For a couple of years now, there’s been tons of research showing that consumers are fed up with the poor customer service they get from retailers. Still, merchants don’t seem to be doing much to fix the problem (for instance, I’m still waiting for a phone call from a “customer care” person who was supposed to have contacted me two days ago). As far as they’re concerned, their customers might as well be dead.
If your operation has laid its customers to rest, perhaps it’s time to resurrect them. The following tips, from customer service consultant and trainer JoAnna Brandi, are adapted from her article “Overcoming Apathy—Bring the Customer to Life in Your Company.”
Get out of the office. Get your staff members into the customer’s office. (Yes, I am suggesting you get the service people and even the engineers out to meet customers.) Allow them to see and experience how your product or service fits into the customer’s overall business. Let them ask questions about what customers need and how they might be more helpful. Have them ask the customers about their goals, their dreams, and their fears. After each customer visit, conduct a “show and tell” meeting. This makes the customer more alive back at your office. Bring the customers to you. Invite customers to visit you frequently. Teach people to ask insightful questions that will help them form a vivid picture of what life is like for the customer. It’s easier to be compassionate and empathetic when you know the whole picture. Brainstorm with customers and “play” with new solutions. When staff members know the customers better and are touched by their real-life challenges, they are more likely to respond to them with enthusiasm rather than an “us against them” attitude. Tell stories and take pictures. Audiotape or videotape customer feedback sessions and play them at meetings. Take photos of customers using your product and hang them on the walls. Nothing is more compelling then a story and a picture or two. Use photos of customers in your newsletters. Hold customer-run meetings. Ask the customer to come in to run a meeting. Have them pick the topic and design the agenda. Make this a regular way to get feedback. Reserve a chair. Have a special chair at your conference table for the “customer.” Pretend that a customer is always at your meetings and watch how your language and demeanor change. Don’t have a good imagination? Buy a mannequin and dress it up and sit it in “the” chair. Send the staff shopping. Give members of the staff money to go out and spend being the customer of someone else. But send them with a checklist of service behaviors to watch out for and observe. Have these lucky people come back and report to others. And yes, let them keep what they buy. It’s the cheapest form of service consulting you will ever find. Celebrate a customer day. Have one every month–celebrate one of your business customer’s successes. Meeting their goals, reaching their dreams–there’s usually something to celebrate if you look for it.
For more information, contact JoAnna Brandi at (561) 279-0027 or visit http://www.customercarecoach.com.