Friday, December 19, 2008

A Holiday Greeting That Worked

OK. I know that the holidays are coming. It isn't a suprise. I know who I am giving to and what I am giving. So why do I wait until the last minute? Well that is probably unanswerable. However, it is clear that I am NOT the only one waiting to the last minute to order for their loved ones. So, as a business servicing these late-comers how do you greet them in a way that is personal and fun?

I think Harry and David succeeded in greeting me in a appropriate and fun way. An automated message came on and said "Thanks for calling Harry and David, we make your holidays easy." At the end of the automated message he said "relax." It wasn't so much a command as an invitation. Then the warm welcoming voice of the sales representative came on "Happy holidays How may I help you?"

Having just laughed at the request to "relax" which was the last thing on my mind I was pleased to hear her voice offering help. In minutes I was off the phone having sent my gifts. You know what? I am more relaxed!

Think of ways you can greet your customers in a way that acknowledges their situation and feels personal even if it is an automated message.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Stop Telling Us it's Our Policy!

Unbelievable. In this dire economy companies are still telling customers "Sorry, I can't do that, it's our policy." Can you really afford to push your customers away because of some stupid misguided policy? Really?

Last Saturday I went to a local dim sum restaurant to celebrate my friend Mary's birthday. There were 10 of us dining and we ordered A LOT of food. One of the guests asked for low sodium soy sauce. He was told "Sorry, that is only for people who are eating sushi." We were stunned. "Really?" he asked. "We can't have low sodium soy sauce if we don't order sushi?" "Right" our waitress said. We did the only sane thing we could do and ordered sushi we DIDN'T want so that we could have the low sodium soy sauce.

So, we got what we wanted. But did the restaurant get what they wanted? If their only concern was preservation of a condiment, then yes they did. But if their goal was pleasing their customer and making loyal customers, no they did not.

I know for a fact that most of us will choose the other dim sum restaurant that doesn't have this crazy rule next time we want dim sum.

Before you start feeling superior, check yourself. Have you or your employees, ever uttered the words " Sorry, that is not our policy" for ANY reason? If you, or they have, then you are as guilty as the restaurant. I am sure you think you have a more substantial reason for saying this. But, it still has the same effect on your customer's opinion of you.

Stop telling your customers that you have a policy that thwarts their desires. Make your policy "Customer Satisfaction" Try it today!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Putting Great Customer Service First

In a recent article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Joe Guy Collier writes about the changes that AFC Enterprises new CEO, Cheryl Bachelder is making to Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. Bachelder said "We would like for our service, our guest experience to be as sharp as our food."

This kind of forward thinking is exactly what we all need to focus on in these tough economic times. Instead of letting the economic downturn get her down she said "We've had to be more focused, but I actually think that's been a blessing. We're going to get the fundamentals of our business moving the right way."

Popeye's has a system for immediate customer feedback that tracks hospitality as one of ten attributes. This feedback provides the managers the information they need to continuously improve.

Are you focusing on improving your customer's experience, or are you just slashing prices in hopes of winning your share of your customer's hearts and pocketbooks?

Focus on providing your customers what they want and need and you can win them over.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Great Customer Service Lesson from McClures's Pickles

Yesterday I went to the Royal Oak Farmers Market. I was happy to see that the wonderful folks from McClure's Pickles were there again. A few weeks ago I tasted their fabulous pickles and bought a jar. My husband and I were overloaded with goodies and the bag that dropped right by our car was the one that contained those pickles. The jar was smashed into smithereens and we wrapped it in plastic to get it to the garbage at home. The car had the wonderful aroma of pickles but we didn't get to eat any.

So as I walked up to their booth, two weeks later, I told them about my accident. "Why didn't you come back in we would have given you another one for free?" But instead of just saying I should have come back, she handed me a new jar and said "Here take this one please." I didn't accept her very generous offer, I happily paid for it.

I thought to myself, "You just made me a raving fan customer."

But here is the lesson to all of us. Being generous is the key to exceptional customer service. She could have easily said "Oh, you dropped the last one, sorry to hear that." and I would have been fine. I would have still bought another jar and gone on my way. But, because of her kindness I feel a huge sense of loyalty. They wanted to take care of me now I want to take care of them.

It is sometimes the smallest acts of kindness that can turn someone into a lifelong customer. What can you do in these difficult times to go the extra mile and do something to help your customers and win their loyalty?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What is THE most Important Dental Tool?

You might have looked at the picture and decided on your "favorite" tool. But in actuality the dentist's (actually ANY service provider's)most important tool is the pen.

My friend Mary had some dental work performed by her dentist, Bobby Grossi from DaVinnci Dental In Clawson, Michigan. Dr Grossi took over the practice from another dentist about 8 months ago. Mary liked her original dentist and had been with him for years. When Dr. Grossi took over she assumed that her dentist trusted him and so she decided to stay with the office.

Dr. Grossi obviously doesn't take customer loyalty for granted as a number of business owners do. He knew that he needed to offer superior customer in order to keep these new customers coming back to him.

Dr. Grossi HAND wrote a note to her. It said:

I hope everything is going well. It truly is a pleasure to provide you with dental care. You are a lot of fun to work on, and I enjoy your company. I hope to be your treating dentist for years to come.
Thank you
Bobby Grossi

This is a PERFECT thank you note. It was handwritten, it was personal, it stated his goal (to be your treating dentist for years to come)

Mary was thrilled to receive this note and now feels even more loyal than she might have after a good visit.

But lets look at the other benefits. The handwritten note was so note worthy that she shared it with everyone at a group breakfast. Everyone looked at the note, everyone was impressed. And I am pretty sure that everyone thought to themselves "Why doesn't my dentist send me a note?"

Also she happened to hand to a customer service trainer, me, who has now written about it in her blog.

I had an opportunity to speak with Dr. Grossi. I asked him why he wrote the note. He said that he wants his patients to know that he is a human being that is grateful for their business. He treats his patients the way he would hope to be treated.

I asked if he had any comments from his patients about the notes. He has received comments but he said that his goal was not to get a specific response, it was just to let them know that they were appreciated.

If you are thinking, "yea I would love to have the time to do something like that." throw that excuse away. Dr. Grossi says he spends about twenty minutes a day writing his notes. You have twenty minutes to let your customers know you appreciate them, don't you?

If you don't, make the time. These kinds of notes work better than all the other kinds of outreach you do. People respond better to a friends recommendation than an ad in a paper.

Do it now! Write your customer a thank you note...I am going to!

Friday, January 25, 2008

How Hard is it to Smile and Say Hello?

I just went to my city hall to pay my taxes. The woman behind the counter looked at me as I waited for her to finish with the gentleman in front of me. Although she looked directly at me, she did not in any way acknowledge me. No smile, no "hi," no "I will be right with you." Not even a nod.

How did this make me feel? VERY uncomfortable. VERY unimportant. VERY invisible. The strange thing is that she did look at me. How hard would it have been to add some sort of human contact to make me feel welcome? Literally she might have had to make the slight physical effort to raise the corners of her lips into a smile. Or move the muscles in her neck to nod. But seriously not much effort at all.

So why didn't she do it? My guess is that no one, not her bosses or her customers ever bothered to let her know the impact of her inaction. Probably no one taught her how to be kind and welcoming. In fact no one ever spent anytime helping her understand the importance of greeting her customer.

Just because she is a civil servant doesn't mean that we residents aren't her customers. And ALL customers (no matter what you call them: clients, patrons, patients, guest, buyer, member, or enrollee) deserve your warm greeting.

Start paying attention to how you are treated. As you become more aware of how you are treated it will be easier to judge how well you are doing with greeting your customer. And if you are a manager, start training your employees on what a good greeting looks and sounds like. Then reward them whtn they do it correctly.

Customers may not tell you how they feel...but they will tell their friends. Make sure they are telling good stories about you.