By Blake Ng — 4 Nov 2016
This webinar covers:
A customer experience is an interaction between an organization and a customer as perceived through a customer’s conscious and subconscious mind. That sounds complicated, but what that means essentially is that the experience is a blend of an organization’s performance and the emotions it evokes in the customer measured against the customer’s expectations at each stage. Providing legendary customer service is a way to meet and even exceed these expectations at every step along the way and being able to do it can bring you huge benefits.
When you provide legendary customer service, it brings with it three awesome benefits:
Some statistics that demonstrate the importance of legendary customer service are:
Some statistics that demonstrate the importance of avoiding bad customer service are:
These statistics are important because your customer interacts with your business in many different ways and there are many opportunities where they could be left feeling dissatisfied – such as if you don’t reply to their email for too long or someone is a little curt to them on the phone – but all of these could potentially lead them to shift loyalty or talk about their bad experience.
These statistics seem a little abstract, but they can and do have a real financial cost to your business. When extrapolated across the US economy, bad customer service costs US companies on average $41 billion each year.
Negative customer service experiences are responsible for turning customers away, but this term can encompass many things. New Voice Media did a study on what put customers off certain businesses and found:
Negative customer service can burn your business quite badly, and these negative experiences can come from areas you might not have expected.
One more pertinent statistic, however, is this: on average, only 1 in 26 dissatisfied customers actually make a complaint. The rest of them churn, meaning that they leave quietly and just don’t make a booking with you or return to you. The lesson in that number is that businesses should not use the absence of feedback as a sign of satisfaction. This makes actively asking for feedback all the more important because you can’t always rely on getting it otherwise and problems can go unnoticed. According to Salesforce, the real enemy is indifference – you want to keep your existing customers as much as you can.
‘The Customer Service Revolution‘ is a great book by John R. DiJulius published in 2015 that points out how numerous companies have made legendary customer service their competitive advantage. They are dominating their industries and have been able to make price irrelevant.
This makes legendary customer service an opportunity to seek out, rather than just bad customer service a cost to avoid. The most important thing about a competitive advantage is not just that it makes you stand out from your competitors, but also that it is difficult for them to copy. Be A Better Guide had a story from a lady who set up a walking tour business in Tbilisi, Georgia, which after becoming very successful spawned two copycat businesses. DiJulius makes the point that legendary customer service can be a very powerful point of differentiation that makes you stand out from your competitors or copycats and something they will find very difficult to replicate.
These principles are talked about largely in the context of face-to-face customer service, but they apply equally much beforehand.
Reliability, Reassurance, Responsiveness, Empathy, Problem Solving, and Exceeding Expectations.
Being reliable means being worthy of trust, keeping your promises and only making promises you can keep.
Being worthy of trust takes time – there are no shortcuts to building it. You can start to build it through things like a professional-looking website, but the most effective way to establish trust is to be reliable. The way to be reliable is to demonstrate dependable, predictable behaviour that forms the basis of lasting relationships.
Remember that your behaviour can be observed across several platforms – your website, your social media presence and your staff. Erratic behaviour across these platforms undermines your reliability.
Reassurance is essentially enabling your customers to worry less and do more. Reassurance is important because your guests need to be put at ease and made to feel comfortable with the idea of you being in charge. Communicate to your guests that you know what you are doing and you care about them, but remember that courtesy is not a substitute for competence and skill.
A trap to avoid is the so-called ‘smile training.’ This is the idea that customer service essentially boils down to a big smile and a cheery greeting. In reality, it can be extremely frustrating when a customer service representative is friendly but useless. Obviously being friendly and welcoming is important, but you also need to be competent.
Reassurance = People Skills + Competence.
Guides often focus on how to be engaging and energetic, with a big focus on content and storytelling. These are important, but the need for the guides to reassure the guests can often go overlooked.
a) Re-affirm your ‘I believe’ statement. The ‘I believe’ statement is basically the core belief of your tour. For example, if your tour specializes in the ‘slow travel’ experience, reaffirm to your guests at the start that your tour focuses on slowing down, interacting with the environment and experiencing the culture. That is what your guests signed up for, so reaffirm to them that they are in the right place.
b) Emphasize your experience. We keep talking about the importance of competence. One of the most effective ways to reassure guests that you are competent is to demonstrate your experience. If you’ve been guiding walking tours of your city for the last 10 years, chances are you know what you’re talking about. Show your customers this and they will see that you know what you are talking about and they will be reassured.
c) Use humour to reassure. Humour lightens the mood and puts people at ease. It demonstrates that you as the guide are switched on, intelligent and able to sense the mood of the group.
d) Understand their stress. If you indicate to your guests that you are aware of some of the things they worry about when visiting your location, it reassures them once again that you are thinking about their needs.
e) Make a guarantee. Guarantees such as money-back guarantees if the customers are dissatisfied are reassuring because they demonstrate confidence. If you don’t back yourself, how can you expect them to back you?
f) Compliment their decisions. It is a nice sentiment and it also reassures your guests that their decision was a good one. If they booked a walking tour of Paris in the middle of winter, that’s a potentially unusual decision to make and they might worry that they made the wrong call. If you compliment their decision, it makes them feel good as well as acting as a reassurance that you will give them the best experience they can have even though it may not be peak season.
g) Encourage people to relax. Tell them to relax, take deep breaths, congratulate them for navigating your city’s crazy public transport and arriving on time. Getting people to relax gets them to stop worrying about whether they forgot to bring their hotel room key with them and focus on you and the experience you are offering them.
Responsiveness is the willingness and the ability to help customers promptly. It is important to be upfront about how long a customer can expect to wait. Research has shown that the most frustrating aspect of waiting is not knowing how long the wait will be. If you put something on your website that says ‘We will do our best to get back to all customers within 24 hours,’ it reduces that uncertainty. Similarly, reliability comes into this as well. If you say that you’ll get back to them within 24 hours, make sure you actually do so, otherwise it undermines your credibility.
Responsiveness makes guests more forgiving. If you respond to them promptly, it impresses them and can often change their perception of an issue and make it seem like less of a big problem.
The problem is that these days, responding quickly is not always enough. You need to solve the issue quickly – look at the number of businesses built on the premise of getting things done quickly. FedEx won international success by delivering letters and parcels ‘Absolutely, Positively, Any Time.’ Google took over the world by offering instant access to any bit of information you care to look for. The best online clothing retailers are set apart by the promptness of their delivery.
When customer questions or complaints do arise, you should try to eliminate as much as possible things like ‘I’ll have to check with my manager.’ Empower yourself or your staff to use their judgement and solve the issue on the spot as much as possible.
Empathy is the ability to step into the shoes of another person, understand their feelings and perspective, and use that understanding to guide your own actions. It relates a lot to understanding and affirming your customers’ emotional state. No one likes to be made to feel as if they are just another number in the queue being responded to automatically by a service worker – they want to be treated as individuals with their individual needs addressed accordingly.
Sympathy vs Empathy
Sympathizing with an angry customer would be to say something like ‘I’m really angry about how that went too.’ As a friend supporting another friend, this is fine. As a tour guide looking for a solution to a problem, this actually doesn’t help anyone. In the context of a customer complaint, legendary customer service is not sympathy – they want a solution. You as the tour guide can appreciate that they are upset, but you should remain emotionally detached enough to look for a way to fix it rather than simply sharing in the dissatisfaction.
A problem exists when a customer says it does. Even if you think their issue is completely unreasonable or doesn’t make any sense, you need to appreciate that there is clearly something that is upsetting them and you need to try and work it out with them.
What is a problem for one customer can be absolutely no issue for another. Even so, the problem needs to be handled. This is a core element of legendary customer service – it is completely customer-centric.
When your ‘Service Promise’ is broken, namely you promised something and then for whatever reason did not or could not deliver on it, what do you do? Job number one ideally is to contact your customers before they contact you. Be upfront about it and don’t waste time grovelling or trying to blame anyone – admit that something has gone wrong and find out what the customer needs to know. Legendary customer service relies on good problem solving.
L – Listen. When a customer feels as if they have been wronged, they need to tell the story to get it off their chest. It is important at this stage to listen to the whole story and show empathy. Don’t interrupt them – this can very quickly send already frayed tempers into full-on meltdown.
A – Acknowledge and Apologize. Even if the problem is not your personal fault, it is your responsibility to look after the customer and address their issues. Acknowledge that you understand they have a problem and apologize that it has come up. Saying you are sorry that they had a problem is not an acknowledgement that you somehow failed and it does not somehow imply guilt, so don’t be afraid to say it.
U – Understand the Problem. This is a similar point to making sure you never interrupt them while they are explaining the problem to you. Nothing is more irritating than a customer service representative who jumps in over you all the time when you are talking, makes a wrong assumption and misses the point. It may have been well-intentioned, but it is extremely annoying. Make sure you get all the information first so you know exactly what the problem is that needs to be fixed. Better yet, be sure to ask clarifying questions if there is anything at all that is unclear – it shows that you are working hard to understand the problem to the fullest extent.
G – Give Solutions. This is actually the fourth step in the process, not the first. It is tempting to try and dive in straight away with solutions to get out of the tense, awkward situation. It is your responsibility to find a solution to the problem, not to find ways to excuse it. The customer is not interested, and nor should they be, in excuses – they are entitled to a solution. A good way to find a solution is to involve the customer in the process. Ask them questions like ‘How would you like us to resolve this?’
H – Hit home by following up. Following up with a guest after resolving an issue is a good way to make sure that further problems do not arise. Guests who have one bad experience that is effectively resolved will often forgive the business, but not so much when they are let down again.
The service promise has three distinct parts: Organizational Commitments, Common Expectations, and Personal Promises.
Organizational Commitments are things like what is written on your website, your Twitter description, your policies – things that have been communicated to the customers.
Common Expectations are a little more complicated. Essentially they could be things that your competitors are doing or things that are commonly accepted in the industry. These things form a sort of baseline expectation that customers have going into any transaction with you – points of differentiation come from what you can offer on top of these assumed things. If you don’t have one of these baseline elements, you will be operating at a considerable disadvantage. Being able to book online is a common expectation because everyone offers that now, but saying that you guarantee that all booking enquiries will be confirmed within an hour is an organizational commitment because that’s something extra that you offer.
Personal Promises are things that you promise to do, such as running a walking tour of Paris that says it offers the best, unobstructed views of the Eiffel Tower. Your promise is that the view your customers will get will be unobstructed and will be the best. It goes without saying that if you are going to make these promises, you need to deliver on them. If you won’t be able to deliver on it, don’t make the promise.
Remember that you shape and set up your customers’ expectations with what you communicate to them. Failure to live up to their expectations amounts to breaking a promise. Legendary customer service is going above and beyond and taking the extra steps to make sure your guests have an experience of a lifetime. What can you give your customers that they can’t get somewhere else? What would truly wow and delight them?
This method bases itself on you imagining that you’re having a big family gathering with your mother, cousins, great aunts, everyone. The whole works is in town, but for whatever reason you can’t be there to show them around yourself. What can you do to ensure that they have an exceptional experience from afar?
Think about the sort of effort you would go to on behalf of your family to make sure they have the best experience. You could set them up with a reservation at your favourite restaurant or set up some local experience for them that they have to have. Legendary customer service is treating every single guest that comes on your tour as a big family and make the same effort for each of them to make sure they have a great experience.
Rules need to be set up so that a business can run efficiently, but over time certain rules can be solidified to the point where they work against you. Certain rules are beneficial in some circumstances and not in others, so you need to use your judgement. This gives rise to the concept of Red and Blue Rules, which came about in the healthcare industry but applies to tourism as well.
Red Rules are rules that absolutely cannot be broken, for reasons such as patient safety, for example no smoking on hospital premises. Blue rules are procedures that are designed to make things run more efficiently, but can and sometimes should be broken. For example, when admitting a new patient, filling out their paperwork should be the first thing that is done when they arrive so it is not forgotten. However, if a pregnant woman who is going into labour arrives in the Emergency Room, do the paperwork later.
Red Rules in the tourism industry generally focus on customer safety and legal requirements. For example, if your tour involves driving your customers somewhere in a bus, they must wear seatbelts. This needs to be communicated to the tour guide and the bus driver so they ensure that it is followed because it is the law. If you run a bicycle or Segway tour, a Red Rule would be that they must wear helmets for reasons of customer safety.
A Blue Rule might be something like upgrading someone’s hotel room. It’s not generally something that you’re supposed to do, but if you mess something up and they have a bad experience, you could do it to try and make it up to them.
The idea of taking 20 is about time management. A good idea is to try to ensure that you are organized such that you can arrive 20 minutes before your tour starts to organize everything – your guides, your staff, any equipment. It is also beneficial to be able to hang around for 20 minutes after the tour as well. This in-built buffer means that you no longer have issues if one of your tours runs overtime or if your guests have a lot of questions. Legendary customer service relies on being competent and being organized is an essential part of this.
How do you know what’s best for the group? Not everyone wants to do the same thing, so how do you decide? A good rule of thumb is to think about whether a particular activity positively affects a majority or a minority of the group without negatively affecting the rest of them. If so, do it. If it does negatively impact some of the group, think about how big the impact is. If the impact will be small, you can consider going ahead with it anyway. If the impact will be too big, think about opt-outs or alternative choices for those affected.
In the webinar it is mentioned that there are supporting documents to help you implement the tips provided. Help your tour guides with an ready to use language and scripts phrasebook.
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