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3 Steps to Improve Customer Service

customer service

Customer Service during the pandemic was something that was not on most people’s radar. For many small businesses, hospitality especially, they did all they could just to stay afloat. As we begin to vaccinate more and more people, businesses are beginning to open up again. With this new reopening comes some challenges. Some previous employees are not returning to work. Good help is becoming harder to find for some industries. As a business owner, you may find yourself in any or all of these challenging situations.

As crazy as it may sound, I believe this is the very best time to create a way to gather customer insights and to evaluate the customer experience. One silver lining for a reset it that it allows a business reinvent themselves. No longer should you just do the status quo. Stepping up your internal measurements by starting with how your customers see you and what they feel can be improved upon.

1. Evaluate Customer Service Levels Before You Get Busy

Unless your business allows you to be present 100% of the time, you need mystery shopping. Mystery shopping measures what you train. Training employees takes a lot of time and resources. Isn’t it worth the time to evaluate its effectiveness? This allows your employees an opportunity to learn. It can do wonders to improve your business by increasing customer service.

Sending in evaluators to measure things like initial greeting, rapport building, listening skills, cross sell or up sell, follow up, etc. can be very eye opening. Most owners believe they know what is happening in their place of business. Once you mystery shop your locations, you may find an entirely different situation. One that can cost you a lot of money.

Beginning a program now is smart because it allows you to see areas that may need improvement before you are back up to 100% capacity. Fixing those areas can be well worth the investment!

2. Gain Customer Service Insights

This may be the best time to gather customer feedback on services, programs, products, etc.. that your business sells. Most people have had to change their way of life for the past year. They are working remotely, teaching their kids at home, shopping differently, etc.. In other words, your customers have changed. How have they changed and how will it impact your business? What can you do now to insure they think of you when they do start going out more regularly again?

Listening to your customers will improve your business by tapping into what is most important to them. Once you have a good understanding of what they are looking for, you can update or add items that may influence their purchases.

3. Competitive Intelligence

Researching your competition is always a good idea and now is no different. Do you have the same competitors as you did a year ago? What are they doing differently? How do their service offerings compare to yours?

What about their pricing? Have they increased or decreased? Gaining these insights now can be of great value in positioning your business down the road.

How do their service levels compare to yours? A great idea is to send your employees in to your competition and use the same evaluation form you currently use for mystery shopping. This not only shows your employees the importance of this type of measurement, they will come away with the differences between your business and the competition; good and bad.

Just taking some proactive measure now will increase sales and profitability down the road.

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The Importance of the Customer Greeting

customer greeting

How important is the customer greeting? When a customer walks into a place of business, how soon should they be acknowledged with a greeting? This is an area most businesses have struggled with for years.

When we begin a mystery shopping program for a client this question is always front and center. When measuring the time it takes for the customer to be greeted upon entering the store, we must consider a variety of things. Staffing the store with the correct number of employees is key of course, but there are other things to consider. Exactly how much time should management allow for a customer to be greeted? In our experience, most retail clients use between 20-30 seconds.

Timings

A retail paint store client (chart above), measures the time it takes for the customer to walk in the store until the customer is greeted. In this case, they allow 20 seconds to be greeted. This is what they train their staff to do. In the chart above, mystery shoppers scored this question among others in the customer experience evaluation. At a glance, the client can see how often this is happening correctly in their stores company wide. One quarter of stores did not meet the company’s requirement of greeting a customer within 20 seconds when entering the store.

That may sound like a short amount of time until you try this. Count up to 20 by thousands, 1001,1002,1003, etc.. By the time it takes you to reach 1,020 you will be very close to the 20 second mark. See the difference? It feels a lot longer when you really “feel” what 20 seconds is like in the real world.

 A brief statement, such as, “Hello, I will be right with you,” can encourage a customer to browse the store until an employee is free to provide help. Once the employee is available, he should approach the customer and ask if they need help finding anything. This opens the lines of communication and it creates instant credibility.

Customer Greeting & NPS

In a recent blog post, I wrote about how a business can improve NPS for a better customer experience. Perfecting greetings plays an important role in the overall customer experience and can improve NPS scores.


While it might sound obvious, how consistent is your team with their hellos and goodbyes? The greeting is your customer’s first experience with your company, so make sure the call starts out on the right foot – keep it informal, ask them how their day is going, be interested in them as a person and show how you value their business.

J.D. Power Reports Immediate Customer Greeting Key to Aftermarket Service Satisfaction

In a just released report, J.D. Power reported on the importance of the greeting in a recent study conducted by the company.

Greeting customers on arrival at an aftermarket automotive maintenance facility can improve customer satisfaction, according to the results of the U.S. Aftermarket Service Index Study released today by J.D. Power in Troy.

Satisfaction scores decline when customers wait more than three minutes before they’re acknowledged at full-service maintenance and repair, quick oil change, and tire replacement businesses, says the data analytics and consumer intelligence company. As a practical matter, greeting customers as soon as possible at any business will provide benefits.

Greeting can be measured quickly and efficiently my utilizing a mystery shopping program for your company. When you see the impact of what just one question makes in the overall customer experience, now is not the time to dismiss this important measurement.

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COVID-19 Customer Service

ecommerce

Customer service adjustments. During the last several months we have all had to make a lot of changes to our lives. We all have our own personal story on hardships as well as new opportunities. Working from home for the first time. Working while trying to home school kids for the first time ever. Getting accustomed to wearing a mask for the first time. Social distancing all while trying to work and take care of our families.

During this time I think that most consumers have shown appreciation for the essential front line workers and we understood when our Amazon order took 2 weeks instead of 2 days. We appreciate those hard working people sacrificing for the well being of others.

Are Things About to Change?

While for the most part, people continue to have patience. Some people are showing a great deal of resistance to mask wearing and retailers and restaurant owners have had to quickly train employees on how to handle an unhappy guest who didn’t want to comply.

My concern is more along the lines of people using the pandemic a an excuse for poor customer service. I have two examples of what I am referring to.

Local Steals and Deals

I am located in the Charlotte, NC area, and I see their commercials daily. Sometimes as part of my local evening news (slower news days). They have a spokesperson who is very compelling and does a great job selling products. Their About Us section on their website states the following:

Local Steals and Deals is operated by Knocking (www.knocking.co) in association with Cox Media Group.

We connect the best brands with Cox Media Group’s audience, offering exclusive deals.

I like the concept. However what I wasn’t impressed with was the customer service. I placed an order 2 months ago and never received my purchase. I honestly think I would have forgotten about it altogether if it were not for the commercials! After emailing the company, I found out that the product is no longer available. It left me wondering how many people placed orders and then forgot about them? Automatically refunding customers on out of stock items, should be part of any e-commerce site these days.

Website Hosting

A quick chat with my hosting company regarding a log in issue I was having kept me busy for over an hour trying to trouble shoot with them in a chat. Finally, I was told my issue would be escalated and that I should try again in a few hours. Good enough. I did what he said and even waited until the next day. Still had the same problem. Got on the chat with them again, knowing full well that I would have to start from the beginning. Sure enough. When I asked if my issue was escalated as I was told, I received an awful reply. I was told that because of COVID19, they were working with reduced staff. Really? You are working on a computer from your home office, I would bet. How could COVID be affecting your customer service?

Don’t Neglect Your Customer Service

Times are hard and budgets are tight. Now is not the time however to neglect your customer service standards. In fact, I believe it is the time to make them an even more important priority. Evaluating what is happening when a customer engages with your business or brand is more important than ever before. People will remember the businesses who came through for them during this time.

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