Do you know what your customer expectations are?

What do companies like Virgin, First Direct and Pret a Manger all have in common? They continuously deliver improved profits and gain market share by providing outstanding customer service. Understanding your customers, their needs and expectations is therefore crucial to the ongoing success of your business. As technological and digital advancements are made, and service capabilities become greater, customer expectations rise with it.

Companies like the ones mentioned above share some core competencies, such as the focus on identifying what their customers expect, and constantly improving this process as well as the outcome of their service.

So, to get started in understanding your customers’ expectations, ask yourself these questions:

• Do you know how satisfied your customers are with your products/services?
• Do you have any proof of this?
• Do you operate a Customer Satisfaction Policy?
• Do you hold customer satisfaction reviews?
• To what extent do you think you are meeting or exceeding customer expectations?
• How does customer satisfaction feedback drive your customer service planning, new product development, and/or marketing strategy?

Even if this is something you haven’t focused on in the past, simply by asking yourself and your team these questions will start to make you more customer-oriented and discover ways to improve your service if there are any issues identified. For example, take the opportunity to research where the gap is between your existing quality of customer service, and:

• The minimum quality required by your customers, and/or
• The ideal quality required by your customers, and/or
• The quality of service that would encourage your competitors’ customers to start buying from you!

Then, work out if increasing the quality of your service would be cost effective, and what actions will profitably build your business.

Profitable Customers

Speaking of profitably building your business, what’s important here is to determine what a ‘quality service’ means to each and every segment of your audience. In particular, understanding what it means for your most profitable customers, who:

• Generate 80% of your profits
• Make up a large proportion of your business advocates

So how can you manage customer expectations?

You need to get a more accurate reflection and understanding of the needs of each customer segment, ideally each individual customer. You can do this by:

• Encouraging regular customer feedback – this could be done on the phone with customer service employees, or via an email survey, for example.
• Actively encourage customers to complain – then fix the problem, and make sure they go away fully satisfied.
• Set your business a service promise/service agreement – and then tell every customer about it! For example:

o Commit to delivery deadlines (Remember not to over promise and under deliver – this should be the other way round!)
o Guarantee accuracy of information on your website
o Respond to emailed enquiries within a set number of hours
o Include return guarantees
o Include personal security/personal data guarantees (if appropriate)
o Include a price promise

Improve Customer Service with Ripley Training

If you would like to find out more about how to manage and understand customer expectations and how this can increase and improve your business then our Excellent Customer Service course is right for you. Alternatively, if you would like to improve how you interact with customers by becoming a better listener, asking effective questions and developing robust negotiation skills, then our Assertiveness Skills course may be what you’re looking for. If you’re not sure which course is right for you, we provide a range of high quality and accessible training to suit your business’ needs. Get in touch today for more information.

5 Ways to Deal with Difficult Clients

“The day you sign a client is the day you start losing them”

Everyone has come across difficult clients at some point in their career. Knowing how to deal with this person can be tough. Whether you aren’t delivering to their expectations or they’re anxious about what you are doing, by following these five ideas you can be sure to have a smooth relationship. The day you sign a client could actually become the start of a wonderful and prosperous relationship!

1. Trust

It is up to you to convey to the client that you know exactly what you are doing. It’s your job to complete the task or job agreed and let the client know they are in good hands whilst doing so. A client will become very uncomfortable and anxious if they don’t understand exactly what you are doing and why. This could make them seem overbearing and picky when they are actually just passionate about the project and take their work seriously.

If you have a client like this, try taking a couple of hours to educate and inform them of the work you are doing for them. It could make all the difference.

2. Only Solutions, Not Problems

If you feel that a client is being difficult, take a step back and think. Maybe the client is not being difficult, maybe they are just raising a genuine problem with the work you are doing with them. Even if you don’t see the problem, you have to find a solution to put their mind at ease. It is your job to do so.

Counter any problems, and even those that you may think of as non-problems, with solutions. However simple or complex, the way you deal with it should be the same; efficiently and politely. Most importantly never let them think it was any trouble.

3. Pre-empt any issues

In a similar vein to the above, when dealing with any client you should always be aware. You should be able to recognize when and what a client may have an issue with. For example, if you are sending a monthly report and it isn’t as good as expected, offer an explanation of why this could be. Don’t wait for them to ask. You will seem on the ball and confident and they will be satisfied with the work. Everyone’s a winner.

Trust your instincts with this one. If you can see a potential problem they could raise then they probably will. Find a solution to this problem before it becomes one.

4. Keep in Contact

It’s important that you are in regular contact with your client. Regular updates about the work you’re doing and keeping them in the loop will go a long way into how comfortable the client feels. A client who is not informed about a key change or update in your company or work will become dissatisfied. As well as the usual contact regarding work, make extra time for face to face meetings if necessary. The first way to improve client relationships is to nurture them.

Remember, when dealing with any client it is vital to remain professional and polite at all times. They are paying for your service and you therefore have a duty to keep them satisfied.

5. Personality Clash

Sometimes the source of a bad client relationship could be as simple as a personality clash. It happens. There are too many people in the world for everyone to get on great. In the short term when dealing with this client, it is best to be polite, civil and professional. The longer term resolution would be to assign another member of staff to the client. This needn’t be obvious and awkward. You can simply say the change was due to internal adjustments.

Ripley Training

At Ripley Training we offer a wide variety of courses to help you improve your customer service and personal skills. Learn more about dealing with difficult clients on our Communicating with Confidence and Personal Impact Course. If you need help dealing with unsatisfied customers our Handling Difficult Callers and People on Reception Desks Course will help you gain confidence and offer a better service.

We also offer bespoke training to suit any training needs you may have.

How traditional brands can remain relevant in the digital world

Technological change has transformed consumer’s lives and the way we do business. In the past decade alone, there has been the most rapid change since the industrial revolution of the 18th century. And if you work in marketing, you need to ensure that you look into the future and anticipate change in order to keep your brand relevant.

According to leading digital business strategist, Brian Solis, we’re now in the age of “Digital Darwinism”; which he basically describes as the “evolution of technology, business models and society”, which makes the customer experience more intangible. So what does this actually mean?

Digital Transformation

The days when a company could establish its brand, sit back and wait for the customers to come knocking on the door are long gone. Your brand is no longer defined by what it says but also what it does; the World Wide Web has become your online shop window and your business portfolio, accessible to everyone, globally, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.

In this rapidly changing technological market, it is important for companies to recognise the importance of adapting their brand to meet the requirements of their customers and stay relevant. The goalposts are constantly shifting; nothing remains the same for too long. This means that brands must capitialise on the full digital toolkit of website design, social media, content marketing, SEO and so on; to portray their businesses in the best way possible and effectively cater to their customers.

More traditional brands such as B2B organisations and those involved in manufacturing or engineering, for example, may question the extent to which their company brand should have a digital presence. There could be some confusion over the benefits of this, or perhaps some reluctance to change. In order to make a seamless transition into the digital era, we recommend you consider the following:

1) Know your customers (and your competitors!)

Take time to routinely research your market. This can happen quarterly or monthly if necessary. Review, update and refresh your market knowledge to stay ahead of your competition and better anticipate customer needs. Never ‘rest on your laurels’ as the old adage goes. Your target audience may have grown and evolved; so don’t make mis-informed decisions – customer needs are ever-changing. Use the web to research customers. Sites like LinkedIn offer a massive opportunity to research target customers by name, location, job title, industry and so on. You can also speak directly to your customers via Twitter for a more personable approach with your brand.

2) Plan ahead

As we’ve emphasised above; it’s important to take precautions to stay one step ahead. Complacency runs the risk of your brand being ignored for something more relevant. Create actionable marketing plans with schedules, timings and key tasks. Schedule social media content and plan content for your blog every month in advance. All of these are great ways to boost your content marketing activity and drive visitors to your website whilst also entertaining/educating your audience at the same time, to highlight your brand’s credibility.

Websites for more ‘traditional’ companies don’t just have to be functional. Stand out from the crowd with a magnificent eye-catching design that’s visually pleasing as well as functional! This could mean the difference between a new customer and a missed opportunity.

3) Be innovative

Companies that have been around a while are sitting on a goldmine of opportunity: the opportunity to rediscover what your brand is all about, its heritage and core values. This doesn’t involve steering away from what made you successful in the first place, but instead regaining the spotlight and becoming front page news by doing something different and being at the cutting edge. By rediscovering your brand story, you have something interesting to tell and it’s a great way to not only engage customers and prospects; but your employees too.

4) Don’t be afraid to take risks

Risk aversion is certainly important in business. But how do you know if a decision was ever the right one if you never make it? The answer is, you won’t! What made you relevant before may no longer resonate with your target audiences, who today, are more tech savvy than ever.

Keep an open mind and consider all options with a fresh perspective. Today’s digital environment is rapidly expanding and exciting. Social media offers a host of possibilities for engagement and increased brand awareness.

Making the digital transition

Change can seem daunting or even unnecessary. But we’re not suggesting change for the sake of it. Use digital technologies that you have at your disposal and make improvements to all areas – they can be small or huge, it’s up to you. But consider your website, social media and the content you produce all as key opportunity to attract and win new business. After all, losing relevance is dangerous in a world where customers constantly alter their views and opinions through a continuous flow of communication.

The brand benefits of transitioning to the digital world are vast; from increasing customer conversions and loyalty; through to creating a more engaged and empowered workforce, and increasing your overall competitive advantage.

Experience, insight and instinct should help to provide you with the courage you require to make the right decision, and if you’re considering a corporate change project and need a step in the right direction, consider Leading Change – a leadership development course from Ripley Training, designed to explore the impact of change and the approaches that can be taken to successfully manage its impact. Our Sales and Marketing courses are also a great way to learn key skills in sales and marketing, to help you develop and learn about new technologies in marketing.

To find out more, why not give us a call on 01423 861 122? Or fill in our short contact form - we’d love to help you!

Who Killed The Sales Opportunity?

Business today is complex and competitive; and there are many conflicting internal and external environmental factors which play a part in whether a customer chooses to purchase from you.

When those ‘sales opportunities’ are there, you don’t want to lose out on a sale due to a poor customer service experience! In today’s commercial environment, it isn’t just the sole responsibility of the sales team to win and retain customers. You need to be able to deliver exceptional customer experiences at every touchpoint. Continue reading

10 Steps to Complaint Handling

1. If possible take them to one side to discuss their concerns – away from other customers. This shows not only professionalism but also sensitivity to the customers needs.
2. Use Active Listening Skills - Don’t interrupt or argue with the customer. Let them express their frustrations / let off steam – however you are not there to be verbally or physical abused by the customer and you must challenge this poor behaviour towards you or others. Do ask questions and clarify to ensure you get to the real issue.
3. Acknowledge & Value their opinion and do show Empathy. - this doesn’t mean agreeing with what they are saying.
4. Use the Sad and Glad approach – I am sorry to hear …. and I am glad that you have brought this to our attention.
5. Ask the Customer what they want to see happen or how they would like to proceed with the matter.
6. Advise the customer what you can do and what you can’t do at this stage in the proceedings. Provide a point of contact ideally yourself and agree a realistic timeframe for an update to them. Don’t set yourself up to fail. Part of this process is recognising if you are the best person to deal with this situation i.e. do you have the right skills, knowledge and experience.
7. Report the matter to your manager if appropriate – know your local procedures.
8. Present Option(s) or remedies to the customer and agree actions you will take and make sure you do what you have said.
9. Ensure you follow up with resolution to the customers satisfaction.
10. Record the complaint details and action taken. Ensure you share the experience with your team so everyone can learn and if appropriate review local policies and procedures for next time. This helps everyone in the team to recognise the benefits of seeking to continuous improvement in the service provided to your customers.

Staff need to be encouraged and empowered to apply Best Practice by being pro-active and taking pre-emptive action (or report to a manager depending on the issue) to address sub-standard service. By nipping issues in the bud early there is higher possibility you will reduce complaints, improve customer satisfaction, improve sales and increase staff motivation. Part of your plan needs to be assessing the skills, knowledge and experience of your staff in providing excellent customer service and managing complaints effectively. In addition all businesses need to have simple and accessible procedures to encourage staff to respond promptly and sensitively to the concerns of customers.

We also need to ensure that our customers are dealt with impartially and without unlawful discrimination and prejudice.

If you would like to know more about our customer service training simply click here.