There's a lot of rhetoric that surrounds the conversation of "great customer service". I've seen a hundred posts about what makes a company stand out and I've even written a few of those. A couple of weeks ago, a customer that I talk to on a regular basis told me that she trusted me. It resonated with me - what is knowledge about a product unless you're communicating with trust backing up your words.
What makes someone trustworthy? Are we immediately to be fighting against the stigma of negative customer service experiences that we've all had? What can we do to immediately create trust between us and our customers?
Know and Be Upfront About Limitations
If a potential customer calls me and says they need seven thousand lines on a live conference, I am honest about our limitations in that area. This practice doesn't mean that you have to turn the business away but you need to make sure you’re setting the expectations. "Well, no, I'm sorry, we can't do that but here are some other options that might work for you," is a perfect response. Just because you're letting the customer know what they can expect doesn't mean you can't find out more about their needs and try to work a solution into what you can do for them.
Demonstrate Knowledge about Your Products
One of my favorite discussions to have with a customer is to make suggestions that I think are useful for their needs. When someone calls with questions, the expectation is that I will know what I’m talking about and be able to help them navigate the full scope of our products. Doing this allows me to assist a customer in choosing what is going to work best for them. Simply understanding how your product bills, special rates, and additional features goes a huge way in establishing trust with customers.
Communicate Consistent Messages
Consistency is a huge key to being trustworthy to a customer. Chain restaurants are often designed and laid out in the same way so that no matter where you are, you are in a familiar setting. McDonalds is a great example of consistent layout, design, and menu. We have adopted the same philosophy here. No matter who you call and speak to, you will get the same answer for all of your questions. It’s a more challenging approach because we don’t use scripts and much of our success in consistency comes down to our hiring process, but it can be done. Delivering a consistent message on rates, technology, and even limitations will plant and grow the seeds of trust between you and your clients.
The truth about being trustworthy (heh) is that you have to earn it. You may not immediately get that relationship with a customer, but from the first time you interact with them, you should be doing everything you can to gain that trust. What do you do to foster trust between your staff and clients?
I have always tried to look at every situation with a resolution, rather than a problem. It is the “Duck Theory” that I adopted long ago from my sister, who has always been my best mentor.
The premise is that when you see a gaggle of ducks swimming, you see this beautiful motion of them gliding through the water effortlessly. But, if you were to turn the picture upside down, then you would see that the legs are quickly rotating and maneuvering to keep up, slow down, turn, trying to keep up with the group or get ahead. The mechanics to create the movement are two entirely different pictures.
It is the same in business, customers should only see above the water, the smooth action of a forward glide. They do not need (and normally do not want to know) the mechanics behind it. They just need to know that you understand they have a problem, and yo’ you’ll solve it.
So what if all problems do not have a solution? Some needs just can’t be met. I admire those that go above and beyond. The "Heroes" that we remember. Olympic competitors don’t just work out, they focus on what workout is best to enhance their skills and stay focused for four years to compete against the best. They don’t say the word "can’t" for 4 years or even longer. Survivors don’t quit, they are the ones with the remarkable stories about how their resilience got them through a tough situation. My answer is never say "never".
When the duck theory is applied, you supply the effort so customers are effortlessly rewarded.
Have you ever seen the movie Down With Love?
I have seen it so many times. You have to look beyond the fact that it didn't get great reviews and see it as what it really is -- it a satirical piece that pokes gentle, but loving, fun at the rom-coms of the 60's. It happened to be on a couple of weeks ago and I watched it with a friend. (Sidenote: Movies like this should always be watched with your best friend. It makes them way more fun.)
The movie was so flawless in its satire - even right down to the over the top, wild hand gestures. David Hyde Pierce really has those down pat. My friend and I determined that everything should have big, over the top hand gestures. It makes things more exciting. Simply reading your lines in a movie and expecting a reaction is not going to be effective. The reason Down With Love works is because the actors and directors took special steps to make sure they moved and spoke in a way that would make the audience feel a certain way. The hand movements and camera angle were supposed to look cheesy -- so that I would remember my love of 60s rom-coms and giggle.
The next time you host an event or a web conference, think about how you are using the tools at your disposal to evoke emotions in your participants. Much like an actor, your tools are limited to your voice, movements, and facial expression. When you're without one or more of these elements, like on a conference call, it makes it harder to get the reactions you want and you could end up failing. Think about when Hollywood made the move to "talking pictures" rather than silent films, many of the faces that people had grown to love were no longer a viable part of Hollywood because they had really unattractive voices.
It's not really a shock, then, that I am often suggesting that you are aware of the way you sound. Which is where this title comes into play -- Down With Love has inspired me to advise to be Down With Being Boring.
- Stop writing out all of your notes on a page and reading them word for word.
- Stop standing behind a podium.
- Stop mumbling.
- Stop leaving your audience out of the presentation.
- Start making a bullet list so that you can follow a guide for your presentation instead of droning on and on. (People know when you're reading from a list)
- Step out from behind the podium and walk around the stage during live presentations. Movements are natural.
- Speak clearly and enunciate. Be sure you host a sound check with the conference call provider or the venue to have a sound check.
- Leave plenty of time for a Q&A session. The information you're presenting will surely raise questions along the way -- questions that only you can answer.
On your next presentation or conference call, try taking the down with being boring approach and see how your feedback changes. What do you do to keep from being boring when you make presentations?
I admit to loving the cliche I'm picking up what you're putting down. I think it’s hilarious – don’t judge me. But I heard it the other day and I wondered how we can apply a statement like this to things like writing. Writing a blog is all about catching someone’s attention and getting them to come back over and over again. What makes someone “pick up” what you’re “putting down”?
- Make it shiny. What makes you lean down and pick up a coin from the ground? The answer to that question is simple – because it’s metal and the light catches your eye. Natural curiosity has you stopping to study the item to see what it is. 1. For blogs you have to create the shiny effect by grabbing their attention right away. Many readers are “skimmers” so they’ll read the beginning and the end, so if those aren’t interesting, your readers are going to move on. You have to tell a story, or a joke, and create a moment that they will want to stick around for. Now, you’ve caught their eye, just like a shiny coin waiting on the sidewalk.
- Add some value. How many times has a penny grabbed your attention and you’ve walked right on by? Why? Because it’s a penny and many of us can’t see the value of a single penny. (Don’t try to tally up the number of times you have done this, it will only depress you – seriously.) If that penny magically becomes a dime, I know you’re going to pick it up and put it in your pocket. 1. You have to tell people how the heck they are supposed to take what you’re writing and make it work for them. It is one thing to say “hey this worked for me” but another to really show them. If you don’t want to give away your own secrets, that’s okay, but you need to show them how another company did something similar. This is so your readers will be inspired to do something about the idea you’re sharing.
- Save, save, save. That dime will end up in a change jar or hanging out in your purse with your lip gloss, until the day comes that you’ve had enough and you head down to turn that coin into cash and go shopping.
- It’s one thing to make your readers pick up the coin and it’s another to make them save it. When you’re writing you have to give them a reason to carry around the information. It’s not as simple as “great content” – it’s about showing readers how your post is going to affect their business or blog down the road. What happens in six months? What happens in twelve? Give them an idea so that they will put your post in their pocket and take it with them.
The next time you write a blog, plan a conference call, or start new campaigns think about how your attention is grabbed when you see that coin on the street. What makes you think it’s valuable and worth putting in your pocket? Ask yourself this – are your readers or atendees picking up what you’re putting down?
In the Dallas/Fort Worth area, sometimes we get thunderstorms that prompt tornado warnings and sirens, sending families and pets into the bathroom or underground to take cover. Weather both fascinates and scares me, so when there’s severe weather in the area, I’m always on a local station website. Some of these sites include chat programs where volunteers, usually storm spotters or chasers, help the public to understand when and where these storms will be moving.
They aren’t meteorologists but their experience makes them a trusted source. Imagine my surprise when one of these trusted sources began to talk about how he personally didn’t feel like there was much of a tornado threat in our area, despite active watches in the area. He’s trusted, certified, and understands how the weather works. On Tuesday night, there ended up being 13 reported tornado touch downs in our area which made his comments very irresponsible.
When you call yourself (or get called) an expert, it puts you in the position where you become responsible for communicating accurate information, no matter what the subject.
Anytime you consider yourself to be an expert, you have to respect that title, and use it to educate your clients, customers, or people looking to you for advice.
For example, we are considered to be conference experts, but that is only because every single one of our operators is trained the exact same way with all of our products. This is to ensure that a customer can speak to anyone and always get consistent information. We also try to educate our customers so that they know and understand how a product works, or what additional features might be available to them. We can walk you through setting up your first conference from start to finish, and even suggest any of our services that might help you get a little more from the service.
Since we are experts in our field, we take it very seriously, and if you’re in the position where you feel like you are “expert” enough to make yourself publically available, you better respect that. How do you stay true to the trust that your customers and clients have given you?
If it’s not your first time stopping by, then you probably know I’m from small town Arkansas, where word travels fast. If you say something about another person, by the time you get to the other side of town (which is about a three minute drive) they have already heard everything about it and have made their own decisions.
When a crisis strikes, the only way you’re going to make it through is being prepared. No one wants to sit around and think about what might come along and cause pain or injury, but because there’s no way to see the future, everything has to be taken into consideration. In business and on our social networks, we can often be considered as little communities, so how can you prepare in advance for something you might never see coming? What happens when your small community faces a crisis?
Whatever message you have, write it down. This information will pass through a lot of hands and you don’t want anyone playing “telephone” with a message as important as this.
Ever played the game “telephone” where you whisper a secret and it travels down the line, only to come to the last person a mere skeleton of what the thought originally was? When news breaks in a small community, it can be hard to stop the flow of mis-information and personal judgments. Put your message on paper so what you’re passing around is going to be the same for everyone.
Contact the neighboring towns to find out what they could provide if your community is put into an unexpected tight spot.
One of the towns close to home has a small, all volunteer fire department with one engine that is top speed about 50 MPH (no, seriously, I’ve been behind this thing when it’s on the way to a fire). It just so happens to be in an area that is highly prone to wildfires. The city knows they are without the funds to purchase new and better equipment, so they made arrangements with nearby communities to pitch in when it’s needed. I’ve seen the fire departments from five different towns converge on this tiny community to help put out fires.
Prepare messages in advance and role play potential problems that could affect your community.
You can never know what’s coming with your community, business, organization, or even your best friend – but what you can do is make a plan, well in advance and be prepared in the event that something does happen. That way, when you need to respond right away, you’re not stuck on the stage where you are trying plan what to do when faced with a crisis.