* You are viewing the Search Results for "zappos"

Employ more customer service options to provide a concierge level of excellence

It’s not that we need surveys to show which organizations step out of the box to ensure a concierge level of excellence so coveted by consumers; organizations like Zappos, Amazon, and Nordstrom essentially offer everyone “fantastic” service. Customers who feel they have been treated royally will return to spend more money and even pay a premium for products or services. The problem is that only 55 percent of customers will share their good experiences whereas 82 percent of customers will share their bad experiences, and that’s what cuts into revenue and the coveted bottom-line to success.

Consumers are the ultimate decision makers when it comes to what they believe to be a great buying experience, and as entrepreneurs and innovative business owners there is the constant challenge to present customers with the most convenient and innovative ways and technologies to deal with consumer needs. For instance, what could be more frustrating and time consuming than having to navigate through a maze of telephone prompts when the Internet goes down or a defective product arrives in the afternoon mail? Why don’t all organizations supply an “escape” prompt where a live person will intervene? There should always be a way for a customer to engage a representative of a company before their last ounce of patience runs awry. It’s true that not every company can employ the 24/7 quality phone service of a corporation like American Express, but customers look for the least amount of work they have to do in order to be the happiest with their purchases.

In 2011, over 72.6 percent of Internet users purchased products online, and therefore customer service excellence needs to offer the sensational experiences which used to be associated only with brick and mortar establishments. Facebook and Twitter continue to gain popularity, and as organizations realize that IT personnel are not equipped to handle customer service, trained representatives have taken the wheel and hopefully provide clear and accurate responses to customer complaints before the frustration “factor” sets in and conversations get out of control. Email has become the most popular alternative to the telephone, but companies need to realize a quick answer is most likely going to make the difference in a consumer’s future shopping choices.

So how does an organization keep abreast of delivering the best buying experience besides telephones, email and social networks? No matter what the service or product, always clearly display every option a consumer can employ to reach out for help. Let a brick and mortar store prominently display liberal return policies, terms of special sales, guarantees and sincere promises of quality customer service with the best product or service an organization can make available. Let online companies use SMS text and online chat options to optimize a customer’s experience. Give an online customer the option to pick up their product in a store if the customer chooses. Clearly state F.A.Q.’s on company websites, be clear and concise when dealing with a problem, and treat each and every customer the exact way the company president would want to be treated.

Take lessons from the leaders in customer service

If I have a problem with Comcast, I am obligated to call their toll-free number and begin the maze of selecting the right option. When I finally arrive at choice #3 I am then instructed to hold on for the next available agent who will assist me with my problem. There is no relaxing elevator music where I can work until an agent answers; instead I’m forced to listen to a litany of advertisements offering me more services that might very well call me back to this same maze of customer service mediocrity.

Customer service needs to be more than just a smile and a representative having memorized the instruction manual. Agents are there to provide answers to questions, provide easy links and processes to purchase products and services, and respond to customer requests, but there’s a world of difference between organizations that step out of the “box” and those that plod along just humming from day to day. On the positive side, Comcast continues to improve their customer service home visits by guaranteeing their technician to be on time for home visits or providing a credit of $20 to one’s account. Still the first line of customer service which is that first impression hardly provides even a sparkle of “dazzle.”

Let’s visit with Zappos.com for a moment and discover how their customer service recipe extends far beyond what most other establishments offer. The organization started in 1998, and by 2009 Amazon paid one-billion dollars for an online shoe store which amazingly continues to entertain and delight while increasing its visibility, excelling  in connecting with customers, and selling more online merchandise than most other  stores. And it’s not a comparison between a service as in Comcast and a retail experience as in Zappos.com; it’s a response to understanding and perpetuating the best “foot” forward of service.

So what makes Zappos.com a leader in customer service? To begin the company works hard on their brand, has a definitive plan for success where everyone joins in, delivers the “wow” experience, and encourages employees to join in the quirkiness of the organization thus enabling employees to think on their own, enjoy the time they spend at Zappos, and feel they are all integral parts to the success of the company. It’s a fun place to work, folks smile and laugh, and the enthusiasm is contagious ranging from the new employees in training to the jungle-themed  corner desk of CEO Tony Hsieh who encourages employees to use social media and create their own videos telling their own stories. With a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee and a one-year return policy, consumers find the entire buying and service experience fun and efficient. Personnel at Zappos.com react to people by understanding what customers want and need without having to ask.

Great customer service representatives do seem to carry some common traits:

  • Great company representatives have excellent writing and speaking skills.
  •  Representatives are able to respond to a high volume of business without stressing out.
  • Great agents are self-confident without being boastful, are convincing and have a contagious personality.
  • Successful agents are able to take on different jobs and are willing to participate and help their fellow employees.

Should a superstar with these qualities walk through the door of your organization, be sure to offer her a job and watch your business grow.

Building a business culture to deliver the best customer service

A strong business culture that is aligned with superior business goals outperforms their competitors by light years. These are the organizations who have figured out how to delight their customers and even make them smile. After all isn’t the Zappos’ motto “powered by service” incredibly motivational which delivers a message of trust and reliability? Zappos has worked hard to develop their culture resulting in a high percentage of return customers; a much more lucrative business model than having to find new clients.

Deciding on what a business wants to accomplish is part of its core values and related to its overall culture. Customer service should be one of the top priorities, and the commitment to pleasing customers and delivering “out of the box” services should never be discouraged. When building a culture all employees need to participate, all levels of management needs to encourage and inspire, and business owners need to place themselves as role models to encourage the process.

As businesses grow they may evolve and change since each employee brings their own values and practices to an organization, but the key is to search for employees who have the same passion for excellence and empower those employees to act on their own and go out of their way for the sake of their company. Think of the Ritz Carlton employees who are empowered and constantly encouraged to treat each customer as an individual and react accordingly with each situation – whether it be sending out for a bouquet of flowers for a couple’s private anniversary celebration to a new bed pillow if a guest complains about it being uncomfortable.

How employees act and what they do should all be written out and shared by all employees, but assuming a company strives to build a positive business culture the following culture elements should be considered:

  • A commitment to employees which provides superior training to empower company personnel to do the right thing for customers on their own without having to refer to a manual and providing the employee with all of the tools needed to make their own decisions for the welfare of the organization.
  • Building the company’s integrity by always following the Golden Rule and honoring return policies, special promotions, and treating both customers and other employees as if each person is truly treasured and respected.
  • Effective leadership guides the basis for a strong culture and the motivational tools needed to help employees understand the company’s role as a positive business model.
  • Having the company focused on customers and fulfilling their needs and wants without just focusing on the profit of each business exchange.
  • Retaining valuable employees by rewarding them with higher salaries, bonuses, rewards and recognition for jobs well-done.
  • Communicating with customers and displaying customer service phone numbers and email addresses on every page of their websites so customers know an organization is always willing to listen to a customer if there is a problem. Remember most customers won’t tell a company what went wrong; they just leave and go on to your competition. Make it convenient for an unhappy customer to find you, and act accordingly to resolve the problem.
  • Don’t make customers go through a maze of automatic questions when they are calling for customer service or make customers wait for any extended period of time. Where IRS can take their time and really aren’t too worried about how taxpayers feel concerning the waiting time, their business is quite unique, but otherwise unpopular.
  • Hire the best employees and don’t limit the time they should be on the phone or spend in person with a customer who needs help. Instead ask for public feedback and written communications from customers about their experiences. Grade employees on their service and what customers say about them – use rewards for the very best. Recognize employees to their peers which will then encourage other employees to excel.

Have pride in your organization and develop its culture to be synonymous with honesty, teamwork, communication, innovation and a leader in customer service. The examples set forth by the foremost leaders promise a successful and profitable business when we strive to be the best of the best.

How to keep your customers from leaving you

A surprisingly high statistic from the Research Institute of America (RIA) states an average business will never hear a word from 96 percent of their unhappy customers whose complaints  range from poor service, rudeness, to discourteous treatment. These are the customers that silently move away from you and are welcomed with open-arms by the competition. These are the customers who tell their friends, co-workers, and family members about their bad experiences. Multiply the unhappy customers  who these people have told about their unsatisfactory experiences, and soon we realize that it’s not just one customer leaving us – it’s an army of lost consumers and a pocketful of lost revenue.

Statistics are not just for textbooks and graphs. For instance, in the animal rescue world for the control of the cat population, studies now confirm that 87 percent of cat owners have their pets spayed or neutered. It’s just staggering how one unspayed female cat and all of her offspring (assuming she has two litters per year and three kittens survive each litter) can produce 450,000 cats by the end of the seventh year.

Now let’s just imagine one customer being extremely unhappy and telling the average of ten other people. Most of us listen more to our friends’ recommendations and experiences than we do from television or print advertisements, and much like the game of “telephone” we played in third grade, by the time the story of an unpleasant experience gets to many of us, the story has escalated to be the worst experience to have ever hit the playground or of course, the business. And the tragedy of it all – lots of lost customers, clients, and business.

So what do we need to do as business owners to keep our customers? After all it’s much more expensive to find new customers, therefore doesn’t it seem logical that we step out of the box for everyone who graces the doors or  who clicks on a shopping cart for our organizations? Shouldn’t we deliver the best customer service  by providing the best training we can find? Shouldn’t we make our customers feel appreciated and special?

When something goes wrong, customers want an immediate response. They want the people in the company to fix the problem now – and want to be thought of as a person and an important one too, and it doesn’t matter if the customer spent $20 or $2000. That positive customer service experience can differentiate a company’s brand; the way a problem is resolved can make a huge impact on the customer and all of the people he tells about his experience. The customer service representatives, sales personnel, front desk receptionist and up to the CEO, who have developed and practiced their skills repeatedly are the reasons companies like the Ritz Carlton, American Express, and Zappos continue to grow and demonstrate outstanding customer relationships.

What has your business done recently to engage your personnel to help them deliver the best customer service ever?

Book Review: The Welcomer Edge: Unlocking the Secrets to Repeat Business

I recently finished reading The Welcomer Edge: Unlocking the Secrets to Repeat Business by Richard R. Shapiro who is the founder and President of The Center For Client Retention (TCFCR). Mr. Shapiro’s organization provides research, training, and consulting services to Fortune 500 corporations on how to improve customer service.

The book begins with a lighthearted description of four distinct categories of customer service personnel any organization is likely to have on their payroll:

  • We begin with the Welcomer or “Doctor of First Impressions.” These are the customer service representatives we all want; these are the people who enjoy their jobs, enjoy working with customers, and these are the employees who should be appreciated and valued. Most likely these are the people who volunteer in our own communities and love working towards the welfare of others. These are the people who make a difference.
  • Robots are the next classification and encompass the largest proportion of sales associates and representatives. Although they value and appreciate their positions in one’s company, they most likely view their jobs as exactly what is written in the employee manual and rarely step out of the box to do anything else than the obligatory customer interaction needed to get through the work day.
  • Moving on to the indifferent sales and customer service representative, these are the employees likely to be chatting on their cell phones or those who scarcely acknowledge a customer as she walks through the door and begins to shop.
  • And the final category are those we rarely encounter, however somewhere in our lifetime, we meet the hostile employee we hope never to meet again. That hostile employee can be rude and nasty and make you wonder why he even has a job.

The Welcomer Edge is divided into personal experiences and real business examples describing many of the author’s real world experiences applicable to either small or large organizations. The author presents examples in each chapter in order to highlight the advantages of nurturing customer relationships. Customers are not just seen as customers; skilled salesmen see customers as people first and remind all of us that good will, meaningful conversation, honesty and smiles go a long way when developing customer loyalty.

Good customer service is good for today. Having a welcomer provide good customer service wil make you return tomorrow. That’s a big difference.

So what makes a great welcomer? According to Mr. Shapiro, these are the people who are of course helpful, but in addition these are the people who show customers they care. A question is never just answered with a “yes” or “no” answer even though that one word would be correct for the circumstance, but these are the very people who understand that it’s not just “selling” a service or a commodity – it’s helping someone to find what they need or want. It’s what makes the difference in businesses like Zappos or the Ritz Carlton – it’s the attitude that some people have developed to make that initial contact with a customer the reason for that customer to want to come back.

Each of the eleven chapters of the book provides practical suggestions, specific examples, and addresses how business owners can connect the dots to better customer service. At the end of each chapter, “power points worth repeating” sum up the power of welcomers and how each missed chance can ultimately mean a missed opportunity in business.

Bottomline: Having a welcomer, or “Doctor of First Impressions,” are those employees who make customers feel important. From the moment a customer walks into a store the customer feels appreciated. By the time they get to the check-out experience, a connection should already have been made, and that lasting impression is what will keep that customer coming back again. The little things an organization does are the very elements that make the big difference in the ultimate customer service experience.

Pros: Mr. Shapiro’s book was well-written. He presents his experiences in a variety of different venues. The reader can’t help but smile at some of his personal experiences; many of them most of us can probably relate to at one time or another.

Cons: A few of the author’s examples might be a bit drawn out and not realistic for many people reading this book. For instance, I’m not sure how much time a business person would want to listen to his server’s vacation experiences or personal stories when often time is of the essence. That just might be all about one’s perspective though.

Interested in purchasing a copy? You can get it from Amazon.com ($11.90 in paperback) by clicking here.

Think, think, think about improving customer service

Customer service should be a priority if organizations expect to expand their businesses with new customers while still retaining their current loyal clientele. Businesses are so inundated with such automated services as paying bills online, balancing bank accounts online, pressing  14 digit account numbers followed by  pin numbers, our first pet’s name, our mother’s maiden name and the last four digits of our Social Security number, it almost seems that we all too commonly accept poor or no customer service as part of doing business.

Then through all of the haze of online “efficiency” appear companies like Enterprise, Zappos, and Ritz Carlton Hotels which present beautiful rainbows of personalized customer service. Surveys tell us that only one in three customers will actually tell you how they feel if there is a problem with your organization which creates the possibilities of losing two-thirds of your clients simply because something went awry and there was no way to figure out why these customers were even unhappy. When something goes wrong the first time a new customer deals with a business, chances are they will be heading to the competition next time. Nowadays customers have the Internet at their fingertips – plenty of other places to go in hardly a nanosecond.

So what do we need to do to keep our customers coming back? Why not start with learning from the service champions? Some people are just better at addressing customer needs and complaints than other representatives. Let the service champions be the guides and practice winning, proven methods to please customers. Practice fast and efficient service, but make it easy for customers to connect to a real person.

Shoppers between 25 and 44 years-old use Facebook, Yelp and Twitter to ask questions and complain about services, lack of services, lack of products, and the overall dissatisfaction with an organization. Companies who strive to improve their customer service can turn unhappy customers into happy customers and subsequent advocates by being readily available and responsive when an unhappy client posts his complaint. Have a helpful staff ready to make the bad things that have happened right, and sort out the problem in public before it becomes a real problem.

What do people look for when they shop? Two-thirds of customers choose where they shop based on their own personal experiences with the organization’s customer service. A business has to be easy to access, quick to respond, and be knowledgeable about the needs of a customer. Customers value expert advice, a helpful staff, and personal service. Organizations must continue to track disgruntled customers to make the situation right, be able to connect customers to that out of stock item Dawn M. really wanted, or find a customer service agent without having to play musical chairs through a maze of Press One to answer, Press Two to respond, and Press Three to return to Press One and Press Two again.

In the words of Winnie the Pooh, customer service is still all about successful businesses being able to “think, think, think.”

photo credit: typexnick

The silent exit of poor customer service

Kelli's editMost customers who feel they have been the recipients of poor customer service will never vocalize their feelings to a particular organization. According to First Financial Training Services and the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, only four percent of dissatisfied customers ever complain making the other 96 percent essentially ripe for the picking when another company offering similar services or products appear in the horizon.

Typically an unhappy customer who perceives that attitude of indifference will tell eight to ten of their friends, coworkers or family members about their bad experiences, and one in five people will tell 20 others. As the story spreads, it can become similar to the kitten over-breeding-epidemic – way out of control.

So what are some of the more obvious signs of poor customer service that silently drive customers away?  Here are a few observations:

  • There are no employees at the store’s front service desk.
  • Floor personnel are talking on their cell phones.
  • Managers ignore customers.
  • No direct eye-contact with personnel and customers.
  • Employees who are not familiar with the entire store – only one department.
  • Rude employees.
  • The attitude of indifference as perceived by a customer.

All is not lost however, since seven out of ten customers will continue to do business with an organization if their complaint is resolved, and 95 percent of consumers will be even happier if the problem is resolved immediately. While statistics also show that the average business spends six times more money to attract new customers and clients, loyalty from the current customers is also very important. Business comes from all over, and a growing client base is what grows a business.

As business owners do we necessarily recognize the signs of bad customer service? The answers actually depend on the owner or managers who first must demonstrate their interest in providing the best experience for every customer or client who interacts with their organizations. The CEO and upper management have to like what they do, because that attitude directly reflects on every employee and customer alike.

For some specific suggestions as to how to keep customers from walking out the door never to return – develop a rapport, call them by name, show that you are genuinely interested in their lives and how your organization can make a positive difference. And when a problem does occur, don’t read into it as the day the world fell apart. Instead step back for a moment and consider the viewpoint of the unhappy customer. Be reliable and credible, apologize when mess-ups occur, and resolve the conflict.

Exceptional customer service where representatives step way out of the box as they do in such luxury organizations as the Ritz Carlton or Mercedes Benz invite all businesses to take a few hints. Of course these organizations have huge budgets to spread the word, however companies like Zappos, Nordstrom, and even Amazon worked their way up the customer satisfaction ladder by careful training, attitude and that all inspiring will to please.

As someone with an infinite knowledge of pleasing customers and resolving conflicts the moment a problem is brought to his attention, his advice still rings in my mind – “you always want to dance with your clients.”

photo credit: Debs (ò‿ó)♪

I’m telling my friends about the bad customer service

Tony HsiehHow many of us really take the time to sit down and Google all of the information we need to make a formal complaint when a business treats us poorly? At the time and day this poor service happens we are angry, and we vow the moment we get home we will get a letter out to the CEO of the company and reiterate the miserable events of either our last purchase or service.

As reality settles in, and the other demands of life weigh more importantly upon our daily lives, often the letter doesn’t get written. Good thing for social media and Twitter however, but will that solve all of the problems we can’t quite condense to 140 characters or less? Sometimes we just need a letter with the chronology of events to point out every wrong either imagined or real done to us while spending our hard-earned dollars.

So who do we tell about bad service? Most of us will tell our friends. We go out for a Saturday night dinner with our neighbors, our relatives or our co-workers and the conversation most likely centers around that last unhappy experience at the airport, the restaurant, or the mall. Sometimes we just observe another shopper losing her patience, and we’re not sure if we should stay for the “show” or join in if the complaint is valid. Still imagine all the damage this entire bad customer service experience has had on the business.

How many times have any of us just left our would-be purchases on the ledge or on the counter because service was so slow? That then becomes a direct hit in the company’s wallet, but what can we do about some of this to make service better and keep customers coming back?

Some organizations seem to have misplaced the concept of customers first. Instead company policy intended to streamline and reduce costs wind up costing an organization more money. For example – a consumer’s cable television isn’t working correctly and the customer is told to call back later to see if the problem has been resolved. Unfortunately the  customer has then to repeat the entire telephone maze process again – thus releasing that exhaled breath of pure frustration and obscene muttered curse words.

What happens to customer service when the right candidates aren’t hired for the job? Customer service requires a certain type of person – one that can effectively demonstrate their patience and knowledge of customer preferences. One size does not fit all in the people pleasing category, but all too often customer service jobs start out as entry-level positions with entry-level salaries. In the nearby mall, there is a young adult clothing store which hires its sales personnel by their physical attractiveness – agreed the young women and men are extremely good-looking, but it hasn’t been any boom to their customer service skills. Many of the representatives have had no customer service training and appear to be incapable of making decisions when required they think “out of the box.”

And what every business needs to succeed and rise above the “bad” customer service is to lead by example. I just toured Zappos last week, and along with all of the camaraderie and team spirit, one aspect of the business plan particularly captured my attention. The CEO, Tony Hsieh’s desk and “cubicle” is out in the arena with all of the associates. There’s no special sign – no fancy glass walls – just a dangling bunch of green vines hanging through the aisle way as if out of a scene from a cheesy island adventure. The point – however – Hsieh is involved with the entire organization and has made customer service a priority – not by telling his employees, but being right there in the middle of the action. That my friends is what makes great customer service.

photo credit: jeffkward

« Previous Page  More Results »