Been to a ball game lately? These are experiences that have a sporting event as the backdrop. People in our society seek an ever increasing degree of satisfaction whenever they purchase something. Ultimately, this manifests itself in wanting the highest possible quality at the lowest possible price. How did we get here? Who is responsible for this mentality?

I offer two companies. First, is Taco Bell. In the mid-1980s they did something radically different. They introduced the value menu in fast food. This was like getting a pay raise. All of a sudden you could get a taco for 99 cents – and a full meal for not much more than that. This move started a price war that the fast food industry continues to fight today. To confirm that the fight is still on, what is the first thing you look for when you walk into a fast food restaurant? For the majority of readers, it is the value menu - often featuring a 99 cent price point.

An interesting, and often overlooked point, about this shift in that industry is that Taco Bell made dramatic operational changes to their system to support the introduction of the value menu. They moved some of the food preparation out of individual stores and into central commissary kitchens. They also began using other pre-prepared items. This lowered their cost structure enabling them to charge less. In this case, they enjoyed a true competitive advantage. Other chains were forced to mirror pricing but were slow to introduce an updated operational model.

The other firm I cite is Fed Ex. Before FedEx if you wanted to send a letter from New York to Atlanta, or anywhere else in America, let alone the world, it would easily take 3 – 5 days. With the introduction of FedEx, we could send a letter around the world with the reasonable expectation that it would get there overnight. Today we still send material cross-town, via Memphis (or a few other hubs), to make sure it gets there overnight.

Still other changes have made the consumer more demanding. The final push to this customer centric society is the internet and our new ability to access information related. If you want to know where your package is, how much your balance is, or what your car insurance may cost, all you have to do is get online and after a few clicks, you have the information you need. Don't forget the ever present Wal-Mart and the impact that is having on consumer expectations. Some reports indicate that over 60% of Americans will shop in a Wal-Mart in any given month.

All these changes mean one thing – your customer is more demanding than ever. Often business to business sellers will argue that the person buying from them isn't using their own money so they don't really think this way. How else are they to feel? If most other purchases in their life are met with superior customer service and value, you can expect that they have the same expectation of you. Truly sophisticated buyers may in fact know your business model and the attendant challenges with delivering superior service, but that does not mean they don't shop at Nordstrom or Wal-Mart and have a standard they would like to see all buying experiences attain.

So, what have you done lately to make sure you are delivering the experience that your customer truly wants? Notice I didn't say to deliver what they expect; their expectations may not be very high. Do you know what they truly want? On time and on budget is not what they want – they expect that, it is what you do for a living. Imagine you are purchasing a brand new automobile. You have waited six weeks for this baby to show up at the dealer and you are truly excited about the prospect of picking up your new machine. The day you are to pick it up, you took the day off to polish the floor of your garage and you drive your old trade-in to the dealer. As you get out of the old clunker, the salesman greets you with a genuine warm welcoming smile and addresses you by your name. You honestly feel welcome as your old car silently disappears from the picture. The salesman is beaming as he congratulates you on your purchase and invites you to walk with him. As he rounds the corner to the new vehicle delivery room, he stops and looks you right in the eye and with total seriousness he says, "You are going to love this car. We went all out for you…...In fact, we even put tires on it for you!"

Are you dazzled? Probably not. Don't you expect the tires when you buy the car? What does your client expect when they buy from you? Are you delivering? Even worse, what do they not expect and are you delivering that? All too often we mistake the satisfied customer, the one who doesn't complain, as the loyal customer. They may just be waiting for the next viable vendor to show up. You must ask how you are doing. And you must ask in many ways; surveys, follow-up calls, face-to-face and what ever else is appropriate. Additionally, everyone in your firm must be able to ask – and that takes some training but the payback is in the form of increased customer retention because you show you care. This retention generally shows up in market share and as profits.

The changes in customer buying practices over the past decade are permanent. Disregarding this new reality is a strategy for business failure. As a consumer you are demanding and have expectations. The people who consume what you sell are demanding and have expectations to. Do you know what they are? Ask them. 24/7, It is all about them.

© 2006 FireStarter Speaking and Consulting

Wally Adamchik is President of FireStarter Speaking and Consulting. His new book is NO YELLING: The Nine Secrets of Marine Corps Leadership You MUST Know TO WIN In Business. Visit him online at http://www.beafirestarter.com. He can be reached at 919-673-9499 or wally@beafirestarter.com.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Whine Moan Amp Complain Then Contribute

Writen by Ron Kaufman

Every month I receive messages from students and readers that begin, 'I got such terrible service from…' and often close, '…and I'll never go back there again!'

I find these stories upsetting, occasionally entertaining, but rarely are they motivating or instructive.

Here's why:

Anyone with enough intelligence and emotion to muster a written complaint also has the ability to offer a constructive solution. If you can see what's wrong with a situation, you must have some idea about what would set it right.

Noticing problems is half the puzzle; getting things improved is the more important part.

If you are upset with a vendor, colleague or business partner, you must have some expectations unmet, some needs ignored or some preferences overlooked.

Your view of the situation is unique and your perspective may be very useful to the other party. Clearly stated, your requests and recommendations could make a difference.

Unless you enjoy complaining for its own sake, follow these five simple steps to help everyone improve.

How to complain for action

1. State your original understanding, including the promise you heard and the standards you expected.

2. Identify the flaw, gap or oversight you experienced.

3. Explain the consequences you have suffered: costs, anxiety, adverse impact.

4. Request specific remedial action and/or compensation.

5. Make a suggestion for improvement. Help the other party do a better job the next time.

Key Learning Point
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You have the right to complain when things do not work out as you expected. But complaining is only half the job. You also have a responsibility to contribute.

Action Steps
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The next time something goes wrong and you want to `give someone a piece of your mind', make sure that piece is constructive.

Ron Kaufman is an internationally acclaimed educator and motivator for partnerships and quality customer service. He is author of the bestselling "UP Your Service!" and founder of "UP Your Service College". Visit http://www.UpYourService.com for more such Customer Service articles, subscribe to his Newsletter, or to buy his bestselling Books, Videos, Audio CDs on Customer Service from his secure Online Store. You can also watch Ron live or listen to him at http://www.RonKaufman.com.

Friday, August 29, 2008

5 Steps To Making Your Customer Happy

Writen by Tony Jacowski

Customers are demanding quality products and services again after the turnaround from the recession of the 1980s. They can no more be seduced into buying just anything through discounts and slick marketing methods. The goal in customer satisfaction lies in making customers feel that their needs have been met.

Experience with Vilfredo Pareto's 80/20 rule tells us that 80% of the value of business results from only 20% of targeted efforts. This implies that keeping your current customers happy is 8-10 times cheaper/easier than gaining new customers. Get more return on your efforts by focusing on repeat customers. Here are 5 steps you can take to keep your customers happy:

1. Put Your Customer First And Identify The Best One: Customer focus is a must to begin with and no matter what you do, you are at the service of your customer. Customer service begins with your employees following this rule. Gathering customer information like birthdays, their preferences, habits, spending profiles, etc. and acting upon it paves the way for healthy interactions with them in addition to collecting feedback about your products and services. Some companies are actually using six sigma to help achieve this systematically.

2. Keep Updating Customer Data By Staying Close To Them: Customer profiles keep changing with changes to their financial and social conditions. A change in contact details or purchase preferences comes in handy in the management of customer relationships. For example, a card sent when a customer purchases their first home is certain to please the customer. This also helps adjust products and services according to customers' expectations.

3. Categorize Customers: You can group customers broadly by their demands, specific requirements and nature. You can start doing this by asking basic questions. As expectations vary, one single product may not satisfy everyone. Different products and services may have to be developed to meet different customer needs. Many companies have used six sigma to help achieve this.

4. Pay Attention To The Little Details: Ironing out little shortcomings is a mark of perfection and catches attention of niche customers. This little extra is the thing that makes you stand out in the crowd. Customers love to identify themselves with companies that do this.

5. Communicate Positively: Communicating to target customers need not be just about your services/products. You can communicate positively midway through the service for a tip/correction or take/give a suggestion that pleases the customer. This is also perceived as an attempt to develop personalized communication and service.

If keeping customers happy is the mantra for sustaining and growing your business, this end goal is perhaps the basic purpose of six sigma methodology which many companies have effectively used to increase customer satisfaction.

Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solutions – Six Sigma Online ( http://www.sixsigmaonline.org ) offers online six sigma training and certification classes for lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Getting Back To Basics A Customer Service Tale

Writen by Joy Fisher-Sykes

One hot summer day my daughter and I ventured to our local craft store with one mission in mind – purchase velvet covered coloring panels called fuzzy boards. Little did we know this simple trip would turn into such an adventure.

The store advertised the boards on sale and offered a 40% discount coupon. My daughter excitedly selected two boards however I noticed different manufacturers produced them, so I asked her to select an extra board just in case both were not on sale. She did, and we proceeded to the cashier. With a half hour until closing, we eagerly approached the only open register, behind which stood two young women. This is when the adventure began, and things took a turn for the worse.

We saw two store clerks at the check out. Seated on the floor was one associate who faced the cashier line and the other, the cashier, did not which made it impossible for her to be aware of approaching customers. When she saw us, the associate on the floor did cease her end of the conversation and told the cashier she had customers. Unfortunately, the cashier ignored this information because it took her a minute before she turned and greeted us with "Oh, I sorry." I'm not sure exactly what she apologized for because she then proceeded to continue her conversation.

I told the cashier we needed to know if all of the items were on sale. Although she acknowledged the request, she still continued talking to the other associate and proceeded to scan all of the items for purchase. When I pointed out her error her response was "Oh, okay, sorry," and once again she resumed her conversation. She clearly was not present – her mind was engaged and committed elsewhere. Her actions communicated her conversation was far more important than this sale.

The cashier did one final thing that was the final straw. After the correct total was tallied, my daughter handed the cashier a 40% off store coupon. The cashier took it and immediately threw the coupon away, turned to us with a smile and told us our total. At this point, I thought I was in the twilight zone or on some really bad reality show.

When I asked why the coupon was thrown away, she explained the coupon was only valid on regularly priced items. After a very deep breath, I proceeded to share few ideas. First, I stated when she threw the coupon away, we were unclear why. I explained an explanation of her actions would have avoided any misunderstandings or ill will. She apologized once again, and said she understood and agreed. Second, I stated her inattentiveness during the transaction was inappropriate and did not make us feel like the valued customers we are. Finally, I said during business hours it is best to remain focused the most important component to retail success, customers. Personal conversations are best left for discussion after hours. Her associate must have agreed, too, because at this point she turned and walked way.

This shopping excursion caused me to pause and think all service provider must always exhibit certain basic behaviors - customer service basics. Here are a few:

Basic Rule #1 – Acknowledge Customer's How many times have you walked in a store and you weren't acknowledged? How did you feel? I can't tell you how many times I've witnessed service providers who take personal phone calls (or worse answer their cell), speak to other co-workers regarding non-urgent matters, or who simply walk away without explanation. Basic customer service requires an acknowledgement as soon a customer enters your establishment – whether you will be ready to provide service in one minute or twenty. An acknowledgement says "I'm glad to see you and value your business. We will help you as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience." A little appreciation goes a long way, especially if at the time you find yourself short handed. As soon as you see customers…acknowledge them. Although this sounds obvious, it simply just isn't practiced as it should.

Basic Rule #2 – Be Present and Listen When assisting customers, it is important to always be "present." Being present required you to be in the moment ready to provide your customer with your full, undivided attention from start to finish. It is imperative customer's always feel important and the center of attention. To accomplish this you must remain fully focused.

Active listening is a critical component of any customer interaction. This is a big difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is the perception of sound. Active listening requires us to hear, interpret, and then take action. Active listening empowers us to consistently provide our customers exactly what they need.

Basic Rule #3 – Explain Your Plan Customers need to know and want to understand the reason for your plan of action. Many times I have returned an item only to have the clerk shove a form and pen in front of me without so much as a please or explanation. As if I should be know what they want from me. Always clearly explain each step and the reason for your request.

Apply these basic rules to give outstanding customer service.

Joy Fisher-Sykes is a professional speaker, author, and success coach in the areas of leadership, motivation, stress management, customer service, and team building. You can e-mail her at mailto:jfsykes@thesykesgrp.com, or call her at (757) 427-7032. Go to her web site, http://www.thesykesgrp.com, and signup for the newsletter, OnPoint, and receive the free ebook, "Secrets, Stories, and Tips for Marvelous Customer Service."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My Clients Will Keep Coming Back Surely Heres How To Encourage Them

Writen by Lee Lister

Building Customer Loyalty is always difficult if you find that your clients come one and you never seen them again – you are sadly losing money. It costs far more to obtain a new customer than it does to sell more to your existing customers.

The way you do this is to keep in touch and make them feel valued. Some ways of doing this are:

  • Newsletter: Start up a small newsletter and send this to your current and past clients. This can be done my mail or preferably email. Please give your clients the option to opt out of this service. Your newsletter should include information, chat and articles that people will find interesting and are relevant to your own business. 2 – 3 pages are all that you need. If you find the cost a little prohibitive – then pair up with a complimentary local business and share the costs and efforts as well as the mailing list of course. You can also include regular discount cards as well as information on new products and services you are bringing out. Keep it light, informative and "non salesy" and you will keep your clients close and in regular contact with you. If your newsletter is really interesting then they will send it onto their friends as well. Your frequency can be from every ten days to every two months depending upon your services and fortitude. Any more or less frequently and you lose your effectiveness.
  • Loyalty Bonuses: Introduce loyalty cards where you provide an extra product, service or discount after a certain level of purchases has been made. This encourages extra sales and gives your clients a feeling of achievement.
  • Suggest a Friend: Another marketing option that works well is to set up a "suggest a friend" scheme. Reward your clients with extra services or products if they suggest a friend who consequently purchases from you. By then adding these people to your newsletter you are growing your clients.
  • Buy one etc: This scheme has the charming name of BOGOF – buy one get one free. There are several variations – you could try – buy one and then get 10% of the next service/product. Buy three – get the cheapest at half price – you get the picture! – By ensuring that the second item/service is available only in the future – you persuade your client to come back a second time. This builds loyalty and makes your client feel that they have a bargain.
  • Up Sell: When you sell one product or service, offer other complimentary services as well at a discounted price. Package them together if possible so that your total sale is larger. Remember the fast food outlets selling their "meals" which gives a bigger total sale price.
  • Lastly – if your clients are not returning – have you checked that you are offering what people thought that they were buying and that they are not leaving unhappy or disappointed. Write to them shortly afterwards, or talk to them before they leave and ask for feedback. Act upon it!

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    © Copyright 2005 Biz Guru LLC
    Lee Lister, writes as The Biz Guru, for a number of web sites including her own sites http://www.BizGuru.us. With over 20 year's management and business consultancy experience with businesses large and small as well as being a serial entrepreneur, she now helps others set up, develop and market their businesses. Also visit http://www.FindMeLinks.com for our internet marketing solutions or http://www.clikks.com for all our informational products.

    This article may be freely distributed if this resource box stays attached.
    -------------------------------------------------

    Tuesday, August 26, 2008

    How To Communicate Confidence When Making Collection Calls For Your Business

    Writen by Michelle Dunn

    It is essential to communicate confidence when you are speaking to past due customers or debtors. You must stay in control of the call and the only way to do this is by being confident and prepared.

    Remember, everything you do represents your company. How you talk, collect money, send out invoices, and how you handle tough situations. Some tips I can share with you on how to appear more confident (even if your not!) when you make collection calls are:

    • First impressions, come up with a greeting that says that you are happy, pleasant and confident. When your customer answers the phone and realizes you are calling about a past due invoice, they will not be happy. You must portray confidence, and not a dull boring message. Smile when you talk on the phone, it will be noticeable in your voice.

    • Your voice should be loud enough to be heard and portray confidence, not to loud but not to soft. You want your debtor to hear you and understand what you are saying. Sit up straight in your chair and imagine the debtor is sitting across from you.

    • Maintain "eye contact" by staying focused on the call. Don't check your email or watch the other people in your office. Stay focused!

    • Relax! Sit up straight in your chair, don't play with paper clips or pens on your desk. Use your face, voice and posture to portray your confidence over the phone and in person.

    If you put these techniques into effect you will collect more money and have better results from the collection calls you make. No one likes to make or recieve collection calls so take steps to ensure you make your calls in the most effective way the first time so you don't have to continue to make calls to people that you let get in control of the call! Good luck!

    In addition to writing and marketing her books, Michelle was a member of The American Collectors Association for 9 years and shares valuable credit & debt information with business owners on her blog at http://www.BizCreditPolicy.com. Michelle is originally from RI and now lives in NH. Visit http://www.michelledunn.com and http://www.credit-and-collections.com for more information.

    Monday, August 25, 2008

    Is Your Professional Office Anything But

    Writen by Bill Knell

    It's the nightmare that everyone who has ever been to a medical, dental or veterinary office fears more then having a tooth pulled or watching a doctor snap on some plastic gloves. It's the unprofessional, professional office. Those of us who have had the misfortune to be caught in that seemingly unending circle of waiting and filling out forms can attest to the sheer torture of such an experience. However, it doesn't have to be that way and there are some simple steps that every professional office can take to lesson the pain.

    In an effort to limit the liability factor faced by every Medical Doctor or Dentist, referrals have become a way of life for them and endless nightmare for most patients. The situation for patients is exasperated by the need to fill out a deep pile of forms for every visit to every office. Some doctors and dentists try to ease the hassle by sending along patient information. Others try and have their receptionists procure as much information over the phone as practical. These are good first steps, but there are more practical ways to accomplish the same thing.

    While not everyone has computer access or wants it, most people do. This opens up a simple way to save valuable office and personnel time. I have noticed a growing number of professional medical, dental and veterinary websites that offer online registration for real world services. Imagine the office and personnel time these professionals save, not to mention the pressure taken off their prospective patients. Just the freedom of being able to walk into a medical, dental or veterinary office without facing the prospect of filling out any number of mind-numbing forms is like chicken soup for the brain.

    After the flu recently took up residence in our home, there was a need for several of us to visit the doctor. Since all of us were feeling poorly, an urgent medical care facility seemed to be the easiest way to obtain the services we needed. Despite being a good alternative to Hospital Emergency Rooms and Trauma Centers, urgent care centers can still frustrate those trying to use them. My last visit to one involved lots of forms and lots of waiting. Hoping for something better, I went online and started looking for more choices in my area.

    After locating a new facility that had just opened near my home, I visited their website. I was immediately impressed by easily accessible contact information and online registration. In less then five minutes I was able to call them, talk to a live person and print up their patient registration form. Once there, I noticed that the place operated like a well-oiled machine. Everyone knew their job and did it well. No excessive waiting to be examined and very fast check out. There is nothing more frustrating then waiting an hour or more to check out and get the prescriptions you need to have filled after waiting hours to be examined.

    The facility I visited for medical care was a good model for how things should work in any professional medical, dental or veterinary office. Sadly, it's the exception rather then the rule. While many professional offices do not intentionally inconvenience their patrons, they simply do not use all the tools at their disposal. Most should begin by having fully functional websites with online registration and active email contacts. Imagine the office and personnel time that could be saved if potential patients could register online or ask questions via email. This is especially helpful if a question requires a direct consult with the doctor, dentist or veterinarian. This would free up the office phone for appointments and allow the professional to optimize his time beyond just returning calls to answer questions that could be dealt with by email.

    If filing out forms in an office and waiting for treatment are primary pet peeves of most patients, dealing with phone answering systems is next on their list. Automated phone systems were supposed to be a way to build a bridge between the customer and the business, but many have simply become a frustrating wall for both. That's because most of these systems offer too many options and no quick route to live phone help. They try to combine an answering system for employees with a contact number for the public. If potential customers or patients cannot reach a live person 10-20 seconds into the call, they will probably hang up.

    Despite spending thousands of dollars on computers loaded with software suited to their situation, most professional offices expect their employees to learn on the job. This places their valued patients, clients and customers in the hands of every new face that happens to come along. Most get frustrated and end up asking for the office manager or someone with whom they are more familiar. Every professional office or business of any kind is only as strong as the people who represent him or her on the phone or behind the reception desk.

    Most professional offices of any size need competent office managers who know what needs to be done and gets results. Those results include scheduling enough appointments to keep the office profitable and getting patients in and out quickly. While paperwork, employee training and examination area preparation are unavoidable, they are not problems that patients should have to deal with.

    Having more employees is not always the answer. I know a number of professionals who host a never-ending string of unpaid or low pay interns in their offices. Most of them come from local high schools or colleges and are there for the experience. These people get in each other's way, have no commitment to the professional and usually last less then a month before quitting. Meanwhile, the reputation of the professional is constantly being compromised.

    Office preparation is a tool that should never be ignored by any professional. It's all too common to see patients waiting in their cars as the first employee to arrive places their key in the office door. Patients are there, but computers, office machines and other essentials are not anywhere near ready to go. It is equally common and unacceptable to see professional offices closed for cleanings, software updates and any number of other things that could and should be dealt with during hours when the office is closed.

    The ever-growing number of professionals serving even the smallest of areas testifies to the fact that many people feel no loyalty to their doctor, dentist or veterinarian. While any medical, dental or veterinary professional will always have their fair share of one time, visiting or flaky patients, the lack of professionalism in many of their offices is creating a whole generation of visitors. All they really want is a doctor, dentist or veterinarian who will provide them with professional services in an efficient environment.

    Author: Bill Knell
    Author's Email: billknell@cox.net Author's Website: http://www.billknell.com Terms To Use Article: Permission is granted to use this article for free online or in print. Please add a link to or print my website address of http://www.billknell.com

    A native New Yorker now living in Arizona, Bill Knell is a forty-something guy with a wealth of knowledge and experience. He's written hundreds of articles offer advice on a wide variety of subjects. A popular Speaker, Bill Knell presents seminars on a number of topics that entertain, train and teach. A popular radio and television show Guest, you've heard Bill on thousands of top-rated shows in all formats and seen him on local, national and international television programs.

    Sunday, August 24, 2008

    We Need To Change Your Settings South Africa

    Writen by Silver Jade

    I came to the conclusion that we are in need of a new language here in South Africa.

    People claim to understand English but they either do not listen, or they lie about their linguistic skills.

    Think about the words we use to claim that we can help when a customer calls.
    1.Service
    2.System
    3.Solving
    4.Satisfaction.
    5.Secure

    Service to the customer when they contact a call center for help.It has become a word every business use without offering the action to make it valid.

    Why is that? I blame management. People are taught to say things that SOUNDS right, in order to install a belief that they dealing with a person qualified and trained in a SYSTEM, to SOLVE the problem.

    Not so.

    Instead of SOLVING the problem, offering the client satisfaction and SECURING loyalty, which would result in utilizing this as a form of reference, the whole idea crashes down, resembling a macabre production of incompetence.

    Doctors try to treat causes instead of symptoms. The average Large, VERY prominent business in South Africa offers a parrot fashion lip service which results in frustration.

    I will not claim to be perfect when I speak or write in any language. I try to keep it simple, to avoid confusion.

    Can I validate this statement? Indeed. Try and call the 24 hour customer service of our infamous telephone company.

    You start out patient, explaining that your e-mail does no longer appear to be valid. Why? Your helpful pop up in the client you use to read mail tells you that.

    The robotic response is almost instant. We need to change your settings. NO, we don't. The settings are the same as it was the past 3 years and worked fine. Does the email still exist? Yes, but we need to check your settings.

    I ask if my robotic assistant on the other end of the phone is qualified to advise me in the Thundering version of the foxy one.

    There is a stunned silence. She has either never heard of bird of thunder or she was never trained to solve problems when it involves this reader.

    No...Eish. The hesitant response because there is a realization that she was not programmed in her limited training to solve this. Instead of acknowledging the initial question, she is now exposed as badly trained.

    Still the training, albeit brief must have been intense. She insists that we need to check the settings. Again, a little less patient, I request that she explains to me why this

    would solve the problem.

    The second period of silence is a little longer. I am now asking another question

    that was not covered in the training module.

    Finally, after a ten minute conversation, thankfully via a toll-free number, she admits that her company is at fault. The engineers are working on the problem but she is not sure when it will be fixed.

    Why not tell the customer that within the first minute?

    Either the training told her she can not do that or she didn't listen to the question.

    The service system, set up to solve the problem, did not offer the customer security nor satisfaction.

    No one stayed around long enough to check if the employee understands. No one cares enough to check if the customer is happy.

    The minute South Africa allows a secondary telephone company to offer landlines to frustrated customers, thousands, millions of people are going to CHANGE their telephone provider.

    The training is either not offered in such a way that it is easy to HEAR or it is not structured in a way that that the employee is required to LISTEN.

    Saturday, August 23, 2008

    The Most Powerful Way To Influence Your Customers

    Writen by Av Kumar

    Have you ever read a book or article and immediately felt a powerful connection with the author? As if the author was just like you, as if he knew exactly how you felt, as if he truly understood you?

    Have you ever read a salesletter that made you feel that way?

    For me personally, very few salesletters have had that kind of effect on me. But one thing's for sure... every time I have come across such a sales letter, I've found myself pulling out my credit card and buying whatever the site was selling by the time I was done reading the letter!

    How useful would it be if you could influence your customers that strongly?

    Here's the simple secret to wielding that kind of power...

    Before you try to sell to them, meet them where they are!

    What do I mean by that strange phrase?

    Just this... Show the customer that you can see the world from where he is standing, through his eyes. Show him that you understand, that you're aware of, and sensitive to his feelings, thoughts and experiences!

    The only way to show the customer all those things is to genuinely understand and empathize with his problems, challenges and frustrations. In other words, you can't fake it. You actually have to step into the other person's world and really see it through his eyes, through his point of view.

    Think about this...

    How are most friendships formed? It starts when you find out that the other person has something in common with you. That the two of you are alike in some way, you share a common interest.

    That relationship becomes even stronger when you begin to realize that the other person understands you, that's he's going through the same challenges that you are!

    Nothing creates a bond faster between two people than sharing something in common, especially a common pain or frustration.

    This is what those great sales writers mean when they say "you have to know your customer!" It means, you have to know what your customer is going through, what motivates him and what pains him!

    When you can show the customer that you see the world from where he's standing, that you can feel what he feels, the "plight" they're at, the frustrations and struggles they're going through, you can then easily lead them to the solution!

    Before you can offer to solve your customer's problem, you have to show him that you empathize with his problem!

    Everyone's offering to solve their problems and making them all kinds of promises. Yet very few people actually take the time to show the customer that they really understand them, that they care! That they appreciate and empathize with their problem!

    Why do you think "personal stories" and "testimonials" work so well to sell products? It's because the customer can relate to the people in the stories. The stories can often time take the reader from the place where he currently is.. and gently, naturally lead him all the way to the end result, the solution... the happy ending!

    If you have personally gone through the same problems and challenges and can use your own personal story, that's even better. (This is why those 'rags to riches' stories sell moneymaking products so well.)

    The better you understand the mindset of your customer, the better rapport you'll have with him, and the easier you'll be able to sell to him.

    This is why individuals who have purchased and loved the product themselves tend to be much better at selling it to others. It's because they have personally experienced the pain and frustrations that existed before they found that product. And they are much better at conveying that message to the reader (i.e. the customer.)

    Before you can get the customer to see things from your point of view, you have to first meet him where he is and see things from his point of view! Only from there can you lead him towards the solution... and to the sale.

    Do that and you will create instant rapport! Your salesletter will take on a magnetic quality! It will compel your customers to buy from you! And, it will leave your competition in the dust!

    To your success!

    Copyright © 2003-2005 by BryanKumar.com. All Rights Reserved.

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    Friday, August 22, 2008

    Customer Satisfaction Tip Shame Them Into Giving You Good Service

    Writen by Dr. Gary S. Goodman

    Along with a small, unruly crowd of customers, I was waiting around a department store's checkout area that looked as if it had been impacted by a neutron bomb.

    As you may know, a neutron bomb leaves buildings and furnishings intact, eliminating only humans.

    We were alone. We couldn't see a clerk or an employee of any kind, for miles.

    Suddenly, the phone at the counter started ringing, adding to the mystery and to our agitation.

    I decided to answer it.

    (I'm a customer, right? I'm not supposed to do these things, am I? I'm supposed to be civil, polite, while employees can rudely waste my time, making me wait without end, is that it?)

    Well, no more Mr. Nice Customer!

    Perhaps I could get some action, if I took action.

    Boldly, I reached for the phone and said in the flattest, most bored employee voice I could summon, "Automotive."

    (This is a classy store, not Sears! It never had an Automotive Department. I must be a madman, right?)

    "Who's this?" a voice asks.

    "Who's THIS?" I reply, beefing up the testosterone, sounding as if I've just been dragged away from changing a tire.

    "What have I reached, what department?" the agitated inquirer continues.

    "The Automotive Department!" and with that, I hung up.

    Within 60 seconds, no fewer than five clerks appeared out of nowhere, turning their heads this way and that, trying to identify the culprit who had the audacity to pirate the phone.

    Of course, by that time, I had re-taken my place in the line, which in a heartbeat, started to move at a record pace.

    Nobody gave me away. They were too busy smiling, enjoying the surge of customer service, and planning how they would spend the remainder of their day, now that they had one.

    There is a moral to this story, and I promise, sometime I'll find it, and share it with you!

    Seriously, there comes a time in every customer's life when he has to shame people into giving him the service he needs.

    I hope you'll boldly follow my example, and, by the way, happy motoring!

    Dr. Gary S. Goodman, President of Customersatisfaction.com, is a popular keynote speaker, management consultant, and seminar leader and the best-selling author of 12 books, including Reach Out & Sell Someone® and Monitoring, Measuring & Managing Customer Service. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, worldwide. A Ph.D. from USC's Annenberg School, Gary offers programs through UCLA Extension and numerous universities, trade associations, and other organizations in the United States and abroad. He is headquartered in Glendale, California, and he can be reached at (818) 243-7338 or at: gary@customersatisfaction.com.

    Wednesday, August 20, 2008

    Top Customer Service Speaker Says Beware Of Aversive Conditioning In Customer Service

    Writen by Dr. Gary S. Goodman

    I was just pouring some dry creamer into my coffee when I noticed something for the second time.

    I say the second time because the first time around, this perception didn't stick with me.

    The creamer I bought, at a substantial discount at my grocery store, contains the same basic ingredients as the well known brand.

    But it costs one-third of the famous brand's price.

    Why doesn't EVERBODY buy the cheaper and "just as good" alternative?

    Trust is one factor. We have been conditioned to believe a brand-name is more reliable, that it will deliver value, time and again.

    But the creamer people, who probably sell the premium stuff at a deep discount for private labeling to retailers who plunk their own labels on the packages, also do something else to stack the deck.

    The cheaper container has a screw-off cap, while the more costly has a convenient, pop-open and closed spout.

    Functionally, this is a big deal.

    If you have to go through two or more operations instead of one to cream your coffee, by twisting off and then spooning the product, you're being discouraged from preferring the cheaper, but harder to use, product.

    This is aversive conditioning and you see it all the time in customer service. Rarely does it penetrate our consciousness that sellers are trying to make us "pay" for their discounted goodies with hassles, instead of dollars.

    That customer service rep that says, "We'll make an exception, but only once!" is using aversive conditioning. She is training you to not ask for "exceptions" or special treatment in the future. She's giving you service, a reward, but she's bundling it with a punishment at the same time.

    In most cars you can buy a climate control system that will be thermostatically operated and it will maintain a comfortable cabin temperature throughout your trip. But you have to pay extra for this.

    If you don't, you'll get the same air conditioning unit with one exception: you'll have to keep adjusting the air manually, to remain comfortable.

    You'll save a few bucks with the manually operated version, but you'll pay for it everyday with continuous pushing of buttons and spinning of dials.

    What would it cost for manufacturers to offer the superior control system in every car? A minor amount, but why give it away when you can sell it at a premium?

    Buy on the cheap, and you'll pay, one way or another. This is the tacit message that aversive conditioning sends to customers.

    If you've ever left a transaction feeling compromised, slighted, or even moderately insulted or unappreciated, you may have been a victim of this tactic

    What sellers don't understand is that they're breeding resentments that are below the threshold of consumer consciousness. The moment we find other sources that lavish ease of use on us, we'll switch our loyalties without looking back.

    That's our own version of aversive conditioning, also known as "shock treatment."

    Best-selling author of 12 books, including MONITORING, MEASURING & MANAGING CUSTOMER SERVICE and more than 875 articles, Dr. Gary S. Goodman is considered "The Gold Standard"--the foremost expert in sales development, customer service, and telephone effectiveness. Top-rated as a speaker, seminar leader, and consultant, his clients extend across the globe and the organizational spectrum, from the Fortune 1000 to small businesses. He can be reached at: gary@customersatisfaction.com.

    Tuesday, August 19, 2008

    The 7 Principles Of Business Integrity

    Writen by Robert Moment

    If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don't have integrity, nothing else matters. -- Alan K. Simpson

    If I were to ask you what attribute is the most influential in regard to the success of a business, would you know immediately which one is the most important? Based on my many years as a business owner and entrepreneur, I have discovered that at the very top of the list is the distinguishing quality of integrity. Without integrity at the helm of a company, a business is usually short-lived. In fact, when business integrity is present throughout the deepest layers of a company and not just at its surface, it becomes the heart and soul of the company's culture and can mean the difference between a company that succeeds and a company that falters.

    The Internet's Immeasurable Impact on the Marketplace!

    The importance of integrity has always existed among the business community, but in recent times has been shown as falling short. It is the Internet's immeasurable impact on the global marketplace that is now making the expression of integrity, reliability and credibility extremely important. Furthermore, the consequence of global competition means that customers will simply not consider a company that shows any less than the highest level of integrity. Since there is a wealth of competitive companies easily available and accessible via the Internet, there is in fact no need to accept anything less than the best.

    Where Does Integrity Start?

    In an effort to build upon a foundation of integrity, the first requirement would be to establish excellent rapport with clients. Based on many years of study, the best and most practiced method for achieving rapport is by way of Relationship Marketing. Just as it sounds, Relationship Marketing is founded on the single and most critical characteristic, known as "Integrity." However, achieving true integrity with clients often leaves many an entrepreneur bewildered, grasping for techniques and strategies that guarantee their futures. But integrity is not something that can be grasped and then simply used. Integrity in its essence must be so ingrained within the nature of an individual, its company and the team members, that it remains steadfast no matter what. Without question, others sense it and find it very attractive.

    The True Nature of Integrity!

    Now you are probably asking yourself, what is the true nature of integrity? There are in fact some very basic principles that surround the qualities of business integrity. At its core, integrity begins with a company leader who understands the qualities of integrity which then filters down throughout the company into every department and every member's approach and attitude.

    In recent research performed by the Institute of Business Ethics- an organization which is among the world's leaders in promoting corporate ethical best practices, it was found that companies displaying a "clear commitment to ethical conduct" almost invariably outperform companies that do not display ethical conduct. The Director of the Institute of Business Ethics, Philippa Foster Black, stated: "Not only is ethical behavior in the business world the right and principled thing to do, but it has been proven that ethical behavior pays off in financial returns." These findings deserve to be considered as an important tool for companies striving for long-term prospects and growth.

    The following 7 Principles of Business Integrity are the basics of integrity and a good starting off place to consider. By integrating each of these principles within a company environment, the result will be nothing short of a major rebirth of the enterprise.

    Principle #1: Recognize that customers/clients want to do business with a company they can trust; when trust is at the core of a company, it is easy to recognize. Trust defined is assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of a business.

    Principle #2: For continuous improvement of a company, the leader of an organization must be willing to open up to ideas for betterment. Ask for opinions and feedback from both customers and team members and your company will continue to grow.

    Principle #3: Regardless of the circumstances, do everything in your power to gain the trust of past customer's and clients, particularly if something has gone awry. Do what you can to reclaim any lost business by honoring all commitments and obligations.

    Principle #4: Re-evaluate all print materials including small business advertising, brochures and other business documents making sure they are clear, precise and professional; most important make sure they do not misrepresent or misinterpret.

    Principle #5: Remain involved in community-related issues and activities thereby demonstrating that your business is a responsible community contributor. In other words, stay involved.

    Principle #6: Take a hands-on approach in regard to accounting and record keeping, not only as a means of gaining a better feel for the progress of your company, but as a resource for any "questionable " activities; gaining control of accounting and record keeping allows you to end any dubious activities promptly.

    Principle #7: Treat others with the utmost of respect. Regardless of differences, positions, titles, ages, or other types of distinctions, always treat others with professional respect and courtesy.

    While it is most certainly an integral and positive step for a small business to recognize the significance of integrity as a tool for achieving its desired outcomes, that is only the beginning. What must truly be recognized for true success is that while certain precise universal principles lead to business integrity, it is in the overall mindset of the company and the unfailing implementation of these key elements that an enterprise is truly defined. A small business that instills a deep-seated theme of integrity within its strategies and policies will not only be evident among customers, associates and partners, but its overall influence cannot help but to result in a profitable, successful company. By recognizing the value of integrity, and following each of the aforementioned 7 principles for achieving integrity, your success cannot be far off.

    Robert Moment is a best-selling author, business coach, strategist and the founder of The Moment Group, a consulting firm dedicated to helping small businesses win federal contracts. He just released his new book, It Only Takes a Moment to Score, and recently unveiled Sell Integrity, a small business tool that helps you successfully sell your business idea. Learn more at: http://www.sellintegrity.com

    or email: Robert@sellintegrity.com

    Monday, August 18, 2008

    Now Thats Service

    Writen by T.J. Schier

    An elderly lady gazed at the array of smoothie options as she approached the counter at Freshens Yogurt in the DFW Airport. The line was quite long and I was eating within earshot of the counter. The interaction (note: an interaction, not a transaction) went something like this:

    Manager: "What type of smoothie are you in the mood for today?"
    Guest: "There are so many, I can't decide."
    Manager: "Well, No.1 and No.16 are the most popular ones ordered, but I'll let you in on a little secret, No.18 is my favorite."
    Guest: "I'll try one of those."
    The manager quickly made the smoothie and tendered the payment. As the lady began to leave, the manager said, "Please take a taste—I want to ensure you enjoy it as much as I do." She obliged and responded, "Outstanding!" The manager replied, "That's what I like to hear!"

    Now That's Service!

    Great service not only for the guest who placed the order, but the eight others in line, as well as a lesson learned for the other employees working behind the counter. While many managers believe in good service, it's rare to see them actually demonstrate it. Kudos to the Fresh├źns Yogurt manager in the DFW airport who proved once again that memorable service can be delivered in a limited interactivity environment.

    Along similar lines, the Chick-fil-A staff in my neighborhood responded recently to a request for a drink refill with a "My pleasure." The following Saturday after requesting Buffalo Sauce for my chicken sandwich, they responded with "I'd be happy to." And I wasn't charged for my gluttonous request of three sauces either—even though the chicken sandwich doesn't come with a sauce.

    Now That's Service!

    Brands thrive on the stories told about them and the hype it creates. Nordstrom's is legendary for returning a set of tires. Fresh├źns Yogurt in the DFW Airport and Chick-fil- A in Flower Mound, Texas deliver great recommendations and service. So what story are you and your managers creating today? Those stories build positive buzz and hype—so get going!

    T.J. Schier is service professional, consultant and speaker with over 20 years experience in operations and training. Founder and president of Incentivize Solutions and podTraining, T.J. has helped numerous clients enhance their service and training programs and spoken to tens of thousands of managers, franchisees and operators in various fields. Visit http://IncentivizeSolutions.com/ for more info motivating today's employees, training today's generation and delivering outstanding guest service; or http://podTraining.us/, a unique new system and the foundation of 'i-learning' - using the device of today's generation, the iPod - to train your workforce.

    Sunday, August 17, 2008

    Difficult Customers Theres No Such Thing

    Writen by Alan Fairweather

    A couple of years ago I had a call from a Customer Service Manager working in the paper industry. He wanted me to run a seminar for his team, on "How to Deal with Difficult Customers".

    I had several telephone conversations with this manager organising dates, times and getting to understand his business. If I was to describe his style on the telephone I would use words like, businesslike, cold, curt and somewhat impatient. I started to realise that if I was one of his customers then I might have been a bit "difficult". He certainly knew his business and I don't think he was a bad person but warm and friendly - forget it.

    There are actually very few genuinely difficult customers in the world. And I hear you say - "we've got all of them". However the majority of customers in the world are reasonable people. They may not think the way, look the way, sound the way that you do. However they are your customers and if you want their business then you've got to deal with them. They may get "difficult" from time to time if they feel they've been let down. It's how you handle them that'll determine if they continue to be a problem or if you can turn them around.

    Difficult customers and situations usually occur because some part of our core service has failed or the customer perceives it to have failed. We've not delivered on time, the customer has the wrong product, it doesn't work or it's not what the customer expected. What happens then is, the customer comes to the interaction with us in a negative frame of mind. It's what happens then that'll decide whether they deal with us again or bad mouth us to other people.

    The trick is not just to concentrate on fixing the core service issues. Telling the customer that you'll replace the product, deliver it in half an hour or knock something off the price, isn't the answer. Sometimes you may not have an answer and the customer is going to hear "NO". However as you're aware, it's how you say "NO" that matters. Let's consider some of the reasons customer interactions go wrong and why they may become more "difficult".

    • We don't care. - We don't sound or look as if we care, are concerned or appreciate the customer's situation. Maybe you do care, however you've really got to say caring words and look and sound as if you care. After all, the customer can't read your mind.

    • We don't listen. - Too often we try to jump in with solutions and don't allow the customer to vent their feelings. Again we need to show the customer that we're listening by what we say, how we say it and our body language.

    • We let the customer "get to us". We often allow the customers attitude to irritate or annoy us. This becomes obvious to the customer, again through our tone of voice, our body language and only fuels a difficult situation.

    • We use the wrong words. - There are certain trigger words that cause a customer to become more difficult. Some of these are "cant, have to, sorry 'bout that". Even your organisation's jargon can have a negative effect on a customer interaction.

    • We don't see it from the customer's point of view. - Too often customer service people think the customer is making too much of a fuss. They think - "What's the big deal, we'll fix it right away". The thing is, it is a big deal for the customer and they want us to appreciate that.

    Customers will often judge the level of your service based on how well you recover from a difficult situation and they're very likely to forgive you if you do it well.

    About The Author
    Discover how you can generate more business without having to cold call! Alan Fairweather is the author of "How to get More Sales without Selling" This book is packed with practical things that you can do to – get customers to come to you. Click here now http://www.howtogetmoresales.com

    Saturday, August 16, 2008

    Turning Customer Mistakes Into Raving Fans

    Writen by Denise O'Berry

    When you make a mistake with a customer, should you write them off as lost -- never to return again?

    Nope. There have been numerous studies which show that a customer who has had a problem and gotten it resolved in a timely manner and to their satisfaction is a more loyal customer than one who has never had a problem.

    I've found that to be true too. One of my biggest fans is a customer who started out on slippery footing. She's been a repeat customer for three years now.

    From a situation that could have been a disaster to one that ended up being great, our response as business people gives us the control to turn that customer into a "raving fan."

    So how do you turn a lemony situation into lemonade in your business?

    - Use the human touch. Pick up the phone and connect. Don't try to tame a rough situation using email. You'll lose.

    - Offer a special gift or extra compensation on your product or service. That could be a valuable add on product or a free month's service.

    - Ask the customer what it would take to make them happy. You'll find that it's normally something you can accommodate very easily.

    About the Author

    Denise O'Berry frequently speaks to professional organizations, is the author of three booklets, and several "how-to" manuals. She writes a weekly small business column, hosts an online small business owners forum and is called upon regularly by publications such as Entrepreneur, Bank Rate Small Business, Florida Trend, Inc., various newspapers, radio and television to provide expert comments on small business issues.

    http://www.whatspossible.com
    http://www.justforsmallbusiness.com
    http://www.deniseoberry.com

    Friday, August 15, 2008

    Liquor Control Systemthe Wireless World Of Liquor

    Writen by Justin Grover


    The scene is typical. You walk into your favorite tavern, peer through the smoke filled room and saddle on up to the bar. You ask the bartender for a Jack Daniels. He pours your glass about three quarters of the way full. "Don't cheat me Joe." you say firmly. The bartender finishes filling your shot glass. You thank him, take the shot, put your money on the bar and go about enjoying the atmosphere.



    Sound familiar? Well this is the scene that has played out in bars, taverns, and night clubs for years. Bar goers are always trying to get the most bang for their buck and bartenders are always trying to get the most buck for their bang. A new technology called a liquor control system offers a solution to the bartender/patron power struggle.



    Liquor Control Systems are a revolutionary technology that may just change the way bar sales are handled. It is a spout that goes on top the bottle of liquor that measures the amount of liquid poured. As the liquid is poured a wireless transmitter measures liquor and sends that information to a computer which then totals the price. Pretty amazing huh!

    Ways a liquor control systems make life easier for providers



    Think of the ways a liquor control system could change the industry. No more money left on the table, or having to keep track of how much each person has consumed. It makes life much easier for bartenders and their bosses. Owners don't have to worry about their employees stealing inventory and employees don't have to worry about their bosses wrongly accusing them for missing liquor.



    A liquor control system helps the bar maintain their inventory. The computer records how much liquor is consumed and keeps track of the bars inventory. This helps bars keep an up-to-date inventory and provide a more even service.



    When mixing drinks, it is always a challenge to figure out how much to charge. If a bartender adds a little of this and a little of that until he has the perfect concoction, the bill becomes impossible to track. This can be a challenge for bartender and can cause them to either charge to much or even worse, to charge to little.



    The amazing part of this technology is that not only does a liquor control system tell you how much has been poured but it also tells you what has been poured and when. This feature allows the owner to streamline his business process because he has access to real-time information, along with the ability to track trends.


    Ways a liquor control system benefits consumers

    The liquor control system is not only beneficial to those who sell liquor but it makes the bar experience more pleasant for the consumer. Consumer's benefit from knowing that they are being charged for exactly what they drink, they also don't have to worry about paying for each drink or the bartender forgetting your total.

    The liquor control systems that are currently on the market are accurate to with in 1/10 of an ounce. This means that the consumer doesn't pay for an ounce more than what they drink, not even half and ounce.

    Now imagine a person walks into a bar and orders several drinks over the course of the evening. Then at the end of the evening that person goes to pay for his drinks and finds out that his tab was lost. So he and the bartender take a few minutes try to sit down and figure out how many drinks he had that night and what kinds they were. All the person really wants to do is go home and go to bed but, now he has to take the time to remember how much of what he had to drink. A liquor control system makes it easier for bar patrons to pay for their drinks.

    This Technological advance will change the way America drinks. It benefits consumers and vendors in a passive, but time saving way. Vendors benefit from easier business tracking and consumers benefit from easier payments and more precise billing. With a system this easy, remember to bring a designated driver!

    Justin Grover-http://www.10xmarketing.com/ 10xMarketing– More Visitors –More Buyers –More Revenue, For more information about Liquor control systems http://www.comcash.com/brochures/liquor-control-system.htm, check out ComCash http://www.comcash.com/Default.htm.

    Five Secrets To Showing Your Customers You Really Care

    Writen by Ed Sykes

    During our recent online poll, we asked the following question:

    What upsets you the most when receiving poor customer service?

    Eighty percent of the poll participants said the "I don't care attitude" of the person serving them upsets them the most.

    Businesses lose billions of dollars of revenue each year because customers feel the organizations don't care about their business enough to make an effort to keep them. It takes five times more effort to win over a new customer than to keep an existing customer.

    Then why does this happen? No training or poor training has a lot to do with it.

    Here are five secrets to showing your customers you really do care about their situations when interacting with them:

    1. Listen!

    Take the time to listen to the "pain" the customer is trying to share with you. There is a reason why we have two ears and one mouth. Listen for the content and not the method of communication the customer is using. Use active listen skills such as

    * Nodding your head

    * Leaning forward to show interest

    * Saying "I hear what you saying," "I see what you mean," or "tell me more"

    * Stop doing something else and devoted all your attention to listening.

    * Look at the customer

    * Be patience and not interrupt the customer before adding your thoughts

    You might be the first person that day that took time to listen to that person. Make the most of it.

    2. Respond

    Respond to the customer in the following ways:

    * Use inflection in your voice (avoid sounding monotone)

    * Don't use "whatever," "yeah, right," "if you say so"

    3. Check your body language

    Make sure your body language is saying to the customer, "I want to help you." Make sure you are doing the following:

    * Smile

    * Stand erect

    * Hands at your side, but never on your hips

    * Avoid leaning against the counter or slouching in the chair (especially while speaking on the telephone as the customer can hear your disinterest)

    * Look and act alive

    4. Show Empathy (Understand the Pain)

    Show the customers that you understand their "pain." Make comments such as

    "I can understand why you would feel that way."

    "If I were in your shoes I would feel the same way"

    "I would be disappointed, too, if that happened to me."

    Most customers just want to be listened to and understood. Show them that you understand their "pain" and solution come much earlier.

    5. Commit to Action

    Let the customer know that action will be taken; and then act. One without the other is just a broken promise. Share with the customer your clear plan of action such as the following:

    "I am personally going to take care of this for you. What we are going to do is…"

    "I need to get additional information before I take care of this for you. I am going to talk with my manager. Would you mind waiting?"

    These are just some of the tools you can use to keep your customers happy and increase revenues. Apply them today to show that you care about your customers.

    Ed Sykes is a professional speaker, author, and success coach in the areas of leadership, motivation, stress management, customer service, and team building. You can e-mail him at mailto:esykes@thesykesgrp.com, or call him at (757) 427-7032. Go to his web site, http://www.thesykesgrp.com, and signup for the newsletter, OnPoint, and receive the free ebook, "Secrets, Stories, and Tips for Marvelous Customer Service."

    Thursday, August 14, 2008

    Customer Testimonials The Power Of Having Others Tell Your Story

    Writen by Chestin Salisbury

    Being in business is all about developing some level of trust with customers. In order to sell a product or service, there must exist a small amount of trust or there's no way in this world anyone would hand over their hard earned money. Given the amount of commercialism and 'hype' that most consumers are subjected to today, gaining that trust is a more difficult task than ever before.

    Let's face it, today's consumer is skeptical. Each and everyday he or she is bombarded with hundreds of flashy ads, screaming commercials, or the next 'Be All, End All' special. With everyone proclaiming their product or service to be 'the best thing since sliced bread', what can you do to cut through this hype and gain that much needed trust?

    The most powerful tool for cutting through the hype is the use of customer testimonials.

    You see, everyone expects you to gush about your own lawn care service. They expect you to say that you can make their lawn look like something out of a magazine. If they don't hear you say how much cheaper, better, and more spectacular than anyone else your service is, they start to question your sanity and sense as a business owner.

    However, just because YOU say it doesn't make it true.

    On the other hand, when someone that doesn't have a vested interest in your business is willing to step forward and say that you can indeed make their front yard look like something out of a magazine, you've made a HUGE step toward gaining that all important element of trust.

    Testimonials are very powerful. They have the magical power of persuasion. They create credibility with everything you've already said about your lawn care or landscaping service. They break down those natural barriers of distrust and skepticism that make acquiring a new customer a difficult task.

    So how do you use testimonials to gain that trust?

    First of all, you should use them whenever and where ever possible. Anytime you're interacting with potential customers, you should have customer testimonials available. That means if you're running an ad in the yellow pages, you should include a customer testimonial. If you have an ad in the newspaper, include a customer testimonial. Do you have a website? Have one entire page dedicated to customer testimonials and put a few on a sidebar on your home page. Handing out flyers or door hangers? Don't forget to include a few customer testimonials on them.

    Imagine this scenario for a moment. You receive a call for a bid from a potential customer and after looking at the property, measuring and figuring all your associated costs, you hand them a bid for a long-term maintenance contract. After looking at the numbers, their eyes get big, they take a deep breath, and say, 'Wow, that's a lot more than what I was expecting.'

    What do you do? Do you start into your sales pitch about how you always cut in perfectly straight lines, leaving a perfectly manicured lawn? Or about how you personally inspect every square inch of grass to insure the proper cut? Or about how you use only top quality fertilizers and weed killers? While all this might have some impact on the potential customer, it's a tough spot to be in. Isn't it?

    However, what if along with the bid sheet you handed them 4 or 5 pages of testimonials from customers saying things like, 'well worth the cost,' 'a little more than the competition, but I couldn't imagine having anyone else do the job,' 'I'm so thankful for the beautiful lawn AND time to enjoy it with my family', or 'I'm the envy of the neighborhood and I didn't even do anything.'

    Now, instead of you having to justify your price, you let your satisfied customers do the selling for you. You let them share with this prospect the reasons why they should choose you to do the job over 'Joe's Lawn Care' from down the street. Their words are so much more powerful than anything you could EVER say.

    You've also instantly cut through all the hype, double-talk, and chest pounding done by the majority of businesses and given your prospects a reason to instantly trust you.

    Again, a third party endorsement is much more believable than someone out tooting their own horn.

    Without a doubt, customer testimonials have selling power that could never be matched by even the best paid salesman or copywriter. Get them, use them, and let them make the job of selling your lawn care services much, much easier.

    Chestin Salisbury is President of Lawn Care Marketing Magic, a direct response marketing consultancy located in Charlotte, NC that focuses on the lawncare and landscaping industry. He has been helping small businesses grow for 5+ years by creating marketing systems that use time-tested direct response marketing principles. Lawn Care Marketing Magic has access to 100+ years of experience and is capable of creating a marketing plan that grows YOUR business. Chestin is also the chief-editor of 'The Lawn Care Marketing Magic Minute', a weekly e-newsletter that focuses on helping your grow your business. To learn more about these lawn care direct marketing systems and to sign up for the weekly e-newsletter, visit http://www.LawnCareMarketingMagic.com.

    Wednesday, August 13, 2008

    Service Quality Context Its Everywhere

    Writen by Susan Stamm

    I just finished a conversation with a leader in a top rated US hospital about creating a Customer Service culture. We both marveled at the comments she had received from her organization recently suggesting that customer service is so simple, why would their organization even need to teach it?!

    Is customer service simple? Maybe. Is it easy to achieve consistently in most organizations? Definitely not. Most of us can recall countless examples where we personally witnessed (or were victims of) horrendous customer service failures.

    So what is the solution? The problem, at least partially, may stem from our solution- orientation. We actually think we can fix this, and it will stay fixed. Customer service, however, is a moving target and we need to be working at it regularly. The more intentional we are about keeping service in the forefront of our organization, the greater the chances of providing consistently excellent service.

    That of course is true, if we also pay attention to what Dave Erdman, President of Vital Learning Corporation, refers to as "Service Quality Context (SQC)." By SQC, Dave is talking about the various functions, policies and processes that impact service. One example of what of SQC might refer to is hiring.

    Consider your organization for just a moment. Is hiring done in a way that leaves a candidate who was not selected feeling positive about your organization, wanting to spread goodwill about you, even though they were not selected? Does your hiring procedure begin the acculturation process even before a candidate steps foot in your organization for the interview and continue throughout the process to enhance their comfort and integration in the first few weeks on the job?

    As you can see, SQC can greatly impact customer service from dozens, perhaps hundreds of vantage points in your organization. So should we invest time, energy and money teaching customer service? Perhaps you'll need to consider the your organization's SQC health before you can answer that question. But, what ever the answer, providing excellent service consistently is still a worthy goal that will differentiate you in times of increasing competition from around the block and around the globe.

    Susan Stamm is a partner along with her husband Rick in a Lancaster PA based team development firm called The TEAM Approach® http://teamapproach.com She enjoys writng about the many issues affecting team such as customer service on The TEAM Approahes blog: http://teamapproach.typepad.com/the_team_approach/

    Tuesday, August 12, 2008

    Buying Back Customers

    Writen by Don Doman

    Five other peoples joined us for dinner. My wife and I ordered "medium rare." We were served "well done." Three others in our group weren't happy with their dinners as well. I didn't cross the establishment off my list. I complained.

    I'm a writer. I write. I complain. I'm also a teller. I tell people. I tell people when I'm happy. I tell people when I'm irritated. I tell people about my experiences. Most people are simply tellers. They tell their friends about places where they should go, and they tell about places they shouldn't go.

    My little group was out for a good time. The place was packed. It took ages to get our dinners. The waitress didn't even know how to open a bottle of wine. She must have been brand new. She was friendly, and looked like a hard worker.

    I'm not sure how much money we spent, collectively, but I know that we shared three bottles of wine ($25.00 a bottle) around the table. There were some mixed drinks and the food of course.

    The restaurant had a website. I hate businesses that don't have websites. They can't bother? They can't afford it? To me, the lack of easy communication via the net is a good reason for not giving them my business. I went to the website and wrote my comments. I only complained for my wife and me, however.

    I received a call two days after submitting my complaint. I was offered a gift certificate for $20.00. I probably could have demanded more and received it, but I wasn't looking for a payback or a free ride. $20 barely covered one meal. Two days later the mail delivered the gift certificate. There was not even a letter, but the certificate was enough. We returned two days later.

    My wife, Peg and I brought a friend and had a nice time. We came at a less hectic time. The food was good. The waitress had no idea that we had complained. She was even more accommodating than she had been before. I'm sure if we had asked for wine, she would have not needed instructions for opening the bottle this time. We switched to micro-brews for the evening.

    Our bill was just under $80.00 plus tip. The restaurant probably made their twenty bucks back on the beer alone. The restaurant bought my wife and me for $20.00, and we spent considerably more. I've already told two people that originally ate with us about the return trip. They were impressed.

    People who don't complain usually don't come back and they spread the news about why they don't go back. Customers who complain are an opportunity. They can be bought. We were bought, and we'll return . . . and bring more friends with us.

    Author Don Doman: Don is a published author of books for small business, corporate video producer, and owner of Ideas and Training (http://www.ideasandtraining.com), which provides business training products. Don also owns Human Resources Radio (http://www.humanresourcesradio.com), which provides business training programs and previews 24-hours a day.

    Monday, August 11, 2008

    Its Customer Quotservicequot Stupid Delivering Customer Service Training That Sticks

    Writen by Julio Quintana

    "Society is always taken by surprise at any new example of common sense."

    This Ralph Waldo Emerson quote opens one of the most impressive works on customer service: Michael LeBoeuf's book How To Win Customers and Keep Them For Life. I am a fan of the book, and of the man, who has become a good friend and mentor. What makes such a difference in Michael's writing is that, while written over ten years ago, it remains consistent and relevant to us today.

    Teaching customer service should be easy. After all, it is common sense to treat customers as we would want to be treated. Developing or delivering a program that helps people understand that proves more difficult. That's because at the core of every customer service training initiative must be a clear understanding of the motives and purpose that drives us, accompanied by a clear strategy for delivering exceptional service that not only wins customers but also helps you keep them for life. Many companies have customer service program in place (or at least address the need for one). But most focus on practices rather than the principles that make them successful. Customer service training is often driven reactively by the need to solve immediate service problems. As a result, we fail to identify, promote, and train employees on the core components that drive service from the heart, not just the brain. No customer service program is complete until it addresses the integration of the following components:

    Reliability

    Consistent performance is what customers want most. They want service they can depend on. More specifically this means that they want you to do what you say you are going to do... do it when you say you're going to do it... and do it right the first time. If you can also get it done on time, you are being reliable. A reliable individual is worthy of reliance or trust, and trust builds long-term relationships in personal and professional life.

    In business, sports, or in any field of endeavor, consistent, high-level performance is the major difference between the runners and the champions. Teach people to be reliable and you are teaching them to be winners.

    Credibility

    One thing customers will readily pay for is peace of mind. We want security, integrity, and the assurance that if there is a problem, it will be promptly handled at no extra cost. If we buy products, we want them to be safe and guaranteed. If we buy services, we want them to be free from danger, risk, or doubt and kept confidential. We don't want hidden agendas, hard-sell techniques, extra charges, and contracts with "fine print". Such is the nature of credibility, and it brings customers back. A credible person is worthy of confidence and a company that proves itself credible gains the respect of their customers, and often of their competitors. Teach people to be credible and you are teaching them respect.

    Attractiveness

    Anything the customer sees, feels, touches, hears, or smells concerning your business is shaping their opinion of your service for better or worse. Appearances may be deceiving, but customers draw a lot of conclusions about the service quality on the basis of what they see. Look at the business through your customer's eyes, and make the effort to put forth a first-class image. Being attractive means to be pleasing to the eye as well as to the mind. It means having the power to attract. When you teach people to dress smart and maintain a pleasant work environment and appearance you are empowering them to provide great service.

    Responsiveness

    Responsiveness has to do with more than the speed at which you provide a service. Being responsive means being accessible, available, and willing to help customers whenever they have a problem. A responsive individual is ready to respond and react to suggestions, influences, appeals, or efforts on behalf of the customer. Teach people to be responsive and you are preparing them to be flexible.

    Empathy

    Customers should be treated as unique individuals, with their unique personalities, wants, and reasons to buy. If you treat them as such and solve their unique problems, they will continue to be your customer. Showing empathy means putting yourself in the customer's shoes. It means trying objectively to grasp their point of view, and feeling what they feel. It means listening intensely, asking the right questions, speaking their language, and tailoring your services to help them as best you can. When you show empathy you dig deeper into your own self and attribute part of you to your interactions with others. When you teach people empathy you are helping them to really care.

    When these elements are in place you will see a change in the attitudes and behavior of your service providers. Start with these principles as a strong foundation for creating action-ready training programs and you will see incredible returns on your training investment. You will also win and keep the customers who ultimately pay the bill.

    Julio Quintana is a writer and speaker based in Weston, Florida. He is the author of the companion training guide to the powerhouse classic, How to Win Customers & Keep Them for Life by Dr. Michael LeBoeuf. Learn more about his practice and The Merge Point Method at http://www.mergepoint.org.

    800 Numbers Bring Leads If It Doesnt Cost Anything Theyll Call

    Writen by Anna Woodward

    How do I find you, how do I find out where you are, and how fast can I talk to you? These questions are ones we all wish a consumer would ask and then pursue aggressively to find our business. The problem is that the consumer is often fleeting in their pursuit if it is not easy, thorough, and cost effective. Think about how you look for a business or vendor when you have a broad choice. If your two choices are to look through a phone book or look something up online, which one will you choose? You choose online, if you're like me, since you can't remember where the hardcover phone books are, if you still have them, and not to mention they're out of date when they're printed. When you do eventually find those phone books, they're not particularly helpful with outdated listings. So the real question is, how fast can I get that information reliably?

    Following this train of thought, it seems that the best option is to do a search online. But, once you get online, where do you go? Most people have identified one or two search engines or sites and frequent them regularly, but when those options run out or yield information that is not convenient for them to use, without 800 numbers, they will most likely find somewhere else to look. If you do a search by business type or title, often you will come up with several businesses to choose from. Sometimes selecting the right business will depend on their advertising, who else uses them, or these days, what kind of positive feedback is received. That is if you believe the feedback posted. Is it honest, is it part of a larger marketing plan, and how recent is it? The business could have taken a nose dive in service years ago, but we wouldn't know it by reading the feedback. Most of the time, though, we choose the option that won't take money out of our own pockets. If there is a choice between contacting a business via a toll free number or incurring a cost, most will decide to use the 800 number every time.

    The frustrating part of the search can often be the process of being forced to look through several different sites using the same key word in your search, trying to find the same information. There are occasions when we will see the same listing again and again on different sites, but since the number listed is a long-distance call, we will not dial that number. No matter how reputable a business might be, many of us are loathe to call long distance on a chance. The safer and more cost-effective bet is to call toll free. The more the toll free numbers appear in our searches, the more apt we are to contact those businesses, and anything that makes consumers contact a business will certainly create opportunities to sell our services or our products. Better still, if there is an 800 number directory, that surely would make life easier and allow us the opportunity to shop around easier and give businesses a better chance that we will contact them. And as everyone knows, any increased traffic to a business is welcome. It gives more opportunities to convert that call into a paying customer. In the long run, it seems a small price to pay to have a toll free number listed on an 800 number directory to bring in more business.

    Published by the editorial staff of National Tollfree Directory. For more information about the 800 Directory, Toll Free Directory and 800 Numbers, visit The National Tollfree Directory: www.internettollfree.com. Please direct any feedback on this article to editorial@strbusinessmedia.com.

    Sunday, August 10, 2008

    Dont Buy In A Bad Mood

    Writen by Dr. Gary S. Goodman

    Today, I made a special trip to an art supply store, one at which I have a "membership," enabling me to get 10% off its prices, everyday.

    After wading through a sea of traffic, I found a parking space, entered the store, and quickly picked up two canvasses.

    I asked the clerk, "Are these on sale?"

    "Yes," she replied." You can get up to 70% off, depending on how many you buy."

    Cool, "How much do you save with two?"

    "Fifty-percent."

    Not bad, I thought, and I systematically went down the store's aisles in search of yet more bargains.

    My arms full of paints, sketching pads, and other goodies, I trekked back to the counter, and the clerk rang up the charges.

    The total came to over $77.

    Wow, that's a lot of money, I thought.

    "Can you itemize these for me, please?" I asked.

    She was happy to do it, but I couldn't believe what I heard. Each canvas cost about thirty bucks. How could this be?

    "Well, you got 50% off our REGULAR price," she explained.

    "Am I getting an additional 10% off because of my membership?"

    "Uh, no, that's only on non-sale items."

    Wow, what a con! I used to do better at this store before they had their "Up to 70% off" sales!

    I probed further. Each item told a similar story. They start with an astronomical non-sales price, slash that, and you still end up paying what you'd pay, if not more, at similar supply stores.

    Then, instead of getting mad, a Zen type of calm came over me.

    I looked at the perky cashier, and said, "I'm sorry, but I'm going to pass."

    And I left the store, feeling unusually tranquil, my hands empty, and being in a position of having to shop for these items elsewhere.

    I realized that had I completed the purchase, I would have been disappointed.

    That negative emotion would have seeped into the paints, and wept onto the canvas, and any art that resulted, would have been tainted.

    The lesson I learned is simple: If a store, a restaurant, a salesperson, or anyone puts you into a bad mood, stop right there. If you can, stop the buying process, immediately.

    It's the only way to maintain your integrity, your inner balance, and no convoluted discount will ever give that to you, or be worth sacrificing that for.

    Dr. Gary S. Goodman, President of www.Customersatisfaction.com, is a popular keynote speaker, management consultant, and seminar leader and the best-selling author of 12 books, including Reach Out & Sell Someone® and Monitoring, Measuring & Managing Customer Service. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, worldwide. A Ph.D. from USC's Annenberg School, Gary offers programs through UCLA Extension and numerous universities, trade associations, and other organizations in the United States and abroad. He is headquartered in Glendale, California, and he can be reached at (818) 243-7338 or at: gary@customersatisfaction.com.

    One Bad Waiter Can Kill The Economy

    Writen by Dr. Gary S. Goodman

    Whenever I speak out against lousy service I feel I'm performing my civic duty.

    Unfortunately, all too many service providers think I'm a Johnny Damon, a team switcher, a traitor to the corporate cause. They wonder how can I be sincerely interested in helping consumers if my consulting income is provided by companies?

    Of course, that's a naive question. We drink from the same well, because we're all consumers.

    When service standards are high, companies prosper and the economy grows, not only because of job creation and a more robust tax base. It grows because consumers are confident.

    They're confident enough to spend, because they anticipate they'll get value, and that includes proper treatment and the right help when they need it.

    Have you ever noticed how the releasing of consumer confidence numbers can rock Wall Street? Investors know that when confidence plunges, spending dries up. People cut back, and the economy as a whole recedes.

    Consider your own everyday behavior. When are you more likely to order dessert: when your waiter has been exceedingly upbeat and efficient, or when he has been rude?

    While we're at it, let's imagine the impact that just one exceedingly rude waiter can have on the economy.

    If he offends us, minimally, we'll very possibly take our trade elsewhere. Moreover, we may generalize his conduct, imputing it to restaurants in general, making us cut back on eating out.

    Statistics also suggest that we'll tell at least 5-10 of our friends and associates about our negative experience, and our warning will discourage them from frequenting the place.

    Profits will decline, and the offending restaurant may decide to forego plans to expand, or to open new units. It may be forced to lay off workers. Instead of adding to the tax base, the business will become a drain on it.

    The restaurant's service quality will probably decline further, because the single sourpuss who disserved us will infect others with his bad attitude. They'll model after him, making it hard to recruit and retain "positive" people.

    The place will earn a bad reputation in the trade, and that word, careening through the supply chain, will also wend its way down to customers.

    Fostering such a poor restaurant, the entire area may slide into decay. If the restaurant shutters its doors, this may make a future restaurateur think twice about locating in a spot where a predecessor failed. An empty storefront will also rattle the confidence of neighboring businesses, residents, and workers.

    Nearby hotels, dependent in part on neighborhood eateries to attract guests, will also be affected. Again, the tax base will shrink, and along with it, essential policing and other public services will decline. Further public investment in infrastructural improvements may be difficult to garner.

    Travel agents may discourage vacationers and businesspeople from going to an increasingly seedy or blighted destination. Meeting planners may elect to take their lucrative conferences and conventions, elsewhere.

    Once a critical mass of decay has been reached, it could take years or decades for the neighborhood to regenerate.

    If you think I'm going overboard, recall this vision, paraphrased from Shakespeare:

    For want of a nail, a shoe was lost. For want of a shoe, a horse was lost. For want of a horse a rider was lost. For want of a rider, a battle was lost. For want of a battle, the war was lost.

    For want of a good waiter, our economy could be lost.

    Dr. Gary S. Goodman, President of Customersatisfaction.com, is a popular keynote speaker, management consultant, and seminar leader and the best-selling author of 12 books, including Reach Out & Sell Someone® and Monitoring, Measuring & Managing Customer Service. A frequent guest on radio and television, worldwide, Gary's programs are offered by UCLA Extension and by numerous universities, trade associations, and other organizations in the United States and abroad. Gary is headquartered in Glendale, California. He can be reached at (818) 243-7338 or at: gary@customersatisfaction.com.