Posts Tagged ‘customer service’

5 Tips for Solving Customer Service Issues

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We ALL make mistakes, it’s the nature of the business. But it’s how you deal with those mistakes that can make or break your company. And yes, maybe the customer was at fault or maybe the contractor or subcontractor is the one who created a huge mess, but none of that matters.

Playing the blame game will only get you in a bigger mess with your clients, so don’t start doing that. Your job is to remember the customer really is always right – or at least they need to feel like you’re going to make it right for them! Because the way you deal with mistakes is going to decide if your client is reasonable, AND how they are going to talk about you in the future…to other prospective clients! It’s that important, so always make it right.

So here are 5 things to do to get those customer service issues nipped in the bud:

1. Stop, listen, and ask questions. Yes, you have to really really really listen to them. What are they really upset about? What is the issue and how did it happen? Sometimes your customer wants to just vent and get it out of their system, so do not interrupt, do not try to give them a solution too soon. You want to let them feel like they have been heard completely and fully. If your client is more uncommunicative, you need to be the one to reach out and to get to the bottom of what the problem is. But be sure your tone of voice is caring and concerned, not like you want to interrogate them.

2. Think about things from their point of view. It’s oh-so-easy to just think your client is high-strung and way too demanding, but that won’t help anything. Think of it from their point of view. This is a lot of money for them, it’s one of the most personal places in their lives (namely their house) and they are worried about every aspect of it. They want it to be right, just like you do.

3. Apologize sincerely. You need to apologize fully and completely – don’t do any halfway or passive-aggressive apologies. People see right through those immediately. Again, you want them to feel that they are being heard and understood. If it’s your fault, take that hit and accept the blame. People really respect someone who can stand up and say “I did this and I apologize.” Too many want to hide behind someone else or just not accept that they did anything wrong. Don’t be that person. And if someone else is really to blame, the buck still stops with you. So you can say “I am so sorry this happened,” even if the contractor is the one who made the mistake. Just don’t throw anyone under the bus (especially your own team members) and don’t start pointing fingers. When emotions are high, that does not help.

4. Don’t get angry. Yes, clients can make us all mad, but we have to be the person in control in any confrontation with our clients. They are already stressed and uptight about spending money and allowing someone else to have control in their homes. So they probably aren’t going to react the way they normally would in any stressful situation that comes up. You have to be the calm, cool, and collected person, even when you want to scream. So do whatever you have to do to stay calm – count to 10, step outside for a second, think about fluffy kittens. If you get angry, it will only escalate the situation and that isn’t going to help at all.

5. Do what you have to do to make it right – and FAST. Sometimes, you’re going to have to eat the cost of that $5,000 sofa. Or you’re going to have to have someone re-hang all that wallpaper at your expense. It is what it is. But think about it this way – if you spend $5,000 now, you may have a client for life. Or at least a client who will tell others how amazing you are. So think of it as a marketing expense. Communication is KEY. Like it always is. This is the time to really over-communicate what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and when a solution will be ready. You want the customer to really feel that you’re resolving everything as quickly, efficiently, and painlessly as possible for her. So be sure you tell her that.

And yes, I know there are some mistakes or issues that are SO big that a client may not be appeased with anything at all. But it’s still better to try to make it as right as you can. Send them a note, email them, call them – even if they’ve said they want to cut ties with you.

It’s better to have tried and let them know that you do care. Most clients will come around eventually – but you have to do the hard work to get them back into a good place.

If you follow these steps, you should be able to smooth over any bumps in the road for your customer service!

xo,

 

 

 

 

 

The Joy of Listening

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Listen carefully because I need to tell you something really important…We don’t listen. Yes! It is so true. None of us (or very few) truly listen to each other or to our bodies. We often don’t even listen to the small voice inside–you know the one you may call intuition or your gut that is your innermost guide to what works for you.

We don’t listen to our spouses, our children, our families or our friends. We don’t listen to clients. We don’t listen.

As a part of my course in Nutrition at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, listening is taught as a very important concept for both personal wellness and coaching others. Makes sense, doesn’t it? So why don’t we do it?

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Well we all have our reasons. Usually it’s because we are thinking of ourselves or thinking about what we are going to say next. Often it’s because we think we are smarter or know better than the person that’s talking. Sometimes it’s because our minds are wandering or fretting over all the things on our to do list. It may be because we are distracted with social media (put your phone down please!) or television or our kids or our dogs. I mean seriously could we have any more distractions in our lives?

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So I am going to be brutally honest here—isn’t listening the only way we really learn and help others? As I really started to think about the reason that I personally don’t listen the way I should to my family or my clients I learned that for me it’s a matter of time. I’m always in a hurry. I never feel like I have the “luxury” of listening. And I think that is really sad. It goes back to my post last week on “having my plate too full”. I realized I feel this constant pressure to get things done and so every meeting, every encounter whether with friends or family or my business associates or vendors I am in a race against the clock to blurt out all the important things that I feel must be said before that imaginary buzzer in my head sounds and tells me it’s time to move on to the next thing. And I wonder why I always feel so stressed!! Living in this self-imposed fight or flight mode has the cortisol pumping 24-7 in my body and the repercussions on my health and relationships is detrimental.

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Then I started thinking about the JOY that comes with listening. And I am depriving myself of that connection with others when I am harried and on a deadline for every conversation. It is most evident when I think about my pre-teen daughter. I want more than anything else to stay connected with her as she grows like my mom has connected with me. And I’ve now had the light-bulb moment about listening and I realize this means clearing my plate so that I have time to listen to her. Real time. Eye contact. Being fully present.

And that is not semi-listening while on my laptop. It’s not pseudo-listening while I am cooking dinner. It’s real listening maybe while we go for a walk, or drive in the car or head out for a frozen yogurt and sit across from each other and smile. I have been drawn to a quote for a while that says “Time without attention is worthless”. These are powerful words. I think it goes to the heart of idea of quality time. But I feel like quality time has become one of those things that Americans give lip service to, don’t you? Most of us consider it “time with family” if we are in the same room or house with them while we multi-task on a million different things. And then there’s the problem of not listening to ourselves.

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Yes, there is the whole debacle of me not listening to my body. Seriously, could it scream any louder when I am out of balance. I suspect some of you can even hear it screaming where you are right now, ha! But all joking aside, when your joints ache and your pants don’t fit and your feet hurt and your brain is foggy, wouldn’t an intelligent and logical person listen? One would think, but so few of us do. That’s why we are all overworked, sleep-deprived, stressed out, and depressed. It’s why we need alcohol and anti-depressants, mindless TV and Facebook to numb us from hearing that persistent voice inside telling us exactly what we already know, but don’t want to hear. For me the message is SLOW DOWN! DO LESS! RELAX! It’s saying please, please, please I beg of you to go up to your yoga room, or take 20 minutes and meditate, or go out for a walk and breathe all that fresh air! What message is your body telling you?

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So I am turning my focus now not to listening (ironically), but to getting things off my plate. My need to open up whitespace in my life, to prioritize and say no. I need to remove more deadlines and stress and quite honestly to love myself more. This is the only way I will be able to listen—truly listen, to those precious people and clients and colleagues that are most important to me. And it is definitely the only way I will ever hear myself.

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I know in my heart and in my gut that listening is one of the things that can bring me the most JOY this year. I want to listen to my heart, my loves and my body more than ever before.

Will you join me in finding the Joy in listening? Tell me your answer—I’m listening.

Joyfully yours,

Tobi Signature

 

 

8 Ways to Offer White Glove Service

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What if each time a client walked in the door of your offices, she was offered mint-infused water in gorgeous glassware and a handmade chocolate truffle? What if you showed up for every appointment at her house, unruffled, fully prepared, and right on time? What if she never once had to pick up the phone to call you because you and your staff were in regular contact, anticipating her questions before she even knew she had them? What if you gave her an exquisite thank-you gift at the end of the project? What if you gave every client that iconic white-glove service? Wouldn’t YOU want to work with a company that did all of that? I know I would!

Designing a white-glove customer experience is like designing a room — you have to think carefully about every element. So here are 8 ideas that will help you create that incredible experience for your clients:

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1. Create a system for every point of contact. I want you to standardize all the points of contact with your clients by making checklists and setting up procedures so that you offer a consistently high level of customer service. If you have a system, you won’t drop the ball. And remember that your first point of contact is when a customer hits your website or calls your office, so be sure your brand is well represented in both of those areas, too.

2. Consistency is key. Do it the same way (fabulously) every single time for every single client. Besides the fact that it’s the right thing to do, also imagine how a client would feel if she compares notes with another of your clients and finds out she isn’t getting the same service. Yikes.

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3. Gifts are great. Who doesn’t like to receive a little present? Pampering clients with thoughtfully chosen gifts at key stages of the project is an easy way to elevate your level of customer service. They don’t have to cost a lot to mean a lot. And never forget the power of a handwritten note!

4. Don’t leave them hanging. After the exciting presentation and before the installation is one long quiet time, as far as your client can tell. So be sure you have a communication system in place to keep them up-to-date and to let them know that you’re working hard on their project.

5. Elevate your ideas. Look at every system and step you have in place, from your presentation to any gifts you give. How can you add a WOW factor to really take your customer service to the next level? It could be something like sending an on-site video to them to tell them how excited you are to see progress on their home, to giving them their own private page on your website.

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6. Do what you say you will. If you get down to basics, though, do you know what will make your client the absolute happiest? It’s if you can really deliver their project on time and on budget. So be sure you’re focusing on that as your top priority.

7. Own any mistakes. Hey, things happen – especially when there are so many moving parts to a project. But how you own up to your mistakes is what will really make your client feel like you care.

8. Say thank you. This seems so simple, but too many people forget it. Be sure to thank your clients for their business. They could have gone to anyone, but they chose you. Let them know you appreciate it – and don’t just stop with the end of their project. Check in with them throughout the year to let them know you’re still thinking of them.

Use these eight tips to take your customer service to that white-glove level! And let me know what you do to “wow” your clients in the comments section below.

xo,

Tobi-Signature

 

 

 

 

Give Your Clients Something to Talk About

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If you’re “of a certain age,” you probably remember that famous Breck shampoo commercial that showed a woman who loved the shampoo so much that she told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on and so on. At the time, I just thought it was a cute commercial. I didn’t realize that it’s one of the best examples of how advertising really works.

What do I mean? Well studies by top advertising and research companies like Ogilvy and Nielsen show that 84% of people trust recommendations about products and services from family, friends, and acquaintances more than they do any other form of advertising or marketing! In fact, that’s almost double the percentage who are influenced by the next most influential channel. It really shows the power of people, doesn’t it?

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There’s even a term for it now that’s being taught in the top business schools: Word-of-Mouth Marketing, or WOMM. And it is critical for the success of YOUR small business. You can throw all the money you want into advertising and marketing, but if you’re ignoring your client’s experience and the customer service you provide, that marketing isn’t going to do a thing for you.

You would be better off spending more money ensuring that you have stellar systems in place, that you are meeting every deadline, and that you’re handling any issues quickly and professionally. You would influence more people if the clients you’ve worked with can only say “That business is one of the best I’ve ever worked with!”

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So what do you think your clients – past and current – would say about you right now to their family and friends? Because studies also show that you’re only one degree of separation away from your next great client! You want people to have something great to say about you – not something less-than-flattering.

Take an honest look at your client experience. Map out every point of contact you have with your clients and decide where you can do a better job of communicating with them, or where you could provide a WOW moment that will knock their socks off. But be prepared – because you then have do that same amazing job for every single client, every single time!

If you provide amazing customer service, consistently and effectively, you’re really going to give your clients something to talk about! And that will help you grow your client list better than anything else you can do!

xo,

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The Art of Truly Listening

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Have you ever gone to a party and found yourself drawn to person you’ve never met before, who seemed to be completely interested in you and everything you had to say? It’s like finding a new best friend, someone you seem to click with right away. That person usually only did one simple thing that made you feel special – they listened to you.

Listening seems to be a dying art. In today’s world of social media, oversharing, and selfies, we seem to be turning into people who want to showcase ourselves, but never really invest the time in learning about others. That can really hurt us in our personal lives and in our professional careers. If you are thinking that it’s a new year, and you want to turn things around in your business, this is one of the simplest things you can do that I promise will pay off. LISTEN.

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As an extrovert myself, this is something I definitely had to work on in my own life and career. Early in my design business, I had so many ideas and thoughts that I wanted to share them immediately with my clients, without actually giving them the space and time to tell me what they wanted and needed. I once even had a client say, “Are you listening to me?” before I actually slowed down and thought about how this was impacting me and my business. Over my 17 years in business, I’ve learned to ask a lot of questions and to really and truly listen to what the other person is saying. It’s made a huge difference in my design work, and in my business as a whole! Who am I kidding – it’s helped my personal life, too!

It’s so critical to focus on what another person is telling us. It does more than just make them feel important – you can learn so much about the other person and what they need. But you are also giving them a great customer service experience that will improve your bottom line. After all, according to Jonah Berger in his book Contagious, when people talk about themselves and are given the opportunity to share opinions, it activates their brains like a reward does, like when they are given food or money. And all of those chemicals that make them feel good are giving them a really good feeling about YOU.

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Remember though, you can’t sit there thinking about what you’re going to say next while you’re supposedly listening to that other person. You have to really LISTEN, taking in everything they are actually saying, as well as their body language and non-verbal cues. You want to lean in, to ask questions at the appropriate time, and to give them the spotlight that they want and deserve. Imagine what a different world we might have today if we spent more time focusing on someone else instead of taking yet another selfie.

Instead of being selfish with your time and attention, learn to give it away freely and openly. It will make you a better person, a better customer service provider, and a much more effective businessperson!

What do think of this simple but radical idea? Let me know in the comments section below. I’m listening!

xo,

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