When your Customers are Talking

It’s Time to Listen  

The single biggest complaint of customers is that salespeople talk too much and don’t listen enough. Poor salespeople dominate the talking, while successful salespeople dominate the listening.

 

It’s possible for you to talk too much, but it’s rarely possible to listen too much.

 

When salespeople are excellent listeners, prospects and customers feel comfortable and secure with them. They buy more readily and more often.

 

Why Salespeople Stop Listening

Salespeople have a lot to say because they’ve developed so much expertise. However, the fastest way to irritate a prospect is by talking too much and listening too little. Furthermore, salespeople have listened to the customer’s side so often, they can predict what the customer will say. Result: They learn less about customers’ changing needs than an effective listener would uncover.

 

Benefits of Good Listening

Listening builds trust. The best salespeople are concerned with customer needs and help them purchase products or services in a cost-effective way.

Listening lowers resistance. It reduces tension and defensiveness on the part of customers who realize they aren’t going to be pushed into making a purchase.

 

Listening is Not Hearing

Listening is different from hearing. Hearing is what people do when a bore starts talking. Listening is an active activity in which salespeople pay genuine attention to what customers or prospects say.

 

 

 

 

Here are some tips that help promote active listening:

  1. Show that you’re listening by giving short verbal feedback phrases like, “I see” or “Go on.” Nod your head. Use body language to show the customer you’re interested in what’s being said.
  2. Don’t interrupt. Ideally, the only time you should break up the customer’s conversation stream is if you need clarification on what’s being said.
  3. Avoid distractions. Focus your attention on the prospect or customer in a calm, relaxed atmosphere.
  4. Restate. This is repeating verbatim all or part of what a customer has said while placing emphasis on one part of it. The main purpose of restating is to get prospects to give more information and to let them know you are listening. Additional information can be the difference in making a sale or not.
  5. Ask pertinent questions.If you understand correctly, the customer will agree. If not, he or she will have a chance to clarify.
  6. Summarize. Active listening involves mentally summarizing points that have been made. Try to state these brief summaries at key moments in your presentations. Summarizing also lets you take charge of the direction of the conversation.
  7. Try to avoid arguing.A good listener is there to find out what the customer thinks and where she or he is coming from. If the customer wants to hear your opinion, he or she will ask. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to remain silent, especially if a customer is venting.
  8. Empathy is key. The way we do this is by mirroring one another’s behavior and language. Use the same words your customers do, in the way they use them, so they are assured you really understand their problems.
  9. Simplifying terms for self-service. If you want to help customers help themselves, don’t be fancy with the language. Drop the brand voice and mimic your customer’s approach.
  10. And the best advice of all…Remember the golden rule of listening. It’s possible to say too much. It’s rarely possible to listen too much.

 

 

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Customer Service Gone Wrong

What You Need to Avoid

 

 

Why does negative news spread so much faster than positive?

Because we all love a good story! But when it happens to you, it’s not so funny.

People love reading about bad customer service stories. They go viral because we’ve all been there – on the phone desperately needing help from customer service, or waiting in an endless line at the airport.

When you read about a bad customer experience, you feel empathy (and maybe some outrage) on behalf of the wronged party. It’s maddening when companies disregard the same customers they’re meant to serve, and it’s a near-universal experience.

Check out these five horribly bad customer service examples and what you can do to avoid them.

1. Walmart’s Pricing Blunder

You walk into your local Walmart and see a Lego set you want to buy for your son. You notice that the item at the store costs 35% more than the same exact Lego set on Walmart’s own website. What? Yes really. That’s exactly what happened to Clark Howard. But when he asked the team to meet their company’s online price, Walmart refused to price-match.

So he pulled up his phone and ordered the product online for an in-store pick-up. Howard says, “My son and I stood there and watched as a different employee came a few minutes later, picked the item up off the shelf, and brought it back to the holding spot for pickup.” Because Howard didn’t receive the email confirmation from Walmart.com until the following day, he couldn’t bring the item home that day. Instead, Howard had to go back to the store the next day — inconvenient, to say the least. Although Walmart doesn’t require that store managers match online prices, it would have been the best (and only) response in this scenario.

Takeaway

When companies prioritize a policy above the needs of customers, it shows. If you’re not sure how to respond in a scenario, think about what’s the kindest, most honest thing to do. This can easily prevent really bad customer service stories from happening on your watch.

2. Comcast’s New Low

There are lots of reasons not to like cable providers. You always have to argue for a fair rate, and most of the time, you don’t get what you need. But even in this not-so-helpful industry, Comcast is America’s most hated company.

In 2015, when Lisa Brown called to cancel the cable TV portion of her service, she was transferred to a retention specialist specifically trained to talk her out of it. She didn’t back down, though. Much to her surprise and agitation, the next service bill she received was addressed not to her husband, Ricardo Brown, but to “Asshole Brown.”

Just days after Brown’s story went viral, three more customers of the TV cable provider came forward reporting their names had been changed to derogatory words. Although Comcast leaders apologized to the customers and offered a two year refund, the incident still made waves. Because customers hate Comcast’s pricing model, and so many people can relate to the frustration, the story resonated with millions.

Takeaway

This bad customer service example typifies a work culture where employees are so fed up, they’re willing to sacrifice their jobs to make a point, and get a laugh. The best way to cultivate an empathetic customer service team is to treat the team with empathy, too. This sense of shared appreciation and respect will naturally extend to customers.

 

 

3. Target’s Trolling Incident

Not too long ago Target announced that they were changing how girls and boys items were advertised in their stores. In an attempt to create a more supportive and open environment for children, Target removed gender-based signs in some of their kids’ sections. Although a lot of people appreciated the change, some customers saw it as a move away from tradition for the sake of “political correctness” and commented on Target’s Facebook page.

Soon after, a Facebook user pretended to be Target’s help desk and trolled these unhappy customers. The Facebook user changed their name to “Ask For Help” and used the Target bullseye as their profile picture. They wrote snarky replies which did not bode well with the already livid customers. The perception was that Target didn’t care about their views.

Takeaway

As customer service expands into social media, there’s an increased risk for fake accounts that enrage (rather than delight) customers. Vigilance is the key to preventing a bad customer service example at your business. Always keep an eye on social media accounts. Although it can be difficult to stop these scenarios from happening, the quicker you shut them down, the better.

4. United’s Big Goof Up

United Airlines’ first big goof up happened in 2008 when United employees recklessly damaged the guitar of musician David Carroll. Sitting in his airplane seat, Carroll saw employees throwing around his guitar on the tarmac, powerless to protect his property. Like any concerned customer, Carroll went through the proper channels to report both the behavior and subsequent damage. “I notified three employees, who showed complete indifference toward me,” says Carroll.

The customer service experience was so appalling, it inspired Carroll to write and record a song called “United Breaks Guitars.” This musical rendering of his bad customer experience has been on YouTube for eight years, and it’s received over 17 million views! Employee indifference to the company’s mistakes ballooned into a PR nightmare for United.

Takeaway

Don’t you remember the Golden Rule? Treat others how you want to be treated. Empathy is the key to building a successful customer service team. If employees don’t care about the mistakes their company makes — and how they affect individuals — they’re not going to be invested in positive change.

Practice empathy with customers by asking more questions and mirroring their answers. No matter how difficult the situation, they’ll feel heard.

5. Gasp’s Retail Gaffe

Have you ever been in a shop and gotten snubbed by the staff? When Keara O’Neil went to an Australian clothing store called Gasp looking for bridesmaids dresses, the salesperson was pushy and mean, implying O’Neil didn’t have good enough taste to appreciate the company’s dresses.

O’Neil followed up with management over email who ferociously defended the salesperson. The Age reported, “In an email, the retailer asked her to do Gasp a favor, stop wasting the store’s time and shop elsewhere because she was not a ‘fashion forward consumer’ who could appreciate a ‘retail superstar’ with ‘unparalleled ability’.” The salesperson also called O’Neil unrepeatable names in a leaked internal email and and warned other “rude and obnoxious clowns” to stay out.

Gasp thought that this incident was a good thing because of the press the company received, but research indicates otherwise: a horrible customer experience can trigger a negative spiral of bad customer service that perpetuates indefinitely.

Takeaway

The adage “all press is good press” doesn’t apply to customer service — going viral for terrible service isn’t worth the momentary traffic boost. When you try to justify your (or your company’s) behavior, you excuse toxic behavior and set a new baseline for bad customer service.

The Bottom Line: Always Put your Customers First

 

Unfortunately every person has a terrible customer service story to tell. Even when it’s not as dramatic or extreme, customers experience terrible service every day, and it slowly erodes a company’s reputation.

The best way to tackle bad customer service stories is to prevent them in the first place. When you create a supportive environment grounded in respect and customer appreciation, you’ll never find yourself among these negative examples.

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Starting off Right in 2018 with Mystery Shopping


mystery shopping

The Benefits to your Business

What’s one of the big reasons Five Guys is wildly successful? They send mystery shoppers out twice a week to all locations. The brothers who run the operation also constantly visit the restaurants. High standards each and every day ensure the right employees do the right things.

Five Guys knows you need to inspect what you expect.

The number one thing business owners say is, “I just need more customers.” Wrong, you need them to return. You can’t attract your whole neighborhood to try you, deliver lousy results and expect just getting “more bodies in the door” will work.

Five Guys franchise with over 1,000 locations sees the value in nearly 50,000 shops in a year, shouldn’t you? One shop every six months is so random that it reveals little. Why? Because a mystery shop is just a moment in time. You aren’t that good if you get 100% and you aren’t that bad if you get a 50%. But over time patterns emerge that make managing your customer experience much clearer.

10 Benefits of Mystery Shops:

 

Monitored and measured service performance

Improves customer retention

Makes employees aware of what is important in

serving customers

Monitors facility conditions

Ensures product/service delivery quality.

Supports promotional programs

Allows for competitive analyses between locations

Identifies training needs and sales opportunities

Ensures positive customer relationships on the front line.

Enforces employee integrity and knowledge.

 

In order to ensure the best mystery shop feedback, make sure your questions are as detailed as possible. Your shop questions need to be black and white. The employee either did or didn’t say, “Good morning, good afternoon or good evening.” They either described a product using features (it has) with benefits (to the customer) or they didn’t. In addition, you need a narrative so compelling you can actually see the transaction in your store.

Another telling question is, “Would you be willing to drive past a competitor to return to this location based on the service you received today?”

You can try to save money by putting those surveys on your receipts and training your cashiers to “circle the web address and tell them what the prize is” but that’s not a true judge of the experience. Those who had a rotten experience will be looking for some compensation and many will quickly checkoff whatever boxes they need to qualify their entry for the prize.

Mystery Shopping Technology

Many companies now utilize geotracking to ensure mystery shoppers are going where they say they’re going, and most reports are now submitted via mobile applications, which means they receive shoppers’ feedback faster. Inputting information in an app, rather than writing it out or filling out a web form, allows the business owners who hire mystery shoppers to request very specific feedback.

Also, video and audio files of mystery shopper encounters can be stored alongside reports, which further enhance the experience of receiving feedback and gives the business owner an up-close and personal look at customer service.

 

Fighting online mystery shopper scams

 

Not all secret shopping companies are the same. Make sure your mystery shoppers are members of the industry association to assure they are reputable. Your mystery shopper should have a keen attention to detail, high standards, and most importantly, experience in the industry.

The online landscape is cluttered with scam mystery shopper companies that promise jobs to inexperienced reviewers, often in exchange for one-time registration fees. To combat these scam services and promote industry training standards for QA specialists, organizations like the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) have formed. The MSPA is a global association dedicated to creating professional standards and ethics throughout the mystery shopping industry, in addition to raising awareness among service providers and business consumers regarding best practices. The MSPA has 450 member companies worldwide and offers business owners free access to a search tool for reputable mystery shopper companies, which can be filtered by need and region.

Bottom line

Online feedback from customers is valuable, but it’s not the only way – or even the best way – to find out how your business functions when you’re not there. Professional mystery shoppers can provide you with the detailed insight you need to make better process and hiring decisions.

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