Whosyourgladys.com – Customer Service at the Speed of Change

Putting systems into place to stay on top of industry changes, educating yourself and your staff to maintain credible service, and simply seeing customers as people, not problems, will enable you to turn even your most persnickety patron into a long-term loyal fan.

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Customer Service at the Speed of Change

Marilyn Suttle is the bestselling author of “Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan.”  She is the President of Suttle Enterprises, through which she has trained thousands how to have happier, more productive relationships with customers and coworkers. Please visit: http://www.whosyourgladys.com.

During the bustling mid-day lunch rush, my coauthor, Lori Jo Vest and I met at a coffee shop with a big stack of “Who’s Your Gladys?” customer service books. While we were writing words of thanks to our endorsers and placing the books into mailers, a tall, well dressed young man walked by our table.  He passed us with coffee in hand and a quizzical look on his face, and then he came back.

“My mentor always told me to be bold enough to ask so here goes,” he said, “Who is Gladys?”  We were thrilled that our book cover jumped out at him, and offered a brief description: “Gladys is that customer who isn’t easy. She takes a high degree of skill to manage, but when you do, she can become a devoted fan and a great source of referral sales.” A wide grin spread across the gentleman’s face. I’m a Gladys,” he said. He then told us a story that every business owner and manager should hear, and this is why – without this insight about today’s savvy consumer you could be losing business, and your reputation. I’ll share it as best as I can through his words:

“I work at a cellular phone company. On my day off, I decided to go in and add on one of the newer features to my phone plan and of course, this meant I was visiting one of my company’s stores. I told the sales guy what I wanted and he flat out refused. ‘Impossible,’ he said, ‘We don’t offer those features.’ That got me mad. I am the type of consumer that goes online, reads every review, and compares features. I do my research. I know what’s new, what’s available, and where I can get it. I insisted that the services were available, and got hot under the collar when the salesman stood his ground. He refused to even entertain the idea that he might be wrong. I was so angry I went to his manager.

The manager was eager to know what had made me so upset. When I told her what happened, she wrinkled her nose and said, ‘We don’t offer those features.’ Unbelievable! ‘Yes we do,’ I kept insisting. I was being a major Gladys. I could hardly believe that this manager would be so quick to dismiss something that I knew as fact. I would not let it go. Finally, just to shut me up, she dug a little deeper, and found out that sure enough, the features I was asking for, were available.”

What really stood out for me about this story is that the speed of change has hit a whole new level when it comes to customer awareness. There are many lessons to this man’s story. Here are three.

  1. What you don’t know can hurt you. If you or your competitors release something into the market at 2 p.m. today, within seconds your savvy customers will see it online and start asking for it. What impression does it make when consumers are more aware of your products and services than your staff? What should you do to avoid this issue? Put systems in place to make updated information available to your staff in an easily-accessible fashion and preferably well before the release of that same information to your customers.Additionally, make sure your employees are taught not to make assumptions. They shouldn’t take for granted that what was true five minutes ago is still current. Make it standard business practice to double check answers before dismissing a customer request.
  2. Consumers want to do business with credible service staff. They have no tolerance for the know-it-all authoritative salesperson. Instead they want to drive the bus and they know they have the power to do so. Customers have more information available to them today than ever before. They know what’s out there when it comes to your product category and they know what they want. Make sure your staff has all of the information they need to serve this knowledgeable customer.
  3. Train, train, train and then train some more. Credibility comes from helping the consumer get the information they need to make more informed decisions. They will love you for it. This means continuous learning has to be a part of every employee’s job description. Feelings matter. You may have the most state-of-the-art equipment, systems designed by the finest minds in your industry, a brilliant business plan AND passion for your profession. Though today three-quarters of your customers will walk out the door without buying a thing if they don’t like the tone of voice or body language of the person serving them. Your company will matter to the customers who believe that they matter to you.Managers are not always trained to teach or use emotion-management skills and they’re a must-have in today’s competitive economy. Investing in people-skills training can go a long way in remaining relevant and viable in today’s market.

Evolving to meet the changing needs of your customers doesn’t have to be painful. By putting systems into place to stay on top of industry changes, educating yourself and your staff to maintain credible service, and simply seeing customers as people, not problems, you’ll be able to turn even your most persnickety patron into a long-term loyal fan.

What do you think?

What is one area of customer service in your company that can use a little updating? What might happen if you put 5% more attention on your people skills, processes, or credibility today?

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The review "Whosyourgladys.com – Customer Service at the Speed of Change" was last updated on 09/10/2009.