How to Lose a Customer Over 78 Cents

How to Lose a Customer Over 78 Cents

I’m a big advocate and proponent of customer service. As in a huge believer. Ever since my mid-20s when I worked in a retail store called Eastern Mountain Sports and went through some phenomenal training, I am sold out on quality customer care and training.

Unfortunately in this day and age, well-done customer service is hard to find. Sometimes, next to impossible to find.

Several weekends ago, I was traveling with my family back from a wonderful weekend filled with friends, family time, and fireworks. We had stopped in a 7-Eleven to gas up and get a snack for my son. My wife let him get 2 candy bars because the sign said they were 2 for $2. She specified that he could only eat one (which he did not, by the way, but that’s another story for another time!) and this is an unusual treat for my son.

When I went to check out, the checker told me the total, and seeming a little high, I asked if the candy bars had rung up at 2 for $2. They did not, he said, so he proceeded to ring them up again. This time the total was 9 cents cheaper. I still didn’t think that was right, but went ahead and paid him.

When I checked the receipt, I noticed the bars still rung up at the normal price. So, I turned around and politely said, “The candy bars still didn’t ring up at 2 for $2.”

To which the checker responded (without any hint of real helpfulness), “Then that’s probably an old special.”

Trying to maintain my composure (my son, after all, was right there noticing what was going on) I replied, “But the advertised price is 2 for $2.”

He quickly retorted, “Well, I will take the sign down in a little bit.”

“So are you going to honor the price.” My voice at this point was probably noticeably agitated.

“There’s nothing I can do.”

“Like give me my money back?”

“I can’t control what the register rings up.”

At this point, one of the other customers, hearing the exchange asked if there was a manager available. The employee only shook his head no, not even looking at this woman.

At this point, I needed to step away. One, because my son was standing right there, and this was not one of my finer moments. Two, because I needed to cool down before laying in to that employee like I so wanted to do.

I took my son to the car and returned into the store. I went over to the cashier and said, “You might not be able to control what the register rings up, but you can control how you treat your customers.”

He said something else about the register, and I finally told him, “Well, you just lost a customer. We’re never returning to this store again.”

His nonchalant response? “Ok. Have a nice day.”

It was at this point that I really wanted to throw something at him more than a verbal sparring match. I refrained however, and went back to the car and left the store.

I vow never go back to that store again and likely will avoid all 7-Eleven stores from now on – not to be vindictive or spiteful but to support stores who care about their customers and treat them with a sense of value.

How could this have been a totally different outcome?

It would have been very easy for this young man to make me a satisfied customer. All he would have had to do was honor the price on the candy bar and refund me the difference. Case closed. Instead, he opted for the “there’s nothing I can do approach.”

Hogwash.

There is always something you can do if you are focused on the customer.

What lessons can be learned from this exchange?

1. Treat your customers with respect.

I felt little respect from this individual and even thinking about it now, weeks after, gets my blood boiling a little bit. There is no excuse for treating people disrespectfully or with a lackadaisical attitude. Both of those scream, “I don’t care!”

What can you do today that will scream, “I care about you, the customer!”?

2. Give the customer what they want.

The companies that will excel in the future are ones who will not only deliver for the customer, they will over-deliver. Sometimes it’s a simple solution; however, at other times, the solution might be a little more complicated. Bottom line – keep your customers happy.

That being said, sometimes you do have to fire customers or clients. These are people that will not be happy no matter what you do. (That’s a different story and blog post all together.)

How can you over-deliver for a client today? 

3. Always be smiling.

I don’t know how long this young man had been working here, but it was obvious he didn’t like it. Or maybe he was having a bad day. I don’t know and frankly, it doesn’t matter. When you’re in a customer service position, sometimes you have to fake it.

Put a smile on your face. Be friendly. Act like you care (even if you don’t). People respond way better to smiles and friendliness and it will make your day go much better as well.

How can you level up your friendliness today? 

4. Train your people right from the start.

Again, customer service training is key, and either this employee didn’t care to heed his training, or he wasn’t trained. Regardless, he didn’t need to be working that day.

Also, in working with a lot of millennials, soft skills are a necessity that don’t get a lot of attention and training. As a rule, most young people lack these kinds of skills and must be trained in them. Don’t assume everyone knows about customer service. Have a specific training plan and take all of your employees through it.

What is your plan to train your employees in customer service? 

 

4 Free Apps to Use for Team Icebreakers

4 Free Apps to Use for Team Icebreakers

Here are some free app’s that you can use to run icebreaker activities in meetings and for special events. All of these app’s are free; although, some of them offer “Pro” or paid versions that offer even more activities or icebreaker questions.

For each app, I’ll tell you a little about the app, let you know what I like about the app but also what I think could and should be improved. I tried a total of 7 app’s. One of them I couldn’t even get to open up. It kept crashing when I tried to launch it. One of them I had to connect via a social media network, answer 10 questions, and then would not let me continue to the main part of the app. I would avoid these 2 app’s like the plague.

1. Icebreakers

Icebreakers is an app specifically designed with facilitators and team builders in mind. It is obvious that it is designed for teams to use in meetings, activities, events, etc., not only for icebreakers, but also for some team building activities.

What I like about this app:

The app includes a good number (more than you might think in a free version) of activities and icebreaker games. They are divided into different categories, as well as options to select them according to group size and situations (such as Sales Meetings, Staff Meetings, Classroom, Outdoors, etc.)

I like that this app includes an explanation of what icebreakers are, their purpose, and also directions on facilitating these, as well as encouragement to debrief these upon completion.

I also like that this app includes different variations with some of the exercises, provides a degree of physical activity (low, medium, high), and also includes how long each activity should run.

What could be improved:

Many of the icebreakers in the app are really more team building activities. Not a bad thing, but the developers might think about renaming the app since quite a few of the games are beyond simple icebreaker activities.

Visually the app could use some improvements. The way the app is designed, some of the instructions are hard to read. It seems like everything is tabbed over to the right somewhat, scrunching things up.

The most annoying thing (really the only annoying thing) about this app is the ads that keep popping up that you have to close in order to use the app.

Screenshots:

App for icebreaker games       Apps to use for icebreaker games 2

Overall recommendation: Of the app’s I reviewed, I would say that this one is definitely worth getting.

Click here to get this app.

2. Let’s Talk

Although this app is not designed for the specific purpose of building teams, the questions in the app can be used as such. This app wouldn’t be the most versatile of these free app’s, but it could be a good place to start in your coworkers getting to know each other.

What I like about this app:

In the free version, there are 4 different categories (there are 9 in the paid version.) Each category has questions that you can scroll through and ask members of your team.

You can also click on a small heart at the bottom of the screen to tag questions as “favorites”. This would be helpful for a facilitator to go through these ahead of time and tag questions they would use to facilitate a group discussion.

The app allows you to go forward and backwards through the questions (not all app’s listed here allow you to go back to a previous question).

What could be improved:

The categories are limited, as are the questions that you get in the free version. Usability is ok, but this app is very simplistic in both design and functionality. Again, it’s not designed for the purpose of icebreaker games, but it is designed to stimulate discussion (whether on a date or with friends or family). That being said, it would be nice to be able to choose questions based on different categories, not just your situation (small group, date, etc.)

Screenshots:

Apps use for icebreaker activities        Apps used for icebreaker activities 2

 

Overall recommendation: Even with its limitations, this could be a good app to use to start discussion among team members. Just remember, the categories are very limited.

Click here to get this app.

3. Icebreakers – Meetings

This is another app specifically created to lead icebreaker activities for your group or team. This app is focused on different categories of icebreaker questions. There are not icebreaker activities in this one, just questions.

What I like about this app:

There are 12 different categories of icebreaker questions to choose from in this app. I like the variety of subjects that you can pick from. The categories include:

Professional Experience
Leadership
Job History
Project Experience
Television
School
Personal/Family
Change
Future
Childhood
Spare Time
Hobbies

That’s a significant number of categories for the free version. Kudos to the developers for that. Having different categories allows you to get to know a person on a deep level (say if you included the Personal/Family and Childhood category) or on a professional level, with questions pertaining to Job History and Leadership.

What could be improved:

The app only takes you through different icebreaker questions. It would be nice for other icebreaker games to be included in this app, if only a limited number in the free version.

Icebreakers are more than just questions. You can learn all kinds of things about people by having fun and doing different kinds of activities beyond just asking questions.

The questions also seem to repeat themselves quite often within each category, regardless of which category you choose. Not sure if more questions need to be added, or the way that the app selects the questions need to be modified.

Overall Recommendation:

If you are merely looking for icebreaker questions, this app is great. If you are looking for more than just icebreaker questions, you might want to keep looking.

Click here to get this app.

4. Wealthy Walrus

This app is another one that’s not designed specifically for icebreaker games, but you could certainly use this to get to know your team mates better.

What I like about this app:

I like the creative premise behind the app:

A wealthy walrus has plenty of money to give out, but you must do certain things in order to earn that amount.

For example,

For $14 million,

“Would you press a button that blows up an uninhabited planet outside of our solar system?”

You then answer Yes or No, and it shows you the percentage of people that have chosen each answer. Some are quite surprising!

What could be improved:

Again, it’s not made specifically for the purpose that we are talking about; however, there are a limited number of questions, and every so often, a pop-up displays asking you to buy more questions (which several additional question packages are available for $0.99 each)

Overall recommendation:

This would be a great app for a creative way to get to know your group. It is pretty limited in its scope, but you can also upgrade to expand the questions. For a simple icebreaker game, though, the free version would be just fine.

Click here to get this app.

All in all, these are a few apps that you could use as icebreakers for your team. My top pick is the first one, simply called Icebreakers. Surprisingly (or maybe not) there are very few apps to choose from in this subject area. It might just be time to create one! 🙂

What apps have you used to foster discussion in your group? What other recommendations do you have for apps to use for icebreakers?

[photo credit Nicola via Flickr]

7 Ways to Motivate Your Team Red-Carpet Style

7 Ways to Motivate Your Team Red-Carpet Style

There are a lot of ways to motivate your team and let them know you appreciate them. Since we are in the season of major award shows and nominations, I wanted to offer some suggestions on ways to help motivate and encourage your people “red-carpet style.”

Several of these can be done with a limited budget and many of these can be tweaked or combined to create an all-out superstar event that your people will talk about for years to come.

1. Roll out the red carpet

Make your employees feel like stars. Surprise them with a red carpet experience that they won’t soon forget. Rent a large red carpet and have your employees enter work in style. Encourage a “dress-up day” citing some important people arriving that day.

In addition to the red carpet,  have some volunteers who are clamoring to take their picture with these VIP’s. Who doesn’t like attention like that?

Variations:

Add a limo to have your team take pictures in before going in to work. Or, as they arrive, let them take a ride around the block in the limo and have some paparazzi (see below) waiting for them when they come back.

2. Give Your Team the Paparazzi Treatment

You can pair this with another event listed here, or do it on its own. Surprise your employees at work one morning with a line of paparazzi waiting for them to enter the building.

Imagine your team walking in with people shouting their name and taking massive amounts of pictures of them as they arrive, making them feel like Golden Globe or Oscar nominees.

3. Plan a Limo Lunch for Star Employees

Once a year or once a quarter (depending on your budget), take your star employees out for a nice lunch and transport them there via a limo.

How will you choose which ones go? Have a contest (sales, production, etc.) and set criteria to qualify. Everyone who qualifies gets to go.

Variation: Want to pair this with a way to increase customer service? Combine the qualification process with those who receive a certain number of compliments, customer service awards/points, or positive customer experience evaluations.

4. Host an Oscars Awards Night for Your Team

It’s time for some serious fun and some serious planning. Combine all of the above events to create an awards nights for your crew. This will take a lot of leg work and advanced planning, but what better way to honor your employees?

Hand out awards as part of the night. Be creative. Hand out serious awards, plus some fun ones. Get a team together to help brainstorm and plan the night.

5. After-party.

Plan an after-work party to thank your employees. Hire someone to cater food and drinks. Bring in a DJ for some after-work foot-stomping fun.

Variation: Go to an off-site venue, such as a lake house, hotel, or other hot spot in the area.

6. Create a “People’s Choice Awards” Event

Host an awards night where members of your team vote on different categories of awards to give out at a party dedicated to honoring the best and brightest among your crew.

Possible awards to hand out:

Best Salesman
Best Saleswoman
Best Support Staff
Best Advertising Campaign

Variations:

Have a crazy awards night – brainstorm some creative ideas on awards to give out and make it a fun, creative event.

“Most Likely to Sell Snow to a Snowman”

“Most Likely to Call in Sick After [favorite sports team] Loses”

“Best Excuse for Missing Work”

7. Premier Movie Event

Honor your employees by hosting a premier movie event. Announce that they will be experiencing a one-of-a-kind movie premier as a way of thanking them. What you don’t tell them is that they are the stars in this movie premier.

Hire a videographer to take some covert shots of your crew performing at their best. Have an editor compile it into a movie-premiere styled video and show it off at a local theater.

Variation: Combine this event with the After Party idea and/ or limo rides (above) to make it a special night that will “wow” your team.

What other ways can you think of to thank your people “red-carpet” style? Which one sounds most do-able for you?

[Photo credit: Zoonabar via Flickr.]

5 Ways to Transform Your Team’s New Year’s Resolutions into Adventurous Goals

5 Ways to Transform Your Team’s New Year’s Resolutions into Adventurous Goals

Now is the time when people think about and set New Year’s Resolutions. Chances are you have as well. However, I am not a big fan of most New Year’s Resolutions and here’s why:

  • They’re rarely specific.
  • They’re easy to break.
  • They lack focus and clarity.
  • They’re seldom risky.
  • There’s typically no accountability.

I use this time of the year to set specific goals for how I want my upcoming year to look. There is a process I use to set goals, and it is one that I have used for a number of years, and it is something that I have taught to students and adults alike.

To help transform your team’s resolutions into goals involves five easy steps. It doesn’t take a lot of time; however, these simple steps will help turn those non-specific resolutions into winning goals that you can measure, track, and look back at the end of the year to see all that your team has accomplished.

1. Make the goal specific.

Many New Year’s Resolutions are not specific. They are too general. Examples include:

Lose weight. 

Drink more water.

Be a better leader.

The challenge with these is that there is no specific target to hit. Here are some ways to make the above goals specific.

Lose 15 pounds.

Drink 6 glasses of water daily.

Read 1 leadership book a month.

2. Create goals that are measurable.

As with the initial examples above, there is really no way to measure certain characteristics like “more” or “better”. What does it mean to be a better leader, husband, employee, etc.? How will you measure that? Again, it’s next to impossible.

On the other hand, 15 pounds is something that is specific and measurable. You know when you’ve lost it, and when you haven’t. You can check on your progress along the way. You can also measure if you’ve read a book a month on leadership. It is something tangible that you can look at and know that you’ve accomplished (or haven’t).

3. Make sure the goals are attainable.

Often when resolutions are made, they are not attainable. There are two reasons why this might be. One is that not enough time is given to be able to achieve the desired results, as in losing weight.

Many times, when setting goals, people are over-zealous for what they can achieve. Then, when they fail, they get discouraged and may give up on the process of goal-setting.

Planning out bite-sized steps to achieve each goal can be helpful. Creating a plan of action around each goal will help assure that each small step is completed on your way to completing the big goal!

4. Add some risk to each goal.

While you want goals that are measurable and attainable, I like to encourage people to put a little risk in the goals. There is a fine line here between risky goals and ones that are a bit too much; however, I tend to err on the side of adventurous goals that will excite me.

Many times, for me, when setting goals, in addition to having specific and measurable goals, I will add something to strive for in addition to the actual goal. I find this helps me stick to my goal better.

For example, instead of just a goal of getting in shape or losing weight, add in a 5k or 10k to strive for as you get in shape. These provide milestones and targets to hit as you progress toward the overall goal.

5. Make each goal time-sensitive.

Set an end date for each goal. Have a time frame that you will work with. For example, if you want to drink more water, then a good goal might be:

Drink 5 glasses of water, 5 days a week, for 90 days.

Having an indefinite goal for every day of the week more often than not is unattainable. Breaking the goal into smaller segments can help to create more small wins as you look to accomplish bigger goals. Remember, goals are different than habits, but can be a great kick-start to formulating new habits.

BONUS #1: Partner with someone for accountability.

Setting goals is great; however, being able to set them with someone and help keep each other accountable is a sure-fire way to increase the likelihood of staying on track.

Pair up with someone to help you reach your professional goals. Two are better than one!

BONUS #2: Celebrate small and big victories alike.

As you complete action steps and each of your goals, take time to celebrate! This will boost your motivation and help you keep going. Decide ahead of time how and when you will celebrate your wins.

What other steps do you use to transform your goals? What goals have you set for this year? Let me know in the comments below?

What Makes Team Building Activities Effective?

What Makes Team Building Activities Effective?

There are words and phrases that get watered-down, misused, and ultimately can get a bad reputation. Team building is one of those, especially when people discuss team building activities. Now, just about everything is labelled as team building as long as it’s done with a group of people. Thoughts of trust falls gone wrong, “paintballing the boss”, and other horror stories abound. For those of us who have worked in the industry, it is painful to hear about and read about these stories.

Team building is a legitimate and helpful field, when done correctly. There are numerous things that are labelled as team building activities that shouldn’t be. However, there is a vast amount of creativity and ingenuity in the field of team building. If you’re wondering about what makes team building activities effective versus what does not, here are some helpful suggestions:

Effective Team Building Activities are Goal-Oriented

The first step even before choosing these activities (or a company to run them) should be to sit down with your team and set goals for the day. What do you want to accomplish? What issues is your team facing? What changes do you want to see in your team following these activities?

These questions need to be answered as well as looking at what activities will best fit your goals and needs. If you are not sure, hire someone who is. There are some great facilitators and organizations that I could recommend to you.

Legitimate Team Building Exercises are Purpose-Driven.

There is a purpose behind each and every effective team building activity, whether it is an icebreaker, a group challenge or initiative, or a ropes course element. Look at your goals and what purpose will drive each activity. Could “having fun” be a purpose? Sure. But, hopefully it’s not the only one. There are numerous purposes that can be obtained from each activity. Focus on the ones that your team needs the most.

Top-notch Team Building Activities are Results-Focused.

No leader or manager wants to go through a half-day or day-long event and feel like time has been wasted and nothing has been achieved. Top-notch team building companies will focus on results during the day, but also be able to achieve longer-lasting results.

Some facilitators require follow-up sessions as part of their team building packages. Why? Part of it is for sustainability. These coaching sessions can help sustain the work that was done during a day or two and keep teams accountable to maintaining results.

Powerful Team Building Activities are Situation-Specific.

Some companies and facilitators have one-size-fits-all programs that are pre-packaged and confine teams to a specific structure. If these kinds of programs fit your goals, that’s fine. What if they don’t? What if you’re looking to reach Goal A, and they address Goal B (or C or Z?)

The best team building programs are customized to your team and require a bit of both front-end work, lots of work and ability to adjust on the fly during the program, and back-end follow up. Don’t let anyone tell you that the one-size-fits-all process works for everyone (not even those hats fit every one – much less when you’re dealing with a whole team!) 🙂

What other characteristics define an effective team building program? What have you observed in programs in which you’ve participated?

What Difference Does it Make?

What Difference Does it Make?

There are a lot of team building activities that exist, and there are also a variety of team building companies that boast everything from a Drum Circle to Cooking to get your team engaged, communicating, and more productive. Sure, they may sound like fun, but what makes a team building experience worth the time, money, and effort that is put into it? (more…)