Your Customer Experience Needs an Overhaul… NOW

Did you know that 83% of homeowners will pay more for a better buying experience?

By the year 2020, customer experience will be the primary differentiator among competitors in business.

Only 1 out of every 26 unhappy customers complain… the rest just leave.

The experience you provide your customers is arguably the most important aspect of your entire operation.  Generally speaking, this is common sense, and few would venture to disagree with the importance of customer experience.  However, it is not common practice.

The customer experience is a combination of how well you perform the service you offer and how you make the customer feel as a person.  It is not enough in today’s economy just to “get the job done”.  You need to do more, be more, and create more for your customers!  You know this, we all know this!  We know WHAT we need to provide: a WOW Experience for every customer that we come in contact with.  The WOW Experience is that moment when your customer recognizes that you went above and beyond in the way you took care of them.  Expressions such as “WOW” are often used by the client to describe how you created value for them in an unexpected way and won the moment.  The WOW Experience is the outcome we look to achieve in every client interaction.  The question is WHY and HOW do we WOW?   

Why has the world of business changed so much?  Why are your customers’ expectations higher than they used to be?  Why is it no longer good enough to simply “get the job done?”

That’s because the nature of what customers can receive has changed!  Products that used to be a rarity are now a commodity (phones, computers, the internet).  Products that used to go for top dollar are now easily affordable and can even be financed for low monthly prices!  In short, customers have more options.  Suppose a potential customer in your area suffers from an air conditioner that is blowing warm air.  What is the first thing they do?

THEY GOOGLE IT!  “A/C repair near me…”  And in an instant, they are provided with a plethora of potential repair companies!  And how do they differentiate?  Ratings, reviews, and comments; the EXPERIENCES OF OTHERS!  Customer experience is influencing their decision before they even have a chance to interact with you!

So, WHY do we need to create a WOW Experience?  Because, in short, nothing else will suffice.  People want to have extraordinary experiences.  People yearn to feel energy, confidence, understood, assured, and that they matter.  People want to have an experience they can share with their friends, family, and other loved ones.  People want a WOW Experience.

But, HOW?

You can create The WOW Experience for every customer your company interacts with by following a set of timeless, tried and true principles.  A set of principles that, when lived by, consistently create WOW experiences and enable you and your team to perform at a high level in every facet of your work.  We have developed a framework of these principles that has been tested, practiced, taught, and proven a thousand times over throughout the last 9 years.  It is called The Pattern for Excellence, and it is a framework for learning best practices in phenomenal customer service.  Mastery of these values and principles is a journey that empowers us to achieve at a higher level.  We become more aware and persuasive in our communication.  We get more done in less time and are better able to work with our team to create WOW Experiences for our clients.  Mastery is a journey, not a destination.  You never “arrive”.  It is a set of tools you must practice over and over again throughout your career, and if you do, even you will be saying “WOW”.

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The Pattern for Excellence

Principle #1: Be Positive

The first message you send your customers is whether you are positive or negative.  It’s the energy and enthusiasm that you bring to the interaction.  Your first objective in the phone call should be to radiate positive energy and enthusiasm.  Embrace optimism and communicate in a way that will make the other person’s day better.  Make the choice to be and create positive energy.  In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”  Be happy and inspire others to be happy with your positive energy.

Principle #2: Be Confident

“Preparation bolsters confidence.”  Your customers will typically have one of three experiences when they call you:  they will think they made the right choice, or they will feel they made the right choice, or they will know they made the right choice.  We want your customers to hang up the phone with the utmost confidence that calling you was a good idea.  And, we want you to be absolutely confident in your ability to help them in all situations.  This kind of confidence comes with preparation.

In sports, it’s a no brainer that all athletes need a coach.  But, in the world of business, there are many people who do not see the need for a coach or even practice for that matter.  Few people take the time to hone their skills and master their craft – especially if they have been doing their job for a long time.  WOW performance requires you to practice and prepare before the phone rings.  “Preparation bolsters confidence.”

Principle #3: Listen

Sometimes, we have a tendency on the phone with our customers to take information before we give our attention.  Human beings have a basic need to feel understood, to be heard.  It’s an emotional need that we all have, and if it is not met in one place, we go looking to have it met in another.When your customers call you looking for service, you may be tempted to start the interaction by asking if your company has ever served them before, or you might want to ask for their address to make sure they are in your service area.  But, the bottom line is this: your customers are not ready to give you that information yet.  They need to feel understood first and they need to know that you get what they are going through.  An old saying goes like this: you have two ears and one mouth, so you should listen twice as much as you speak.  One of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People taught by Stephen R. Covey is “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

Principle #4: Care

Human beings have a biological need to connect with others.  Not only do your customers need to feel understood before you start selling to them, they need to feel cared about and respected.  A look into the Oxford English Dictionary reveals the following definition for empathy: a physical property of the nervous system.  Empathy and connection is not just something people generally want, it’s a basic need that has led to the rise of the greatest organizations and individuals in the world.  The lack of it has also led to the fall of some of the world’s greatest organizations and individuals.  One of the common pieces of pushback we get from people we teach this principle to is that “my customers don’t want empathy… they don’t want to to connect with me… they just want to get straight to business and that is why I don’t put forth the effort to show empathy.”  While some of your customers (not all) might be more interested in getting straight to business with you and avoiding any sort of “connection”, they do want to be cared about – every single one of them does.  The difference between customers is not a lack of wanting to be cared about, the difference is in HOW they want to be cared about.  Some customers want to be coddled a little more.  They want to feel understood, validated, and they want to hear you express your sentiments and let them know they are not alone.  Other customers want to be reassured.  They appear hard and “non-caring” on the outside, but inside what they want is someone who will try to understand them, validate their concerns, and assure them everything is going to be taken care of the right way so they don’t have to deal with their problems any longer.  So, your job is to discern HOW to show the customer you care.

Principle #5: Say “Yes”

“Customers tend to mirror what we say and do in our interactions.  When we say ‘no,’ they  say ‘no.’  When we say ‘Yes,’ the customer often says ‘Yes’ as well.”  Saying yes is about giving the customer all that you can without expecting anything in return.  We offer to serve and help them in whatever way we can, focus on what we can do, and assure them we can definitely help them – no matter what.  Customers become loyal to the companies that offer to help them no matter what.  This is the strategy that has helped Zappos earn over $1 Billion in the last ten years.  Consider this story written by Micah Solomon of Forbes about a CSR at Zappos who decided to say yes, give beyond expectation, and focus on helping a customer in whatever way he could:  “‘Last year, when I was working the phones, a woman called, trying to return some boots. The sad story turned out to be that she had bought them for her father, who had since died.  I told her not to bother returning them; that we would refund her money but she was free to give the boots away instead of returning them. And after the call I felt moved to send her some flowers–just one of the 380 gifts of flowers you can see on the board that we sent out last year.  Some time after that, she sent me a letter and a photo of her father.’  It was quite a story.  But [the CSR] didn’t want me to take the wrong lesson from it. “The flowers aren’t what mattered here most.  The phone is. It lets us have these in-depth, textured conversations with our customers. It’s the key to how we build customers for life.”  How true it is that our phone calls with our customers help us build customers for life.  Just as long as we are willing to do all we can to help them.

Principle #6: Ask

We sometimes assume we know exactly what the customer wants and when they want it.  We assume they want an appointment now and they want it for free, or we assume they are all business and don’t want to create any kind of connection with us.  Assumptions, however useful they may be at times, are ultimately dangerous if we rely on them too heavily.  When we assume we know exactly what the customer wants without asking, we might be missing the opportunity to go above and beyond and create a WOW experience.  For example, suppose a customer calls in looking to get their furnace repaired.  It went out last night, the temperature is only about 27 degrees outside, and they have 3 little kids they need to keep warm.  So, you assume that they want an appointment as soon as possible to get the furnace repaired and nothing more.  You get their information, tell them it’s going to be $69 to “come out”, and let them know the technician will be out there by 4 o’clock “if that works” for them.  But then you realize 4 o’clock doesn’t work for them!  And then they ask you about having a free estimate over the phone because they can’t afford $69 for your technician to “come out”.  And then they ask you if you have coupons or special offers.  And then they ask you what the $69 entails.  And finally, they let you know they will “call you back”, and they repeat the same process with 4 or 5 other companies.  Do you see what is happening here?  You assumed you had all the answers and so you did not ask the customer questions to make sure you were right!  You assumed all they wanted was a furnace repair as soon as possible… you didn’t realize that 4 o’clock would not work for them before you presented, you did not realize that the $69 fee would be an issue, or that they would be reluctant to pay it just so you could “come out”, and you did not realize that all those things you missed in your assumption would have helped you book the call.   Instead, when you could not meet their expectations (let alone exceed them like we are aiming to do) they started asking you the questions!  Remember this: the person who asks the questions controls the conversation.  Learning to ask the right questions, clarify what is missing, learn the right answers, and act autonomously to provide a solution that goes above and beyond the customer’s expectations is key to creating a WOW experience.  It’s an art that takes much practice.  But if you can learn to ask the right questions before you provide answers, you will be significantly better off in the long run and your customers will love you.

Principle #7: Be Valuable

Customers don’t go to the hardware store because they want a drill, they go because they want a new treehouse.  The drill is one of the ways to get there.  What they find value in is not the drill, it’s the end result.  In all our work, we are trying to help customers move from their “before” state to a desired “after” state.  That “after” state is where they find value.  As such, our goal on the phones is to communicate the value they seek – especially before we present any fees.  Sometimes, CSRs will jump right into telling the customer “it’s going to be $X for us to come out.”  The problem with this statement is that there is no value being communicated!  Why is it $X?  How is the technician “coming out” going to help me get to my desired “after” state?  Where is the value?  When value is missing, price becomes the differentiator.  It’s all the customer can focus on because they see no additional value.  It’s crucial to give and communicate value to the customer because 83% of homeowners will pay more for a better buying experience.  If they see value in what you are offering, brand and price suddenly become irrelevant.  It’s all about value and experience.

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Principle #8: Be Grateful

Perhaps two of the most powerful words in the english language are “Thank You.”  Everyone wants to feel that they matter and that their contribution means something.  Letting your customers know that they matter and that you are thankful to them is one of the most effective ways to build loyalty and repeat business.  You are telling the customer that it was an honor to serve them!  What’s most important about being grateful is that you are genuine.  Even the most gifted and well-versed salesperson won’t be able to create a WOW Experience if they are not sincere.  Altruism is key!  If you worry that you are not sincere and don’t know how to become sincere, think back on the “Care” principle and consider the customer’s perspective.  If you were them what would it mean to you to have someone say “Thank you! We really appreciate the opportunity to serve you.  We’re glad you decided to call us.”  Once you get to the point where it is sincere, gratitude really is as simple as “Thank you.”

The results of all this?

We have seen companies who were turning about 50% of their incoming calls into appointments turn that number into 95% of their incoming calls.  We have seen companies literally survive slow seasons simply by providing a better customer experience.  We have seen companies increase revenue by over $100,000 per customer service rep simply by creating a better customer experience.  Use the Pattern for Excellence to teach yourself and your team how to create a world-class customer experience.  Your customers and your business’s future will thank you.
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