Are You and Your Customers on the Same Wavelength?

Friendly young businessman showing ok signBain & Company surveyed 362 companies.  They spoke to people within the companies and asked them “How often do you deliver superior customer service?”  The answer: they believed they delivered superior customer service 80% of the time.  Unfortunately, when customers were asked “How often do you receive excellent customer service”, their response was only 8% of the time!  That’s a huge disconnect and in the end, it’s the customer’s perception that matters.

One potential reason for this disconnect is that as business owners, managers and service suppliers, we are faced with the daunting and challenging task of hiring, training, scheduling, coaching, mentoring, ordering, reporting… the list goes on and on.  Supplies are late, weather is bad, someone calls in sick and yet, somehow, in spite of all the challenges, the business is open and customers are coming in the door.  We give ourselves a lot of credit for the challenges we overcome on a regular basis.

Go ahead, pat yourself on the back.  After all someone has to! Just don’t expect your customers to do so. They’ll pat you on the back, give you figurative high fives, maybe even the occasional real one, if and when their expectations are consistently met and exceeded.

From the customer’s perspective, you are there to serve them and they’re not wrong. They chose your business to meet a need and they expect it to be met, regardless of the logistical challenges behind it.

You Gotta Spend Time to Make Time

Time Is MoneyWhich is more important? Completing a customer transaction in’ x’ number of minutes or having the customer walk away feeling valued, respected and cared for?

Too often, bowing down to the gods of efficiency and effective time management get in the way of building and creating relationships with the people we live with, work with or serve.

When service providers are expected to process ‘x’ amounts of call or customer interactions per hour, will they take the extra step of anticipating customer needs or responding fully to questions?

When the focus is on process and not service, customers feel like a number (because they are!), not a person. I appreciate it when service providers take the time to answer my questions and sincerely ask if I have any questions. We’ve all experienced the insincere offer to assist and been made to feel rushed. There are no warm and fuzzy feelings after that type of transaction.

Individual transactions take longer when we know enough about our customers to offer solutions or answers to questions they may not have thought of. Those transactions take longer when we stop, put down the papers, lift our head up from the computer, face our customer and give them our full attention.  When we do that, we are essentially saying “I am here for you” and that may open the door to more questions.

Efficiency is important. Effective time management is important. But when they become more important than the customer, you may end up having more time on your hands than you’d like when the customers stop coming.

Instead of saving time by reducing customer face time, look at your policies, procedures and processes. Why are they there? Is each step really necessary or is it there because it’s always been there?

Know the answers to the questions customers ask most often and train your team so they know those answers too. That way they don’t have to waste time trying to find the answer. When a new question comes up (and it will!), train your team members to share the question and answer with the rest of the team.

Ensure your team members received the training they need, which may not necessarily be the training you provided. Yes, training takes time initially, but in the long run, effective training saves time, money and customers.

There is the old saying “you gotta spend money to make money”. The same holds true with time. Spend some time up front reviewing and creating effective, streamlined policies, procedures and training programs to save time later.  Time is money … knowing where to save time is important.  Just don’t save time at the expense of service.

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This is a modified version of a previous blog post.  I was reminded of it during a very rushed, very efficient transaction recently.  The service provider was efficient .. coldly efficient.  In the end, taking a few extra moments would have been time well spent.

What to do when you have too much to do …

Segretaria stressataIt is difficult to provide great service to your team and your customers when you are always running behind on the to-do list.  But, if you’re like me (and chances are you are!) there are times when there simply seems to be too much list and not enough time. When you start to feel overwhelmed, remember the following:

You’re not saving time if the time you save now slows you down later.  Cutting corners or skipping breakfast in order shave off a few minutes is not going to help you in the long run if you have to re-do a task when it’s done poorly or too many mistakes are made because you’re physically and mentally drained.

Be sure you are doing what YOU need to be doing.  Take a look at all those items on your list.  Do all those items belong to you?  Are there some that could be completed more efficiently by others?  Are there tasks others are doing that you could be doing?  By taking a look at what you are doing, as well as what others on your team are doing, you may find that reassigning some tasks and responsibilities create efficiencies

Stop and breathe!  There are times when taking a ten minute break saves you twenty minutes later. Increased stress and feelings of panic slow you down and increase errors. When you start feeling overwhelmed, go for a walk, watch a funny or inspirational video.  Do something that brings down your stress level.

And yes, there will be some days, perhaps even a week or two at a time, when every day seems to short.  Sometimes life happens all at once and for a little while, your personal definition of work\life balance will seem a little off-kilter.  When that happens, take one of those ten minute breathers and put down in writing just what a personal celebration looks like when life gets back to your definition of normal.

Will Stress Manage You or Will You Manage Stress?

The computer problems I thought had been resolved are back.  Ok, not all of them; just one.  For some reason, MS Outlook has once again decided that it’s only going to send emails, not receive them.  I am in a particularly busy time with work right now (that is not a complaint!) and there is a lot going on in my personal life as well.

Yesterday I realized I was allowing these external pressures to impact my well-being. Ironically,  I am facilitating a stress management session this morning.  The timing could not have been better as it forced me to once again reflect on the importance of managing my reaction to life’s hiccups.

In my workshop, we ask the following questions:

  1.  Is there something I can do to alter this situation to make it less stressful?
  2. Is this something that should even be on my plate or is it an activity I am doing just because it’s always been done?  Can someone else do it? (The caveat to that question is to make very sure that you are not putting undue stress on someone else by asking them to take on a task.)
  3. If I cannot alter the situation or get rid of it, what steps can I take to keep myself healthy while working through it?
  4. When does this really need to be done by?  Sometimes we place undue pressure on ourselves; we try and accomplish way too much in too short a time frame.
  5. What am I putting off or avoiding that is causing me to feel stressed out?

Maureen Killoran said “Stress is not what happens to us.  It’s our response TO what happens.  And RESPONSE is something we can choose.”

Today is Monday, either the beginning of another stressful week or the beginning of an another week full of opportunities.

You choose.

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Related posts:

Stress and Bubble Wrap

Stop Procrastination in its Tracks

“Someday is not a day of the week.”  – Janet Dailey

Procrastination … we’ve all done it.  Instead of making the difficult phone call, we re-organize the files on our desk.  Instead of working on next year’s budget, we plan the office holiday party.  Instead of hitting send on the email that could get us our dream job, we look over the cover letter and resume just one more time.

Putting something off doesn’t make it go away.  The responsibility is still there tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that.  The longer we put something off, the bigger it grows in our minds and it gets harder and harder to find something else, anything else, to do other than what we know we need to be acting on.

Knowing all of this, what are some of the reasons we procrastinate and just what can we do to stop it?

  1. No clear deadline.  If we give ourselves until whenever to get something done, that’s exactly how long it’s going to take.  Set a deadline for each activity and write it down where you (and perhaps others) can see it. This holds you accountable to yourself and others.
  2. Task feels overwhelming.  Getting next year’s marketing plan done is a big, big job.  Looking at the job in its entirety can be overwhelming.  So don’t look at it in its entirety. Break the big job down into small, actionable steps.  Spending 30 minutes conducting market research doesn’t sound so bad, does it?  Be sure to set timelines around the small, actionable steps.
  3. Instructions aren’t clear.  If you’re not sure what is expected, ask.  If you’re not sure where to start, ask.  Sometimes we fear that by asking, we demonstrate lack of expertise or understanding.  When you think about it, your question will be forgotten much sooner than a missed deadline.
  4. Fear of failure.  The danger with taking on a big challenge is that we may not successfully complete it.  The danger with applying for our dream job is we may not get it.  It’s much safer to stick with the status quo. It’s safer to stay exactly where we are but if where you are is not where you want to be, that’s not a good thing.  When we realize that failure is just another step to success, it becomes a little easier to take the step.
  5. Fear of success.  The problem with success is that then people expect more from us, or at the very least, expect us to repeat our current success.  That could mean more work and more responsibility and that can be scary too.  What if we can’t repeat the success?  What if we don’t like the responsibility?  What if’s stall progress and promise.
  6. Don’t want to do it.  There are some things we need to do that we simply don’t want to do.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the fact that account reconciliation needs to be done or difficult meetings held.  Where possible look for ways to make unpleasant tasks more fun. If you can’t make them fun, focus on the sense of relief and accomplishment you’ll feel when you can cross that item off your to do list.

What are some of the reasons you procrastinate? And what have you done to stop procrastination in its tracks?