A worker with voice low, eyes down, distracted by smartphone in their hand, “welcome to _______ how may we assist you?”
Distracted Passive Engagement is a buzz kill.
Customer service in it’s simplest form is an opportunity to tell the story of your business.
When a customer steps into your business, on the surface they’re looking for a product to purchase. However, consider that the shopper has an ability to purchase a given product in a variety of other ways besides coming to your business.
How many places can you buy coffee?
How many places can you rent cars?
How many pharmacies are there in a five mile radius?
Managers should treat their customers as smart and knowledgable. Typically at their disposal is a smartphone that can answer most of their general questions.
It’s easy to run a business as an accumulation of transactions; you sell and they buy. But if you manage a business in this manner you’re losing an opportunity to convey that theres meaning and substance in the what, why, and how you provide the product and/or service.
When a customer visits your business, visualize them screaming at the top of their lungs, “Gimme a reason to shop here!”
Are you adequately providing the foundations of customer service?
Clean—there’s no bigger turnoff for the shopper than to walk into a business that’s unclean and unorganized.
Time—in providing your service you respect your customer’s time and if there’s a delay in providing the the service or product you apologize and/or inform the customer as to why there is a delay.
Care—the employees care about what they do. They’re engaged fully to the mission of the business and want to be of service to the customer.
The focus on the remaining sections of this article is to discuss how to find those that care. I often tell new applicants the following;
” I can teach them how to perform their job, but I can’t teach them how to care about their job.”
When an employee is simply going through the motions of performing his or her job this can be detrimental for both the customer and business. Poor customer engagement will lead to a decline in generating revenue.
In my own experience as a manager there are two options in how your employees provide customer service.
- Distracted Passive Engagement (DPE)
- Alert Active Engagement (AAE)
Both AAE and DPE can induce the sell of a given product. However, only AAE can induce the sell of a product while also increasing the potential of retaining customers. This customer retention induces customer loyalty and creates the businesses “brand”. Think about it from this perspective…
How does a business create a brand from one-time shoppers of their service?
DPE equals going through the motions. The employee shows up to work on time, the employee says all the right things, and they make adequate sells of your product line. The manager should ask themselves the following regarding employees that may be distracted and passive in their engagement with customers:
- Do they know the details of the products they sell?
- Do they know the attributes of your traditional shoppers?
- Are they able to quickly deduce what the buyers want and need?
Employees that perform AAE don’t just go through the motions. General statements about employees that are actively engaged with the needs of the customer are as follows:
- Typically these employees are in tune with the needs of the customer.
- Employees that actively listen to the needs of the shopper and make appropriate recommendations to meet customer need and satisfaction.
- Employees that strive to find new ways to provide quality service.
Remember the difference between AAE and DPE lays in the foundation that active engagement with the customer leads to greater success in retaining customers over a lifetime as opposed to simply making a one time sell.
In regards to a job applicant; reflect on the following questions regarding the person’s interview:
- Do they have a passion for the service your business provides?
- Are they equipped to serve the public in this capacity?
- If they’ve never been in customer service; can they adapt to a service oriented work culture?
- Are they curious? Good questions during the interview process can mean that they will be equally active and engaged with customers.
- Problem solvers? Do they like to help folks solve their problems. This can be of value to both the customer and the business.
Once they’ve become a member of your staff; harness the potential that you saw both in their application and during the interview process by educating employees on these key points:
- A focus on the long term instead of short term—be willing to lose a sell on a product if it’s in the best interest of the customer to get a given product elsewhere. In being up front and honest regarding the customer’s needs you will build trust. Trust will build customer retention.
- Awareness—be aware of customer body language. An awareness in how customers are feeling provides direction in how to engage with them to meet their needs. This awareness shows the customer that you understand what they want from the service or product that you provide.
- Listen—actively listen. Only by listening can your employees make appropriate recommendations.
- It’s okay—-it’s okay if you don’t know the answer. It’s better to state that you don’t know up front with customers. This builds trust with the customer. Be up front with customers and state, “I’m not sure, but I may be able to find the answer to your question if you give me a moment to research it.”
- Expert—your employees won’t know it all, but go over with them some key topics. Of those topics, find out which topic they feel most knowledgable about. Harness this knowledge and teach them to be experts in this area. Their expertise in a given area can be the difference in making the “sell”.
Good customer service is one step in forming a relationship of trust. It demonstrates that your business can provide the customer with what they need. Once that relationship is built, continue to add layers of trust by maintaining outstanding customer service.
On the surface, customer service seems simple. Be nice, be courteous, and say thank you.
But it takes more to retain customers in this marketplace. The owner/manager that doesn’t consider customer service to be a differentiator does not fully consider the threat of decreased revenue from a decline in customer retention. In the retail space there’s an old saying…
“The customers you really like and want to keep don’t tell you they’re leaving…they just leave.”