About

May 2017 eNewlsetter

Welcome to our May business eNewsletter focused on the importance of customer service.

Quote of the month:
“The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best but legendary.” ~ Sam Walton

In this Issue…


Free Event – Let’s Simplify Social Security!

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Tuesday, June 20th
5:30 p.m.
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*Nationwide Investment Services Corporation (NISC), member FINRA. Nationwide Retirement Institute is a division of NISC


How to Avoid a Customer Service Catastrophe

Training, protocols and a generous spirit can defuse explosive situations

Customer service has been a hot-button topic in recent weeks after a series of highly public events on airlines went viral on social media.

One passenger was dragged from a plane after refusing to give up his overbooked seat. Another was ejected after using the restroom at an unapproved moment, and a flight attendant nearly got into a scuffle over a stroller.

At a time when most people have mobile phones handy to take photos or videos of any potential customer service catastrophe, it has become more important than ever for restaurant operators to train their staff to defuse potentially explosive situations before they become news, said attorney Philippe Weiss, managing director of Seyfarth Shaw at Work, an employment-focused compliance and training subsidiary of the law firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP.

“In the last two or three months, we’ve seen a lot of calls to our team requesting guidance, support and strategies about how to deal with these issues,” Weiss said.

To say customer service is a key factor for restaurants is not an overstatement, Weiss said. Potential customer service catastrophes happen every day across the industry.

One restaurant client, famous for its meatball hoagies, got into hot water after it ran out of the sandwich. A server with the best intentions offered the guest an uneaten half sandwich left over from another table.

Another restaurant faced backlash after a server posted pictures of a complaining guest and his spouse with the nicknames “Grumpy” and “Plumpy.”

At a breakfast spot, guests clashed after a three-year-old was allowed to roam through the restaurant and a misguided cashier suggested that the parents “put a leash on it.”

Does customer service training need to involve lawyers? With social media as a factor, it probably should, Weiss said.

“It has up-ended the entire landscape of both reputational risk and even liability risk,” he said. “You have the court of law, but now the court of public opinion can magnify all those issues.”

When customer service catastrophes go viral, the backstory that most people never see includes all the things that may have occurred before the cameras were turned on, Weiss said.

“We may have done everything right, but what people see is part three, when the cameras come on,” he said. “That’s when a staff member is pushed into a corner or caught in a more conflict-ridden engagement, and that’s what goes out to the world.”

But restaurants can take steps to prevent that situation from reaching that point of conflict he said. Here are some tips:

1. Go Above and Beyond.

Comping food and drink works. Restaurants should budget for it, Weiss said. But it should be done in a reasonable, systematic way, and only when needed and valuable.

In some cases, restaurants may want to empower experienced and trusted servers to comp meals, offer a free drink or dessert. Weiss recommended using a designated staff member to control how and when to accommodate guests. But the point is to “over-communicate, over-console and over-compensate,” he said.

Unlike most industries, restaurants are in the unique position of being able to build a bridge in the heat of the moment that can turn an irate customer into a loyal one.

“That’s fundamentally what hospitality is all about,” he said. “If you’ve done things right, you’ll have people who not only feel so differently about the restaurant, they’ll talk it up to others.”

2. Train customer-facing employees to speak in a way that reflects the restaurant’s values, standards and conduct rules.

The more fluid those staff members are with the language of your restaurant’s style of hospitality, the less likely they will be thrown off message if a conversation with an unhappy guest begins to escalate, Weiss said.

3. Practice Common Customer Service Situations with Role Play.

Have someone play the role of angry patron and practice techniques, language and body positioning until it feels comfortable and natural.

A script can be developed that helps servers find the right words, but Weiss recommended running that script by legal counsel to make sure it doesn’t cross any lines of liability.

“You don’t want to admit to anything, like we completely ruined A, B and C. You can be sorry about someone’s experience without admitting fault,” he said.

Avoid corporate jargon, legal speak or excess verbiage.

“Use friendly, everyday, plain English,” he said. “If you train and test your people to deliver that script with a smile, they’ll be far more likely to be able to do it in a real tense moment.”

4. If a Patron Gets Disruptive, Go in Slow and Low.

Speak to them slowly, and not in their personal space. If it feels right, get physically on their level, rather than standing over them at the table. Make sure your tone and body language are non-confrontational, he said.

Describe the impact of their conduct, rather than how badly the guest may be behaving. They may always have an excuse for their bad behavior, but they can’t argue with the impact and how it might be affecting others, Weiss said.

5. Establish a Customer Crisis Point Person.

Give that person extra training in handling disappointed or demanding customers, and establish procedures.

If a guest has to be asked to leave the premises, for example, Weiss recommended that point person tell the guest something like this, though delivered in their own way.

“We appreciate that there may be differing views. However, we have rules and standards of conduct that we must uphold in all circumstances on these premises. As the manager, it is my responsibility to ensure that the staff, as well as other guests, are treated consistently with our policies and that they feel comfortable and safe at all times. So, we have to ask you to leave the premises.”

6. Don’t Agree with or Condone any Customer Misconduct.

It may be tempting to show support for a regular customer in some situations, but it could create legal landmines.

“The customer is only right so long as he or she is also respectful,” he said.

7. If a Customer Has to Be Removed but Won’t Go Voluntarily, Let Local Law Enforcement Handle It.

“You don’t want anyone on your staff to get into a physical altercation,” he said.

The customer crisis point person should have his or her phone pre-programmed to dial 911 with one touch while they try to defuse the situation.

Read this article at the Restaurant-Hospitality.com


5 Customer Service Lessons Every Business Needs to Learn
By Rieva Lesonsky

Your small business’s customer service could be driving customers away. How can you know if you’re delivering the level of service customers expect? Microsoft’s 2016 State of Global Customer Service Report surveyed consumers to see what they want, what they get and what they don’t get from customer service. Here’s what they said – and five takeaways for your business.

What makes a good customer service experience? Customers want to get their problems resolved easily and to deal with representatives who know what they’re doing. Specifically, when asked what is the most important element of a satisfying customer service experience, they say:

  • Not having to repeat myself/not being passed to another agent – 32 percent
  • Friendly, knowledgeable customer service agent – 28 percent
  • Resolving a problem on the first contact – 24 percent

What makes customers unhappy with a customer service experience? When asked what is the most frustrating aspect of a poor customer service experience, respondents say:

  • Not being able to reach a live person for support – 36 percent
  • A customer service agent not having the knowledge or ability to resolve my issue – 25 percent
  • Not being able to resolve my issue or find information I need online – 20 percent
  • Having to repeat or provide my information to the agent(s) – 18 percent

The older consumers are, the more frustrated they find it when they can’t reach a live person to help them. Thirty-eight percent of those over age 55 say this is frustrating, compared to just 23 percent of those aged 18-34. Younger consumers, in contrast, are more interested in finding information and answers online; 35 percent say the most frustrating aspect of a poor customer service experience is not being able to resolve the issue or find info they need online.

What channels do people prefer to use to get help? Most people in the use a variety of channels depending on their needs. In general, the phone is the preferred way to get help, followed by email and then live chat. However, there are some important age differences. For example, email is the most popular way to get customer service assistance for those aged 18 to 34, while phone is the second most popular channel. For those aged 35 to 55, it’s reversed: They use the phone most often and email is the second most popular channel. However, don’t assume that older consumers don’t use digital channels to get help. Even among those aged 55 and up, almost half (46 percent) go online for customer service.

What lessons can you learn? Here are five:

    1. Provide a variety of options for getting assistance. Customers want to “have it their way,” whether that means calling you, emailing you or using live chat. The more alternatives you provide, the more people you’re going to make happy.
    1. Give customers the option to help themselves. Many people like to go online, either on the company’s website or on a general Internet search, to get answers to their questions. Enable this self-service approach by maintaining answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) on your site. Keep them updated and current. If your product or service is complex, consider adding how-to videos or online tutorials to help customers learn to use it.
    1. Implement live online chat. Lots of people would prefer to interact with a customer service agent quickly via chat instead of waiting on hold. Investigate chat widgets that you can add to your site or see if your existing customer service solution offers this option.
    1. Don’t make customers wait. Speaking of waiting on hold, the Microsoft survey reports that the majority of customers in all age groups are not willing to wait more than 5 minutes on hold. Choose a communications system that enables you to queue callers based on their issues and quickly get them to an available customer service rep.
  1. Listen when customers tell you how they feel. Plenty of customer service issues could be avoided if business owners paid more attention to customer opinions in the first place. Nearly half of survey respondents aged 18-54 and more than half of those aged 55+ don’t believe that brands take action on customer feedback. If you don’t listen to what customers say with their mouths, they’ll start speaking with their wallets as they head over to your competitors.

Read this article SmallBizDaily.com


3 Customer Service Strategies You Should Steal From, Would You Believe, Lyft Drivers
By Zeynep Ilgaz

United Airlines’ recent press shows the looming shadow one negative customer service can cast over your brand. These customer service concepts can help.

If your growing business has not made customer service a top priority, it’s time to reevaluate your to-do list. After all, in this digital era, great customer service can be be your best (and least expensive) marketing tool.

Consider, for instance, that positive tweets and online reviews will undoubtedly draw curious consumers toward your brand and that your ability to address complaints from existing clients will help you earn their business again. In fact, according to Salesforce, customer service is the No. 1 factor that helps companies build trust with their audiences.

Related: Why Trust Is the New Marketing Currency

However, on the other side of the coin, American Express revealed that negative online reviews reach twice as many people as positive ones. For evidence of that, consider what recently happened to United Airlines when that now-infamous customer service snafu was caught on video. Within 24 hours, the clip had been viewed nearly 20 million times and the company’s stock took a nosedive. The airline continues to be the subject of bad press and viral memes regarding the incident.

Needless to say, one negative customer service incident can cast a long-lasting dark shadow over your brand. That’s why my own drug-testing company has created processes and policies to help make each customer’s experience more than a mere transaction.

Recently, I garnered some new customer service lessons from an unexpected source. I had fractured my right foot, and doctors told me I wouldn’t be able to drive for nearly three months. I began using Lyft for rides to and from work. And, en route, my amazing Lyft drivers revealed three key customer service concepts all entrepreneurs should apply to their business:

1. Leverage the Employee Effect.
Nearly all drivers told me they loved working for Lyft. They said the company treats them fairly, and they especially appreciate the many incentives provided by the brand’sAccelerate rewards program. As a customer, I felt great supporting a company that conscientiously works to reward its employees.

Knowing my drivers were happy, in fact, made me happy – which is actually a scientifically proven phenomenon. In 2008, researchers at the University of California at San Diego found that happiness is highly contagious. It doesn’t just travel from one person to another; it reverberates throughout entire networks of people. In short, if your employees are happy, your entire client base will be more likely to be happy as well.

I’ve always believed customer service hinges on internal culture and employee happiness. My employees are my internal customers, and through servant leadership, I strive to make sure all of them – especially the new ones – are well-trained and set up for success.

This belief is held by other companies, as well: The Container Store is known for giving its new employees 300 hours of paid training in their first year at the company. Try a similar approach at your company. The extra effort you put toward your employees’ happiness will pay dividends when your team interacts with clients.

Related: Here’s How Going Cheap on Employee Training Is Costing You

2. Focus on Proactive Improvement.
According to the Harvard Business Review, the easier you make your customers’ lives, the more likely they are to be loyal to your brand. This theory rang true in my experience with Lyft. The app was quick and easy to use, and the drivers proactively made sure the cleanliness of the car was first rate, and the temperature and even the music were all to my liking. I never once had to ask them to turn up the heat or turn down the music.
These little preemptive touches are what Zappos’ CEO Tony Hsieh calls the “wow experience” – taking the extra step to make sure customers feel comfortable and fulfilled. Under this philosophy, you don’t sit back and wait for clients to ask questions or voice concerns; you proactively seek these details yourself.

Before customers even have the chance to write an online review, contact them to ask whether they are happy with their purchase. Tell them you appreciate their business, and ask how you can improve your product or service in the future.

3. Personalize the Experience.
It may sound simple, but seeing my name on a neon sign every time I entered a Lyft car made the experience feel extra special. It confirmed to me that the company recognized and valued me as a customer.

This is no small thing: Microsoft’s 2016 U.S. State of Customer Service report revealed that 66 percent of consumers surveyed said they didn’t want to reintroduce themselves every time they interact with a brand. They expected companies to consistently provide personalized support and service.

As such, more and more businesses are seeing the importance of offering tailor-made experiences. Starbucks, for example, formed a partnership with Spotify that allows customers to influence the playlists at their favorite coffee shops.

My company provides a wide array of substance-abuse test kits to consumers and businesses. From steroids to alcohol to synthetic drugs, we make sure our online library is filled to the brim with relevant content that suits each unique client’s needs. We also offer a live-chat feature that allows customers to receive personalized service around the clock. Further, we are connected to a network of treatment providers for a variety of substance abuse issues, so if customers require any additional help beyond at-home testing, we can refer them to a program of their choice.

Related: 3 Ways to Create Customer Experiences That Boost Sales

In sum, good customer service is much more than a passive strategy. It must be consciously embedded into every aspect of the business workflow. So, follow Lyft’s lead by building your own happy internal culture. Then, be proactive about providing positive, personalized experiences to your clients.

Along the way, don’t forget to listen. In today’s social media-driven world, the customer’s voice is what matters most.

Read this article at the Entrepreneur.com


5 Remarkably Powerful Customer Service Secrets From the Hospitality Industry
By Peter Economy

Take a cue from Richard Branson, Danny Meyer, the Ritz-Carlton, Tom Colicchio, and other customer service experts.

If there’s an industry that knows how to provide truly exceptional customer service, it’s the hospitality industry – the men and women who every day and night put heads in beds and food on the plates of millions of guests.

Says customer service expert Micah Solomon – author of the book, The Heart of Hospitality – “Whether your business is a retail bank, a car wash, or a SaaS startup (or, for that matter, The Apple Store, which lifted many innovations directly from the hospitality industry, including the Genius Bar, which is a direct knockoff of the concierge desk at a Ritz-Carlton hotel), you’ll find the customer service lessons of the hospitality industry apply.”

Here are five customer service lessons that Micah Solomon gathered from some of today’s most successful businesspeople.

1. Richard Branson’s Virgin Hotels: Scripted customer service is the ultimate turnoff for today’s customers.

Today’s customers, including the important millennial demographic, demand a customer service style that feels authentic and unscripted. Legendary businessman Richard Branson has built his new Virgin Hotels brand expressly on this principle, avoiding what he calls “Stepford customer service” – the rigid, phony, scripted service style that today’s guests find to be such a turnoff.

2. Legendary restaurateur Dazsnny Meyer: Customers crave recognition and acknowledgement.

Danny Meyer is the restaurateur and hospitality legend whose every move – including the worldwide expansion of Shake Shack and the elimination of tipping at his restaurants – makes news. According to Meyer, the keys to his success are recognition and acknowledgement – making customers feel appreciated when they arrive, paid attention to while they’re at your establishment, missed when they’re gone, and welcomed back the next time.

3. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company: It takes empowered employees to deliver great customer service.

Great hotels and restaurants empower their frontline employees to proactively fix customer problems without waiting on management approval. This employee empowerment – the permission to be creative, and even spend money, on behalf of customers, is a master stroke in hospitality. At the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, even hourly employees have permission to spend up to $2,000 per guest to solve any problem or dissatisfaction that may arise, “without needing to ask permission, without needing to involve management or worry that they’re going too far,” as President and COO Herve Humler puts it.

4. Top Chef judge & restaurateur Tom Colicchio: Great customer service depends on trait-based hiring

If you want to provide world-class customer service, you’ve got to hire the right people: employees with the necessary traits – empathy, warmth, and conscientiousness, to name a few. Says Tom Colicchio, the celebrity restaurateur and Top Chef judge, “We’re looking to find people who naturally enjoy this work. The best way I can describe the people we want is like this: There are some people who throw great dinner parties because they really want to take care of their guests, and there are other people who are lousy at it because everything is a chore – everything is a problem. We’re looking for that natural host, the person who is always looking to make people happy and who doesn’t find it to be a chore.”

5. Five-Star chef and restaurateur Patrick O’Connell (The Inn at Little Washington): Build a culture of “yes.”

In a great hotel or restaurant, the entire organization strives to say “yes” to each guest, rather than figuring out ways to say “no,” or “sorry, not my department,” or “It doesn’t work that way around here.” Patrick O’Connell’s Inn at Little Washington is a double Five Star (per Forbes), double Five Diamond (per AAA) restaurant and inn where presidents, kings, and queens are known to dine. When Chef O’Connell trains his waitstaff, he tells them the story of the guest who asked “How big is the lobster?” and the server who answered, “How big would you like it to be?” O’Connell wants every employee to be comfortable using the customers’ wishes, not the stated capabilities of the restaurant, as the default framework within which to operate.

Read this article at the Inc.com