Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Turning away customers with a blame game attitude

I had the honor of hearing Karl Albrecht, co-author of Service America!, speak and I’ll never forget three things he said: "Customer satisfaction relates to attitude. Service is about feelings. However your employees feel is how your customers are going to feel…sooner or later.” What attitude do you project to your customers? Certainly our tone of voice and facial expressions have a lot to do with it—and so do the words we choose. I’ve compiled a list of what I call Red Flag words and phrases; let’s look at a few of those and the attitude they suggest:

You should have let us know earlier if you needed it tomorrow.”

You’ll have to get a purchase order to us if we’re to expedite this order.”

Why didn’t you let us know about this earlier?”

You should have… You’ll have to… Why didn’t you…? You might as well shake your finger at your customers and tell them, “It’s your fault, you’re bad, bad, bad.” Often when a customer needs something right away it’s because they just found out. OR, they just realized they forgot to do something. Of course, then they’re mad at themselves. The last thing they need is us telling them they’ve messed up. A little empathy goes a long way! How about we replace the Red Flag phrases with polite phrases that show some empathy:

“I can see why you were unable to order this earlier; let’s see what we can do.”

“May I ask you to fax your purchase order to us? Our fax number is…”

“If you anticipate needing any of these supplies in the next six months, we’re happy to keep them in stock for you. Is this a good time to review a list of your potential needs?”

The customer may not always be right, yet we certainly don't need to make them wrong!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Your Dress Code: Part of your branding initiative

According to David Acker, author of Building Strong Brands, “A brand is a set of associations that provides a distinct image and the basis for a loyal relationship.” Certainly the appearance of those employees your customers and clients come into contact with has an enormous impact on that image.

In many cases, employees have little idea what to wear to project the appropriate image. In a study conducted by Marketing Professor Dennis Tootelian of California State University, Sacramento, 68% of the participants said they are uncertain about the differences among business attire, business causal and casual. And, 62% said they had felt inappropriately dressed at a business or a social function.

And, according to Robert M. Howie, Chair of the Labor and Employment Law practice group at Riddell Williams P.S., “Hostile workplace claims often start as a failure to enforce a professional dress code. [And, we must] ensure that dress codes are enforced consistently to avoid disparate treatment claims.”

Your challenge seems clear. Make sure you have a professional dress code in place; one that reflects your corporate brand and the image you want to project. And, be sure you enforce it consistently.