Archive for Top Tips

How to maintain a positive service process to keep clients coming back

Sometimes, when someone says ‘have a nice day’ it genuinely means something. A stranger wishing that your day is nice can actually make your day nicer as a result – a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course we have all heard the line ‘have a nice day’ muttered to us in a bored monotone by someone who is clearly having a very bad one.

The droning automaton is clearly following his or her company’s customer service process. This presents a problem. Given that, I’ve written about the importance of establishing a process in order to ensure consistency of service, especially when your business is growing and you require new staff to operate to your standards.

Though reciting ‘have a nice day’ probably isn’t a specific aspect of your process, you don’t want to create the situation where your process is something to be trudged through and resented by your staff. Especially if that resentment becomes obvious to clients.

This can be partly avoided by ensuring that your process provides your staff with enough flexibility and freedom. I’ve written previously about how a process can be a series of checks which you use to asses, then respond to the situation accordingly.

If the imaginary individual mentioned earlier was following a process which involved engaging the customer socially, but was given the freedom to write their own script, then perhaps they would sound more convincing.

The real key though is complementing a solid, consistent and successful process with a sense of enthusiasm and urgency. The real grating point of the ‘have a nice day’ scenario is the lack of sincerity. Try replacing that negative image with memories of times you have encountered people who take genuine pleasure in their work.

To create enthusiasm about the process you need your staff to follow, give them a stake in that process. Ensure goals and responsibilities are not merely allocated, but discussed, shared and understood. Sharing information creates a sense of unity and urgency within an organisation.

Ensure you compare results with these goals. You don’t want to get mired in analysis paralysis, but sharing and discussing outcomes as a team and handing out rewards where they are due builds on these foundations.

To keep this enthusiasm within a framework, you can remind your staff of the concrete aspects of your company’s process by emphasising the adaptability of the areas which are not fixed. Setting new, frequent and varied mini-objectives and encouraging experimentation with new techniques in areas that you are want people to leave their own stamp on caters for creativity and innovation and above all, make sure you keep on top of the process and not too deep in it. Retain and overview of how your staff are performing – these regular goal setting and sharing meetings should help. Be aware of individuals departing too far from the plan and those following it in a soulless, uninspiring manner. If you discover any rogues and robots, then act on it and you can continue to deliver with quality and consistency.

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To trust or not to trust….

Our whole world is built around trust. The idea that people will do what they say they will do is central to society. Certainly the economy is built around trust – without trust there can be no confidence. A global economy relies on the fact that one party trusts that the wealth they perceive to be valuable is actually worth something to others.

When you paying for an apple, you trust that its price has been fairly calculated based on the costs involved in bringing that apple to market. The vendor places similar trust in you, or rather the metal discs you give them. They trust that these can be exchanged for something of equal value to an apple. The items aren’t directly comparable but, as long as both parties trust that they are making a fair deal, apple sales continue.

Unfortunately, the importance of trust is easiest to understand when trust is misplaced. On a global scale, and in very simplified terms, the 1720 South Seas Bubble and the housing bubble of 2007-8 serve as examples when many placed trust in value that simply wasn’t there.

From buying apples to investing in housing markets, trust is essential in all areas of business and I’ve written previously about how very precious and fragile it can be – especially on a personal level. If you choose to operate without sound ethics or honesty you might succeed for a time, but when that trust in you is broken it is incredibly difficult to build again. If people no longer trust in the value of your product or service, you will experience your own personal crash.

The obvious difficulty is that you can only be totally assured of your own honesty, integrity and trustworthiness. Not everyone applies the same standards as yourself but, as the world is built around interactions, you need to place trust in other people. One of the top ‘wish I’d known’ issues in a survey I recently carried out was people. Respondents wished they had known to be less trusting and more discerning.

We all need to be discerning, but ‘trust no-one’ isn’t a realistic option. As all commercial transactions ultimately involve mutual trust this approach would lead to an alienated, paranoid existence. A study published by Oxford University in 2014 certainly found that people with more generalised trust are healthier and happier.

Generalised trust is an important idea. The belief that, on average, the majority of human beings are decent people keeps you from sinking into paranoia. The words ‘generalised’, ‘average’ and ‘majority’ also serve to remind you that a reasonably large percentage of people may not be deserving of trust. In short, stay positive but stay mindful.

To be mindful and discerning about who you trust, it pays to start from a blank slate each time a key decision needs to be made. The vagueness of the words highlighted above is a reminder that trust is not a binary issue, that there are many grey areas and that the same individual is capable of moving along a sliding scale of trustworthiness. Every situation could be slightly different.

There is a difference between a rugby referee asking his TMO ‘is there any reason not to award the try?’ and ‘try, yes or no?’ The first question is an invitation to challenge a preconception, the second is open. In order to be more discerning, always ensure you are asking yourself the open question and considering all the evidence, rather than working to confirm or challenge a preconceived opinion. Asking yourself ‘is there any reason not to trust this person?’ is less open and less discerning than starting a fresh enquiry with: ‘should I trust this person?’

The world functions on trust. The majority of people in the world realise this and therefore mutually beneficial interactions are possible and common. To weed out the minority who don’t, you need to ask yourself open questions and treat each situation as unique. There is no need for despair, just discernment.

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