Tag Archive | "customer service"

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Business Sense: Good customer service will make you more money

Posted on 19 July 2021 by cradmin

by Katherine Gifford of Moraware

It’s too easy to deprioritize customer service when you’re overworked and you don’t have a large enough team to step in and help. And given today’s market, when the jobs are rolling in with little effort, it’s hardly motivating to put extra work into a part of your business that isn’t production. 

But, the really important, really overlooked fact is that your customers are buying more than new countertops when they sign up with you. They are paying for a whole heap of things: your expertise, their peace of mind, a smooth experience from start to finish, quality products, feeling like they aren’t being ripped off, the list goes on and on. 

The experience you provide will determine if that customer writes a good review, refers you to new customers, and/or books you for future jobs. By offering a less than stellar experience, you’re really only hurting yourself in the long run.

On the other hand, you can choose to provide an amazing experience for your customers and leave them so thrilled they can’t help but refer you to everyone they know looking for new countertops. You’ll reap many rewards, my friends. Like more customers, more money, and less complaints! Let’s discuss some areas for improvement.

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Business Sense: Firing a Customer

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Business Sense: Firing a Customer

Posted on 12 April 2018 by CRadmin2

By Harry Hollander of Moraware

After more than a decade in business, and after working with over a thousand countertop fabricators, we did something new. We fired a customer.

I’m writing about it because it wasn’t easy, and I didn’t really see this one coming.

Dealing With Frustrated Customers

As a team, we’ve had conversations about firing a tiny handful of other customers. In each one of those cases, it was because they were rude or abusive. But, so far, we haven’t done it. There was always a root-cause to the problem that went far beyond us.

As customer-service folks, we need to keep reminding ourselves that each one of our customers is a human, and they’ve got lives outside of their calls and emails with us. We don’t know what’s happening in their day… it might be that they’re really sick, a bunch of slabs got broken in their granite shop or that they’re getting married tomorrow.

Most of the time when customers are rude to us, it’s because they’re frustrated. Nobody wants to fail at using software; they certainly don’t want to call a software company and admit it. So… that’s the situation I feel like we’re pretty prepared for. Our solution is to be helpful, optimistic, and empathetic.

As the owner of a company, or anyone who interacts with customers, I’d suggest reading Sarah Hatter’s book, The Customer Support Handbook – there are some great tips about both your mindset and language when you’re dealing with your customers.

I also really like a trick I learned from Derek Sivers: “Imagine every one of your customers is Mick Jagger“. How would you treat your customers differently if they were all rock-stars?

Hire Slow, Fire Fast

You might have heard the maxim “hire slow, fire fast” with respect to your own employees – you need to evaluate them carefully, but if they’re not working out as part of the team, you need to let them go. If you have folks who’re not performing their jobs to the level that’s necessary, they can create a toxic work environment.

But the same thing is true with your customers.

This is especially a big deal for us. Most of our customers think they’re buying software, but as a  “software as a service” (SaaS) business, they’re actually getting a really long relationship.

So, when it’s clear that a company is trying to use our software far outside of our core, that puts a strain on the relationship. Sometimes, that strain is okay, and it ends up making our business better – every feature request that we implement is a reaction to that strain.

But, occasionally, that mismatch between what the customer is trying to do is really far from what we do well. We always try to be upfront about that kind of thing, before the sale when we see it coming: “No, JobTracker won’t help you schedule your custom boat-building projects.” and “No, CounterGo can’t become your CAD system.

That’s a big part of the reason we schedule a demo with every new prospect. We’re experts at using our software, and we want to make sure we can add value.

Sometimes, we miss the hints that we’re in left-field. Most of the time, our customers realize it before we do. And, they cancel. It sucks, but that’s the reason we have a generous money-back policy. 90 days is enough time for anyone who’s digging in to figure out if our software is a good fit.

When Communication Breaks Down

But this time was different. We were clearly not adding value, but we couldn’t communicate it effectively to them.

Multiple times, everyone on our support team tried to convey the problem. There were fundamental mismatches between our software and this countertop shop. “If you don’t use the jobs in JobTracker, you can’t use any other feature“, and “CounterGo is primarily a sales tool, and you’re not using it for sales.

A big part of this communication problem is our own fault. We saw many of these warning signs before they bought. But, we’re an optimistic bunch, and we ignored the potential problems.

In most cases in the past, that’s been okay. We end up pouring an outsize amount of support effort toward that customer. And, after a month or two, they get it. Or they cancel. We’re willing to take the risk, because most of the time we can get them over the hump.

But this customer wasn’t getting it. I think there are a couple of reasons for this, but I’m largely speculating.

  1. They were experiencing major growth, which was altering their business.
  2. Nobody there had uninterrupted time to implement software.
  3. Because they were already at capacity, communicating with us was on the back-burner.
  4. They hadn’t used (free!) software like excel or outlook to try to solve their problems.

Again, we knew all of that going into the relationship, and we should have been more careful.

So Why Am I Telling You This?

Although some other software companies have an explicit mission to be “open” or “transparent“, that’s never been a guiding principal for Moraware. In general, it’s a decent idea, but it’s not really central to our personality as people, or as a company.

But, this was a really hard decision – hard in the sense of unpleasant and emotionally complicated. I need to get some of it out in the open.

First, I want to apologize again to this customer. We should have never taken your money originally. Plus, we can never give you back the time you spent trying to use our software. We’ll try to be more diligent with other prospects.

I also want to apologize to the Moraware team. Even though I had misgivings from the beginning, I should have pushed on this harder. I can’t give you back the countless hours you spent, either.

One thing I’m going to do differently as a leader is help our team practice for this kind of situation better. We’ve always talked about our philosophy of Always BLeaving during our sales process. But, when folks wave their credit cards at us, it is easy to forget that it’s our job to say “No” when it’s appropriate.

This was a tricky situation, but I still feel like we did the right thing. Hopefully, by writing it down some of our thinking on this helps you in your own business, too.

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Guest Blog – Unique Grains vs. Flaws: Is the Customer Always Right?

Posted on 22 February 2018 by cradmin

By Abby Sanders of Stone Interiors

Across companies, industries and generations, one tenet of customer service has held strong almost universally: the idea that the customer is always right. Fortunately in the construction industry, at least when safety is concerned, we understand that there needs to be a compromise. Sure, the customer might demand that her dog stay in the home at all times, but we know all too well that we can’t have our installation crew tripping over a Shih Tzu while they’re navigating a home with a thousand-pound granite slab.

But what about situations that are less clear-cut? Things get especially complicated when dealing with natural stone, which is inherently unique from slab to slab. All fabricators have found themselves performing multiple home visits, ordering new slabs and even replacing an entire job after it’s completed, all to appease the whims of a client. When is the customer right, and when are they, (dare we say it), wrong?

Here are a few key questions you should ask yourself as a fabricator before scheduling your team to re-fabricate a job for a discerning customer.

Was your customer reasonably informed before they agreed to the installation?

This is a tricky one because it requires you to take an honest look at your sales process. Was your team available to answer the customer’s questions before asking them to sign anything? Were they given an opportunity to see the slab in person or, at least, see a photo of their slab before it was cut? Do your client-facing materials clearly indicate that there may be variations in the stone?

If your answers are “yes,” then you have likely done your due diligence to inform your client. But if they weren’t provided with all the information necessary to make an informed decision, they may genuinely feel that they have been misled and did not receive the product they expected.

Are you confident that the flaw doesn’t pose a safety hazard or compromise the life of the stone?

An experienced fabricator knows the difference between a fissure and a crack. But it’s important to ensure that whoever is making that call is knowledgeable enough to determine with certainty whether a flaw is purely aesthetic or not. If the job is already installed, visit the home in person to inspect the stone firsthand whenever possible (or assign an experienced, trustworthy representative to the task). Keep in mind that a determined homeowner may decide to get a second opinion and could challenge you if any representative of your company makes a false claim.

Would you be happy with the finished product in your own home?

This one should go without saying, but it doesn’t hurt to ask yourself this last question whenever a customer takes issue with your company’s work. Even if the new surface is perfectly safe and stable, you should still accept accountability if the work isn’t up to your usual standards. Even a superficial flaw may be noticeable enough that it impacts the overall look of the kitchen.

What to do when the customer is, in fact, wrong.

Plenty of customers request unnecessary or even impossible repairs. But some have a point. After considering the situation as objectively as possible, you may determine that the minor time or expense it takes to make them happy is worthwhile. If you can send a representative to answer questions and polish a new kitchen island, then you may have earned a five-star review that attracts new customers who more than make up for the additional resources you spent.

But if the time or expense is beyond what you feel is reasonable, then don’t be afraid to say “no.” In many cases, if you handle the situation in a professional, empathetic manner, you can help your customer put that small paint scratch into perspective without buying them brand new cabinets.  Prepare everyone on your team with key speaking points about the nature of natural stone and the inherent risks of an in-home construction project so that everyone feels confident speaking with disgruntled homeowners.

In the end, you have an obligation not only to your customers but to the future of your company and employees. Come up with a process that helps you determine when the customer is truly wrong, and your business will ultimately be more sustainable while still maintaining a reputation for quality and customer service.

Contrary to popular belief, the customer may occasionally be wrong after all.

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Business Sense: Stand Out From the Pack – Step Five

Posted on 09 February 2018 by cradmin

By Harry Hollander of Moraware

By now, I hope you understand the importance of having a unique position in the marketplace to grow your business and sell more countertops.

Not only will it help you win more jobs and charge higher prices, it will help you attract higher quality customers.

We all want to work with people who are easy-going and who don’t haggle over price. If I was to narrow down your ideal customer, my guess is that they would be someone who knows exactly what they want, has high-end tastes, deep pockets, and will send you lots of referrals.

The way to attract friendly, easy to please, wealthy, and popular customers is simple. You must prove to them that you are the better choice.

Your unique selling proposition is essential for showing what makes you better and why.

In this course so far, we’ve talked about the areas where you can show how you are better by identifying who you serve, what you sell, and what is unique about what you do. Yesterday, we added your negative promise and a time frame.

A Gutsy Guarantee

We have now reached the last step, and this step is imperative because it removes all risk from your customer. If you really want to win better, higher paying customers you have to add a gutsy guarantee.

When done the right way, removing risk for your customer essentially eliminates any objections they have in buying from you. If customers can see that you are the best, and there is little or no risk to buy from you, you can charge higher prices and close more sales than you have ever seen before.

The way you reduce risk to a customer is by taking on the risk yourself. This happens when you provide a bold guarantee. We’ve been developing your USP and making a lot of promises. Now, we add an “or else” statement:

  • Or else you will refund
  • Or else you will replace
  • Or else you will repair

In our industry, these types of guarantees are risky because of the hard costs involved. Instead of shying away because of the risk, let’s instead look at the potential gain.

Offer What Your Competitors Won’t

First, your competitors won’t be willing to offer a refund guarantee. Offer one, and you can effectively win a lot of their prospects.

In practice, very few customers actually act on a refund or replacement guarantee, so my advice is to go big and go bold. Better to win a lot of sales than to worry about the money you will lose to make an unsatisfied customer happy or the small percentage of people who will take advantage if they’re allowed to.

Even still, there are ways you can eliminate abuse and mitigate the risk you are putting on yourself by offering a gutsy guarantee.

For starters, you can make your guarantee conditional. Maybe your guarantee is only valid if the customer uses your interior designer or orders a specific type of counter.

You can also reduce risk to yourself by adding a time limit to your promise, such as 30 days or one year from purchasing.

The one thing to keep in mind is if your competitors can offer a similar kind of promise. Your goal is to be so bold that they can’t even come close. Differentiating yourself in the marketplace isn’t easy, and it does involve some risk. There is a lot of reward involved if you can do it, though, and if you can do it right.

Elements of a USP

To recap, the requirements of an effective unique selling proposition are:

  1. It must state the specific benefit you will get with the product.
  2. It must be one that your competitors either cannot, or do not, offer.
  3. It must be so strong it can move the masses.
  4. It must be tested.

Use the steps we’ve learned to create a winning position against your competitors that they won’t be able to match. I can’t promise you will achieve world domination, but being number one in your markets won’t be far from reach.

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Business Sense: Improve Customer Service With the 10-4 Rule

Posted on 15 September 2017 by cradmin

Some people have an innate knack for customer service. They simply understand how to make the most of a busy showroom by eagerly assisting customers in need of help and dissolving problem situations effortlessly and enthusiastically. Many of you may be this sort of person, you may be lucky enough to have one on your staff. However, it is rare to have more than single employee with a natural gift for customer service.

Once your business reaches a certain size, it becomes impossible for this one person to handle each customer, and you never know when he or she might leave to pursue another avenue. Unfortunately, there is no sure way to find another natural through the typical hiring process. The good news is that not every customer service representative has to have “the gift.” It is possible to train any employee with good intentions to provide top-notch service.

Identify the Skillset for Customer Relations

It’s not that difficult to identify what makes someone good at customer service. All you have to do is examine some of your own experiences as a customer – specifically the worst ones. First and foremost, a bad customer service rep, salesperson or even waiter will become visibly annoyed at your very presence, and heaven forbid that you try to ask a question.

These bad situations will help you see that excellent customer service is a skill that can be “taught, measured and rewarded.” And following is a strategy that will help you avoid your customers receiving similar treatment.

Applying the 10-4 Rule

The 10-4 Rule is simple: If you are within 10 feet of a customer, make eye contact as you would do to a close friend. In addition, don’t be afraid to smile. Establishing eye contact shows that you acknowledge the customer, and you are open and prepared for questions. You may not even be available at that particular moment, but the customer will understand the acknowledgement and will usually wait patiently until you to get to them. Furthermore, the quick act of eye contact and a smile will rarely disrupt the customer you are currently helping.

Part two of the 10-4 Rule is to make a friendly comment or ask a helpful question. Any of the following will do just fine:

  • May I help you?
  • Have you been here before?
  • Are you familiar with our products?
  • Hi!

The main point is to open an inviting dialogue rather than be dismissive by saying something such as, “We’re just getting ready to close.”

The above behaviors work well because they are observable and easy to read. Customers do not have to rely on their intuition. Another reason they are so great is that these behaviors can be taught, and they will go a long way when put into use. The 10-4 Rule can also be measured, which makes your staff accountable, and it can be rewarded to further incentivize your employees.

Read the original article by Kathleen Teodoro of Moraware here: The 10-4 Rule of Customer Service

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First Impressions in the Countertop Industry

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First Impressions in the Countertop Industry

Posted on 27 October 2016 by cradmin

This video created by Paxton Countertops in Michigan is both amusing and makes a good point about the importance of first impressions, customer service and safety in a countertop business. It shows both the don’ts and do’s for a fabrication business (and many businesses in general) when it comes to customers.

Any employee of any countertop fabrication business could benefit from the reminder issued here (and the humor helps make an impression).

You may also be interested in this article about ensuring customer satisfaction.

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Assuring Customer Satisfaction

Posted on 20 April 2015 by cradmin

By Tony Alessandra

“Those who enter to buy, support me. Those who come to flatter, please me. Those who complain, teach me how I may please others so that more will come. Only those who hurt me are displeased but do not complain. They refuse me permission to correct my errors and thus improve my service.” ~ Marshall Field

The attitude of the professional is summed up in the previous statement. It establishes the customer as the person to whom you are responsible. Customers support you; therefore, they deserve VIP treatment. When your customers are happy, you are happy. When they complain, you are unhappy, but you examine the complaint calmly and see it as an opportunity to learn as well as satisfy their needs. The quote echoes the fear that customers will not vocalize their dissatisfaction but instead take their business elsewhere.

There’s another quote that’s even more important to salespeople and companies immediately upon making a sale: “The sale begins when the customer says yes.” In the old days, It used to be, “The sale begins when the customer says no,” but that’s a totally inappropriate attitude to embrace in today’s customer-driven business environment.

Keeping Your Customers Happy

Because your first concern is customer satisfaction, you should be aware of some emotional stumbling blocks in your path: selective perception, user error and buyers’ remorse.

Selective perception is the process in which a person sees only a few details rather than the entire picture. This attention to detail is sometimes petty. For example, a customer may have a new countertop that is beautiful and fits their every need, but he or she is irritated by the seems. The customer focuses only on what is wrong rather than what is right.

This occurs because buyers expect their purchases to be perfect. Regardless of the purchase price, they figure that for what they spent, they deserve perfection. When you encounter someone who practices selective perception, evaluate the situation to determine if the complaint is reasonable or exaggerated. If it is exaggerated, try to resolve the problem by pointing out benefits and features that compensate. Put the negative detail in a different perspective for your client so that it becomes one small part of the total picture.

Many sales involve the installation of a new system or piece of equipment, and the buyer or their employees must be trained to use it. Their successful use of the equipment depends upon the effectiveness of the training, and it is imperative that the salesperson follows through after the training period to make sure the client uses the purchase properly. It is not uncommon for people to forget 75 percent of what they hear after two days. This can cause user error, which will significantly affect the outcomes  and may prevent your client from reaching his success criteria.

Often a client will be unhappy about a purchase and not realize that it is because of improper operation. The more complex something is, the more training it requires to use properly. In the interest of implementing the product quickly, users may settle for incomplete training or become sloppy in their application of good training. In any case, look for user error whenever a success criterion is not reached.

Buyer’s remorse refers to the regret that a buyer feels after making a purchase. It could be caused by selective perception, user error or the client’s error. Whatever the reason, the full benefits of the product are not realized. Buyer’s remorse can also be caused by the economics of the purchase. Until the benefits prove themselves cost-effective, a buyer regrets having made the purchase. It is the responsibility of the salesperson to assuage these fears by assuring the client that his or her investment is wise and sound. Reiterate some of the selling points that convinced the buyer to make the purchase, present data and put him or her at ease.

Handling Customer Complaints

Whether your customer’s complaint is legitimate or not, follow it up with a service call. Whenever possible, do it personally instead of sending someone from the customer service department. It provides the personal service that your customer appreciates, and it may obviate the need for a technician or service member to call. As an alternative, both of you can go together to handle customer complaints.

Keep the following guidelines in mind:

  1. Don’t procrastinate making the call. Often the problem is not as serious as it sounds. Some customers read the riot act when they call about a complaint. A delay in responding will only irritate your client more.
  2. Admit mistakes and apologize. Just because you made the sale does not mean you can become defensive about your company, product or service. Even the most reputable companies make mistakes and have problems with their products. You may want to restate the customer’s complaint to show that you are listening and have an understanding of the problem.
  3. Show compassion for your customer. Whether the complaint proves to be true or false, show your customer that you are concerned and will investigate the problem immediately. Help the customer calm down by saying, “I can understand why you feel the way you do.”
  4. Actively listen to your customer’s complaint. Talking will make him or her feel less anxious about it. Let your customers vent their feelings before you react to the situation. Be sympathetic and encourage customers to blow up. Afterward, they’ll feel better; this means they’ll be in a better frame of mind.
  5. Don’t shift the blame to your company or someone else within it. This may take the blame off you, but it undermines the integrity and organization of the company, and your customer will lose confidence in your firm.

Maintaining Customer Satisfaction

The philosophy behind maintaining your customers is simple; now that you have them, maintain them. When you consider the amount of time and money invested in them, you cannot afford to lose them. This investment goes beyond your personal expenditures. It also includes your firm’s advertising and marketing costs to reach that particular market segment. Your customers, therefore, should be treated as if the life of your business depends on them – which it does!

How to Keep Your Customer Satisfied

  1. Show them that you think of them. Send them helpful newspaper clippings or articles, cartoons related to their business and “Here’s an idea I thought you’d enjoy” notes. Send your clients holiday cards, birthday cards and thank you notes.
  2. Drop by to show them new products and brochures and offer additional services. Always make an appointment before making your call. Respect your clients’ time as you do your own.
  3. Offer a sample gift to enhance the use of your product. See how they are utilizing your product or service and suggest other ways that they can benefit from it. They may not be realizing its full potential.
  4. Offer loyalty discounts on new products or services. This will encourage additional business.
  5. Repay or compensate them for lost time or money caused by problems encountered with your product. If you pinch pennies, your customer may do the same.
  6. Be personable. Record details about your client’s life and enter these in your file. It’s so much nicer to say to someone, “How is Bob?” rather than, “How’s your husband?”
  7. Tell the truth. Lies have a way of coming back to haunt you.
  8. Make good on your guarantees. In the end, fixing a problem is much less expensive than finding a new customer.
  9. Be ethical. Keep all your information about the account confidential.
  10. Be certain that your company follows through on its commitments. This includes delivery, installation, packaging, and so on.
  11. Show your appreciation for their referrals by reporting back to them on the outcome.
  12. Ask for testimonials. Obtain permission from your successful clients to write about them in a newsletter or your website.
  13. Keep track of their results with your product.
  14. Keep the lines of communication forever open. As in any relationship, you must be able to exchange grievances, ideas, praises, losses and victories.

What all of this comes down to is that you should be willing to go the extra mile for your customers. The extra effort you expend now will be repaid handsomely in the future.

The bottom line in maintaining your clients is service, service and more service. Be there for your customers, and they’ll want to stick with you. If you meet their needs, they’ll think twice before switching to another company even if they’ve voiced some serious concerns.

“Make new clients, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.”

About the Author

Dr. Tony Alessandra, CSP, CPAE has authored 13 books, recorded over 50 audio and video programs, and delivered over 2,000 keynote speeches since 1976. Dr. Tony Alessandra is recognized by Meetings and Conventions Magazine as “one of America’s most electrifying speakers.”

Copyright© 2015, Tony Alessandra. All right reserved. For information, contact FrogPond at [email protected].

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