Archive for category Customer service
Years ago, a conference presenter spoke about doing business with the Dutch. He noted that while it generally took them much longer to commit to something, once they signed on, he said, they were committed 100 percent.
The speaker paused and then said, “Compare that to Americans.”
Wow, he’s right. How often have you seen people offer or promise to do something then miss a deadline or completely blow off the project? We’ve all been pulled away by competing priorities, and while it’s often understandable, the odds are good that someone was let down by the change of direction.
Years ago, the acronym DWYSYWD began circulating around Corporate America. It’s meaning, Do What You Say You Will Do, must seem obvious — perhaps even silly — to the Dutch. After all, why do you need to be told to do something you agreed to do?
Food for thought…..
One of the great honors of my career was receiving the Edward L. Bernays Award from the Maine Public Relations Council. It’s the organization’s highest honor, and I’m humbled to have my name listed alongside some of the great PR people in our state. My acceptance speech shared a handful of tips gleaned over the years, and I though you might find it of some value:
Thanks, Linda for that warm introduction.
And thank you to Kelly, the MPRC board, and to the Bernays Committee for this award.
I’m touched, honored, and humbled to know that my name will be listed alongside some of the best public relations people from our great state.
I wrote three different drafts of today’s remarks, but none felt right. I don’t particularly like talking about myself, and because this is a conference, every speaker should give the audience a takeaway or two, so how about if I to share a few tidbits of the best advice I’ve received through the year, with the hope that one or two might resonate with you.
- Doing the right things is the always the right thing to do — particularly in PR. We need to be the conscience of an organization. A corollary to that is something Mark Twain said: the best thing about telling the truth is that you don’t have to remember anything.
- The next one came from the big store at the top of the hill, L.L. Bean: Put your customers first and remember that they’re the reason you’re in business.
- At the end of the day, the person you have to answer to is the one in the mirror. If you do that, everything else seems to fall into place.
- Perhaps my favorite quote is from Thomas Jefferson who said he was a big believer in luck and the harder he worked, the more if it he had.
- Finally, trust your gut and trust your instinct. Or in the words of the great American philosopher Cosmo Kramer, “what does the little man inside you say? You’ve gotta listen to the little man…the little man knows all.”
In closing, I’d like to thank the many people who have provided guidance, encouragement, and unwavering support to me for so many year. I accept this award on behalf of all of you, and in my mind, your names are etched on this with mine. But, I’ll keep it at my house.
Thank you again for a few minutes of your time…..I hope you enjoy the rest of the afternoon….
I’ve received some great customer service this year (and some mediocre, but let’s not dwell on those).
They’re a good reminder that taking care of your customers pays dividends in the long run. That’s particularly critical in this challenging economy, as this great service 1) brings me back; and 2) has me telling my friends.
What makes me — a customer — happy with service? Here’s a quick list:
Some time ago, I was looking for a watch to wear when swimming laps. I picked one that seemed perfect. The salesperson offered an alternative that was considerably cheaper. I’ve always remembered and appreciated his honesty. And I still have the watch.
A simple “thank you” goes a long way. Enough said. By the way, thanks for reading.
The customer service team at my bank is incredible. If I call with a rare question they can’t immediately answer, I know that they’ll check and call me back promptly. And they always apologize for the delay. It makes me feel like I’m the only customer they have.
I’ve done a fair amount of business this year with a local nursery. Prices are great (value), plants are healthy (quality), and the owner listens and remember our conversations from week-to-week. She asks questions to understand what I want, and can really hone in on the right plants for my yard.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, good people and organizations put the customer at the center of their work. They have a very “can-do” attitude and make the experience almost fun.
Your turn. What do you think makes good customer service?
Think about the changes an 80-year-old has seen. Growing up, the family’s primary sources of news and events were likely the daily newspaper and word-of-mouth from family and friends. Then came the telephone, radio, and television. That generation witnessed a shift in the methods and speed of communication greater than any group prior.
Now we have the internet, email, social media, smart phones, tablets, and apps that will do everything from paying bills to creating a talking Santa cartoon.
Staying in touch has never been easier — while being an effective communicator has become increasingly difficult.
The following tips will help increase the odds your audience will pay attention to your message:
Be clear and concise
Regardless of your field or message, your writing (or speaking) should be direct and to-the-point. If your readers have to look for key message, you’ve likely lost them. Make your point without lengthy introductions, then follow-up with details.
This is particularly critical when targeting younger generations that are accustomed to more direct communication.
Consider your audience
A NASA engineer speaking to her peers would likely use very different language than when addressing a group of high school students on the same topic. Ask yourself what you audience knows about the topic, how much detail is appropriate, and if they’ll understand terminology associated with the subject. If’ I’m chatting with another photographer, I might mention shooting an image with my 135mm at f2. However, if speaking my aunt, I’d simply say I adjusted the camera to blur the background out of focus.
Passion is a double-edge sword. It’s what makes you good at your job, but also makes effectively communicating about it much more challenging.
I’ll explain. You want to tell people about a project, and assume they’ll share your excitement. You begin to tell them the specifics of your work, and before you can know it, they’ve lost interest, either because they can’t follow the details or the story ran too long.
A programmer friend once told me a story about a project she was working on. As much as I tried to follow along, I was lost within 3 minutes. The story continued, with me struggling to keep up. It’s became jokingly known as the “Flat File Story.”
Be timely and time sensitive
Readers are incredibly busy, so you have to reach them where they want to hear the news, and then present it in a way that they’ll want to read/hear.
In my early years, we often drafted newsletter articles or messages from executives that were fairly long, and people seemed to read them. Now there’s great competition for readers’ attention, and you run the risk of losing them with a message that’s too jam-packed. And given the speed at which news travels, by the time you craft your detailed message, it might be old or outdated.
Follow Twitter’s lead
Twitter, with its 140 character limit, provides a great exercise in good writing. It forces you to be direct, clear, and concise. Give it a try.
Your turn. How do you reach your audience?
While the food was heavier (think deep fried pickles) and the pace a bit slower than what we’re use to in the Northeast, the courtesy of the people lived up to its reputation.
People at nearly every turn and every venue, from Atlanta Braves staff to passengers on public transportation, were exceedingly polite to this visitor, with extra helpings of Sir and Thank you. After a few days, I began to think my humble Thank You was insufficient, and started adding a Ma’am or Sir.
The South certainly doesn’t have an exclusive on courtesy — I’ve seen shop owners in New York City go far out of their way to help a tourist — but in terms of consistency, the South gets my vote.
I wonder if the common denominator is that Southerners see people as fellow human beings, while those in the fast-pace, always-on-the-go Northeast see coworkers, vendors, and customers. Either way, it speaks to the power of culture, and its impact on the smallest of interactions.
Your turn. What differences have you seen among cultures or regions?
In one of the early episodes of the popular television show M*A*S*H, bumbling Frank Burns tries to impress a shapely 20-something who was visiting the camp. When she commented how nice everyone was, his pithy reply was, “It’s nice to be nice to the nice.”
Oddly, old ferret face is right. I’ll explain.
Saturday was errand day for me: supermarket, gas station, department store, office supply store, etc. Between stops I made a couple of phone calls to stores and customer service numbers. Clearly, a very exciting day.
What really struck me was how terrific (and nice) everyone was. For example, I called Staples a couple of times, and both employees I spoke with were helpful and incredibly polite. While neither was able to completely grant my request, their attitude left me feeling okay about that.
Later, I visited our local Staples, and came across one of the employees I’d spoken with earlier. Despite being interrupted by me several times, he remained pleasant and very helpful. When I reached the cash register, the young woman there was also very friendly.
While this might sound like an ad for Staples, it’s simply the story about the impact of good service, which begins with being nice to customers.
On the other hand, I recently heard a story about a customer who called a tire company about a quality issue. He was unhappy with their resolution, and shocked to hear the representative tell him, “Take it or leave it.” Clearly, the customer has taken his business elsewhere, and I’ve made a mental note to steer clear of that brand, too.
Your turn. Do you make purchase decisions based on how you’re treated?
Ah, the holiday season, a time that people frantically search for the perfect gift at the right price, while retailers hope a solid season puts them into the black for the year.
Although retailers may describe the shopping blitz as hectic, overwhelming, and stressful, it’s also a time to shine and earn customer loyalty. Just as the best athletes respond to pressure situations, leading companies excel during the holiday season.
My shopping is almost done and most presents have been shipped or delivered. These are unchartered waters for me, and that’s due largely to the outstanding service provided by several retail and mail order companies.
On the other hand, not all the companies I purchased from were as responsive, and that’s the nature of business. But going forward, I’ll simply shift my business from the underachievers to those that set the bar high.
Those outstanding organizations know several important things about shoppers:
Time is precious
People want an efficient shopping experience, whether it’s picking up a few things at the store or navigating a website for gifts.
Most of my online delivers came within a few days — and with free shipping. The stores I’ve visited in person have enough employees to provide quick checkouts.
One email confirmation I received included only item numbers, with no names. When part of the shipment was cancelled, I had to dig to find out which item.
Ask what the customer wants
I receive daily emails from two companies, and the information seems pretty much the same from day-to-day. As a result, I delete most of them. A couple a week would be fine and more likely to be read.
Be on Santa’s Nice List
I’ve encountered some of the nicest, most patient customer service people this year. Good organizations undertand their value on the bottom line.
Look for Big George
Former heavyweight champ George Forman served as spokesperson for Meineke mufflers, ending each commercial with the phrase “I guarantee it.” Standing behind your products goes a long way. Are you more likely to shop at a store that cheerfully refunds your money, or one that tells you, “Sorry, this has been opened …”?
Your turn. What have you observed during this holiday season?