Your competition is not who you think
Who is your real competition? If you ask employees this question, most will list five companies from their industry that sell exactly what they do. However, in most cases that isn’t your competition at all. All they really are is the beneficiary of your lack of Customer loyalty. Whether you are a law firm, insurance agent, jewelry store, salon, or accounting firm, the comparison of your competition to you is really pointless. After your Customer receives a haircut, they don’t leave your salon and then go visit another one and say, “Wow, my salon is so much better.” Your firm’s client doesn’t hang up with you and call another accounting firm. After your Customers deal with you, they then interact with other businesses. They finish their errands, go to the dry cleaner, do shopping and make a few other calls to totally different businesses. All day long Customers are hearing “no,” “it is not our policy,” “too late,” “hold please,” etc. What you want is for your Customers, when dealing with any other business, to feel like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz –clicking her heels and saying, ” I wish everyone else treated me as well as (your company).”
Certain restrictions apply – One of the painful lessons I’ve learned in running both of my businesses is that it’s not worth creating policies that will make you have confrontations with your Customers. For instance, in the past John Robert’s Spa has sent out promotional incentives and gifts to our Customers. These could have restrictions like, “not valid on Saturdays, or “only valid with certain service providers.” I realized that having this type of language and these limitations only puts us in situations where we would have to call-out our Customer on those restrictions. It just wasn’t worth it. A good percentage of the time they would just be either upset or disappointed, and neither emotion is what we wanted. Before you roll out new promotions or loyalty rewards, strongly consider how you can avoid putting restrictions on them.
Guidelines, NOT Policy – I remember one incident where a spa Customer was upset because we wouldn’t allow a return on makeup that she was allergic to. I asked the manager, someone very good at Customer service, why she didn’t give the Customer a refund. My manager responded with, “Because our policy is that we do not return makeup. We cannot resell it after it has been used.” That is when I decided to drop the word “policy” and replace it with “guidelines.” I explained that in certain cases, we must make exceptions, like this one, because the Customer was allergic to the product. My manager replied, “Well then everyone will start returning makeup.” I then had to explain that just because we return one person’s makeup, that doesn’t mean that we are going to get a rush on Customers bringing in their makeup for full refunds. I have found that this type of nervous, protective mentality is not unusual, not only at the front line, but management can often think like this as well. I always tell my employees I would rather them be naïve.
Social Media is no longer just a marketing tool – The Customer experience your organization delivers is critically important today more than ever. Why? Because what use to be the greatest influencer – word of mouth, doesn’t come close to what is today’s – word of mouse. We have all seen hundreds of reports of bad and good experiences gone viral through Facebook and Twitter, therefore impacting business’s image like never before. If you need to be reminded, see past eServices (Acts of Kindness goes Viral and Airline will not refund dying Vietnam veteran).
Social Media management – Improving the Customer experience you deliver is part of the solution; however, companies need to make sure they manage what is being said about them and act quickly so their brand doesn’t turn into the next social media sensationalism. I recently read a really good article by Software Advice called The Great Social Customer Service Race, which was the result of a study done on how well 14 of the nation’s top brands, i.e. Coca-Cola, MasterCard, and Bank of America responded to various inquires made via social media. The results were pretty surprising. Overall these organizations only responded about 14% of the time. This demonstrates the critical need for companies to not think of Facebook and Twitter as merely marketing and promotional opportunities, but rather as vehicles for the voice of the Customer! They need to be heard and responded to in a timely way.
Powerful Employee Engagement Tips – Are you trying to build a World-Class internal culture? Check out this article written by Vala Afshar titled, Ten Powerful Employee Engagement Lessons. Afshar does a great job at hitting the high notes of having long-term, highly engaged employees who are part of a cause. “Every employee must feel as though they are helping the team achieve the collective goal. Managers must frequently and purposefully communicate
direction and destination.” He also points out that one of the best things a manager can say to an employee is, “What do you think?”