Dealing with Customers During the Holidays – (everybody ain’t happy)

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Dealing with Customers During the Holidays – (everybody ain’t happy)

The holiday rush is the best, biggest, and busiest time for retailers. The November and December shopping cycles are the largest factor in a company’s annual revenue. With such a big stake in making yearly budgets, it’s no wonder business owners do all they can to prepare for the influx of customers. Here at AYSC, we’ve compiled a short list of reminders for your customer service team to successfully deal with challenging customers.

Plan Ahead: Preparation is everything when the holiday rush comes to your door. From personnel coverage to inventory needs, have everything in its place ahead of time. Seasoned business owners can combine previous season reporting with highest selling items of the year to determine what they need to have on hand. First-time holiday businesses can conduct relevant market research, review recent sales activity, and current buying trends before deciding what to order.

Underpromise, Overdeliver: A well-known phrase in service industries, this mantra rings true during busy seasons. Customers prefer a realistic timeline which is met rather than an unrealistic goal that is missed. What customers love even more is a realistic timeline that is exceeded. Always be transparent with your customer regarding when they can expect shipments, responses from supervisors, or items to be restocked. If your company can exceed the stated timeframe, bravo you’ve just kept a customer.

Increase self-service options: Additional automated recordings featuring current shipping times, holiday hours, or exchange policies is a quick and cost-effective way to address your customers’ needs. For those same reasons, update your website’s FAQ section to include items related to holiday shopping needs. While you’re online, add discount codes, special sale notifications, and highlight any software updates to previously available products.

Authorize employees to make decisions: The goal is to problem solve and allow customers to continue their day. The more decision-making power employees have, the less time customers have to wait for a resolution to problems. Increasing your customer service representative’s authorization to grant discounts, offer free shipping, or add an upgrade will leave the customer feeling satisfied by a resolution and grateful that they didn’t have to spend hours getting one.

Focus on customer satisfaction: During the holiday shopping season, consumers anticipate additional shoppers in stores and longer lines. They also anticipate that business owners will be ready to handle the influx. When their expectations are not met they can become short-tempered. Empowering employees to cover areas of need, offer add-ons as compensation, or

Never too much training: It’s important to train your staff in conflict resolution, maintaining a calm demeanor, and methods of closing out an unpleasant situation. Full-time and seasonal staff both need to brush up on their etiquette and response time. (Read our recent article on Tips for Holiday Staff Training). Cross-training staff is also a good idea as holiday shoppers tend to question the first person they see, not necessarily the person who works in that department. Cross-training in call centers allows managers to pull additional staff in to cover an increase in phone calls.

Holiday shoppers move at a different pace and carry higher expectations for service interactions than everyday shoppers. Their desire to get in and out of your store or out of the phone queue should be your number one priority to meet. Combining organizational preparation with proper training and accurate information for your employees will ensure that customer leave your business feeling valued.

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Millennials and Customer Service: 6 Things You Need to Know

MillennialsThe population of people born between 1980 and 2000 is currently the largest consumer group. For business owners, that means they are your target market. No matter what industry you’re in you will in some way market your products to millennial customers. So how do they want to be served? Is your company prepared to engage Generation Y, successfully sell them products, and manage their expectations?

Here’s a list of 6 things your customer service department should know about serving millennials:

1. Millennials are independent.

They have been taught to be self-sufficient, seeking answers on their own through technology. Growing up in the Internet Age, millennials are accustomed to accessing Google, Yahoo, or Bing to search indexed files of information. This group of consumers wants websites with a Frequently Asked Questions section, troubleshooting resources, and walkthroughs. If they run into a problem, they will first seek help on your website. Millennials want businesses to anticipate their problems and provide the answers in advance in a way that is simple to use and easy to understand.

2. Their time is valuable.

To be fair, everyone’s time is valuable. But while Baby Boomers grew up in an era of pots, pans, and postal mail; millennials grew up with microwaves and email on their smartphones. The level of patience is markedly different. Their time is valuable and they appreciate companies that respect that. Millennials want answers at the speed of their asking the question. They are apt to reach your company through Social Media or online Live Chat options. According to a Desk.com survey, Facebook is the most used platform for customer service questions with 25% of millennials expecting a response within 10 minutes of reaching out for service via social media.

3. Millennials prefer technology.

Are you sensing the trend here? In general, millennials believe in the efficiency and superiority of technology over the possibility of human error. Millennials don’t want more customer service. They want different customer service options. This generation of consumers wants the perfection of hybrid streamlined, mobile-optimized online service support and nothing short of excellent human assistance when appropriate. Extending call center hours and adding more manpower is not a good exchange for improving the online support experience.

4. They’re customers, not numbers.

For all their love of technology, Generation Y wants to be known on an individual basis. Precisely because they spend so much time behind a screen, when your millennial customer does have to call in to customer service or come into a store instead of shopping online, they want to feel a sense of relationship with your employees. Meaningful, engaging conversation in the midst of solving their problem will endear them to your business and provoke a positive review on their social media feeds. Millennials want a two-way relationship with the companies they frequent, this is known as the reciprocity principle. In essence, what you give them they will give you. They have chosen to spend their money with your company and they expect a certain level of service in return.

5. They also want to know you.

Inasmuch as millennials want to be known, they also want to know you. Who is the face behind the name of the brand? What qualifies them to give advice? What sparked the idea behind this great invention or leap in technology? Generation Y asks questions that go beyond how the product will better their lives or keep them at the forefront of trendsetting. They want the story behind the brand. They read the About Us page of your website. They research how your mission and vision statement lines up with your social media feed and lifestyle. Millennials care about sustainability, going green, and equality. Share with them your story, your product sources, and manufacturing practices.

6. All millennials are not all alike.

Take your customer service experience out of the box. Your millennial customers refuse to be boxed in by stereotypes and clichés. They want the freedom to connect one way one day and another way the next day. Your customer service has to be just as fluid. Boston Consulting Group identified six different types of millennials. Knowing your segment of the market will help you cater your customer service content accurately.

While most companies tend to favor either the human service approach or the technology-based support models, the company of the future will create a well-balanced dual model. Investing in digital tools like mobile apps, text message service, a vibrant social media presence, and a full menu of online support tools will improve your customer service credibility with millennial customers. Technology is rapidly advancing, ensure your business embraces the change.

For more information on how your company can deliver out of the ordinary service to your millennial customers, contact At Your Service Consulting for a review of your customer service training options.


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What’s in a Name? Customer Service vs Customer Care

In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare wrote “what’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. While that may genuinely be true, if a rose is referred to as a dandelion it doesn’t hold the same value in our minds. The same is true for the name you give your client support team. A different name presents a different level of expectation. First to your team members and then to your customers.

The term customer service can evoke the sense of a “means to an end”. Customer service involves the internal process by which your customers are assisted. Patrons reach out to customer service specialists in order to complete transactions or for technical support. The specialist on the other end is contacted simply to fill a need and provide a service. There is a degree of separation between the two individuals.  A customer service interaction may not fill the gap that makes the difference between a one-time purchase and a new, loyal customer.

On the other hand, customer care is a new mental playing field. Your customer care team will be prone to going the extra mile as they “care” for their customers. They will seek to befriend your clients, even for just a few minutes. Caring for customers is a perspective that sees people, not dollars. They will see people like themselves who have questions or need support. Customer care is a position of interaction that goes beyond closing a sale and into developing a relationship. Your customer care team will seek to relate to the customer during a pleasant and memorable interaction. The end goal is customer satisfaction.

There are schools of thought that say it doesn’t matter what you name your team – the ultimate goal is to have satisfied customers and retain business. However, if the simple act of modifying the name of your customer relations team improves their performance, courtesy, and enjoyment of their job, it’s a step well worth taking. Satisfied employees will lead to satisfied customers and a strong bottom line.

Contact At Your Service Consulting today to learn more about taking your team from customer service to customer care and Delivering Out of the Ordinary Results!


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Balancing Humanity with Technology in Customer Service

Rosie the RobotAs we move deeper into the year 2016 and the 21st Century at-large, many of us have begun to wonder if the entertainment industry and dreamers of yesteryear were wrong. We’re not all in flying cars, the kids aren’t (safely) using hover boards, and the average home is not equipped with an internal computer system that asks you how your day was. Films like Back to the Future and television shows such as The Jetsons seem to have missed the mark on what life in “the future” would look like.

Although the dates may be off, the implementation is inevitable. Advanced technology is being tested and rolled out via large private organizations around the world. The goal of incorporating technology into the customer service experience has gone beyond automated answering services and computerized help systems. What does that mean for your company’s customer service protocols? Will live personnel at hotels and restaurants go the way of automated customer service lines – all technology, no humanistic approach? Can our customers of the future expect to be met with automation, androids, and kiosks? Quite the opposite, it would seem.

In a recent article by Micah Solomon published to Forbes.com, we discover that several international brands have been quietly mixing technology and human touch. The preferences of regular clients have been identified and stored in a computer system accessible to every branch and location enabling the same personal experience no matter where the client is in the world. This personal touch effect is handled on-site by a live person and becomes reminiscent of the one-on-one, concierge service of times past. Companies such as LDV Hospitality, a leader in the Food & Beverage industry, take great care in keeping these systems out of view of their clients. Customers are not directly asked what they prefer or given any forms to fill out. Rather, staff are encouraged to be observant toward regular customers and add their preferences into the background system. In this manner, clients are pleasantly surprised when they arrive at an LDV location and are met with their regular drink request.

You don’t have to own a multi-million dollar company to begin using technology to the advantage of your customer service experience. Ritz-Carlton started its customer service system by tracking just five preferences per guest and setting a goal of meeting at least three of those preferences on every subsequent visit. It can be as simple as noting the time of day a customer calls in or requests a call back; monitoring a shopper’s preference for paper, plastic, or reusable bags; jotting down how formal or informal your client keeps the interactions. Based on your business, your level of interaction, and your desire for personal touch service, business owners can create their own cheat sheets while empowering employees to add relevant information.

For more on adding a personal touch to your business, contact At Your Service Consulting. Let us help your business Deliver Out of the Ordinary Results.


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The Door is Open: Knowing your customers and their needs

Open Office DoorThe sign has been hung. The invitations sent. You’ve opened the doors to your business. Whether this took place last month or 10 years ago, knowing your customers and their needs is imperative to your company’s growth and sustainability.

No matter what industry you represent, customer service is a key to your success. From the first smile and hello of your reception staff to the last smile and have a nice day from your sales clerks, customer service is the magnet that will attract return business. In today’s consumer driven market, a business can increase or decrease by its reputation for customer service. A 2013 survey by American Express showed that great customer service is not about what consumers think, it’s about how they feel.

To ensure that your business stays the course remember to include a personal touch with every interaction. Use their name and make eye contact. Despite perceived trends toward technology and impersonal interactions, your customers do appreciate a kind word and offer of assistance when they step into a place of business.

Encourage your reception team to provide a moment for your customer to acclimate themselves to your interior layout, before greeting them warmly. Tele-businesses should allow a few moments for the line to fully connect before greeting the caller with the business represented and agent’s name. Basic employee training around tone of voice or body language can assist your staff in accurately assessing the hands-on or hands-off disposition of the current customer.

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