I have been going to a lot of small business seminars this week. Most of them have been pretty useful, so I’d like to share what I have learned and refreshed myself on.
If you care about the design of your marketing collateral, it may be because you understand the value a professionally crafted brand can bring to you. But we all need to remember, the look of your brand can’t be the end of positively shaping your company’s perception. Imagine if human resources hired someone that was dressed in a suit, but had a terribly vulgar mouth… that wouldn’t not happen. Alike, your customers wouldn’t do business with you if your store and website looked great, but your employees were jerks.
Let’s make sure your perception is not just an illusion. You have invested too much in you in shaping company’s graphics and brand perception to let poor customer service interactions ruin it all.
Even if you are not the owner of a business, but instead an employee, wouldn’t you want to also know tips on how to make your day at work better? Wouldn’t you be interested in your company keeping it’s doors open so that you can go home with another pay check next week?
Don’t let an employee turn off your customers.
This is so important, it does not matter if it’s the job description of a programmer, janitor, or the CEO, providing good customer service and showing respect to customers, coworkers and vendors should be the number one job duty listed for all team members.
As a graphic designer, this makes so much sense. When designing graphics, we try to non-verbally make everyone in the target audience feel important, loved and happy. It is just another facet of designing a positive brand by also designing our personal interactions with our own customers?
Deceptively simple choices like showing gratitude, smiling and using an approachable tone of voice can strengthen your connection with you customer.
When answering the phone, start off with “thank you. “
“But Ellice, why the heck would I thank them, they didn’t give me money yet?”
Well, I will tell you why. They could have called anyone else. Instead of calling a competitor, they chose to call you. Whether you are the business owner or an employee whose job depends on your employer staying in business, this is good news. You should feel thankful.
Smile, even when they can’t see your face over the phone.
We can hear the difference and feel better or worse as a result. Think of a happy time or have some vacation photos parked near your phone to look at when answering the phone. Another common tip is to hold a big smile for 3 minutes; after the time is up, you’ll be stuck with a smile.
If you sound irritated, that will infect the customer and come back to bite.
How often has yelling back at a customer worked out for ya?
That being said, taking abuse from a customer is not part of good customer service.
If you are an employee and your negotiations have not worked with an abusive customer, try to see if your manager can handle it.
If you are the top of the totem pole, listen carefully and fully; try to hear the full story and learn what the core of the problem is. Is this a problem that you can fix? Is this something that you should fix? Are they just testing the waters to see if they can get some free stuff? Were they truly given something they did not order or received an order late? Admit a mistake if there was one and try to make a reasonable amends in proportionate to the error, if not a bit weighted in the customers side. They may return and be a loyal customer, knowing if a problem does happen, they will be taken care of. Alternatively, they may never return… and make sure none of their friends or family return ever.
Even if the customer is not expressing disappointment greatly, if you wronged them, you should make it right. They may be too scared to cause a scene now, but will remember the wrongdoings when they decide where to do business again.
There was one ridiculous time where I went to a restaurant, made an order, and got the order not to how I requested my dish be prepared. I did not get mad, but I did ask that the order be corrected. To my surprise, the bartender told me to eat it anyways and left. I actually had no intention of eating it and left my food untouched. Luckily, one of the kitchen staff walked by and saw that I did not touch my food. He just happened to be helping bring out a dish and really was not meant to go to the front of the house and interact with customers. He also was not the owner or manager. He offered to re-make the dish and brought it out himself. Finally, I was able to eat… at the restaurant. To this day, I don’t plan on getting food from that restaurant, even though it remains popular amoung my friends. I just don’t want to pay for food that I can’t eat or gamble on the cooks to come out and fix a dish.
What if your co-worker is negative?
Things happen. Life happens and it’s not always pretty. Perhaps they are experiencing a break up, got a speeding ticket or someone they know died. If there is something too painful to push past to get to work, perhaps you should suggest they stay home. They are more likely to make mistakes than to contribute any meaningful value to the business at that point in time anyways. Some things can be shaken off, but only the person experiencing the pain can determine if it is the worst pain in their life, not you.
You may want to start a dialogue with them or yourself.
If it is more of a daily thing that has been going on for some time, ask why are they sounding defensive?… Why do they throw the products abruptly on the table when serving food? Why to they shoot down kindness before you can even finish a sentence or gesture to hold open a door for them? Maybe they have been around such mean people in their past and never took a reality check to adjust to their present environment. Maybe they never got the proper training and are unaware of how to properly interact with customers.
Hanging around people, I used to take calls in a very defensive tone. I sank down to their level. The people calling me during day did not do anything wrong to merit it. My dad straight up asked me why I sounded that way one day. I had no good answer and stopped. Being happy is part of a conscious choice. If you aren’t trying to be at your best, you might unconsciously being at your worst.
Take care of your employees.
- If you pay them minimum wage, expect minimum respect to customers because you do not respect them.
- Give them breaks, especially after a tough customer yells at them. Your employees are people, not robots.
- Try to give them some creative freedom or power to make some calls, make them feel important, trusted and smart, when possible.
- If they are underpaid and overworked, you can’t really be surprised if your employees just don’t have the energy or will to provide good customer service. In fact they might be doing just enough to not get fired, or be at a point where they do not care if they are fired for a poor interaction with a customer.
If you give them everything they need to thrive, you and your business can both benefit.
So What Are the Benefits of All This Effort?
- Your employees, customers, co-workers and vendors will treat you better.
- You won’t dread going into work and trying to avoid the grumpy old employee that you only talk to when you really have to.
- You’ll like to go into work. You might find that there is less staff run-over.
- You’ll have increased sales, increased referrals and increased customer retention without really spending money out of pocket. The time you spend here will bring more benefit to buying a billboard for your company that portrays an illusion of happy customers.
I am not a customer service expert, but I am trying!
I recommend attending a presentation by Sid if you want to learn a whole lot more. I am not affiliated with him, i was just blown away by his knowledge 🙂