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Case Study Two

"Why can't employees understand the importance of dealing professionally and pleasantly with customers?"

Issue: A mid-sized technology industry company president understood that keeping top customers is as much about customer service as it is the products you offer. With 80% of most firms' profits coming from just 20% of their clients, keeping the customers that count is a matter of survival. But getting employees to understand the relationship between customer service and customer loyalty was not an easy task.

Challenge: The company president wanted to be the Nordstrom's of customer service in his industry, but his employees were highly skilled tech experts who got tired of having to explain the simple things, over and over, to customers.

Solution: We decided to help the staff to think like the customers. First the president was coached to handle his own tendencies to take it very personally when his staff fell short on customer service. He began to see that his efforts to motivate them, when he was feeling personally upset by their inadequacies, did not permit him to react professionally. Instead, we set the company on a track that permitted employees to be coached in the things that current and potential customers were feeling when they were seeking the company's services. As a result of coaching at every level of the organization, staff learned to modify their interactions with customers.

The new strategy:

1. Ask questions, get answers; never be indifferent. And in the process, let a client know that you understand what they do, what they need, and the issues that can be "hot-spots" with their bosses and their clients.

2. Listen to what the customer has to say, understand what they want you to do. And even when what the customer wants is not the best way to go, don't just shut them down. Learn to ask questions that begin to suggest alternate strategies. Help the client to buy into your ideas without making them feel as if you were trying to outclass them.

3. Create customer loyalty by giving them more than they expect. Deliver more than the product or service requested. Deliver results. If you have high-tech expertise, educate your customers. Serve as their tech resource—someone who's there for them when they've got a question or a problem. You can bet they'll bring their business back to the people they can rely on when they're in a jam.

4. When you make a mistake, make it right. It's not a matter of "if" you make a mistake. Sooner or later all companies goof. But no situation is beyond being saved. The trick is to respond quickly and honestly. Front-line customer service staff must understand that mistakes need to be brought to the attention of management so that they can be adequately addressed—and fast.


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