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Sarah Hedayati - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog
If you're like other people interested in customer service, you’re constantly on the lookout for ways to develop customer relationships. Some customers are easier to engage than others, but recently I’ve seen great customer service from field service engineers.
I recently scheduled an appointment with my gas company to get my pilot light re-lit. When the field service engineer arrived, he carried with him his tool kit. He got down on the floor and started inspecting my wall heater. It was filthy! As he was working, he educated me about heater safety.
Here are five takeaways we can gather about developing great customer relationships from my experience with this field service engineer:
1. Instill Confidence
My experience – The field service engineer explained what he was doing as he did it. I appreciated his knowledge and expertise. He made me feel confident in his abilities to not only re-light my pilot light, but inspect my heater and make sure it was running correctly.
Takeaway – When you are assisting customers with a general inquiry or an issue, let them know you will do everything in your power to fix the issue that occurred.
2. Build Rapport
My experience – From the moment the field service engineer entered my home until the moment he left, he displayed a professional and friendly demeanor.
Takeaway – Whenever you’re in contact with a customer, in person or over the phone, act professionally and set the expectation for service. You want to start to build a relationship with your customers.
3. Go Above and Beyond
My experience – The field service engineer came for one purpose, to re-light my pilot light. He inspected, cleaned, and re-lit the pilot light. As if that wasn’t enough, he checked my carbon monoxide detector to make sure it was working.
Takeaway – Whenever working with customers, try to do something extra to show them you care and are there to offer service to them. Customers notice when you go above and beyond.
4. Show Empathy
My experience – Once the field service engineer discovered my carbon monoxide detector wasn’t working properly, he educated me on what to do and why it was important to keep the detector working properly.
Takeaway – When you’re assisting customers with a question or an issue, show you understand their concerns and are going to help them resolve the issue. Really listen up and tune into what they are saying. After they explain what is going on, confirm you understand the situation and they understand the steps you will take to resolve the issue.
5. End on a High Note
My experience – Once the field service engineer was done, he made sure to give me extra safety information I could read on my own time and he filled out a form telling me what I needed to do to keep my heater running safely.
Takeaway – When you finish your work, let customers know what to expect. Are there steps they need to complete? Is there something you need to do back at the office for the issue to be fully resolved? Who can they contact if they experience a problem or have questions? Make sure your customers know who to reach.
To learn more about developing excellent customer relationships in the field, check out our field service training page.
- originally published on the Impact Blog at http://www.impactlearning.com/developing-customer-relationships-a-tip-from-our-field-service-engineers/ - learn more about call center sales training, the customer service experience, and customer service training programs from Impact Learning Systems.
Publish Date: March 2, 2012 7:42 PM
There’s a concern brewing in employers everywhere. If the economy keeps moving in a positive direction, employees may take their talent elsewhere. A trend for 2012 is improving the employee experience.
Douglas Matthews, president and chief operating officer for Right Management, reported in Chief Learning Officerthat 80 percent of workers may now be actively seeking new jobs. In another article, Metlife reported “…only 47 percent of employees surveyed feel very strong loyalty to their employers. Just three years ago the same survey showed 59 percent of workers felt very strong loyalty.” It’s time for companies to respond by taking on a new mantra for 2012: motivate, empower, invest.
Employees need to be connected and engaged to enjoy working at a company. Goals and motivation help in this endeavor. Tim Houlihan, vice president of Reward Systems at BI Worldwide, says “…the stimulants that get us into high achievement are these: our ability to set challenging goals, our ability to get emotionally engaged in our work, and our ability to focus.”
Sit down with employees and find out what motivates them. Elaine Varelas, a managing partner at Camden Consulting Group, says “After a certain threshold of earnings, there are more things to motivate people – fun things such as trips, dinners at expensive restaurants, experiences…The VIP treatment may mean more than the actual cash value.”
Some companies are empowering their employees to make serving their customers the number one priority.
I heard a story recently about a Southwest pilot that held a plane 12 minutes for a grandfather to make the flight. His grandson was ill and only had a few hours to live. Southwest teaches their employees to not hold a plane for anyone. Waiting for his customer was more important than meeting his requirement. The pilot made his own decision based on special circumstances.
Employee empowerment is at the forefront of Ritz-Carlton. When co-founder Horst Schulze was in charge, employees each had $2,000 to use to serve customers without getting prior approval.
When new employees start at Nordstrom, they receive an employee handbook that includes this single rule: “Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.”
Investing in employees is the way to show them you value their contributions to the company. This can be shown in several ways. Consider training for example. If metric levels are difficult for an employee to meet, provide training opportunities to improve skills.
Lori Freifeld writes in an article for Training Magazine, “When it comes to training, the most important part of motivating is letting people know what the value of the training is to them personally – will they be more knowledgeable about the stock market; will they learn how to deal with conflict in the office, etc.”
Now that the New Year is well on its way, consider how you can incorporate this trend into your management strategy. Soon enough, employees will be saying “I HEART my job!”
Post #10 in the Top Ten Customer Service and Support Trends for 2012 series.
- originally published on the Impact Blog at http://www.impactlearning.com/the-employee-experience-motivate-empower-invest/ - learn more about call center sales training, the customer service experience, and customer service training programs from Impact Learning Systems.
Publish Date: March 2, 2012 7:08 PM
Providing incentives for employees is a great way to boost morale, productivity, and promote a harmonious work environment. Even more importantly, offering incentives to your employees in a non-traditional and creative way allows you to keep track of improvement and reward staff for a job well done. Another great characteristic of incentives is their flexibility. Incentives don’t have to be used solely to honor an employee.
Traditionally, employee incentives come in the form of a pay increase or bonus money. While this monetary compensation can undoubtedly motivate your employees in the short term, it is by no means the only way to encourage top-notch performance from your staff. Many employees are motivated to increase their skills and knowledge by the prospect of promotion or job enhancement. In fact, according to some studies, employees have cited various incentives besides a pay increase that motivate them to achieve goals. Some of these include:
- Recognition for hard work.
- Better work environment and working conditions.
- Job security.
- Employer contribution to a retirement plan.
In addition to these ideas, you can also create an incentive system that is tailored to the specific needs and wants of the staff in your company. A way to do this is to ask your employees, either through a survey or in a private meeting, to identify what rewards would be most meaningful to them. Include this “wish list” in their employee file. When the time comes around to show your appreciation of the employee’s hard work, you can reference this list to help you reward them in a way that they would appreciate. For example, if Rich, an agent in your contact center, loves coffee, you might want to reward his small successes with a gift card to his favorite coffee shop. Other ideas could include free movie tickets, a gift certificate to a favorite store/restaurant, or even someone’s favorite chocolate treat!
Rewards are also a good way to boost employee morale during changes within the company. If your business is implementing a new telephone sales system, for example, you can use small gifts and perks to help smooth the transition and make sure employees feel appreciated for the effort they are putting forth to adjust to a new system. Following are additional ideas for promoting success and rewarding accomplishments within your company:
- Give people their birthday off with pay. Honor them and encourage them to have fun on their special day!
- Reward agents for reporting other agents doing something well.
- For exceptional achievements or milestones, write a personal letter of acknowledgment.
Incentives motivate your employees and show them you value their contributions to the company.
-- Originally published on the Impact Blog at http://www.impactlearning.com/creative-employee-incentives/
Publish Date: March 2, 2012 7:07 PM
The first post in this sales series focused on product knowledge and the ways sales reps can use that information to help make a sale. Presenting products to potential customers is when understanding features and benefits becomes crucial to an effective sales presentation.
In order for sales reps to be successful, they need to know how to translate the features of a product into benefits to the customer. An article from ClickZ suggests, “Focus on emotions, not intellect. Emotions are the gateway to making a buying decision. Benefits are the language of emotion. Features are the language of logic. Even people who insist they buy logically or based on features do so because that's what makes them feel better.”
To put this into perspective, think about why you buy clothes. If you were to buy purely on logic, you would only buy clothes to keep you warm. If you were to buy with emotion, you would buy from a store with the best sale, a designer with the best style, a line of clothing made with the best materials, etc. When you buy with emotion, you are looking for benefits.
Step One: Determine Customer Desires, Needs and Problems
In order for sales reps to be able to translate the features of a product into benefits to the customer, they need to find out what the desires, needs, and problems are for the customer. With that knowledge, the sales rep can explain the direct benefits of their product.
How does a salesperson find out the customer’s desires, needs, and problems?
Simple. Some needs are universal: time, wealth, esteem, ease of use, convenience, and security. If the sales reps can uncover how their product meets each of these universal needs, they are one step closer to defining why a customer needs their product. Some needs are more important to one customer than to another. For example, if a sales rep is trying to sell me sunscreen with a high sun-protection factor, I would be more inclined to buy because of an explanation that focuses on how much longer I can stay out in the sun without getting burned versus how inexpensive the product is to buy. A different customer may need a different explanation to persuade him or her to keep listening.
Another approach to uncovering needs is to ask customers what is important to them. If sales reps don’t ask, they may never know!
Step Two: Translate the Features Into Benefits to the Customer
Now that the salesperson understands the customer’s needs, he or she can tailor their description to fit those needs.
Share these phrases with your sales reps to help them explain benefits:
What this means to you is…
This allows you to…
Using these phrases will help the sales rep put the features into words that relate directly to the customer’s needs. Going back to my example, if a sales rep uncovered my need for long lasting sunscreen, he or she could explain the benefits of the sunscreen like this:
Sunscreen prevents the sun’s ultraviolet radiation from reaching the skin. Our sunscreen has an SPF of 30. What that means to you is that you can spend 30 times longer than you used to be able to without getting burned.
With this statement, I can picture how I would benefit from purchasing the sunscreen. Personalizing the benefits is the goal.
Do your reps struggle with translating features into benefits? Do they have a hard time uncovering the needs of potential customers? If you’re not sure, listen in on calls or call in yourself and see what it’s like to be a customer. Provide telesales training for your staff so they can become confident sales reps that better understand buyer needs and can easily match products to meet those needs.
Stay Tuned: This post is the second in a series of three on helping reps close more sales. Coming up is the final post on asking for the sale: a critical and sometimes uncomfortable step to closing the sale. Find out how to ask for and close the sale with confidence!
- originally published on the Impact Blog at http://www.impactlearning.com/selling-skills-features-and-benefits/ - learn more about call center sales training, the customer service experience, and customer service training programs from Impact Learning Systems.
Publish Date: March 2, 2012 7:06 PM
Whether you’re a manager, supervisor, or trainer, one of the inevitable aspects of your job is the need to deal firmly and fairly with problem employees. Just as there are any number of reasons why an employee can become a problem—bad attitude, inability to do what’s required, unresponsiveness to feedback on performance, and so on—there are various ways to handle the issues and the employees who create them.
Following are seven tips to keep in mind.
- Deal with the issue right away. If you delay your response or ignore the issue altogether, you may look weak and ineffective. You’ll also send a message to other employees that they too can get away with inappropriate behavior.
- Stay calm and poised. Because you’re the one in the position of authority, you’ll set the tone of the discussion. Always maintain a professional demeanor and convey a tone that says, “This isn’t working. How can we fix it?”
- Allow the employee to vent. Just as you would an upset customer, give the employee a few moments to air his or her grievances. Sometimes this venting is exactly what a person needs to do before calming down and discussing the issue more rationally.
- Empathize. Let an upset or disgruntled employee know that you’re aware he or she has strong feelings about the issue and that you’re interested in helping the employee to resolve them. Empathizing is not the same thing as agreeing. It just lets people feel heard and acknowledged.
- Focus on the issue, not the person. No matter how strongly you believe that the employee’s behavior or attitude is at the root of the problem, don’t make the issue a personal one. You want to communicate that you are for the employee but against the behavior.
- Always give the employee an out. It will only further upset employees if they feel that they’re being backed up against a wall. When working to resolve an issue, be sure to give the employee an opportunity to choose the correct outcome of the discussion.
- Focus on a solution. When emotions are running high, it’s all too easy to get stuck in a continuous cycle of discussing the problem. Once the issue has been clearly identified, move the discussion forward by focusing on ways to resolve it.
Print this list and keep it handy for the next time you need to coach a problem employee.
- originally published on Impact's Customer Service Blog at http://www.impactlearning.com/7-tips-for-coaching-difficult-employees/ - learn more about call center sales training, customer service training programs and customer service assessments from Impact Learning Systems.
Publish Date: February 23, 2012 6:17 PM
No matter what product or service you offer, selling to a customer you have truly connected with is much more fulfilling than a sale to just some random customer whom you’ll never think of again. Not only will you come away feeling excited and optimistic, but your customer will too, and that can prove very valuable.
Developing a connection with your customers can do wonders for your company and give you a competitive edge by increasing customer loyalty, the potential for outside referrals, and of course the chance to sell more.
So, how do you build this connection? Following are a few tips and tricks to help you establish a rapport and transform a simple sale into a good relationship.
- Show interest in the human element. Showing interest in your customer is one of the easiest ways to start building rapport. Ask him how his day has been, refer to him by name, or talk with him about more than just the topic at hand. You’d be surprised how just a little gesture can affect the tone of the call and the tenure of the relationship.
- Listen. Focus your attention on what your customer is saying—not on what you want to say as soon as he finishes speaking. Not only will you find out more about his needs than you otherwise might, but you’ll also give him the satisfaction of being heard and understood.
- Find something in common. Large or small, finding something you and your customer have in common provides a little token for your customer to remember you by.
- Follow Up. Take a couple minutes out of your day and send your customers a follow-up email thanking them for their time and interest. Or, if it’s been awhile since you spoke, give them a call to ask them how the product or service is working out.
- Be a person that your customer wants to know. If you’re honest and sincere and if you act with integrity in all you do, your customers will have a positive impression of you, your company, and the products and services you provide.
There are dozens of techniques for building good rapport with your customers—and hundreds of reasons why doing this is a good idea. For more tips and tricks, check out another blog post on maintaining meaningful relationships with your customers.
- originally published on Impact's Customer Service Blog at http://www.impactlearning.com/a-little-rapport-goes-a-long-way/ - learn more about call center sales training, customer service training programs and customer service assessments from Impact Learning Systems.
Publish Date: February 23, 2012 6:16 PM
Are you happy with the performance of your sales team? Do they have a thorough understanding of your products and how to present them to customers in an engaging way? In-depth product knowledge is a critical component of sales success.
Use Product Knowledge to Simplify Explanations
Salespeople may understand how a product works, but they may not know how to explain the product clearly and succinctly to a prospective buyer.
Think about the last software demonstration you viewed.. The salesperson has given the presentation countless times, whereas you were seeing it for the first time. Were you able to follow along with every mouse click and screen transition? Or did the salesperson run through each slide too quickly for you to understand how the software might help you in your business? Did the salesperson use jargon? Or were you able to clearly understand the product’s features and the benefits to you?
Salespeople need to simplify the explanation. Joe Rawlinson, from Return Customer says, “Use a mental anchor that connects what you offer to something the customer already understands.” The goal is for the customer to be able to visualize what the end result will look like. No surprises.
Key Takeaway: The easier it is for a buyer to understand what the product does, how it relates to them, and how they would benefit from using it, the easier it is to close the sale.
Use Product Knowledge to Gain Confident Customers
Customers expect sales representatives to be knowledgeable. When salespeople are knowledgeable, customers have confidence in the company, the product, and their buying experience. If a salesperson hesitates or doesn’t have clear answers to simple questions, customers begin to question their purchase decision.
Key Takeaway: The more confident sales representatives are in their presentations, the more confident the prospect and the more likely the sale.
Use Product Knowledge to Put the Customer at Ease
When potential customers call, will they receive a clear explanation of the product and the purchase process? Or will be they be overwhelmed with terms and concepts they don’t understand?
One of the first times I walked into Starbucks, I ordered a medium coffee. The barista replied, “We have Tall, Grande, or Venti.” Rather annoyed, I said, “Whichever one’s the medium size.” She retorted with, “Well different people have different definitions of what medium means to them.” My initial annoyance quickly turned to extreme irritation.
Imagine how customers feel when they don’t understand the salesperson’s jargon. Few people will ask the salesperson to explain. Instead, they’ll put off the purchase decision or purchase someplace else.
Key Takeaway: Put the customer at ease by giving easy-to-understand product information. The less accessible the information is to the customer, the less likely the sale.
How do you know if your sales staff is performing? Listen to calls, give out quizzes, be a secret shopper. From there you will find out what kind of job aids and training the sales staff may need. Develop product training that sticks. If the training department is overwhelmed, a number of companies offer custom training tailored specifically to the needs of your team.
Stay Tuned: This post is the first in a series of three on helping reps close more sales.
- originally published on Impact's Customer Service Blog at http://www.impactlearning.com/selling-skills-understand-the-product/ - learn more about call center sales training, customer service training programs and customer service assessments from Impact Learning Systems.
Publish Date: February 23, 2012 6:15 PM
The other night, I went to dinner at one of my new favorite restaurants. When I sat down, I couldn’t help but notice the table next to me was not having a pleasant dining experience. The two diners’ body language said it all. They both had their arms folded and were clearly trying to get the waiter’s attention by staring and gesturing for him to come over to the table. He apologized several times for something I could not decipher. A few minutes later, what seemed to be a complimentary dessert arrived.
This experience got me thinking: was the dessert enough to turn the unhappy diners into repeat and loyal customers? Ask yourself this question: would you rather pay full price for a meal and receive good service or get a complimentary dessert for bad service?
Although I appreciate, and sometimes expect, some kind of compensation for bad service, I would much rather pay for a positive experience. People don’t go to restaurants hoping to get bad service so they won’t have to pay. Or at least I don’t think so.
An article from QSRweb.com stated, “What makes a restaurant experience memorable for a customer, nine times out of 10, is how they're made to feel rather than what they eat.”
So why are companies investing money in reimbursing upset customers when they should be training their employees to provide the best customer experience possible? If gaining loyal, repeat customers is the goal, training is the answer.
Customer service training teaches employees first and foremost how to communicate positively and professionally with customers. Training also helps employees with:
- Developing skills to help build rapport with customers
- Learning how to respond to customer requests
- Questioning and confirming customer needs
- Handling angry and upset customers
Some say customer service is a dying art. John Sullivan, a restaurant industry analyst and consultant, disagrees. He says, “All restaurants better pay attention to service or they will lose customers almost instantly.”
- originally published on Impact's Customer Service Blog at http://www.impactlearning.com/customer-experience-vs-compensation-a-customer-service-showdown/ - learn more about call center sales training, customer service training programs and customer service assessments from Impact Learning Systems.
Publish Date: February 23, 2012 6:13 PM
What happens when your frontline employees don’t seem to have customer service skills? Customer service is more than being polite and helpful. Service needs to begin the moment a customer steps foot in your business and carried throughout every interaction they have with your company. If you want to retain customers and build rapport, you need to build consistency in the service you provide throughout every level of the company.
Imagine a company that delivers different levels of service from frontline employees to support professionals. I had an experience once where the support professional advised me to avoid communicating with the frontline employees. Can you imagine that? This company has a problem on their hands. Have you encountered this experience or does this describe your company?
Don’t panic! Applying the following quick tips and providing training to all of your workers will improve your staff’scustomer service skills and create support professionals in no time.
Why provide training to ALL of your workers? If you only train one department, your business will be described like the one mentioned above. Avoid this at all costs.
The following are three steps to help your staff improve their skills and become support professionals:
Step One: Meet Customer’s Expectations
Employees need to keep in mind they are striving to meet customer’s expectations, not their own. This can be hard, especially if the employee feels like they know what the customer needs. If workers keep the clients expectations in mind, they will have happier customers.
Step Two: Focus Your Attention
When communicating with customers, workers need to give their undivided attention. Seems like common sense, right? Wrong. Often times, workers feel like they know the answer to every buyers question and they forget to listen. Employees need to give each customer attention tailored to their needs. This can come from asking questions to guide the conversation or repeating the clients answer to show understanding.
Step Three: Emphasize the Positive
Workers need to understand the impact of a positive attitude. Learning how to phrase situations that arise in a positive manner can affect the way a customer sees the situation. This can take training and coaching for staff to grasp this customer service skill and how to switch what might seem like a negative situation into a positive.
These three tips will get your staff improve their customer service skills and move in the right direction to all becoming support professionals. Your employees have what it takes, so give it a shot. Your customers will thank you.
- originally published on Impact's Customer Service Blog at http://www.impactlearning.com/is-it-possible-frontline-employees-dont-understand-service/ - learn more about call center sales training, the customer service experience, and customer service training programs from Impact Learning Systems.
Publish Date: February 23, 2012 6:11 PM