Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Dealing with Upset Customers, The first step.

You are going to have to do this every once in a while. Hopefully, not everyday. When you are dealing with upset customers, remember that you are dealing with emotions. The first thing a customer wants, is to be heard. So listen. Encourage them to talk. Ask them for the whole story. Reality is not important yet. Perception, their perception is the most important element at this moment. So listen and listen good. Say things like, "wow", and "I can see why you are upset". DO NOT ARGUE. Take the time to understand their side of the story. This is the only way you can defuse the bomb. Let them get the emotions out. Understand them.

Now, I did not say, you need to agree with them. Somewhere somebody screwed up. Most likely it is some form of communication issue. But before you can find a way to fix the problem, you have to get rid of as much of the hostile emotion as possible. Then you can move to the next step, whatever that might be to resolve the problem.

And if you do a good job, than you might create an extremely loyal or passionate customer for the future. Because, if they had all that negative emotion, you can in a lot of cases, turn that around into positive emotion.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Telephone Connection

Last year, I met with the struggling owners of a weight loss franchise. Things were bad and they were making some hard choices to try and survive. They were cutting their hours to only being open 3 days a week with limited hours. I urged them to keep "the telephone connection".

This advice applies to many, many businesses, but for now let's continue with the weight loss story. To save money, they cut their hours. When a potential client called and they were closed, an answering machine would answer. But think about this from the potential clients perspective. First, it takes a lot of nerve to call a weight loss center and tell a live person, "Hi, I'm fat and I need to loose weight".
But when you get an answering machine, then you have to leave a message with your name and phone number, "Hi, I'm Chris Columbus and I'm fat and my phone number is...." (Yes, I know, the word's "I'm fat" are not spoken, but those are the emotions behind what ever the message is, and that is incredibly hard to admit, let alone leave that kind of message on someones answering machine.

Before I left their office that day, they made arraignments to have the phones forwarded and gained a few more clients in the next couple of weeks.

So, what's the answer? Be Available when your customers need you. This can be done as easily as having the phones forwarded to a managers or owners cell phone after hours. The number of after hour calls will be minimal, but if you are not available, you may never have a chance to help that potential client again. And one client is worth anywhere from 2 to 200 or more additional referral clients.

Monday, July 9, 2007

When do you open for business?

Sunday morning, I went to my usual Sunday Morning Coffee Shop, the Firefly. They open at 8am Sundays. I was there at 7:30. I knew that I'd have a 30 minute wait but I was prepared. I sat out on their deck with my laptop and started writing this blog.

Another regular customer, Pete showed up at about a quarter till. He was upset that they did not let him in, so when he did get his coffee, he refused to tip. What do you think? Is it okay to wait until your official start time to unlock the doors and let customers come in? Or does it make more sense to let the earlier risers come inside and get started?

Does the weather matter? If it was raining, I would not have sat out on their deck waiting for the clock to strike 8. But the difference is I knew when they opened, and I knew what to expect.

A year ago, there was another coffee shop in town called Seekers. They struggled to stay open and eventually shut down without warning. However, I discovered about 3 months before they went out of business, a simple secret that could have saved their caffeinated soul.

Seekers was located on a busy street with lots of traffic that would have provided them with the extra money they needed , if they were there to serve them. See, Seekers did not open until 7am weekdays. One morning I was supposed to meet a friend their at 7 and they didn't open up until 7:15 that particular morning. Opening their doors at 6am would have cost them an extra hours worth of wages, but the business that they would have generated between 6:15 and 7am, could have kept them open and growing.

Are you there for your customers when they need you, or will they go elsewhere?

Sunday, July 8, 2007

The Experience

It's all about the experience.

No matter what you are selling, or buying; it is the experience that the buyer goes through that will determine your level of success or failure. This experience is based on emotion. It doesn't matter if you are a multi-million dollar parts supplier or the corner coffee shop, you simply cannot remove the emotion from the buying/selling experience.

And so I begin this blog as a place to store lessons on The Experience. One day I will craft a new word for this concept but, this is a work in progress. Eventually people will be spending money to get this information, but for now if you have stumbled accross this blog, it is yours for the reading