My radar is dialed up to the nth degree when it comes to the language of service because this is where the smart money is and somewhat of a lost art. So any time I can educate a business owner about how to improve a customer experience, well, that’s time well spent. Here are three teaching moments from recent customer experiences to illustrate just how far off the rails training (or lack thereof) is, and where opportunity lies for increased sales.
Case study #1
“How can I try and help you?”
This was a question recently posed to me by a harried employee at a Pep Boys store. (I’m fairly certain this phrasing isn’t in the employee training manual).
So I did what any normal, red-blooded customer acquisition & retention expert would do: I took a deep breath, channeled my inner Yoda and replied, “Do or do not, there is no try.”
What can I say… He teed the line up for me.
Lesson #1 in the Love Language of Consumers
They don’t want you to “try”, they want to know that you are doing your very best to provide a solution and that you have their best interest at heart. Consumers don’t care how tired, unappreciated or underpaid you are. They only care about themselves and their problem.
As long as you are the face of your brand, then you have a moral and ethical responsibility to represent that brand at the highest level. If you can’t, or don’t want to, then it’s time to do a gut check with your personal integrity and/or find another gig.
Employers: Take a cue from Starbucks and the insights they’ve done with their customers. When patrons see a positive culture behind the counter, they want to stay longer and enjoy it because they see a positive reflection of an environment in the store; these are the seeds to brand loyalty.
Your first job is to work with your employees to identify the core values of your business. Then train your employees with very specific instructions on how these core values are communicated in every thought, word and deed to the customer. Once you’ve identified your company’s core values, it’s easier to hire people who inherently share these same values.
Case Study #2
Recently I was in a hip up-and-coming restaurant in Denver. When I asked the 20-something server about the house wine, she replied with, “It’s not bad; no one has ever complained about it.” After that ringing endorsement I decided to go with a Grey Goose and soda to which she replied, “No problem.”
Lesson #2 in the Love Language of Consumers
Consumers can smell mediocrity from a mile away so you need to be absolutely intimate with your company’s products and services upside down and backwards. Learn how to read your guest by observing their verbal and visual cues so that you can match your recommendations to the clues you receive. This is sales 101 and where trust is born — a critical step to increased sales.
Regarding the “No problem” reply: Best selling author Gary Vaynerchuk was spot on when he said that the people best positioned to succeed in today’s economy are our grandparents. They understand how to build a relationship outside of technology, and they NEVER would have replied with “no problem”. I get it, it’s a generational thing and it doesn’t carry the same meaning for 20 somethings as it does for the rest of us. Let’s be clear on the meaning of the words: telling me it’s no problem suggests that you’re doing me a favor. Since your job is resting on me spending money with you, then darn tootin’ it better be no problem. What would Grandpa do? He’d kick it old school and use a more appropriate response like, “my pleasure”. (It just tickles the ear, doesn’t it)?
Employers: Invest time in developing a very clear training for your staff at the front of the house on what is being offered. They need to know exactly how to lead the customer to a sale and then to an up sell. They must speak from a place of expertise and authority about the solution you provide and to understand your USP. If you put an inexperienced person in this role then you, and only you, are responsible for the sales outcomes.
Cast Study #3
Recently I returned the phone call to a store manager, and this was the resulting conversation with the employee that answered the phone:
Me: “May I please speak with John Smith?”
Employee: “He’s not here, for some reason.” (He actually said that.)
Me: “Uh, okay. May I leave a message?”
Employee: “Um, sure. I’m not sure when he’s back or when he’ll return your call but I’ll take a message.”
To compound the problem, when I later asked the store owner how well he thought his employees did on the phone, he said, ‘exceptional’, and that one of the owners was always within earshot of every incoming phone call so he’s certain they’re doing a great job. Despite my experience, which I shared with him, he stood firm that generally they did a great job. No apology, no appreciation for the feedback, just push back that they were right where they needed to be with customer care.
Lesson #3 in the Love Language of Consumers
When consumers call a business, we want to feel the warm hug of hospitality and a can-do attitude. Here’s how it should roll:
Me: “May i please speak with John Smith?”
Employee: “I’m sorry, Mr. Smith isn’t in the store today, may I take a message?”
Me: “That would be great. My name is… my number is…”
Employee: “Terrific, your message is important and I’ll make sure he receives it.”
It’s that simple.
Employers: The only people who should answer the phone are those who have been trained to properly provide solutions in a cordial way, and who can follow a simple script.
Also, the day you believe you’re “exceptional” is the day you stop improving. Keep raising the bar and inspire your staff to embrace the core values. Your people, and your sales, will grow with you.
Do you have a story to share about a customer experience that blew you away (good or bad)? We’d love for you to share them below.