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From the Editor
"Ask an Expert" Briefs
14 Customer Service Questions to Ask for 2014
With a new year just beginning, now is the time to start questioning your customer service delivery. In this short article, customer service expert Shep Hyken presents 14 questions you might want to ask yourself and others in the agency.
15 Customer Service Tips for 2015
It’s 2015 so, in keeping with the new year, customer service expert Shep Hyken offers 15 customer service tips to keep in mind and in practice throughout the coming year.
20 More Tips on How to Deliver an Amazing Customer Service Experience
If you read my last article you read a list of customer service tips that anyone can put to use immediately. This is the second half of the list of 40 quick customer service tips. This list has a number of 'do's,' as well as a number of 'don't do's.' Even though the list starts with the number 1, it is actually 21.
20 Tips on How to Deliver an Amazing Customer Service Experience
An amazing customer service experience comes down to this: 'Sell a product or service that works and be nice to the customer about it.' It's that simple. I could stop there as most people would agree with that statement. However, this is just 'what it is.' Not how to do it. Understanding 'what it is' becomes the starting point. Knowing and 'how to do it' and actually doing it (customer service) is the execution.
Amazing Customer Engagement Ideas
You’ve read about the explosion of “disrupters” that are going to revolutionize the insurance industry. Most of them promise quick and easy online or smart phone app access but none of them really address what it takes in the form of a customer experience that enables the sale and retention of the customer. In this article, customer service expert Shep Hyken talks about “customer engagement.”
An Amazing Customer Service and Leadership Story
How far will you go to provide superior customer service? Would you invest hours learning basic American Sign Language so a single customer will have a better experience?
Creative Problem Solving Can Lead to Amazing Customer Service
The story you’re about to read is a five-star, scale of one to ten – give them an eleven – amazing customer service story. If you’re a customer of Whole Foods, this story likely won’t be surprising.
Customer Service Debrief Helps Us Learn from Mistakes and Successes
Years ago I took a course offered by the Afterburners, a group of former military fighter pilots who teach corporate America how to bring military strategy into their boardroom. One of the very powerful lessons I learned about the military way of “doing business” was that they debriefed after every mission – both failed and successful missions.
Customer Service May Rule But Rules in Customer Service Don’t
When it comes to customer service decisions, I can’t stand the word rules. You can throw the word policy in there too. A better word might be guidelines. Or, if you insist on using the words rules and policies, then at least get employees to, rather than hide behind them, understand the spirit of the meaning behind them.
How to Achieve Customer Loyalty
Creating loyal customers is a far more cost effective strategy than bringing in new ones. Many studies claim that it can cost five times more to acquire a new customer than keep an old one. If that is the case, then loyalty – even at a lower wallet share – is a very smart strategy.
How to Create a Customer-Centric Culture
Creating a Customer-Centric Culture. That’s a lot of words that begin in C. Well, this article is about D’s, specifically the Six D’s of Creating a Customer-Centric Culture.
Recommending Your Competition
Are there any situations where you would refer a prospect to another agent? One agent who writes almost exclusively commercial lines refers personal lines opportunities to an agency that writes predominantly personal lines. In this article, Shep Hyken gives two other examples of referring potential customers to competitors and the reasons why.
Resolve Customer Complaints Quickly
When customers realize that a company they do business with is wasting their time by giving poor service, or forcing them to wait on the phone for customer support, they will consider finding another company to do business with who will give better service, quickly fix problems, and as a result, respect the customers’ time.
Six Strategies to Compete in Business
Can your little agency compete with the “big boys,” the direct sales organizations that have billion dollar advertising budgets? Yes! In this article, customer service expert Shep Hyken gives you six strategies to compete and don’t forget our growing “Is Insurance a Commodity?” VU Featured Resource that will increasingly provide you with the tools you need to compete with direct writers in personal lines.
Some Customers Aren’t Worth Doing Business With
It’s okay for customers to be misinformed or make a mistake. However, sometimes the customer is not only “not right,” they are abusive and disrespectful toward the people who are trying to do their best to help them, our employees.
Ten Ideas to Help You Obtain Customer Loyalty
What is customer loyalty? I asked a number of business people this simple question. Most agreed that customer loyalty means that the customer will come back, again and again. However, what customer loyalty doesn’t always mean is that the customer is loyal to you, and only you.
The Key to Customer Recovery: Stand Behind Your Product, Communicate and Follow Through
What can an insurance agency learn from a furniture company? Simplicity Sofas focuses on quality, innovation and improvement. They jump to supporting their customers and resolving issues. They communicate, keep their customers updated, and follow through. Do you?
The Southwest Airlines Way
If you’re never flown Southwest airlines, you are likely not familiar with their customer service approach. In this article, customer service expert Shep Hyken talks about his experience and I add my own at the end. For two other articles about this company, search the VU for “southwest.” Also, try searching for “ritz carlton” for an article about the “Ritz Carlton Way.”
Turn Angry Customers Into Customer Evangelists
I’m constantly amazed at how many different ideas people and companies use to amaze their customers. When you get a complaint, you probably apologize and do your best to make it right, problem solved, correct? Here’s what one business does that not only placates a dissatisfied customer, but also makes him or her an evangelist for the business….
We're Not Happy Until You're Not Happy
If you’re going to make a brand promise, keep it. Otherwise, you and your company may be the brunt of the punchline… We’re not happy until you’re not happy!
What Lane Are You In? Low Price? Customer Service? Luxury Brand?
The best companies know what they are good at, and they “stay in that lane.” Ace Hardware. Nordstrom. Zappos. What none of these companies are known for is being the low price leader. It’s not that they are high priced either. They are competitively priced and have chosen to compete by delivering value with their customer service. That’s their lane: customer service.
5 Must-Do Customer Service Strategies
Here are five great customer service tips that will give any company an advantage over the competition, and more value for their customers.
A Tale of Two Customer Service Representatives
I just had a problem with my computer monitor. It intermittently was creating all kinds of interesting colors. As cool as it looked, it wasn't good for reading what was on the screen. I called the manufacturer, who is known for customer service. After an hour of being transferred from one person to another, the screen on the monitor had returned to normal. We were forced to call back when the monitor began acting up again. To our surprise, the second experience was totally different than the first....
Bad Rules - Part 1
Do you or your company have rules and policies that customers might think of as dumb, ridiculous, or inconvenient? Do the people you work with understand the concept of the rules and policies, or can they be misunderstood to the point of ruining a customer’s experience? Put another way…what have you done to get in the way of success?
Bad Rules - Part 2 (Or How to Say "No")
In Part 1 of this article, I wrote about bad rules. Sometimes management creates rules that get in the way of taking care of customers. This is a follow-up. This is a little longer article than usual, but get through it. It will be worth it. There is an old saying that says, “Rules are made to be broken.” There are some management people out there that would say this doesn’t work in business. They’re right – up to a point.
Be Good FOR Your Customer
One of my clients told me how he takes care of his customers. He asks them, “Do you want me to be good TO you, or good FOR you?” Think about that question for a moment. Being good “to” the customer means you take care of them, give them great service, etc. But being good “for” the customer is different. It is helping them or enhancing their experience.
Building Customer Loyalty
Studies have shown that it is much more expensive to attract a new customer to a business than to keep an existing one. So, what can we do to build customer loyalty...to get that customer to come back again and again? Here are six universal points that will apply to any type of business....
Childhood Customer Service Lessons
As a child, from the time I could write, whenever I received a nice gift, Mom would say, “Write a thank you note.” That simple request was really more than simply writing a note. It was my parents’ philosophy about doing what was right. Here are six things my parents taught me about customer service....
Common Sense That Isn't Always So Common
For years I've been preaching that a lot of customer service is common sense that, unfortunately, isn't so common. It is the great companies that consistently deliver an experience that meets, if not exceeds, expectations. And, much of this experience is common sense. Jon Osborn, research director at J.D. Power and Associates backs this up in a recent study of the automotive industry.....
Create a Unique Experience
One hotel comes out with a better bed. It gives them a competitive edge for a while, but eventually other hotels catch on and compete head to head. Eventually these amenities don’t make the difference anymore. At a certain point, it comes down to the people making the difference. The staff can make or break it for the hotel.
Customer Service Stats and What They Mean to You
Are companies really committed to delivering great customer service? Will consumers pay more for better service? Will customers really stop doing business with companies who provide poor customer services? Here is what the statistics say....
Customer Service Works...The Numbers Prove It
Companies who make customer service one of their priorities not only delight their customers; they also delight their investors. The stock market has been crushed, as of late. I'm not an economist, but I recently found some interesting information that may give an investor an edge, and it is all because of customer service.
Customers Want an Experience
I’m sure you’ve gone to a restaurant and had a wonderful experience, not just a meal. You may have even used the words, “I had a great experience.” Anybody can cook food. Combine culinary expertise with great service and personality and you create an experience for the customer. So, what are you doing to create an experience for your customers? First, we have to define what the experience is for your customers....
Customers Want It Their Way
Customers want customization whether they're ordering cars, pizzas, or sub sandwiches. Subway, the successful food chain, is now advertising that because of so many choices they offer, they don’t make the sandwiches – you do. Choice is great, but even better is when someone can anticipate your choices. Even if it is based on past experience, it is appreciated and in many cases impressive.
Customize and Personalize Your Promotions
Customizing your marketing and sales promotions may fall under sales or marketing, but I think it also belongs in service. Anytime you can increase value and make the buying experience better for a customer, you are delivering a better level of service.
Enthusiasm - It's Contagious
Some people just work for a paycheck. Others work for their company and personal fulfillment. Who would you rather be with at work...someone who hates what they are doing, or someone who loves what they are doing? Enthusiasm is contagious; however, if what you have is not enthusiasm, that is also contagious!
Four Valuable Lessons We Can Learn From the Airlines
When discussing customer service, I don't like to pick on the airlines. Their shortcomings are obvious. Yet while I may encounter that curmudgeon at the ticket counter or that crusty flight attendant, when it comes to the people side, the airlines usually deliver acceptable levels of service. Here are four simple lessons that the airlines teach us.
If Everybody Knows, Then Why Don't They Do It?
Most would agree that most people know what good customer service is. People know when they get it. They even know how to give it. Then why is it so hard to get people to do it. There are technical aspects to service, and sometimes there is training for a specific job on how to handle complaints, resolve problems, refer to the right people, etc. All of these are skills that are taught. But, from the beginning, good customer service has nothing to do with skill....
Internal Customer Service
It has been my good fortune to have been hired to speak to hundreds of clients with many, many different types of audiences. Most of these clients understand that customer service is not a department you call when you have a complaint. It is a philosophy. Customer service throughout an entire organization is the way of the future.
Customers expect more than ever before. Simply satisfying your customer doesn't cut it these days. You have to go beyond average levels of basic satisfaction. By managing a few of your customers' expectations, you will reap the benefits of a customer who is loyal and truly enjoys doing business with you. This article addresses four major expectations that you cannot just meet, but you must exceed.
Moments of Truth, Misery and Magic
This is the first in a series of articles contributed by noted customer service and customer relations expert, speaker and author, Shep Hyken, CSP.
On Being "Real"
As I think about my friends and colleagues who are successful, I see some commonalities about them. They are approachable and available. They have a bond with their customers as well as the people they work with. They create positive impact on others. They are “real.” Here's what being 'real' really means....
On Duty While Off Duty
At any given time, even when we don't suspect it, we might be creating an impression about our company, or even ourselves. And whenever it comes to dealing with the customer, we must always be on – even when we are supposed to be off. From that perspective, being a CSR is more than a 9-5, M-F job. Wherever you are, whatever you do, your actions may reflect on you and your agency.
Online Customer Service
Just last month, STELLAService released a study which concluded that great online customer service is worth a staggering $17.3 billion in the United States. Click Shep's photo to visit his web site.
Operations-Driven vs. Customer-Driven
Creating a truly customer focused and driven environment is not easy. It takes time and training. Employees need to trust that management will stand behind them and not fault them for making a wrong decision. Here are some tips for accomplishing that....
Rough Economy Creates Good Customer Service Practices
As the current economy wreaks havoc on the business world, various companies and organizations recognize that the most effective strategy that works in any economy is customer service. And to get competitive, rather than lowering prices, companies are finding new ways to deliver service that they may not have done before.
Small Details Make a Difference
This was just a little thing, and by itself is nothing significant. But if enough of these little things are good, they add up and eventually get noticed. Conversely, so do the bad ones. And once you have even a small, seemingly insignificant bad experience take place, it becomes magnified when another one happens.
Sometimes They Call It Customer Service
Earlier this year I had the wonderful opportunity to work with Verizon Wireless in their call centers. Their goal is to answer the phone within a surprisingly short period of time, and they usually do. That strategy, along with a focus on 'one call resolution' helps create loyal customers. Why? Because, they create a consistent positive experience (the key word is consistent), which creates confidence, that ultimately can lead to customer loyalty.
Speed: The Differentiation Factor between Great Service and Even Greater Service
Speed has become a differentiator between great service and even greater service. Speed and quick response need to somehow be integrated into virtually every business. People want things fast.
You may remember the 1975 movie 'The Stepford Wives,' which was remade in 2004. It was about wives that were basically programmed to take care of their husbands. They did everything around the house; cooked, cleaned, chores, etc. The trade-off was that these 'perfect' wives became devoid of personality. So, what does this movie have to do with customer service? Keep reading....
Striving Toward Greatness
As we strive toward greatness in the area of customer service and relations, here are a few more simple strategies to deliver an even higher level of service. It all goes back to managing your Moments of Truth -- each and every contact you have with a customer — and creating Moments of Magic.
Ten Compelling Reasons to Deliver an Amazing Customer Service Experience
I love lists, especially when it comes to learning. The list in this article was the result of a quick brainstorming session about the advantages of delivering a great customer service experience. I came up with many more, but wanted to create the “Top Ten List” for you.
The Art of Name Calling
Studies show that customers respond more positively when their names are used. Here's an example from a recent business trip that will give you an idea of the impact this simple gesture can have.
The Basics of Customer Service
There are four basic components of a good customer service strategy. These simple yet powerful tools are the key to success in customer service and will create many MOMENTS OF MAGIC!
The Complaining Customer
Most of us cringe at the complaining customer. However, business organizations should love them. A complaining customer tells you where you can improve. Unlike the vast majority of dissatisfied customers, the complaining customer has the moxie to show us our mistakes and perhaps how we might correct them.
The Customer Service Bill of Rights
Recently I was surprised to read about what the city of Seattle, WA calls their customer bill of rights. It was outstanding, and we can learn quite a bit from a city government that is focused on their customers, who happen to be their citizens and guests of the city.
The Dangerous Customer
A 'dangerous' customer isn't one that's physically threatening (that's a dangerous person), nor is a 'dangerous' customer one who has a complaint about you and tells everyone he/she knows. No, a 'dangerous' customer is most often a 'satisfied' customer!
The Experience Strategy
Recognize that your business might be a commodity. Are you shopped by price? That is a strong indication that you are caught in the commodity trap. Does your service strategy help to reduce or even eliminate the commodity trap? If so, you are on the right track. Now, what can you do to make it better? Like the fancy turn-down amenities the hotels offer, what can you do to dazzle your customers, beyond just giving them great service? It is adding what I call the 'Experience Strategy.'
The First Impression
Some of my clients ask me if there is one simple thing they can share with their employees that will make the biggest impact for better customer service. This is not easy, as there is no quick fix for problem service or some miracle elixir that by magic will transform an organization into a first class customer driven company. It is a combination of many things put together. But there is a simple concept....
The Honeymoon Should Never be Over
Business is kind of like dating. The first time you do business with someone is like a date. You hope they want to go out – or do business with you - again. You finally, as some say, close the deal. To me, that is like getting married and going on the honeymoon. This is really the start of the long-term relationship.
The Loyalty Formula
Recently I was asked, 'How does one create loyalty?' At first I thought the answer would be a long one. But, what came out was as simple as it gets. There is a formula for loyalty....
The Numbers Don't Lie
As it pertains to customer service, and ultimately customer loyalty, a recent study conducted by the consulting firm Accenture reveals some very important information that we should consider. While the study focuses on high-tech companies and the numbers may not necessarily correlate with your specific business, the general concept of the study surely does.
The Value of a Customer
Have you ever thought about the financial value of your customer? Let me give you an example. Let's say you own a grocery store. The average customer spends $50 each visit and they visit the store twice a week for 50 weeks each year. In a year, the customer is worth $5,000. Now consider that value extrapolated for a lifetime. Are you starting to get the picture of the true value of that customer?
The WOW Factor
The 'Wow!' factor boils down to one thing: exceeding the expectations of the customer. It goes past great customer service. In short, the basic idea is to bring the element of surprise into your business.
Think Like the Buyer
Think like the buyer, not like the supplier. What I mean by this short phrase is that sometimes we think we know what our customers want, but what they want is something completely different. So we need to get inside our customers' heads and give them what it is that they want versus what it is that we think that they want.
This Call May Be Recorded....
We've all heard this phrase as we call various companies and need to talk to sales or customer service reps. This is a great training strategy. After the call, let the rep hear the conversation he or she had and find ways to improve. Recently, the tables were turned when an AOL customer decided to record his call.
Three Powerful Customer Service Strategies That Work In a Tough Economy
An earlier article by Shep sparked a number of calls/emails from readers who wanted to discuss doing business in tough economic times. The discussions centered around 'fear based' issues as a result of the economy, such as how to keep customers loyal, avoid price reductions, manage employee morale during layoffs, and more. What follows is his overall response to some of these conversations.
Top 10 Telephone Basics
This article is not just for the front line people who deal directly with customers. All of this information is applicable to everyone, from a receptionist to a CSR to a CEO. Having good telephone skills helps build stronger relationships with everyone! Whether the call is incoming or outbound, these techniques can be applied to virtually every call.
Treating Customers Right Starts with Treating Employees Right
If you’ve read any of my books, you know there has always been an emphasis on internal service. The Employee Golden Rule, as I call it, is to treat employees the way you want the customer treated, maybe even better. Herb Kelleher and Southwest Airlines are model examples of that rule in action.
Watch My Back
The other day a friend of mine ordered a grilled sandwich. When it came out it was burnt. He pointed out to the server that it was burnt and she replied, 'I know. I didn't think you would want it like that. I can't believe the chef would let it come out like that.' Are you allowing burnt sandwiches to be served to your customers?
What to Do When You Can't Say Yes
No one wants to say 'no' to a customer. In general, people also hate to be told 'no.' But sometimes saying 'no' is unavoidable. In this article, we'll address some legitimate reasons why we should say 'no,' and HOW we should do it.
What We Think They Want May Not Be What They Really Want
Finding out what your employees think should be ongoing, just as it is for the outside customer. What methods of employee feedback work best and how often should feedback be sought?
Wow the Employee - Wow the Customer!
How much would it cost for somebody to buy you out of your job? Well, this is exactly what Zappos.com does. Haven't heard of Zappos? They are an Internet retailer that sells shoes. They are known for their customer service. Zappos offers $1,500 to anyone who wants to quit. They actually offer to buy their new employees out of their jobs!
Writing Appreciation Letters Is a Great Learning Exercise
Companies love it when they receive appreciation letters about their employees, their products and the customer service they deliver. If you love what a company or individual has done, write the CEO or president a letter. Then, share that letter with your own employees.
Your Awesome Responsibility
Recently I had a disagreement with my insurance company about how a claim was being handled. I felt the woman I was talking to might be seeing my side of things, almost agreeing with me, but she seemed to be in a quandary about what to do. She was concerned about 'company policy.' As a result, she was a bit confrontational. Finally, I said, 'You have an awesome responsibility.'
Your Top 10 Reasons
Here is a question. Can you give me ten reasons I should do business with you (or your company)? I'm talking about good reasons. Reasons that would make me take notice. Reasons that would make YOU stand out. Recently I went through an exercise in my business that helped me focus on why people should do business with me, and you need to know about it....
You're Not in My Station
This may seem like a rant, because it is. The other night I was out with my wife and some friends for dinner. It was taking a very long time to get our food. At one point we wanted to talk to our server, but she was nowhere in sight. After ten minutes I finally saw a server from another table. I motioned him over and he said he would be just a moment. Several minutes later he came back. I nicely asked him if there was something wrong in the kitchen, as it had been a long time since we had ordered. His response….
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