In the last few weeks, we've discussed the importance of knowing your customers and being able to listen for when your customers are frustrated. The next step in providing excellent customer service is to understand what areas of your business are likely to frustrate your customers and be able to quickly react to them. As you work through understanding your customer's frustrations there will be a set of frustrations that you can solve through systems and processes, but there will also be frustrations that your business will never be able to completely eliminate.
Often times these frustrations occur when something goes wrong and is outside of your control. Examples of these frustrations might include software failing, power outages, running behind schedule, or even problems with vendors. Even though they are out of your complete control, your customer's don't care and still expect your business to come through for them. The elements below will help you work through these frustrations.
To start, have each employee quickly write down five situations in the business where your customers are likely to express or experience frustration. It is a good practice to look at these as a company, but you can also choose to work on frustrations in one department at a time. For each frustration, consider the following elements:
- Is this a systems issue? If this is a system issue, you should stop and use either the E-Myth Key Frustrations Process or Six Steps to Problem Resolution to work through the frustration. Make sure that you ask your business coach for information on one of these processes.
- What is the Trigger for this frustration? You want to know where this frustration starts because you want to be able to stop it as quickly as possible. Do you have the ability to know that it is happening before the customer does? If you're able to communicate the issue before it occurs, the customer may still be upset, but not nearly as upset as they would be if they experience the frustration first. Many times frustrations can be calmed with quick, efficient, and constant communication. Customers do not like to be kept in the dark.
- What are the warning signs? Warning signs should be identified both with the customer and in your internal processes. Once again, the earlier you can identify an issue; the easier it is to make sure the customer is satisfied. There may be times your staff might hear warning signs from customers such as an irritated tone of voice, but do not have a proper way to communicate a solution to address the frustration. There should be a clear process in place for how your staff should handle warning signs. It might be that they ask the client about their experience, it might mean making a note in the file, or even letting a manager know about what they heard and observed.
- What isn't the customer getting? This requires really listening to the customer. Many times customers are upset not because of the original frustration, but how it impacts them. For instance, we're all familiar with the 'service window' (when a company says they will be at your house in a 2-4 hour time period). Most customers understand that occasionally something happens and the 'window' is missed. Perhaps the weather is bad or an accident causes a delay. When a customer really gets upset is when a service company doesn't show up during the specified 'window' AND the customer doesn't find out until the very end of, or after, the time period. Not only has the customer missed out on the service, but they've also lost 2-4 hours that they can't get back and may now have to repeat the same scenario. Their frustration is more than the original frustration. If you understand what is upsetting the customer you're better able to make a quick decision of how to handle the situation.
- What are the employees empowered to do in this situation? Communication is important, but it's not enough. Your employees need to know what action they can take. The more a customer has to wait for a decision to be made or solution to be presented, the longer they have to stew in their frustration. Action needs to be taken as soon as possible, even if it's only a small step toward the overall solution. Every member of your team should know what they are empowered to do for a client if a situation occurs.
This proactive planning is very similar to creating systems for responding to disasters. The key is to remember that most customers don't demand perfection. They want to feel as if your company cares. You and your team can accomplish this by making customers feel cared for, listened to, and valued. As a result, your customers will be more willing to overlook imperfections.