Good customer relations: Think detail

How do you ensure good customer relations?

How do you ensure good customer relations?

Have a tough day… thinking about good customer relations?

If the giant supermarkets can get good customer relations wrong by not deeply enough considering their interaction with the public, then there is hope for all new entrepreneurs.

Tesco has just admitted it boo-booed with that screeching voice which gives a verbal whiplash warning to self-service checkout customers of an “unexpected item in the bagging area!”

That stern, shouty electronic woman so reviled by shoppers for irritatingly putting them under pressure is being replaced by a mellifluous-voiced bloke who, we are told, will be friendlier, more helpful, less talkative.

We’ve all been blasted by that robotic harridan since 2003 and now there are 12,000 automatic Tesco checkouts throughout the UK, yet it took only recent “customer and colleague feedback” to underline the obvious.

That, surely, should be a good customer relations lesson learned by all new venturers, namely people skills and gut instinct aren’t enough. Nor are assumptions.

So how do you ensure that you are getting the basics right? Dealing with people can never be an exact science, as this article about customer service skills illustrates, but patience, attentiveness and communication are essential prerequisites. However, there are broad good customer relations principles to guide you. Here are five.

1. Know your market Understand the needs of your industry. Customer service in supermarkets is different from ensuring that those potential clients visiting your car showroom “have a nice day”. And that’s as different again from making kids and parents gleeful in a toy store. So learn as much as you can from your sector rivals and on top of that formulate something else, a caring added extra, to make your potential clients appreciate you and your product or service. That way you stay ahead of the game.

2. Generate warmth Smile, I mean really smile. Literally “beam in” to the customer. While you’re demonstrating that you’re open-hearted they will be prepared to be open-walleted! Smiles magically transform you into the kind of sweet, decent, honest human being that people delight in dealing with. It not only alters your demeanour but gives your voice a happy geniality on the telephone. But a warning: the smile must not be a paste-on. It has to be genuine. Customers sense masks from a thousand paces. So how do you make it come naturally? Try the following –

3. Love your customer He or she ultimately makes the profits to pay wages. They’ve chosen your business to make inquiries. That’s flattering. What’s not to love? And having sensed your love they’ll love right back and become a word-of-mouth ambassador for your venture. They need your guidance and advice to spend their cash on you, so welcome them with “how can I help?” And mean it with all your heart.

4. Listen & show you’re listening Richard Branson often quotes this as the key to his success. Bosses who talk more than they listen tend to be insecure entrepreneurs who convince themselves there is nothing left to learn. Try that attitude with a complaining customer and see where it gets you. So listen. Learn from all sources. And come up with a solution that will win back his or her trust.

5. Don’t assume In line with good advice you’ve carefully crafted words for your all-important 24 hour business answerphone and recorded your message with seemingly melodious precision. But have you really ticked the box to ensure that missed calls don’t equal missed opportunities? Oh yes, you say, you’ve checked. You phoned yourself to listen to your voice and it seemed perfect. But was it? You’re biased. Get a trusted friend to listen to the missive and honestly tell you whether it was too strident, garbled or arrogant. Don’t forget, it took customer and colleague feedback before finally squelching the Tesco screecher.

Key Learning Points: Good customer relations is common sense but unless you manage to continually apply common sense principles and learn from objective, independent viewpoints, service standards will falter. And if unchecked will fall way below those offered by competitors.



Get your story in the media

Get your story in the media...

Get your story in the media…

So how do businesses get their venture’s story in editorial space? Through diligence, cunning, making time, careful cultivation and, above all, understanding what business editors seek. And this is how to get your story in the media… [Read more…]

In search of free publicity

In search of free publicity...

In search of free publicity…

So you are in search of free publicity and want to let the public know that you’re in the marketplace – that your goods/services/ product are ever so useful and worth paying for?

Here is a major marketing tip that could positively turn the fortune of your sprouting venture: Advertising costs money. But editorial, whatever the medium, can be free… [Read more…]

Britain’s got a talent crisis

Britain's got a talent crisis

Britain’s got a talent crisis

Whilst exhibiting our on-line simulation product at this year’s Learning Technologies Show in London, I noticed a man patiently looking over our stand. Curious to know more about his interest, I walked over and introduced myself… [Read more…]

Septic Blatter has a toxic whiff

Septic Blatter has a toxic whiff

Septic Blatter has a toxic whiff

Ten years ago when the kids were just out of pushchairs we were walking in the Yorkshire Moors.

Towards the summit of a hill an elderly man strode past us. He was full of ebullience but empty on engagement.

That man was Jimmy Saville. I remember thinking at the time there was something disturbing about his eccentric behaviour. But I had no idea what Pandora’s Box would later reveal.

And that’s how I fear the behaviour of Mr Joseph Blatter. For years, I believe he has clung onto the FIFA presidency to guard himself from a plethora of corrupt and dirty decisions going public. But with this week’s revelations and resignation, his protective cloak of authority is slipping fast. Denial will be no shield against the focused power of truth-seeking global forces.

Ethical lessons

But regardless of why I think Septic Blatter has a toxic whiff (please note, I am not suggesting Mr Blatter is a sexual predator for one minute), how does this issue of ethics impact entrepreneurs?

Power and success has the capacity to corrupt, sometimes with ease. As humans, I’d argue we are all susceptible to self-importance and the creep of selfishness. Leaders need to put others first and build trust with all stakeholders so that others follow, and most importantly want to follow for all the right reasons.

Related to this issue is a recent research study (reported in April’s edition of ‘The Leadership Quarterly’) which examined how Swiss business students (how ironic)  handled financial decisions when placed in positions of power.  People assigned leader roles were given money to share with ‘followers’. The leaders decided unilaterally how the money would be distributed.

‘Psychology Today’ reports the study’s results in more detail but the conclusion is that power does corrupt, although not necessarily absolutely.

As entrepreneurs and business leaders we need to be constantly aware of the negative impact of our own selfish interests. No one is perfect, but unchecked dishonesty can spiral issues out of control and ultimately cause widespread damage. And since we live in a global, connected society, social media has the power to quickly bring us to account.

Key Learning Points: Trust is perhaps the most critical issue in business because it brings people together and sustains positive and growing relationships. Deceit and dishonesty quickly destroy trust. Entrepreneurs who behave ethically and consistently are far more likely to succeed in the long term and sleep easier at night.  




Game-changing business simulation

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Whilst the team is yet to see the blood, much sweat and the occasional tear has been shed whilst building what we believe will be a game-changing business simulation… [Read more…]

Can you teach entrepreneurship?

Can you teach entrepreneurship?

Can you teach entrepreneurship?

The question “Can you teach entrepreneurship?” has received much attention over the last decade.

People who teach entrepreneurship have an important job to do. However, much like the relationship between a ‘product’ and its life sustaining ‘market’, more consideration needs to be given to how people learn/engage with this subject. For me, there’s still a considerable over-emphasis on traditional didactic pedagogy. Insufficient thought is being applied to how learners learn.

[Read more…]