How to improve your customer service without spending a dime!

I’m sure if you were to ask 10 people what their biggest pet-peeve about shopping is, 11 would tell you it’s a bad customer service experience. Heck, look at most Yelp reviews with a lackluster rating and what do you see? Bad customer service. Whether it’s rude employees, not getting the value for your buck, or incompetence, there are a bunch of simple ways to improve the experience, stop the bleeding and keep those customers coming back to spend some more. In these times, with so many options for places to spend, and not a lot of people who can afford to do so, it doesn’t take much to implode. I worked in the restaurant industry for over 10 years. I prided myself on making sure people could come out and have a good time while I took care of them. If I was having a bad night, their money is still being spent. But these simple tips became very handy when things went awry. And these tips helped those times where things didn’t go right turn into loyal customers.

 

1) LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN! Oh, and LISTEN! Encourage your employees to listen to the grievance and help solve the problem. One of the things I hear people complain about most is dealing with a “know-nothing” employee. This, in my view, comes from employees not being empowered to do anything. If you give the authority to your employees to solve the problem as opposed to running to get a manager the customer will feel as if they are dealing with a competent, ie: smart and helpful, person. This doesn’t mean there are things that can’t go over their head or pay-grade. But encourage the employee to listen on how to solve the problem effectively. When a customer has a problem, they don’t want to explain it to someone who is just looking to run and hide so you can deal with it. It also makes the customer have to explain their issue more than once. I don’t know about you, but when I have to call my cell phone company and explain my issue repeatedly because I keep getting transferred from one person to another I get very annoyed. Typically solutions are simple, whether you just need to comp a meal, or they just need someone to listen to a grievance (sometimes that’s all they want) it doesn’t always need to escalate to the next level. But listen carefully so you can come to a fair resolution together. You can’t solve the problem if you don’t understand what the complaint is. LISTEN!

 

2) Seek out a problem. Yes you heard me (read me?) correctly. If you notice someone who is not happy then ask what you can do to resolve the issue. If a customer is picking through the clothes racks and just not finding anything, ask if there was something online they saw that maybe you can order from another store. If a customer leaves half their food and doesn’t want to box it up, ask if you can get them something else instead (or even just have the chef whip up something and surprise them). You’d be surprised how something like this will win over a customer for life who may not have come back because of a “meh” experience.

 

3). Follow up with them. If you have the opportunity, either get a contact number or email address to make sure there isn’t anything more you can do to get that customer back in the building. If you win them over, just think how many friends they will tell because of their experiences. Conversely, if you don’t win them over, just think how many friends they’ll tell about that. Also think about how many bad experiences from friends you hear about rather than the good ones.

 

4) Get as much feedback as you can from your customers. See where there are weaknesses. See where you missed those opportunities. And this also provides the opportunity to follow up with them to see if you have resolved whatever issues they had. It also gives them the opportunity to tell you what went right! As a manager, I never tired of those customer service experiences. When I got to hear praise about my employees and how wonderful they are.

 

These 4 little things are just the tip of the iceberg in ways to get your customers coming back. But you need to start from here. If things still need some sprucing up, my phone number and email are easy to find…

Have you ever seen a championship team without chemistry?

Continuing the theme of Peyton Manning talk, we’re shifting to chemistry now. As any sports fan knows, the chemistry of a team is very important. It’s one of those buzzwords you hear on ESPN all the time whenever some sort of team controversy pops up, which is all the time. When some player chimes in with some disparaging words for his fellow teammates or coach, “chemistry” is the new word of the day. The thing is, we rarely ever see the ESPN analysts discussing this issue with championship teams do we? And a lot of those championship teams have a core group of players that have been wearing that same uniform for quite a while. Coincidence? I think not. Look at the Patriots run of championships and success. The Colts had a lot of success. The Lakers. The Yankees. The Twins and the A’s in the early part of the decade. It’s not all about money and buying talent. It’s about keeping the same working pieces who can coexist and work well together and functioning like a well-oiled machine.

 

With the Peyton Manning news finally coming to an end (at least until training camp starts) we saw another player who was entangled in his decision end up going back to his old team. Alex Smith. Alex Smith is the starting QB for a team with a core group of players that have been there for quite a while now. They may add a piece or two here and there, but for the most part they have stayed the same. There is a lot to be said for that. When players have played together for a long time, they don’t have to think. They just react. They trust each other to do the right thing, to be where they are supposed to be. They develop a bond and understand how they will react and what can press their respective buttons. Smith’s returning to SF is, I believe, a very important element to the chemistry continuing to build towards a championship.

 

I read an article a few years ago about this same issue with doctors and hospital personnel. This is an area where the entire community where that hospital is benefits from how well they do their job. Do you want a surgeon performing anything risky on you if his or her mind is half-concentrating on whether or not the new nurse knows what they’re doing? No. Of course not. The article essentially stated that hospitals run much more smoothly the longer the employees have worked together. Why should that change for any other industry? Sure you want some fresh ideas every once in a while. But keeping that core chemistry thriving towards the “well-oiled machine” goal of every good company is very important. And, hopefully, for my hometown 49ers, that core chemistry will produce big time next year.

Pressing the reset button: Getting a new fresh face to your business. What Peyton Manning and the Colts have in common with you.

I am a big advocate of promoting from within. The people you have hired and employed deserve the first shot at any promotion. They know the business, the culture, the mission of what you are trying to do, the politics of the office, etc. Not only that, they will probably resent being passed over for some “outsider” to the position they “deserve.” It goes hand in hand of procedural justice. If someone feels like they didn’t get treated fairly for this promotion then their work product will probably suffer.

 

However, in honor of my favorite football player, Peyton Manning, getting released from the Colts today, I want to explore the other side of that coin. Manning has been the face of the Colts for about 13 years or so. He has been the most important player they’ve ever had. Just as Babe Ruth built the old Yankee Stadium, Manning is responsible for the state of the art, billion dollar Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy. Letting him go is definitely a signal that change is imminent. Bringing in that new face, whether Andrew Luck to play QB, or a new employee to your business at home gives that air of freshness, a new start, and a different perspective to usher in that new era.

 

It isn’t always a good thing to continue having the same people working for you. Sometimes shaking up the perspective and bringing in a new dynamic and method is just what the doctor ordered. While I am sad about Manning going elsewhere, the excitement of the “new” will get people re-energized. When you have the opportunity present itself, look to see whether a fresh face to lead is what you need.