footballIt has become rather tiresome to hear about the rampant plague of poor customer service in West Texas related to the oil boom.  Was it really that great before?  Not really, and why is that?  Poor training.  You can’t expect your staff to perform at a high level without a comprehensive, proven training program.

Football season is about to start, so let’s make a comparison with the training a football player goes through.  All the training and practice is focused toward one game a week.  A season has anywhere from ten games for high school players to twenty for professional players.  Let’s call these games “opportunities” to equate them to the business world.  A football player has ten to twenty “opportunities” a year to perform.  That’s really not very many when you consider there are 365 days in a year.

A football player will spend his entire year training…training that is completely focused on these ten to twenty “opportunities”.  He may spend more than three hours per day training.  Most likely he will train at least five days per week.  If you do the math, that’s around 260 days of training, close to a thousand hours or more, for ten to twenty “opportunities” that will last thirty to sixty hours of playing time.

And you want your staff to have a week’s worth of training for “opportunities” that are abundant throughout the week?  Commit to quality, ongoing training.  Commit to great customer service.  Commit and you will have no problems blowing your competition off the field!

I don’t usually keep up with UFC, Ultimate Fighting Championship, but I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the Silva vs. Weidman hype streaming all over the internet. Seeing the videos of this champion, Silva, doing more dancing than punching and even spending several minutes taunting his opponent, I couldn’t help but think “I hope he gets his”. Sure enough, when he dropped his hands Weidman took advantage and with a strong left hook sent the champions eyes rolling to the back of his head. There was a new champion! Silva thought he was better, and he probably was, but he let his guard down and his era was over.

No matter what business you’re in, you know once you’re the best, you have to work twice as hard to stay the best. It’s the same with customer service. You have a great company culture, training program and you work to hire the best people who fit this culture. But, it isn’t always easy to keep your employees motivated each day to deliver the type of service you have worked hard to instill in them.

There are several skills you must look for when hiring & training your staff for handling your customers the way you want them treated. Just being a “people person” isn’t enough. What does that mean anyway? Most people can be great when things are going their way or when things are easy. But, how do they respond when things are tough. Do they get complacent & let their guard down?

Below is a list of essential skills your employees must possess if they are on the front lines representing your brand.

  • Patience to listen and not interrupt with policies. They must have the attentiveness to really hear what the problem is.
  • Communication skills to respond in the appropriate matter and diffuse a situation if necessary. Using positive language always encourages an amicable ending. Instead of “we don’t have your replacement part now”, try “the product you need will be available in 2 days”.
  • Product knowledge to make an educated decision.
  • Acting skills. We know some situations are just ridiculous, but your employees handling these must still be able to respond in caring fashion and sometimes that takes a bit of acting ability.
  • A calming presence is essential in situations that could easily get out of control.
  • Ability to handle surprises because you never know when an unsatisfied customer will come your way.

No matter how you train your new employees, it has to be on a consistent basis. Because it is easy to let your guard down and lose customers.

receptionist1We’ve all heard that first impressions are everything. Have you ever considered where first impressions are made for your business? Chances are most occur at your front desk. The great motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, referred to the receptionist as one of the most critical persons in the sales process. This person literally has the power to break a sale, and that is why it should be a priority of yours to make sure everyone in your operation is fully trained on proper phone etiquette. Here are some tips for answering the phone that can make your business stand well above the competition:

  • Smile when the phone rings. Get in the right frame of mind.
  • Answer every call by the third ring. No one likes to wait.
  • Answer with enthusiasm and energy, but don’t speak too fast. Be easy to understand.
  • Clearly identify who you are and your organization.
  • Have a pen and paper handy so you can quickly write down the name and organization of the person and the details related to the call. This displays a high level of professionalism and makes the caller feel important and appreciated.
  • Listen carefully taking notes. Don’t take on other tasks while on the phone.
  • Confirm that you have everything right before ending the call.
  • Ask permission before putting the caller on hold. Don’t keep anyone on hold more than 17 seconds.
  • Always remain professional no matter how the person on the other end is acting. If you have someone who is upset, you have a much better chance at turning the situation around if you remain calm.
  • If you take a message for someone, make sure they received it.
  • Don’t use a speaker phone unless you need more than one person to be on your end of the call. Speaker phones give the impression that the call is not private and you may not be fully concentrating on the call.
  • Create an on-hold message. It’s much better than silence and you can highlight products, services, and achievements your company has made. It’s free advertising.

Hopefully you are already doing all or most of these, and if not, we hope you try them. Don’t have an on-hold message? SDB Creative Group can produce a highly professional one for you! If you have any other tips on answering the phone, we’d love for you to share!

Years ago I worked in the Sales & Marketing office for an upscale wellness center. One day I received a call from our front desk saying there was an upset member at the front who cheerswanted to talk to someone NOW! So there I was 1 minute later listening to a rant about cheap Q-tips that were now stuck in his ear. I knew what he wanted, so without hesitation I found some tweezers and pulled out the small bit of cotton. 2 days later he walked into my office with 2 friends ready to join. He also was very happy with the newly acquired Q-tips in the locker room. So a 5 minute activity earned me and my company a fan for life and new business!

Have you ever heard “A happy customer tells a friend; an unhappy customer tells the world”? Even though this has been a business adage from years ago, it couldn’t be any truer than today, especially with the internet. From social media, to Google, Yelp and other review sights, there are a myriad of ways people can air their grievances for all to read.

So what do you do if you have an angry customer? Ignore them in the hopes they’ll just go away? Chances are they will just go away, and trash your company as they go, especially if they were never allowed to be heard. Negative referrals are often more powerful than positive referrals and the cost of replacing an angry customer can be 6-7 times greater than retaining their business. Below are a few tips to keep in mind when handling an angry customer, either on social media or in person.

  • Don’t delete negative posts. Show you’re handling the issue
  • Don’t respond with a formal-sounding copied and pasted reply
  • Don’t pick your favorite among problems. Help all customers the same across the board.
  • If you have an employee who has a knack for handling difficult situations, then this person should be tasked with contacting the unhappy customer.
  • Let the person vent and listen. Sometimes that’s all they really need to do.

Truly, you should welcome complaints and look at it as a way to improve your business. Before you walk into a heated situation remember, the people who will share a complaint, are also the customers who can turn out to be one of your biggest cheerleaders bringing you more business and great reviews!

Join SDB’s Super Service Shout Out and have the chance to win $100 Visa Gift Card! The rules are simple. Reward those who serve you with a smile. Every time you post on Facebook with a short story and photo about a positive experience you have had, take a picture and post it on Instagram or make a short video on Vine and get a double entry, #Summershout. It’s so simple and it will feel so good!

My son played in a soccer tournament in Greensboro, NC, last summer. While standing in line at a local restaurant, we started to giggle, when a lovely woman addressed every I Love these!customer as “honey bunch” or “sugar pie”. A person behind us got angry at our amusement and said that she is “the nicest woman and very genuine with her sentiment. Please don’t make fun of her!” We quickly explained that we weren’t laughing at her, but more at the general sweetness of the people of Greensboro, and how we had become used to cranky, poor customer service. That seemed to satisfy the defensive customer and she asked where we were from? I hesitated to tell her, Midland, TX, because I remember the good ol’ West Texas hospitality that I grew up with and realize how far we are from that now. Everyone is so busy, too busy it seems to be polite and it begs the question…Should we expect great customer service, when we are all so busy or should we just be happy to have any service at all?

At SDB, we put our customers first, no matter what and think we need to take a cue from Greensboro, NC and acknowledge good customer service when it happens! So we are going to give you some encouragement this Summer to focus on the positive and hopefully help change the way we all operate in the Permian Basin.

Join us in our SDB Super Service Shout Out! Whether it is the cashier at the pharmacy, the sandwich maker at your favorite lunch spot or the guy drying your car at the car wash, shout them out for great service. Stop complaining about how bad customer service is around here and focus on the positive. The rules are simple. Reward those who serve you with a smile, and be entered to WIN a $100 Visa Gift Card! Every time you post on Facebook about a positive experience you have had, you will be entered to win a gift card. Take a picture and post it on Instagram or make a short video on Vine and get a double entry, #Summershout. It’s so simple and it will feel so good!

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