Smile or Frown: WOW! Customer Service

Slide18

It takes 50 muscles to make a frown — but only 13 to produce a smile. No it doesn’t, not really. Like much of the advice about excellent ‘customer service’ there is a lot of misinformation out there. Customer service (let alone excellent) is a very diverse and broad term that covers a multitude of industries and businesses. Most of the collected wisdom is questionable, non-scientific or generic. I like to compare it to myth you have probably heard about smiling and frown. You may have heard this version of the tale,

Scientists have told us that it takes 41 muscles to frown and 17 to smile this leads to two conclusions:

  1. Scientists have WAY too much free time on their hands!
  2. Frowning uses more muscles, and therefore burns more calories.

The numbers of muscles may vary ( I have seen 13, 17, 36, 41, 47, 50 and 60) yet the story has been around for years. Actually most Professors of Anatomy I have talked too say we use approximately the same number of muscles to do both and probably (depending on the effort put into to both) the same amount of energy. But, it is very difficult to actually tell as there is no real definition of what is a smile and what is a frown. The maxim has been handed from generation to generation because of its enduring value as implied advice rather than its being an authoritative tally of a parts list. More simply, the story persists because of what it says about people, not their anatomy, so to get lost in the metrics would be at the expense of losing sight of its far more important component.

Well if that was a partial myth, we surely know that customer service is a highly important part of every small business? Right? Well it amazes me how many companies get it wrong day after day. Companies that are unable or unwilling to properly service their customers stand to lose the customers’ business.However, several key variables or characteristics set excellent customer service apart from mediocre customer service. A company that best demonstrates these excellent customer service characteristics will have a distinct advantage over its competition.

In survey after survey the British public, and even staff in these organisations, tell us too often that service in this country is still poor, attitudes are wrong, complaints are not handled well and the service provided is not keeping up with increasing customer demands. Regardless of the type of contact that you have with customers, whether it is over the phone, face-to-face, in a restaurant or shop, in an office or financial institution, in the entertainment or tourist industries, good customer service skills help everybody.

There are certain customer service skills that every employee has to master if they are forward-facing with customers. A happy, satisfied customer is likely to return and/or tell others about the good experiences (think social media x 1000) that they had when dealing with your company – word of mouth recommendations from friends and colleagues are very valuable.

Luckily, there are a few universal skills that every member of staff can master that willdrastically improve their interactions with customers. You can start reading or listening to the Pursuit of WOW ( fantastic book (although ageing gracefully) by that Master of Service, Tom Peters). So when your staff (or you) interact with the customers on a daily basis they can become heroes of service.

We could steal time, just for one day
We can be Heroes, for ever and ever
What d’you say? – David Bowie

So here are my top 6 tips for Excellent Customer Service and creating your WOW!


1. The Good Old Fashioned Genuine Smile

  • This is the most simple and often the most powerful tip for customer service and most other interpersonal interactions.
  • Smiles are contagious – usually when you smile at somebody they’ll smile back at you. Whether the myth of it being physically less exhausting to smile than to glower, it is certainly beneficial, and thus there is something to this ancient exhortation to put aside negative emotions long enough to turn a frown upside down.
  • In a 2002 study performed in Sweden, [Goleman, Daniel. “A Feel-Good Theory: A Smile Affects Mood.”The New York Times. 18 July 1989 (p. C1).] researchers confirmed what our grandmothers already knew: that people respond in kind to the facial expressions they encounter. Test subjects were shown photos of faces — some smiling and some frowning — and required to respond with their own smiles, frowns, and non-expressions as directed by those conducting the experiment. Researchers noted that while people had an easy time frowning at what appeared to be frowning at them and smiling in reply to the photographed smiles, those being tested encountered difficulties when prompted to respond in an opposite manner to the expressions displayed in the images — they instinctively wanted to reflect what they’d been exposed to, answering smile for smile and frown for frown, and could not easily overcome this urge even when they were quite consciously trying to.
  • Because we humans are wired to instinctively respond like for like, facial expressions are contagious. When taken, the homily’s implied advice to put on a happy face does work to benefit society in that smiling people cause those around them to smile.
  • Do not pretend to smile, or produce a false smile since these are easy to spot and send the wrong messages. Instead relax, gain eye-contact and smile naturally. This will help the customer or client to feel at ease and welcomed, and you’ll come across as friendly and approachable, setting the scene for a more positive interaction.
  • If you are talking to somebody on the telephone then you can still smile – your voice sounds different when you smile and are happy. Clients and customers are more likely to want to talk to a cheerful person with an enthusiastic personality and by smiling while you talk you can help to project this.
  • Smiling makes us feel happier. It is not a cure-all for every situation, that is, don’t look to it to remedy overwhelming grief, but in terms of getting us past a small dose of the blues, it can help to lift the sense of sadness being experienced. It makes a differences to customers and to staff.


2. Have Patience but Don’t Make Your Customers Wait

  • Patience is a virtue, but don’t depend on it when interacting with customers. In one survey conducted, 69% of those interviewed defined good customer service as receiving a quick resolution to a reported problem.
  • 72% of respondents blamed their frustrations on having to address an issue to multiple employees at different times. If you’ve ever had a similar experience, then you know how aggravating it can be to call back or be transferred only to re-explain your problem over again (and again), while seemingly never actually getting any closer to a solution.
  • Customer service representatives who have neither the authority nor the ability to resolve problems on their own, and are thus forced to take those problems to higher levels, run the risk of alienating customers. Unfortunately, this is a common problem. In fact, 26% of consumers have experienced being transferred from agent to agent without any resolution.
  • This makes me sad (see also my article on Customer Service) so I have on my wall Tom Peter’s 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence:

3. Build Trust and They Will Come Back (Time after Time)

  • Only ever offer a customer or client something that you are sure you can give them – delivery of small things matter.
  • It is better not to mention a delivery date and then deliver tomorrow than it is to say you’ll deliver tomorrow and then don’t.
  • It is better to tell your hotel guests that the fire alarm system is being tested in the morning than let them find out for themselves.
  • Stick to deadlines, make sure you turn up promptly for any appointments and never make promises you cannot keep. If situations change then let the customer know as soon as possible.
  • If your company is answering a phone by the first ring, is straight forward with all pertinent buying information, and is giving customers a personalized experience when they need it, then congratulations, you are building much-needed trust.
  • Your product or service will attract them initially, maybe even bring them back a second time, but what consistently entices customers to return is trust that they’re going to have a good, barrier-less customer experience.
  • If you can provide the customers what they’re looking for, when they need and expect it, then that trust built between your company and the customer will evolve into invaluable customer loyalty.


4. The Emotional Signature: Be Memorable For the Right Reasons

  • We tend to remember positive and negative experiences more vividly than average day-to-day ones. Try to make every customer’s experience a positive one that they’ll remember and talk to others about.
  • Be helpful, be courteous and polite – give a little extra if possible, even if it is just some advice or extra information about the product or service they are buying or interested in buying.
  • If appropriate, and you need to be careful here, try telling a joke or introducing an element of humour; if successful you will add to the positive experience of the customer.

5. Clear Communication Skills Require Excellent Listening

  • You are unlikely to be able to help all your customers effectively if you don’t listen to their needsExcellent customer service requires effective listening and communication skills.
  • A company’s customer service representatives should listen carefully to what the customer needs. The answer or solution to the problem or question should accurately address the nature of the call or question. excellent communication skills are crucial.
  • A customer should be able to easily understand what the customer service representative is saying.
  • The representative must speak distinctly, and use common terminology that everyone understands, not highly technical language.
  • Excellent customer service means acknowledging a customer’s question in a timely manner.
  • Excellent customer service means having more experienced people or supervisors available to answer more difficult or technical questions
  • For customers not listening can become very frustrating and may lose a sale or repeat visit.
  • Listen to the customer’s needs, empathise and find the best.solutions.
  • Work on the ability to use Positive Language.

6. Learn Your Business – Know Your Product – Be The Expert

  • One of the most important elements for achieving excellent customer service is training. Customer service employees must be trained on product features, prices, warranties and even the various technical aspects of products.
  • If you are selling cars then learn the features and specifications of the models you have (and those of your competitors).
  • If you work in a hotel learn about the business, how many rooms there are, the history of the building, when breakfast is served.
  • If you work in a bank then learn the advantages and disadvantages of the various products you sell and which product suits which type of customer the best.
  • Make sure that you know more about your business than the customer does, be able to answer questions about your business or organisation even if they are not related to your normal field of work.

The obvious truth is that the so called secret of service excellence is actually very simple. It requires clear and consistent leadership from the top, the right culture, great people, and customer-focused systems, processes and tools. If your company can achieve a positive and efficient service experience wherever your customers happen to be, and can scale it, then you’re on your way to defining what good customer service means to your company.

Excellence, always. Smile.

With massive acknowledge and thanks to the wonderful insightful Tom Peters.

Be Amazing Every Day.

The Emotional Signature of Hospitality

The Emotional Signature of Hospitality

The Neuroscience of the Peak End Rule & the Emotional Signature of Hospitality.

Hello, do you have a reservation Sir?

The restaurant is empty. There are no people. A veritable desert, a ghost town. Why are you asking me this?

You’ve got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk*?

Clearly they need some basic training in the Peak End Rule and the Emotional Signature of Hospitality. The theory behind the Peak End Rule is simpleHumans hedonically (pleasure based) evaluate past experiences using a short cut in the brain. This heuristic process leads people to judge an experience by its most intense point and it’s end, as opposed to the total sum or average of every moment of the experience. It occurs regardless of whether a ‘peak’ is pleasant or unpleasant, and regardless of the duration of the experience. Maya Angelou once said,

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

 

So what is the emotion you are trying to evoke in your customers when they walk into your bar, hotel or restaurant? Do you really know? If not, why not? Emotions are the biggest driving force behind all human behaviour. And the neuroscience of this emotion is the future of marketing and the future of all success in hospitality. Buck Rodgers, not the Sci Fi guy, but the Vice President of Marketing for IBM once said,

People buy emotionally and then justify with logic.

The concept of customers’ emotions have now been widely accepted, as Forresterpoints out in the article, ‘2013 Predictions for the Customer Experience Industry’ stating:

Emotional insights will take centre stage. The idea that happy customers are more likely to remain loyal, try new products and services, and spread good news about their experiences has started to catch on.

But amazingly, surveys reveal 80 percent of companies believe they deliver superior customer experience, yet only 8 percent of their customers agree. What is going on to create this massive disconnect? The first thing that neuroscience tells us is that in hospitality, like any form of transaction, everything is an emotional buy; everything. Whether buying a cup of coffee, a fine dining restaurant, choosing a wine, purchasing a holiday, a car, or a house. Our emotional reaction to a service transaction is the fundamental driver of the purchasing decision.



According to psychologists, what people remember about a customer experience is determined by the intensity of emotions created in specific moments, not the overall experience. During the ‘80’s and ‘90’s customer satisfaction was king. It was based on research suggesting that continued improvement in product and service quality would mean corresponding increases in satisfaction, and customer satisfaction was going to ensure a returning purchase.

What further academic research and empirical evidence now shows is that companies who followed this guideline were surprised to find that even high scores in customer satisfaction did not guarantee loyalty. Companies have discovered that loyalty, not satisfaction, drives profits. The economics are very compelling. 

As little as a 5% decrease in customer defections can mean a doubling of profits. Loyal customers are not only repeat purchasers, and are more likely to buy other products and services, they become advocates of the company. It is nine times cheaper to keep an existing customer than acquire a new one.

This is true for most experiences throughout our lives. Our sub conscious mind categorises and catalogues experiences according to the nature and intensity of emotions. When it starts processing new stimuli, the sub conscious mind associates past memories and responds emotionally before rational thought occurs. When neurologists discovered that 95 percent of thought, emotion and learning occur this way, behavioural economists like Daniel Kahneman realised that:

We are not thinking machines that feel. We are feeling machines that think.

In other words, sub conscious emotional responses shaped by past emotional memories determine customer attitudes, perceptions and behaviour, rather than conscious, rational decisions. This is the basis of the Peak End Rule (PER), citing that customer experiences are judged almost entirely on the intensity of emotions at their peaks and resolution point. Virtually all other information appears to be forgotten, including net pleasantness or unpleasantness and how long the experience lasted. Think about this in the context of any aspect of hospitality.

More than 60% of the typical customer experience is emotional. Everyone wants loyal customers. Consider the meaning of the word loyalty. A well designed hospitality or customer experience (process) triggers emotions that have a positive effect on customer retention and customer loyalty. Effectively, a great experience transcends the rational/physical attributes of the literal product (quality, price, delivery, quantity) or the what and becomes part of the product itself. The irony is that right now your customers are feeling emotions with your customer experience; the issue is that you have no control over them and they are not deliberate. Great customer experiences are emotional and create an attachment to a company and once that emotional bond is created it is difficult to break, and thus can become a long term differentiator.

What the customer feels or doesn’t feel at every single encounter with a service provider is directly related to the service providers ability to manage the totality of the experience and customers expectations. Customer experience is not simply about smiling sweetly, or keeping an even tone when handling an irate customer.

Here is the key:

It is all about creating, operationally, transactionally and behaviourally an emotional connection with the customer that leaves them feeling that they are the most important person in that moment in time.

Addressing the emotional needs, desires expectations of fickle – I want it now and I’m not going to wait – customers is difficult and can’t be left entirely to the great customer service skills of the individual. Start with some fantastic training.

Now let’s start that again.

Good evening Sir.

 

*I know what you’re thinking: 'Did he fire six shots or only five?' Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?

 

 

Be Amazing Every Day