Take a moment to say hello today

photo by Richard Rinaldi

We all live in our cocoons – our preferred foods, music, routes we take to work, and perhaps even the ideas we take for granted.

What would happen today if you said hello to someone you didn’t know yet, or someone you haven’t talked to in far too long? It might be great – you learn that the person missed you and it feels like yesterday since you last talked. It might feel weird – maybe you don’t have much in common anymore. Or it might feel human – like someone is taking the time to get in touch and is reaching out.

Photographer Richard Rinaldi is taking this human contact to a new level by asking strangers to pose as if they knew and liked each other – there’s a video here – and the result gives the subjects gratitude and a human connection.

What does Rinaldi’s work suggest? Reach out to strangers and people you don’t know very well. The results might surprise you – you might end up feeling more alive.

Have you sent a thank you note lately?

photo by dryicons.com
When was the last time you sent a physical thank you note? And how about the last time you received one of these notes? Taking the time to write a note by hand is really worth it, even if you don’t know how it’s worth it yet.

Sending a note is a sign that you care. When you take the moment to reach out to customers you start building their trust and give them a touch point to reach a real person. Being able to call you really matters.

Another way you can get closer to your customers is to use your product as much as possible. Product managers and devs may jokingly call this activity “eat your own dog food” or “drink your own champagne”. It means putting yourself in the place of the customer and feeling how delighted they are (or frustrated) to use the solution your team built.

And then when things don’t go right those customers need an easy way to contact you. You might provide off-hours support by email, pager, or smoke signal. But the best way (still) is a plain old phone number, staffed by a real person who takes interest in the customer. When you listen, pay attention, and call back, good things happen – even when there may have been problems with the service delivery.

So spend more time talking to, and thanking your customers. Use your own product and make sure you know where it shines and where it has warts. And staff a phone line with a real person who cares to make the process better when things don’t work out or when they’re just confusing.
You can find 47 other ways to improve the customer experience here.

Do some customers deserve better service?

illustration by http://www.flickr.com/photos/davegray/
illustration by http://www.flickr.com/photos/davegray/

Which customer would you rather deal with: the one who tells you what’s wrong or the one who buys faithfully and then leaves without prior warning? While you might not see the warning signs of the customer who’s unhappy immediately, it’s important to identify when your customers give you extremely positive or negative signals. Some of these customers (especially at the beginning) warrant and deserve extra service from your team, even if maintaining that service for the long term doesn’t scale.

Some customers do deserve better service. They are the customers who need you to explain the process to them. They are the customers who wonder why your product or service works the way it does. And they are the customers who make sure that when something happens that doesn’t work for them that you know about it. They are your best customers because they are giving you the feedback that you need to hear. One way that you’ll know these customers is when they give you high NPS (promoter) and low NPS scores (detractors.) Another way you’ll know them is to read every response you get from customers and respond.

When you think about your customers, you might (and should) evaluate them in different ways. Who is easy to engage? Who challenges you to think differently? Who is a high value customer by dollar amount? And who is a high value customer by virtue of the questions that they ask and the way they use your product? You won’t know this at the beginning of your business, and you can use your past experience to help guide the way.

Getting to a Customer Success process that works

In my experience, there are a few things you can do right now to make sure that your best customers (and the ones you don’t know are your best customers yet) can get the help they need.

When you define customer segments and identify the most likely people to need help, you take a giant step towards solving the same problem for the all of the people who don’t ask for help. For example, if your product requires a small business owner to understand how email servers work for the purpose of connecting your product to their email, you’re likely to be disappointed by the email knowledge of many small business owners.  On the other hand, if you identify that many small business owners use Google Apps and you create an integration to Google Apps Mail, you’ve removed a barrier to adoption for that customer.

When you take that customer segment and make it part of your service process, you can then make sure that the persona (Small Business Owners, in this case) has a consistent experience during the time you handle their issue. You can then create a clear escalation path that this customer segment understands and know how many of your cases are in a state of escalation.

Future You will Thank You for Identifying Challenging Customers

Designating an individual customer as part of a segment may not be good enough, so one additional thing you can do is either to dedicate an individual Customer Success Agent or Team to that customer or to add a flag or field to your customer relationship management system that indicates whether a person needs “white glove service.” What white glove means to your organization is up to you – it usually indicates that the person requires extra reassurance and politeness when they call.

You can find 47 other ways to improve the customer experience here.

It seems like a small thing and adds up

photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/thomashawk/
photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/thomashawk/

It seems like a small thing to be nice. It seems like a small thing to say “thank you.” And it seems like a small thing to suggest a solution to the problem you found. Yet doing these small things is a powerful catalyst for customer service.

Start with the basics: be nice.

If you start with the premise that other people are trying to help you, and if you use that belief as a way to start your conversation, you’ll get farther in most situations than if you assume the worst. Being nice – as your parents or grandparents may have taught you – is a key component of providing great service. Because you remember how someone made you feel in a given situation.

70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels.

Saying “thank you” adds to the start that you created by being nice. Saying “thank you” shows the customer that you appreciate they contacted you and that you are ready to help them. And companies that thank their employees have triple the return on equity compared to companies who don’t. So why wouldn’t you want to deliver the same respect to your customer – it adds to their emotional benefit and to the bottom line of your business.

Spot it? Got It!

Once you find the root of the customer issue, especially when you are pointing out that you’ve identified a problem, you should suggest a solution to that issue in addition to simply asking for more information. By presenting information for the customer, framing it in the context of their situation, and providing a solution, you not only become an advocate for the customer but also give them the opportunity to finish the issue.

So here are 3 things you can do to give better service the next time you talk to a customer (or to anyone else)

  1. When in doubt, be nice.
  2. Say “Thank you” in your response.
  3. Suggest a solution to the problem at hand in addition to asking for more information.

You can find 47 other ways to provide customer service as part of the Thank You Effect https://gregmeyer.com/2013/02/16/the-thank-you-effect-improving-service-one-ste-at-a-time/

A Guide to Becoming a WOW-Maker

Photo by Daniel Y. Go.

It’s really great to open your email and get a compliment or hear something nice that a customer posted about you or your company on social media. I call that “Customer Wow” and believe that building Wow is a difference-maker and provides a sustainable critical advantage for your company. If you practice this skill every day, good things will happen, and you will build positive word-of-mouth reviews.

What is Customer WOW?

It’s not enough to simply follow an axiom, like “the customer is always right” (as sometimes they are more right than others), and it’s also too rigid to build policies and procedures for every situation. How many times have you looked at a complicated solution and thought, “there must be something simpler that can solve most of this problem, if I could only think of it?”

So, how do you build Customer WOW?

You have to start with a few key elements: understanding the customer and providing empathy; quickly identifying and solving their problem expertly; and ultimately, trying to “do the right thing” and treating that customer the right way for the right situation while maintaining your existing policy guardrails and proper procedures.

Becoming a WOW-Maker (and enabling WOW) depends upon the people, process, and tools in your organization:

  • By people, I literally mean the people involved, because finding the right people who are capable of delivering great service is much easier than training people who don’t want to deliver above-and-beyond service. So, find the “above-and-beyond” skills your people have and make sure that the thing they do best is the thing they’re doing more often.
  • By process, I mean the way your company does business: ask around and you should be able to find the parts of it people dislike.
  • And by tools, I mean the products and services people in your team use to get stuff done.

There’s no special recipe, but the following tips can help:

  • Your people are the first contact with your customers — so make sure that they know both the common procedures of your organizations — but also ask them to think of “one more thing” that would make a customer really happy. Tip: When I email a customer, I try to solve the next question they might ask, in addition to what they already have asked.
  • Process is key for establishing efficiency and effectiveness, and if it’s too detailed, it can really get burdensome fast. Ask your team members if there are any items on the “cringe list” and see what you can do to remove those obstacles. Tip: One great process you might think about adding is “Always Thank the Customer for Writing.”
  • Be open to the idea of new tools. Often the team member who delivers the most WOW is someone who has discovered a way to automate their everyday tasks so that they can focus on the end goal of delighting customers. Tip: Find out what high-performing team members are doing and ask them to teach that idea to the rest of the team.

How will you know when you are delivering WOW?

When your customers let you know that they are really happy with your speed, efficiency, and excellence. And when you manage to do all these things — and do them with your own style (and a bit of panache) — you’ve become a WOW-maker. I’d love to hear your story — share it with me in the comments below or at @grmeyer.

This post originally appeared on WordOfMouth.org.

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