In a recent blog we discussed the very sensitive issue of “is it OK to fire a client/customer”. One of the issues highlighted in the case study, was managing client expectations. As business owners, many are prepared to go the extra mile for clients/customers, sometimes at significant cost to the business for little or no return.
Andrew Gallagher, Lollyworld surveyed his online customers asking about their expectations in relation to service delivery. Over 95% surveyed replied they had an expectation of 24/7 service. Kudos to Andrew for asking the question because now he is armed with information to assist him to set terms of service delivery and educate customers in order to manage their expectations.
It was agreed between my colleagues at today’s Albany Creek Business Contacts networking meeting that it is important to set boundaries in relation to client/customer service and to communicate them to your clients/customers. It was raised that in doing this, a business needs to have some flexibility and to make a strategic assessment of client expectations. A good example provided referred to a florist who was approached to provide for a wedding on a Sunday (the business does not usually operate on a Sunday). After assessing the customer and their needs the florist chose to provide to the customer as it was a significant job and it had the potential to lead to three plus more customers. In this instance it was worth service delivery outside of the normal terms.
Mike McFillin, Australian Training School, quite wisely cautioned in relation to creating false expectations, for example, if your trading hours are 8.30am-5pm, and you start answering the phone at 8.15am because you are in the office, and then 8.00am and/or then 7.45am, clients will ring at these times because they know you are there and will answer.
Nathan Dobbins, Core Computers also suggested that business owners should not breech home – that is, if a client/customer indicates they can’t get to the business premises in opening hours don’t let them come to your home after hours. It is suggested that either you stay back at the business premises as a one off (and communicate to the client/customer that it is a one off) or suggest that you will drop it off at the client/customer premises again as a one off. By enabling home to come into the business could open the flood gates to clients/customers blurring the lines between business and private time both from the physical premises point of view as well as operational time of the business (for example, if they can pick things up from your home after hours then it must also be OK to phone you at 9pm).
Business owners need to educate themselves and their people on their systems and processes first, to ensure they don’t create their own false expectations. If the business is very clear on this then communicating to clients/customers can be quite simple. This can be done through a number of ways including (to name a few):
- client/customer charters,
- welcome letters,
- at first meetings with new clients,
- quotes that set out timeframes and processes (not too little and not too much),
- formal terms of trade,
- signage on shop front,
- website (eg, trading hours),
- social media,
and so the list goes on.
The moral to the story is to not create client expectations that are not reasonable nor sustainable. Once your processes and systems are developed and you and your people know how things work, how long it takes for things to work and the performance measures for outputs, this can be appropriately communicated to clients/customers to minimise any false expectations.
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The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s (OAIC) released the results of the 2013 Community Attitudes to Privacy survey on 9 October 2013 which show that Australians are becoming more concerned about privacy risks and that they expect the organisations they deal with to take effective steps to safeguard their personal information.
48% of Australians believe that online services, including social media, now pose the greatest privacy risk. Only 9% of those surveyed considered social media websites to be trustworthy in protecting privacy.
Australian Information Commissioner, Professor John McMillan, said the survey results confirm the growing community concern about privacy risks arising from the explosion in use of social media since this survey was last run in 2007.
‘In the last 5 years we have seen a significant change in how people communicate and interact online. People’s attitude to the importance of personal privacy protection is changing at the same time,’ said Professor McMillan.
The three most trustworthy industries, in relation to privacy, were health service providers, trusted by 90% of participants; financial institutions, trusted by 74% (up from 58% in 2007); and Government, trusted by 69%.
Of great importance in the results, is that the public expects data security protection to be similar in both the public and private sectors. 96% surveyed expect to be informed if their information is lost (for both government and the private sector) and around 95% surveyed also feel they should be made aware of how their information is handled on a day-to-day basis.
Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim said it was clear that the Australian public continues to insist that their personal information is handled with the highest possible standards.
”Here is a business imperative for organisations to be transparent about their personal information handling practices and to ensure that privacy is built in to systems and processes right from the beginning,” Mr Pilgrim said.
Mr Pilgrim went on to say that “Just over 60% of Australians have decided to not deal with an organisation because of privacy concerns, which is an increase from just over 40% in 2007.”
“These results send a very clear message that people remain concerned about how their information will be handled. With a significant number of people saying that they have decided not to deal with an organisation due to privacy concerns, I suggest that business needs to listen to this and consider improving their practices,” Mr Pilgrim said.
The survey showed that Australians are increasingly concerned about the international sharing of personal information; 79% of people feel that cross-border disclosure is a misuse of personal information, and 90% have concerns about the practice.
‘This is an interesting finding given the increasing frequency with which data is being sent off-shore. New privacy laws commencing next March will increase protection around the handling of Australian information that is transferred off-shore, and it will be interesting to see how attitudes change as a result of this,’ Mr Pilgrim said.
Did you know that at least 18% of Australians work in their pyjamas when they work from home – more than any other nation.
So if you deal with a client who works from home make sure you give them a call before dropping in or be prepared to face the consequences!!
But on a more serious note, if you are considering the option of working from home be aware that it is not for all people. It sounds great, but unless you are very disciplined and well organised it can lead to disaster.
There can be many distractions that you think you can handle without too much hassle, but in reality it is not that simple.
Working from home maybe one of those things that you want to try before jumping in the deep end. It can work and be very enjoyable, but you need to look at it from all angles.
- If you have or need clients to come to your workplace how do they feel about it?
- Can you separate home from work hours; that is instead of giving you a more balanced lifestyle would it in fact take the balance away.
- Do your clients understand that simply because you work from home does not mean you are available 24 hours a day seven days a week?
- How do you feel about the isolation of working from home?
- Are you the kind of person who is energised by the interaction with colleagues and the social aspects offices provide?
The other key areas to consider, when considering working from home, are the taxation, other legal/regulatory requirements and insurance/workplace health and safety implications. I hear many comments from people who work from home about what they think they can claim in tax, relying on home insurance coverage even though they are operating a commercial business, not realising some local councils have strict rules on home base businesses etc etc. It is imperative professional advice is sought, before setting up a home base business, from an accountant, lawyer, the local council and insurance broker (to name a few) to get the facts and make sure all the right things are in place and no nasty surprises arise down the track.
If you are considering working from home, take the time to talk to a number of people who have done it or are currently doing it and ask them for honest feedback as to what the benefits and downsides are for them so your decision can be well informed.
How do you measure success? Is someone successful because of the amount of money they have … their contribution to society … their strength of character … their heroic selfless act … or what?
Is a business successful because of how much money it makes … the way it treats its customers … the way it treats its employees … its contribution to the environment … its contribution to its corporate social responsibility … and so on?
A good example of the perception of success is the big 4 banks. With profits, on average, posted upwards of $4Billion each year, you could say the banks are successful. The shareholders certainly think they are and are happy as are those employees/stakeholders who gain benefit directly linked to the bottom line. But, as we are constantly hearing, customers are continuously unhappy and frustrated with services, costs and general treatment. So, in customers’ eyes – are the banks successful?
The point I am getting to is that it is important to make money in business, however, equally important to the dollars and cents, is to set and measure other goals which directly and/or indirectly lead to success.
To illustrate this point, here are some examples:
|Goal||Measure||Action to Support Goal
|Stable Workforce||Less than 1 % annual turnover rate||Hold Exit interviews to find out why staff are leaving
|Increase quality of service||Customer satisfaction 97% or higher||Conduct customer satisfaction surveys.
|Increase Brand awareness||5% increase in traffic to website||Ensure Google Analytics is set up.
|Improve booking rates from enquiries.||Secure 5 bookings from every 25 enquiries||Train receptionist in phone sales.|
Each of these goals contribute to the bottom line. However, the measures and actions are not viewed from a monetary perspective. Remember, customers do not all rate your product or service simply on price; they can look at a lot of other things as well. Focusing on different forms of success in a business and working on them, ultimately will contribute to overall success – and isn’t this what all business owners are trying to achieve?
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We only have one chance to make a first impression. We all know that to succeed in business we need to get it right the first time and every time.
However, mistakes and misunderstandings do happen and there is usually an opportunity to recover if handled properly.
Unfortunately, statistics indicate that more customers than not don’t complain to the business they are dealing with but rather just take their custom elsewhere. Moreover, unhappy people will tell more people about the cause of their unhappiness than happy satisfied people will tell of their good experience. This human nature does not help with word of mouth advertising!!
So how does one recover from a complaint? In a nut shell, FIX IT ASAP and in such a way to reduce retelling of the incident.
Not always that simple I hear you say … that’s right! It depends on the nature and severity of the complaint and the facts of the circumstance.
One key strategy to ensure starting on the right foot in a difficult situation is the current relationship with the complainant. If the nature of the business facilitates, ensure good and nurtured relationships with your customers. Starting with a strong relationship will encourage empathy and willingness from the customer to resolve things with you rather than going elsewhere.
If a customer complains don’t be defensive and retain composure at all times. Address the customer by name and demonstrate empathy for their frustration and anger whether at fault or not.
Offer an apology even if the issue is not your fault – for example, “I’m very sorry you are upset” – such response does not admit blame but does establish some rapport with the customer and shows your interest.
Give the customer your full attention and demonstrate this both verbally (ie, in the responses you give) and with your body language. Maintain eye contact with the customer, don’t fold your arms or use facial expressions which indicate not caring, disinterest or boredom. Don’t allow interruptions, such as taking phone calls or dealing with staff or other customers, when dealing with a complaint.
Don’t make excuses or blame others. Remember, the customer is looking for resolution and not to be fobbed off or worn down by explanation.
If you can’t resolve the matter on the spot, don’t explain the steps you will take to resolve the situation. Don’t lie about what you will or won’t do as this can make things worse. If you tell the customer you will contact them within two days then contact them within two days if only to tell them you are still investigating things and to keep them informed as to where you are at.
Endeavour to make the customer part of the solution … let them know what you can do (not what you can’t so) and see if you can find out what will turn the customer’s dissatisfaction in to satisfaction. Do they want a refund, discount, replacement etc.
If the customer agrees to a solution, act quickly. Don’t create another problem by dragging the chain. Finally, follow up with the customer to strengthen the relationship for the future.