Today's Chief Outsider blog is by guest blogger Diana Kyser McNeff.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Richard Shapiro, founder and president of The Center For Client Retention and author of his recently published book “The Welcomer Edge – Unlocking the Secrets to Repeat Business”.
Since 1988, Richard has been running The Center For Client Retention (TCFCR) which provides research, training and consulting to Fortune 500 companies on how to improve the customer experience. Before founding TCFCR, Richard held leadership positions at ADP (Automatic Data Processing) in Client Services, Client Satisfaction and Client Retention. At ADP, he developed the idea that when there is a gap between service expectations and delivery, the client relationship is most vulnerable —a customer is most likely to move to a competitor. Richard also credits his experience working in his father’s haberdashery store as a boy as the place where he learned the true value of a customer.
I expected a lot of analytics and statistics, given what Shapiro does for a living. However, it was a book filled with real life experiences with interactions with people. Shapiro gives countless personal examples of how he is treated at various establishments and how this treatment makes him feel, and as a result, how likely he is to patronize the business again or recommend it to friends and colleagues. When I asked Richard why the book wasn’t more quantitative, he told me that when he first started his business, almost all of the work he did was qualitative. At that time, there wasn’t a lot of qualitative data available, so he made this part of his niche.
Based on his wealth of client services experience, Richard has delivered in a short, easy to read book, a formula of sorts for delivering retention-generating customer service. He has distilled his experience down to a few key points to help business owners and leaders understand the importance of customer service in retaining customers over the long haul.
The premise behind the book is that interactions with customers are only one-time events unless a merchant or business can make a connection with the customer as a first impression, at the moment that he/she is becoming a customer.
Shapiro classifies Sales and Service Associates into four categories:
- Welcomers — those naturally-engaged people who are genuinely interested in getting to know the customer as a person.
- Robots — these people know the processes and procedures for customer service, but perform them robotically, without any real feeling behind the words.
- Indifferents — the people who could really care less if you come into the store or not. I see this in waiters a lot where they go to great lengths to avoid eye contact as you are furiously trying to get their attention when you need something.
- The last category Shapiro calls the Hostiles. You know, the type that are shocked and peeved that you have interrupted them to ask them to help you.
While Shapiro believes that the “Welcomer” is an innate quality found in certain types of people, he gives a formula and tool kit for “wannabes” who can learn to model Welcomer behavior. Essentially, we did this at one of my businesses after we found a helpdesk “technician” who seemed to be the perfect fit for the job. He had the highest volume of calls every month, and the highest quality and customer satisfaction scores. We developed a test around his skills and then used it as an assessment to screen potential candidates for new hires into the position.
Shapiro has developed a “tool box” for companies to use to emulate “Welcomer” behavior:
- The Greet — a genuine welcome to the customer, making a lasting first impression.
- The Assist — what brought you in today, how can I assist you in your mission today?
- The Leave Behind — an extra, retention building step that will improve retention even for those businesses that employ Welcomers — a request by the sales/service associate for the customer to come back and visit them again.
By hiring true “Welcomers” and deploying these simple tactics, Shapiro believes that many companies could double revenues and dramatically increase profits. In this highly automated, highly process-driven world, businesses need to truly understand that people are what make the difference.
These days, with all the social media outlets that everyone has at their fingertips, customer service can be a make-or-break asset for companies. Good and bad experiences can easily be shared to a large number of people, and can be the first thing that comes up in a Google search when someone searches for your business. This can have a fantastic, or if negative, a devastating long-term impact on a company’s business.