7 ways to nail customer service.

Man's hand striking a very large nail with a very large hammer.

3-minute read

The customer may not always be right (sorry, Mr. Selfridge), but if you want to keep her, you better figure out a way to make her happy.

Now! Not later.

With an endless array of resources and tools to make customer care easy — training programs for brick & mortar store personnel, sophisticated technical tools for selling online, sales coaches for every possible niche — there’s simply no excuse for shoddy customer service.

Website chat function not working? That’s a great way to tick off a potential client.  You’re better off not having a chat box than having one that doesn’t work. !#@/%!!!

If you’re a small company or a startup and don’t have a live person answering the phone, make sure your voice message doesn’t dead end people. Give them some options on how to reach you.

I’ve tried to reach a service provider in the middle of a work day only to hear a message saying. “Sorry, we’re closed now (In the middle of a workday), and no one’s here to help you. Please call back tomorrow.”

Seriously?  Not only can’t I get my question answered but I have to wait 20 hours to even speak to anyone.

Change your voice message if you can’t help a customer.  Give them some other options for how to reach you. Email still works. Or a contact page on your website.

Think “how do I help a customer right now?”

Tomorrow is too late in a world where business is done 24/7 online.

Customer Service Chat
I recently joined a customer service Twitter chat called #CustServ. It “meets” on Tuesday night at 8p CST and lasts for an hour. It’s been around for fourteen years and is still going strong. So you know it must be worthwhile.

Every week features different questions about customer service. So if you ever thought we’d beaten the topic of customer service to death, think again.

Shoutout: In case you’re interested in joining #Custserv chat on TUESDAY 9 pm ET/6 pm PT, reach out to hosts @MarshaCollier and @GregOrtbach on Twitter.

Back to today’s topic…..

Obviously, you’ve never going to be able to make all of your customers happy. But if you don’t satisfy most of them, you’re going to be in trouble.

And satisfying really isn’t sufficient.

Why you need to delight your customers.

Quite simply: if you don’t, there are always eager competitors waiting in the wings!

Think about why you return again and again to shops or websites or service providers. What is it that makes us want to spend our money in some places and not others.

Most of us have favorites. Ever think about why?

As someone whose business depends on excellent customer care, I’m very aware of the type of customer service I receive. And I make it a point to either mention it….to friends or on social media.

Anyone who spends time on social media knows a company can suffer a lot of damage when bad reviews go viral.

So how do you encourage the smiley faces and minimize the bad reviews?

HOW to delight customers.

Here are seven ways:

  1. Be responsive.
    Especially to negative reviews or angry phone calls. The customer may or may not have a valid reason to be angry but that’s not the point. If you don’t respond, you won’t know.
  2. Acknowledge the error.
    If the customer’s anger is justified, this is your opportunity to turn things around and create a fan for life. People forgive. Acknowledging the error or oversight is the second best response on the road to delight. No error? If the customer is wrong (sorry, Marshall Field), address their anger. But don’t apologize for something that’s just a creep sounding off. Say “we’re sorry you had a bad experience” and let it go.
  3. Be authentic.
    In today’s woke world, insincerity feels just plain wrong. We want to do business with people we like and respect. Pretending to give a damn when you really don’t will not win you clients or friends.
  4. Ask for feedback.
    If you’re sincere about making the customer happy, asking for their input on how you can do better says “We want to make things right. We care about you. Your business is important to us.” Who doesn’t want to be heard?
  5. Listen.
    Once you get the feedback….assuming it’s legitimate, do something with it. Asking for input and then ignoring it is worse than if you’d never asked in the first place. But addressing something that would make your business better is a smart move.
  6. Learn from the people who do it best.
    One of the best ways to improve customer service is to learn from the companies that do it best. Pick up the bios of CEOs who built billion-dollar companies. Never a bad idea to learn from the superstars.
  7. Make delighting customers a part of your company culture.
    Then be sure to incorporate it into your branding and new employee onboarding.

How to build delight into your messaging.

I’ve always been intrigued by clever messaging. Especially when it focuses on the customer (as it should).  So the first time I picked up a piece of art I had framed at Artists Frame Service, the little black and yellow tag attached to my package caught my eye (hint: great choice for good grabby design colors).

It said something like “we don’t want you to be satisfied, we want you to be thrilled”. Stuck with me over the years. Today they’ve added stores and  expanded their tagline. It’s now a Thrilled Guarantee.

“We don’t want you satisfied, we want you thrilled. If you’re not 100% thrilled with your order for any reason, let us know and we’ll make it right.”

If that doesn’t tell the client you want them to be happy, I don’t know what does!

And that’s a perfect way to end an article on customer service.

But wait. What would ChatGPT say?

After I wrote this post, I asked ChatGPT for examples of good customer service.  This is what I got.

Text Description automatically generated

Pretty spot on, right?

Took less than 60 seconds to deliver that info. Next time I’ll check with it before I start researching.

Want to read more on customer service?  Here you go:
How to deliver a remarkable customer experience.
Understanding Customer Care.

If you liked this article, we hope you’ll share it with some colleagues. We’d certainly appreciate that!

And you can sign up for our chock-full-of-interesting-news right here.

Thanks for reading and see you next month!

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Is Your Company’s Positioning Statement Accurate?

how to determine market positioning

Positioning is like a roadmap for your business. It drives all of your branding, messaging and marketing.

A clear positioning statement defines:

  • Who you are.
  • Who you help (your target market).
  • HOW you help (the problems you solve or needs you fill for clients).
  • Your USP (unique selling proposition).
    What makes you different/better than the competition?

Static Messaging Is…Ho Hum…Stale.
Your messaging should not be static. It needs to evolve along with what’s going on in the world – politically, economically, culturally.

If not, your brand will be out-ot-touch and not be seen as authentic. Since authenticity is a key driver of customer acquisition and retention, you can’t afford for that to happen.

In an INC article titled “In the Age of Brand Authenticity, Most Marketers Are Missing the Mark”, author Amy Balliet claims’ ”Only about one in every three marketers consider reworking their brand messaging and positioning when planning their overall marketing strategy.”

If you fall into that category, you’re missing out on growing your business.

So how does authentic and timely positioning work?

According to a  Zoom article titled, “Positioning in the age of authenticity”,  “Authentic positioning means your words match your actions.”

The days of allowing your business to say one thing but do another are long gone.  Customers want to know what you stand for and who you are.

Claiming to run a green company when you’re really not doing all you can to save the environment will eventually backfire.

Ever Heard of Greenwashing?

From misleading packaging claims to pseudo recycling that still harms the environment, companies that greenwash are eventually found out.

Check out this article from zoom.org, 10 Companies and Corporations Called Out For Greenwashing.

It’s not just oil companies that claim to do one thing but in reality do something else. Giant banks and investment firms claiming to be eco-friendly lend money to companies that pollute the environment and contribute to global warming. There’s still culpability. And consumers aren’t letting companies get away with that any more.

It’s All About Trust.

Companies that garner customers’ trust are the ones that will succeed in a turbulent marketplace….which is what we’re seeing at the moment.

Are gas companies screwing us at the pump or are they simply passing on increased prices they’re paying?

Can we trust that organic products we purchase in the grocery store really are?

Are the medications we take as pure as pharma companies claim they are?

We like to do business with companies we trust. Fortunately, in an age of unlimited media (thank you, Google), sussing out misleading claims is fairly easy. Eventually, dishonest companies get found out.

What can YOUR small business do to boost authenticity and accurately position your brand?

Here are three simple to-do’s to earn (and keep) your clients’ trust:

  1. If you say you’ll do something, do it.
    People remember and will hold you accountable.
  2. Don’t abandon your clients.
    There’s nothing worse than disappearing after the project. It says to the customer “We got paid. That’s all we care about.”
  3. Let clients know you want them to be happy with your work.
    Ask for their feedback (good or bad) and use it to improve how you work.

We are forgiving people. If we believe you’re sincere about mistakes you’ve made and changes you’re making in your company, you can recapture our loyalty. And loyal customers are what every small business wants.

Need convincing?

According to this article in Forbes titled “The Value Of Investing In Loyal Customers,” keeping your current customers happy and making repeat purchases is key to growth for almost every business.”

It’s easy enough to do if you make authenticity and customer care part of your corporate culture. It’s certainly far easier that prospecting for new customers.

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5 traits that successful businesses use to engage customers.

figures reaching out to help a man climbing up a mountain

Successful businesses connect with customers. And they do this via 5 traits that are critical for client engagement: believability, authenticity, transparency, sincerity and dependability.

Let’s see how this works. One of the easiest ways to do this is by asking yourself 3 questions:

  1. Think about your favorite businesses. What is it about them that makes your favorite list?
  2. How do you FEEL when you interact with those businesses?
  3. Why do you keep going back?

What we’re doing here is identifying engagement triggers. Those traits that keep you engaged with vendors, shop owners, and service providers.

I’ll start…..

We count on certain colleagues and small business owners for various services we need — IT support, accounting, video production…..to name a few.

If we look at the commonalities of these vendors, we see a recurring theme.

They’re all dependable and believable. Believable because they’re transparent. What you see is what you get. It makes us feel confident that they’ll deliver on their promise and we’ll get what we were ordered. And then some.

Since we like working with people we like, we also hire people who are sincere and authentic. These traits are part of being a trusted provider. And that’s one of the things YOU need to do to build your client base.

Examples always help. We learn from others who’ve gone before us. So let’s look at some companies that have done a really good job of engaging their clients.

Successful Client Engagements

NetflixNetflix logo
The name Netflix is synonymous with offerings that no one else has. And what you see is what you get.

Can you think of the last time you heard anyone say something bad about their service? I can’t. What I DO hear is only raves about the latest hits that “you have to watch!” And the service is always dependable.

Per this article in Forbes,  “While the company hasn’t been without the occasional controversy, a report in the Wall Street Journal going so far as to describe its corporate culture as being “transparent to the point of dysfunctional,”

TargetTarget's logo
If you shop at Target, you know their stores are uniformly clean and well-stocked and the service is outstanding. You rarely have to search far for assistance. So you can get in and out quickly and generally find what you need. Their mission is to “provide Target shoppers a hassle-free experience” and the effort starts with making sure inventory is available in stores and on its online site. They nail it.

Read more about Target’s outstanding customer service n this article in Retail Customer Experience.

Trader Joe’sTrader Joe's logo
Trader Joe’s is another company that delivers on customer care with impeccable service. Jolly check out people, helpful shelf stockers, and easy returns make shopping there enjoyable. Well, other than the Covid lines outside the stores. But the lines are there because Trader Joe’s wants to keep you safe. They are precise about the number of people allowed in their stores at any given time. So you feel like they really care about you as a customer.

Warby Parker
I love Warby Parker! They take customer engagement to a whole new level. For one thing, it’s fun to go into one of their shops. It’s like going into a wonderfulwarby parker's packaging bookstore but instead of books, there are glass frames. Which you can touch. And try on. At your leisure. You can browse…..

as much as you want. And when you’re ready for help or have a question, there is always a knowledgeable and friendly sales associate to help you out.

Their make-shopping-fun branding is outstanding. “Nice to see you” is printed on the inside of your glass case. It’s fun and charming and makes you feel good. Like they really care about making you happy with your purchase. And they include a bright colorful lens cleaner that makes you smile every time you clean your glasses. Super marketing. Super company.

Familiar with Quince? They embody all of the traits I mentioned at the start of this post — believability, authenticity, transparency, sincerity and dependability. Plus one more, sustainability.

Their tagline — “Everyone should be able to afford nice things.”

An online retailer, they offer top quality clothing and organic bedding at remarkably low prices. Think beautiful quality $59 cashmeres and washable silk items that would cost triple that at a traditional retailer. Their secret? No middlemen, they sell “Factory direct to your doorstep.” Low-cost minimalist packaging. And what they call “specialist factories” around the world that pay sustainable wages.

Add in a commitment to green manufacturing, reducing carbon footprints and a beautiful clean website designed for accessibility, and you have a company that truly understands millennials and probably a lot of their parents as well.

Bottom line: you feel good shopping Quince. You feel like you’re helping others receive living wages and not hurting the planet. And their Mongolian cashmere sweaters are yummy soft.

What can your small business learn from companies like Quince?

How do you build trust into your client relationships?

We offer 5 key takeaways:

  1. Believability – Make honesty a part of your culture.
  2. Transparency – Let clients get to know you. This is how you engage them and build relationships.
  3. Authenticity – Be genuine. Whether you sell products or services. Quality counts.
  4. Sincerity – We like doing business with people who are sincere. It makes us feel good.
  5. Dependability – Without this, you can’t have much of a business.

Companies that don’t deliver what they promise don’t stay around long. Especially with social media that enables anyone to share your lousy products or crappy customer service with half the world.

From a consumer standpoint, the internet affords us a multitude of ways to buy. If your company doesn’t make customer care a priority, there are plenty of others that will.

Read more about keeping your customers happy..


How to Market During Troubling Times

man sitting at computer with his head in his hands

Building a business is challenging enough when the economy is strong. But we’re currently in the throes of a pandemic and on the brink of a recession and this is something none of us have ever seen before.

Small business owners don’t know if they’ll be able to survive the next few months. So what can you do when you can’t open your retail business or restaurant or office where you meet with customers face-to-face?

This is a time to be super proactive. Sitting on the sidelines waiting for things to turn around is not an option. Rather, use this forced quarantine as a time to get creative with your marketing.

Here are eight easy-to-implement tips designed to stay in touch with customers so you don’t lose them.

  1.  Market consistently. You want to maintain visibility. It’s important to keep your name out in the marketplace – even if it’s only virtual. Never give your customers a chance to forget about you.
  2.  Focus on your customers’ needs. Some of them are obvious now – food, shelter, business support, and the personal services we can no longer get (anyone need a haircut?). But never assume. Ask your customers what they need and how you can help. Let them know you’re still there for them.
  3. Make customer care a priority. A positive customer experience may be the difference between keeping a customer or losing her to a competitor. Vow to make every customer experience a positive one.
  4. Keep your marketing message consistent. Don’t keep changing who you are. Not only does that muddy your brand, but it confuses your customers.
  5. Don’t ignore what’s going on and pretend it’s business as usual. Nothing is as usual right now. Acknowledge that. If you’re a brick & mortar shop and can offer e-commerce, do it. Some sales are better than no sales. If you can’t sell online, what CAN you do? Could you offer online seminars or webinars? What about coaching? Get creative about alternative ways to bring in money.
  6. Find a WOW” about your business. If you can’t find one, create one. It’s the reason customers talk about your shop or your services. One-of-a-kind products. Custom designs. Styles that are always a few steps ahead of the current trends. Consistently outstanding customer service. What makes your company special?
  7. Read Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill. It’s a great book that explains what triggers peoples’ “need that” button.
  8. Don’t get discouraged. Well, try not to. Our economy is cyclical. The stock market always comes back. Yes, even from devastating losses like we’re seeing now.

Hopefully, your business will come back as well. But in the current economy, you need to hustle to make that happen.

If we can help, let us know. In the meantime, stay safe.

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