Read my weekly thoughts and Xperiences on Customer Service and Customer Xperience

Red Pepper Customer Service

3rd January 2019

I get a real buzz out of great customer service and enjoy giving top class customer service too. Welcome to my new website and weekly blog on all things customer service. 

Today I did my monthly food shop in Morrisons. I was at the counter packing my food and the lady at the till showed me a red pepper I had picked up which had seen better days. She asked me would I like another one and I thanked her saying yes. She organised for another member of staff to go and get a fresh red pepper.  Now this gave me  a warm feeling and was a great start to my day - lovely red pepper customer service before 9am! Happy New Year.

It’s all about attitude...

10th January 2019

Do you know the single biggest reason a business loses customers? Well .... the answer is (and this will shock you) ... the indifference of one employee! 99% of the organisation’s staff could be doing first rate, red carpet customer service and the other 1 percent or person could be letting the side down. 

It’s not the responsibility of a department, it’s down to everyone in the organisation and you’re all on the same team. 

Attitude is crucial. Talking with people in the know, great sportsman are great because of the right attitude, which is more important than athleticism; winners have that mindset of being able just to give that little bit extra, and the right attitude - we are taught as kids - is so important to get on in life.

It is in customer service too. To achieve red carpet customer service, adjust your attitude, smile and dial, stand tall and employ the 4 P’s!

Here’s to a new year full of amazing customer service, because when it works, it’s win-win!

Experience is King!

17th January 2019

Wherever I go, I want to enjoy an experience, because the world can sometimes feel a little bit crazy and a positive interaction really does help to make my day. Just like my red pepper experience two weeks ago.

When I walk into Costa, I want the baristas to engage with me, I want retailers to be able to help me with real care and attention when I am trying to find a product, and I want to have a warm fuzzy feeling when I walk out of shop, purchase something online or finish a phone call, not feel let down or a big anticlimax following spending my hard earned money. 

This is a little explanation of something called the customer experience, and it determines whether a person talks positively or negatively about that company and returns to spend more money. 

Companies need to consider this: it is the little things that help make the big money. 

I recently purchased Christmas presents for my husband, and I received a hand written note from two of the suppliers thanking me for my business. I will certainly be a returning customer.

No-one can underestimate the power of the customer experience and with Millennials the current key market, who thrive on experiences, we should be creating these at every opportunity we have to grow our businesses. 

Word of mouth is powerful, and in the age of social media, great customer experience is vital. Experience and perception is king...

Think like a Customer!

24th January 2019

I came across this quote this week: think like a customer! I thought, how simple is that! If we all did that, every day, in our service roles in effect putting ourselves in the customers shoes and thinking like them, we would start to have a good idea how they feel and what they want.

So next time, you answer a customers question, think to yourself, how would I respond if I was told that?  Would it make me more or less engaged with the organisation or brand, and ultimately would it encourage me to purchase the service or product more?

If we all took time to consider what we are saying from the customers perspective, because after all, that’s our reality with regard to our product or service, I know that our businesses and organisations would experience more customer loyalty and ultimately more growth. It’s just another form of listening, albeit listening to your responses as well as the customers needs. 

Listening...the greatest gift we can give customers, and ultimately ourselves and our businesses. That’s a whole other blog!

Practising Active Listening

31st January 2019

My blog last week ended with a paragraph on listening. Listening is a very powerful tool when dealing with customers.

There is a reason why we have two ears and one mouth!

Customers want you to find solutions to issues and problems without having to deal with any additional complexities. So rather than listening with the intent to reply, listen to actually understand what they are saying first. When you repeat what they have said and then continue with a solution, you really gain a customers trust, confidence and above all advocacy. 

Being listened to is something we always want from an early age. Listening says to a customer that they are important. But how often do we really do this both personally and professionally?

I experienced both active listening and passive listening in the space of 24 hours, but in the spirit of positivity here’s my active listening story.

A well known global hire car brand told me they were unable to deliver a hire car to a hotel after a diverted flight and late arrival made picking up the car at the airport impossible, and a taxi necessary.

I rang the local car hire company near to the hotel, after the hotel receptionist helpfully located it for me and the sales assistant listened to my story and then proceeded to repeat certain aspects and solve my problem by providing me with a new hire car with the ability to drop off at the airport. She was positive, pro-active, professional and you could tell she was passionate about helping customers. 

An incredible customer experience and I will now, after a bad start to the hire car brand, be an advocat of them because of this solution focused sales assistant. 

Red carpet customer service at its best!

Who’s the Boss?

7th February 2019

To celebrate the launch of my new website dedicated to Customer Service and a month of blogging about it (my favourite topic), I thought it was time to share my favourite customer service quote.

When I was much younger, I was always struck by the following quote: ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’.

However, when I first saw this quote by Sam Walton, I realised this was the quote of quotes to focus the mind on why amazing customer service is so important.

This quote brutally says why looking after the customer is so important: if you don’t look after your customers, they will move on to your competitors. This means your revenue - and therefore profit will become less and less. This is not the goal most businesses want to achieve.

That is not the point of business. 

We need to ensure a ‘busyness’ towards our customer which includes care, helpfulness, going the extra mile, ensuring good and timely communication, listening, adapting, and above all exuding the four P’s: passion, positivity, pro-activeness and professionalism.

If you can afford to lose customers because you do not need to give a red carpet customer experience you have hit the jackpot. This is a rare situation and one that I have never come across. Even the big brands who command our spending have to look after their customers. 

We cannot ever become complacent. Remember who’s the boss!

Creating an excellent first impression

14th February 2019

In my blog last week I mentioned that my favourite quote whilst growing up was ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’. So in honour of Valentines Day today, I thought I would blog about what constitutes a great first impression and why it is so important.

Did you know that first impressions are made within seven seconds of meeting a person and / or experiencing a brand or organisation?

We judge everything in that tiny amount of time. Therefore so will your customers.

This includes your website, response to an enquiry, how the enquiry was dealt with, any responses to issues and the resolution of these. Each new activity in the purchase chain builds up a picture in the customers mind and reinforces that initial contact whether positive or negative. 

This is why your first impression has to be a red carpet first impression for your customer. You want them to experience customer delight to ensure they keep coming back as well as telling everyone else how wonderful you are, helping to create positive word of mouth.

First impressions in a shop could be a smile, and a hello - for instance - from a smartly dressed assistant and an enquiry of help a little while later.

It could mean a warm welcome from your accommodation provider on your arrival and help with taking baggage to your room.

Finally, it could be a rapid response to a query about a product or service and a friendly, helpful voice on the telephone.

It is always saying and using the most important words in the world: please and thank you.

It is also not saying anything at all sometimes and just listening.

It is the little things that matter when creating that red carpet first impression.

We all judge, so make that first impression count to create a red carpet experience from the word go.

Happy Valentines Day!

Creating an excellent first impression

Find your passion!

21st February 2019

Following on from Valentines Day last week, I thought I would continue the ‘love’ theme and  talk about one of my key 4 Ps: passion.

Bottom line: if you don’t love what you do, if you do not believe in your product, if you don’t show passion, why would anyone buy it? Why would anyone spend their hard earned money on your product or business if you do not come across as totally committed and focused and passionate about it?

Passion is so important. There has been many a time I have walked out from a sale in a shop, walked out of a restaurant, or told Tripadviser what I thought of some accomodation or dining experience based on a member of staff, owner, or organisation’s lack of customer care and going the extra mile.

Your passion IS your success. 

Look at the candidates on Dragons Den who command attention from the Dragons. They invariably invest in the person not just the business. 

We as customers respond to someone who really loves what they do. Negativity and a lack of care do not grow a business or loyal customers.

Organisations need to invest in the right staff to carry their brand out there to the world and therefore create passion in their staff for the product or organisation.

The bottom line is passion as well as all the other Ps that I believe in make up an amazing customer experience and it all starts and ends with the right staff and excellent and thorough training. Check out Disney’s model when it comes to staff training and the Disney way!

As the Dragons show, people buy from people. Passion is key!

Creating an excellent first impression

Time is precious

28th February 2019

Elements of this week have made me realise how valuable time is.

Both as a customer, and dealing with customers this week, time has played a bit part in positive outcomes.

I went to a meeting for what I thought would be an hour. It turned into three., yet it turned out to be the most positive and useful three hours relating to a massive project I am working on. Looking back now as I write this blog, I am glad I spent the time.

Today, a one hour meeting - for the same project - turned into two. Again it was such a beneficial two hours. Both sets of time given to me this week will secure my business by some wonderfully helpful and patient organisations.

It’s got me thinking. Customers really do like time spent on and with them. They may feel time starved in life but when something is worth it - especially when a lot of money is involved - time is the best thing you can give to a customer. It a relationship building process.

Looking after customers this week has taken up a lot of time, but when they thank you for your time, organisation and help, you realise it is worth it.

As we leave the shortest month of the year, I can honestly say time spent on and with customers is the most rewarding. 

We live in a time starved world, with lots of technology to help us with time management and ways to help us maximise our time. Would it be more beneficial I wonder to consider the opposite, not worry about time so much and just focus on each project there and then.

For if ‘we have all ... the time ... in the world’ for our customers, we would create both personal and professional wellbeing, development and growth.

Creating an excellent first impression

Be Proactive, be be Proactive!

7th March  2019

On the eve of International Women’s Day, I felt proactivity was an important point to talk about with regard to customer service.

Anyone - women included - who has achieved success (however you define this) has done so through being proactive. Nothing is gained by sitting back and waiting. 

When I give customer service training, my first ‘audience participation’ task is to get trainees to give the best and most positive and proactive way to some statements. The first is: ‘Don’t put those forms there.’

Trainees usually after a little bit of silence suggest, ‘put those forms there / in that tray / leave them there’ but the best answer is ‘Let me take those forms off you and I will see that they get to the right person.’

Another statement / situation is when a customer rings up to speak to someone and they get routed through to another person who proceeds to tell them to call back on ‘X’ number or the same line. Would it not be better to say, ‘I will take your number and get ‘X’ to call you back.’

In the customer service journey, we want an easy and seamless purchase. We don’t want difficulties, obstacles or challenges as ‘time poor’ people. We want people to make the journey a joy not a chore.

Being pro-active with the customer is key. Taking the chores and challenges out of the journey and making it pleasurable and easy will create loyalty and a positive word of mouth.

Don’t forget that in life it is the small things that count whether it is taking those forms for the customer, taking their number and ringing them back when the computer is working again, the clothes are back in stock or the person they need is not there to speak to right then.

Be proactive, be be proactive!

Creating an excellent first impression

It’s the little things...

14th March  2019

I am in the Middle East this week for work, and there is a noticeable shift in customer service excellence compared to the UK. How? Read on.

Firstly, I just recieved a call from the hotel reception to check that I was happy with the room which gave me customer delight! This is being proactive.

Yesterday, I was sitting in the executive lounge drinking tea just after my arrival because my room was not ready catching up on emails and I had a very helpful member of staff organise my pot of hot water for my tea. He asked me where I was from and what I was doing here, and he seemed genuinely interested in my response. I could tell he was very passionate about his work and ensuring that customers were happy.

Every member of staff I have met has smiled every time I leave and return to the hotel. They have asked if I need help if I looked lost and welcomed me as I walked into a different part of the hotel. Even at breakfast I was shown to my table with politeness and helpfulness and another member of staff came straight over to see if I wanted coffee. 'Please' and 'thank you' is used a lot.

From an challenge-free and seamless arrival, to a smile on request of additional hangers in the room with immediate production, to smiles from all members of staff, to leading me to a location (not just telling me where it is for me to locate myself), the level of service is totally focused on ensuring a happy customer.

Every member of staff is professional and courteous. They go out of their way to help and make this experience the best.

No-one says no, of if they have to, it is done by giving an alternative option rather than saying no.

I am sure that every member of staff has gone through significant training on being proactive and professional as well as being positive and passioniate whilst representing the brand to the customer. This is how repeat business and excellent word of mouth - plus a 5* review on TripAdvisor - is realised and businesses need to start realising this needs to be a key tactic to business growth within their marketing strategies.

It is lots of little things that make up one amazing experience and that the 4Ps - positivity, proactivity, passion and professionalism - are key to this experience.

They say it is the little things that make a difference and 'they' are not wrong!

Creating an excellent first impression

Customer happiness centres - a new take on red carpet customer service

21st March  2019

So it's the first day of Spring today and I have decided to write about new beginnings.

On my recent work trip, I caught sight of these signs (image) along the main road and I thought to myself that this was the icing on the cake to my Middle East trip where excellent customer service seems to be the norm: customer happiness centres.

I did not get the chance to stop off at one of these 'centres', but I can imagine that nobody leaves them unhappy!

This means that a total red carpet experience must be given to each and every customer to ensure they leave happy.

My blog last week mentioned the 4P's of customer service: positivity, proactivity, passion and professionalism. I can imagine the people (staff at these centres) are totally committed to ensuring customers leave happy by employing these skills.

How? It's easy.

By being positive in all their dealings as well as being professional. It is being proactive with their help and solutions to challenges (not issues!) and above all passionate about their product and ensuring the customer leaves happy.

Can you imagine if you employed these tactics in your business - ensuring this approach to all dealings. Customer loyalty would be easy and business growth more than just organic.

So how about considering a new beginning to your marketing strategy and customer care and considering the customer's happiness in all things - ie: putting the customers needs and wants first and delivering on them every step of the way however big or small they are.

It's the season for new beginnings, so what have you got to lose?

As an aside, I experienced customer delight today. My hotel had left a sweet treat in my room for me to find as a surprise on my return from my meetings. A letter was included from the management on behalf of the hotel and staff which said they were grateful that I had chosen their hotel as my home away from home when they know that there were many other hotels in the area I could have booked and stayed with. They had even listed the ingredients of the treat!

Wow - it's the little things that really do make a difference! Cistomer happiness certainly comes easy to this business.

Creating an excellent first impression

Be Positive, Say Yes!

28th March  2019

Today, I was given a book by a colleague called ‘The Power of Yes.’

I thought how timely this was on the eve of Brexit and the doom and gloom and negativity everywhere because of it.

It alos eminded me that saying yes, and being positive - whatever happens to Brexit! -  is key to living a full life.

It is timely also because it is about four years now since I was given my ‘yes’ button by a colleague which is on my desk. I like answering people’s questions with the button and reminding them and me that positivity really works wonders in the workplace.

Whatever query comes my way, I always believe in being positive and answering yes, and then working out how to do what I have just said yes to. I’ve never not been able to create an outcome that I have promised a person with a yes to.

I have always found you get more out of people by being positive and ultimately helpful.

This is the same of customers. 

Being positive to them in whatever situation, always answering yes and working out how to do it (without telling them how and just doing it), and just being generally positive is so important in the customer experience. It helps create and build relationships with you and your brand.

Did you know it takes twelve positive interactions to combat one negative? Would it not just be easier to create positive experiences from the word go?

Smiling, being helpful and going the extra mile are all aspects a customer will appreciate. Customers tell others and this creates word of mouth.

No one wants a negative purchasing experience when you part with your cash and positivity helps create brand loyalty. 

So next time you want to say no without considering all the options for your customer, stop and think of your mental ‘yes’ button and be positive!

Creating an excellent first impression

Red Cup Customer Service!

4th April 2019

This week I am on work trip meeting with agents.

Last year, doing the same trip, I promised an agent a red cup to complete her collection of five coloured cups.

So I thought I would pop to the onsite shop to get the cup last week, but there were none left. I searched high and low for this cup since I had promised to get her this and when you make promises, you always need to deliver. I bet you are thinking what a mug(!) I am for making that promise.

After searching through a number of departments for over 60 minutes, I found what I suspect to be the final red cup available.

I was glad to be able to present this to her this week and not let her down and I knew when I presented it, it was worth the extra time in locating it.

So .... the moral of the story: never promise what you cannot deliver, and going the extra mile in customer service is worth it!

Creating an excellent first impression

Never, never, never give up ... on your customer!

11th April 2019

Today, at one of my meetings, I saw the timeless quote of the great Sir Winston Churchill and I thought what a perfect quote for my blog this week, and following on from last week's blog.

I sometimes feel that we give up too easily, because it is the easier option than using all your energy, drive and determination in whatever activity or project that you/a person is involved in at the time.

As an example, this week, the staff at one of my hotels I was staying in were very quick to give up on me with my daily request as to whether my packages - that I had mailed to the hotel before setting out on my latest work trip - had arrived.

I asked on the evening of my arrival, the next day - both lunchtime and early evening - as well as the following morning. The same person was at the reception desk each time and each time a member of staff 'looked' for my packages including him on one occasion. The final morning I asked the question, and the same man smirked at my question and proceeded to cover his mouth to stop me (from noticing....doh!) that he could not stop smirking at the potentially mad woman in front of him looking for her packages. It was just like the first night on my arrival when I could see the trainee receptionist go into the office for help trying to locate my package because he could see the note on my file regarding them. I proceeded to speak with a lady who seemed less than happy to help me as though I had interrupted her important work ... of probably online shopping or posting some important details on facebook.

It totally made me feel that I have been given up on even at that time!

Needless to say the packages arrived later that day after my final request to locate my package - two hours before I was due to leave. Better late than never!

However, the incident has made me question the lengths that people would go to to ensure a customer is happy and I really did not believe - from the lack of trying to find tthe packages - that the team were really keen to help me locate my missing parcels. Nor would they go over and above their duty to help a customer eg: red cup customer service!

It is a well known fact that people tend to focus more on body language than words. 93% is not what you say but how you say it and of this 55% is body language and 38% tone. (Only 7% is on the words you use)

Why are businesses not training their staff to have positive body language at all times? And especially hotels, when there is a lovely little websiite out there called TripAdvsor!

So the moral of the story this week is: never, never, never give up on your customer; going the extra mile is worth it in the end.

Creating an excellent first impression

Helpful Sales are key to Customer Growth

18th April 2019

This quote hit me like a bolt of lightening when I read it on Pinterest today as so being obvious, so why don't we all practice it?

Every so often little nuggets of genius appear on Pinterest in response to my pinning of customer service quotes, and this is one of them.

It's like that other wonderful sales quote, "Sell an experience, not a product".

But what does it all mean?

Customers go online or to shop to find a product in response to a need. Sometimes that product need is easy to fix, but not always.

For instance, you want to find an implement for eating soup - well a soup spoon is pretty much the tool for the job.

But what if you need to buy a television, a car, an oven or a house? There are more variables that go into the search for these items. This is when helping the customer to find what they are looking for and listening to their requirements and needs really helps to sell your product and organisation. Reeling off information on the latest and most expensive television or car in the range just because you know the patter or you have been told to upsell usually ends in the customer running for the nearest exit!

By listening to the customer, finding out what they need and helping to solve their problem, will gain you a new customer, or a more loyal customer. And why is thus important? I am sure you have competitors who would love to take your customers, but most importantly, authentic and honest sales help a business in the key goal of customer acquisition: a customer for life.

Why is this important? Because it acquiring customers costs seven times more than retaining customers!

An example of elpful sales to the importance of life time value is shown here:   my father buying his first German car, one that he had been wanting and looking at for a long time: his dream car. He spent months visiting the sales house, going over all the options until he finally bought it. I thought at the time the staff had the patience of a saint, but their patience won out (Remember: never, never, never give up... on the customer!) I remember someone saying at the time that the they would see my father as a potential life time customer, and that it was not just about one sale. The help they gave him over the months was important for them to see this. They were right: he has since bought a number of German cars - only from them - over the years.

So it is important to help the customer find the perfect product or answer to their problem however long it takes. It is not a sale. it is providing help or an experience. People love helpful people. People warm to help to solve their issues and queries. It stands to reason that helping someone with their query, solving a problem, all the while creating a relationship and an experience, will end up in a sale.

Creating an excellent first impression

... You have to be Outstanding.

25th April 2019

Have you ever noticed that people talk about their experiences with brands in two very different ways?

If the customer experience was awful they talk in mainly negative adjectives. However if the customer experience was outstanding, they rave about it.

Nobody really mentions average. It's one or the other, and I can imagine which end of the scale you and your business would want ... no need... to be. 

There are so many online opportunities for people to be negative or rave about your business or product, or rate it: social media, TripAdvisor, amazon ... the list goes on.

Bad customer service can jeopardise a company's reputation. 

Businesses today cannot afford this. Competition for customers is strong so you need your customers - ambassadors for your brand - to rave about your customer service. So you need to create customer delight (the ultimate goal) every time. 

For example, I have been back to a few hotels and B&Bs along my travels that I rave about (usually on TripAdvisor because I believe in feedback), because every time I stay, the customer experience does not diminish. It is usually the small touches that make me rave about a place. But most importantly it is a great all-round experience and being valued as a customer. After all I could have gone somewhere else. 

Examples include: dessert treat time in a hotel because the hotel recognised that I could have chosen any number of other hotels to stay at and wanted to thank me, using my name on arrival and throughout my stay, upgrading me because this was the third time I had returned, extending my check out because my flight was much later on, presenting me with my packages on arrival and leaving further packages in my room during my stay without me having to ask for them, being positive and helpful with all my questions and suggesting alternatives and options, giving me a quiet room because the member of staff could see i was a business traveller, organising last minute breakfast refreshments for a group gathering without any issues, offering to call a taxi rather than me going outside to flag one down. 

It is the little things that help a rave review, because nobody raves about average and your business needs to do better than average to beat the competition and create customer loyalty and ultimately growth.

Creating an excellent first impression

Forget your competitors. Focus on your customer.

2nd May 2019

I saw this quote today and I thought how true it is....

I was always brought up not to worry about anyone else handing their homework in on time at school, just focus on getting my homework in on time. I worried about people finishing exams first, in my early education years, but learned to focus on my own exam later on and finish in my own time to get the best results. 

In my early career days, I worried that other people were doing better than me, but learned over time to focus on what I was doing and my career to succeed. 

All of these examples show that focusing on you and your affairs helps you to be the best. Surely this must translate to your business and growing it?

In recent years, in my work, I have worried less and less about competitors and focused more and more on the customer. 

There is not much you can do about your competitors, so why spend time worrying about or considering them? Of course, having one eye on them is useful, but for general day to day working, just focus on your customers 100% and this will give you the edge on your competitor. By spending time considering your competitors daily movements you are reducing time spent on looking after the customer and thus considering and developing more and better ways to look after them.

So to quote that positive phrase: focus on what you can do (looking after your customers), and not on what you can't.

Creating an excellent first impression

Customers do not like excuses! They like an easy purchase experience.

9th May 2019

How many times have you been in a situation where someone says to you something like: 'We cannot help you with that', 'That option is not available', 'We cannot do that', or my absolute pet hate of a phrase, 'We have always done it this way' (aaaahhhhhhhh), when you suggest an action?

I often do customer service training to a variety of stakeholders who although they are all customers out in the big wide world do not often put their minds into the mind of a customer, when dealing with customers. As customers, we do not want barriers, we want solutions, an outcome, and end to the purchase / transaction experience.

My training includes ensuring that there is a positive response to every situation and that you never have to say no to a customer, and that on the rare occasions that you do you can provide a solution to a customer so they do not feel that their search for an outcome is in vain and therefore will still speak highly of how helpful you and your business have been.

The training is not really about saying yes to people; it's more about going the extra mile rather than just saying no as a default which many people tend to do because they cannot be bothered to put the extra effort in.

But when dealing with people who are about to spend their hard earned money, we need to be bothered!

I have to remind trainees that people are cash rich and time poor and that an easy purchase or transaction experience is paramount not just becuase of their lack of time, but for the business to gain a repeat customer a loyal customer and ultimately a brand ambassador.

So dispense with the 'my computer is moving slowly', 'you'll have to call back for that information', 'I don't have an answer to your question, could you call back later to find out', and 'we're out of those, but we will have them in next week so come back then', and instead say 'please can I take your number and I will call you back later / the next day when I can give you that information / let you know when the item is back in stock.' How easy is that!

Excuses are not an option in business today when growing your business and your customer base, action is what is required.

Creating an excellent first impression

Does price really matter to the customer?

16th May 2019

I was looking through pinterest when I came across this quote: The reason it seems that price is all your customers care about is that you haven't given then anything else to care about.

I thought... is this really true? And I realised I actually experienced this change in focus the other day during a meeting. Some customers mentioned to me that the price of a product was costly. When I broke the price down and described the different elements that the customer received for the price and the experience they would enjoy, then the customers got excited and price became obsolete and they realised what excellent value the product was and that they were going to enjoy an experience too.

I am a great believer that price is something that can be pushed aside to make way for experience, value and care to support in the purchasing process. Generally people are happy to pay a price for an item. When we start haggling and discounting, then it becomes all about the price and the experience is lost. What if we focused on what a customer receives and how much value can be found in the product, surely then a customer will enjoy a wonderful before and after experience buying and enjoying the product or service. 

Lifestyle brands, products where demand is greater than supply and brands which give 'out of this world' customer service are all expensive, but for people who buy them, worth it for the experience before and after the purchase.

Not only that, brands that are considering their environmental impact whether through the reduction of plastic usage, using recycled plastic from the oceans in their packaging, banning straws etc, certainly gets people voting with their feet in terms of customer loyalty. These brands have given their customer more to care about than just a great product; people buying the product can also feel they have done their bit to care for the environment.

Furthermore, some of my best retail / purchasing / leisure experiences have been in some luxury goods stores, restaurants and hotels where the experience of purchasing the product has been just as good - if not more exciting - as enjoying the item itself. I just love the whole experience involving care and attention in the buying process before and after - it is something that gives me a feeling of being valued. We all like to feel valued. 

Obviously there is an argument for ensuring that there is value for money in many instances and for many people which I do not want to take away.

However, we have entered a world where experience is all part of life; the millennial generation have certainly put this word on the map. But with the amount of choice we have out there, it stands to reason that if we give customers more to consider than just price, price becomes irrelevant.

Lets start to care more!

Creating an excellent first impression

Be the best at customer service!

23rd May 2019

I wrote a blog a few weeks ago about focusing on your customers not your competition, however you will want to keep one eye out on what you competitors are doing in the field of customer service to keep one step ahead of the game and be the best.

Sometimes the only that will differentiate you from the competition is amazing customer service. In fact I have just bought a book called 'Amaze Every Customer, Every time' so I will let you know what this is like and some little snippets of wisdom from it next week. I love reading books on customer service and finding out new ideas and ways to wow the customer and keep them coming back.

Anyway, back to being the best!

I read a cartoon the other day that fits in with this: a man is by a hotel reception desk and he is tired, upset and fed up and has just mentioned  what a terrible day he had had with a delayed flight and traffic issues and is angry and short. The woman behind the desk thinks although this is not my fault, its my opportunity to end this mans bad day! What a refreshing take on customer experience. She is about to consider what will make his day the best and give him the best experience at check in.

I love reading ideas like this. How many times have we thought... well, its not my fault, I will just try and not make it worse, but have we ever thought... it's my chance to make this day the best for this person and turn everything around?

So my thought for the week is, be the best at customer service every time, ensure your customers have the best experience whether they come to you with a positive or negative frame of mind and just fly the flag for amazing customer service every time! You never know, you might turn their rubbish day into the best.

Be positive, professional, passionate and above all proactive! Think how the  customer must be feeling and put yourself in their position. What would turn your day around if you were in this position and then act on that. Just smile and be helpful and enact the 4Ps and you cannot fail to give the best customer service!

Creating an excellent first impression

Give your customer the red carpet treatment every time.

30th May 2019

I read a book a few years ago that totally wowed me with regard to customer service. The book is by Donna Cutting and it is called 'Insider Secrets to delivering Red Carpet Customer Service' - The Celebrity Experience. The Pizza story will really make you understand what amazing customer service is and take it to a whole new level.

People like to feel special and the red carpet treatment makes people feel special. 

You must have had that experience in a shop or in a hotel, where the member of staff goes the extra mile and makes you feel valued and special with their manner (professional and polite) and help. If not, I suggest you hop on a flight to Dubai where they really know all about customer service!

The red carpet treatment resonates with me this week with a project I am working on at the moment. The project  involved red carpet levels of customer care and I am wanting to ensure I deliver top class red carpet levels of customer care. Every detail, every name, every part of the schedule is totally focused on giving the customer the best experience - the red carpet experience. 

I say this every week, but if people are spending money on your product or service then you need to treat them well, well actually the best, so they will come back and spend more money. Because, again, repeat customers are much less expensive to your business in the long run compared to constantly finding and bringing in new ones with expensive marketing and advertising campaigns.

So, when you deal with that next customer, think how you can give that person red carpet customer service and therefore help to retain a customer and bring customer loyalty to your organisation and support in its growth!

Creating an excellent first impression

Resilience and perseverance are needed sometimes!

6th June 2019

I thought it appropriate today to use one of my favourite quotes: 'tough times don't last, but tough people do.'

On the 75th anniversary of D-Day, I thought how appropriate is this!

Of course dealing with a tough customer will be nothing like landing on a beach in Northern France in Operation Overlord.

However, we can learn a thing or two from the veterans in the news this week about not giving up, persevering and showing resilience in the face of adversity ... albeit with a customer service challenge. 

I am sure you have had those times when you feel all your top customer service support and red carpet levels directed at the customer are just not doing the trick and you will have those days when nothing goes right. You can't win them all, after all! 

You will be thinking: what am I not doing right, how can I make the experience better, what is is that the customer is really needing and why am I not delivering it?

I have had those days when you get setback after setback and the reasons to your request for feedback are nothing that are within your control, which can happen on occasion.

It is always about resilience and perseverance because you will get through to some customers with your red carpet customer service.

Just remain positive, professional, passionate and pro-active as did our veterans 75 years ago and you will see yourself through the challenges and onto a winning outcome!

Top tip on staying positive: if I am needing a dose of positive, I have a 60 second video showing scenes from my favourite place in the world set to some inspiring music that I watch, which focuses my mind back on a positive path! Chocolate always helps too....

Creating an excellent first impression

Customer First!

13th June 2019

I tend to notice that customers engage more when you ask questions about them and get to know them rather than just talking shop. Your shop.

Have you also noticed that people are more comfortable talking about themselves than they are about things they are not as knowledgeable about?

So with these two statements in mind, why not talk to the customer and ask questions about them (not personal information!) to find out a little bit about them, help them to relax and then get them in the frame of mind to discuss your product or service.

I followed through on this advice yesterday to amazing results and the customer visibly relaxed and opened up about her concerns. We were then able to have a frank conversation about various aspects and I could reassure her that our product could do x and y to alleviate her concerns. 

I also notice how brilliant general chit chat and listening to the customer is when gaining their trust for you to talk about your product or service. 

I have already spoken in previous blogs about how important listening is - and I mean active listening. Neither listening with the intent to respond, listening whilst all the while formulating a response, nor listening whilst looking at who else is around and what others are doing in the vicinity. This is not active listening. Active listening is totally focusing on the customer, their words, their tone and their body language, above anything else.

The only thing more important than the four P's (being positive, proactive, professional and passionate about your product or service) is listening. 

Listening makes us all feel valued and that what we are saying is important. It allows us to build rapport and trust. Trust is important in building a relationship with a customer who will in turn listen to you and your knowledge on the product to make the purchase. 

Top tip of the week: 'Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.” Bernard Baruch, US Philanthropist.

Creating an excellent first impression

Customer First - Part 2!

20th June 2019

Last week I wrote about the customer being the priority. Red carpet customer service is all about putting the customer first and giving them an excellent experience so they purchase your product or service, and then continuing that top class experience so that they continue to purchase your product or service. 

It costs seven times more to recruit a new customer than to retain. Therefore it stands to reason that once you have put effort into that customer, you want to keep them for as long as possible. 

I can tell you now that I am a loyal customer to various brands based on customer service and quality of the product. I am loyal to Hotpoint and have a fridge freezer, and washing machine from them; I would have an oven but it does not fit I found out this week! They have excellent service and guarantees as well as being incredibly supportive and helpful during the purchase process. Not only that, but their products are of a good quality and because of this do not mind paying that little bit extra for that and the excellent customer service. 

I am also a loyal Morrison's customer for my main supermarket shop - excellent service and friendly staff;  and Marks and Spencer (for my bits and bobs and train station meals) for the same reason. 

As customers we value friendliness and helpfulness, a real focus on our needs and requirements as well as an efficient purchase process. If the organisation gets this right every time, why would a customer switch? Customers value ease in the process which is more valuable than getting the cheapest deal in our largely cash rich time poor society.

Thinking about customer service and what the end result is all about, I typed 'business goals' into Google this week and the following came up: increase profit margin (arguably the overall aim), Increase efficiency, capture a bigger market share, provide better customer service and improve employee training (all helping towards the initial aim). The overall aim is achieved (arguably) through the others, all of which aim to look after the customer (better customer service, better training of employees) to create a bigger market share (customer recruitment and retention).

Therefore, if you look after the customer first (better training and service), the customer will last (greater market share) which equals increased profit margin.

Creating an excellent first impression

'Thank you' are two of the most important words in the world of customer service

27th June 2019

Last week I wrote about the customer being the priority and that red carpet customer service is all about giving the customer an excellent experience. Why? So that they purchase your product or service. And after? Then you continue that top class experience and then they will continue to purchase your product or service. 

I also mentioned I was loyal to a certain supermarket. A colleague did her online shop at the supermarket recently and had it delivered. Check out the image attached to this blog to see what was delivered with it. Talk about service with a smile and customer delight as well as something to enjoy over a nice cup of tea once all the food is put away.

I also mentioned a few blogs ago about the delightful experience of when I was staying in a hotel in Turkey. I arrived back from a number of meetings to a sugary dessert as a treat, with a note thanking me for staying at the hotel especially knowing I could have stayed at any number of hotels in the area.

It is these little details that really make a person smile and give the customer a warm feeling towards the organisation creating potential repeat business. Other examples I can recall, when I have been impressed, include whisky in the main hotel living room (in a small hotel in Scotland) for guests to enjoy at no charge, homemade cake and a pot of tea on arrival at a farmhouse B&B, eco-friendly local toiletries in a B&B that mentioned profits go to help regeneration within the local area, and a personalised welcome sign in another B&B because the owners were unable to greet me personally. I have had personalised thank you notes/cards with an online order of clothing, a small thank you gift with one shop purchase I made in Germany and a free addition to a personalised order I made at an online store after I relayed the reason for the order. I have had puddings with the word 'congratulations' on a plate at special anniversaries or birthdays from organisations wanting to create that magical experience and even received a half bottle of champagne from one hotel and a chocolate dessert and bottle of wine on a special occasion from another. All of these experiences I remember vividly and many of these go back / span eight years alone. I will ensure to go back to these hotels (if I have not already) and place repeat orders with the retail companies because of these little experiences which gave me such a warm feeling towards the organisation at that point of sale / during that stay.

How hard and costly have these little actions been for each organisation? Generally not that hard or costly. How has it made me feel? Valued and wanting to return or purchase additional items, and not only that, for many of the accommodation providers an excellent review on TripAdvisor telling the world how wonderful they are. So how hard can it be for you to think up some great ideas to make the customer feel valued for them to experience customer delight? Not that hard I bet.

Just remember it's all in the detail..... and never forget to say thank you.

Thank you for reading my blog today.

Creating an excellent first impression

Red Carpet Customer Service - ten top tips!

4th July 2019

It seems fitting on the 4th July and with Prom season on at the moment to talk about 'red carpet' customer service. It is also six months since I started blogging about customer service and my experiences; every three months I like to do a 'red' blog so here it is.

If you look at the 4th July celebrations, the US have really rolled out the red carpet this year for them. Prom venues up and down the country are decorated with red carpets to welcome Year 11 pupils. 

So why do people organise red carpets?

Well, it makes people feel special. I know that for many Year 11 pupils, they enjoy being made to feel special after months of revision and a few weeks of their first public and important exams. It's a celebration of years of work and a chance to relax and enjoy a little bit of focus on them, that's not all about work and exams. 

Traditionally, red carpets were rolled out to dignitaries and politicians, but more recently it is more associated with celebrities and star studded events. 

A red carpet has been used as early as 465 BC and according to that well known online encyclopaedia, in 1902, the New York Central Railroad used plush crimson carpets to direct people as they boarded their 20th Century Limited passenger train. This is believed to be the origin of the phrase "red-carpet treatment". As you can see, customer service was given out, red carpet style, over 100 years ago by a company wanting to give their customers a special experience. 

Rolling out the 'red carpet' (if you cannot do it literally) means making people feel special. This includes ten key ingredients: 

1 - giving them your time

2 - listening, and I mean active listening

3 - giving them the information they need and sticking to key points and not waffling so you appear confident in your knowledge of the product and will therefore build trust

4 - being proactive to their needs

5 - being positive in your interaction with the customer

6 - being professional in your dealings

7 - being authentically passionate about your brand, product or service

8 - paying attention to the detail during the purchase process including using their name, making eye contact and smiling

9 - remembering to say hello, please and thank you

10 - resolving any issues with a sincere apology and a solution

It all feels like common sense, doesn't it? Treating people as we would want to be treated. This is always a good barometer for any situation you are in, to consider how you would feel listening to yourself and your words during your interaction with your customer and what your overall feeling to the experience you have just given is if you were the customer. What could you do differently, if the sale is not made for instance, or what you can do if the sale is made to encourage a repeat purchase?

This is the ultimate aim: customer loyalty and repeat business and thus business growth. Red carpet customer service will do this every time!

Creating an excellent first impression

Perception is king!

11th July 2019

It is a truth not universally acknowledged that we seem only to see things one way way rather than considering that there could be another opinion on a matter. 

I am always saying that there is no such thing as right or wrong, it's all down to opinion.

In this instance, the opinion of the customer is key. In fact it is more than key - it is king, as is perception. The following fact can show this:

"80% of companies think that they are giving superior customer service, whereas 8% of people think these same companies are delivering superior customer service." 

Interesting, don't you think? 

Never be complacent that you are doing a great job. Continue to learn, and get better. The customer generally won't let you know you are doing a bad job, they will just shop somewhere else. Feedback is important therefore, and more important than this is acting on that feedback otherwise you have wasted the time of many people who have given you feedback to help you be better.

So how can you continually try to ensure you are giving consistent customer service on top of taking note of feedback? There are three good ways of doing this:

Mystery shopping: having someone come in and test the customer touch points, making sure that the buying process is pleasurable and smooth. This will allow you to see any inconsistencies and iron out problems to be able to support a real customer.

Customer service training annually as well as refreshers are also helpful in ensuring your staff are updated and that they are continually providing consistently excellent customer service according to your policies and requirements. Role play is good to get your staff in the mindsets of your customers too and to put themselves in the buyers position.

Customer service audit: looking at processes and how smooth and easy it is for the customer to get to the buying stage as well as how easy it is for your staff to get them to the buying stage. Barriers to that final purchase do not help, so look at trying to alleviate these in the buying process. 

I employ all of the above techniques to ensure consistent customer service is maintained at all times as well as reviewing the process consistently to ensure it is responsive to the customers needs and that the staff feel it supports them in the sales process.

So in conclusion, remember, the customer's perception is your reality. 

Creating an excellent first impression

First impressions count!

18th July 2019

In the last two weeks, I have really noticed that first impressions count. 

You probably remember a certain shampoo advert that used this slogan as part of its advertising campaign. It has always struck me as important wherever I go and whatever I do. 

In a world of speed, we also judge our fellow man on first impressions. Do you know it takes us seven seconds to form an opinion of someone  just by looking at them and before we have even heard from them? 

In customer service training the other week, to some new members of staff, I touched on this very subject. 

I used the famous quote: 'Suit up, because your personality is not the first thing people see". I have to say it amazes me how some people turn up to job interviews, even interviews on Skype for instance. You may be a thousand miles away, but it is still an interview! My mother always said it is better to over dress than under dress; you can always take a tie off for instance or a jacket but not if its the other way around and there is a dress code in place. 

I read an article recently on key things people look out for when interviewing that are a no-no and having sunglasses on your head is one of them. As the article author wrote, "you're not going to the beach!" 

Other key aspects of the first impression I touched on in the training that relate to whether we as customers / the customer wants to continue with a purchase include six further areas:

1 - Adjust your attitude - what I mean by this is that whatever is going on in your personal life, leave it there - the customer does not care. They are in front of you to buy a certain product and have chosen you and your store to do this in their time poor life. You have to put on a positive front, on the front line.

2 - Use their name - no need to explain.

3 - Smile - it is so much better than a cross or miserable face that feels like the staff member does not care or does not enjoy the organisation he/she is working at. Why therefore would the customer think it's a good idea to shop there if the staff member does not seem passionate about the organisation and the products they are selling?

4 - Stand tall - slouching is not professional, standing tall shows confidence even if you are only five foot tall! I never present sitting down for this very reason, by standing I can breathe deeply and smile at and look at everyone in the room......

5 - Make eye contact - we engage people by looking into their eyes (obviously not for hours at a time!) and showing them we are focusing solely on them and their needs at all times. 

6 - Positive body language - arms crossed shows boredom and an uncaring attitude. The customer wants you to care about their needs, so you have to show this is the case. 

The shop floor is not a place to gossip as I have seen in many a department store. It is about smiling and saying hello to the customer, asking if they need help a little while later and being positive, passionate, proactive and professional in your manner and focusing on their needs. 

Most of these aspects above can be used on the telephone too. Just listen to how you sound when you smile and stand tall compared to when your face is frowning and you are slouching. Using positive body language makes you feel positive and upbeat. By crossing your arms you will naturally come across as defensive and this will affect your tone on the phone too. Eye contact is difficult I agree!

So in a nutshell, remember, first impressions count, whether as a member of staff on the shop floor, at a job interview, on the telephone and in an email! Because you have seven seconds to make it count!

Creating an excellent first impression

Customer relationship building is key to growth

25th July 2019

I was writing an article the other day, and in it I mentioned that the relationship does not stop with the sale. In fact it is important to contact the customer after the sale to keep them engaged with the purchase if there is a long lead time between purchase and enjoyment of the product. 

It is important to make the customer feel valued before, during and after, and if you stop looking after them just because the money is in and you've 'closed the sale' then they will feel undervalued and more than likely decide to consider other options in the future.

I read another quote recently on Pinterest that said: 'The Customer Experience is the next competitive battleground'. 

It really hit me reading this that companies and organisations are really going to have to get savvy when it comes to generating growth. 

Organisations really do have to consider every touch point in the customer journey and ensure it is positive and meaningful so that the customer purchases the product or service and returns to make repeat purchases.

I mentioned in a recent blog how my father is a life time customer of a certain German car manufacturer, following the patience of the staff over a number of months whilst my father deliberated and then purchased his first of a lifetime of the same car albeit different models. He was provided with excellent customer care and over the years, a real journey as a loyal customer. 

The sales people did not just close the sale, they opened a relationship with my father. This is how organisations win and keep customers.

Creating an excellent first impression

Out of Office 1 - Short blog due to Summer Holidays!

1st August 2019

With it being that holiday time of year, you still have a duty to your customers to ensure they are looked after. 

You may be travelling to a part of the world with no wifi (yes people, these places do exist) but your customers will not know that, nor care.

My advice, is to be proactive before leaving for your holidays and let your key customers know they can contact another person while you are away by email and ensure to copy in that colleague to your email so it easy for your customers to locate the contact email address. 

Secondly, do not forget to turn on your out of office. Make sure to include contact details of colleagues who can help in your absence. 

Happy summer holidays to you and your customers!

Creating an excellent first impression

Out of Office 2 - Remember to take time out!

8th August 2019

I love customer service, but I also know I have to re-energise and refocus every so often and step away from giving that red carpet customer service!

Creating an excellent first impression

Service with a Smile

15th August 2019

I have just returned from an adventure experience of a lifetime, climbing Africa's highest mountain. 

What has stayed with me from this achievement, is not making the summit. It is the incredible people I met during my journey to the summit and back down.

I can hear you thinking: what baring has this on amazing customer service? Well two things that are quite important actually - team work and service with a smile. 

Team work: there were 54 people in our team (36 porters, 6 guides and 12 walkers). Every single member of our 54 strong team contributed to getting all twelve of us to the top of the mountain and back down again safely. We worked as a team: we trusted the guides and followed their instructions, we worked together to help each other, we listened well, we cared about each other, we respected (well we were in awe of) all the porters and their amazing support. When a team works well, it performs, as in business. 

I am still working out how a team who had never met before, performed / achieved the goal, knowing that so many teams go forth with this one mission in mind and fail to get all their team to summit. 

I will let you know, when I know the answer to this conundrum, because if we could transport this scenario to real world situations, we would all have top performing businesses!

Service with a smile: every single porter and guide always had a smile - morning to night; from the porters who dusted our shoes at the end of the day and who helped us with our bags, to the cooks who prepared the food to fuel our mission and bid us happy eating, and to the guides who told us we were doing so well and who kept our spirits up along the way. They all seemed to genuinely love their job and even though a tip was expected it did not feel that this was the reason they all had smiles on their faces all of the time. Could you imagine if we were always so happy in our jobs, how great our customers would feel - as we all did on that mountain?

You will know that service with a smile has been a basic part of the customer service experience forever and a day: smile and dial, smile to greet customers and so on, but do we do it enough? I certainly don't feel we do after eight days of constant smiles and kindness from our porters and guides earning very little. 

I just know customers would be just as happy with their interactions with organisations as we 12 are with our recent experience because of all the positivity, passion, professionalism and pro-activity by every guide and porter to give us the greatest experience and journey ever. 

After all, isn't that what it is all about?

P.S.I often wonder, now I have returned, whether the happiness was the fact that their 'office' - as they put it - was a simple one of eat, sleep, walk, repeat, along with singing, dancing and camaraderie? Have we forgotten the joy of living, enjoying each moment and just being grateful on a daily basis for the little or big things (whatever is important to you). One of my wonderful new Kili family suggested at our last meal on the mountain to talk about one thing that we were grateful for. It was great to be able to voice our thanks and it is something I now do every day to remind me of this trip, the people and the gratitude for this incredible experience as well as the ability to enjoy life and new experiences since then every day. 

Today I am grateful to be so inspired by amazing customer service and to be able to share this blog and the importance of team work and service with a smile with you.

Creating an excellent first impression

One customer at a time...

22nd August 2019

I found this quote online recently and though it was a great way to view growth, ie not worry about it, but focus on the journey so to speak.

Rather than considering profits, why not consider the present and making each customer happy to create that organic growth over time?

If we look after each and every customer, then you look after your business. It's like that old fashioned phrase: 'look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves'. 

It seems apt to be considering one step at a time on the day of GCSE results and the importance of revision in 'bite size chunks' which this quote can relate too. GCSEs are one step in a long road of results, grades and then career steps to gain the end result. A person would not generally worry about being bigger, but focus on getting and being better in their career path.

Every brand started somewhere and gained a few supportive customers who were looked after and who then told others about the brand; and then it grew! Even companies like Amazon started small, focusing on looking after one customer at a time. 

Customer journey mapping is a real buzz phrase at the moment, and this focuses on the touch points of the customer journey with a product or service, making sure each one works for the customer. 

If we could look after each customer to the best of our abilities at each contact point, each and every time and really focused on them throughout the customer journey, then organisations would automatically see a growth in their customer base as the positive word of mouth spreads. 

It is easy really. By focusing on each customer and their individual requirements, employing the key customer service actions, every customer should be happy and tell others about their experience and then your organisation or business should grow, right? So why does this not always happen?


People are important in ensuring excellent customer service and it is worth noting that it is the indifference of one employee that kills a business the quickest. I believe that you should recruit for attitude, and train for skill. 

I will explore this in next weeks blog more fully, but great sales people are key and that includes listening skills in the sales process!

* It is worth noting that I toyed with the idea of a fifth 'P' when setting up my customer service website and that being people. It did not sit well with my other four adjectives which are something each of us can control since these four are up to us; what we cannot control is how other people are which is why I left this fifth but very important 'P' out of the final line up. 

Creating an excellent first impression

Indifference - No 1 cause of customer attrition

29th August 2019

Most people do not believe me when I quote this statistic to them. I use it as part of my customer service training -  as the first bit of audience participation - citing other options such as new competition, word of mouth and dis-satisfaction with the product. Most people invariably go for word of mouth. People never think individual people are the issue. 

But then I get people talking to me about their worst customer service experiences and it usually involves a person being rude, not helpful, not listening, not addressing the issue, passing the issue over to another department.... and another.... and another! Then, the light bulb moment happens!

For me, it's that time of year when I get ready to give customer service training to all new staff within administration, catering, cleaning, maintenance and teaching, because every single person could and at some point will interact with a customer. Every single member of staff make up the team supporting our customers, so each and every one of them needs to be on board with giving red carpet customer service.  

And it is the indifference of one employee that could mess it all up. 

I mentioned in my blog last week the importance of people in ensuring a fantastic customer experience, and this statistic surely confirms the importance of staff.

I always try to focus on what is possible to control with regard to growing a business. For example, it is impossible to control what the competitors are doing, so focusing on your company and its strengths is more proactive. 

It is possible to control dissatisfaction with the product, word of mouth and indifferent employees.

The first, can easily be rectified with focus groups and research through questionnaires with recent buyers and non buyers for instance, and then looking at ways to make your product or service better. 

The second is is based on both a great product and great customer service. 

Great customer service, comes from ensuring the third aspect is focused on. 

One of Richard Branson's popular quotes is "If you look after your staff, they will look after your customers," and to an extent, this is true. What it fails to say is that you need the right staff in a customer facing position in the first place. You can ensure all the support, benefits and remuneration, but if the person is not in the right role, then the business and the member of staff will suffer. 

So for this blog, let us assume you have a great recruitment process with a clearly defined role and people specification in your job descriptions for your front of house staff. They need to be trained in the processes and company's customer service requirements. Do not think that it is right or fair to let any new member of staff just get on with it. Training is key.

In one organisation I worked in, I will never forget a person (front of house too) thanking me for some customer service training. She said to me, "no-one has ever trained us before so we have never known what to do and it is nice to have had the training to help us do our job better." 

Therefore, do not assume people have had training in this area or that they know the key areas of great customer service, aspects of a great first impressions or how to turn everything into a positive / easy transaction for a customer. 

It is surprising how many companies do not invest in this area given the statistic attached to this blog to reverse this 68%.

People are key to your business growth and sustainability, and to end with another Branson quote: "Train people well enough so that they can leave, but treat them well enough so that they do not want to".

Creating an excellent first impression

Customer Service is just Common Sense!

5th September 2019

This week I am in the midst of training staff in customer service. I generally always end up saying - when I go through the presentation - that it really is common sense ie: treat people how you would like to be treated in the sales process. Yes, it's that easy!

However, people do not realise that the smallest of aspects that could be considered basic common sense can put a person off or will give them a negative feeling towards a brand, product or service. 

As an example, at the weekend, I was enjoying some quality time with friends. We had all just gone on a big walk and just happened on a pub on the way back that we thought looked great for an early dinner since we were all starving. We went in and ordered food and drink, and some of the drinks were forgotten because they were not alcoholic. The food order then came with a meat dish for the vegetarian. There was no sorry for this issue, and as it is, my friends hate making a fuss about this sort of thing, so the lack of apology was not helpful. In fact they made an excuse that because it was a half portion (that's all they had available and all my vegetarian friend could eat, clearly stating she was vegetarian) that 'it goes through the till as a half portion and the kitchen would not know otherwise!'

Furthermore, they started clearing some of our plates away (using the time old excuse about giving us room on the table, although we always manage in our homes with the amount of plates and cutlery on a table for six people!) just as they brought out the vegetarian dish for my friend. This is not conducive to a relaxed, unhurried eating experience for all. 

This is also not common sense customer service after making an error on the ordering. 

The lack of apology, excuse for the ordering when they could have clearly popped back to the kitchen and told the chef to prep the vegetarian option and latterly plate clearing only after bringing out her dish shows a complete lack of common sense or even empathy after the situation. If only the staff put themselves in our position and thought about how they would feel they might have done things differently. 

It is so easy just to consider each situation and how we would feel if we were in that situation. If we would be unhappy with it, why therefore would the customer in front of you be happy?

It's just common sense!

In my training, I always go through first impressions, how we would like to be treated when we spend our hard earned money and look at what we as customers want in the buying process. I reiterate at this point just put yourself in the customers shoes. It's as easy as that!

To end this blog, enjoy this customer service fact:

80% of companies say they deliver

 "superior" customer service, but 

8% of people think these same companies deliver 

"superior" customer service

Creating an excellent first impression

Service over price any day!

12th September 2019

I saw this quote on the internet this week and it resonated with an experience my husband had at a very Magic and Sparkly retailer!

We spend a little bit more money on ensuring we purchase free range fish (I know I bet you are thinking, don't fish swim in the sea freely) but trust me it's not that easy. Although it is a little over the usual price, I realised why I don't mind paying it when my husband went to collect the fish yesterday and the member of staff remembered him and knew my husband had come in to collect said fish, because he said "you are the gentleman who told me all about farmed versus free fish, are you here to collect more salmon?"

My husband delightedly told me the story and I heard myself say, "it's what it is all about". I meant the delightful transaction, totally forgetting in an instant the cost of the fish in question. 

It made me realise how true this is and how true when I look back at some lovely experiences I have had and how many times I did not mind paying the price because the service and experience were incredible and more than worth it. 

There is a man called Philip Hesketh (of whom I have a number of books to read and I am going to his talks in November) who actually promotes the nine keys to charging a higher price and discounting less. Well he is certainly onto something, because if the customer service is excellent, a person can charge a reasonable price for something and not need to discount. 

It's all part of that smooth transaction, pleasant experience and customer delight that we want to achieve when interacting with any organisation whilst purchasing a product or service with our hard earned cash.

We live in a 'cash rich, time poor' society and although we are always looking for bargains, we also enjoy paying for an easy life. If that were not the case, why would washing machines, ovens and hoovers have not been invented? If not we would still be using mangles, fires and brushes!

So for any high end product, I say stick to your prices where possible, because if the service is good - well no actually it has to be excellent - then the price becomes irrelevant! People will pay! 

Creating an excellent first impression

You always start over with the next customer...

19th September 2019

I realised this week that each interaction is new each and every time you deal with a customer or returning customer. Do not treat returning customers any differently. If they are returning and they have had a great experience, you have it tough to live up to the last experience. For new customers, it is a chance to showcase your brand from the beginning. 

This has been highlighted to me this week both positively and negatively. 

I am on a school recruitment trip and returned to the hotel I stayed in last year. Last year they were amazing with their help and customer service. This year... wow. They stepped it up a level. It is hurricane season at the moment and what I was told before going on the trip was that a Category 1 hurricane would pass by. By Tuesday, it was Category 3. 

The hotel's crisis management was incredible. We had continual information in the reception and individual letters in our rooms each day updating us on the situation and letting us know what was available for use and what was closed. They looked after their staff by offering accomodation in the hotel so they did not have to travel in the storm and to ensure the hotel kept running throughout. During the height of the storm, we were evacuated to one room as the hotel started to flood. The staff brought out refreshments, pre organised, and board games! There were no windows to see what was going on outside (sensible since people were beginning to panic in the restaurants as they could see the storm) and we were all together enjoying cookies and board games! The storm passed and everything returned to normal. I did not think they could get better but this proved they can! Customer delight achieved!

On the other hand I am trying to organise dinner for a friend in a special restaurant in the locality where we live, and because I am working long hours, email is the only way of communicating. I am currently in an email tennis match because they cannot accmomdate my request, because you can book the expensive restaurant for dinner but not the less expensive bar, so to guarantee a reservation you need to lock in the expenisve meal! I am finding it tiresome in my time-poor life. I love this restaurant/hotel, but they are not making the transaction easy for me. I am going off going there for dinner slowly. 

I am a returning customer at both organisations: one is keen to please, the other not so. 

It is always important to remember to give great customer service at all times and even delight - at least an easy transaction would be a start. Word of mouth is crucial for businesses and they say for every one person who complains, 26 remain silent (go elsewhere probably).

Remember: each transaction is new, fresh with no mistakes in it!

Creating an excellent first impression

Get the basics right first!

26th September 2019

For the last week, I have been on work trip in what people would consider the top nation for customer service: the great US of A. A for amazing when it comes to customer service..... not any more. From my experience, other areas of the world are far better, including and not limited to the UAE and Vietnam.

Why has the leading nation of the free world lost its place? Well, in my opinion, most places I visited this week - even one of the top hotels in Manhattan - are not a patch on the two countries listed above. Why? Because these two countries mentioned above practice the basics and the many places I visited this week do not.

Here is my list of the basics of customer service:

1 - Smile and say hello - a greeting starts things off on a postive note.

2 - Use their name - once you have learnt it

3 - Be helpful in the buying process - a given right?

4 - Eye contact - people do not want the main first impression of their welcome to be of a member of the hotel staff to be spending the entire process looking at a screen whilst answering questions as if the screen will give the answers!

5 - Say please and thank you - again, a given... not anymore!

6 - Smart attire and professional look - a professional and clean 'uniform' really does say to the customer 'I am here to help, I know my stuff,  I represent the brand as the first point of call and you can trust me'.

7 - Make the transaction as easy and efficient as possible so that the whole process feels seamless and pain free in our time poor world

8 - Say thank you again and wish the cutsomer a pleasant visit, stay, meal ... whatever it is!

In both the UAE and Vietnam, wherever you go every member of staff is like this. It's like it is inbuit into their DNA and it makes you want to return and enjoy a hassle free few days. 

In New York - as in many places in  and other great cities - people are stuck up, rude, abrupt, time poor and absolutely do not value the customer and do not practise the basics. How different would our world be if the basics were mandatory and people felt valued however much they were spending? We would all be smiling!

On a final note, please do not discount first impressions in the basics. I entered a building whose function will remain nameless and I was greeted by a girl on a stool with the shortest of skirts. The rest I will leave your imagination. I had to ask, whether this was actually the reception point for the organisation and she said yes. I was astounded that this was the first impression for a customer who would be paying a lot of money, I hasten to add at this point. Not what you expect for a first impression. And they really do count!

Creating an excellent first impression

Red-Eye Flight Customer Service!

3rd October 2019

As you may know, every three months I celebrate 'red carpet' customer service with a blog focusing on something red.

This week it's an experience I had flying back from the US on a red-eye flight. These are not the most comfortable of flights considering you fly over night and arrive early morning in the UK, most of the time without sleep, so you would imagine the customer service levels would have to be really good to keep tired people in a good humour ... or so you would think.

So, I had requested a window to do some work and not worry about getting up every time someone wanted to stretch their legs etc, and was told the only one left was an exit seat (which means that you cannot have your bags with you for take off and landing, and I like to have my stuff with me), so I said an aisle seat would be fine, which she booked. I then got onto this very full flight - because of the Thomas Cook situation - to find myself in an exit aisle seat.

An airline member of staff then told me I had to move my stuff and I explained the situation. I was cross at this point because I had explicitly said what I would like and the other member of staff had not listened. I pointed out in a rather sarcastic way - 'Happy Birthday to me' - because it was my birthday at that time (but in UK time) and she apologised, wished me Happy Birthday and she said she would try and get me moved. 

Although the flight was full, she managed just before the plane started taxi-ing to get me another seat, which mercifully had no-one next to me, so I had two seats to myself. Then she brought me a glass of fizz to wish me Happy Birthday. Wow, I experienced customer delight at that point and thought what a fantastic airline. 

Two things changed this (and this shows how the indifference of one employee can change a positive situation): the crew member looking after our side did not smile, was short and curt in her tone and language the whole time. There was no please or thank you, just rudeness in her manner. For example when asking me to take my charger out for take off, she could have said, "I am sorry to trouble you, but would you mind removing the charger for take off?" Instead she said, "You are not allowed to have that in charging during take off, so could you remove it?" No please, or thank you when I went to remove it. 

Secondly, the disembarkation took 45 minutes in total. I was near to the back and it took 40 minutes. I have never, ever had to wait 40 minutes to get off a plane, and I have been in some large planes carrying the same number of passengers on the wonderful airlines Emirates and Singapore, my favourite airlines. (I wish they did routes across the world!) It struck me that if this was an emergency situation, it would have to be a quicker exit otherwise people would not be walking off!

This goes to show that amazing customer service after a negative experience can turn things around, but that in seconds it can be reversed. 

P.S. Surely as airlines have access to our dates of birth via our passports, something should flag up to staff onboard information on birthdays to give people that customer delight? I had to mention it to gain a complimentary drink which was very welcome, but really I should not have. I know that in my line of work when I meet families, I always make a note of something that seems as small as a birthday, but makes the person feel very special inside when you have noted it. That's red carpet customer service!

Creating an excellent first impression

National Customer Service Week 2019

10th October 2019

This week is National Customer Service Week and I wondered what I would write about to do this exciting week justice, but this weekend just gone I watched a programme called 'The World's Most Luxurious Hotels' on Channel 5. This is definitely where the magic happens.

These luxury service programmes are captivating for me. Generally, whilst watching TV, I usually multi-task by surfing on my iPad because I tend to get bored unless the programme is really good. This Luxury Hotel programme falls into that category: really good and the last programme of this nature I watched was the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai and the Burj in Dubai.

The reason I am captivated is as a red carpet customer service obsessive, I am constantly wowed by the fact that these hotels do this level of service as standard. Their usual line on this when asked by the programme makers is 'we are a luxury hotel, so it is standard and what our customers expect.'

This week featured the Hotel Adlon in Berlin and levels of care included replacing gold leaf on scratched and tired cabinets, ordering ballons for a set of twins, ensuring the cutlery was set the right way to make it easy for the customer. All this to give the customer a great experience, but more importantly to build loyalty and create excellent word of mouth. As you can see, I am writing about the hotel!

What amazes me about this magic and the truly inspiring levels of customer care is the fact that everyone buys into it and everyone makes the effort. This is because hotels such as these have incredible training programmes for new staff and no doubt, repeat training programmes to ensure staff continue to maintain these top levels of customer care. 

Additionally, the staff all reiterated that it was important to be one step ahead of the customer. Be pro-active, in other words. They all mentioned that if the customer is requesting something, then the experience is not luxury or bespoke. Organisations need to be ahead of the customer and what s/he wants at all times to create a level of 'delight' in the brand. 

I always come away after watching these programmes both inspired to implement some of this incredible care into my role and practise this - as these staff do - on a daily basis. 

I have been lucky enough to experience a hotel such as this and I know how valued it makes a person feel when experiencing this kind of service. 

I know you are thinking at this point, well they are paying a lot of money. Yes, this is true, however, in many cases you will be spending at some point large amounts of your hard earned money on expensive domestic appliances, cars and other household items for instance. Surely you deserve a level of care, and in turn surely your customers purchasing expensive goods or services do as well?

It is so easy to make people feel valued in the purchase process. 

As it's National Customer Service Week this week, how about upping your game with your customers for the week and seeing the results and trying to be one step ahead of them to create customer delight! I bet it will be rewarding and worth the effort and I am sure you will create magic for the customer too!

Creating an excellent first impression

Always Deliver More than is Expected

17th October 2019

I am lucky that within my job, I often get to experience quite amazing customer service as well as very bad customer service. This is because I tend to travel a lot, especially at this time of year. In many cases, its experience with hotels; I don't tend to quibble at the awful 'grey' service I  receive at immigration desks, which ironically is the first person and therefore the first impression you receive of a country! (Although I had a very warm and chatty immigration member of staff in the USA recently, which did give me customer delight - a rarity!)

This year, I have returned to a hotel that I have stayed in, during my last two visits to this same city in October-time. Without question, the service during my last two stays was perfection. Not so this third time around. 

At check in, I was welcomed back by the member of staff (at which point I thought, well, they know I am a returning customer, so what are they going to do to create a positive and / or better experience than last time?). As my key was handed to me, I requested some milk to be brought up in a jug, to make a cup of tea, but I was promptly told which number to dial from my room since 'they did not have the information there to do this.' Computer says no springs to mind! I did look at the receptionist in disbelief; she apologised but did not do anything.

After arriving at my room and unpacking, I tried to get onto the WiFi and it did not work, so I rang down to reception and unfortunately got hold of the same member of staff over milk-gate who said, 'you can find the code at the table.' I replied looking at the several tables in my room, 'which table?' and she replied 'on the work desk'. I was at the work desk and there was nothing, as I told her. She then said in an exhausted tone that she would spell the code. Two WiFi connections popped up and I asked whether I should use xxxxxx connection, spelling it out, and she answered yes. The code she gave me did not work. Anyway, after a number of go's, she sent someone up who confirmed in was xxxxx connection, the opposite of what the other member of staff said, and this resulted in a connection. This was all in the space of 15 minutes.  

Several other issues have cropped up since my arrival, so at the moment, my delightful feelings towards this usually top hotel are non-existent. 

This shows how important it is to do more than is expected at all times, especially to repeat customers who know what the drill is and expect the same or better. Like me.

The receptionist was not proactive about helping me, passionate about her work (her tone was not warm), positive in her knowledge (of the WiFi code) or indeed professional (exhausted tone when she had to spell the WiFi code). Remember, perception is king.

She should be thinking, this is an opportunity to show what I can do and how I can help, especially to a returning customer, one who she might assume had a great experience last time round (because I am returning) and therefore want to make it better. This is how you keep customers coming back. And it's not that hard to retain customers. As I have described above, it is the little things: ringing for a jug of milk, getting the WiFi code right, asking if I want coffee at breakfast (rather than me having to ask...yes, i had to ask for coffee at breakfast; I know exactly what you non-morning people are thinking right now!) It's rarely a question of big things and it is so easy to fix the little things.

So have a think when you go into work today about how you can ensure you deliver more than expected. One little thing will do the job!

Creating an excellent first impression

Focus on the Customer!

24th October 2019

I saw this image on the internet a few weeks ago whilst pondering customer service, as I do. I have been thinking recently about customer service, and most importantly, how can we measure great customer service?

The image made me realise that we can measure this in the product itself: how focused on the customer is the product? Does the product meet the needs of the customer, or the organisation?

I had come across this situation recently when working with a supplier. I tried to explain that for me, and ultimately for the organisation, it was key that the overriding aim should be – with the product they were pitching – to give a better service to the customer, first and foremost. I said that the sales pitch should not be focused on how easy it would make my life but how it will allow me to spend more time with the customer. However, if the supplier meant that by easy, it would free up more of my time to communicate and support the customer, through their journey in a more personal and bespoke way, because this new service allows me more time for that, then great!

I think businesses – like many leaders – are all about ego. Brand first and reputation of the brand, and whilst this is important, brand reputation is actually best gained through looking after the customer. After all, sales only happen if the customer likes your product and more importantly enhances their time poor life as the image above shows! How many times have you gone for the old Tommy K and it takes forever to get the sauce out? I know their adverts used to be about the ‘best things come to those who wait’ but with the advent of social media and our need for a speedy outcome, this does not cut it in this customer-focused age. Hence, the new tube, in which gravity is the secret ingredient! Much more customer focused and gravity does not cost anything either! The other, however, costs customers... and therefore is not ideal.

Additionally, their brand name is higher up the bottle. Who knows which shelf this will end up on, but I can tell you that when we shop, anything close to eye level is best. 

It’s interesting that this is not always considered, for instance, by organisations when promoting their products at a show, especially in my sector. You see these pop up banners at shows, usually behind a table, with the contact details - including email and website - right at the bottom! Brand centric again!

So always begin with the end in mind – the customer and their purchase requirements – because in the end they grow your business and enhance your brand, which is win-win!

Creating an excellent first impression

Complaints are good!

31st October 2019

Have you noticed that the world is full of those that have a growth mindsets and those that don't?

I am beginning to notice this more and more, and never more so that in the field of customer service.

Human nature dictates that we do not naturally respond to issues or feedback in a positive light. But what if we all considered feedback as a chance to show how good we are by rectifying the situation being complained about and giving the customer the warm and fuzzy feeling they want from a wonderful purchase experience?

I experienced this recently when someone in my industry talked me through a story about how a family had turned up to an open day and did not come away with a favourable impression of the school. She did not know that at the time, but one of her colleagues had one of the parents around by chance to fix some electrical issues at her house and they told her about the less than favourable impression they received of the school by listing a number of issues. This man was therefore talking to people about the bad impression he and his wife had received. When her colleague mentioned this to her the next day, she said that she thought this was a great opportunity to contact the family and how how good the school really was by apologising and inviting the family in to view the school again. She did not see this as a criticism - although other members of staff might - but she thought it the perfect opportunity to act and try and resolve the situation. She said after all if you don't get feedback, how do you get better? A true growth mindset in action!

So the next time a customer complains, use it to resolve the situation and give them a great customer experience. After all, many people don't realise that you can regain a positive association for your brand after bad customer service. It is important to remember, that it is how you handle this issue to regain that trust from the customer. There are four key elements to doing this:

1 - Listen to the customers issue (and I mean really listen)

2 - Apologise for the situation with real sincerity and ....

3 - Respond by repeating the key aspects they brought up to show you have listened and they will immediately calm down

4 - Let them know how you will rectify it, and by when and without fail do this

5 - If you have not by the date you said you would, it doesn't matter, but contact them to let them know when it will definitely be rectified by. Don't leave the customer guessing when it will be organised. They are not mind readers and you need to let them know to ensure you create that positive experience.

News of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many

ears as praise for a good service experience, and we know that from the story above, people do talk!

Creating an excellent first impression

The rise in power of word of mouth

7th November 2019

I saw this quote the other day and I thought that this is getting more and more true and probably has been very true for quite a long time, but we have not really tuned into this idea until recently as we all realise that customer service and word of mouth is key.

Word of mouth has always been attributed by all marketing departments as a key selling tool and brand awareness development. However, in the age where customer service and an amazing customer experience is king coupled with the variety of social media and ways to let people know how we feel about a brand and the speed with which we can do it...... and the speed with which feedback can be distributed, I can undoubtedly day that customer experience is the new advertising department.

I mentioned in last week's blog that news of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many years as praise for a good service experience so when considering your 'advertising department' should you not be investing in the areas that can ensure that advertising department is your best?

For years, people have been investing in their advertising to promote their brand and they always had control over what was promoted?. Well, that is a little harder if your advertising department is your customers and they can say and do anything they want based on their interaction with your organisation.

So what should the new investment be if you are not spending money on advertising? How about your staff and training for your staff? What about ensuring your customer journey and all its touch points are red carpet levels with regard to the customer experience?

It is your staff that deal with the customers. It is your staff that update your website or interact with the customers online. It is your staff that answer queries and deal with issues. It is your staff who ensure your new advertising department promotes a positive word of mouth.

I know with the advent of the Christmas adverts, advertising is still a key part of the marketing arsenal and supports the full experience that a customer receives. I am also sure that John Lewis would say both are key.

So train and look after your staff to help with your advertising!

Creating an excellent first impression

Customers need patience and understanding, so keep calm.

14th November 2019

As someone who has converted to using the 'Calm' App recently, I realised that keeping calm in challenging situations is the key to not panicking. 

Being calm allows the mind to think better under pressure, but displaying a stressed external demeanour does not give a good impression to your customer and will most likely ensure they end up stressed with you and the situation and then have negative feelings towards your organisation. 

I have noticed this specifically in the last 24 hours. I am currently out in China on work, and they generally have a very calm manner, especially the women (sorry gentlemen) and those involved in the service industry. It reminds me of previous trips to this part of the world and the calm manner displayed at all times in hotels, restaurants and at meetings, in fact in most places actually. 

Staff are calm in manner, tone and demeanour and it's a very relaxing and warm experience when being helped. 

It has made me wonder, we don't need to be flustered in the sales process. We are all human and make mistakes, but it's all about how you rectify these errors. With calmness, apologies, a listening ear and then solve the issue. 

I know sometimes this is not so easy, but you are dealing with people who are on the receiving end of customers too. They will have to deliver a great customer experience in their roles, more than likely, too. 

So my advice, keep calm and carry on! 

Creating an excellent first impression

Do as you would be done by...

21st November 2019

Do you remember your mum / dad saying to you as a child, 'do as you would be done by'? It's not a phrase used much now, because sadly my experience in the main is that people don't always practice what they preach - another old phrase!

We were discussing this in the office this week about how manners have gone out the window and how people don't say thank you, even if you stand back to let them pass in a supermarket as one of my colleagues said they did, and then if you mention the lack of thank you, they get all shirty. Same with people on the roads, if you let them out into a queue, but I bet you if the situation were reversed, they would want a thank you too! Or have we just forgotten to communicate properly, verbally, to each other? That's a whole other blog!

My point this week is that when you are in the midst of the sales process, always think: what would I expect as the customer? How would I want to be treated? Would I have warmed to that last response I gave and most importantly, would I buy the product if I had had the same purchase experience?

This does also require empathy which is a skill not taught; it is either within you or not. Empathy is a really key skill in the process and is defined as:

'the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.'

Sympathy is different. Sympathy is when you share the feelings of another; empathy is when you understand the feelings of another (for instance you can put yourself in their shoes and see it from their perspective) but do not necessarily share their view. Empathy is great in sales, because it means you can understand the feelings of the other, whilst not actually removing yourself from the business of the sale. 

It always makes me frustrated when people don't consider this, because it is double standards. An experience recently made me think about this. I was checking into a hotel and I received no eye contact from the receptionist, no welcome, no engagement and no 'have a lovely stay.' Room service took an hour to arrive and I was promised 20 minutes, and they only told me one of my options was not available only when I rang to see where my food was. I went downstairs to ask about this and the member of staff laughed at me first and foremost. Finally, on departure, I was not asked whether I had enjoyed my stay (probably a good thing) nor asked if I needed a taxi or a place to store my bag. I bet all these staff would like a welcome, good service and helpfulness when they stay at a hotel away from home comforts.

Remember, you are a customer too, so just think, what would I expect in this situation? It's that easy!

Note on this blog and a practical tip: There are three types of empathy - compassionate is best. You can find out more about empathy from the CliftonStrengths or StrengthsFinder assessment and take the test to see if you have this - and other strengths too. Always focus on your strengths!

Creating an excellent first impression

Customer Joy this Christmas!

28th November 2019

Joy to the World.... and I tell you Magic and Sparkle is giving it that this Christmas. 

What with their awesome advert of jumper wearing jumpers, the shoulder roll (which you cannot help rocking too), and the recent joy they brought to my better half yesterday, M&S are on fire with their customer experience both in store and in the media.

Yesterday, my husband went to pick up our usual fish order and he is a regular at picking up the same delivery so is well known. Anyway, as the lady went to get the package, my husband was looking in that direction and suddenly spotted a Percy pig cup cake. Now with the demise of the actual Percy Pig cake, this was an exciting moment. Nick pointed this out and so he and the store manager - who knows him well because of said fish order - went over to have a look. The store manager at this point - seeing my husbands excitement - said to him that he had to have to look at all the other Percy Pig offerings and spent time walking my husband around the store. Nick was in his element (he is a Percy Pig nut!). He came away with the fish.... and wait for it... a complimentary cup cake. Needless to say, my husband experienced that rare feeling in the world that organisations strive for.... customer delight!

My husband had the best customer experience, and do you know what... next time he and I are near a M&S you can bet we will be going in and purchasing Percy Pig Christmas bits and pieces. 

You cannot put a price on amazing an customer experience and to feel such a warm and happy feeling towards a brand. 

M&S have always had wonderful, helpful and positive staff where nothing is too much trouble, but this season, they have gone off the chart in terms of the creation of warmth, experience and happiness.

It did not take the store manager long to create that experience and it was such a small thing to do, but it will create an 'experience' memory for Nick - and any customer - who will always remember that, and M&S, with a positive association. With brands, it's all about positive associations.

You can also bet that Nick has not just told me about this experience too. He will be telling others about this and creating additional positive associations for others who will imagine this scenario during this festive season and beyond.

This involves a customer centric approach which I wrote about a few weeks ago. The store manager took time out of his work to create this - focusing on the customer - which in turn supports the brand. 

Christmas joy can definitely be found in Christmas jumpers, but also in Percy Pig experiences!

Creating an excellent first impression

Ho Ho Ho..... No?

5th December 2019

Is it OK to say no to the customer? If you are anything like me, you will not be comfortable with saying no to the customer. So much so, that I have learnt the tactics of saying no in a subtle way so that the customer does not even think that they have been told no. It makes me feel that I am actually helping them.

No-one likes to be told no. Watch a child being told no in the supermarket. See the reaction to 'no' in life, and then the reaction to yes..... as well as the reaction to "I wish we could however, we can do this for you..."

I saw a cartoon recently with a man saying, "Yes, we can do that" and the customer saying, "Don't you have to get the managers approval for that?" with the member of staff responding, "Actually, I would have to get the managers permission to say No!

I have learnt this week that at times the word no has to be employed. But some customers can take this knowledge to the extreme and arrogantly expect yes. I will always stand by the fact that if a customer is doing anything illegal or immoral including swearing then No is perfectly acceptable.

Some customers need to be firmly told that other options exist, if you know you unable to fulfil their request.

Is perfectly OK to say no, without saying no and giving the customer another option. Here is an example:

Q: Do you have that dress in my size?

A: Let's have a look at that...... well not at the moment, however let me check when it is due in and take your number to give you a ring when it is? Shall I show you also some other options in the meantime that might work?

I have learnt that people are much happier with an option rather than a flat out no. So always provide an option for the customer.

Customers can also play the tricky game of going above you to get what they want. In this instance, when the boss comes back to you, firmly state why the situation is an issue and the solutions that have been offered. 

So here are my tips for saying no to the customer:

1 - Do not actually say no, there are many ways of saying no without saying no. 

2 - Listen to the customer to frame your answer without including the word no

3 - Empathise with their predicament

4 - Always have an option for them so you can say, "Have you considered this?"

5 - Apologies are always good to hear in many situations

6 - Never just come out and say 'No, we cannot help you' without putting any effort into finding a solution. That's just lazy!

7 - Sometimes it is a really good idea to try and explain your situation without making excuses

8 - Get feedback - people love nowadays to offer feedback and advice! If you don't believe me read TripAdvisor!

This season is always challenging for customer service, but use this time to convert customers to your brand. Customers are tired, fraught and trying to pack a lot into one month! By helping them - and not saying no - you will be spreading 'Joy to the World!'

Creating an excellent first impression

Expectation and realisation...

12th December 2019

Now, if you have not discovered Shep Hyken, I suggest you go and treat yourself to one of his books for Christmas (or if your loved one is a customer service nut then go out an buy one). Shep has books on Amazing Customer Service which will really add value to your knowledge if you love to better your customer service at each and every opportunity that presents itself. 

Alongside this, I went to some sales seminars recently, and I learned (although I think I realised this anyway) that experience is created through showing you care and really listening to and understanding the customer. This was thanks to Gavin and Phil.

I have experienced recently the downside of being a customer when my expectations were not realised. It left me feeling very let down and bereft. An experience was built up in my head with my association to various words linked to the experience which I won't name here. I think overselling would definitely come to my mind. From beginning to end, the experience was a real disappointment. I had built up the experience so much in my head and it was a let down. I did not real valued as a customer since the value in the experience was lacking.

I mention this as a word of warning with regard to marketing and advertising your product or organisation. Always be honest and clear. The customer will build a picture of all the words you associate with something and expect that. 

To create loyalty, it is better to promote a certain level and then add special touches to create an experience and exceed expectations. The alternative is much worse as I discovered!

There are some brands that do this 'certain level' well: Premier Inn, Radisson, Marriott and Hilton for instance (interesting that they are all in the hotel industry which is a key area for great customer service). Other brands like Costa generally have warm and welcoming staff which is always a bonus. Marks and Spencer is another one with the amazing staff. 

That's it for this week - a short blog. Next week - my last real blog of the year (since it is Boxing Day on the last Thursday of the year so I will re-post my favourite blog of the year).... read my 12 days of excellent customer service!

Creating an excellent first impression

12 Days of Customer care looks like this...

19th December 2019

On the First Day of Customer Care, the Customer said to me, create me a Red Carpet Customer Experience;

On the Second Day of Customer Care, the Customer's feedback to me was the two most important words are 'thank you'  (Blog 27.06.19);

On the Third Day of Customer Care, I was told to never, never, never give up on the customer. (Blog: 11.03.19);

On the Fourth Day of Customer Care, I said to the Customer, I will give you the 4 Ps: Passion, Positivity, Pro-Activity and Professionalism;

On the Fifth Day of Customer Care, the Customer said to me, Five Sta-ar Service (should always be the goal);

On the Sixth Day of Customer Care, I said to the Customer No, in six ways but still ensured positive feedback from the Customer (Blog: 05.12.19);

On the Seventh Day of Customer Care, I reminded myself that there were seven basics to excellent customer service (Blog: 26.09.19);

On the Eighth Day of Customer Care, I reminded myself that 8% of people think that superior customer service is gained from the same companies of which 80% say they deliver superior customer service (Blog: 22.08.19);

On the Ninth Day of Customer Care, the Customer said to me, you never get a second chance to make a first impression with six tips to gaining it (Blog: 18.07.19);

On the Tenth Day of Customer Care, the Customer said to me there are ten key things to  ensuring an excellent customer experience (Blog: 04.07.19) 

On the Eleventh Day of Customer Care, the Customer said to me, Customer First mentioned in a two-part (II) blog. (Blog: 06 and 13.06.19);

On the Twelfth Day of Customer Care, the Customer said to me, be 12 out of 10, because nobody raves about average and exceeding expectations wins business (Blog: 25.04.19).

Merry Christmas!

Creating an excellent first impression

The most popular blog of 2019 is...

26th December 2019

Wherever I go, I want to enjoy an experience, because the world can sometimes feel a little bit crazy and a positive interaction really does help to make my day. Just like my red pepper experience two weeks ago.

When I walk into Costa, I want the baristas to engage with me, I want retailers to be able to help me with real care and attention when I am trying to find a product, and I want to have a warm fuzzy feeling when I walk out of shop, purchase something online or finish a phone call, not feel let down or a big anticlimax following spending my hard earned money. 

This is a little explanation of something called the customer experience, and it determines whether a person talks positively or negatively about that company and returns to spend more money. 

Companies need to consider this: it is the little things that help make the big money. 

I recently purchased Christmas presents for my husband, and I received a hand written note from two of the suppliers thanking me for my business. I will certainly be a returning customer.

No-one can underestimate the power of the customer experience and with Millennials the current key market, who thrive on experiences, we should be creating these at every opportunity we have to grow our businesses.

Word of mouth is powerful, and in the age of social media, great customer experience is vital. 

Experience and perception is king...

Creating an excellent first impression

Red Carpet Series: Telephone Sales

2nd January 2020

Happy New Year to you all. I begin the year with my recent purchase experience with a well known mobile operator! As you know, every three months I do a 'red' blog every three months, now entitled Red Carpet Series: xxxxxxxx and here it is!

Summary (if you don't want to have to read on): listen to the customer (especially if they have been one for nearly twenty years), pass on a summary of the situation to your colleagues so the customer does not have to repeat the story four times, be assertive in your responses so you don't leave the customer feeling worried that they do not feel the order was correctly placed and finally offer this loyal customer a discount after the awful experience (which they did). Easy!

My husband rang up our mobile provider after they did not return his call when they said they would after saying they would listen to the original conversation he had with them to find out the offer price that jhe was given on a new iPad that my husband stated was correct (following not receiveing a new iPad). The member of staff was very positive, professional and pro-active. She agreed the original price because the notes suggested the conversation had been listened to and put us through to the sales department. 

However, the lady we were passed to had no knowledge of the background, so repeat 1 of story occurred. We thought the sale had gone through when my husband mentioned my iPad upgrade. The offer we were given was too high for mine and we asked to be put through to a team who could organise a discount (since we have two 'phones and two iPads with them). Repeat 2 of story ensued and we found my husbands iPad was not ordered either. We then got cut off. We rang through again and repeat 3 of story ensued - of course! Something happened to the phone at that point and although they tried to call us back it did not work. 

The next day we rang again and repeat 4 of story happened, but within 15 minutes we had two iPads ordered at good prices. It was a 40 minute conversation with no outcome the day before!

We were not convinced though after the issues from the day before that the iPads were ordered since the guy who sold them to us was not very passionate or positive with his sales manner or tone. 

The iPads have now come and all is well! A smooth transaction thought would have been the icing on the Christmas cake!

Creating an excellent first impression

Targets v Customer Care?

9th January 2020

This week, I finally got the chance to watch 'The Cure' which was on over Christmas. The drama was about the Mid Staffordshire NHS scandal where management put targets above patient care. 

We are all to aware of the need to reach targets in our daily life. We see it in banks, retail, sales teams, supermarkets and the list goes on. It is all in the name of profit. 

Surely, as 'The Cure' showed, albeit an extreme example, it's not about targets, but customer care. If you show customer care, you recruit customers, who will in turn look after targets. surely?

This week, a colleague within my sector spoke to me about customers over targets and this is incredibly important within education. We call it empathetic sales. You really do have to listen and be proactive to the customer. Don't forget that the best sales technique is to listen and engage with the customer. Your product will not always be right for the customer, and if you are honest your will create brand loyalty. Think 'Miracle on 34th Street', when Santa told parents where to buy something cheaper and the reaction! I also have a local outdoor shop that I consistently shop in for my adventure gear, even though the honest sales assistant often suggests another shop or brand to go to, to get the best outcome. That's why I go back, because I trust the member of staff and the advice I get. Not naming names I am afraid!

The same colleague also told me that she put customer care over a sale and targets this week. I love hearing this because we as sales people should recognise the need to do this to create integrity and a strong and reputable brand.

You can argue extensively that good customer care equals profit, but how do you get there if management is short termist in its outlook for profit? Customer care is all about relationship building which takes time. 

One think I have learnt from 'The Cure' is that customer care should take priority to ensure long term profit (not death in the meantime) and that this will support a sustainable and ethical business. People want honesty and want to trust in the age of cynicism. Give it to them and it will ensure strong brand reputation too. I am sure Mid Staffs will find this hard for a long time. 

Creating an excellent first impression

New Years Resolution: think outside the box

16th January 2020

It's a new year, a new you! So why not think about what you can do in your job that can enhance the customer experience? How about consider new strategic objectives for the new year, that really are new and not the same old; how about thinking outside the box?

I sometimes feel that things can be very samey year after year, but it is important to consider alternatives and work to develop and be better.

One member of staff said to me this week, 'it is so important to email back to a customer straight away rather than leave their email unanswered because I find that irritating, and so must they.' This may not be new or thinking outside the box, but how do you get everyone doing this? This involves thinking outside the box and investing time in creating a solution.

How about consider a proactive and positive policy for dealing with challenging customers, that everyone is aware about and can use to make the customer happy and the member of staff feel more confident?

How about looking at your various types of customer and potential customer and seeing who you have not been able to get to yet and work out strategies and plans to get to this hard to reach customer. By this very situation, you are going to have to think outside the box to get to a customer you know should be a customer who does not want your product (or so s/he thinks!).

Businesses have to 'adapt and overcome' all the time to stay ahead of the competition and thinking outside the box helps with this. So how do you do this?

Its easy, Start from a blank sheet of paper, nothing, zero, to answer the question or query you want to deal with. Come up with lots of ideas - no idea is silly - and write them all down and create a board with all the comments to reflect on. This will allow you to think about different ways to solve the situation.

Sometimes we are very bad at stopping to think. We tend to 'do' all the time and thinking time could probably saving us 'doing' time.  How about input thinking time into your working week?

I have resolved to read a few customer service books to learn some new customer service techniques and hone the ones I have as well as organising some training for customer service mapping to ensure we are looking after the customer properly at every contact point as well as inputting thinking time.

Why not make it a resolution to have more thinking time in your busy work day to come up with new ideas to work on and new actions to create a better customer experience. Now even that alone is thinking outside the box!

Creating an excellent first impression

... the most dangerous phrase!

23rd January 2020

I hate this phrase. It is my least favourite phrase in the English Language. I have heard it so many times from two types of people: defeatists who are tired and don't to even try and affect change, or people who think they know everything but are hiding behind a wall of thoughts including "I have thought about that idea; why did I not say that" and who don't have the confidence to speak up because they feel that they might look stupid. Stupid is not thinking you can affect change and try new things and suggest ideas that might make you look stupid but all the while are actually moving things forward with creative energy and ideas. 

It's also up there with that other phrase, "We've already tried that and it has not worked." Well how about we re-look at the idea and develop it and see if it has merits a few years on! I heard myself say that in a meeting this week and I could have kicked myself! We are all human and don't get it right all the time.

I am afraid I used to hear it a lot in my local village group (also a national organisation) in my early days as a member. The group was dwindling in numbers and I suggested ideas and I heard that phrase. I remember blowing up at the meeting saying that I did not want to hear that phrase and thinking we would never grow and move forward with that attitude. Years later the group are four times as big as then and they have adopted a let's try anything approach to everything, very proactive and vibrant, which has brought new people in to continue trying new things or reinventing old ideas.

In customer service, you always have to be trying new things and re-inventing old, but great ideas. Every customer is different, and we also have different ages of customer too. One size does not fit all. Customer service is about listening to the customer, finding out what they want and creating a bespoke experience for them to enjoy their purchase and tell the world about it.

If we employed the "We have always done it that way" we would never find new customers and develop our businesses. We have to be constantly adapting to the needs of the business and our customers as the world changes at lightening speed. 

So New Year's resolution... another one I know! Think of a new way of getting to your customers. If you always use email, phone them in the evening; if you send an email, why not try a hand written card. Why not pick up a phone after one ring rather than five and why not ensure to put a customer through to a person rather than an answer phone?

It's the little things that make the world go round and keep customers happy and coming back. Adapting is crucial and this means trying new things all the time and not just thinking we have always done it this way and it works!

Creating an excellent first impression

Think Five Star, not Four Star!

30th January 2020

From the title of this blog, you can see what is wrong with this image. Customer service should always be Five Star, not Four Star! 

This is another consideration as we leave January and move into February. How about treat your customer's to Five Star Customer Service (I feel this phrase needs capitals) throughout February? You've done your New Year's resolutions and I am sure you have stuck to them......! Before we get to Lent and consider giving something up, how about consider this action for February?

What does Five Star Customer Service actually mean?

Well, if you ever check out my TripAdvisor account, I rarely give Five Star's to anyone nowadays. In my time on TripAdvisor, our of 297 reviews, to begin with I left quite a few 5 stars. Nowadays, I am more picky after experiencing top class customer service in Yorkshire BnB, a Hotel bar in the Middle East, a country hotel in Bronte country and a restaurant in both the Lakes and London.

The connection that they all have is personalisation (including use of a name), a warm welcome, the word 'No' is never used, they are all keen to ensure your stay or meal is perfect in every way including efficient staff who are there to help in a moment (without hovering awkwardly) and nothing is too much trouble down to the smallest detail. Transactions are smooth, no barrier is put in your way, before, during and after the experience and you feel as relaxed as you would be at home. These places ensure the home away from home feel but in a five star environment. 

This takes great skill, and great training of staff to be able to ensure this happens every time. I can testify to this because all of these places I have returned to and would return again. Ironically ... or perhaps not, these are expensive places, but then you do pay for quality in life and my feeling is that price goes out the window to a degree when in the midst of a fabulous experience be it in a hotel, BnB or enjoying a meal. 

I wonder if people upped their game with customer service, irrespective of the price, customer retention and brand loyalty would be a surity.

Today, I had this validated! A friend in the sector today shared with me that she had delivered customer training at work this week and that she had explained why - in the training - her team sends an email to all staff alerting them to prospective families visiting that day, adding the names into the email because she wants staff to use names when meeting or greeting a family for that personal approach. She continued to tell me that a few days after the training she told me that a member of staff came up to her and said that he used to delete this email, but took note of it this week and greeted a family using the child's name. He told her that the child in question's face lit up after realising that he knew her name, and that he now realised why she sent that email after seeing this reaction. She said it made her day; it made my day hearing about this little change that made all the difference and means so much. It does not cost anything either!

So, consider Five Star Customer Service and I bet you that the reactions you get will be just as equally priceless!

Creating an excellent first impression

Customer Journey Mapping - what's all the fuss about?

6th February 2020

The big buzz phrase for me at the moment is Customer Journey Mapping (well it seems to be for me anyway), and I have been hearing about this for a while now and so I decided to book on a training course to see whether it could help me to ensure a better experience for the customer. 

I thought naively that it would be just about considering the steps and ensuring each touch point was managed with excellent customer service. Additionally I though that I would consider the process further and realise other touch points that I was missing out, that I could enhance. 

Well, little did I know that it is not just that! How wrong was I (just as much as I thought Customer Journey Mapping was relatively new -  it has been used by companies for about 15-20 years!)

I got a real insight on an Institute of Customer Service training day about customer tasks, touch-points, customer questions, emotional needs, delivering on these emotional needs, surprises or delight moments and then opportunities and unmet needs. 

I learnt about on and off stage, the difference between customer service (interactions) and customer experience (end to end journey and everything in between including emotion and psychological areas), as well as what all customers want (answers later). We got to develop some maps and understand the full process.

Customer journey mapping really can and does enhance the customer journey when you spend time and really consider the full journey and everything in between. As long as you are not making too many assumptions (if so, you need to gain data to banish assumptions with fact to be able to create a smooth journey for the customer) then you really can make some serous marginal gains in your customers' experiences.

By really putting yourself in the mindset of the customer and considering what the customer wants, experiences and needs, you can really put yourself in the shoes of the customer to create opportunities for unmet needs to gain an edge over your competition and create positive brand association and ultimately brand loyalty.

The UKCSI (UK Customer Service Index) is now in its tenth year and over that period there have been some consistent top brands; the top one being First Direct. Their mission is to reduce the decision making gap for the customer, giving staff more power to make decisions and ensuring a more efficient outcome for the customer. I know that the Ritz Hotel also works on this area too to ensure a better customer experience. 

Many other brands who are consistently good include Waitrose, John Lewis and M&S. These are very easy to understand with M&S ensuring that if there are more than three people in a queue at a till they open another till as an example. It's all about creating customer centric organisations and customer journey mapping can really help with this. 

This was a course by the Institute of Customer Service, an organisation I have not been a member of for nearly a year. I love customer service, but putting that aside this was a great learning day for me. I am now looking to transfer this learning to my working life for a better customer experience.for our customers. 

It was interesting too for another reason: at the start of the training, we all had to introduce ourselves; one lady from a well know car company came up and talked to me about the admission of her son to a school that shall remain nameless but was very negative about the admissions process and said she was glad to see schools taking this seriously. She mentioned that she is now looking at another school because of it. Her customer experience was as you can imagine, not good!

So.... I am sure if you have read this far you will want to know what customers want: it is easy and I have mentioned this in my blogs many a time: competence, good attitude, helpfulness. This really affirms my belief in being positive, proactive, professional and passionate (the 4Ps) about your service or product at all times. 

Creating an excellent first impression

Good customer service is at the heart of any business!

13th February 2020

I saw this phrase and I thought it perfect for Valentines day tomorrow. I thought that if we looked after each other well as much as we look after our customers well, then Valentines Day would be every day because we would 'feel the love' everyday! Happy Valentine's Day and every day!

Creating an excellent first impression

Customer Care - the best marketing strategy ever?

20th February 2020

I saw this phrase and I instantly loved it. I wondered whether it was true, but then we are always taught to begin with the end in mind. The end is about - let's be honest - profit, growth, sustainability in business, and this only comes with customers and they only come because they are happy with your product and return or because they have heard about your product or service from a friend.

I saw this in action in a number of different ways last week. 

I was in Edinburgh with my husband celebrating his 40th birthday. As I have mentioned before, when something means a lot to me in terms of getting service right and especially if I am about to spend some hard earned cash, I usually give the business a heads up with regard to my customer service requirements. I will mention five business here: one (the hotel and the hotel bar) knew of the importance of this occasion with a number of emails I sent in advance, another two were aware of the occasion (two restaurants) and the other two not. 

All the businesses hard one in thing in common because they generally had and delivered excellent customer service: helpfulness. This was apparent as we stepped into every business. Helpfulness, and a proactive helpfulness to boot, is key. This made every encounter with each business a joy.

Where we experience that rare situation of customer delight (ie the business got five stars on TripAdvisor) was because of something that is hard to get right: personalisation with authenticity (the staff live and breathe the brand).

The hotel staff lived the brand but we got a note wishing me a Happy Birthday! When I asked to book an area in one of the bars for drinks, we were told group bookings were not allowed but then we went down to the bar the next day and tables were reserved for groups?

However, within the second hotel bar for the end of the birthday day, the member of staff who ran it was outstanding: helpful and authentic with his suggestions and knowledge. This was impressive. His help with the surprise cake and his helpfulness and kindness was incredible. This is what you want in staff, people who will go above and beyond.

The two restaurants were both warm, welcoming and amazing places to eat. One just pipped the other because all the staff were on brand and gave the personal approach from the minute you stepped in the door, even making us cocktails off menu as if it was no trouble (and they were the best mohito and cosmopolitan we had ever tasted!). This along with excellent service from all staff and the food service was why it got a five star rating! The other restaurant was excellent, but some of the staff were not as 'can do' as the owner who was friendliness and personal personified. She really loved her brand! It is true when they say that 66% customers are put off returning by one negative interaction with a member of staff.

Lastly, the two attractions we visited had warm and friendly staff. Both attractions gave my husband a small gift at the end of the visits when I mentioned it was his 40th birthday which was personal and proactive of the staff. The fact that staff have the ability to organise this shows forward thinking management. These little things are so important: its the time taken to care!

I therefore believe that care is the best marketing strategy after all customers are essential to any business. 

Creating an excellent first impression

Can you afford to lose 55% of customers due to poor customer service?

27th February 2020

No? I didn't think so. This fact is huge for businesses and their profit. This really is a statistic to say - invest in your staff, their training and ensure you create a great experience for your customer, or you might as well shut up shop!

So much of this issue is down to the wrong staff or lack of training. I am a big believer in recruiting for attitude and training for skill. Customer service is an attitude, and you need the right people to put across the right attitude to encourage that sale.

I can recall a number of times that I have backed out of a sale due to the experience with another customer. I wonder on many an occasion why staff are not trained to deal with all customers effectively to ensure everyone is looked after and that they will make that purchase. (It may be that the organisation is not investing in the right numbers of staff to meet demand). Companies need to manage that experience from start to finish to ensure the sale happens and nothing should get in the way.

The main time I remember clearly was an occasion in New York. I had gone into my favourite luxury store to look for a specific item that I had been searching for whenever I had happened upon the store in another location.

The sales lady was being very helpful and another man butted in asking for help after waiting for a few moments. For me, the experience was shattered by this other rude customer and I told him to wait. He apologised but continued to stand there. The moment was over, I thanked the sales lady and left the store.

Why did that sales lady not say to the other customer, that she was more than happy to help, but she would be with him once she had finished looking after me, and then apologise? That would have solved the situation and made me feel more special and that my customer was equal to the other person.

There was another time I walked into a pub and I heard a lot of strong swearing from a customer in front of children. The bar staff did nothing to calm him. It made me feel uncomfortable, so we decided to leave before ordering anything.

If the experience is ruined and the staff are not helpful or able to manage a situation so everyone is happy then the sale will not complete.

Companies really need to wake up to this and that their staff, their experiences are pushing customers away and no one can afford to do that when growing a business or even sustaining a business when the buyer is the one in control.

My advice? Recruit good staff and train them well! Encourage them to deal with situations through listening and following through. Encourage them to put themselves in others positions. It is only when we do seek to understand how another feels (empathy) can we be persuasive with our language. This does take investment and training since difficult situations are not easy to handle.

Remember there is lots of competition out there, a buyer can go down the road to purchase the very same product, so ensure your customer service is red carpet levels and make sure all customers want to purchase from you all the time!

Creating an excellent first impression

First Impressions - seven top tips!

5th March 2020

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen (in the spirit of International Women’s Day at the weekend) nearly called Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions. You can understand why she did this because the story really centres around two pupil not liking each other much because of their first impression of each other. Thankfully, in matters of the heart in this story, persistence won. This is not absolutely the case when it comes to customers in the modern day.

Customers want a great experience in the purchasing process, if they are going to spend their hard earned cash on your product or service. So, here are seven tips to ensuring that:

1 – make sure you handle the enquiry efficiently or respond to an email as quickly as possible and within 24 hours. If you send a holding email, make sure you get back to customer when you say you will.

2 – follow up with the customer, and follow up again. It’s better to ensure a sale than lose it to the competition for not following up, as well as at all stages in the process too.

3 – when organising a visit if relevant, ensure it is bespoke. In the schools’ sector, we should ensure a tour guide of the same age as the child in question and that the guides share some of the same interests.

4 – welcome the family at the beginning of the tour, and spend some time talking with them and getting to know them face to face to put them at ease. Don’t forget, many families may never have set foot in an independent school so you need to help them to relax. Listening is key to creating rapport so they feel that they belong.

5 – It’s always nice to create a personal experience: a welcome sign with the child or family’s name on, a car park sign as well as using their name at all times.

6 – Thank them for taking the time to come and visit and ensure the information you send them away with is bespoke and personal.

7 – Follow up, and when they do sign up, keep the lines of communication open. Just because a family has signed up, it doesn’t end until they join. Make a note to contact them every so often, invite them to school events, help them integrate during the months before they join your school family.

Don’t forget… it takes seven seconds to create a first impression. Do remember that you and the customer are human though. Mistakes happen, I know all too well. I believe it’s not the mistake you should focus on, it’s how you rectify the situation and in many cases, a great first impression can still be made, even if it wasn’t smooth the first time round. 

Well it happened for Darcy and Elizabeth!

This blog is also featuring as a guest blog on Ambleglow's website: https://www.ambleglow.co.uk/creating-the-best-first-impression-for-your-school/

Creating an excellent first impression

The Importance of Customer Experience.

12th March 2020

Customer Experience, Customer Delight, Customer Service, Customer Care .... what does it all mean? 

Forbes - in a blog two years ago defined each as follows:

- Customer service is the advice or assistance a company gives its customers.The Institute of Customer Service also defines this as the process of ensuring the customer satisfaction with a product or service.

- Customer care means how well customers are taken care of while they interact with the brand.

- Customer experience is the total journey of a customer’s interactions with a brand. The Institute of Customer Service defines it as the responses to stimuli presented during interactions between the customer, an organisation or brand and the environment it presents spanning a range of touch-points and channels. 

And finally:

- Customer delight is surprising a customer by exceeding his or her expectations and thus creating a positive emotional reaction.

Brands should not ignore customer service or customer care in favour of customer experience. No matter how hard a brand tries, not every customer will be completely satisfied, so there is always a need for customer service and customer care.

Customer service is a vital part of the entire experience—nearly 75% of customers who leave do so because they aren’t satisfied with customer service. 

Customer Experience is key and ties in all of the above because it is the care, service and if possible delight that makes an experience. 

If you need proof, I refer to Forbes and a wonderful blog from last September on '50 Stats Proving The Value of Customer Experience For Your Business'.

In these troubled times, amazing customer care and service will be rewarded with customer delight and new customers. We always have an opportunity to create an experience for our customers with our interactions, so why not use this time to create a five star experience in the lives of your customers. We could all do with it at the moment!

So keep calm and create a positive customer experience!

Creating an excellent first impression

We must practise care

19th March 2020

It seems wrong to write about customer service at this time when the world is going through a tough situation.

My only thoughts at this time are that we need to care for each other and keep calm. 

We can do this best by following official guidance so we can care for each other best. 

I have been looking up the meaning of care. We use customer care in the purchase process so much, but what does it mean?

Some defieryone Achieves More. He is right. We can if we pull together and care for each other in the right way.

I hope that when this has all been and gone, we can learn some valuable lessons about caring for each other and thinking of others more. I am sure as with all tough times, they don't last, and there will be silver linings at the end of it all. 

I am sure that care and valuing each other will be one such silver lining.

Creating an excellent first impression

Silver Linings

26th March 2020

I have been thinking a lot about silver linings in the last few days. During these unprecedented times when all the things that we are used to - going out for a coffee, meeting friends, family gatherings, dinner out, a few hours at the gym - have been removed from our every day life, it would be easy to just get depressed about this situation. My overall feeling is: short term pain for long term gain ie: this current restriction on our liberties is a small price to pay to keep us all safe. And we can learn a lot about ourselves, each other and how we should be living post this. A silver lining!

(I have placed a little helpful/hopeful tip at the end of this blog to keep you going).

A friend was explaining about ‘the circle of control’ and how we only really have control of the immediate things around us. This is certainly a confidence booster and something to consider. At the same time, we also have control of how we respond to this situation and how we individually view things after Covid-19 calms. We have to enjoy the small things on a day to day basis and look forward to enjoying what we once took for granted (the notes will help). We must consider the silver lining at all times and keep positive. We can use this time to consider how we will live post Covid-19: digital communications and remote working helping to look after the environment and our well-being, being grateful for the NHS and key workers, a sunny day, each other, community and the ability to get a coffee with friends.

There is some real similarities with customer service. Companies can turn potential threats into growth opportunities. The silver lining in customer service is that you can turn a bad experience by handling problems in a customer centric manner into a powerful driver of customer engagement. This will create a positive outcome and brand loyalty as well as brand ambassadors. 

It is well known that with customers you can turn bad customer service into good and therefore positive word of mouth. Customers always want to believe that it can be better, many coming back in the hope that will be the case. Ensuring a great customer experience after bad customer service is key the silver lining is that customers will respond positively. A negative brand perception can be turned around by great customer service. Although as a business you don’t want any negative experiences of your customers they do happen. We are human after all.

After all, isn’t the best way of learning is making a mistake and experiencing? I know Michael Jordan would agree with his quote: “I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

So rather than focus on the negative - our current isolated state or a bad customer service, focus on the positive outcomes and how to create great customer service and a positive brand word of mouth.

And that’s where the silver lining comes in!

Note: a good friend has give me a great idea i want to share with you: she said to write down all the things you are missing out on, would be doing and want to do and place into a jar. Then when things become normal go to this jar and make sure you do them!

Creating an excellent first impression

Be Proactive, Be Be Proactive!

2nd April 2020

This week I was reminded of the need to be proactive with regard to customer service. 

In previous years, the same annual communication was met with the usual slow response. This year we decided to follow up the communication with individual calls and contact to engage with the customer. And it worked. 

I was reminded that we cannot be complacent and that we can be creative each year by being better with customer service. 

The great thing was that this response had arisen from a perceived error with the communication with the calls and offers of meetings a chance to smooth that over. In the end it worked well and there was no issue with the communication either.

Additionally, another thing I learnt this week is that there is no such thing as mistakes but how you deal with them and that it should be always in a proactive manner. 

It took me back to my first job back in 1999. I had been asked to send a letter out inviting people to a meeting. There were four different groups of people needing to be invited to each different meeting. I sent out the first letter all fine. Anxious to be speedy and get the letter out quickly as my boss, I changed the date on the front of the letter to sent it to the second group without checking it fully. I realised when I scanned the letter for the third and fourth groups that on the back of the letter there was a confirmation date too. I rang my colleague and let her know what i had done, and I always remember her just telling me to get on and contact each of the group to let them know the error and the correct date. She did not tell me off, but merely told me to solve it. I did, by ringing all 166 people in the group (there was no email group at this stage) to speak to all the group members' secretaries to let them know of the error and the correct date. 

I will always remember this and to this day will always fully check a letter. I learnt from this that error can always be rectified by being proactive and that there is no need for a leader to go on about the error but as my boss did gave me the support to solve the error. In fact, he never mentioned it, thanks so his secretary who just told be to solve it.

This is one of the greatest lessons I have learnt in my time of work. In life, people can be reactive and labour the perceived error, or they can be proactive and get on solving the error. 

I have always believed since this situation above that when you or your team make mistakes, it's not about the reaction you give because the error will be still be there waiting, it's all about the proactive response you give to the situation to solve it. 

After all, isn’t the best way of learning making a mistake and experiencing? I know Michael Jordan would agree with his quote: “I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

So in the words of a fun movie, but with a little twist for this blog: Be Pro-active, Be Be Proactive!

Creating an excellent first impression

The Magic of Please and Thank You!

9th April 2020

The magic of please and thank you are so apparent at the moment with the Clap for the NHS. 

We have a lot to be thankful for, but I do notice that so many people forget to say please and thank you in every day life before and during this testing time. 

One of my colleagues experienced it in an email from a colleague when asking about the newsletter and what was going to happen to it? There was no "Please xxxx, can I ask for your help with the newsletter - thank you in advance."

It's ironic as I write this that my husband is saying 'Thank you' to our cat for giving him cat licks (or kisses in cat world).

So many people forget to say please and thank you and it has often been said - and I agree - that manners take you everywhere. People do not like bad mannered people and will not help people without manners. Please and thank you are so easy to get right but we seem to think that it makes you look weaker and that for some it is 'cool' not to. 

I see it everyday: in emails, when I pull over in my car to let people through and no 'thank you' wave comes back, in conversation or when people ask for help. It sets you up in a negative frame of mind and you feel the world is rude!

We are in exceptional times at the moment. I wrote last week about silver linings and a lot to be grateful for. My jar of notes is nearly half full with all the things I am missing that I want to do when all this is over. I know when this is over and I delve into the jar to start enjoying 'normal' life again (whatever that may be and probably not the same as before Covid-19) that I  will feel gratitude for all the little things I have missed out on. 

So, as we clap for the NHS every Thursday, let's remember to thank them long after this situation - and each other. Let's remember our manners; knowing that spreading a little bit of kindness really does help.

Thank you for reading my blog this week and please stay safe!

Creating an excellent first impression

Sometimes you Win. Sometimes you Lose Learn.

16th April 2020

I saw this quote recently on Pinterest, one of my go-to sites to find excellent quotes to inspire me. I saw one today actually which said, "The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example" but this blog is not about leadership (so this is just another little thought for the day really, for all you leaders out there!)

So what does this quote mean? I used it the other day with someone (a very competitive person) and when I asked them to repeat what I had just said they said, "Well you said, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose!" Most of us are so preconditioned that you can only win or lose. But what about all the athletes who use the times they have not won a match? They can watch video re-runs to hone their skills and use this knowledge to hopefully win in the end? What about companies that lose money? When bosses analyse how this happened, they can prevent this happening again.

I know Michael Jordan has this mantra. Now I am not going to add his quote for the third week out of four blogs - so you will have to look back to see what I am talking about!

I am sure we all feel that we are winning on so many levels at the moment and also that we are learning a lot. I know am. I am healthy and I can see that the planet is healthy. Win! But I am also learning to be grateful (for the little things and the big things like the NHS) and to not take certain things for granted. 

Customer service is like this. It is a journey and each customer is different. Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.That allows you to be better for the next customer or organisation. I have learnt early on in my career things with regard to marketing for instance that I may have been cautious about then, but not so now, because I learnt by experience. 

One thing I have always known is that customers like to be listened to and when we stop listening, we stop learning. Whether that it to an individual customer, feedback, research, social media responses etc.

It is the Dalai Lama that said: 'When you talk, you are repeating what you already know. But if you listen you may learn something new.'

In customer service, you could say you cannot lose. How so? Well the more we listen, the more we learn and the more we can help customers even more. Everyone is a winner then!

But you certainly cannot take it for granted that customers will always buy your brand! 

So listen and learn and you will hopefully win. Sometimes you will need to learn more (we never stop learning), but we can never lose if we see every opportunity as a chance to learn and a chance to help us win or succeed!

Creating an excellent first impression

Treat your Customers the way THEY want to be treated.

23rd April 2020

I have just finished reading the most amazing customer service book ever by Shep Hyken called 'Amaze Every Customer Every Time.' I was gripped from start to finish by his 52 tools for Customer Amazement and Ace Hardware, whose staff give consistently amazing customer service. The stories he uses about staff going above and beyond and the testimonials from happy customers would make any business owner a happy person. It sounds a really wonderful place to work.

One of his tools is entitled: "Treat others the way they want to be treated." At first glance, I read this and read it wrong - the way we have all been taught!

But have a think - every customer is different (and probably different to you in their requirements for a product or service in many cases) so we should treat them how they want to be treated. 

Here's how I can explain this using an example from one of my experiences: my husband and I treated ourselves on a holiday a few years ago to enjoy a Michelin starred restaurant in the UK. We were really looking forward to it. It was generally a disaster including: no dedicated car park, walking from one building (drinks) to the restaurant which in winter would not be great, to forgetting our order, finding string in one of our pork meals and the whole thing taking 4 hours before we had an hour long drive back to our rented accommodation. Although the restaurant refunded half our money for the issue of forgetting the order for 40 minutes, the other aspects were over looked (including the string). 

I uploaded my review to TripAdvisor as I always do mentioning all of the above; I believe feedback is important otherwise how does anyone get better? The manager responded to say he was very upset at the forgotten order and apologised which was nice, but then proceeded to write that other guests do not expect specific parking (well they would if there was no-where to park in a countryside restaurant which everyone drives to), do not mind the walk (i beg to differ in Winter!) and like the leisurely approach to the meal which is what they come for! I was most annoyed at the last bit because we came for our experience, not someone else's. I did not want to be treated as a collective noun. We are all different and if 'they' took the time to ask us and find out what we were expecting 'they' would have known. But they didn't. 

Shep Hyken mentions this with regard to Ace Hardware whose staff ask open-ended questions and engage with the customer to find out what they want from the purchase. Unfortunately, I do not want to experience what Shep calls a 'Moment of Misery', so the next time we went to a top restaurant I pre-warned them. Do you know what? They listened to my requests and we had 5 star service and more than that actually. I do that always now - pre-warn companies when I am going to spend a lot of money not wanting Moments of Misery, but Moments of Magic all the time!

So create Moments of Magic all the time by listening to your customer, engaging and asking questions to find out what they want and how they want to be treated. Trust me, I know, you will Amaze Every Customer Every Time!

Creating an excellent first impression

The First Impression or the Last Impression?

30th April 2020

As you will know if you read my blog last week, that I finished reading the most amazing customer service book ever by Shep Hyken called 'Amaze Every Customer Every Time.' It includes 52 tools for Customer Amazement. On for every week of the year!

One of his tools - tool 31 - focused on 'The Last Impression'. It was interesting to read his insights into this (and he did mention in his book that if you take 2-3 insights from the book and practice them daily that would really help to increase your customer service levels,. so this was one of them. It is interesting that the key take-aways for me from this book were all located in his chapter entitled 'One-on-One' which means these areas are aspects / actions we can all affect change with.

His focus on this 'The Last Impression' was - unsurprisingly enough - that you must leave a great lasting impression. He says that just as important to the First Impression is the Last Impression because that what will leave the Lasting Impression. 

How do you do this? First impressions help to make a great last impression and lasting impression as discovered above, but there are other things you can do for this including:

1 - Follow up - make sure it is timely and courteous and pro-active. I don't think I have ever had a follow up call for any appliance, expensive product or key household good to ensure it still works and that I am happy? Isn't after-sales just as important as sales to long term loyalty and repeat custom?

2 - Say thank you and goodbye.

3 - if you promise something deliver on it

4 - Always be helpful and make it easy to do business with? For instance, I always walk families out to the entrance to where their taxi is and wave them off. They may not have come in the correct entrance, but I like to ensure it is easy for them to find their taxi and help them with any suitcases.  Yes it is a little more effort and time but it creates a positive lasting impression. You could do that in a BnB - wave from the door or walk your customers to their car; you could help customers load their car - like Majestic Wines do. There many ways to help customers and create the Lasting Impression. It also allows as I found found and Shep identifies the opportunity to keep the conversation going.

So remember to consider not how you are at the First Impression but at the Last Impression. It means you have to keep your energy level, focus and customer-centric support at 100% all the way through the transaction to the end and the Last Impression. in fact Shep does mention this in Tool 23 in Chapter Eight again under the title, "It's Showtime."

Why? When you go to watch a show, the energy is there from start to finish - the same all the way through from the First to the Last Scene. Usually the last scene is an impressive large scale chorus with sound and and upbeat song to help you skip your way out of the theatre, humming all the way home. How's that for creating a Lasting Impression from the Last Impression.

Creating an excellent first impression


7th May 2020

I have had a 'Shep Hyken' read-fest recently. As part of my self-development, and to aid my continual learning in Customer Service for me and my Institute of Customer Service development, I read two of his books recently: "Amaze Every Customer, Every Time" and "Be Amazing or Go Home."

Now, I have to admit to being a slight customer service obsessive. It's why I love writing my weekly blogs. I can always find something to talk about or a story to tell. 

One of the key things I learnt from work this week is the power of follow up and staying in touch with new customers which Shep does talk about when it comes to be pro-active, going the extra mile and being accountable.

I schedule following up my prospects on the same day every week and it ensures I devote time to creating personal and bespoke communications because that day is follow up day and from experience, I know that following up is key. Follow up day means my brain is focused on communicating with customers, both those that have signed up (so staying in touch more than following up) as well as follow up leads.

This week I sent out a communication to our new sign ups to join in with an organisation Q&A and so many responded with how great it was to be included. They also get the weekly newsletter so they can feel part of our family before they start formally with us and have been encouraged before and in the newsletter to follow our social platforms. Staying in touch is all about keeping the love alive with your brand and developing this.

I had a signed up customer once tell me the only reason they signed up was because I persisted in communicating in a helpful way and they were helped through the purchase process and signed up. I now use this as an example of what not following up leads to: zero business and that when  people say to me "I am sure it is possible to over follow up and be a bit like a stalker" and I respond and say, is it better for a person to feel wanted through over communication than not wanted by none? Is it better for your business to ensure a customer has communications that may want them to buy your product, or nothing and then lose the customer?

As Shep says, the goal of your business is to make money, but the function of your business is to get and keep customers. You can only do that by following up your leads and staying in touch and creating brand loyalty.

I am well known for being obsessive in following up. I know that when marketing works so hard to bring in those leads, it is crucial the sales team to not waste the effort and the money that has gone into generating those leads. 

It is easy to use seasons to send an email (being mindful of cultural differences though) as well as new videos so say, "I thought you might enjoy this short video on xxxxx, let me know if you need any help with your application."

People to like to feel included, communicated to (in a timely manner) and to feel like people care about them. Following up and staying in touch certainly do this, so if you do one thing, schedule dedicated time to follow up because your mind them focuses on this important customer experience and you can create authentic communications to ensure people respond positively. I know that when I focus on something for a greater length of time, the output is better than if I dip in and out, but find out what works best for you to engage with your prospects.

My little golden rules to remember: say 'thank you', follow up, stay in touch, say 'please' and use their name!

Creating an excellent first impression

The Gift of Time

14th May 2020

I wrote a few weeks ago about silver linings. Although, I know for many people this is a very challenging time: isolation for our elderly, home schooling and working at the same time for parents, people facing redundancy, furlough (for some it feels like they are not wanted) and the hardest of all - loss of relatives and friends. 

For me, I do feel like one of the lucky ones (touch wood!) since I have been given the gift of time. I realised this silver lining most acutely this week. 

Over the last seven weeks, I have been working from home which has meant that I have reclaimed about eight hours of time from both commuting and driving to the gym. Most importantly, I have had seven days a week in my sanctuary (my home) and with my husband (the longest time we have been together in the last four years of our near eight year marriage) and it has been wonderful. I am no less fitter (I feel) from not going to the gym having organised a regime at home, so I am not missing it. I have read books that have been stacked up to read for ten months, deep cleaned the house, tidied the garden, baked a new cake each week, learnt new skills on Linked In Learning, have taken up an old hobby whilst doing my day job and more! All because I have time. Time is the most precious gift.

It makes me realise if extra time is so precious, spending time with customers much be precious and valuable to them. 

I spent two hours with a customer on zoom this week. It was only supposed to be an hour but they had lots of questions and they needed reassurance. They can't view the product, so they need to be reassured about things they would normally see first hand. The time spent was important to them to ask the questions they needed. They kept apologising for taking up time, but I  reassured them it was not a problem and that it was important that they felt they could ask whatever they wanted however long it took.

This all makes me think what will happen after we get to a new normal (as people say)? We have a little more time to think and most of us will have spent more time with loved ones. Will we continue this 'time' in the new normal?

Let's remember we had the gift of time for a bit and use that knowledge wisely, personally and professionally!

Creating an excellent first impression

People need you to care first in the customer journey.

21st May 2020

I mentioned in my blog last week, that this period of time in my life has given me the chance to read some books that were stacking up on my bedside table. As you know I love customer service and the art of care in the customer journey, and one of these books focuses on 'How to persuade and Influence people' which is important when you want to conduct and finish a sale. 

How many times have you walked into a shop and the shop assistant starts telling you what they have without really taking the time to find out exactly what you want and what you need it for before starting to help. They reel off their knowledge, parrot fashion, without really taking the time to care. I notice that more with younger sales people in the Currys and PC Worlds of this world who want to impress with their knowledge rather than with their time and listening skills. 

I wrote about the gift of time last week and what has really struck me is that time and listening are really integral parts of the customer journey and sales process. 

It is interesting that in the customer journey, we as marketers really have to take the time to listen to the customer throughout to ensure we create that wonderful experience and journey. 

My husband and I enjoyed the delights of a very nice hotel in Edinburgh before Covid-19 struck for his birthday in February. They really made an effort to care about everything  even before we set foot in the place. Being a customer service nut I did give them fair warning about what I wanted to make the occasion special, and throughout the stay, everything was amazing, everyone was helpful and nothing seemed too much trouble. Everyone listened and tried to help: it was as though they really cared. We left feeling warm and fuzzy inside even after paying the large bill! I think it's called Customer Delight. Staff listened and advised, not the other way around. The cost of this hotel was definitely worth it and we would pay it again for that service and care. This hotel obviously does not settle for mediocrity, but aims for excellence. It is why they have no shortage of guests, even at their higher prices. But remember, people do not make decisions based on price, in the main, but on value which is a different thing altogether. 

So show you care and have a genuine interest before you speak. 

Aim high for your customers and make them feel valued by giving them time and listening. 

You will get to the end result quicker and create true customer loyalty. 

You will also ensure that price is never a real contender in the sales process.

And most important you will show that you care which means you have a customer for life!

Creating an excellent first impression

Teamwork makes the dream work

28th May 2020

I had started to write on another topic which mentions magic - but I will save that for next week. I decided that after 10 weeks of lockdown and zoom meetings and hours sat in front of the computer that I should pay homage to the importance of the team.

I have realised that both in great customer service, in delivering a great experience, creating strong messages and delivering on huge projects (as well as climbing one of the big seven) as well as being the best you can be, being positive and having a growth mindset, it is all down to excellent team work: listening, caring and helping each other.

I don't often directly write about anything relating to my day job and try to be as professional as possible, but in the recent few weeks I am sure you like me feel grateful for your team (or whats left of your team) around you. The amazing thing is how much helping each other, the long hours because we all care and the amount of careful listening we have all done on zoom to get things done on time has been incredible.

The power of teamwork - and especially when you are in the 'performing'  stage is amazing. Whether teams take years to get there, a few months or 6 days (I have seen all), working together, helping each other, listening, respecting each other skill-sets, caring and having fun is key. These all go together to create incredible outcomes. 

I climbed Kilimanjaro last year (I should have been climbing to Everest Base Camp as I write - oh well - next year!) and the power of a performing team was revealed to me in such an awesome way. Here were 12 people from countries across the world, all very different people, and all here to climb Kili. Now, if you know anything about climbing one of the big seven, it's not that easy in the sense that you don't know what can go wrong, how your body will react or what the weather might do. And how the team will cope. The adventure company had covered a few bases including ensuring a slightly slower route up (which we had all signed up to) and giving us lots of prep information including what to pack, but most teams don't all make it up and we were a large team of 12.  On ascent night, most had started before us or the same time and raced up overtaking us only to get to Stella Point and not make it the additional 45 minutes to the top. We were the first team to the top and although the weather was on our side we could see that most did not have this success. How?

I have asked this question a lot? 12 people who never met before formed, stormed, normed and performed in the space of 6 days. How? Well here is the secret: we all listened to each other; no-one took over and we all had an equal say and input, we respected the guides skills to lead us to the top and back down safely, we worked together, we cared about each other and looked after each other, and we had fun. We acted as a team. There is no 'I' in team (but there is nearly a meat pie!)

There is always a team leader, but they should just galvanise all the thoughts into a coherent action plan. 

Back to customer service and an experience: its only because the front desk staff, cleaning staff, catering staff, and management work together equally to do their bit to create a great experience. One of these could let the team down.  Its like schools: customers come in and see beautiful grounds, a clean building, a smiling receptionist and welcoming support staff before starting a tour to see great teaching in action and then maybe enjoy some lunch (which is a big deal in schools today too). Everyone has their part to play to create an experience for a customer. Everyone is equally important. 

Together Everyone Achieves More.... including climbing mountains. 

Creating an excellent first impression

Customer Experience is Key

4th June 2020

Have you noticed that advertisers are all about the story? We saw this in the 1990's with the Kenco advert and then later on with BT advert with the family. 

Now, we all get to mid November and are desperate to see the John Lewis Christmas advert. At the moment the Lloyds Bank advert's are really powerful too.

This is because we crave stories, relations and magic with our interactions. It's not just about the purchase. We want to get behind something, believe in something, feel connected to something. 

Look how much Captain Tom Moore moved us. A 99 year old former soldier in the Second World War, raising money for the NHS. We all clung to a little bit of hope for a while, from an amazing man with wonderfully stirring words of encouragement and resilience borne of another generation. We loved the story and were moved by his achievements both now and before.

I love this statement (image) because I believe this to be so true which is why I am writing about it. 

I enjoy expectation more than realisation. I am one of those that loves the build up to a holiday, the planning and the imagining of what we will enjoy. It's magic to me. The holiday is the end purchase, in a way, and 99% of the time the holiday lives up to the expectation. 

I enjoy surfing the net to find 'that' dress and love the endless searching and finding it. The purchase seems - to be for me - so final. I just love the experience leading up to the purchase. 

When I am about to spend money, for me it’s not about the purchase, it’s about the experience leading up to the purchase. For instance in a posh hotel, the care, personalisation, the help and efforts that go into making my stay worthwhile. In a luxury retailer, the help and time staff give you to make sure the experience is seamless, smooth and easy. In both aspects staff build relationships, ask questions, seem interested and create magic by giving of their time. 

If retailers realised this then they would create incredible brand loyalty. I know this is hard to do because I read recently (and it's true - I have seen it work first hand recently as well) that if you make people feel valued and expect more of them within your organisation, they deliver more for the customer. If you don't care and don't expect great things from your staff they will not give great service to the customer and will not care. 

To create stories, relations and magic, you have to care, you have to listen, you have to know you can give your time and create that little bit of customer delight. Why?  Because if a customer is intent on spending their money within your organisation, they deserve this. 

Don't forget the key aim of any organisation is to get and keep customers and the magic (amazing experience) does this.

If you need some reading on this, then I would suggest Shep Hykens ‘Amaze Every Customer Every Time’, because his 52 actions all create that magic. 

As an aside, I finally managed to watch 'Becoming Michelle Obama'. It was a fascinating insight into the lives of being the President and the First Lady. She talked about the power of our stories and how we need to share our stories to allow us understand each other much better. She is totally right. 

Creating an excellent first impression

Customer Service and Business Strategy

9th June 2020

I have noticed throughout my customer service journey, that happy customers remain loyal, become excellent ambassadors and help to ensure your business thrives. 

As Shep Hyken says, the goal of businesses is not about making money, its the end result. The goal is to find and keep customers, after all your business would not grow, if you did not grow your customers. 

I have noticed certainly in my professional life this week that good ambassadors are central to helping you gain new customers and that good word of mouth can really create a snowball effect, fast. 

Todays word of mouth is very much done through social media platforms and the power of 'WhatsApp' groups has shown me that this is something we should not be taking for granted. The speed of 'talk' whether good or bad can really support your strategy of growing customers. Ideally it is important to have a great product that a few people start talking about. When those people buy in and are happy and tell others, and when the competition also fails at the same time, then you have to be able to take on board the enquiries and custom and ensure you can deliver otherwise all that work will be in vain. 

To be clear, if you keep your customers happy they will

1 - keep coming back and buying your products

2 - recommend your business to others....

3 - ... who will recommend your business to others....

How can therefore you not consider and realise that the best business strategy is keeping your customers happy?

How do you do that? It's the simple things such as listening, engaging, thanking, the personal approach, chatting and helping. 

Shep Hyken talks about 52 tools to amaze your customer every day and he uses throughout the book Ace Hardware, the helpful store. That is what they base every interaction on, being helpful. Whether by listening to the customer to ensure they can help from the beginning and not talk over the customer with information they did not request, to helping the customer with bags and talking products to the car. It is always about being helpful and they have legendary customer service because of this. 

Other amazing brands include Amazon, Waitrose and First Direct. They are helpful, staff listen, people get an amazing experience and a tailored approach with their requirements. It's easy really. Why can't we all do it?

I believe its all about how customer-centric the organisation is and how willing the leadership is to empower staff and to create a culture from the top down of amazing customer service. a culture whereby the customer is first always and a culture of ensuring staff feel empowered to do what it takes to help the customer like for instance the Ritz Hotel has. The Ritz hotel management empower staff to spend up to £2000 to ensure the customer experience thereby saying that they trust their staff to make the right decision to ensure a customers satisfaction.

The more organisations trust their employees to make the right decisions, the more customer centric the culture is (and top down culture is crucial), the more a company can create a great customer experience.

The business strategy of looking after customers must include your internal customers too! 

I have heard a saying that your brand on the outside is only as strong as that on the inside. Staff and feeling empowered to help really does make a difference to creating the best business strategy of all: an amazing customer journey for every customer. 

Creating an excellent first impression

The Customer is Always Right...

18th June 2020

Or is s/he?

Well I always think so unless the customer is doing something illegal or immoral. 

Here's why I think this: I was at work recently, and a customer emailed in to ask where her product was. I apologised that we had not organised this and I said I would ensure we organised this straight away copying my colleagues in and he to show we were communicating internally to organise this immediately.

My colleague took offence to this saying it looked like it was our fault and not to send an email like that copying her in displaying the situation as our fault.This was interesting to me and it made me think as I replied to my colleague.

Should businesses condemn the customer if we are 100% sure it was not us, or be humble, take the blame and deal with the situation.

I believe that latter. Even if a customer is wrong, we should never act as though this is the case, nor come across with the feeling of ‘I told you so’ when we are in the right. Humility is key to customers trusting us and rectifying a situation well which gives a customer even more loyalty to you.

Incidentally, the customer came back apologising to us about 10 minutes later. She checked her emails and released she had received a number from us she had not seen or replied to for us to organise her product. I forwarded this to my colleague so she could see that the customer realised her error, that it was not us and all was well.

Customers sometimes miss things. So do organisations. But if someone is spending money with you, you need to act in a manner which makes them feel special and that you come across as though you are willing to help irrespective of who is right or wrong. They will forget the issue until they realise it is their mistake if that is the case.

I believe the organisation should take the blame until proven otherwise. It usually happens that a customer will realise the mistake and come back to you and apologise in my experience. That is then not the time to make them feel bad for admitting the error. That is the time is be gracious and thank them for their email and say it happens to us all. It will score you more loyalty and further custom.

In the end, it’s not about right or wrong. It’s about good customer relationships and ensuring a positive customer journey.

Creating an excellent first impression

Customer Delight...

25th June 2020

... what does this mean?

Well, have you ever felt 'delighted' by something? For instance, you have gone back to your hotel room and the staff have left some chocolates or some goodies on the side with a note, or the shop assistant says that although they don't have the dress size in store you want, she will locate it for you and help you order it. How about when the supermarket member of staff sees you looking lost and asks you if you need any help or the time when you went to a restaurant for an anniversary and the restaurant created a 'congratulations' plate with chocolates on at the end? The time when you email the restaurant and they include your reason for being here in their weekly menu introduction along with all the other people in that week who had booked and you feel special?

I remember each and every one of these instances with a huge grin on my face, right now as I write. I had customer delight every time. Not only did people look after me, but they cared enough to go the extra mile. This made me feel special; I have more than a smile on my face for all these organisations and their staff meeting my expectations whilst thinking about these customer focused instances; these organisations exceeded it and to this day I have a grin on my face. Just like on the image attached to this blog.

I was reminded this week at work of my days working for Harrods, Knightsbridge (whilst at University to pay my way), and how much I learnt about customer service there and the art of creating customer delight.

I remember a customer walking in (I worked in what is called the contemporary collections department) and she had just been surprised by her partner with dinner and the opera in London and she had nothing to wear. I found a dress, but when she told me this story, I decided to go and find her shoes, tights, and a bag to go with the dress. She went off to dinner and hopefully had a lovely evening. I thought at the time that I did not want such a lovely surprise from her partner to have any negative feelings attached (the worry of not having something to wear) so I tried to ensure she had the most positive experience to compliment the surprise. 

How hard was that to do? How hard is it for anyone to go to extra lengths in fact? If we put ourselves in others shoes more, we would understand how we can help our customers better.

It actually happened to me this week at work (20 years on from Harrods!) with a customer buying our product. She was looking for something totally unrelated which she slipped into conversation as I was asking her about various related aspects. I have since been able to help her with another area of her life to make things easier. She emailed back jokingly that she had received the full service package and then jokingly asked about another aspect, which I was able to help with, again unrelated. 

I know I am making life easy, which is all people want really when it comes to the transaction process. I know that's what I want.

I read Shep Hyken's book about 'how to amaze every customer every time' that I raved about a few weeks ago; he wrote about Ace Hardware stores doing just this. Their staff create a dialogue by asking questions of the customer about their life related to the product which they have bought, which gets the customer talking about other aspects and things they need help with. Sometimes the staff members can help with items related to the Ace Hardware products, and sometimes not. But they help with both to create the full service package. 

This is how you create Customer Delight.... going above and beyond! And trust me when I say, it gives you delight too as you leave the office that day with a wonderful warm fuzzy feeling. 

When you help someone, it's a good feeling for everyone!

Creating an excellent first impression

Smile Moments

2nd July 2020

AGA's make me smile every time I think about them or see one. I love what they represent because it's not just about a cooker. They represent  more than that to me: warmth after a cold day out, dogs and cats asleep around them, the kitchen being the hub of the home, the ironing done, the pots dried, and that time at the end of a long day when you can rest your bum on it with a cup of tea or glass of wine. And this does not even mention the reason for its existence: cooking.

'Smile moments' for me happen with Aga's and Amazing Customer Service. Anyone who has been through training with me in customer service will know this. Of course loads of things in life make me smile, but when I think of these two I get very excited and a big smile errupts.

I am sure you have experienced a situation that made your day, made you smile? I wrote a little about this last week when I talked about customer delight and listed a number of examples. 

When I wrote about the AGA above, I listed all the aspects that for me make me happy and make me smile. Customer service involves creating an experience for your customer in their journey with you so its more than just a product that they walk away with. 

I have experienced incredible customer service and wonderful experiences that make me think about the 'products' in many more ways than they originally were designed for. For instance, an amazing hotel stay when it was not just about the room and breakfast, but how the staff made me feel including the welcome and help they gave throughout, the use of my name, listening to my queries actively before offering help and using thank you a lot too. These all make me smile, and of course the rooms and breakfast were fantastic but when I think back to amazing experiences it was more than what was advertised (that was also excellent) that made it five star and makes me smile now as it did at the time.

Read my last blog which lists numerous ways I have enjoyed customer delight moment which made me smile!

We all want to feel special when we are purchasing something that could be considered a lot of money and especially so when we spending our hard earned cash. 

Organisations need to get and keep customers. It is no surprise that companies with red carpet customer service get and keep customers by providing them with smile moments all the time. Ask Shep Hyken and Ace Hardware employees.

If you are new to all of this, read Shep Hykens book on 'Amaze Every Customer Every Time' (which is my favourite customer service book at the moment). If you don't have time or this does not appeal to you, why not start by smiling at a customer as they walk in and saying hello. If you deal with customers by phone only, you can still smile and they can hear this...... I know, you are thinking I have gone mad, but it is true. If you smile before you make a call, it lifts your voice, whereas if you are unhappy / not smiling, your voice sound lowers. If you are happy, you are usually more upbeat and by sitting more upright too this reflects in your voice. It's why (since I deal with customers both face to face and on the phone) I believe in the cheesy old fashioned phrase 'Smile and Dial'. It works though!

Now you can create a little 'Smile Moment' for a customer and you will make their day. Not least because we know the old phrase 'Smile and the whole world smile's with you' and most importantly, we all smile in the same language!

(The red AGA is pictured because I believe in 'Red Carpet Customer Service' as per my website. It is now 18 months since my first blog on one of my two favourite subjects in life so I thought i would tie in my blog with something red this week and my other favourite thing that makes me smile!)

Creating an excellent first impression

Is the effort worth it?

9th July 2020

So what do you think? 

You know my feelings on customer service and experience and from the image I have chosen this week you can be sure that I believe it to be worth If the goal as Shep Hyken says of any organisation is to grow and expand and to make profit then you can only do that with getting new customers but most importantly keeping those customers. 

Every week, I write about customer service and experience but would love to hear from you. 

As an aside, the effort has been worth it for me in recent months. We have never had to be more efficient and on it with regard to customer communications and support. Customers are naturally worried about safety and well being and never more than in my industry. My customers (parents) have rightly needed constant reassurance and support and we as an organisation and team have worked hard to continue to go above and beyond with this since March. 

We have realised that we have had to improve our customer service not in the service itself but in the channels in which we have delivered it: video creation and messaging, virtual tours and open days, live broadcasts on Facebook, zoom presentations and discussions, one to one updates over and above delivering our key product online. 

Not just us, but everyone has had to find a way to keep in touch whilst we have all been separated in our homes. We realised that we can take our product into peoples home through digital channels and we will be using much of what we have been used to in recent months going forward to reach all our markets, locally, nationally and globally. We cannot believe we never thought of this reach before!

We will not lose this insight just because we have come out the other end. Business should remind themselves of what they have been able to deliver online and in many cases how successful this has been. A whole new communication channel and customer base awaits these new online changes and all for the best. 

Covid-19 has become a game changer in the way we think about customer service and the channels in which we can deliver this and I am sure if people take this on board they will be one of the 84% reporting an increase in revenue!

Creating an excellent first impression

Word of Mouth!

16th July 2020

There are so many statistics about customer service and word of mouth:

'News of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many ears as praise of a good service experience.'

'For every customer who bothers to complain, 26 other customers remain silent.'

So businesses really need be aware that people do talk and that people will talk about both poor and amazing customer service. But unfortunately, as the first statistic and phrase shows, more people talk about bad customer service than good customer service. 

Only this week, a colleague told me about a customer service incident at the weekend and it was bad - not good. I asked him would he return and he said no. He has also told me the name of the business and I wont go there and will probably tell others about this if the business is mentioned with a negative review even though I have not been there. This is how TripAdvisor and other such online review site work - but they have been operating for millennia through the old fashioned 'word of mouth'.  It goes to show that as we work harder for our pennies, we want to ensure that when we get the chance to spend that it we get an amazing service experience... otherwise no repeat business and that goal of businesses as we know from My Hyken is to find and keep customers to grow our businesses and make profit.

Can you imagine then when a person spends money on a luxury product (not just your every day coffee, pint or supermarket shop) that person is going to want to be treated well and the company should give that person the best customer service experience to secure the business. Plus - the quote above suggests it will help to secure further business!

Think about the great experiences you have had. What do they all have in common?

I can tell you from experience the common five denominators for me when I think back to amazing experiences that I tell others about have been:

1 - Use of my name / personalised approach

2 - Listening and helping - with the former being used for 75% of the time with 25% solution / helping

3 - Ease of business and smooth purchase process

4 - Positive and interested (passionate) staff

5 - Being proactive with additional help (going the extra mile) but yet professional (ensuring hat the line is not crossed by being too friendly and being overly helpful - because this can be the case when a member of staff does not know when to stop which means they are not listening).

These are not hard. 

I say this all the time, but my advice is to put yourself in the shoes of the customer in front of you / or on the phone. Be them. Think about how you would respond to you if you were the customer and you would think and feel throughout. Get what you think and how you feel out of your head as the member of staff. I am afraid that they don't care about this, but only what they think and what they need help with and why. 

When you realise this, you will be able to ensure you support your organisation with the majority of your customers giving positive feedback to others. After all, surely it is in everyone's interest to see their organisation or the organisation they work for grow.

Creating an excellent first impression

What makes great customer service?

23rd July 2020

Shep Hyken writes in his customer service books that for him, the key to great customer service is helpfulness.

This week, I have experienced two sets of unhelpful ness that made my experiences poor. I realised that Shep is onto something here.

First experience: My husband and I went on a four day walk over the weekend. At the end of the trip, we experienced total unhelpfulness from every single amenity in the village we were staying in. The post office told us the buses were not running (I had an email from the bus company saying they were running from the day before). 

Furthermore, no one could tell us when the main tourist shop (very famous) was open next (it shut as we arrived and although google said it should be open it wasn’t), including the only open coffee shop, said post office and our hotel. We finally got through to the manager on the phone line listed on the website after 4-5 tries, who apologised and told us the opening time for the next day. When we went back the next day she had the opening times on the door, although they were late opening. It seems we were not the only confused people but she had not put this up or added the information to the website. Yes, things had only just opened but surely, to encourage trade and help each other out post Covid-19, businesses would find out this sort of information to help tourists and ensure engagement. 

There were so many other Instances of unhelpfulness, with one local woman having a go at me for not giving her the correct details for her to give me the right information (and I was not the local) and I was just repeating what I had read. I can tell you this, we were thoroughly disappointed and won’t be returning. Thankfully the shop does mail order!

Second experience: a supplier had been emailing me about a large order and payment. It was getting embarrassing and so I apologised forwarding it again. The receiver said that payment had been made last week and I should check first with her before apologising. How was I to know (after numerous reminders from the supplier had gone unpaid) that it had just been paid, and how was the supplier to know? Surely it you had had a few reminders, you would email the supplier to say payment had been made and copy the person in who had been getting all the reminders; not least so that the supplier could check on the payment and look out for it. It was interesting that the supplier came back to us (I was copied into the notification email) sent after this email conversation asking for information on the payment to check it with the bank. Helpfulness is easy and ensures a smooth transaction and or purchase process for all as well as ensuring engagement and a good reputation.

It makes me consider my 4 Ps of Red Carpet Customer Service: 

Proactive -  being helpful to the customer and ensuring proactive communication including emails to people when you do something so they know it’s done. 

Professional - act in the way you would wish to be treated and respond in a timely and helpful manner

Positive - always say yes, always be helpful and if you have to say no, have another solution available to be helpful...

...And lastly, 

Passionate  people care and want to ensure a great customer experience. They naturally want to help and solve customers issues. 

I know companies with great customer service and they all have not thing in common: their staff are helpful.

Have a think about these companies and then you will realised that helpfulness (to create an easy, smooth and positive purchase experience) is key: Waitrose, M&S, John Lewis, Disney, First Direct.

Finally, they all do something else key to amazing customer service which you can find out in next weeks blog...

Creating an excellent first impression

So you've got your customers.... how do you keep them?

30th July 2020

So you have created great customer service for your customers, now you have to keep them!

It is said that it is harder to stay on top than get to the top (although Amazon seem to be bucking this trend as they unveil their latest service offering in the food sector!). 

In the customer service arena, it's not that hard and Ace Hardware as Shep Hyken demonstrates as well as Waitrose, John Lewis, M&S and First Direct to name but a few know what else they have to do to do other than be helpful.

To engage your customers and to ensure they keep coming back, you have to ensure you have created a great customer experience first time round and then continue to do this. Each time a customer wants something different, so why would a customer come back to you for new products or your help?

It is simple: an easy purchase process which consists of helpfulness in all aspects: choosing the product, support in purchasing the product and after sales - the whole customer journey in fact. 

Helpfulness is key, but how does a person become helpful?

A very little known, little practised, highly important skill: listening.

How can anyone help anyone, unless they know what to help them with? And to know, you need to have listened to the customer (and I mean really listen - active listening) to ensure you are helping them correctly.

We forget sometimes that we have two ears and one mouth, desperate to add our point of view without listening, or to tell someone about a relevant anecdote, talk about ourselves etc. To be blunt, the customer does not really care. They have limited time in many respects and whilst a certain amount of conversation - where you ask them questions about them - will work, they just want to purchase a product and move on with their life. 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that people like to talk about themselves - as the customer you can go mad, as the sales person, zip the lip on 'you' and listen and ask questions. This is how you find out stuff and can add value to your sale. By asking questions you can find out if the person might need any more items to help make things easier and you make more sales. That can only be good!

So my top tips to getting and keeping customers:

- be helpful

- listen and don't talk about yourself 

- and say thank you!

- follow up (after sales is important!)

Of course and the product/ service has to work / be amazing too - that's a given!

NB: As an aside, I have noticed that for all you people reading this and saying to  - 'how much talk is right' - well then Emotional Intelligence (EI) comes into play.  as well as this useful nugget: when I spend a lot of money, I don't mind a certain amount of chat, but when I am buying a low cost item, chat should be limited to helping me locate it. I don't mind chat to fill a space as long as the purchase process is moving forward (ie supermarket till). When i am spending a lot of money, I like to enjoy the experience, so I don't mind a certain amount of chat. 

Take your queues from the customer - listen to them!

Creating an excellent first impression

Out of Office... and giving great customer service at the same time

6th August 2020

This week I am enjoying a week's holiday in Cornwall. It has been a crazy few months and I really needed some time to get away from work and re-energise.

This is important. If we do not have time away from the grind, then we are liable to burn out, become unproductive and un-creative and worse, become ill. 

It is important also to give your team the chance to step up, take charge and make decisions. No-one is indispensable, in my opinion, even me. 

I read an article once that some people come back from holiday and delete all the emails sent to them whilst away, after giving senders notice in an out of office. It makes sense though. If people want to get in contact they would wait until the person on holiday returns and resend it or indeed someone else can deal with it in their absence.

So what should you put in place to make those emails lighter for your return but ensure at the same time amazing customer service which is of course key?

Five steps to annual leave preparation:

1 - Email all your key suppliers/clients a few days in advance to let them know you are going on holiday and to ask them to send any queries to you in advance of this and a key contact for them for when you are not there;

2 - Email all your key accounts asking them if they need any help with anything without letting them know you are going on holiday. They will invariably come back with some queries, so be prepared to spend your last few days fielding more emails than normal;

3 - Email a brief to key people with regard to key accounts and work that needs doing whilst away along with stages key customers are at, but try to ensure that most of your work is covered rather than adding to someone else's workload;

4 - Ask for the key person to send you a response overview to your brief back for speedy transition back into the workplace

5 - Add your out of office with helpful and friendly text including emails of key staff that people can contact in your absence should they require an immediate answer plus dates you are away and back in the office so people can decide whether to wait for you or ask the people you have listed in your out of office instead.

Enjoy your well earned holidays!

Creating an excellent first impression

Is it a six or a nine?

13th August 2020

I thought that in the spirit of it being A Level results day today and GCSE results day next week, I would write about whether the answer is six or a nine?

So - a bit of audience participation - what do you think it is?....

Of course, next week these numbers really do matter, so most sixteen year old's would be wanting to say a nine. This is because it is the difference between the old A (9) and C (6), a grading range which we are more comfortable with (if you are my age anyway) and the grading being used for today's A Level results. 

But for this weeks blog, if you look closely it could be either. Because it is all about perception.

Like the picture of the young and old lady or the glass half full or half empty, depending on your perception.

For many schools, there will be excitement for the numbers of A*s and As but at the same time, some parents and pupils will be unhappy. It is all about perception and which side you are on, a nine or a six.

It is why one of my mantra's is: "there is no such thing as right or wrong, just opinion."

Perception is king. For instance, for one person, Covid-19 might have been a terrible time which included loss, for another it might have been amazing, more time with loved ones and family. 

We all respond to things differently and according to two key things experience and mindset. 

We must remember when dealing with customers, that they see things differently to us according to these above tow aspects. We need to acknowledge that difference to ensure we have really listened and engaged with the customer to help and support them in the purchase process. 

We also act differently as a customer, whether we are in a hurry to purchase something or wanting to ensure every bit of detail is right when spending hard earned money. I know something about the latter as I am in the middle of purchasing a new bathroom suite and having the whole thing re-done. I know I am being very detailed since I want to get it right and  want to ensure I have all the right information to know I am purchasing the right bits and pieces. I can understand why families and people are detailed when purchasing an Independent education for instance or another luxury item. It's all down to perception and how different people are.

So whether you think it is a six or a nine, the trick is to realise there are two sides to every story, that everyone is different (which is a blessing!) and to ensure you listen and engage to realise a win-win outcome for both the customer and you.

Creating an excellent first impression

Price v Customer Experience (Part 1)

20th August 2020

It is a truth universally acknowledged that people like to get a bargain and are quite price sensitive. However, I firmly believe that people also like a great experience. 

I love shopping in Waitrose every so often because of their gleaming floors, calm ambience and wide aisles. There is a reason it's a little more pricey!

I actually prefer to pay that little but more for convenience and a great experience. I succumbed to Amazon Prime about 18 months ago for this reason and i am about to consider Unlimited because of the amazing experience. I am paying for excellent customer service which in my opinion includes the experience. 

Think about it: you go into a shop and how frazzled are you when you come out without the purchase you want and totally unmotivated. 

I did this last week: i went to a garden centre to buy a quince. (Random, I know, but I like quince and my local supplier does not have quince any more and it makes really good chutney). I am not a natural gardener and can just about keep herbs and lavender alive.

I go into two garden centres and the customer service was appalling. The first one did not realise I was at reception even though I had rung the bell and the second when they said they did not have what i wanted (and this was the manager no less) did not even decide to be helpful and secure a sale by helping me out!

So what did I do? Go on Amazon - and there it was - information, pictures, size of tree at maturity  - everything I wanted as the click of a button. It has cost more, but it is speedy and helpful and was a smooth transaction because of Prime.

So I am one of the 58% who will pay more to get great service because I am so time poor. I don't want to be trekking around 2-3 garden centres for one plant. I want to be told here are some options after being listened to. 

I actually love going into shops where I pay  more: M&S, Waitrose, my local village shop etc because I get an easy and smooth transaction.

I have to say, I enjoy being offered a glass of fizz whilst shopping at some shops which I know they do not have to offer and would considerably reduce the prices of the items, but its all part of the experience, I feel special and it helps me to spend money which is a clever ploy from the shop really.

So, have a think, when you offer customer service - that person will pay more for help and great customer service. This will guarantee you a sale... unlike the garden centres who missed out to Amazon.

Part 2 next week includes how much more people are prepared to pay for an amazing customer experience and why...

Creating an excellent first impression

Price v Customer Experience (Part 2)

27th August 2020

So from last week's blog you know that 58% of customers are willing to pay more to companies that provide excellent customer service (and I am one of them)! But here is an even more exciting fact..... 86% of people are willing to pay up to 25% more for a better customer experience. 

The sector I work in shows this to be very true, with customers paying a lot more than 25% more for a better customer experience (for their children) when the alternative is free. 

I always say that I'll have made it when I can permanently shop in Waitrose and I won't mind paying it if I can afford it. It is a wonderful pleasant experience when shopping in Waitrose as I mentioned last week.

People splash out on those special occasions and pay that little bit more for an amazing experience. It's why girls and guys love the limos at Prom and parents pay for it - for the experience of watching their 'baby' graduate as an adult. It's a special experience demanding a little bit more financial investment!

What about that special anniversary weekend away with dinner and a spa etc. People don't want bog standard, so they pay that little bit more for something special.

Not only that, many people are cash rich, time poor so will spend more to make the experience hassle free and easy. That's how Amazon Prime have pitched themselves, for £7 a month! That's more than a  25% mark up.

My husband and I - before Covid stuck - enjoyed VIP seats at a local football match. We had the best time, because of the VIP experience and we agreed we would pay it again.

I am sure you can recount times like the above when you have not wanted to leave but stay in a warm bubble of the perfect experience!

I can only end with my favourite anecdote of all time: I booked the Skyline bar at the Burj Al Arab for drinks a few years back, which has a minimum spend per person. The pre-experience service was seamless; during the evening the staff used our names, were polite and helpful (not over solicitous) but cleverly there when you needed another drink and some help to choose something new. We ended up spending over double the minimum spend which we had not intended to do. The customer experience was 'seven star' like the hotel. Not only that, after the evening, a feedback email came through which for me was the icing on the cake, as one of the questions asked was "Did anyone ever say no to you throughout the evening?" No-one had, which helped cement this as the best experience. As a customer, I (in fact we all) hate being told no. We want solutions and help, not problems and unhelpful-ness.

And following on from this, next week, I will talk about what customers top ten priorities are to ensure a great customer experience and encourage them to part with their hard earned money.

Creating an excellent first impression

Top Ten Priorities for Customers

3rd September 2020

So you read at the end of my blog last week that I would talk about what customers top ten priorities are when it comes to the purchase process and here they are and why:

  1. Overall quality of the product - no one wants a dud product because that means that the customer has to spend more time shopping for a replacement item.
  2. Being treated as a valuable customer - if you are about to spend your money (and we do have a choice in most cases about where to spend our money), part of the transaction is to feel like we have made the right choice to spend it at the ship we are in and feel valued for doing so.
  3. Speed of service - in this time poor age, this is so important. We do not have endless hours to find the perfect item, so when we go into a shop we want someone who really can get to the nub of the situation speedily.
  4. Friendliness of staff - service with a smile is key. No-one wants to feel in the way, a hindrance or unwelcome.
  5. Handling of problems and complaints - these should be smooth and easy. There should be no problems mentioned like slow computers, "you can order it online as we don't have it", "ring back next week for more information", and so on - this does not make is easy.
  6. Handling of enquiries - this is where speedy and helpful responses are key for customers and you need to ensure if you promise something you must deliver.
  7. Competence of staff - staff should be trained properly to deal with issues. We can all sport the 'Saturday staff' who are not as clued up and we head straight for the managers (well I do!) because i want to speak with someone who knows the products and can help me quickly and easily.....
  8. Ease of doing business - we don't want problems, we want solutions and this is key to life because as I have mentioned we are very time poor in the 21st century.
  9. Being kept informed - if you tell the customer that you will get back to them by a specific date, then do. If you have not resolved the situation, communicate on the date you said you would to call back and let them know the problem and the solution and when it will be resolved. Call back them to confirm it is to ensure that the customer does not feel out of the loop.
  10. Helpfulness of staff - as I said last week, this is key. If you listen correctly, then you can be helpful since you are ensuring that you have listed to exactly what the customer wants and can help them.

So there you are - the top ten priorities of customers in no specific order... so what is most important to you?

Creating an excellent first impression

Focus on the Customer!

10th September 2020

Have you ever been in one of those situations where the sales assistant starts talking about their life and issues, and does not stop? You are in a rush - as always - and they continue to talk about their life. You reply out of courtesy but with a one syllable answer hoping that this will deter the continuation of the story or issue but it doesn't, so you politely say 'such a nightmare for you' or some such other phrase and you look at your watch and say you must leave and that you will be back in touch. 

Do you? Probably not in most cases. You don’t have time to deal with this again, and so move to a new shop / company to help with your purchase needs It’s the company’s loss and they most likely would not know the reason for the lost sale.

Headline: the customer does not give a damn about your issues and life. They have an issue, which is why they are at your store, and they want you to fix it with minimal fuss, time and energy. This requires listening skills and helping skills, none of which happen if you are talking about yourself. 

The problem is we all find it easier to talk about ourselves than ask questions. As a sales person, you are in the wrong job if that’s all you do, and you probably are a bad sales person. Yes, some relationship building, sharing of a few anecdotes helps but leave it at that! Focus on the customer.

I have experienced this recently when the member of staff started taking about her divorce which happened during lockdown and then continued on about the new man she now has in her life who is so much better than her soon to be ex-husband. Do I need to know this? Has it put me off the purchase? Yes, although I might request another member of staff to help me now since it is a big purchase and we are half way down the line.

I experienced it last year at work when a colleague did it in front of some potential customers and they looked at me for help (I could see it in their eyes!). The same thing happened two weeks ago when a colleague walked into a meeting telling some potential customers s/he only had fifteen minutes to spare because of another meeting. How special does the customer feel now? Do they care - if they have spent time coming to see you - about your lack of time? Does it make them feel more or less important and does it not demonstrate to them that you see your time as more valuable than theirs? If it’s like that in the purchase process, what will the after sales be like?

So remember, engage the customer by asking them questions, finding out information about them and help them. Focus on them and leave you out of it because creating an amazing customer experience requires a focus on the customer and making them feel special and if you are talking about yourself, that does not make them feel special, valued and unique within that moment.

Creating an excellent first impression

Don't say you 'Don't Know' to a customer!

17th September 2020

My colleague went into a well known high end supermarket today for her lunch and she was told 'Don't Know' when asking for a certain item!

Not only was I astonished that anyone who is in the business of serving customers would say this phrase (surely the store would keep them up to sate to be knowledgeable and helpful to customers) but that they would say it in this store! Took the 'sparkle' out of my feelings towards this normally five star retailer.

There are times where you will not know the answer, but don't say 'Don't Know' and leave it at that. That is not helpful and does not give the customer an end result to the purchase that she so desperately wants to make. 

A better response would be, "That's a great question, and one I am unsure of, so if you don' mind waiting here for a few moments, I am just going to check on that for you." Helpful and positive. 

It is possible to be positive with your answers on all occasions. As i have said before people do not like to hear the word no or any negative ending to their experience. For instance, you might know that there is no dress available in the size that the customer has just asked for, but go to the back anyway and look. It shows you care about helping the customer and that you will look anyway [they don't know you know remember and would just consider you not looking as lazy]. Come back and apologise and ask questions about what the customer is looking for and help to find an alternative or if not, help the customer to find it online and order it.

You never have to close anything with a negative. You can always turn things around to be a positive... something I will talk about in my blog next week!

Creating an excellent first impression

Think. Do. Be. Positive!

24th September 2020

I am a big believer in being positive. I think, do and be positive as much as possible. I am a glass half full person and get excited and energise over the littlest of things!

Do you know that you can do this in sales too? People love it too. They love positive, passionate and pro-active people. All the time in fact.You turn even the grumpiest person around with all of that! You never have to use the word no...... don't believe me - well here goes...

Ten well used phrases that can be turned into positives - 

Phrase - Don’t put those forms there 

Solution - Let me take those from you and I will deal with them

Phrase - We can’t do that 

Solution - This option is another solution to this problem which might help?

Phrase - That won’t work 

Solution - Have you considered this option to your query? 

Phrase - That’s not our policy 

Solution - Leave that with me, and I will speak to my manager and see what we can do.

Phrase - You’ll have to call back for that information 

Solution - Please can I take your details and I will ring you back with the information?

Phrase - We’re out of those

Solution -  Have you tried this option? However, if you prefer to stick with 'x' then I will see when it is back in stock and ensure we put one aside for you. Could I have your number to confirm when this will be?

Phrase - You’ve missed the deadline for that (scholarships).

Solution - We have given out all the scholarships this year, however scholarships for next year are available from xx date. Shall we will look to add your name to the list for next year.

Phrase - I don’t know

Solution - Let me check with my manager to find out the answer. Please wait here, and I will be 2-3 minutes only / let me take your telephone number and I will call you back.

Phrase - My computer is moving slowly (never say this!)

Solution - I am sorry but could I take your number and I will call you back in an hour or at a time to suit you?

Phrase - No

Solution - sometimes you do have to say no, but if you can offer a solution then at least people feel that they have not reached the end point yet, that there is hope and people still leave with a positive impression and the feeling you have been helpful.

Still think you cannot always be positive?

Creating an excellent first impression

Customer Service and Anxiety

15th October 2020

This week I have certainly have earned my badge in dealing with anxious customers.

I have learnt that when dealing with anxious customers the key is to keep calm, be confident in your decisions and ensure you are constantly available for customers to be able to speak with to reassure them.

Here is my seven step by step guide to dealing with anxious customers, because in the world we live in at the moment, it is crucial to be able to do this effectively.

1 - Every concern a customer has - even it not directly related to the crisis you are dealing with - is valid however small it is in the scheme of things and must be treated with equal priority.

2 - For customers who are directly affected by the situation you must ensure you are constantly and effectively communicating with them and ensuring you are available on many channels for them to speak with you.

3 - Although I knew this was key, this next steps has never been more apparent this week. Do not just go in with your information, but empathise with their situation and really listen to their concerns. Active listening and a warm and compassionate tone is key here.

4 - Address their anxieties straight away and don't dismiss anything they say because we all have different anxiety levels and we all feel things differently.

5 - This is key for me: don't be afraid to apologise. Even if the situation is not your fault, you can apologise of the situation and let them know by doing this you have heard them and you understand their concerns.

6 - Reassurance is key. Do this by succinctly focusing on the facts and using reliable sources to explain your decision making and why the outcome is as it it is.

7 - Give customers a deadline for the issue and provide solutions to the current issue with additional solutions for after the deadline.

After the issues have been resolved, ensure you provide continued reassurance and updates as appropriate. You need to be clear and concise in your communications, be factual but always compassionate.

We are human after all and need to feel we can connect with each other.

Just remember, we all make mistakes but it is how your handle those mistakes and deal with people. That is what people will remember when they come to look back on the issue or concern.

Creating an excellent first impression

National Customer Service Week

8th October 2020

This week is National Customer Service Week! Very exciting. The Institute of Customer Service's infographic states the following:

Monday: Knowing your customer and how to deliver for them

Tuesday: Capability and Skills: identifying and nurturing customer service skills in your organsiation

Wednesday: Recognition - celebrate your customer service heroes

Thursday: Leadership - championing customer service in the boardroom

Friday: Trust - building brand reputation by delivering on promises

These are all brilliant. It includes key aspects such as knowing your customer so you can deliver, focusing on your staff so they can deliver to your customers and then celebrating staff who do deliver to customers and on their promises.

I am going to focus on Thursday's statement (since I write this on a Thursday!): championing customer service at the top. If you do not have a culture of customer service that is driven from the top and by this I mean nurturing the skills and leading by example, your cannot expect your employees to deliver on this too. If the boss says 'he cannot spend much time with the customer because he has another meeting to go to' in front of other members of staff, how do you expect other members of staff to deal with the customer. Because we all follow the lead of the person/people in charge; they set the tone for all aspects within a business. 

People at the top need to realise that they have a duty to their business and that duty is to lead by example in all that they do professionally. Children do the same from their parents, they learn good or bad behaviour and copy it. It happens every where so it is not always easy to get right. 

However, by championing customer service from the top and ensuring that staff are really behind customer service means that those people at the top can save their bacon because:  

"There is only one boss, the customer, and s/he can fire everyone from the chairman on down, just be spending his/her money somewhere else."

Customer service is easy. People only want five things when spending their hard earned money and you can practice one of these each day:

Monday: Value for money and therefore a good experience

Tuesday: Customer service: listen and be helpful!

Wednesday: Keep your promises and deliver

Thursday: Quality of the product and experience

Friday: Ease of doing business - again, listen and be helpful!

Happy National Customer Service Week!

Creating an excellent first impression

No Excuses!

1st October 2020

So, last week my husband ordered some new face covers / masks from a seller on eBay and this was the response [word for word] post purchase (as he said to me "Not very good customer service"): 



I’m sending this message as sadly I’ve dealt with a few very rude customers recently (even yesterday) who didn’t read the listing when they made their purchase nor note the despatch date which was stated at the time.

So my SINCERE apologies for the lengthy message ahead but I now feel I need to explain myself & justify the despatch timescale.

As you will have seen at checkout & stated on all the listings,

Despatch currently stands at within 3 weeks.

My despatch is normally 1-2 weeks but I’m on holiday (well a much needed & earned break) 26th Sept -5th Oct which is why an additional week has been added making a 3 week despatch at present. This is only temporary.

As well of my much needed break (my first this year) this timeframe is also because I continue to have an unprecedented amount of sales and as I hand make my items to order I am making my way throughout these sales in date order, I work extremely long hours to serve my customers as well as still attempting to sleep, eat & keep on top of the day to day running of my home.

It was only August that I had finally taken the decision to start giving myself the occasional day off from all the sewing because for months I’d continued 7 days a week, 4/5am starts and 11/12pm finishes & they had taken their toll. 😓😓

👍💪👍 My Hope is, you shall not wait 3 weeks for your item to be made & despatched but I have this 3 week timeframe in place not only to compensate my holiday but also ‘just incase’ as no sewing day is certain on production levels. 👍💪👍

Thank you so much for choosing me but most of all thank you for your understanding. It is much much appreciated.


I message all my customers once items are made & despatched so there is no need to chase your order as I will be in touch.

Very best wishes, take care and stay safe 😷

As my husband also says, "Don't give me problems, give me solutions!" which I tend to agree with. This is not my customer service obsession rubbing off on him. this is the real deal. 

He is right though. We don't want excuses or problems, we want a smooth and easy transaction to any purchase. Even though the seller bothered to reply which is great, I know my husband would have preferred a shorter message saying it was coming without the lengthy message and excuses including mentioning lack of time off and having a much needed break. Some people have not had a proper break at all this year, many cannot afford one considering the current circumstances and finally the seller is in a great position that the business is going well which in these circumstances is amazing!

Does that want to make you buy one of the wonderful range of Christmas Masks available? Or even go back for more!?

Remember: No Excuses. Only Solutions! 

Even Santa Claus finds a way to deliver billions of presents to children all over the world in one night even with the help of a few elves and eight reindeer!

Creating an excellent first impression

Customer Service Should not be a Battle

22nd October 2020

I have realised this week that when people go into negotiations over issues with a relationship or product it should not be a battle: you don’t have to put your battle armour on to have an effective conversation with a customer. 

When dealing with a customer that is not happy with the product or service, it's easy to fall into one of two modes: defensiveness or just giving everything away just to get the person off the phone or out of the meeting!

It is important to note that people don't just buy a product or service, they buy an experience and this experience involves people. There is nothing worse for a customer who in their eyes has spent a lot of money purchasing your product or service and telling the world how good it is, for an error to happen that is very challenging. Imagine then if the customer - already feeling let down and aggrieved - has to fight to be heard, is dealt with unsympathetically and the organisation does not budge an inch? How do you think that customer will feel?

It is easy to implement a few simple negotiation tactics to ensure a win-win situation. This is better than either party leaving a meeting with a sour taste in their mouths and questioning the relationship and carefully built up trust within that relationship, and not just the product or service. 

Here are some negotiation tactics to try when dealing with a tricky situation or customer to ensure a win win outcome:

1 - Listen, empathise and ensure to keep calm at the beginning of the conversation.

2 - Ask exactly what they want! Sometimes by cutting to the chase, and asking what they’re looking for, it may be less than you think! Just because customers are upset with a product doesn’t mean they want a full refund. Maybe they want a discount, a new product, or something else to appease their frustration. Listen and then ask what they would want to help ease the difficult situation and least you know where to start from.

3 - Know your “bottom line”: Know exactly how far you’re allowed to go when talking with a customer. If you know there’s absolutely no way you can give a full refund but that you’re able to give 75% back, that’s incredibly important information. You know where the negotiation will have to end, at least before you pass things off to a manager. It’s important to understand where your ending point is so that you have a firm grasp of what you have to offer.

4 - Stress how important they - your customers - are to you: You want customers to understand that although it feels like it’s you vs. them, you’re actually on their side. Stressing how important this conversation is and how vital they are as customers may get you further than you think. It’s hard to be mad at someone who’s expressing that he or she wants to walk away from the conversation feeling heard, appreciated, and satisfied. It will diffuse tension, remind him or her you’re a human being, and hopefully make it easier to come to a compromise.

Customer loyalty is important. People deal with and buy from people whether business to business or business to customer. As I have said, experience is key as people buy from people and put their trust and faith in people not just the organisation. If you don't handle the situation right, you could lose not just a customer but reputation and we all know that brand reputation takes years to build and seconds to destroy.

Most businesses cannot afford this outcome. The answer? Invest in basic customer service training for all your employees whether they directly or indirectly deal with your customers. It will be the best investment you make.

Creating an excellent first impression

People are Key in Good Customer Service

29th October 2020

Following on from my blog last week about trust, it seems appropriate to talk about how important the people you are in your business when it comes to giving great customer service. 

People give to people, they say in the world of fundraising, but people also buy from people too.

If you are not investing in your people and training them to deal with customers, how will they like you and then ultimately do business/buy from you?

Does your company even do the basics of customer service training with anyone who has a front facing role? That usually means everyone, since everyone picks up a phone at some point to deal with a customer. And don’t forget your internal customers, they deserve a great experience. 

Customer service training is well worth it. When I have organised it and done it over the years, people respond with, ‘I never knew that, but now I have been told and shown, I can do that!’ And, ‘Thanks did showing me ways to never have to say no to a customer.’

People love being invested in and there has never been a better time to invest in staff to support your business for the future. Competition will be fierce to ensure businesses stay afloat and people are key to ensuring relationships with customers.

People like to do business with people they like and trust and a lot of that is how you manage that relationship. People need training in this. It is not always natural for people, but in the main it can be taught if the person is positive. 

Customer service does rely on people with a growth mindset, people that never see a customer as anything but someone to build a relationship with rather than a nuscience. I know you know those people, the ones that chat about their life at the till when you are waiting to be served! Or the ones that you can hear on the phone with a voice that sounds frustrated when the clock strikes 5pm.

Dealing with a customer does mean prioritising them and their needs over your date or event and your time to degree. This all supports the relationship building element of trust that you start to build when you make that person feel valued. 

Three quick tips to great customer service to start any novice on the right track:

Smile and be/ sound positive

Listen and be helpful

Give them your time

Trust me, you will build trust! and customer loyalty. 

Creating an excellent first impression

Good v Great Customer Service

5th November 2020

Following on from my blog last week, people are key in good customer service but great customer service is all about attention to detail.

It is the little things I have noticed that really make people smile. For example, parents have told me how much they love the personal car parking signs and their child’s name on the chalkboard when they visit (pre Covid 19). Many people take pictures of the latter and say how special they feel. They usually add, it’s always about the little things and I could not agree more.

It’s the smile from the shop assistant so you know she is there if you need help (I have zero patience and little time so always prefer to ask for help than search for the item I need). I had some new lavender and linen masks delivered and they had a little extra present included of a decorative clip and they smelled of lavender. This made me feel so happy and gave me a lovely warm feeling that someone had made the effort to make my purchase extra special.

Detail is shown in the automatic upgrade for a room in a hotel I have stayed in 3 times before, or the little chocolate dessert left in my room to thank me for choosing their hotel.

It is the good morning, the thank you’s, use of my name and the helpfulness that are some of the things that set great customer service apart from good. 

It is all down to people again. Are people trained in how to support the customer, to respond and given suggestions of how to engage a customer in conversation. For some this is all natural, but others can to it too with the right support and training. Some people just need to be told and shown to get it right. For others it is natural and for the rest, it’s the wrong job.

You have to have passion, your have to care and you have to want to give the customer an amazing experience and to help them. So many other good and great quotes end with passion and care and I believe this to be true of great customer service too. 

Passionate, caring and proactive staff really do make a world of difference and can make your business not just good, but great!

Creating an excellent first impression

Six Tips to Great Customer Service: Tip 1 - Be Professional!

12th November 2020

It's six weeks until Christmas tomorrow so I am going to do a countdown each week of the six Ps to giving great customer service and use some of my favourite quotes at the same time for a little bit of inspiration as we countdown to the end of 2020. I know what you are thinking, her website is 4 Ps? Yes, but there are two more (just like when PEST went to PESTLE!) and I am sure there is an eighth habit now to the ever popular and widely known seven highly effective habits!

So here is the first: be professional.

What does this mean? Well, it includes saying 'please' and 'thank you', saying 'good morning' and 'how are you', never stepping over the client / sales line and over too much about your personal life. The customer does not need to know.

It means being professional and respectful, yet engaging and friendly as well as honest and clear.

It also means knowing your product. You cannot sell what you don't know. You cannot help if you don't know your product.

Professional means "to be competent or skilled in a particular activity". To do this you must have expertise and knowledge about your activity so make an effort to learn about it. 

I was talking to a colleague about this in the sector and she mentioned how important product knowledge was. She cited that a new member of staff said they were not aware about a certain policy because they were new. She told them that the policy was on the website and that as a new person, you could be expected to have gone through all the key information on the website pertaining to that role to be up to speed on day one. That is being professional (and also another P which I will go through next week!).

Professional is not letting on when you are upset - after all the customer might be having a more upsetting time. Some people call this stiff upper lip. Professional is doing your job to the best of your abilities, honestly, and with  dedication as part of a team and to not be the weak link.

Professional is putting the customer, your team, the organisation first over self, in the end the rewards will come back to you because everyone is winning.

Customers respond to professional, knowledgeable and courteous people. They will always come back for more of the same when they need help.

To conclude, "The mark of a true professional is giving more than you get" and "Professional is not a label you can give yourself, it is something you hope others will apply to you."

Creating an excellent first impression

Six Tips to Great Customer Service: Tip 2 - Be Passionate about your Product and Organisation.

19th November 2020

My colleagues were lamenting the demise of customer service in retail this week and the lack of care, help and professionalism (my first tip from last weeks blog) shown by staff sometimes and in many cases all too frequently.

People seem to be placed in front facing customer service positions who have no passion or care for representing the business they are being paid by nor the customer in front of them who is actually paying them. albeit indirectly.

One of my colleagues was talking about the member of staff throwing her purchases around and nearly chucking them in the bag. Where is the passion or care here?

This could be due to one of three things:

1 - the organisation has not seen fit to give the member of staff customer service training which is shameful and the biggest mistake of all. Your business derives its income and sustainability from staff who know how to help and deliver support to customers. If you have not done this, well in my opinion organisations deserve what they get. I remember once after delivering customer service training in a previous role how grateful members of staff were with one telling me that they had never been told and so now knew how to deal with 'x' and words to use to deal with 'y'.

2 - the person is not valued at the organisation or show to be valued. Again shame on the organisation. If staff are not fairly paid, treated well, valued and looked after then of course you are not going to get the best out of your staff. It is false economy to think anything else. Staff are representing your brand, make sure its good on the inside and out! Of course, I also believe if you are not happy, then go elsewhere where people do value you and you can be passionate about the organisation.

3 - the person is having an off day. I am afraid my answer to this is tough. The customer does not know, nor care and when you get into work you have to adjust your attitude.

There is another option and that is the person is just not good at customer service, but then you wonder how on earth the company made the decision to place someone without these skills on the shop floor!

Generally people want and need to be happy and passionate in their jobs as they do it for over 45 years on average and so it is incumbent on organisations to give the right level of training and to motivate and engage their staff. This will always result in passionate staff who care about their jobs and the organisation they work for.

Take Shep Hyken's example of Ace Hardware. Staff are always helpful in every store you go in. They are knowledgeable and passionate about their organisation and it shows when they deal with customers... who then recommend other customers!

Disney is also another shining example of amazingly passionate people and Disney employees (cast members) go through some rigorous training before going out to deal with their 'guests' as they call them.

I am sure if we thought about our customers as guests too they would have just as magical experience (and it is the season to create this!) with us as they do at Disney.

Creating an excellent first impression

Six Tips to Great Customer Service: Tip 3 - Be Positive

26th November 2020

It is a truth universally acknowledged that people like kindness and helpfulness. I know that when parents were asked on that wonderful documentary series "The Old People's Home for 4 Year Olds" all the parents said that they would want their children to display kindness as the character trait they would most want them to  have. 

I think being helpful is kind and by that fact both positive attributes. The shop assistant that my colleague dealt with that I mentioned in my blog last week was certainly not positive or kind. 

I said in my first blog of this six part series that I would be sharing some of my favourite quotes over the six weeks and this is certainly one of them. 

Customer service is everyone's job in the organisation. It is a fact that 99% of staff can be pulling in the right direction and giving amazing customer service but the other % could be letting down and we know that the single biggest reason a customer goes elsewhere is because of negative dealings with an employee or employees. 

Everyone has to be helpful and everyone has to be positive, otherwise the business loses out and then in the end everyone loses.

Being positive is easy if it's your disposition and you love dealing with people. If not, I would suggest a front facing customer role is not for you. You have to love interacting with people and you have to want to be helpful and spend the time making sure that customer has what he or she needs at the end of the purchase process. 

I remember, when I worked at Harrods to pay my way through university, I had organised an evening dinner with a friend I had not seen for a while and was looking forward that day to leaving in an hour for this. However, I had been dealing with a lady who had placed a number of high price items on the counter and had gone off to the men's section to collect a few items of clothes for her husband. My manager asked me to stay on to help. I rang my friend to say I would be late and apologised. The customer came back up and with the men's clothes and continued to shop. Two hours later I was free to go. I could have been annoyed but I kept being positive and helpful after all she did not know that I had plans and nor would care. She was there as a customer to purchase at that moment in time. As an aside, it was not all bad, I actually got to look after and help one of my operatic idols and this is still one of the highlights of my time at Harrods; I also gained a good commission from the sale! 

It does pay to be friendly and helpful and positive. I later found out she was in London recording as I spoke to her whilst processing the sale and that she had this short window to go shopping. I had let my manager know earlier who she was and the store remained open for her for an additional two hours. My friend who is an opera fan understood too!

So be positive, the experience could be win win for you and the customer!

Creating an excellent first impression

Six Tips to Great Customer Service: Tip 4 - Be Pro-Active ie Helpful!

3rd December 2020

This was always my favourite quote growing up. I think it came from the Wash and Go shampoo advert. It always resonated with me when I went for my first real job and any job since, as well as ensuring a consistency of  brand in both personal and commercial endeavours. 

Part of that first impression is all about positivity and pro-activity. People make first impressions in seven seconds and not only that, when it comes to a life time of a first impression, people remember how you made them feel more than what you did or said. 

The customers journey is key, right from the very first touch point, whether that be in person, on the phone, by email, social media, or through your website. Was the experience smooth and positive and easy. Was the website easy to navigate? It can all be summed up in two words: being helpful.

Shep Hyken talks about Ace Hardware's organisational mentality of being helpful as key to their success. The top organisations are top (John Lewis, M&S, First Direct to name a few) for being helpful and ensuring an easy and pleasant purchase experience. 

This also includes a great experience if the item/service is faulty. We want a resolution and we want it quickly and painlessly! We want help to make this happen and not all sales people are really good at this. People focus on the mistake that has been made, rather than the solution not realising that a helpful solution to a problem can boost your brand even more than if it were a normal easy transaction because you have to work harder to be helpful to make it right. Also, we all know mistakes happen - we are not all perfect.

It is so easy to put yourself in the shoes of the customer and ask yourself, 'what would I want to make this a pleasant and easy transaction' or ' how would I like this issue to be resolved' and then just do that! Companies need to empower people to do this too!

This year, we need helpfulness (as well as kindness and a little magic) more than anything, and I bet you can add a sprinkle of magic and kindness with a little helpfulness to one person that in turn will spread around the world as fast as Santa delivers his presents to the billions of us on Christmas Eve!

Creating an excellent first impression

Six Tips to Great Customer Service: Tip 5 - Be Patient

10th December 2020

I love this quote and I only found this quote this year and it transpires I am a full believer in this saying. Well I am a glass half full person! Winning is great, but you can only win if you have put the effort in and learnt how to get something right through practice and patience. Sometimes you win the sale and sometimes you learn how to create a better sales experience to win the sale.

Great sales includes two vital ingredients covered in the previous tips - listening and being helpful.

I remember when I worked at Harrods and in one particular fashion department there was a regular customer who would come into the department at the start of every season looking for a specific look from a specific brand. Each time she would ask to look at the same size (we only ever carried one of this size) and she would try it on and look at it and leave. She would come back a week later and do the same thing. After three or four times she would then get to the actual purchase stage but would look at every thread and pick out any fault with it so we would ensure that it was faultless. She would then buy it and bingo... the sale was done - until the next time. 

The moral of the story is, it was important to be patient through listening and helping her with the purchase. She would talk about her husband and home and would look at your with sharp beady eyes to make sure you were listening and responding not with the intention to respond but to actually listen and then respond.

So many people get despondent when people don't really listen. How do you know what a customer wants if you do not take the time to really listen to them? It also means you don't care which leads me onto one of my other favourite sayings is "The best marketing strategy ever: care". 

If you don't listen, how can you help? If you don't know what the customer really wants because you have not listened, how can you help them get what they want efficiently and create a smooth purchase process.

The lady at Harrods was wanting a wonderful experience. She enjoyed the anticipation of the purchase more than the purchase itself. I know this because this is how I am. Looking forward to the end result is more exciting for me and more rewarding and enjoyable than the end result itself. What makes the end result so great is the work that has gone into it and the exhilaration of the end result is actually quite fleeting. Then you remember what it took to get there and you realise what makes that experience great - it's the journey, not the destination (another of my favourite sayings) and we need to brush up on the journey (the customer journey) more!

Someone said once that patience is a virtue. I believe it is more than just a virtue - it is central to a great customer service experience. 

Creating an excellent first impression

Six Tips to Great Customer Service: Tip 6 - People - and the right personality - are important

17th December 2020

I love this quote. It is my favourite customer service quote of all time... to date! I am a firm believer that it is therefore people who are at the heart of customer service. You only have to look at the amazing example of Disney and their customer service. They call their customers guests and I think this is brilliant. If we all treated our customers like we do guests in our house (put them first, give them the best, make them feel relaxed and comfortable) we would all be winners at the customer service game! Just think 'be our guest' from Beauty and the Beast!

Disney also put their 'cast members' (staff) on a serious training programme at 'Disney University' to ensure their cast give their guests the best service. Service for them is all about creating that magical experience for both children and adults. In fact, they want people to come back again and again to enjoy this experience so the 'show' has to be first rate every time. Their service model is built around:


Eye Contact

Respect and welcome all guests

Value the Magic

Initiate guest contact

Creative service solutions

End with a 'thank you'

They have 'service' at the heart of their training!

Now, even I know that not every person is cut out nor wants to deal with customers on a daily basis. However, if you are going to apply for a front/ customer facing role in a service sector environment, know that you will have to deal with people and the rule is that customers pay your salary in the end. You have to want to help a customer, want to make them happy with an excellent purchase experience and want to do all you can to ensure this.

I have used the following statistic a lot in my blogs but it is well known that the biggest single reason a customer does not repeat purchase and moves to a competitor is because of the indifference of one employee. I know. I have not returned to a hotel because of a shocking experience with one member of staff; this hotel will remain nameless.

Organisations have a duty to recruit the right staff for the customer facing roles and training staff properly. Staff then have everything they need to ensure they look after the customer. It's that simple. 

Shep Hyken's book  'Amaze Every Customer, Every Time' is all about helpful and friendly staff (central to business success) giving great customer service. If you have not read this book yet, order it! It will inspire you to give great customer service, and you will realise it is so easy too. 

So as we enjoy this season which is full of magic - value the magic that amazing customer service can bring.

Creating an excellent first impression

Be kind to each other and to customers!

24th December 2020

This is a short one since it is Christmas Eve, but I saw this quote the other day and I decided to use it in this blog. 

I remember watching ‘Old people’s home for four year olds’ a while back and one of the key things that the parents of the four year olds said was that they wanted their children to grow up and be kind. They felt that kindness was the most important aspect for their children to learn, and be. I remember thinking how important this was at the time and how great it would be if everyone grew up being kind.

This year, it has been so important for us to be kind to each other, respect and think about each other and as we move into 2021 we certainly need to consider this even more as much of the country goes into a full Tier 4 lockdown on Boxing Day. 

The more we can be kind to each other and think about each other, the faster we can get out of this situation.

The same should be of customer service: kindness to the customer is imperative and this could be listening and responding kindly and helpfully to make their experience easy and positive.

Just a little thought for 2021!

Merry Christmas!!

Creating an excellent first impression

New Years Resolution: Have High Expectations - your customers do!

31st December 2020

Every year I make New Year's Resolutions to ensure I have a focus for the year and don't while away the next 12 months aimlessly.

High expectations is a good one to have. People feel valued and motivated when others have high expectations of their ability and ability to achieve and generally those high expectations will be realised. 

I have seen how children respond when you have high expectations of them. They respond positively and work hard to reach the expectation level because they are motivated to achieve when you have such high expectations of them and their ability. It is incredible to see what can be achieved when you challenge people to meet to rise to a high expectation.

Customers have high expectations when they go into a shop or online to purchase something and so they should spending their hard earned money.

Two examples of this I experienced today! Firstly, I went to purchase an item of clothing online, and there was no PayPal purchase option. I decided against buying the item because it was not easy (ie a payment option there and then) and I could not be bothered to go and get my wallet, get my card and add the numbers to complete the transaction. This is a luxury retailer too. I have high expectations as to what I expect in the purchase process: ease of transaction is key,

Secondly, whilst doing the shop for the last minute NYE's goodies in a well known and ethical supermarket, the staff member at the till totted up the three items I purchased. The total came to £37 and I know it should have been £32. Rather than apologise for the error and the additional non existent bottle of wine added, he went on about how he could not alter the transaction / take of the additional spend; we all know that a supervisor always has to do this. As customers we have high expectations of how we are treated and we know what is right.

So consider this for yourself too. Look at what you can achieve this year by having higher expectations and you will look back and think at the end of 2021 - wow, I achieved that!

Now I just have to find the goals I set for myself at the end of 2019 for 2020 (which I have lost!) to decide on my 2021 goals. I probably should add, be better at personal admin for 2021!

Happy New Year!

Creating an excellent first impression

Start Great Customer Service Now! Don't Wait for 2021 to Fly By!

7th January 2021

Do you always have good intentions at the beginning of the year and then these drop off the list or cease a few weeks into the New Year!?

Why not make the change this year and start as you mean to go on. Ensure you are giving amazing customer service from day one... make it a New Year's Resolution.

The only game changer in business today is great customer service and organisations doing it right have the edge. 

One of my favourite quotes is "The best marketing strategy is customer care" and I very much believe in this. 

If you don't have great customer service now, it is going to get harder and harder to provide it. Starting from scratch: training staff, creating a service level agreement, creating smooth customer friendly processes, looking at the customer journey and the touch points to make them customer friendly, modelling the behaviour and reviewing this will take time to implement. 

Organisations rely on customer to purchase their product or service and for repeat business and ensuring excellent customer service is key.

As an example, I am currently having a new bathroom fitted. It was started on Monday and then lockdown happened! Thankfully trade workers can continue to work. I have had a few small issues (surprises, promises not kept, lack of care and attention from all sides and with regard to additional fittings) that I am not very happy about and emailed the key contact at the business in question. The lads working spoke to me and went through everything which was reassuring and I was surprised not to have had something from the main contact. Two hours later, and after a very helpful email directly from him, he paid me a personal visit (socially distanced and outside as the person responsible for the job and the tradesman on site) to go over everything. I was very impressed. He knows that I am keen to use him again to do my kitchen!

It is never too late to begin great customer service but don't leave it too long because your competitors will steal your customers!

If you are just starting, others will be ahead but you can catch up. If you don't start you will fall further and further behind and it will be harder to catch up.

Don't forget that you must ensure that everyone is on board with this. The biggest single reason a business loses customers is because of the indifference of one employee. You must ensure that everyone is tuned to the training and that new people coming in after have the training. You must ensure that the service level agreement is followed and that people are picked up for any errors or have a refresher in customer service using examples and real life situations to get people to think about how they could do things better. Get them to put themselves in the place of the customer and see how they would want to be responded to. I always have a slide of scenarios and negative statements that can be turned into positive statements because I believe you never have to say no to a customer, but that if you do you should always present another option.... and that's a whole other blog!

So make your second New Year's Resolution - after having High Expectations - to initiate and provide outstanding customer service. 

Creating an excellent first impression

Customers are an Opportunity, not a Nuisance, for your Business.

14th January 2021

I come across insightful quotes every so often, but even less often am I taken aback by who they are attributed to. 

Ghandi, as far as I know, lead the successful campaign for India's independence from British rule. After more research (which I have to do when something astounds me and to learn, so I don't feel so ignorant!) I find out he was a lawyer too (and of course their customers are very important to them).

What a great quote for January. To feel inspired to treat all our customers as an opportunity for our businesses and to realise that our livelihoods depend on people. 

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last 10 months, Covid has shut down businesses and closed doors - because of lack of customers. 

Maybe this is the wake up call for businesses to realise that the goal of a company is to get customers, to make profit, not to make profit. You cannot do the latter without customers. S/he is the purpose of it, as Ghandi says. 

We need to view customers as central to our businesses and treat them as such. They are as much a part of the fabric of businesses as the till / card reader etc. 

Customers should be made to feel part of the family. I know that when I am listened to and my purchase or transaction is looked after well, I relax and feel comfortable that everything is going as I expected. I know, for instance, when I have an amazing stay at a hotel or B&B. How? I feel comfortable and I can relax, like I am at home. We should make feel customers feel comfortable to do business with us at all times, after all that ensures repeat business, the goal of great customer service. Why spend all the marketing on just getting customers, you need to keep them. It takes seven times more expenditure to find a customer than to keep one.

We could just do one thing: respond to all customer emails within 24 hours whether with a solution or a next step or even (if you are working on the front line) smile at someone and say hello. When I am in Morrisons, I try and reverse it and use the name of the check-out member of staff when I thank them and say goodbye. The response every time is not one of 'how did she know my name' but warmth that I took the time to notice and use it. People love the personal touch so how about try and get peoples names and thank them when you say goodbye at the end of a telephone call. Acorns to oak trees!

Ghandi had a truly inspiring life and career and he lived to serve I find out when reading his background. I can now see why - and how - this quote is attributed to him. 

Creating an excellent first impression

Deliver on your Promises or lose Customers

21st January 2021

Recent experiences have reinforced this message to me strongly. Promises are fine, unless they are not delivered. There is nothing worse in life than being promised something or promising something and then not delivering on it or not having it delivered whether you or the other person is an internal or external customer. Don't forget, your brand on the outside is only as good as your brand on the inside.

I remember in a previous organisation I worked, someone talked to me about how hard they worked and did all the right things (subjective, I know) and wondered why they were not picked for a role that was up for grabs. To be fair, working hard is important and doing the right thing (in my opinion) but it is not enough if you are not working hard  - SMARTly - and doing the right thing to gain results because you need an output / result from the hard work and right way of doing things, otherwise no one can see the end result of your hard work / good efforts.  

Customers don't see the work that goes into a blue cardigan for instance. Watch the Devil Wears Prada for a lesson in what goes into the Blue Cardigan that the members of the public can buy in a shop as an example of what customers don't see. They will only see if the blue cardigan works for them, fits their style, that it is fashionable and is of good quality. There is much more that goes into that Blue Cardigan!

I am always careful to promise actions and outputs that I know I can deliver on. If I cannot, I will offer an interim solution to see whether something can be achieved. Your promises have to be as SMART as your hard work.

Be consistent with your promises (this is how you build a personal brand of always delivering and I am a big believer in a sound and respected personal brand). Ensure you can see a way out  or a secondary solution if you promise something before you know you can achieve it. Of course, if money is no object you can promise the world (or a pizza flown from the US from a specific pizza place if you know the story!?).

I had some work men in the house recently who promised to get the final job finished on the Monday just gone and as I write (four days later) it has still not been completed.

I have had retailers promise to contact me about a purchase by a certain date for an update and not received a communication by the promised date with a solution or even an update!

I have had had friends tell me that their bosses promise change or say they will consider an email they sent (that they agree with) at a later stage, and they never give that time or don't follow up.

It all leaves me (and them) disappointed with the brand or personal brand and you feel demotivated or undervalued and you start to not want to believe any more promises. In fact you start to distrust that person or organisation or not shop at the store or deal with the person in question. It's how businesses lose customers they have worked so hard to get and keep, whether internal or external.

If only people give themselves more time when promising something or under promise and then over deliver. It's much better this way round than the other!

So remember next time when you are with a customer and they ask how long it will take, build some realistic timescales in for a response to their solution or let them know you will call them on 'such a date' for an update. When dealing with friends, don't say (post Covid) that you will see them at 7pm when you mean 8pm!

Work hard, be kind and respectful, and deliver! Simples!

Creating an excellent first impression

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

28th January 2021

Great customer service requires people in organisations to work together. You will probably know the following statement that customers leave an organisation mainly due to the indifference of one employee. 99 people out of 100 could be doing an amazing job, but if one person has a bad day or is not giving 100% it affects the whole organisation, and thus the team.

I have read so many books on teams over the years. One of the books that has really stuck with me is "Five Dysfunctions of a Team". It charts the key reasons why teams do not work and how you can resolve this. It also suggests that genuine teamwork is elusive. 

Teams are constantly shifting as we work during a time when people do not stay in jobs for life so teams are constantly forming, storming, norming, performing and mourning. I think it is possible to have genuine team work at points of a cycle but - probably with a shifting and ever changing and dynamic workforce - not throughout. 

However, some firms might dispute this. Some of the top firms for customer service in the UK such as John Lewis. Direct Line, M&S etc would say that team work is vital and comes from a sound internal culture of valuing all members of your staff. It is hard in some organisations to create equality when everyone does different jobs, but the perks have to be different for each team and within the teams (eg sales and marketing, finance, shop floor staff, distribution etc) for people to feel that they are treated fairly. I know that this has been key throughout my career. It is worth noting that focus within an organisation on one team might lead to other teams feeling that they are not as valued. Spending equal amounts of time and energy on all your teams is therefore key to feeling valued and being treated fairly within an organisation. The cleaners are just as important as those stacking the shelves and staff at the checkout. Each has their place in the organisation, each is a cog in the wheel to make the wheel go round. 

I always mention in my line of business that when a family visits, they see tidy lawns and well kept buildings with excellent signage guiding them to meeting a smiling and welcoming receptionist sitting in a clean and fresh smelling reception room. They may enjoy refreshments / food with a member of the admissions team all before they have met a member of the academic/teaching staff - the key reason for a school! First impressions are vital.

In my various roles both working within and leading teams within businesses, I have realised that success only happens when the team is aligned. This comes from 

1 - great communication,

2 - a team committed and focused on shared goals and results,  

3 - everyone doing their fair share and supporting each other ie if one member of the team's workload increases and you have the time, offer to help (even if that is stuffing envelopes!), 

4 - a diverse team of personalities ,

5 - everyone contributing equally and everyone being heard and listened to and treated equally and or fairly,

6 - being organised 

7 - great leadership. The leader is there not to micro manage but be the glue holding the team together, responsible for setting the pace, offering encouragement and motivation, a listening ear and keeps all members of the team updated. Great leaders promote the teams successes and take responsibility for the teams failures. Accountability is key.

8 - Finally, a great team has fun together. After all, you spend more time with your workmates than you do at home!

From my experience (and I have been lucky enough to experience great teams) they do work and perform when the above eight attributes happen.

I have heard people say there is no such thing as a team. I disagree. I know one of my greatest hero's - Margaret Thatcher - was focused on the individual above community (it's the only aspect of her three premierships which I don't agree on - but leaders do not get it right always!). However, I believe as humans we naturally need company and people around us, and so work best in teams and win together as a team. 

After all, even Lewis Hamilton and Andy Murray have a team behind them!

Creating an excellent first impression

Legendary Customer Service

4th February 2021

Google defines legendary as based on legends and remarkable enough to be famous; very well known.

The companies that deliver that extraordinary/legendary level of service don't have to tell customers in their voicemails and emails, quite honestly; they just do it!

You know - we all know them. But what is that makes them legendary?

When I was studying for my CIM Marketing Diploma nearly 20 years ago now, I learnt about customer delight. I remember at the time realising that this was a powerful feeling that organisations could create for their customers and allow them to keep them (after all the goal for any organisation).

Customer delight was all about an organisation exceeding expectations giving the customer 'delight' in the experience.

Today - 20 years on - not much has changed. Customer delight is repackaged as "exceeding customer expectations" and in doing so creates (another buzz phrase): legendary customer experience.

It includes doing the basics (meeting expectations):

- Treating customers with respect

- Acting with integrity

- Being polite 

- Trusting your customers - don't call them liars!

- Being responsive - set an SLA for response time that shows you care! And stick to it!

- Doing what's right for the customer 

- Doing right by the customer 

- Showing empathy and understanding for the customer's situation

Caring about your customers (we can tell when you don't)

- Being willing to help your customers

- Adopting an attitude of "yes"

- Doing what you say you'll do

- Understanding your customers - the person, the situation, their expectations, and more! (Listening!)

- Making it effortless for customers to do business with you

And then there's exceeding expectations:

- Being professional - Identifying/understanding my expectations - and exceeding them

- Being passionate about your product / organisation and doing the unexpected and therefore adding elements of delight (including personalisation) that I would appreciate

- Being proactive - why should the customer wait for you; and be helpful!

- Being positive - at all you do, in every interaction

Finally, be consistent - from interaction to interaction, from employee to employee Once its done for the first time, we expect it every time and for it to get better!

Just think of the 4 P's and you cannot go wrong!

Creating an excellent first impression

Passion in Customer Service

11th February 2021

So in the week where we look forward to Valentines Day, I thought I would add a little passion into my blog this week!

Passion is one of my four Ps but I tend to focus on professionalism, proactivity and positivity in the main throughout my ramblings. 

What is clear throughout my life and experiences in customer service, you need to interact with passionate people. So advice of the week, if you don't feel passionate about your organisation, service or product, move on. Don't bother faking it as customers know. 

You can spot passion a mile off as the customer: the person who comes up to you to offer help, who listens (really listens with their whole body and eyes and not just to reply but to understand) to ensure they can help you properly, efficiently and competently, who really wants to make sure your experience is a five star / red carpet feel experience. 

There are so many people in front line positions, who interact with the customer, who are doing their job because its a job. I know that most of you are not going to love your job all day every day, but you have to do this for 40-odd years, so make it count and be involved with an organisation, service or product that you believe in. Trust me, you will be better at customer service and give a far better customer experience to the customer. 

In the end, people do business with people and how you are with people matters. No one wants to do business with a negative, unprofessional, unhelpful and unenthusiastic member of staff. That is not the experience we are after.

Companies and businesses should train people in customer service if they want the best results. Most companies have inductions and this should form a part of it. No company should assume that a person knows how to do great customer service automatically or a certain way and every organisation has a different way of creating great customer service. However, they will assume that if you have applied for a job that you are half interested in the company and a little bit more interested in more than than what's in your pay packet at the end of the month. Companies are paying you to do a job and if they invest in you, which many do, you should be paying that back by being a good return on investment for their training. 

So if you display passion, the people you interact with with return to deal with you which helps the business you work within. In the end, the company you work for will continue to invest in you and display a professional passion for you in their company.