Monday, May 21, 2012

How To Improve Your Customer Service

As I travel around North America for various business opportunities, I find myself encountering all sorts of customer service styles...some good and some very, very bad! It seems that no matter how many consultants and business coaches and in-house customer service trainers teach employees how to provide good service we, the consuming public continue to fall victim to bad service in almost every sort of establishment that wants our money!

In sake of fairness, I must say that I do come across establishments that provide extremely good service. However, those seem to be the exception rather than the rule. In order to encourage more good service, when I am fortunate enough to find it, I thank the provider and tell them how much I appreciate it. Occasionally, I will even seek out the manager of the establishment to tell him what a great job his employee did for me and to ask him or her to keep up the good work. A pat on the back goes a long way!
The main reason that individuals provide bad service comes down to a simple bad attitude. The person who doesn’t care enough to provide good service generally has the attitude that what they are doing doesn’t matter, that the establishment  does not matter, that their customer’s do not matter, that the thing they are selling does not matter or in the worst cases, that nothing in life matters.
The owners and operators of establishments that provide bad service are at fault too. They often seem oblivious to the bad service their employees provide or the fact that they are losing hundreds or even thousands of dollars every week because customers hate dealing with them!
Various surveys and studies over the past decade indicate that 60% to 70% of all lost business is a result of the attitude of customer service personnel or sales people.
The lost business accounts for hundreds of millions of dollars in lost business every year world-wide. Despite these alarming losses, businesses continue to tolerate employees with bad attitudes and will often defend the attitude of their miserable or thoughtless employees as being “unusual” or even by simply denying it.
I think that business leaders all over the world would agree that they want their business to be considered a good place to do business. With that in mind, here are some things you might consider doing to improve the “attitude” of your employees and recover some of those lost “bad-service dollars”:
1.       When you observe a bad customer service attitude deal with it immediately. Wait until the customer is gone and then confront the employee, letting them know where they went wrong and how to improve. If the attitude or behaviour goes unchecked it will be hard to change later.
2.       Put on seminars and workshops to explain to your employees what good customer service should look like.  Tell them and what you expect from them when they interact with customers and what is not acceptable. Give them a “customer service roadmap” to follow.
3.       Some of the best establishments have actual, written customer service manuals. These can help even the most “block-headed” employees understand the difference between good and bad customer service and the value of it. Write it down so that they can read it and retain it in their minds.
4.       “Inspect what you expect”. It is not good enough to simply tell your people to provide good service. Monitor your establishment’s customer service by getting out of your office and watching your employees as they interact with customers. Just your presence on the floor should improve service...If not, you might need to work on your leadership skills.
5.       Ask random people you meet. Ask other business people, folks you meet at parties, or people you meet in the grocery store, if they have been to your establishment and if so, how they felt about the service. You might be surprised what you hear.
6.       Send out customer service surveys. Send out surveys to as many customers as possible in order to get a fair sampling. Some people complain about everything when asked but if your get the same complaint over and over again, you can be quite certain that you have a problem.
7.       Put a customer satisfaction application on your website. Allow customers to rate their satisfaction with your service and provide a box for comments. We live in an online world and many people are more likely to comment if they can do it online.
8.       Tell your employees what you have learned. When you have done your monitoring, inspections and surveys, have meetings with all employees to let them know what you heard, what their customers are saying about them, and what you would like to see in the future.
9.       “Thank your superstar employees for providing great service.” Let everyone in your establishment know who that stars are and what they do that is different. A good service attitude can become contagious when it is openly praised or rewarded.
10.   Get tough on bad service providers. This area of business leadership is often ignored or avoided due to the simple fear of confrontation. As tough as it may be to be critical of another human being you have to accept that the establishment leader is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the business. You must deal directly and sometimes harshly with the bad attitudes of your employees. Don’t become the victim of someone else’s attitude!
Don’t let your business earn a reputation for bad service. Get involved with your employees to assure that their interactions provide the best possible buying experience for your customers. Make service the number one priority of your business and assure your longevity and success well into the future!   
Dynamic Leadership Inc. is a premier provider of personal development training in North America. Ask them to put on their “Attitude and Ethics” seminar for your employees as soon as possible.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

UNDERSTANDING DISC #4, Communicating with the DISC styles

In previous issues of “Understanding DISC” we have gone into some depth on the subject of the fundamental DISC styles. You can find the past issues here:
In this issue, we will discuss the best ways to communicate with each of the styles.

Here is a brief and simplified recap of the basic DISC styles:

DOMINANT: This can be identified by forceful, confident, competitive behaviour.

INFLUENCING: This can be identified by cheerful, optimistic, trusting, outgoing behaviour.

STEADY: This can be identified by sociable, thoughtful, non-emotional behaviour.

COMPLIANT: This can be identified by organized, tidy, conscientious behaviour.

When communicating with a DOMINANT person you must accept that for them, winning is very important.

When a dominant person begins to show signs of becoming adamant during a discussion, (as they often will) it is often best to simply allow them to carry on until they have finished making their point. If you try to interrupt them, or cut them short, you will only inflame their dominance and either start an argument or cause them to talk longer in order to reinforce their perspective. In some cases it is even best to concede to their point of view or at least agree that they have made a good point, until such time as you are able to approach the subject from a different tack. In all cases, you should attempt to appeal to their ego and their need for success. Letting them win one argument might allow you the opportunity to win one yourself at a later time. However, vehement or over-zealous disagreement while a dominant person is speaking will usually end in a negative result. Depending on how strongly they are influenced by the other elements of their DISC style, it might even harm or destroy your relationship completely. Although High “D’s” tend to try to control conversations and win every argument, just like other people most of them enjoy helping others to accomplish their goals. Being part of another person’s success is after all a type of winning and that will appeal to their natural ego-driven personas. If you allow them the opportunity to help you and then praise them for it, you might just make a friend for life.

When communicating with a highly INFLUENCING person you should expect them to talk a lot and attempt humour at every opportunity.

People with a strong influential style are highly expressive and they love people. They are perhaps, the easiest style to get along with. However, if you are a highly compliant person, you will soon tire of their lack of attention to detail, and if you are a highly steady person, you might be put off by the speed at which they make decisions. Dominant people will usually have no problem controlling them but highly Influential people are usually fine with that. If you want to appeal to a highly Influential person, laugh at their jokes and give them a pat on the back often. Highly Influential people have a need to be appreciated and they like flashy possessions that bring attention to themselves. Expect them to be the life of the party and depending upon how much influence the other elements of their DISC style have upon them, you might also expect them to be silly or politically incorrect from time to time. High “I’s” like to have fun so if you join in with their light hearted banter, you can easily become an immediate ally and fast friend.

When communicating with a high STEADY you must remember that they are addicted to security and tend to want a lot of information before making decisions.

High Steady’s want assurance that any decision they make is the right one before they act on it. They are committed to their families and they strive to provide safety and security for them. They prefer not to make a significant decision unless their family or trusted friends are aware of the details and buy into it. They generally want the world to slow down, so do not push them too hard to make a decision or force them to create speedy results. Give them time to go away and think about it before formulating a response. The expression, “slow and steady wins the race” was probably written by a high steady personality. High Steady’s tend to be private people and are not likely to want to tell you about their innermost fears or challenges until they believe the time is right so do not pry and do push them to speak before they are ready.  High “S’s” prefer not to show their emotions publicly, so do not expect them to become excited or happy when you tell them something that might be extremely impressive to other people. If they tell you calmly and emotionlessly that they are happy or excited, accept it for what it is but do not expect smiles, laughter or tears. If you want to make a friend of a High “S”, give them their space and allow them to communicate with you at their own pace.

When attempting to communicate with a high COMPLIANT always consider that they are much more detail oriented than the other styles.

High Compliant people like rules and regulations for work and life. However, once they are confident that they are on the right path, they are highly conscientious and will act very quickly to get the job done. Because they like a lot of detail, when you speak to them, bring a lot of well-organized information and some proof that what you are saying is valid. Do not try to get a High “C” to change his mind unless you can prove that you are right. Many great accountants are highly Compliant as are a lot of pilots, engineers, musicians, and mechanics. In each of these cases, a very stringent set of rules and procedures must be employed in order to get the job done. The fact that following those procedures almost guarantees a good result appeals greatly to High “C’s”. In conversations, you can often hold their attention with spreadsheets, statistics and complex explanations. If you want to make a friend of High “C”, be prepared to dazzle them with detail and answer a lot of questions.

This article is based on the work of William Moulton Marston. Find out more in my book, “Getting Along With People Is Easy!” available at Amazon.com or from the Dynamic Leadership website:

All the Best

Wayne Kehl