13 Apr

Let’s get back to business basics

To stand out and be seen in today’s business world, sometimes we can feel pressured to spend a lot of time, money and energy on marketing, brand awareness and trying to shout louder than all our competitors. We focus a lot of time on trying to paint a picture of being bigger or better than everyone else.  Don’t get me wrong, marketing and brand awareness initiatives are very beneficial and obviously a very important component of any business. However, it is not the only component of a business. Unfortunately, too many businesses fall into this trap and lose sight of this. They lose sight of the basics. When last did you look at the foundations of your business?
So what are the basics or the foundations of a business? Besides confirming what your business stands for, it’s purpose, mission and values, a huge component of your business’s foundations would be it’s people. This is not just the team in your business, but it includes you the business owner/operator as well.
 When last did you buy into a fabulous offer to be terribly disappointed at the end result? This all comes down to the team and business owner of that specific business. They are the ones who need to ensure that the business is delivering on the promises, which have been made in the latest marketing campaign. Sadly, there are too many occasions where there is a gap between the promises businesses make and the outcomes that the customers receive.
So here are a few questions you can ask yourself before you spend hundreds of man-hours promoting your business.
1) Are you and your team trained correctly? This might be a simple question, but actually if you had to answer honestly, would you be ticking off all the boxes and deeming all players 100% competent?
If the answer is no then what would be required to get your team or yourself up to speed? Have you built that timeline into your marketing strategy?
2) Are you and your team aware of the importance of customer service? Does excellent customer service feature as one of your core business values? If everyone is aware of good customer service, are you seeing evidence of this taking place in your business?
It’s all good to have the knowledge, but is there evidence of good service practises, and are they part of the business culture?
3) Lastly and probably the most important question of all. Are you and your team motivated enough to continuously deliver on the business promise? People can be 100% competent to carry out the job, but do they have the will and motivation?
Be the business who sets itself up for success. Be the business who under-promises and over-delivers. If you really want to stand out and be seen above the crowd, invest the time and energy into building the basics. Build a strong team that can deliver. That is how you get noticed, that is what makes you different.
13 Oct

Toxic teams result in toxic customer engagement

There are certain stores and restaurants that I really enjoy going to, and there are others that I avoid like the plague. And no, its not about how expensive they are, it’s simply because of the attitude of the staff who work in them. Good attitudes, I’m a loyal patron. Rubbish attitudes, I take my business elsewhere.

This morning I was face to face with a cashier and was greeted with a “Hello, how are you doing today?” I answered with the standard “I am great, thank you”  and I then proceeded to open up Pandora’s box by returning the greeting. This is where I hold my breath and wait. Would the nasties erupt from the box? Would I have to be subjected to the wretchedness of this women’s life? Thank goodness, not this time! As a customer I could clearly see from her happy response that this young lady was being genuine (please note that I only shop at the cool attitude stores). Together with her cheery disposition  I was also presented with a lovely smile and great eye contact. She then proceeded to greet her colleague who was walking past us, not missing a beat mind you whilst scanning my goods.

Just from that 2 minute engagement this morning the impression I was given was that this lady enjoyed her job and got on with her colleagues.

Businesses lose money every year, due to customers like me. We won’t patronise your business if your staff are miserable, rude or disengaged. Why should we put ourselves through that misery when there are so many other fantastic businesses out there who look after their customers. It doesn’t matter how many deals or specials you advertise, if your staff suck and the experience is painful, I will not cross over to the dark side and do business with you.

So how do you get your staff to engage positively with your customers? The biggest secret and this may sound cliched, but its true is, if you look after your staff they will genuinely look after your customers. Simple.

Many businesses believe they are in competition with other businesses selling similar products and services, and therefore the business focus becomes external and so often placed on being better than the competition. The thing is, is that your competition could actually be inside your business. You could be competing for customers against your own staff. Disengaged and disgruntled staff, without even knowing it.

By creating a great place to work, building a strong and positive corporate culture your staff will want to come to work and they will come with smiles on their faces and interact positively with your customers.

With “creating a great place to work”, I am not talking about going out and physically building lavish staff recreation rooms and offices. I am talking about creating the right environment, where your team has a safe non-judgemental space in which to work, be acknowledged, be listened to and made to feel truly valued by you.

If you want to have an engaged workforce, try bringing in an external coach to work with your team. Contact me nicole@tikumu.co.nz for assistance.

25 Jun

Networking, the new customer service

What is the difference between mediocre customer service and great customer service?

This question has been asked and discussed ad nauseum over the years and when broaching the subject of customer service with employees, quite often you can see their eyes glaze over, their minds wander and their hearing suddenly becomes impaired. Customer service has somehow become a swear word for so many people.

So how do you avoid your employees turning into robots that present fake smiles and rehearsed sales pitches to your customers? How do you wake up them up to out-perform your competition?

Well, firstly the term customer service has gotta go! Let’s call it customer networking from now on? The objective behind this change is to equal the playing field. There is a very confusing cliche “the customer is always right”, which causes people to automatically create an employee-customer hierarchy with the customer naturally receiving a more superior status than the employee. This is a recipe for disaster and automatically places your employees on the back foot. If their mindset is not right and they engage with customers with an inferiority complex, the customer’s experience will either be mediocre or a disaster, but never great.

Secondly, start apply networking principles to customer service training. This will help to create a balance between employee and customer relations, where they interact on an equal level.

Carol Ross, a career coach talks about 8 principles of networking in her article 8 Principles of Networking Naturally.

How could these networking principles be applied to customer networking?

Principle # 1: Successful networkers are relationship-based, not transaction-based. 

People buy from people they like. So teach your employees to first build a genuine relationship with the customer. After establishing this bond then only  try the sales pitch. An extremely effective, but easy example is to get to know the customer’s name and use it in future interactions with them. People like to be recognised and made to feel good about themselves. Being greeted by your name is often a point of difference which the customer will not forget.

Principle # 2: Successful networkers have a genuine interest in people, as people. 

Teach your employees to not “read a book by it’s cover” Every customer is just a person, whether they are having a good day or a bad day. Whether they seem extremely intimidating or “look” like someone who is not going to buy. Everyone should be treated equally and should always be given the benefit of the doubt.

Principle # 3: Successful networkers listen more than talk.

Customer’s like to be heard. They like to know that someone is genuinely interested and cares about them. Disinterested, rushed and overly self-absorbed employees are very quickly noted by the customer and this type of behaviour is soon shared with potential customers.

Principle # 4: Successful networkers offer up value before asking for anything. 

Teach your employees that confidently giving of their time without strings attached and genuinely asking “How can I help you?” is part of creating that first impression, which the customer will always remember.

Principle # 5: Successful networkers know that networking happens anywhere, anytime, not just at “networking events.”

Employees need to be aware that customers identify them as “John, the sales assistant from x company”  even when they are outside of the working environment. So when employees  bump into one of their customers whilst off duty, they need to remember that  their behaviour influences the company reputation. So ignoring or pretending to not see the customer is not an option and can result in uncomfortable consequences. On the other hand a positive encounter outside of the business could lead to additional sales and creating a customer for life!

Principle # 6: Starting out, successful networkers treat everyone equally.

This one is focused rather at how employees treat their fellow internal customer than the external customer. Teach employees to keep their egos out of the working environment. Teach them to acknowledge the fact that every person working within the organisation plays a specific role and brings a unique skill to the success of the business.  The results of this type of positive internal networking shines through and is noticed by the external customer.

Principle # 7: Successful networkers focus on building trust.  They keep their word, act with integrity, and treat the relationship with care.  They create trust by being authentic and trustworthy.

This principle should be applied as is. We should all strive to follow this principle in our personal and business lives.

Principle # 8: Successful networkers are gracious. They give others the benefit of the doubt and don’t take things personally.

As you may know working on the front line has it’s ups and downs. Working with different customers with unique personalities, needs and attitudes can be challenging at times. Teach your employees that customers are human beings just like them.

As Carol so beautifully stated in her article, “...successful networking requires each of us to be the type of person that we would want to meet: someone with a generous spirit, an open mind, and an authentic voice. “ 

This should be the advise for customer networking. All employees should think about how they would want to be treated. Then be that person.