Posts Tagged ‘Communication’


To Fix Your Service, Fix Your Systems

Man working with electrial componentsLet’s imagine you own a body shop.  Some of your customers start reporting (in person if you’re lucky; on Yelp if you’re not) an unsatisfactory customer interaction with one of your cashiers.  Your first impulse is to bite the young lady’s head off, but I hope you’ll hold that impulse in check and look at the situation dispassionately.  You may see something like the following:  your cashier’s disorganized, doesn’t have proper change, doesn’t have her computer turned on at the beginning of her shift–in time to serve you, the first customer who walks up to her–and can’t find a pen for you to sign the credit card slip.

What you’ll discover, in other words, is a failure of systems.  Including some or all of the following:

• Onboarding: why wasn’t she prepped on what the necessary supplies are for starting a shift?

• Training: has she been instructed in one of the workplace organization systems, perhaps 5S, which is a component of Lean Manufacturing methodology?

• Scheduling:  Was she told to show up at the minute the body shop opens rather than a more realistic 30 minutes earlier so she could both mentally and physically prepare, get her terminal switched on, get her bank ready to make change, and so forth?

• Hiring. Saying that there was a failure in hiring is sort of like saying it’s the employee’s (cashier’s) fault, but not really.  If she is wrong for this position–too shy, not detail-oriented enough, etc.–it’s not her fault, it’s the fault of the system (or hunch, in far too many companies) that is responsible for selecting her, in error, for this position.

So, when the customer service at your business goes bad, it’s almost certainly because one or more of your customer service systems are broken. (As the founder of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company has often said, if something goes wrong once, it might be the fault of the employee.  If it happens twice, it’s definitely the system.) And that’s what’s most important to understand about customer service systems: Gaps in organizational performance are almost always the result of a breakdown or lack of an appropriate Service System.

In my cashier example, it’s clear that a system needs to be developed to ensure that all supplies are stocked before each shift. This could be in the form of a small checklist or a job description that clearly defines the role of each employee. However the organization chooses to deal with the situation is fine – as long as it solves the problem for good. The absolute wrong thing to do is to yell at the cashier for not stocking the items. Not only is this demoralizing for a good employee who is trying her best, but it also doesn’t solve the problem systematically–in other words, in a sustainable manner.

So, how do you discover the systems that are missing or mis-designed? There are systems for that, but it is first and foremost dependent on building a culture where mistakes are embraced as learning opportunities, and guest complaints as opportunities for improvement. Turning every issue that comes up into a witch hunt will make your service team timid to the extent that they’re more focused on covering their, uh, assets than on providing service. You need your employees to tell you when they’ve made a mistake – so that it can be fixed in the future–systematically.


The Nextiva Mobile App: The Death of the Desk Phone

6-18 Nextiva AppIn today’s hyperconnected world, your customers expect you to be available whenever they need to reach you. Today’s business environment moves at a rapid pace and you can’t afford to be disconnected from your customers or team members. In short, mobility is essential to your productivity and business success. Luckily for you, there are now communication tools available that can eliminate the stress of missing an important phone call. Cloud phone systems have quite a few features to help out today’s business professionals, but none are as essential to your business as a mobile app.

At Nextiva, we offer the Nextiva App that combines voice, video, instant messaging, and presence into a single application that you can access from your desk phone, computer, or mobile device. You no longer need to worry about giving out multiple phone numbers because you can be reached via your main business line at all times, no matter what device you are on. The Nextiva App gives your business the flexibility and freedom to take your business phone with you anywhere; you can even take that conference call from the beach and no one will know!

Business Benefits:

  • Stay connected on-the-go, 24/7
  • Transfer calls between devices
  • Manage your phone system from anywhere

Key Features:

  • Instant Messaging
  • Presence
  • Enterprise Directory
  • Voice Calling
  • Video Collaboration
  • Call Pulling
  • Cloud Sync
  • Chat Rooms
  • Call Controls

The Nextiva App is compatible with Nextiva Office plans and is supported in Windows, Mac OSC, iOS and Android platforms. It can be added to customer accounts, and a simple download from Nextiva.com of the version you need, along with a quick call to our support team, will add the freedom and mobility of the Nextiva App to your business communications.

To learn more, visit our Nextiva App page or call (800) 799-0600. 


How to Under Promise and Over Deliver to Your Customers

6-17 over deliver smallHow well you connect with your customers through your products, services, and support will determine whether they come back to you to buy again and again. But even if you sell the most amazing products ever, there’s still room to improve your customer service. One strategy is to underpromise and overdeliver. What do I mean by that?

Some may tell you to think of underpromising what you can give a customer as an “in case of emergency” cushion for worst-case scenarios, but it’s better to plan for success than for failure. By promising one thing (5-day delivery, for example) and beating expectations (2-day delivery) you'll surprise and delight your customers. And that will keep them coming back. Here are four ways to ensure that your customers are constantly enchanted with your service, plus one freebie tip for the customer who cannot be satisfied.

When you thank your customer for her business, ask her for feedback.

One way to know how to overdeliver to your customers and also gain valuable insight is to ask your customers what they want. Institute an outreach program that connects with customers within 7-10 days after the transaction is complete. Ask your customer to provide specific ratings and input on a few specific topics. Then look at trends. If you constantly hear that your product isn’t well-packaged and sometimes gets damaged in shipping, that’s something you can take direct action to improve.

Work smarter with Customer Relationship Management Software (CRM).

If you’ve ever called a customer service line, been transferred, and then had to re-explain your situation, you no doubt were frustrated that the company didn’t keep better records on your past interactions with it. Delight your customers by storing detailed records on past transactions and calls with CRMUsing CRM, anyone with access to the software can become an expert in your customer’s history quickly and painlessly and instantly improve your customer’s experience.

When your customer completes a transaction, surprise her with a gesture.

There are many ways to acknowledge your appreciation for your customer’s business. You might send a handwritten thank you note for doing business with you — in this day and age, handwritten notes carry a lot more significance than a canned email. You may offer a small discount if she purchases again within a short time frame. It is important to let your customer know that her business is important to you and that you value it — the incentive or gift is just the icing on top.

If your customer has a problem, find out what the problem is and solve it.

If your business is reviewed on yelp or any review site, you need to stay on top of anything unhappy customers are saying. Make it your mission to solve problems for your customers. In the event that a customer is unhappy with your product or service, make it right immediately. It's not worth them telling their story to 10 more people, is it? Keep that old adage, “the customer is always right” at the center of your actions, and go above and beyond in not only remedying the situation, but making her a glowing fan of your business.

Freebie: So what, if your customer’s demands are unreasonable, Can you say ‘no.’ Yes, you can!

Every now and again you may run into a customer whose demands are unreasonable and who refuses to be pacified with your customer service efforts. While you may be tempted to appease this customer’s demands, it is better to put your energy toward your customers who do appreciate your efforts. Sometimes you may have to tell these challenging customers, “I'm sorry, I couldn't possible do that.” Just say No, and move on, as there is little you can do salvage this type of customer relationship. Save your energy and focus for your rational customers.


Call Recording: Why Your Business Needs It to Improve the Customer Experience

6-11 Call Recording smallDoes your company interact with customers over the phone, either by selling your product/service or providing support? If you’re like many businesses, a significant portion of the customer experience is conducted over the phone. If you’re not already recording your calls for training and quality assurance purposes, it’s a good idea to implement call recording with your phone service.

Recording calls is valuable for training purposes, coaching team members on the best way to handle customer questions and concerns, and identifying areas of opportunity that can improve the customer experience. While we would all love for our customers and employees to be happy 100% of the time, the reality is people are human and make mistakes—both employees and customers. By recording your phone calls, you have a record of these interactions that you can reference. Think of these recordings like your business safety blanket.

In the past, utilizing a call recording service for your business phone service was expensive and complicated, but cloud phone systems, such as Nextiva, have changed the game. Cloud phone systems have simplified the process and dramatically reduced the price—a win-win situation for businesses. If you’re a current Nextiva customer interested in utilizing this feature, it can be easily added to all of our Nextiva Office plans for a small monthly fee.

Also, with a cloud phone system you have more control over when your calls are recorded. Below are the recording modes available to you:

  • Always: automatically record all your calls in their entirety
  • Always with Pause/Resume: To automatically record all your calls with the ability to pause and restart recording during the call
  • On Demand: Record selected calls
  • On Demand with User Initiated Start: This mode differs from all of the other modes in that the recording of the call is not started until you record the call. Once the call is being recorded, the pause/resume and stop functionality become available

Nextiva keeps all of your call recordings for six months in your dedicated call recording portal. If you’d like to save a message to ensure it is not purged, simply download the .wav file or store it in a cloud storage system such as Nextiva Drive.

An important thing to note, if you plan to take advantage of the benefits of call recording for your business, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure you are adhere to the law and properly notifying your customers. Many states require that you notify a customer when a call is being recorded, with a friendly reminder such as, “To ensure Amazing Service, this call may be recorded,” so make sure to check the call recording laws in your area. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

If you’d like to learn more about Call Recording and our business cloud phone service, give us a call at (800) 799-0600 or visit nextiva.com, and we’d be happy to discuss the benefits to your business in more detail.


How to Lower Your Work Stress in Five Minutes or Less

Feeling anxious or stressed? Many times I feel both.

This is very common among small business owners. Roger Cohen in the New York Times says “there’s a lot of status anxiety going about these days. People live suspended between the anxiety of being deluged in communication and the agony of receiving none. They have always wanted to be liked, but now they must also be “liked”…They are either on top of things, a momentary illusion, or overwhelmed, a permanent state intermittently denied. They look around wondering how it is possible to keep up. They have access to everything and certainty about nothing. They zigzag between indulgence and denial, frenetic states and cleansing cures, their busy selves and their better selves…They amass to-do lists that cannot get done.”

Diet, exercise and sleep are three of the best ways to battle this permanent state of stress. But what about right now during a very hectic day? Here are seven strategies to lower your stress in five minutes or less.

1. Create “happy” passwords

Pick passwords that make you smile or feel inspired each time you type them. Try including a name of someone you love, a few words from your favorite quote, or a word that sparks a favorite memory. For example, Be@chH0u$e could represent fond family memories at the beach.

2. Let go of those thoughts

Write down on paper the thoughts that keep repeating in your head. Start writing a list, a rant, or whatever is most troubling. You will be surprised how much less stressful things appear on paper than they do in your head.

3. Practice controlled breathing

Sit in your chair with your back straight. Breathe in for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven, and exhale for a count of eight. Repeat for five minutes. This technique, “4-7-8 breathing, is a version of meditation that will help you get centered.

4. Play brain games

Brain games are easy mental activities that help channel thinking away from stressful thoughts. Brain games include counting backwards by three starting at 100, reciting the lyrics of an entire song without the music or creating a sentence where every word must begin with the same letter.

5. Grab some food

6-5 stressed and anxious smallFoods affect our emotional and mental well-being. Foods high in omega-3s, magnesium, zinc, and vitamins B, A, K can help beat stress. They include eggs, dark, leafy greens like kale, pumpkin seeds, salmon or canned tuna, flaxseed, and dark chocolate. If you’re not hungry, grab a green apple to alleviate a headache!

6. Give yourself an ear massage

An ear massage releases calming endorphins in the brain. Start by using your thumbs to massage the ears from lobes to temples, then follow these four steps to ease the tension of a stressful moment.

7. Smile!

Even when you don’t feel like it, smile. It’s difficult to have stressful thoughts when you are smiling. A facial smile will make you search for happier thoughts. Sit at your desk with your eyes closed and smile for two to three minutes, or walk around and smile at others. You can’t help but feel better.

Which strategy will you use to lower your stress at work? 


Never Listen to a Voicemail Again with Voicemail-to-Text

Businessman With a Mobile Phone on the StreetHow diligent are you about checking your voicemails? Does the flashing light on your desk phone cause you anxiety? Wouldn’t it be nice to read through your voicemails rather than listening to the entire message, only to realize you missed a few digits of the caller’s number?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, keep reading.

Cloud phone systems have allowed you to forward your voicemails to your email as an audio file for a while, and although this makes checking your voicemails more convenient, it doesn’t solve the issue of having to listen to a message multiple times to gather all of the important information. Luckily, your voicemail prayers have been answered.

With Nextiva’s Voicemail-to-Text feature you can not only have your voicemails emailed to you, but now you can have them transcribed as well. Prefer to get your voicemails as a text message? Just select that setting.

Voicemail transcription will save you valuable time, while increasing your productivity and efficiency—the combo every busy business owner and professionals strives for. Gone are the days of listening to a voicemail five times to get the full call back number. Now you’ll have all of the information transcribed for you in a text format for easy referencing.

Voicemail-to-Text highlights:

  • SAVE TIME
  • Speech recognition transcribes voicemails to text
  • Easily reference information from voicemails for future use
  • Receive voicemails via email or SMS

Interested? The Voicemail-to-Text feature can be added to any Nextiva Office plan for an additional fee per line. Give us a call at (800) 799-0600 or visit nextiva.com for more information.  


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Are Machines the Future of Customer Service?

6-2 call center smallIn the future, will machines be handling all aspects of customer service? As social media, live chat and texting become part of the fabric of customer service, IBM has begun taking customer service even further into the digital age. The Wall Street Journal reports the tech giant is currently testing new software that uses “emotional analysis” to recognize human emotions when customers type into chat windows, or send emails or tweets.

The software analyzes a variety of data, including how fast someone is typing, what words or emoticons they use, how many times they have contacted the company and whether they use exclamation points or other punctuation, to tell if the person is upset or angry. If so, the computer either modifies its own language or switches the contact to a live customer service rep to handle the customer. In the near future, the Journal reports, IBM will develop a version of the software to handle voice calls.

Will the future of customer service be a software program? Many large companies already use chat or “answer” tools that look like a live person is at the other end, but are really just software. (In my experience, they typically deliver a less than satisfactory customer experience.) Of course, for smaller companies, this type of technology is likely quite a way in the future. Still, it’s a good reminder of the challenges you face from bigger competitors, as well as the ways you can use technology to improve your own customer service. For example, you can…

  • Incorporate CRM into your customer service system so customer service reps can access information about each customer to provide better service.
  • Use a customer service tool that enables you to match the customer’s need or level of urgency with an appropriate customer service rep. For instance, angry customers can be escalated to a specific agent with skill in handling their types of issues.
  • Take advantage of greetings, music and recorded announcements to provide information and assurance to callers as they wait on hold.
  • Choose systems that provide as much detail as possible to customer service reps when they receive a call, such as what queue the caller is coming from and what information they have provided.
  • Look for the option to monitor customer service reps’ busy status and route calls in a variety of ways to get every customer handled as quickly as possible.

Yes, machines are becoming more important to customer service. But as the concept of escalating calls to a live person shows, there’s still no replacement for the sensitivity a real person can provide. By incorporating technology with well-trained customer service reps, you’ll be able to offer the best of both worlds. 


Take Ownership of Errors — Even When Customers Make Them

Posted on by Carol Roth

Young businessman scratching his head confusedly.

Young businessman scratching his head confusedly.

The customer is always right … well, maybe much of the time. But when they place an erroneous order or even break a product out of carelessness, it can cost you big time. It’s not always fair, but if you want to retain your customers, you may have to suck it up.

Regardless of who is at fault, it is your job to fix the problem without laying blame. Your goal is to make the customer happy by resolving the problem — and taking measures to ensure that it never happens again.

Strike a Deal Rather Than Laying Blame

Small businesses cannot typically afford to spend time, resources and money fixing major customer-caused errors for free. But, you can often take advantage of the personal relationship that you have with customers to negotiate a mutually-beneficial solution.

Your job is to strike a deal that gets them what they need, but you may not need to take a huge loss to do it. For example, what if the customer provided the wrong specs for a customized product? If you charged $50 per hour for the original software development, maybe charging $25 for the fixes will cover your costs.

Make sure that your customers know that they are getting a special deal in these cases, but don’t use the word, “compromise,” and don’t come right out and say that you’re taking a loss. Your spirit of cooperation will increase their loyalty, even while they foot part of the bill.

Fix it Promptly — and Stay in Touch

Even clients who are fully at-fault for errors should not jump to the back of the line to get them fixed. If the fix is as simple as exchanging one product for another, take care of it immediately.

Unfortunately, not all problems can be resolved instantaneously through a simple product exchange. Depending on the issues, a fix might take a prolonged period —which might be the case if you have to re-tool to produce the custom-sized widgets that the customer did not originally request.

Even in these cases, you can communicate promptly. Tell customers when they can expect to receive the new products or services. Make sure that they know your plans and, for complex issues, set milestone dates. Then, be sure to check in promptly to inform them of your progress.

Learn How to Do It Better Next Time

Every customer error presents a golden learning opportunity for your business. You just have to be willing to recognize that a change in your process might prevent customers from making the same mistakes again.

Could you prevent future issues by carefully reviewing an order with the customer before making it final? Or perhaps the customer who ordered sauerbraten at your restaurant might not have placed that order if the server warned her that she was ordering sour meat.

You cannot control customer behavior. But, if you keep your mind open, you will see that you do have some control. So, whether you prevent issues by better educating customers, or you double and triple check custom orders before doing the setup, you can go a long way toward vastly improving your customer/vendor experience in the future.

Know When and How to Walk Away

Mistakes happen and everyone deserves a second (or maybe even a third) chance. But you can’t afford continued losses from the same customer forever, so learn when to say “no” to their business.

Your bottom line probably plays the biggest role in helping you decide when to turn down business, but other issues can come into play. Perhaps you realize that the customer is looking for a product or service that you cannot deliver. Or, maybe you cannot come to a meeting of the minds when it comes to price or quality.

Even if you are dealing with a toxic customer that isn’t worth your time or effort, do not walk away in anger. Turning down business is a part of customer service, too. Handled badly, you will gain the wrong kind of fame via vitriolic social media complaints. Handled with sensitivity, you can part company as friends who agree to disagree. 


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Does Your Customer Service Automation Go Too Far?

5-26 automated customer service smallDo you think crotchety senior citizens are the only people who still complain about not being able to talk to a live customer service rep? Think again. When a recent poll asked 1,000 U.S. consumers for their number-one customer service gripe, not being able to get from an automated phone system to a live person was the top complaint among Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers alike.

Although often portrayed as wanting to interact with businesses entirely online, 32 percent of Millennials say their biggest frustration is being unable to reach a live person. Thirty percent of Gen X consumers and 47 percent of Baby Boomers feel the same way.

Of course, this doesn’t mean customers are opposed to automated customer service systems—90 percent have used them and nearly 60 percent say, in general, such systems have improved customer service. But the key is making intelligent use of your automated customer service system. How can you do this?

  • Always offer the option to reach a live person. Don’t make callers guess which button they need to push to get to a live representative, or wait through three minutes’ worth of options. When you run a small business, customers expect to get through quickly and to receive a personalized touch, so make sure you provide this.
  • Provide alternatives. If call wait times are unusually long at a specific time, for instance, offering callers the option to leave a voicemail that is then forwarded to a customer service rep’s email enables them to get their messages through with less frustration.
  • Choose customer service tools that integrate with your CRM. You’ll gain access to historical customer data that immeasurably improves your customer service reps’ ability to provide personalized, relevant service. If customers have been on hold for a while, having their data at the rep’s fingertips does a lot to ease their frustration.

With 87 percent of consumers polled saying customer service systems have a significant impact on their choice of businesses, and two-thirds reporting they’ve stopped doing business with a company due to poor service, using customer service technology the right way is more vital than ever.




 
Nextiva Logo

phone-icon(877) 318-5638 Sales phone-icon(877) 330-0248 Support
Nextiva
Nextiva is the leader in Business VoIP Services. Copyright 2015 Nextiva, All Rights Reserved,
Terms and Conditions Privacy Policy Patents Sitemap