For today’s entrepreneur the playing field for holiday commerce has changed. Requirements around the holidays are heaviest. Despite your best intentions, statistically it’s harder to find the best people in a clutch situation, and it may be tempting to lower your standards. But this may be a costly decision as mistakes of carelessness can create direct and indirect costs (such as a reputational hit) that affects your business for years.
So as a committed and responsible business, what can you do? With the help of customer service expert Nancy Friedman, here are some ways to give (and get) the service you’d like to receive:
- Give meaningful feedback. As an employer, take the time to train your employees with care for the kind of situations they are likely to see. Apps such as the program I wrote about in my last post, Loop2U, allow employers to give meaningful feedback to their employees in real time. “That last situation rated you a 4. With just this slight adjustment, I’m betting the next will give you a 5,” on a smartphone device can be much better input than scolding your employee at the end of the day or simply shaking your head at the end of the week. And as a consumer, yourself, don’t be shocked or angry at less than great service during the holiday season, Friedman suggests. You’ll just make it worse. Be realistic and during the hectic holiday season, expect somewhat lower standards of customer service. You may be dealing with a new hire who’s had little training and perhaps no experience. Your patience and encouragement could help them progress.
- Teach employees to influence the experience. If an employee puts out a positive vibe and a friendly greeting, customers are more likely to mirror the mood. But this will also work in reverse, and if a customer’s negative attitude is mirrored by the salesperson, the situation is likely to continue downhill. Friedman notes she has actually influenced the customer service she gets by knowing this principle. When she was confronted by a harassed and upset hostess in Las Vegas, she said simply, “I’m good! I’m getting a cheery hostess who’s going to take good care of us.” The hostess took a deep breath and smiled. She may have just finished an encounter with the customer from Hades, but she was prepared to provide good service now.
- Plan how you will win your customers over. Teach your employees to exert some effort in a season of stress and reward them for doing so to ensure a pleasant buying experience.
- Take a second try. Sometimes the last few experiences the other person had may have been brutal. Teach your team to do whatever they can to establish a friendly atmosphere. Smile and make the effort to maintain a good mood. Take control of the situation. By the end of the transaction, you’ll probably be having a far more positive relationship with an unruly customer. Smiles are contagious.
- Accept the occasional situations where nothing works. Teach employees to escalate the hardest situations to someone specialized in doing all that they can. But don’t take it personally and don’t let your employees take it personally either. A nightmare customer is prone to be just as abrasive to the vendor who follows you as he or she has been to the person before. But if you want to enhance the majority of your customer service experiences, you can, and the benefits to your business (and your employees) is well worth it.
As an entrepreneur, vow to take more responsibility for your customers’ experience this year than you did in the season before. Radiate your own good mood and attitude and challenge your employees to do so as well. The results these efforts bring you will be well worth the additional effort and focus they take.
Author credit: David K. Williams