FRANCHISEE'S TRAINING - VALUE DELIVERY
“A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all” - Michael Leboeuf, author of “How to Win Customers and Keep Them for Life”
Every business that becomes established actually what it promises its customers. Those who take people's money and do not deliver what they promised are scam artists.
Value delivery is everything involved which ensures that the customer is a happy customer in every sense. This begins with the experience of inquiry, how easy is it to get a hold of us, do we inspire confidence in our ability to deliver, is our message comprehensive, and to the point? Are our proposal terms clear and consistent with the scope of work discussed during the interview, or written inquiry? How well do we manage schedules, is the project completed on time and does our workmanship exceed expectations? Are our technicians appropriately friendly and professional? Is our price point reasonable? Without all of this, we don't have a business.
The greatest companies in the world deliver value in a way that exceeds their customers' expectations. Customers like to get the value of their purchases quickly, reliably, and consistently. The more Happy customers the company creates the more likely those customers will purchase again in the future. Happy customers are more likely to tell their friends and family about their experience with the company which enhances its reputation and brings in even more potential business.
Successful companies satisfy their customers most of the time amid a changing environment. Unsuccessful businesses fail to make their customers happy, lose them and eventually fail.
There is a flow of steps that must occur from the time we get a voicemail, and/or email, and/or answer and/a call or a text message from a window cleaning prospect, until the very end when we record and deposit a check for the paid invoice.
This flow of steps is sometimes called a value stream. Think of it as a set of steps beginning with the value creation and ending with a paid invoice. So we must understand what that value looks like before we can evaluate how effective we have been and can be in the future in continuing to create and deliver the thing we do.
At Happy Window Cleaning®, we improve people's views. That should be our primary focus. This is why we must clean the windows. Cleaning windows is what we do but it is not nearly as important as why we do it. Our clients are not paying us to clean the windows, not really. They are paying for a great experience for themselves, the experience of dealing with professionals can reliably, quickly, and consistently provide them with outstanding views of their homes, property, and setting.
When we begin to truly appreciate our clients, we become willing to give them the great experience that they desire. When we do that are rewarded richly. We are allowed to welcome to stand among kings and great achievers in many realms. That is what being successful at value delivery gets us.
As owners, we must study every detail of our value creation and delivery so that we find ways to improve efficiency, productivity, throughput, and ultimately the lifetime value of our clients.
The Toyota Production System (TPS), adapted the early work of Detroit auto manufacturers, to systematically examine every step of their process regularly. What is more, Toyota adopted a culture where every hand and mind became accountable to find and improve the process. Analyzing the production system in great detail paved the way for an ongoing series of small incremental improvements. Toyota (and all of the others have since followed suit) make hundreds of thousands of improvements to the TPS each quarter. As a result, the entire automotive industry has made leaps and bounds in improving speed, consistency, and reliability which has greatly improved the reputation of the brands and customer loyalty driving up sales across the board to new record heights year after year.
Even today, the wealthiest county in Michigan and one of the richest in the entire world is Oakland County (just north of Detroit.)
The best way to understand a value stream is to draw a flowchart. The customer might start at your website, They respond to the call of action and click on: “Get an Estimate”. You become involved when you see their inquiry in your email inbox. “You have an interesting Prospect”. So, you log into Customer Factor and find the prospect under “Prospects”
You look at the address and lug that into “Bing Maps” to evaluate the size of the house, how many levels there are, what kind of windows (casement, double-hung, sliders), are there screens, storms, French or Italian windows? Do the windows have lattice grids, if so what type are they; wood, plastic, pins, snap-in, etc.
What is the landscape like, are their shrubs, rocks, air conditioning units, hot tubs, playhouses dog houses, and other obstructions, that make staging ladders and accessing windows more difficult?
What scope of work is involved? Is it an “in and out” cleaning, or exterior only? What notes have the customer added to the proposal?
The template that you use for the proposal has many terms and conditions, some will apply, others will not, and need to be highlighted and removed to keep the proposal relevant and as brief as possible. Tracing the steps or transformation that your offer goes from the beginning to the end reveals hidden aspects, strengths, weaknesses opportunities, and threats. This will show you just how efficient your process is. It is very common for processes to contain unnecessary steps or awkward transitions. Creating a complete diagram of your value stream takes effort but it can help you to streamline your process, making the entire system perform better. In a sense, that is what Happy Window Cleaning® Franchise is. Years and years of these sorts of efforts, countless iterations making us who and what we are. Nonetheless, we are always looking to improve.
In general, the rule is to make our value stream as short and simple as possible. The more steps and complicated we make things the greater the chances of things going amiss. The more steam lined our value stream is, the easier it is to manage the business.
Remember K.I.S.S. “Keep it simple stupid”.
The Distribution Channel
The distribution channel describes how our value proposition is delivered to consumers. As a service, we have a flagship operation that delivers window cleaning directly to clients in the Grand Rapids metropolitan area. There is no intermediary since the service is provided by the company itself.
Direct to user distribution is simple and effective however it also has limitations. We can only serve as many customers as our time and energy allow. Once the demand for our offer outpaces our ability to deliver it, we risk diminishing our reputation by disappointing new prospects.
By contrast, intermediary distribution works across multiple channels. Like when you purchase a product from a retail store, the business is a re-seller, since it probably didn't manufacture the product itself (although some do), they are purchased from another business.
Franchising is a kind of intermediary distribution network. The Happy Window Cleaning® Flagship can sell our value proposition to as many customers as we want by securing distribution through franchise partner shipping. The more distribution a product has the more sales it is likely to make. The more Franchises selling the product, the more opportunities for sales.
Intermediary distribution increases sales, however, it also entails giving up a certain amount of control over your value delivery process. This already transitions when a self-employed window cleaner takes on his first employee and sends that employee out onto an established window cleaning route. Happy Window Cleaning® works from the guiding structure of ownership incentive. Those who stand to reap large benefits from taking ownership are more apt to be effective with their value delivery efforts than most employees are. Therefore. Happy Window Cleaning® does not permit absentee franchise ownership. One must put skin in the game as a franchise owner. And specifically, a franchise owner must put in a minimum of thirty percent of their total workweek (fifty hours or more) on project sites cleaning windows. No other franchise has this requirement and it is a hedge against diminishing the good name of Happy Window Cleaning®. Also, we believe that effective leaders must lead by example.
Securing distribution is important, however, overseeing the distribution is just as crucial to success. There have to be checks and balances built into the guiding structure, follow-ups, monitoring feedback from customers and repercussions for negative feedback, poor production, and damage to reputation as well as incentives for effective and profitable operations.
When it comes to value delivery, how we set expectations matters. As a general rule of thumb, never set expectations higher than you can deliver. It is best to lower expectations and then wind up exceeding them.
Happy Window Cleaning® strives to meet expectations through a dedication to professional competency. We do not claim to produce perfect outcomes. We acknowledge that the standard that we abide by may see, subjective to those who are unfamiliar with our craft. Window cleaning is in the rawest sense a measure of cleanliness. Window cleaners do not sterilize, nor do we disinfect windows, tracks, screens nor window sills. There is no company on God's green planet, that is able nor willing to remove every grain of soil, and every smudge on every surface every time. If we could accomplish that it would come at an effort that requires time and expense greater than our clients would be willing to pay. In sum, there is no way to produce a level of cleanliness that one would expect from an infectious disease ward in a hospital while concurrently remaining financially sufficient.
One could spend several hours on a single-window sash attempting to remove solid trapped within, which becomes dislodged bit by bit with every tap, every opening, and closing. So clean in the sense of window cleaning does have ordinary and reasonable limitations that are unique to the trade. Window cleaning is part science and part art. We use TACT, we monitor our dilutions, we calibrate and attend to our tools. We train our technicians with effective and efficient techniques. But in the end, it just might be the art of understanding what is enough that enables Happy Window Cleaning to deliver a technical service that exceeds industry practice and that is professionally competent. In sum do not fall into the trap of seeking perfection at the cost of financial sufficiency. Performance should exceed expectations. Striking the right balance is all in the details.
Quality = Performance – Expectations
When performance is lower than expectations a customer's perception of quality will be low, even if the quality is high in concrete terms. This is why one can spend a few hours toiling up high in the direct sun on a ladder working on a window, but if a single streak or drip remains visible a customer might feel that they did not get their money's worth! Ask someone with more experience what to do in this circumstance. Often such a troublesome window can be dealt with more efficiently. Soaking it, allowing some dwell times, pre-scrubbing with a white pad and a doodlebug, allowing some dry time. Using the pole to stand back and see the window from the same angles that the customer will see it and buffing it with the pole can shave hours off of your labor. Working smart. Other times there are imperfections in the glass, a bad seal, silicone, or other matter that simply cannot be removed with the available tools.
Delivering quality is how a company thrives, this takes knowledge and experience. It takes both the willingness to perform one's duties with pride and the technical ability to get the job completed.
Think of Apple's first-generation iPod. When Steve Jobs promised “A thousand songs in your pocket” the call to action was heard around the world. But the device was so revolutionary that people when people experienced it they were blown away. While they knew they would get something good, the benefits of the iPod were much more than they had expected. Yet, even so, the next generation iPod while it technically had more storage and other features was not as well received. Why? It was because that the prelaunch expectations had been set so high that there was almost no way that Apple could meet them.
Remember the fourth-generation iPod, the one with an antenna glitch? The overall performance of the machine was still better than the previous ones but the fact that people found a problem with the machine turned many people off. The new version was better, it had more memory and it was cheaper, yet it didn't feel better to many people and so sales were not as good.
As of this writing, Apple has announced that they will no longer produce the iPod. They feel that it is obsolete nowadays with the popularity of iPhones/smartphones. The iPod product does not attract early adopters, so although there is still a potential to deliver value the company has chosen to stop manufacturing a product that many people would still like to buy. Is this a good strategy? Only time will tell.
The best way to consistently surpass our customers expects to give them a little bonus. To go the extra mile. We need to meet our customers' expectations and surpass them whenever possible.
Contractors are often unreliable. They don't return calls, and when you do get them to come, they don't do all they say they will do. The secret to Scott's Janitorial success was that we were predictable. It is what makes Happy Window Cleaning® a success. We do great work, we are friendly and observe good etiquette, and we show up when we say we will. His is called Predictability. This is what builds a brand, and value delivery is the process by which we achieve that recognition within the market.
When people purchase something, they want to know exactly what they can expect. With Happy Window Cleaning®, we communicate this with our written estimates. Going the extra mile gives people a surprise that pleases them. For instance, knocking down the cobwebs from the window casing, or dusting a ledge that is up high while we are up on the ladder. However, if we are not able to deliver what the customer expects predictably it won't matter how many extras you provide. People like nice surprises but they hate to be caught off guard!
Predictability is a three-legged stool. The first support is uniformity. This means delivering the same characteristics every time. With Happy Window Cleaning®, if we leave a single mini-blind up in the bedroom or they are uneven, we diminish the perception that our clients have about us. Think about Pepsi or a latte at Starbucks. No matter where you are in the world, you can expect the beverage to taste the same. This is no small feat for those companies. Those beverages with water that has to be filtered and treated to achieve uniformity and that are just the beginning of each process. Water from a river or a lake is not the same water from an underground aquifer. No two sources are the same and therefore they will not taste the same. Think about it. Yet the beverage must taste the same every time! If just a small fraction of the lattes sold at Starbucks didn't taste right people would stop buying!
Consistency is the second supporting leg of the predictability stool. This means delivering the same value over time. The surest way to failure is to violate the expectations of our loyal customers. In the mid-1980s Coke decided to change its formula. Sales plummeted. Who is the boss? The customer is.
Reliability simply means that you can be found when the customer needs you, that you will show up and get the job done promptly.
Improving predictability will enhance our reputation and build the Happy Window Cleaning® brand to new heights. As a franchisor, it is our responsibility to follow up with each of our partners and to be the mirror that we all need to ensure that we are reflecting the predictability that makes us the success that we are and the greater which we strive to become.
A measurement of the desired goal.
The formula for Throughput is Units/Time.
This is how we measure the results of the company's value stream. The more results we create per unit of time the higher the Throughput.
Dollar Throughput tells us how quickly the operation can produce a dollar of profit. This is useful when comparing one franchise operation (a particular value stream) to the others. At Happy Window Cleaning®, we require that our franchise owner affiliates achieve a predictable performance within a particular dollar throughput standard for the business cycle.
The best way to increase throughput is to begin to measure it.
With building a Franchise the rate at which we duplicate (also known as multiplication) our processes is an urgent consideration. Starbucks opens a new store someplace every day. That is a lot of moving pieces made to fit into the proper place so that the clock keeps accurate time. Similarly, at each store every time a cup of dark roast is poured a process has been successfully duplicated. Being the best in our space requires that we emulate the best in all spaces and innovate to be the leader in our own.
With my book “Cleaning for Profit” there was a time when duplication would have been a tedious process. Where scribes used feather pens and inkwells to copy books and a single copy could take a year or more! Nowadays duplication is instant electronically on Amazon. Times have changed. The opportunities we have today are astounding. Every time a book is duplicated Amazon is delivering value without the author having any direct involvement.
Similarly, we see that retailing has evolved from the days of westward migration along the railroad and the dissemination of the now-defunct Sears/Roebuck Catalog to a labyrinth of coupled global distribution and retailing outlets that makes Walmart so successful. The process of multiplication by way of franchising is how we can work together to likewise scale Happy Window Cleaning to its fullest potential. There is an upper limit on what any single unit can accomplish alone. But with many, there is great amplification of the brand. In the USA alone there over thirty-six thousand organized cities. Think of that scale! Within that framework exist scores of individual franchisee owners who operate more than two locations up to a hundred locations. Restaurants especially have championed the model. This is all made possible by the secret sauce particular to the line which is rooted in interdependent processes of duplication and multiplication.
The scale is the ability to reliably duplicate a process as sales volume increases.
Products can be successfully highly duplicated. Factories can crank a throughput of tens of thousands of mittens in an hour. A large retail chain can sell a million units of mittens in a single day when a cold front moves into the region. Products with the power of multiplication of profit can be a handsome business venture. People on the other end of the spectrum do not scale. We as individuals have an upper limit of how much work we can accomplish in a given time frame.
Let's consider Starbucks. To deliver an espresso there is human involvement sure. But the process is semi-automated in that there are machines that do much of the work. This enables an individual to sell a considerable number of beverages within a given shift. That is multiplication by successful duplication through the use of technology.
For us who do service work, our upper limit per individual is considerably constrained. However, our skillset and specialized tools and process do give us an edge. We can accomplish in a few hours what we are often told would take a customer a few days. It is this problem of constraining when comparing service to products that have convinced me that the best way to maintain a performance that exceeds our customers expect to extend ownership, via franchising. This is how come unlike many other window cleaning companies we are less interested in building a fleet of employee window cleaners. The Happy Window Cleaning® way is to facilitate a fleet of invested owners instead.
As an investor, Happy Window Cleaning® is not an absentee venture. This business requires your daily commitment and effort. We take service seriously. Service businesses are the most difficult kind of companies to scale. This may be why there is no single cleaning company in any of the specialties that truly dominate on a national scale. That said there are of course several leaders in each category.
Are two concepts related to value delivery that perhaps are the most overlooked in management efforts? Amplification is on the sales side and accumulation is usually associated with the expenses side. When we duplicate a service we are said to be amplifying our profit over time. So small changes in Throughput rates tend to amplify hugely over time. On the other side of the coin, we have expenses that accumulate to great sums over time.
Bruce Barton of Betty Crocker speaking at a grocers marketing convention once said:
“Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things, I am tempted to think that there are no little things”.
We seek to tighten up our efficiency because little leaks gone unattended over time will sink great ships. Turning over the squeegee rubber and using the opposite side gives us a hundred percent increase in efficiency. If everyone did that at 200 franchise locations what would that mean for profitability? What would that equal over ten years? Now imagine that we can take all of that savings and invested it in a real estate venture that had a future value greater than what we invested. The tax laws allow us to invest. The savings are compounded and accumulate at an astounding rate.
Similarly, if we increase Throughput cleaning a third-story window from twenty minutes to ten minutes, as a single instance that might not seem like a lot. But over a year, that increase in productivity can be tens of thousands of dollars in profits. So, amplification and accumulation are very useful things to think about going forward.
Investing in the right tools for the job increases our productivity dramatically. With Happy Window Cleaning®, we have squeegees from five inches up to thirty inches in width. A large picture window can be cleaned with just a few swipes using a larger squeegee. The few times we have to reset the ladder the more efficient we become. The same amount of effort accomplishes more work.
Similarly, a drywall installer may use a specially modified battery-operated drill and a framer uses a pneumatic or gas-operated framing gun. These tools multiply the force of mechanical action allowing the skilled technician to move along with the process much more quickly than he could use a manual screwdriver or a framing hammer. One force multiplier that we use in window cleaning is self-adjusting ladder levelers built onto specially designed lightweight stack-able ladders. Investing in the right tools saves professional window cleaners considerable time and effort during the staging process for exterior window cleanings. The more that a tool amplifies or concentrates your effort the better the tool.
Of course, some force multipliers are extremely expensive. A good water pole system can cost as much as five thousand dollars. Compare that with the cost of Computer-aided design plasma tools found in a metal fabrication shop which in some cases can cost millions of dollars. You are going to learn to conduct a cost-benefit analysis which will pay dividends when you can invest in the right tools to increase your profitability. As a general rule, the only time it makes sense to use financial leverage i.e. debt is when the investment promises to return an increase in productivity greater than the future value would be without the investment. Always choose the best tools that you can obtain and afford. Quality tools give us greater output with lesser input. Although we will cover efficiency in greater detail when we get into systems studies. Here is the fundamental efficiency formula.
Percent efficiency = In – Out/In (100)
Why do we bother with systems? The primary reason we create a system is that doing so paves the way for improvements to be made. Even if we were to make everything up as we went along when setting to accomplish a task, there would still be a process involved assuming that there are several steps from the beginning to the end. So by formally recording what happened, we open the possibility that we can rethink and retrace our steps to make the next iteration more effective with less effort exerted.
Customer service training is the coaching that employees receive to improve support and satisfaction among customers.
It’s an iterative process that involves teaching skills, competencies, and tools needed to better serve customers so they derive more value from products and services. In our case, it is the services Happy Window Cleaning® offers.
Any person in your company that interacts and deals with customers is eligible for customer service training. And given how your customers are your best growth opportunity, every employee should be working hard to keep them happy — whether from the position of a marketer, administrative assistant, or your field person. They all act as customer service representatives.
Strengthening Your Customer Service Skills:
As a service-oriented business, you and your men are expected to possess customer service skills that are beyond par. Here are some of the skills you are expected to possess:
1. Knowledge and skill - Customers rely on your knowledge and skill so be prepared to show them that you know what you're doing. Also, be prepared if they have some technical questions. If you don't know the answer, be honest. Customers will appreciate your honesty than a bluffed answer.
2. Clear communication - Say what you mean and mean what you say... but say it nicely by using authentic and positive language. Practice active listening skills.
3. Empathy - If a customer has a complaint or drops a hint of dissatisfaction, empathize with the customer. Listen and don't attempt to argue with the customer. When the customer is done talking, calmly explain your point of view. Sometimes it's not really about the solution but all the customer wants is to be heard. If you take the time to listen, then you are solving that part of the problem.
4. Patience - Some customers are having their windows cleaned for the first time and they do not know what to expect. They may have a lot of questions and it is your job to patiently answer these questions. Some customers are old, irate, or they simply talk a lot. Everyone is different, so have to be prepared in dealing with them.
5. Consistency - We are expected to provide the same level of service every time, and that is above standard.
6. Adaptability - Every place you service is different, just as every person is different. Learn to adapt to the situation. Providing good customer service is a continuous learning process. What’s important is that you are willing to learn.
7. Be cheerful - Our company's name is not Happy for nothing. We want to spread positive vibes.
8. Work ethic - You are expected to be professional. Don't waste the customer's time by taking long breaks, talking on the phone, smoking on the premises, etc. You want to get the job done as soon as possible so the customer can enjoy his space; at the same time, you will want to make sure that you do not compromise the quality of the service.
9. Thick skin - You should have the ability to swallow your pride and admit your mistake when warranted. Not everything a customer says is personal. Sometimes they are just upset, frustrated, or have a way with words and don't express themselves very well.
Bottomline: In all cases, confirm that your customer is satisfied. Make an effort to please the customer.
A happy customer not only has a better view but will also likely give a good review.
Applying Customer Service Strategy
Management typically creates a customer service vision for employees for them to understand what the organizational goals are for customer service. As an administrative person, you should be able to have a full grasp of your role to help achieve that vision. Know your company’s target/corporate objectives. If the standard can’t be met, figure out why and fix it.
Assess customer needs. You cannot meet their needs or deliver the service when you do not know what they want. Once the customer needs and expectations are identified and customer satisfaction is measured, it is time to create goals for achieving customer satisfaction.
Keep your disposition and skill set in check to help support a strong customer service environment. Skills can be taught but attitude and personality cannot. It’s a sad fact but not everyone should interact with customers.
Bear in mind that you are also accountable for customer satisfaction since you are the first person a customer interacts with. You are accountable to the company as far as meeting its goals is concerned.
Communicating Effectively with Customers
Good customer service is taking that extra step to help without being asked! It’s all about attitude and skills.
1. Listen actively. Effective communication starts with being a good listener. Focus on what the customer is saying rather than formulating your response. Use body language or small phrases, such as nodding your head or saying, “I see” to demonstrate that you are paying attention. If you are with the customer, maintain eye contact. When the customer has finished talking, repeat what you think you heard to ensure you clearly understood their message before you respond.
2. Don’t interrupt. Interrupting your customers will not only upset them but will limit your ability to communicate effectively. Allow the customer to finish his/her thought before you respond. It not only demonstrates respect but will also ensure you truly understand the point the customer is trying to make.
3. Use easy-to-understand words, not industry terms or jargon. Using phrases such prases may seem obvious to you, but to a customer, you may as well be speaking gibberish. To effectively communicate, you need to use words and phrases that the customer will easily understand.
4. Use professional wording, not texting terms when communicating electronically. While you and all of your friends may easily understand acronyms like BTW (by the way) or TTYL (talk to you later), those terms may not be as obvious to a customer, thus leading to communication confusion. Using these terms can also make you seem unprofessional. As with industry terms and jargon, avoid using texting terms. Write what you are trying to say.
5. Demonstrate courtesy. It’s very easy to ask questions in such a way that you command a customer’s response. For example, asking “storms?” is less courteous than “Do you have any storm windows?” Although this seems like a simple change, asking questions politely and professionally goes a long way towards demonstrating high-quality customer service.
6. Use positive, not negative statements. Customers want to hear what you can do to help them, rather than what you can’t do. The way you phrase things can directly impact their impression of you, your department, and your dealership. Instead of saying, “I can’t give you your specific rate unless I run your credit,” say, “I can provide you with your specific rate if you allow me to run your credit.” By addressing your customer with positive rather than negative statements, you can greatly reduce the number of roadblocks you may encounter.
7. Be aware of words or phrases that can lead to a defensive reaction. You also want to be aware of phrases that might inadvertently create a defensive or resistant reaction from your customer. For example, avoid using the word “you” too often. Instead of saying, “You have to speak louder,” say, “I’m having a hard time hearing you.” By changing the words from “you” to “I”, you help keep the customer in a positive mindset and the communication channels flowing.
8. Limit background noise and distractions. Be aware of what’s going on around you when you communicate. Are there a lot of background noises or events happening nearby that might distract either you or the customer from fully focusing on the conversation? If you are in a noisy or busy area, move to a quieter location. Whether you are speaking with a customer on the phone or in person, being in a quiet location where you can focus will benefit you both.
9. Don’t underestimate the value of snail-mail. In today’s technology-driven world, it’s easy to discount the value of a handwritten note. However, writing a handwritten thank-you note, a mailing follow-up letter, or even sending the customer a birthday card goes a long way in strengthening your communication channel with a customer, and in turn, your relationship overall.
10. Ask the customer how THEY prefer to communicate. Finally and possibly, most importantly, ask the customer how they prefer to communicate. While you may prefer email, the customer might prefer text messages. Or the customer might have a limited texting plan on their phone and get upset if you constantly bombard them with text messages. At the start of your relationship with each customer, take the time to ask, “What is the best way to stay in touch with you? Would you rather I call, email or text you?” This simple question can go a long way in helping you communicate more effectively with your customers.
Attitude Checklist –
What attitudes assist in providing good service?
1. Enjoy helping people - A Happy Window Cleaning employee is a happy worker. He enjoys his job and doesn't go about grumbling because he needs to help someone. This is a service-oriented business, and being of service to our customers is a priority. Imagine an employee representing Happy Window Cleaning but isn't happy to do the job. What reflection does it give the company? Think about it.
2. Handle people well. Make customers truly happy by giving every customer the attention they deserve.
3. Care for your customers. You want customers to give you repeat business, right? Treat them well. If they have a concern, don't dismiss them. Address the complaint as soon as possible.
4. Give fair and equal treatment to all. Do not give undue privilege to a customer. If word goes around that you are unfair to your customers, your company will not be trustworthy and you will lose customers (and potential ones too).
5. Be understanding of people with special needs
Customer Experience - Make Them Love Us
1. Customer retention is cheaper than customer acquisition.
An increase in customer retention of merely 5% can equate to an increase in profit of 25%. This is because repeat customers are more likely to spend more with your brand -- 67% more, to be exact -- which then results in your business having to spend less on operating costs.
According to our research team, the customer acquisition cost (CAC) -- how much it costs to acquire a new customer -- is more for a company that doesn't invest a small percentage of its budget in customer service. Ultimately, investing in customer service can decrease your churn rate, which decreases the amount you must spend on acquiring new customers and decreases the overall CAC.
2. Customer service represents your brand image, mission, and values.
You may have an idea of what your brand represents. However, your customers can't get into your head. They'll make assumptions based on your social media presence, advertisements, content, and other external marketing.
Your customer service team, however, is your connection to your customers. Thus, that team has the responsibility of representing your brand to them.
Without your customer service team, you have no means of direct communication. Due to this, your customer service team is essential in relaying to customers what you want your brand image to be. They can help influence customers and convince them of your strengths over competitors.
3. Happy customer service employees will create happy customers.
No employee is going to enjoy coming into work if they feel under-appreciated compared to employees on other teams. The same goes for your customer service team. After all, 87% of employees who are happy with their jobs are willing to work extremely hard for their business's customers.
It's important to note that 55% of employees who strongly disagree about being happy with their jobs will still work especially hard for customers.
However, their reasoning behind serving customers is less about wanting to provide quality service. Instead, it's about maintaining their professionalism and integrity, not wanting to get fired before quitting, being empathetic to customers, but getting recognition from them in the end.
Therefore, if you want your customers to do their best work, they should feel respected and appreciated. Only then will they find intrinsic motivation for doing a good job and serving their customers the right way, which will lead to your customers also feeling more respected and appreciated.
4. Happy customers will refer to others.
And, when your customers are happier, they're more likely to spread the goodness to friends, family, and coworkers. In fact, according to our research, 77% of customers have shared positive brand experiences with others. Think about it: if you have a stunning experience with a brand, you're probably going to rave about it to your friends over dinner later that night. It's natural; you want your close ones to commit to a brand that you trust.
It's a chain reaction. If you have a happier customer service team, they'll work harder to satisfy and exceed the expectations of your customers. Then, those customers will be extremely happy with your brand and refer others to it. Your customers can be your best -- and cheapest -- form of word-of-mouth advertising, as long as you give them a reason to do so.
5. Good customer service encourages customers to remain loyal.
If a customer has a positive experience with your brand, there's no reason for them to look elsewhere. As said before, it's a lot cheaper to retain an old customer than to acquire a new one. In this sense, the higher a customer's lifetime value -- the total revenue a company can expect a single customer to generate throughout their relationship with that company -- the higher the profit for your company.
In comparison to, possibly, hundreds of competitors with similar products and services, your company has to do more than relish in the exciting features of your products. By providing stellar customer service, you can differentiate your company to customers. Loyalty is rooted in trust, and customers can trust real-life humans more than the ideas and values of a brand. So, by interacting with your customer service team, those customers can build, hopefully, life-long relationships with your business.
6. Customers are willing to pay more to companies that offer better customer service.
50% of customers increase their purchasing with a brand after a positive customer service experience. 86% of customers would pay up to 25% more to get a better customer service experience. Customer service matters so much to customers that they would pay more to interact with a brand that does it well.
These are statistics that can't be ignored. In an era where companies are learning to prioritize customer service, any company that doesn't do so will crash and burn.
Customers are influenced by even a single experience; one positive experience could be the deciding factor for them to stick to a brand, whereas one negative one could send them running to a competitor.
7. Customer service employees can offer important insights into customer experiences.
It doesn't matter how you perceive your brand. What matters is how your customer perceives it.
For instance, if you work for an athletic wear company, you might associate your brand with fitness, health and wellness, and people who play sports. However, your customers may purchase from you because they associate your brand with leisure, comfort, and attractiveness. So, you should align your marketing with those values as well.
Your customer service team can answer a lot of these probing questions for you. Rather than having to spend time and money on constantly surveying customers, you can have your customer service employees simply ask these questions while interacting with customers. Their response can give you a lot of insights into improving your products, marketing, goals, and employee training. Without a solid customer service team, your brand may fall behind on shifting customer trends.
8. Customer service grows customer lifetime value.
If you're running a business, customer lifetime value (CLV) is a pretty important metric. It represents the total revenue you can expect from a single customer account. Growing this value means that your customers are shopping more frequently and/or spending more money at your business.
Investing in your customer service offer is an excellent way to improve customer lifetime value. If customers have a great experience with your service and support teams, they'll be more likely to shop again at your stores. Or, at the very least, they'll share their positive experience with others, which builds rapport with your customer base.
This makes new customers more trustworthy of your business and allows you to upsell and cross-sell additional products with less friction. New users will trust that your sales team is recommending products that truly fit their needs which will create a smoother buying experience for both the customer and your employees.
9. Proactive customer service creates marketing opportunities.
If you're looking for a cost-effective way to invest in your business, you should consider adopting proactive customer service. Rather than waiting for customers to report issues, this approach reaches out to them before they even know they exist. That way, customers know you're constantly working to remove roadblocks from their user experience.
But proactive customer service isn't just used for customer delight. It's also an effective marketing tool for introducing and promoting new products and services.
For example, if you create a new feature that solves a common problem with your product, your customer service team can refer it to your customers. They can use your CRM or ticketing system to look up customers who have had this problem in the past, reach out to them via the service ticket, and introduce the new feature as well as its benefits. And, this can sometimes be more effective than a sales pitch because customers feel like the service rep truly understands their issue after troubleshooting their problem.
10. Excellent customer service is a competitive advantage.
No matter what industry you're in, you want your business to stand out. After all, nobody strives to be the "second-best" at something. You want to be better than every other company you're competing with and you want your customers to know it, too. That's the key to keeping customers loyal and getting them to continuously interact with your brand.
Customer service can be an excellent differentiator for your company. 60% of customers stop doing business with a brand after one poor service experience. And, 67% of this churn is preventable if the customer's problem is resolved during their first interaction. That means if you provide excellent customer service, you'll not only retain your customers, but you'll acquire your competitors' as well.
It's undeniable that a well-trained, positive customer service team can make your company the best version of itself. Their ability to communicate directly with customers can revolutionize your company and grow your customer base.
Customer Service Procedures should be second nature to the business that thrives upon sales. Customer Service can easily make the difference between which products end up on shelves and which ones don’t. Happy Window Cleaning® HQ has made a habit of out-working and out-hustling the competition because we have to at this juncture. You should treat your franchise no differently. Barriers to entry in any sales outlet can be overcome by utilizing the value and essence of customer service procedures.
Customer Service Philosophy
Customer Service is the very foundation of our mission statement, purpose, and focus. In short, customers are the livelihood of our business. Happy Window Cleaning® places a great deal of emphasis on ensuring customer satisfaction. Only by creating a memorable impression, will you establish loyal customers and generate repeat sales. Customers are your bread and butter; treat them like gold.
Happy Window Cleaning® is in the people business, a company that is designed to provide a superior option to consumers. A significant part of our business is providing excellent customer service and creating positive community relationships.
Happy Window Cleaning® strives to look for ways to give the best service possible, often beyond our customers’ expectations. When we provide services that leave our customers with a feeling of respect and value, we are creating not only repeat business, but also a solid relationship with our community. When you are asked if you can go the extra mile to land new accounts, find a way to do so.
Customers return because they have developed a relationship with you. It is our goal to develop as many reasons as possible for customers to return and enjoy our product line. When our customers spend money, they want to feel good about it. Great customer service is not only profitable but helps build both customer and community relationships. Remember when we talked about the importance of word-of-mouth advertising? Impressing the customer also creates a strong market base and loyalty to the brand, which encourages positive word-of-mouth advertising.
Customers remain loyal to companies that treat them well. With all the choices people have today, it is important to create a loyal customer base by making them feel comfortable, important, and special. Cultivating solid relationships with each customer does this.
It is important to listen carefully to what customers are saying and pay attention to their concerns. Follow up by offering several solutions. Explain the benefits and value of the product and how it will solve the customer’s needs. Explain how the service is used and give examples of how it has worked successfully for other customers. The best way to impress a customer is to match their needs to our services. Listening is the key.
In business and the workplace, we all stand to benefit from more effective communication skills. Effective communication is an essential component of organizational success. When you connect and communicate with your customers, you can deliver the service needed to create satisfied customers. When the word gets out through effective word-of-mouth and strong referrals, you are creating the relationships needed for a strong and valued presence in your community. Each customer is a gold mine of information that can help you better meet their needs and exceed their expectations. This creates lifetime customers that generate repeat business. The more you understand your customers’ needs, the better equipped you are to provide the customer service necessary to fulfill their needs.
Building Rapport with the Customer
Rapport is a good understanding of someone and an ability to communicate well with others, according to the Cambridge English Dictionary. How do you establish rapport with a prospect or a customer?
1. Learn to pronounce their name and address them correctly. First of all, the worst thing you can do, right off the bat, is mispronounce a customer's name. Mistakes happen, and most people will be understanding that, but it's best to avoid this scenario whenever possible. If you know you're going to be calling a customer who has a trickier name, ask a coworker or manager if they've spoken with that person before. If not, try to have them introduce themselves first.
After that point, it's your responsibility to pronounce their name correctly. If you couldn't hear their name properly when they first state it, have them repeat it by saying something like, "I'm sorry, I didn't catch that. Could you repeat your name for me?" Most customers will appreciate your effort to address them properly, and this will set off your rapport on a positive note.
2. Break the ice by introducing yourself. Rather than jumping right in to discuss the problem your customer is having, why not start by spending some time to get to know each other? Icebreakers aren't just for summer camp and the first days of class; they can also benefit your interaction with a customer. The best way to do so is by telling them who you are beyond your role as their support rep.
If the customer's problem ends up being a long-term occurrence, you'll want to develop a relationship with the customer. By having a foundation built right from the start, your customer will feel more comfortable working with you -- and your company -- again in the future.
3. Be empathetic to the problem(s) they are facing. Whether your call is proactive or reactive, the majority of these customers are on the phone with you because they've faced some sort of problem with the product or service your company provides. So, be prepared to use customer empathy for whatever issue they are having.
When you've spoken with tens of customers about the same issue, it can be easy to wave it off as something normal or irrelevant. Or, when the issue seems paltry, you may get defensive. However, treat every customer interaction as anew and unrelated to any past ones. By showing that you are empathetic to the struggles they are facing -- no matter how seemingly large or small -- you can ensure a more positive conversation moving forward.
4. Actively listen and respond off-script. On many customer calls, representatives might be used to reading from a pre-written script. These scripts are beneficial when your mind goes blank or if you're unsure of wording. Otherwise, though, they should be out of sight and out of mind.
Customers can tell when you're speaking from a script. It makes you sound robotic and apathetic -- two traits you never want to associate with customer service or support. Put away the script and listen to what the customer is saying. Wait until they're done speaking and respond in your own words. Listen and reply as if that customer were your friend explaining a problem to you. This one action can go a long way in making your conversation more welcoming and authentic.
5. Allow angry customers to vent freely. It's normal for a customer support rep to want to have a response to everything a customer says. In the middle of a long-winded rant, you might have the urge to cut them off and dive into finding a solution. However, sometimes, it's best to take a step back and simply let them go off.
Consider when you've had the urge to simply vent to a friend. You're often not looking for a clear solution and you're not looking for someone to prove you wrong or make you see the opposing point-of-view. The same can go for a customer. Some angry customers just need to let it all out, so let them do so by simply listening. When they're finally done, you can begin diffusing your angry customer.
6. Restate their problem in your own words. There's nothing more infuriating than when you give a long-winded, exasperated explanation of your problem to a customer support representative, just to have them respond immediately with, "I understand, but…" and defensive reasoning that implies they don't understand.
Instead, after actively listening to the customer's product or service complaint, try to restate the problem in your own words. For example, a good way to do so is by saying, "So, from what I'm hearing, your main problem is that your system is working at half-speed, which makes it difficult to open multiple applications at once. Is this correct?" This gives the customer the chance to either correct you -- which makes the situation clearer in your mind -- or confirm that what you comprehended was spot-on.
7. Mirror the customer. Positivity is usually key on a customer call. However, it can be infuriating to be dealing with someone who is excruciatingly sunny. Imagine if you're having a bad day and feeling very frustrated when an issue pops up with your new product. The last thing you want is to be on the phone with a customer support rep who is incredibly joyous and keeps reminding you to see the best in the situation.
Rather, take the opportunity to mirror your customer. If they seem to be in a good mood, then that's great -- you too can crack jokes and be positive. However, if they seem to be very upset or angry, veer towards being sympathetic and understanding. You can still be friendly while matching their mood.
Chilly people get chilly reactions from others. Approach rapport building with the intent to be warm and friendly. Smile, give a firm handshake, make eye contact, and engage. Do so in an authentic way. If you're forcing the friendliness, prospects will notice and your attempts will backfire. Most of us know someone who wanted to be liked so he "tried hard," but it didn't work. In trying to be liked, he appeared needy and conspicuous. You can't force rapport. Show interest, but don't act subservient, overly friendly, or too pushy. If you come on too strong, you'll only be seen as inauthentic and turn the other person off.
8. Be genuine. When you are speaking on the phone with the clearly-defined relationship of support rep and customer, it can be easy to fall into a pattern of being a bit inauthentic. You want to empathize with your customers, but you've heard the same problem three times today. Thus, you put on a face of being empathetic, while you're internally screaming.
It's hard to be told to be genuine, as that already seems like a recipe for dishonesty. However, this is a tip to internalize for any profession. You can be yourself in the position; after all, although you represent your company, it is still you and only you who is interacting with that customer. And that is pretty special. Just remember to be honest with yourself and your customers; no customer support rep is perfect, and it's okay to make mistakes, as long as you have the best intentions.
No surprise to anyone, people are self-focused. This is quite helpful to those of you in sales since you need to learn about your prospects before you can craft the best solutions.
Buyers want to feel like they have an opportunity to share what they're thinking, including their desires, fears, and problems. More importantly, they want to feel like they're being heard. The more you can show you're listening to them and are genuinely interested, the more likely they are to be relaxed and willing to share.
9. Engage in personal conversation -- to an extent.
Sometimes, you end up speaking with a customer with whom you connect. During your icebreakers, or even during your rapport, you might end up learning a lot about each other on a personal level, which can benefit your overall employee-customer relationship and make for a more positive experience.
However, at the end of the day, you have to remember that your customer is strictly a customer. As much as you might enjoy interacting with them, you should never cross that line. If a situation emerges in which you want to start a personal friendship with a client, make sure to speak with your manager first about protocol and ensure that future conversations occur outside of the workplace.
10. Find common ground. People like people who are similar to themselves. The more you can uncover shared interests, the greater your ability to build rapport. Maybe you went to the same school, lived in the same city, have children of similar ages, enjoy the same TV shows, sports interests, or hobbies. Whatever it is, if you can uncover a similarity, you'll be able to make a connection.
11. Give genuine compliments. Sycophants get you nowhere, but genuine compliments are endearing. If you like the office, the buyer's website, or are impressed with their book, say so. If your prospect had a recent accomplishment, relay your authentic congratulations. They'll appreciate it, and this will go a long way towards building rapport.
12. Calibrate the rapport. New sellers are often overly sensitive to the time of a potential buyer. They may think, "I have an hour for this meeting and she's a CEO of a mid-size company. I need to use the whole time to get my points across. No time for chit-chat." So, they dive right in without an ice breaker and it doesn't go well.
Others can spend too much time chatting, and the prospect might become antsy to get down to business. Do your best to read the other person and find the right amount of rapport-focused conversation.
13. Read the culture. It's always best to be yourself, but remember to adjust your approach depending on who the other person is and/or which company they work for. Don't change who you are to fit the culture, but be aware of how the culture works and how it best responds.
14. Word phrases in a positive light. You may frequently find yourself in the position of having to tell customers something they don't want to hear. Perhaps, you don't know the answer to their complicated question. Or, you simply do not have an appropriate level of expertise to handle the issue at hand. Whatever it may be, this can often leave you feeling panicked.
It's easy to get flustered and quickly say, "I'm not sure" or "I'm sorry, I'm new." These responses have a negative connotation and can leave the customer wondering why the person supposedly dedicated to "supporting" them doesn't seem to have the answers. However, phrasing is key. Turn those phrases around by saying, "I'm not sure of the answer, but I will find out now and get right back to you" or "I'm going to check in with a coworker on the best way to approach this problem." You're saying the same thing, but these phrases come across as more professional and positive and less concerning to customers.
15. Ask for help if you're unsure of how to respond.
Last of all, if you truly don't know how to answer a customer's question or solve their problem, don't feel that the weight of that issue is on your shoulders. You are on a team for a reason. Customer support is rooted in collaboration, so make the most of that opportunity.
If you're going to tell a customer, "I don't know, but I'll find out," then you should find out. It's okay to not have all the answers, but it's not okay to not try your best to find the answers using the resources at hand. The best employees know when to ask for help, which helps them learn and grow better.
Communication Is A 2-Way Process
There’s no doubt about it, effective communication is a two-way street – it needs a sender (speaker) and a receiver (listener) and both of these people have responsibilities.
Effective communication means the receiver has understood the message conveyed by the sender – otherwise, there is no point in communicating at all. Whether or not the desired outcome is achieved is a reflection of how effectively the information was passed on.
For all the statistics that go around about how much of what we communicate is non-verbal (body language and the like), there is still an awful lot of importance to be placed upon the words we choose when speaking to one another.
The thing to remember is that each person will, to some extent, have their interpretation of the words they hear. Many other factors come in to play as well – just imagine how much you can completely alter the meaning of a sentence just by changing the following:
1. Tone - a particular quality, way of sounding, modulation, or intonation of the voice as expressive of some meaning, feeling, spirit, etc.: a tone of command. an accent peculiar to a person, people, locality, etc., or a characteristic mode of sounding words in speech, the stress of voice on a syllable of a word
2. Pitch - the relative highness or lowness of a tone as perceived by the ear, which depends on the number of vibrations per second produced by the vocal cords. Pitch is the main acoustic correlate of tone and intonation
3. Volume - the perceived loudness of the speaker
4. Pace - the speed at which someone speaks, eg the speed of response in an argument
5. Emphasis - when you stress a point, you emphasize something
6. Inflection - modulation of the voice; change in pitch or tone of voice
7. Intonation - the way someone's voice rises and falls as they're speaking
Now back to that old chestnut of body language. Consider the following and their potential impact on the listener:
1. Facial expression - one or more motions or positions of the muscles beneath the skin of the face
2. Stance - how speakers position themselves about the ongoing interaction, as opposed to posture (which is physical), the stance is synonymous with deportment or position
3. Posture - conveys information about: Interpersonal relations, personality traits such as confidence, submissiveness, and openness, social standing.
4. Gestures - a form of non-verbal communication or non-vocal communication in which visible bodily actions communicate particular messages, either in place of or in conjunction with, speech
5. Proximity to the receiver - how we guard our space boundaries and how we enter into the others' personal space, is integrally connected with the way we are related to other people
6. Eye contact - the act of looking directly into one another's eyes
As we said before, the person on the receiving end has a responsibility as well. It is important to be an active, rather than passive, listener. Show that you are interested in what is being said by using:
1. Posture – keep it open and lean in slightly towards the other person
2. Questions – encourage them to clarify their points
3. Repeat back to them what you understand their message to be
Matching and mirroring things like posture, mannerisms, and the type of language they use also helps because it gives the impression you are more in sync with the other person.
Barriers to Effective Communication
1. Dissatisfaction or Disinterest with One’s Job - If you are unhappy or have lost interest in your job, you are far less likely to communicate effectively – both on the giving and receiving ends. In other words, your heart isn’t in it. This barrier is perhaps the most difficult to overcome because it involves changing a mindset, and thus it typically doesn’t change until the person leaves.
2. Inability to Listen to Others - Active listening is an important aspect of effective communication. You cannot engage with someone if you are not listening to them because you will tend to make assumptions about their needs based on your perceptions versus reality.
3. Lack of Transparency & Trust - It is extremely difficult to communicate anything when there is a lack of transparency and trust. For example, if your staff believes you are holding something back, they will be anxious, some will speculate, and as a result, it will be more difficult for them to process any attempt you make to communicate with them.
4. Communication Styles (when they differ) - Everyone has their communication style. Some people are very direct while others prefer a more indirect approach. Some use detailed data, while others rely on generalities, and so forth. Occasionally, one person is so entrenched in their way of communicating, they find it difficult to communicate with others who rely on a different style. You might hear comments such as, “Mary never explains what she wants me to do, she’s never specific” or “Bill gets so caught up in the weeds, that I lose focus on the bigger picture.”
5. Conflicts in the Workplace - Conflict can happen for a variety of reasons and when it does, it becomes a barrier to effective communication. The nature of the conflict is not necessarily important, what is important is working to resolve the conflict. When conflict is not eradicated, it grows and then people begin to take sides, which further impedes effective communication.
6. Cultural Differences & Language - It is important to understand the cultural differences in communication. But don’t just think international as in remembering that in Japan one’s sir name precedes their given name. There can also be regional differences – for example, a northern might not like the term y’all or even understand the more comprehensive version, all y’all. While these examples may seem trivial, the point is that cultural differences can occur within the boundaries of the US, and when one does not recognize cultural differences, they risk offending the other person. It is in the offense that communication breaks down.
We all should actively engage in reflecting on our communication skills. The above list of communication barriers is a great place to start. Reflection, empathy (putting yourself into the other’s shows), and practice will help you hone your skills. However, no one is perfect, so it is also important to recognize and acknowledge when you make a mistake, which is the first step in keeping the doors to effective communication open.
Handling Customer Complaints
How many times have you heard the customer service mantra: “The customer is always right”? At Happy Window Cleaning®, we believe that the customer is never wrong, but they are not necessarily right. Are we just playing with words? No. At Happy Window Cleaning®, we strive to create relationships where the customer never feels that they are wrong, but where you know that they are not always right. This means that you will need to develop skills to handle customers and customer complaints in a way that lets the customers feel that they are not wrong, and you maintain professionalism.
The ability to handle complaints in a cool, collected, and professional manner is a sign of great customer service. People tend to become emotional when a problem arises. Being equipped with the right tools and skills to handle complaints will reduce potential problems.
Empower every employee in the franchise to handle complaints by first teaching them the strategies to deal with a problem. Many times, the customer was more upset about how a problem was handled rather than about the problem itself. An effective way to reduce tension and recover a customer from a poor experience is the L.A.S.T. strategy. The L.A.S.T. method is an easy and excellent way to manage a problem.
LAST: A method used to manage and recover an unsatisfied customer. The L.A.S.T. customer strategy ensures that customers are treated well and that their concerns are dealt with quickly and efficiently. L.A.S.T. stands for LISTEN, APOLOGIZE, SOLVE, THANK:
• Give the customer full attention by maintaining eye contact.
• Give the customer cues that you are listening.
• Encourage the customer to talk and fully explain their needs.
• Don’t interrupt the customer: it’s rude and limits understanding.
• Have empathy.
• Ask appropriate questions.
• Listen until all frustration is vented; it calms customers down.
• Be positive, pleasant, confident, and calm.
• Restate what the person has said and ask if that information is correct.
• Stay focused: contain the situation within the parameters of the problem.
• Be sincere with the apology.
• Don’t pass the buck.
• Ask the customer how he would like the problem solved.
• Take immediate action to solve the problem.
• Exceed customers’ expectations.
• If the problem can’t be remedied immediately, assure them that the problem will be solved.
• Follow up with a phone call if necessary.
• Do whatever it takes, within reason, to make the customer happy.
• Thank them for bringing the complaint to your attention.
• Use the information to improve service, systems, or processes.
• Remain calm and polite.
Use the L.A.S.T. method as a strategy to handle complaints in an effective way to reduce tension and recover a customer from a poor experience. The L.A.S.T. method is an easy and excellent way to manage a problem. Remember--many times the customer can be more upset by how a problem was handled rather than the problem.
How complaints are handled is as important as addressing the problem itself. The ability to handle complaints in a cool, collected, and professional manner is a sign of great customer service. People tend to become emotional when a problem arises.
Small problems can grow into serious dilemmas if not properly handled systematically and routinely, such as using the L.A.S.T. strategy. Talk with your people about complaints and use the experience to improve customer service skills. Properly handling complaints satisfies customers and increases positive word-of-mouth advertising. Complaints allow the perfect opportunity to improve operations and keep the customer’s loyalty.
22 THINGS YOU SHOULD NEVER SAY TO CUSTOMERS
There are dozens of things you can say to customers that come across as condescending, flippant, or tacky – things that will destroy the customer experience instantly. No matter how you communicate with customers, you want to avoid these words.
Nearly 70% of customers quit doing business with an organization because they felt they were treated rudely or with indifference, according to one study. Most of the employees who treated customers that way probably never even realized it.
Right or wrong, many customer-facing employees don’t even know when they say a word or use a tone that offends customers. Even professionals who pore over the copy they present to customers overlook phrases that can potentially turn off customers.
The worst part: Most customers aren’t going to tell you that they were offended or bothered by what was said. They’ll just resent the experience and not come back. That’s why it’s important to choose words carefully when dealing with customers.
Keep on peppering conversations, email exchanges, text messages, and promotional copy with the words they love to hear — their names, “thank you,” “please,” “our pleasure” and “problem solved.” Front-line employees want to share a smile, laugh, or even a story.
But by all means, avoid these sentences, words, and phrases in customer communications:
1. It’s no big deal - It may not be a big deal to you, but rest assured if customers brought something to your attention — a problem, concern, or question — it’s a big deal to them. Instead, say “Tell me more.”
2. Don’t worry about it - You don’t know how any customer handles anxiety or personal and business issues. Worry may be healthy for one person. It may be a sign of weakness for another. The key is to never tell customers how to feel. Instead, say, “I will take care of it.”
3. You sound just like … - Whether you compare one customer to another customer, your mother, colleague, husband, or best friend, by saying he is similar to others is a form of dismissing his concern, idea, or question. Instead, say, “I can help with this.”
4. You’re the first one to complain about this - Most customers walk away without ever saying a word. That’s never more apparent than when customer loyalty is down, but complaints are stable. Many customers don’t complain, so when you hear one, imagine there are many more unspoken issues like it. A customer who gives a unique complaint is doing you a favor by pointing to a potentially bigger problem. Instead, say, “That’s interesting. What more can you tell me?”
5. You don’t seem to understand - The problem could be that you aren’t being clear. But by saying this, you imply that customers are think-headed. Instead, say, “What can I clarify?”
6. I don’t think you’re listening to me - Like you, customers are distracted during conversations by a multitude of things. One of those things could be the way you’re presenting the information – perhaps at a scripted, dull pace or in a condescending tone. Instead, say, “Please tell me what’s not clear.”
7. That sounds good in theory, but … - This suggests yours is a real-world perspective and the customer’s view is totally off base. That may be how you see it, but customers will be insulted if their theory is quickly scoffed at. Instead, say, “I see your point, and please bear with me while I share mine.”
8. I know how you feel right now, but you really shouldn’t because … - Customers may tell you outright, “I’m angry,” “I’m elated” or “I’m frustrated” so the first part of this sentence is correct. You do know how they’re feeling. The problem is, it’s never a good idea to tell customers why they should or shouldn’t feel one way or another. Instead, say, “I can understand why you’d feel that way. Let’s see what we can do now.”
9. I’m not the best person to deal with this, so I’ll send you to … - Customers got in touch with you, so they expect that you are the person to handle their questions or issues. Saying something like this undermines your credibility and the trust customers may have had in you. When there is someone more qualified to help, let customers know you want the best for them and aren’t just casting them off to someone else. Instead, say, “I can help, but Hector is the absolute best in that area. I’d like to bring him in on this. Is that OK with you?”
10. That’s another department - Customers don’t know the ins and outs of your organization. They just want a quick answer or solution without having to hear your company protocol. So when they hear, “I don’t do that” or “It’s not my job,” they often assume that people pass the enveloped rather than do their jobs. Instead, say “I know who can help with this.”
11. Don’t tell anyone I said this - When sales or service pros work at one place long enough, they will get chummy with customers. But that never gives them license to talk negatively or gossip with customers about their workplace or other people in it. If you don’t think what you want to say should be heard by others, keep your mouth shut. Secrets never stay quiet. Instead, say nothing.
12. I am (or she/he is) such an idiot - Even when you or your colleagues make mistakes, you don’t want to undermine your true abilities or those of a co-worker. One error does not make anyone the village idiot — or stupid or incompetent or silly. It makes someone human, and customers can forgive that. Instead, say, “I (or we) made a mistake, and this is how we’re going to fix it.”
13. It’s not my/our fault - Responsible, successful companies and individual employees dealing with customers never point fingers or look for scapegoats. They own up to their faults and pursue immediate fixes and long-term solutions to retain the respect of their customers. Instead, say, “Let’s see what can be done about this right now.”
14. … or else - This is often preceded by alternatives such as “You must do this …” “You should do that …” It’s essentially a threat. Bullies say these kinds of things, not empathetic customer care professionals. Instead, say, “What you might want to do is …” or “Can you please ….”
15. The policy stinks - Sure, we all have to live by and enforce some policies that we don’t like, don’t understand, or think are unfair to customers. But you’re the face of the company, and if you are detached from its practices and beliefs, customers will think there’s something wrong with them. Instead, say, “To ensure the best for our customers, we’ll need to …” or “It’s our common practice to …”
16. No offense, but … - Guess what? If you ever have to start a sentence with this phrase, it’s probably best to stop the sentence right there. Saying “no offense” only prepares the other person to be offended. Be certain, what is said next will offend your customer. Instead, say nothing.
17. I’ll friend you - If you want to connect with customers online, Facebook is not the place to do it. Connect on LinkedIn or industry blogs. Maintain a clear line between your professional and personal life — and know that Facebook is almost always not a bridge between the two. Instead, say, “Will you join my professional network on LinkedIn?”
18. LOL (or OMG) - You’re not a teenage girl giggling about the latest Justin Bieber YouTube video. If you use this kind of texting language with customers, you’ll appear to be unprofessional. Instead, say (or write), “That’s funny” or “Wow, I didn’t expect that.”
19. I just got dumped - Matters of the heart are best discussed with family and friends, not customers or colleagues. If you have an occasional bad day because of a personal situation, it might be a good idea to request to do behind-the-scenes work.
20. I haven’t had a raise in five years - Being upset and admitting it will hurt your credibility with customers and the boss. Complaining about no low pay is tacky. Instead, say nothing.
21. Oh sh!* - Cursing reflects poorly on an employee’s personality and professionalism. It suggests you need to rely on curse words to get your point across. Not to mention, it can offend customers who don’t ever use that kind of language. Instead, say, “Oh, gosh” “My goodness” or “Ah, shucks.”
22. Off-color jokes - Appropriate jokes and humor are OK to use when talking to customers and in the right context. Any kind of joke or humor that pokes fun at any one group of people will surely be offensive to that group and probably a much larger population. Instead, say, “What did one eye say to the other? Don’t look now, but I think something between us smells.” Or you might want to try some other clean humor.
Our Customer Complaint Policy
We regard a complaint as an expression of dissatisfaction about our organization, our staff, our partners, our contracted service providers, or anyone else acting on our behalf. A complaint can be received verbally, by phone, by email, or in writing.
• To provide a fair complaints procedure that is clear and easy to use for anyone wishing to make a complaint
• To publicize the existence of our complaints procedure so that people know how to contact us to make a complaint
• To make sure everyone at Happy Window Cleaning® knows what to do if a complaint is received
• To make sure all complaints are investigated fairly and in a timely way
• To make sure that complaints are, wherever possible, resolved and that relationships are repaired
• To gather the information that helps us to improve what we do
The person who receives an email/written/phone or in-person complaint should:
• Write down the facts of the complaint
• Take the complainant's name, address, and telephone number
• Note down the relationship of the complainant to Happy Window Cleaning®
• Inform the complainant that we have a complaints procedure
• Tell the complainant what will happen next and how long it will take
• Where appropriate, ask the complainant to send a written account by post or by email so that the complaint is recorded in the complainant’s own words
All complaint information will be handled sensitively, telling only those who need to know and following any relevant data protection requirements.
Stage One - The complaint will be formally acknowledged within 48 hours and will be logged into our customer feedback register within 2 working days. An acknowledgment will confirm who is dealing with the complaint and when the complainant can expect a reply. A copy of this complaint procedure will be attached. In many cases, a complaint is best resolved by the person responsible for the issue being complained about. If the complaint has been received by that person, they should try to do so if possible and appropriate. If it has not already been resolved, the franchisee will investigate and take appropriate action within 5 working days. We may ask the member of staff who dealt with the complainant to reply to the complaint. You may be asked to meet the complainant to discuss and hopefully resolve the complaint. This will be done within 5 days of the end of our investigation. Within 2 days of that meeting, we will write to the complainant to confirm what took place and any solutions agreed with you. If they do not want a meeting or it is not possible, we will send a detailed reply to the complaint. This will include suggestions for resolving the matter. This will be done within 5 days of completing our investigation.
Stage Two If the complainant feels that the problem has not been satisfactorily resolved at Stage One, they can request that the complaint is reviewed at the HQ level. At this stage, the complaint will be passed to the Managing Director. The request for the Headquarters level review will be acknowledged within 48 hours of receiving it. The acknowledgment will confirm who will deal with the case and when the complainant can expect a reply. The Managing Director may investigate the facts of the case themselves or delegate a suitably senior person to do so. This may involve reviewing the case and speaking with the person who dealt with the complaint at Stage One. If the complaint relates to a specific person, they will be informed and given a further opportunity to respond. Stage 2 complaints will receive a definitive reply within 10 working days. If this is not possible because, for example, an investigation has not been fully completed, a progress report will be sent with an indication of when a full reply will be given. The decision taken at this stage is final.
Stage 3 - We monitor and review the effectiveness of our complaints handling process to ensure that this continuously improves and learnings from complaints handling are carried through into the company. Complaints are reviewed annually to identify any trends which may indicate a need to take further action.
Customer service is about pleasing the person who brings you business. It cannot be helped that conflict ensues with a customer, and most often than not, it is just a case of a simple misunderstanding that open communication could not fix. Listen to the customer’s complaints and come up with a solution, even if it entails having to physically fix the customer’s problem. Be open to solutions the customer may offer. Humble yourself, apologize for the misunderstanding and the inconvenience, and if possible, give him a discount to appease him; the customer is always right, after all.
In a ratio of one out of ten, you are likely to encounter a stingy customer or one who will argue about the reasonableness of your fee after the job is done and will refuse to pay. How do you handle situations like these? What do you do if he already paid or deposited and asks for a refund?
The rule of thumb is to keep your cool. You can reason out to your customer in an unruffled manner and won’t have to burn bridges if you explain your side in a calm and collected manner. The best safeguard that you have is the written contract the customer signed. Never do a job for a customer without a written contract, even if the customer is a friend. Verbal agreements are difficult to prove or disprove in the event of a dispute, more so in court actions. A written contract is your best defense that you agreed to perform so much work for a stipulated sum of money that the other party promised to pay. Always ask for a down payment. A customer who is in good faith will have no qualms about having to pay part of the fee in advance. Make it easy for your customer to pay you. Do not limit compensation to one mode of payment, (example: strictly cash or strictly debit or credit card transactions only). Some people are more comfortable paying in cash, checks, or money order and you should be flexible enough to accept these modes of payment. If it’s a huge account and it’s your customer’s very first transaction with you, you might want to check your prospective customer’s credit first. Again, a reasonable man will understand that for a huge account such as a pending transaction, you have the right to protect your interests and make sure that you will be paid.
Give your customer an invoice upon completion of the service. Commercial customers expect a net 30 arrangement; they expect to be billed. By contrast, residential customers usually pay at that time of service; if they don’t pay promptly send another invoice and charge late fees if you must, but make sure that you make it clear in the contract that you do charge late fees so there will be no questions later on disputing the extra charge. If the customer doesn’t pay, send a demand letter with a warning that if he doesn’t pay, he leaves you no choice but to collect the fee (among other fees such as late charges and court filing fees) in court for his delinquency. Normally, delinquent customers pay when they get a demand letter and would rather settle the matter out of court, but given the worst-case scenario that he doesn’t pay, you will have two choices – file a collection claim with the small claims court, or simply write it off and deduct it as a bad debt from your income taxes.
Small claim courts have jurisdictional amount limits. You can only claim so much as the court allows, no more than that. In most jurisdictions, the cap is Five Thousand Dollars. Most small claim court actions are not as formal as other court litigations, and some courts do not even allow attorneys in this kind of action. What you save on attorney’s fees, you spend on court filing fees; and court filing fees vary from state to state. If the court rules in your favor, you can ask your debtor-customer to reimburse you for the fees you have paid. Asking for reimbursement is legal because strictly speaking, you are forced to litigate because of the customer’s delinquent payment. Logic dictates that court action would not be necessary had he paid you immediately. Be prepared to prove that there’s an agreement between you and the customer to perform the services; and you can do this by presenting the written contract, ideally notarized. You are also expected to prove that several demands for payment were upon the delinquent customer but the latter stubbornly refused to comply. For this purpose, demands for payment must be in writing and proof of service such as a return card must be available too. For your protection, demands for payment must be formal at all times.
Handling Requests to Refund
From time-to-time, you may have a customer or client that requests a refund on a service that was already performed. This can be a critical juncture in your relationship with a particular customer and thusly, the situation must be handled as professionally as possible. A refund is more appropriate for defective products – they return the product and you give them their money back. But how do you refund for a service when there is no way of giving back the labor already rendered?
First and foremost, obtain a complete understanding of why the particular customer or account is requesting a refund. Is it something that is easily fixed? If that’s the case, a re-do is in order instead of a refund. If the property was damaged, then a repair is in order, at the franchisee’s expense. If the situation is more complex, or you feel as if your franchise is being taken advantage of, contact Happy Window Cleaning® HQ for guidance. Our professional staffers have been through almost any scenario you can name and we will be available to assist you through the particular process. Above all, don’t be discouraged! Depending upon how the situation is handled, you may have just made a customer for life—so take all complaints of this nature seriously.
If you find yourself in this situation, the best advice is to contact the refund request party immediately. Ignore this dilemma at your peril.
GUARANTEEING RETURN BUSINESS
1. Leave a positive impression, smile. First impressions count and will affect the interaction. People make judgments in the first 30 seconds. Golden Rule – You only have one chance to make a first impression!
Take note of the company’s policy on presentation:
b. Personal hygiene
c. Hair – cleanliness and style
d. Accessories – jewelry, earrings, watches, tattoos,
e. Expression – facial expressions
f. Tone of voice
g. Body language
For a positive impression always:
a. Be confident
b. Know your organization and the services you provide
c. Observe confidentiality
d. Follow up (don’t just say you’ll do something, do it)
e. Strengthen the customer’s commitment to your company
2. After doing the job, do a walk through with the customer and make sure that the customer is satisfied with the job
3. Tell them something that may be useful to them later (example: how to avoid build-up)
4. Meticulous Workmanship Guarantee – We guarantee our customers that we do our best effort when we undertake a project. Since we are human and nobody’s perfect, it cannot be helped that sometimes there are slight imperfections in the job that still require attention. On this score, we guarantee to go back to the site and fix the problem. This is done by the employee on his own time. Why? To emphasize to the employee that (1) they have to be responsible, and (2) that our customers be satisfied with the job. Be open to feedback and address the issue.
5. Ensure any special needs of customers are taken into account
Who are customers with special needs?
a. People for whom English is not their first language
b. People with disabilities
c. People from other areas who may not be familiar with the way things are done here
d. People with limited mobility
e. Unaccompanied children
In short, show the customer that you are trustworthy, have excellent communication skills and be willing to learn (evolve).
What to Avoid:
a. Saying ‘I don’t know’ without offering an option
b. Saying you don’t know where a co-worker is
c. Leaving people on hold for a long time
d. Ignoring people if you’re busy, or being busy with other things (smoking or talking on your phone) when the customer expects you to do the job
e. Treating people unequally
DEALING WITH DIFFICULT CUSTOMERS
How do you deal with a difficult customer?
1. Label the behavior, not the customer
3. Don’t get defensive
4. Don’t take it personally
5. Find out what the customer wants
6. Discuss alternatives
7. Take responsibility for what you CAN do
8. Agree on an action
9. Never say or write anything that can be used against you.
10. Always resolve disputes in person or over the phone. Email is not an effective tool for hashing out disagreements.
The Talkative Customer
• Ask closed questions
• Limit the time available for them to interrupt (don’t have long pauses)
• Provide minimal response
• Smile and be pleasant, but don’t encourage them
• Wind up – thank them for their time but don’t be rude or dismissive.
The Angry Customer
• Listen carefully without interrupting so you understand the problem
• Empathize in a broadway
• Stay calm and remain polite
• Don’t escalate the problem
• Don’t take it personally, be defensive or blame others
• Propose an action plan and follow it
• Seek support if you are scared, if you can’t agree on a solution or if the customer asks to see “whoever’s in charge”
The ‘Know It All’ Customer
• Acknowledge what they say
• Compliment them on their research
• Be generous with praise
• Don’t put them in their place no matter how tempting
• Don’t try to be smart – you can’t win!
• Ask them questions and use them to improve your knowledge
The Indecisive Customer
• Find out what they want
• Ask them for the options
• Reflect them what they’ve said
• Assume control gently and point out the best course of action from what they’ve told you they need
• Be logical
• Confirm a plan of action with them
• Maybe even put it in writing
The Suspicious Customer
• Establish your credibility
• Ensure you know your product or service
• They will try and catch you out so don’t guess or tell them something you’re not sure of
• Be careful what you say
• Be polite
• Don’t take it personally, they just don’t trust anyone!
1. There is no need to study the customer’s needs. They want their windows cleaned, for sure. If not, it will have to be the gutters or dryer vents. True or false? Explain.
2. How do you handle a difficult prospect or customer? Explain.
3. The customer is always right. True or false? Explain.
4. Dissatisfaction or disinterest in one’s job is a barrier to communication. True or false? Why?
5. What is the best way to build rapport with the customer?