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Something A Little Different
Instead of writing and reading a blog post today we decided to podcast and then turn it into a blog post. This is the result of something that’s been bugging me lately, and it has to do with customer experience and good old-fashioned people skills.
We’re Tired! And We Hate Our Jobs!
Ok, not really… we may be tired (sometimes) but we don’t hate our jobs. More importantly we don’t tell our customers either one of those things.
But there seems to be an epidemic lately of people telling me, their customer, that they don’t want to be working, don’t like their job, are too tired… or something equally inappropriate.
Two unrelated events got me thinking about how too often marketing stops at the email campaign and at the social post and doesn’t extend to the actual human interaction.
The Movie Guy Who Hates People
The other day Ralph and I went to the movies. It was the middle of the day and the theater was pretty empty. I got to the counter and said hello to the guy waiting to help me. But instead of helping me he said, “I’ve only been here two hours and I can’t wait to go home.”
It seemed like an odd thing to say but I decided to go along with the conversation. So I asked him if he was having a rough day.
“I just can’t deal with people anymore.”
And as I stood there, cash in hand, just wanting to see a movie, all I could think was, “I’m people.”
And my movie-going experience was dampened by this guy basically telling me that he didn’t want to deal with me.
The Cashier Who Is Tired
On the very same day I went to Barnes and Noble to buy a book. As I put the book down on the counter to pay for it, the cashier, who said not one word of welcome, yawned and complained about how tired she was.
Maybe on another day this wouldn’t have struck me as so rude, but after the disgruntled movie guy, it stuck in my head.
And it got me thinking.
This is not a new thing.
This happens a lot. From clothing retailers to supermarkets, there are a whole lot of people telling me how bad their jobs are, how they can’t wait to go home, how they hate people and similar, wildly inappropriate things to be telling a customer.
You Spend Time And Money Getting Leads. But Are You Losing The Sale At The Register?
You’re pretty busy blogging and getting your Facebook posts right. You’re careful about your Pinterest graphics and you spend time updating your website.
But customer experience doesn’t end there. All the marketing in the world can’t make up for a poor experience.
I know someone who did all the right marketing. They got tons of leads. But it fell apart at the experience.
Their customers did nothing but complain, rightly so, about being treated poorly. They were yelled at, spoken to rudely, not given the right product or service, not offered help or resolution. So they posted bad reviews online. They complained on Facebook. They emailed complaints.
And every time I saw one of those complaints I would wonder why they were bothering with all this marketing when they couldn’t keep a customer for more than five minutes.
Don’t forget that experience is part of your marketing. It doesn’t matter how spot-on your email subject lines are if you aren’t making customers happy.
A Perfect Customer Service Experience
If all this sounds a little negative, here’s an example of a great customer experience, and it comes from one of our podcast sponsors, Tammie Rampley of Tramplee Designs.
Whenever we order a bag from her, she spends as much time as we need so we can pick exactly what we want. She asks us what we need to carry. She sends photos of fabrics. She sends more photos of fabrics. She never complains that we’re taking too long to pick. She encourages us to find the perfect one.
The whole process, right to getting that box delivered on our doorstep, makes us feel like we matter. Then when we open the box, there is a handwritten note inside thanking us for our business.
We don’t order bags from her because of her brilliant Facebook posts or her clever Pinterest photos. We order because (besides loving her products) working with her is a delight.
Too many people forget this part of their marketing and get so fixated on “being social” and “getting engagement” that they overlook the simple power of interacting with actual customers.
How You Pick Up The Phone Is Part Of Your Marketing, Too
As a kid, my mom taught me exactly how to introduce myself when I called someone and how to answer the phone when someone called me. It’s a matter of basic etiquette.
When I call, I introduce myself, say what I want and who I want to talk to. When someone calls my office I answer with a pleasant greeting.
Nothing drives me as nuts as a person who answers the phone and says, “Yeah?” or “What?” or something equally unwelcoming.
It’s not that complicated. If you pick up the phone, be polite. Say hello in a way that makes the person on the other end feel welcomed, not wishing they had never called.
I think that a lot of us answer the phone as an afterthought. We don’t answer the phone strategically, we just jump when it rings. And we may be in the middle of typing an email or making a note so we’re barely conscious of picking up the phone, let alone composing an appropriate reply.
There is a very simple solution: don’t answer the phone. When Ralph or I are working, we let calls go to voicemail. Then we return them when we are fully focused on the person at the other end.
Just as you can lose a sale at the register (figurative or otherwise) you can lose a sale with a rude, abrupt, impatient or bored phone reply.
The Email Problem
People tend to be incredibly unhelpful in emails and I think part of the problem stems from how many emails we get in a day. We just want to shoot off a reply and get that email out of our inbox as quickly as possible.
Answering with a one word reply is not helpful. Answering with what I like to refer to an “unanswer” is not helpful, either.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve emailed a vendor and said something like, “This thing isn’t working, can you help?” And I get some version of an unanswer that amounts to, “That thing isn’t working.”
Not sure what I should do with that but it usually results in half a dozen more emails just to get to zero.
Pay attention to what someone is asking. Give the best response you can. Don’t brush it off and breathe a sigh of relief that it’s in someone else’s inbox now.
It’s About Training
We all get tired. We all have bad days. Clients can be a pain. But even if 100,000,000 things go wrong in a day, you still have to be polite and welcoming to that 1000,000,0001st person.
We’re not born knowing this stuff and people we hire aren’t automatically in tune with our business culture. It’s our job as business owners to provide ongoing training, whether it’s for a single assistant, an intern or a full staff. Make sure people know how to interact with customers in a positive way. How to answer phones. How to answer emails. How to check out a customer at the register.
Even if you’re a one-person shop you need to keep practicing and reminding yourself that your business is only as good as how you treat your customers.
And by the way, “be nice to customers” isn’t exactly actionable. It could mean a hundred things, and different things to different people.
So it’s also your job to figure out what that means. How can you and the people who work with you make each customer feel like they are the most important person in the world?
Your Marketing Action Item
From Ralph: Make sure that you’re training your staff on how to interact with customers. But do it in a way that’s not so “top down”. Make everyone feel like they are part of the same team. Ask your employees about their customer interactions – good and bad. Ask what their experiences were, what their problems were, and work together to come up with solutions to improve those interactions. You don’t need to take a “come sit in my office” approach to training. You just need to take the time to talk with people – often – about what’s happening and what could be happening better.
From Carol Lynn: Prepare a greeting for when you pick up the phone. It can be as simple as introducing yourself with a polite hello and asking, “How may I help you?” Make people feel welcome. Watch your tone – you can say the same thing but it can come across entirely differently depending on how you say it. Then pick up the phone deliberately. Don’t pick up the phone as you’re writing an email. Don’t pick up the phone while you’re doing something else. Put a smile on your face, prepare to focus wholly on the person at the other end then answer politely.