When in doubt, re-read rule one

“Seth Godin is someone whom we respect, especially his views on customers and taking care of them.  His blog piece below is yet another example of how he “gets it” and is trying to help others do the same”

When in doubt, re-read rule one

Rule one has two parts: 

a. the customer is always right

b. if that's not true, it's unlikely that this person will remain your customer.

If you need to explain to a customer that he's wrong, that everyone else has no problem, that you have tons of happy customers who were able to successfully read the instructions, that he's not smart enough or persistent enough or handsome enough to be your customer, you might be right. But if you are, part b kicks in and you've lost him.

If you find yourself litigating, debating, arguing and most of all, proving your point, you've forgotten something vital: people have a choice, and they rarely choose to do business with someone who insists that they are wrong.

By all means, fire the customers who aren't worth the time and the trouble. But understand that the moment you insist the customer is wrong, you've just started the firing process.

PS here's a great way around this problem: Make sure that the instruction manual, the website and the tech support are so clear, so patient and so generous that customers don't find themselves being wrong.

Where’s My Sign?

Where’s My Sign?

I stopped into a big-box home improvement store today, and as I was parking I noticed a sign mounted to a light pole, in the closest space by their main entrance, that said “Reserved for Employee of the Month”.  I immediately looked around for the parking spot reserved for the Customer of the Month, but couldn’t find it.  The space was empty.  My first thought was: is it possible that everyone’s performance was so bad, no one “won” the spot this month?  Judging from the level of service once I went inside, that’s possible.


As a business owner, I can tell you first-hand how vitally important it is to every business to have motivated, dedicated employees to serve customers; companies that don’t pay attention to that will not survive very long.  Happy employees = happy customers.  Perhaps a parking spot does that for this company, but I really doubt it.  Do they really think employees are going to go the extra mile for customers, try to save the company money, help new teammates get up to speed, or whatever their metrics are, for a parking space?  Hopefully, there are other more meaningful rewards tied to this.


More importantly, in a B2C setting, where virtually all of this store’s customers walk past this sign every time they visit, what message does it send? I’m sure there are some who interpret it as a nice thing for this company to do for its employees.  I interpret it, along with the absence of a COM space, that customers do not come first here.    

All good companies put strong emphasis on trying to attract, hire and retain great employees, and then deliver on keeping them happy.  The better ones do that first with customers, because, stating the obvious, if you don’t have customers, you don’t have to worry too much about employee motivation.  I’ll be keeping an eye out for their Customer of the Month sign.

How Painless Problem Resolution Creates Lifelong Fans

Is quick and easy problem resolution a top priority for your company? It should be. Great customer service is a leading way to create loyalty among your customers, and when it comes to return on investment, a study by Watermark Consulting shows that it can't be beat.

After analyzing the stock portfolio performance of publicly traded companies in Forrester Research’s annual Customer Experience Index ranking, Watermark found that the top ranked companies handily outperformed the overall market, while the bottom ranked companies trailed far behind overall.

Their conclusion? "The Customer Experience Leaders in this study are clearly enjoying the many benefits that happy, loyal customers deliver: better retention, greater wallet share, lower acquisition costs and more cost-efficient service."

We've all experienced terrible customer service when trying to return an order, contest a charge, or troubleshoot a malfunctioning product. Customers often expect it to be a hassle, which is why if you can wow them with your company's problem resolution process, you can cement their loyalty.

Is your company driving people away with these customer service problems?


Not being there for the customer

The first step to great customer service is making yourself easy to find. Having multiple forms of contact, like email, web chat, phone, and in-store customer service makes it easy for customers to choose what they're most comfortable with. You must commit to excelling at each form of communication, however, or you'll risk angry customers. Long hold times, dropped phone calls, lines for customer service that stretch nearly to the front door, emails that are never returned – each of these scenarios raises your customers' blood pressure, and all that ire will be directed at your company.

Wait times can be excruciating, but that can be ameliorated by letting customers know how long the wait will be. Use a recording on the phone to estimate time, or use an autoresponder email to let customers know when to expect an email reply.


Making it too hard to solve the problem

The last thing a customer with a problem wants is to be thrown into a labyrinthine nightmare of poor customer service. Make things easy by providing a clear path to a solution – nothing is more aggravating than not knowing whether to push 1 or 2 to get through a phone tree, or not being able to find a company's contact information on the website. Spell out exactly which steps a customer should take to get her problem solved, and she'll arrive at customer service ready to work things out, rather than being combative and annoyed.


Juggling your customer from person to person

We've all been there: you just get finished explaining the problem in detail to one representative when he transfers you to his manager – where you get to explain the problem all over again. It's infuriating to say the least. The 2012 Global Customer Service Barometer from American Express reports that 26% of customers have experienced being transferred from agent to agent without any resolution of their problem.

One solution is to empower your front lines to solve problems without having to pass customers from rep to rep. If it's necessary to transfer a customer, put systems in place to minimize the amount of re-explaining that needs done. Have the rep give a brief overview to his manager before transferring the call. The manager can then verify the details and clarify questions with the customer, rather than making her start over from scratch. This builds an amazing amount of confidence in the customer, who otherwise might feel as though she's trapped in a hamster wheel.


Not listening to customer feedback

Customer complaints are a treasure trove of information. As easy as it can be to get defensive, it's important to take customer feedback into account, and act on it. According to a study by the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, only 4% of unhappy customers actually bother to complain – which means you can assume that for every complaint that's filed, there are 24 unhappy customers who said nothing.

Use those complaints as an opportunity to make your customer service shine, and customers will reward you with loyalty.

IntelliShop Featured in SportsBusiness Journal

IntelliShop was recently featured in a SportsBusiness Journal syndicated study. Check out the article through this link!

Boost Your Sales with Four Greetings that Really Work

What's the first thing your customers hear when they walk through the doors of your store? Is it something along the lines of "Hi, how are you?" or "Can I help you?" Are your customers being greeted with a blank look, or are they receiving no greeting at all? If you can think of a time you left a store because no one seemed to care, or couldn't be bothered to help you, then you know that making customers feel welcome is the first step to making a sale.

A simple "Good morning!" is a great place to start, but to truly connect with customers, train your sales staff to take it one step further. Every customer should be met with a sincere, engaging greeting. It's just good manners. Even if you're busy with another customer, take a moment to excuse yourself and welcome the newcomer.

One caveat – don't let sales staff parrot scripted "corporate" greetings that sound insincere and comes off as impersonal. A bad greeting can be even worse than no greeting at all. As an example, the other day I walked into a shop and was greeted with a bland "Hi, how are you?" "I'm great, how are you doing?" I replied, but the clerk didn't bother to reply. He just went back to reading the newspaper. Talk about a first interaction falling flat.

Don't forget about the farewell. Even if the greeting and overall experience were average, offering a sincere closing as the customer is leaving is like a "mulligan" in golf – it gives you that second chance to make a good impression.

By the way, if you're not sure what the first thing your customers hear is, talk to us. Our mystery shopping service can help you find out.

Four greetings that really work

1. "Thanks for coming in." Start the exchange off by letting a customer know she's appreciated. She's choosing to spend money at your store over your competitor's, so let her know she's making the right choice. This works well particularly if you remember her – thank her for coming back and ask how she liked the blouse, jumper cables, or book she bought last time.

2. "Have you been in before?" This is a fantastic opening line because it creates a conversation. If the customer answers no, your staff has a great excuse to show him around, and tell him a bit more about the store. If the answer is yes, your staff can thank the customer for coming back, and point out a few things that may be new since his last visit.

3. "Are you looking for something in particular?" An oldie but a goodie, this standard opener works because every customer – even the ones who claim to be just browsing – is looking for something. It gives a customer the opportunity to ask questions right away if she has them. If the answer is "I'm just browsing," be sure to follow up by pointing out a few items of interest. "Take a look around! We just got a new shipment of lovely silk scarves, and all winter apparel is on sale today. Let me know if I can help you at all."

4. Open with a comment about the weather. It's a cliché that people talk about the weather, but it's true for this reason: we're all affected by it. Welcoming your customer with "Hi! How are you surviving this heat?" gives her the opportunity to talk about herself (which we all love to do), and can give your sales staff the chance to point the way to the fans, novelty ice cube trays, or whatever else the customer may need.