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Archive for 'Customer Service'

Every direct seller knows the key to success is recognition.  That recognition often takes place onstage at a Leadership Conference and/or National Convention.  However, while most agree that doing recognition is important, not everyone understands how to do recognition well.  It all begins with good organization and preparation.

Here’s a checklist I often use to help make sure everything goes smoothly and nothing “slips through the cracks.”

Offstage:

  • Compile and finalize all recognition at the office prior to departure
  • Triple check everything (using three different people)
  • Create a recognition (reader) list for each recognition.  Make sure pages are numbered, the name of the recognition is clearly spelled out at the top of the page, and pronunciations of all names are checked.
  • If it’s numbered recognition, the list should be highest number (10) with a build to lowest (1)
  • The lists should be prepared in large type so it is easy to read under bright lights and other possible distractions
  • Have lists in order of the conference schedule

Onstage:

  • Once on location, rehearse each recognition.  Make sure you address each of these issues:
    • How the recipients come onto the stage.  “Up the side steps, down the center steps” is probably the most common path, since this allows those being recognized to keep their front and sides to audience.
    • Where the recipients will be and who will place them.
    • How the awards will be presented.  Usually one person (behind the scenes) sets up the awards and gives them to a corporate person, usually the sales leader, who then hands the award to the presenter (Founder, CEO, etc.)
    • Where #1 will be placed, usually center stage.
    • Will a photo be taken?  If so, who will be included in photo, and where will they stand?
    • How will the recipients leave the stage
    • If parade recognition (up one way and down another way)
      • All of the above plus:
        • Have a skirted rolling table to distribute the award or have trays (black, silver, acrylic) with the items ready for presentation
        • Set your rolling table backstage, or if that’s impractical, cover it and set it onstage.  Awards should be arranged in order of presentation.

 The absolute worst thing that can happen at any direct sales event is recognition that goes wrong.  Preparation and organization are the best ways to ensure that doesn’t happen to you!

Chris Clark

Chris Clark is consistently dedicated to the success of our business.  No project is too big or small for her to tackle and she completes each with professionalism, timeliness, and enthusiasm.    We always enjoy working with Chris.

luceandassociates.com

Largely out of necessity, most startup companies perform all functions of running their business, including picking and packing orders.  That’s a good thing, because this function can be one of the most time consuming and costly pieces of operating the business.  But it can quickly turn into a costly and time-consuming bottle neck during busy times, like the end of month, holidays, etc. 

It doesn’t have to be that way!  A little thought and planning can go a long way in streamlining your pick & pack process, and protecting your budget at the same time. Your goal should be to keep the process as simple as possible, so it requires minimal training and little knowledge about your company.  That way, when those busy times hit you can easily bring in temporary help, and keep your experienced and knowledgeable staff working at their regular jobs.  So here are a few thoughts in keep in mind:

 1- NUMBERS:  Everyone can understand a number, so arrange your products by numbers, not names, categories or other verbal descriptions.

 2-SHELVING: Put the product on shelves (preferably flow racks) that can be filled from behind. This allows picking to continue while the product is being filled.  It also helps to put the shelves in a half circle or horseshoe so the packing station is at the end AND the beginning of the picking line. That way there’s no wasted time going from one end of the line to the other.

 3-ACCESSORIES: Have a rolling cart or a conveyor rack to move the product through the picking line.  And put all materials necessary to pack an order together on one packing station.  Doing these things not only saves time & money, it avoids injuries. It’s also a good idea to create a separate weigh station (if not part of your packing station) to easily and quickly create labels and manifests.

 These few steps will result in quicker, more efficient picking and packing of products.  And that means less labor costs, inefficiencies and bottlenecks for you!

Chris Clark

Chris Clark worked her magic with our warehouse as well as our Consultant Care team. Chris had a hands-on approach and used her extensive experience to guide us towards what worked best for our particular business. Chris had great follow up, always checking back to be sure we were comfortable with any changes and to answer questions. I felt I had a true partner in the changes we made and that Chris was as excited about our success as we were. I would recommend her to anyone in the Direct Selling field! - Pat Difani, Private Quarters, Director of Sales Operations

luceandassociates.com

This week I wrote a post about a bad experience with Domino’s Pizza, and how I felt that they ignored me on Twitter.  My thought is that if you’re going to have a Twitter account, you need to be prepared to service customers there, even if it’s simply to direct people to the appropriate customer service channel.

And I had someone on Twitter question whether I was being fair to Domino’s.  After all, the national brand is represented by independent franchisees.  Shouldn’t we hold the individual franchise responsible for a customer service failure, instead of the whole brand?

And as nice as that would be in a perfect world, I think it’s unrealistic.  Fair or not, consumers do hold national brands accountable for the service they experience from franchisees.  And that affects our direct sales model too.  If a customer or prospect has a bad experience with an individual consultant, they are most likely going to hold your brand responsible for that experience.  They may tell others how terrible your brand is as a result of that experience.  And more and more, they’re going to do that on social networks.

And as a result, social networks hold both the potential for disaster, as well as the potential to identify issues and resolve them before negative word of mouth takes off.  Every company needs to take a long, hard look at their monitoring and customer service functions as they relate to social media.  This is where our customers and prospects will increasingly congregate.  And our response as brands to issues will have a tremendous impact on the public perception of our brand.

Maybe it wasn’t fair for me to expect the corporate Twitter account for Domino’s Pizza to resolve my issue.  (And incidentally, as a result of my post they did open a customer service ticket to resolve my issue.)  It doesn’t change the fact that I DID expect it, and was disappointed when they didn’t come through.  Maybe it’s not fair for a customer to complain about your brand online because of a negative experience with a consultant who was already on the way out.  It doesn’t change the fact that they will complain.

The only thing you can control as a brand is your response.  Begin planning now.  You NEED a monitoring solution in place, you NEED a support path in place to direct issues appropriately, and your customer service department NEEDS to be trained to support web issues.

We can talk about what’s fair until the cows come home.  It doesn’t change what IS.

Are you ready?

image credit: sdminor81

Jennifer Fong

Jennifer Fong helps direct sales companies leverage the power of social media marketing to increase sales and recruiting, and manage online brand perception.  She provides strategic social media consulting to companies, as well as conference speaking and training. To learn more about how Jennifer can help your company, visit http://luceandassociates.com/Jennifer-Fong.html.  You can also check out her direct sales and social media blog at http://www.jenfongspeaks.com, and her Facebook Page at http://facebook.com/jenfongspeaks.

A couple of weeks ago my family ordered pizza from Domino’s.  Since they’ve improved their recipe, we order pretty regularly.  We enjoy things like the ability to order and pay online, track the delivery online, and the fact that the pizza normally arrives in under 30 minutes.

However things were not so happy the last time we ordered.  Wanting to beat the dinner rush, we ordered about a quarter to five.  That meant that our three children would eat at their normal time, and our evening could go on as usual.  We paid online, used the online delivery tracker, same as always, and our pizza was shown as out for delivery in the normal amount of time.

And that’s when things went wrong.

It was nearly an hour and a half, and 3 phone calls later, that our pizza finally arrived.  Cold.  When I called, I got different stories about why my pizza had not yet arrived.  Finally, on the 3rd call, I asked what they were going to do to make this right.  My kids were hungry!  And they offered me free cheesy sticks.  On my NEXT order.  FAIL.

20 minutes after that call when my cold pizza arrived, the driver didn’t even apologize.  Worst. Customer. Service. Ever.

In frustration, I tweeted to Domino’s from my husband’s Twitter account.  I expected at least an apology.

Nothing.

Thinking that maybe they decided that my husband’s account wasn’t “influential” enough for their notice, I tweeted from my account the next day.

Still nothing.

And that leads me to the moral of this story.  I have still not ordered again from Domino’s, and am not sure I will.  I’m also sharing this unfortunate experience with you, which may cross other people’s minds when they make pizza purchasing decisions.  There are certainly other options when it comes to pizza.

But what truly baffles me is WHY Domino’s has a Twitter account if they don’t plan to use it to respond to customer concerns?  If your company has a Twitter account, please understand that customers (especially the unhappy ones) will EXPECT to be able to reach you on it.  Is your customer service department trained in Twitter, and prepared to address issues that are shared?  You do realize this is public, right?  That other people can see when issues go unresolved? And people tend to get louder when you ignore them.

Burying your head in the sand or pretending that unhappy customers don’t exist won’t make them go away.  It will just make them more upset.  And then they may take issues that could have been resolved with a simple “we’re sorry,” and turn them into PR nightmares.

Domino’s has already had its share of PR nightmares.  You would have thought they learned their lesson the first time.  Apparently not.

UPDATE: This PRSA story discusses how Domino’s approached their PR nightmare. It was shared with me on Twitter. You may find it interesting.  I think that it will be interesting to see who is ultimately responsible for customer service in multi-distributor brands like franchises and direct sales companies.

Don’t make the same mistake.  If your company has a Twitter account, you need to be prepared to service customers there.  It’s not all about you talking.  It’s about listening, and resolving issues.  People want to be heard.  Are you listening?

Update 2: Domino’s has seen this article on Twitter, and responded.  They have now opened a customer service ticket and referred it to the independent franchise owner.  In my opinion, this should have happened the first time, and not necessitated a blog post.  This should be standard customer service.  What do you think?

image credit: didbygraham

Jennifer Fong

Jennifer Fong helps direct sales companies leverage the power of social media marketing to increase sales and recruiting, and manage online brand perception.  She provides strategic social media consulting to companies, as well as conference speaking and training. To learn more about how Jennifer can help your company, visit http://luceandassociates.com/Jennifer-Fong.html.  You can also check out her direct sales and social media blog at http://www.jenfongspeaks.com, and her Facebook Page at http://facebook.com/jenfongspeaks.

Starting the new year is the time to start fresh: new goals, new growth, and new people.  Anything is possible.  So how does that happen?  Start NOW – get the momentum going!

Bookings are easier when people are chatting and laughing in the company of friends.  Recruiting is easier when people watch how much fun you’re having (and notice how much you’re selling!).  So get people together NOW.

Lead by example!  Your team members will take their cue from you.  If you get busy right away, your team will too.  The momentum of your entire organization begins with your activity. NOW!!!

Below are a few momentum starters:

  1. Contact your previous hosts to a hostess appreciation party and ask them to bring a friend
  2. Contact your best customers to host a party as early in January as possible
  3. Hold an open house (in your home, community center, office, etc.)
  4. Have a party with your team with each team member inviting their hosts and presenting their favorite product and why it’s their favorite

2011 Momentum – Success Starts With You NOW.

Chris Clark

Chris Clark is consistently dedicated to the success of our business.  No project is too big or small for her to tackle and she completes each with professionalism, timeliness, and enthusiasm.    We always enjoy working with Chris.  - 

Marcia Negro, President-Essential Bodywear

luceandassociates.com

image credit: manoj8555

 

Last week I wrote about the 3 little words—“Did you know”– that can help improve your customer service.  I’d like to conclude this series by sharing the one word that can make just as big, if not a bigger difference. 

Drum roll please!  And that one word is… LISTEN!

As customers, we want to know someone is listening.  The easiest way a Customer Service Rep can do that is by summarizing the customer’s inquiry, something like this:

CUSTOMER SERVICE REP:  “Let me make sure I have this right.  You say your order, number _____, was short one item, item number _____.  Is that right?”

This lets the customer know they’re really being heard and the Customer Service Rep understands the situation correctly. Once that is established, the exchange should be successfully resolved with something like:

CUSTOMER SERVICE REP:  “I see that item was shipped separately on November 1 and is scheduled for delivery today, so that should solve our problem.  Does it?”

This approach is especially effective If the customer inquiry is made on a phone call rather than email.  Summarizing the customer’s inquiry allows the Customer Service Rep to take control of the call and get the information needed to resolve the situation in an efficient manner.

The use of questions (even if the answer is apparent) and repetition is key.  The Customer Service Rep should say things like:

  • May I ask you a question?
  • Let me make sure I understand…
  • Okay, so what I’m hearing is…
  • Do I have that right?

But what if the inquiry does come via email?  In that case, include a summary in the first line of the email response.  This confirms to the customer the Customer Service Rep understands the inquiry.  It also eliminates the customers’ frustration when they don’t think their inquiries were understood.

We all want to know we’ve been heard – customers and Customer Service Reps.   Listening… and letting your customers know they’re being listened to… is the way to do it!

Chris Clark is the real deal.  Whether you’re a veteran or a rookie in direct-selling, she can help you take customer service to the next level.  And she’s one of those rare consultants who won’t try to shoe-horn your contact center into some cookie-cutter that garners more applause on the lecture circuit than “on the floor”. You can count on Chris to listen and ask lots of questions before she offers any advice.  And when she does offer advice, it’s based on an appreciation for what you have that’s a competitive advantage-and how you can kick it up to notches unknown! – John Cronce, Director Jockey Person to Person

luceandassociates.com/chris

So far we’ve covered four basic steps to improve customer service.  This week I’d like to share another tip–one of the most effective, and easiest, ways to reinforce what’s cool, controversial or just plain current. 

It’s simply this: create a section of the newsletter or weekly/monthly communication entitled “Did You Know.”  The title itself arouses the curiosity of the reader.  They’ll read to find out what they do or don’t (or should) know.

This section can be as simple as:

  • Outlining the most recent promotion
  • Providing the most frequent questions with the correct answers
  • Offering step by step instructions to clarify a process
  • Reinforcing the information to include in emails (id#, name)
  • Re-emphasizing the correct process to return product

It’s important to keep the section short and simple.  Make it quick to read, simple to understand and easy to retain.

Where does the content come from for this “Did You Know” section? Your Customer Service Reps! They’re the best source because they have to answer the questions.  So ask your Customer Service Reps :

  • What are the most frequently asked questions you received this week?
  • What was the most difficult situation you had to handle this week?

Then be sure to keep the responses to these questions.  They may be useful to include in other communications.

This simple inclusion will provide immediate results with the Salesforce and the Customer Service Reps. Who knew!?

 
 

Chris Clark

Chris Clark worked her magic with our warehouse as well as our Consultant Care team. Chris had a hands-on approach and used her extensive experience to guide us towards what worked best for our particular business. Chris had great follow up, always checking back to be sure we were comfortable with any changes and to answer questions. I felt I had a true partner in the changes we made and that Chris was as excited about our success as we were. I would recommend her to anyone in the Direct Selling field! – Pat Difani, Private Quarters, Director of Sales Operations

http://luceandassociates.com

In the last three blogs I’ve covered basic steps to improving Customer Service to Your Salesforce.  Today, I’d like to suggest another simple action that will improve your Customer Service — using a task reminder.

We all have our own reminder system.  Whether it’s a To Do List, a message on your phone, a pop-up when you log in to your computer or Outlook, they all do the job.

For instance, most salesforce software packages have the ability to keep an inquiry open or closed.  Often, they have the ability to prioritize, assign and distribute as well. These are all pretty standard features. 

But to work well as a task reminder, you need to be sure your software has the ability to “track all inquiries.”  This system provides visibility to everyone in the company and allows everyone to access the information.  If your system does not have the capability to provide a task reminder, don’t despair.  There are many software programs available to you.  In fact, you probably already have one on your computer – Outlook.  Here’s how it works as task reminder.

First identify a task your want to be reminded of.  For example, let’s say your customer was expecting a delivery today and you identify through the carrier the package is scheduled for delivery at 2:30.

Task reminder is entered for:

  • 3pm for you to check with carrier package has been delivered AND
  • 3:15pm you enter a task to contact customer to confirm package has been received.

Once that task has been completed, enter result, close and save.

 Once the task has been identified, enter the information within the system.  Below are steps to follow with Outlook:

  • Click on View
  • Click on Task
  • Double Click in window “Click here to add a new Task”
  • In “Subject” window enter a short description of task
  • Select Due Date
  • Select Start Date
  • Select applicable Status
  • Select appropriate priority
  • Select “Reminder” date and time
  • In the large window below enter as much detail as is needed to complete the task
  • Select applicable “Categories”, this allows the task to be grouped with similar tasks
  • Click on Save and Close
  • The Task now appears as open
  • If the Task is past due it will appear in red
  • Once you have completed the task, enter the result, save and close

 You would follow the same process with other programs and below are the 7 steps:

  1.  Date and time stamp the initial inquiry
  2. Mark the inquiry for action
  3. Identify that action (contact carrier, sent request to product development, assigned task to supervisor, etc.)
  4. Date and time stamp when response expected
  5. Date and time stamp follow-up with customer with status (within 24 hours)
  6. Date and time stamp follow-up with action results
  7. Work on the task 2 or 3 times a day until complete

Please note that all tasks for customer service have a priority of one. But, if it helps to expedite those items requiring more time, then a priority system should be identified.  Most systems allow you to prioritize (as shown above in Outlook).

We all hate it when a simple task “slips through a crack” and becomes a problem, or worse, an embarrassment.  A task reminder is the simplest way to be sure that doesn’t happen.

Chris Clark

Chris Clark is consistently dedicated to the success of our business.  No project is too big or small for her to tackle and she completes each with professionalism, timeliness, and enthusiasm.    We always enjoy working with Chris. Marcia Negro-Essential Bodywear

In my last two posts I talked about how proactive outbound calls and Customer Service should ALWAYS be the last approval of ANY communication going to the field. So what’s next?

Respond to each inquiry within 24 hours. Whether that inquiry is by email, voicemail, twitter, facebook, etc., respond within 24 hours. The response doesn’t have to be the answer to the inquiry but it has to be a response. Ideally it is the answer, but if it’s not that’s okay. At least the customer knows their message was received and is not being ignored.

The response can be something as simple as “just want to let you know I’m verifying the information you requested.” The Customer just needs to know he/she is important to you, that your received their inquiry and you’re working on getting an answer.

It really all boils down to having a process, and making sure everyone follows it. Part of this response process should be that EVERY Customer Service Representative should be able to answer the inquiry. You don’t want the customer to have to explain the situation with each contact. In order for every Customer Service Representative to answer every inquiry, some processes may have to be implemented.

  1. Record EVERY inquiry in a program or system that every Customer Service Representative can access and update.
  2. Cross train all Customer Service Representatives on all aspects of the business. This is ideal, everyone in the Customer Service Department is an expert.
  3. Direct calls and emails to specialized groups (orders, compensation, promotions, etc.). These groups would be identified by the most frequent inquiries from the field. However, it would be best if EVERY Customer Service Representative can answer every inquiry.

Each of the processes will enable immediate response to inquiries. However, if the response is not immediate, be sure to contact the Customer within 24 hours of receipt of their inquiry.

Obviously, when customers contact Customer Service, they’re looking for answers. But people understand answers can take time. So the first thing you should always give your customers when they ask for answers is, A) the assurance they’ve been heard and B) someone is doing something about their inquiry.

Chris Clark

“Chris’s work for us is highly strategic, always thorough and never formulaic.  She also provides a welcome touch of humor and grace.” Learn more about how Chris can help your company at http://www.luceandassociates.com/Chris-Clark.html

Extraordinary service is critical for the success of any business.  Recently, I have been reminded how important this statement is!   I was showing friends around my home city, stopping in my favorite stores and restaurants. After a few days had gone by they said to me, “The people we have come in contact with here have a bad attitude and don’t know what the word service means.”  Sadly, they were right.  I was hoping that I was the only one seeing and experiencing the attitude and poor service levels.  I found it unbelievable under the circumstances of our current economy, and so many people out of work, that people weren’t trying harder.  After all, there are so many that would love to have that job and give extraordinary service.

The power of good service will certainly impact customer loyalty.  If you don’t take care of your customers, somebody else is waiting, ready and willing to do it.  Our competitive advantage is not just the quality of our product or service we sell.  Our real competitive edge is how we treat our customers and each other.  The one thing your competition can’t take away from you is the relationship you have with your customers.  If you treat them well and give them a good experience they will keep coming back and recommend their friends as well.

Aim for extraordinary service and success will follow!

Karen Peterson

When Karen Peterson works her magic, you’re not likely to notice. That’s because it’s her job to think about the things most people take for granted, and then make them happen… flawlessly and within budget.  For over 25 years, Karen Peterson has been finding the meeting space, making the arrangements, negotiating the contracts, and even running the show for conventions, events and incentives with attendance from 50 to 7,500.  Bottom line — if your company’s plans include travel, events or incentives, Karen Peterson is the one who can make it all happen … the thoughtful way … the cost-efficient way … the right way.