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Putting the Focus on Professional Communication

Putting the Focus on Professional Communication

Putting the Focus on Professional Communication

Every business is feeling the pinch of fewer skilled workers available to fill vacancies and a frustrated public that’s losing patience with wait times and more. If ever there was a time to differentiate yourself from your competition, now is it.

Start by encouraging your employees to remain confident and professional throughout every service encounter. While customers may continue to vocalize their frustration, even overshare personal disappointments, the most skilled service teams focus on positivity to deliver professionalism.

There is one communication skill every customer service professional must have: a professional follow-up email. Below you’ll find a practice activity for use as a development tool to writing better communications. 

Top 5 Tips for Correspondence

  1. Keep it clean – avoid using colored text or backgrounds
  2. Be straightforward – avoid using “emoticons” in business correspondence
  3. Know your Vision – avoid including a “slogan” or “quote” in your signature line, unless it speaks to your organization’s vision statement and branding
  4. Who needs to know – avoid sending a “reply all” unless it’s meaningful to all
  5. Watch your tone – avoid using all caps and excessive exclamation points!!!

 If you lead a team of customer service professionals, don’t hesitate to use the Professional Correspondence Activity in interviews, during team coaching, or for individual development.

Center for Practical Management helps companies achieve organizational goals and behavior change initiatives through tailored consulting services, leadership coaching, employee skills training and marketing services. Learn more at www.cf-pm.com

Center for Practical Management is a strategic business partner with Raddon, a Fiserv Company. Learn more at www.raddon.com

How to Celebrate Great Performances

How to Celebrate Great Performances

How to Celebrate Great Performances

“Great job!” It’s a commonly used phrase that we’ve heard since childhood. Little league, report cards, riding a bike, and more. While everyone enjoys receiving praise, keep in mind that the words “great job” lack definition of what exactly was great. Effective leaders do more than say “Great job” or “Thank You” when recognizing employees.

Forms of recognition can be an email, a phone call or ideally, an in-person conversation. Recognition may be public or private. The most important part of recognition is that it should always be highly specific about the action or behavior that was done well.

Center for Practical Management offers the following best practices to ensure that your employees know exactly what they did to receive the praise, what impact that had on their customers or team, and reinforcement that encourages continuation of the activity or behavior.

  • Use language that praises performance. Adjectives like amazing, wonderful, fantastic, etc. relay how happy you are with an employee’s performance and will inspire the employee to continue that positive behavior.
  • Explain how their behaviors impacted the customer experience, improved efficiencies, or strengthened the team.  
  • Recognize your employee or team’s abilities that led them to this positive outcome. Was it their knowledge and skills that led them to this success? Were they doing specific activities to achieve a positive result?
  • Engaging the employee is the final best practice. Explore how the accomplishment was achieved. How can others learn from this employee to reach similar results?

The manager’s role is to create and nurture an environment that inspires employees to want to excel and to obtain knowledge and skills to achieve superior performance. When you positively recognize your employees, you will motivate them to perform at higher levels and ensure greater productivity for your team.

Once you put these best practices in place, you will think differently when you hear the phrase, “Great Job!”

Center for Practical Management helps companies achieve organizational goals and behavior change initiatives through tailored consulting services, leadership coaching, employee skills training and marketing services. Learn more at www.cf-pm.com

Center for Practical Management is a strategic business partner with Raddon, a Fiserv Company. Learn more at www.raddon.com

Refocusing on Customer Appreciation

Refocusing on Customer Appreciation

Refocusing on Customer Appreciation

The most important training activity right now in successful retail teams is customer appreciation. Most retail industries are showing a dip service scores by customers who are growing impatient with the slow ramp up to exceptional customer experience following the pandemic year.
We want to encourage retail managers to embrace this opportunity to create renewed energy and enthusiasm around refocusing on customer needs and how to make them feel appreciated.

First, you are no doubt in a hiring phase. Over 80-90% of companies say they are reshaping their staff due to lost workers and the rapid increase in consumer demand. Finding good candidates to join your team is vital to your continued success.
Dialogue-focused interviews will help explore the candidate’s ability to communicate. Consider questions that seek candidates’ values, traits, and motives. By asking them to communicate what they value and what motivates them, you can observe their interpersonal skills. Examples:

  • When asking about knowledge & skills, prompt them to tell you about someone they learned the most from? Ask them to tell you about a training activity they valued during a former employment.
  • It is equally valuable to ask about their experience with performance measurables, namely actions and results. Ask a candidate to tell you about a challenging or unique performance goal they were given, and what they did to meet the challenge and deliver.

Second, the best coaches commit to reinforcing the foundation of communication as a balance of listening and speaking. When we attentively listen, we commit to two things: i) ensuring to hear and understand what the other person is saying, and ii) responding accurately and appropriately (also known as clarifying).
While role plays offer one team training activity, asking employees to personally observe and take notes on service conversations in their everyday lives is another. Regroup the team to share and discuss their observations. What did he or she learn from the interaction they observed?

Listening skills often play a far bigger role than speaking to sell. Employees who talk too much, especially about themselves, can actually sabotage the success of a sales and service conversation.    

Staff training and development should always feature consistent reinforcement that teaches how to keep the focus on customers.

Center for Practical Management helps companies achieve organizational goals and behavior change initiatives through tailored consulting services, leadership coaching, employee skills training and marketing services. Learn more at www.cf-pm.com

Best Approach to Resolving Customer Concerns

Best Approach to Resolving Customer Concerns

Best Approach to Resolving Customer Concerns

The number one reason customers raise a buying question or concern is they do not have enough information to make their decision. Skilled sales teams are trained to ask questions to explore how products and services will fit into a customer’s life.

When teams approach the sales process as ‘finding the perfect fit’, customer concerns become a great starting point for customer service. A simple, four-step process can be practiced in any retail environment: acknowledge, clarify, address, and confirm satisfaction.

Acknowledge
When you acknowledge the concern or issue, you validate your customer’s position. For example, ‘Taking on additional debt can really impact your credit and finances, so I respect your caution.’ Acknowledgement also encourages customers to comfortably offer more details about their need.

Clarify
Next, ask clarifying questions to fully identify the customer’s concern. The Rule of Three can be used to help sales teams remember to ask three follow-up questions to understand any objections raised; i.e., When you say ‘expensive’, what do you mean? Is another purchase experience impacting this one? What is driving your timing?

Address Issue
Once you understand why the customer has a concern, you will know the best course of action. One approach may work, or you may need to engage multiple techniques to help address the issue.

  • Provide a comprehensive overview for the solution.
  • Share additional benefits that specifically apply to the customer.
  • Recommend an alternative solution for the customer.

Confirm Satisfaction
Remember to listen proactively when resolving customer concerns and, before moving on, always confirm with the customer that they are satisfied. Watch for signals from the customer indicating they are satisfied and ready to move on with the commitments you are requesting.

Managers and front-line supervisors should review the four steps for resolving customer concerns as frequently as possible during team meetings and 1-1 conversations. To learn more about best practices and training techniques at the Center for Practical Management, visit our website at www.cf-pm.com.

Center for Practical Management helps companies achieve organizational goals and behavior change initiatives through tailored consulting services, leadership coaching, employee skills training and marketing services. Learn more at www.cf-pm.com

Power Your Team to Success

Power Your Team to Success

Power Your Team to Success

Success in your retail business comes down to how well you have empowered your team. First, you make sure you have fueled them with the most powerful expertise for representing your products and services. Next, you need to sharpen their skills for high-performance communication that drive recommendations.

Regardless of what business sector you serve, sales and service teams often hit a wall when they are faced with questions or concerns from customers. To put customer’s minds at ease, build rapport and validate the business’ product or solution, we recommend managers introduce teams to this simple, four-step process for resolving concerns:

Step 1 Acknowledge. Acknowledging the customer’s questions or concern is a way of validating their concern and letting them know that it is an important question or concern. You do not want to discount that people might simply need more information or additional clarification before committing to a product or solution.
Step 2 Clarify. By clarifying the question or concern, you will be 100% certain that you understand it. Be sure to paraphrase the customer’s question back to them to make sure you fully understand what their asking.
Step 3 Address the Issue. Once you know why the customer is hesitating, you will know the best way to address members’ concerns. If we do not ask what concerns a customer has before purchasing or committing to something we’re offering, we don’t know how to help them overcome those. You want to make sure that the customer is comfortable with the solution and ready to move forward.
Step 4 Check for Satisfaction. The final step is to confirm that the customer is satisfied and ready to take the next step. Try using questions like, “Have I answered all of your questions?” or “What additional concerns do you have?” These are good ways to make sure you’ve addressed any and all concerns before moving onto the next steps and securing their agreement.

By asking clarifying questions and addressing concerns up front you will establish trust and confidence in your customers. You will be on your way to consistently achieving more sales and new customers.

For a sample training worksheet on Asking Clarifying Questions from our Relationship Management Workshop, email krisr@cf-pm.com.

The Confidence to Communicate Well

The Confidence to Communicate Well

The Confidence to Communicate Well

If the road to success in every human interaction is good communication, the potential for breakdown is poor communication. A 2019 survey by Project.co has reported that 8 of 10 people will rate their communication skills as average or poor. What if crossing the bridge from poor communication to good communication could be made easier?

Communication skills can be taught. More importantly, developing these skills can profoundly impact both work and personal life. The key is asking high-gain questions. A high-gain question is one that makes the other person think, and share. Quite simply, it is not answerable with yes or no. It is the difference between ‘did you have a nice weekend?’ and ‘how did you spend your weekend?’?

In the workplace, managers have a responsibility to build employees’ skills and confidence around communication. One interactive development activity, after introducing the concept of high-gain questions, is to ask employees to listen and make note of yes-no questions in all relationship interactions for a week. Discuss observations from this activity at the next team meeting, especially focusing on service-related interactions.?

Another Team Development Activity: Present these yes-no questions for repositioning as high-gain questions.
1. Is there anything else I can do for you?
2. Do you know about our current offer?
3. Were you satisfied with my service today??

Communication skill development helps ensure that employees will engage in positive and productive conversations that build relationships. Relationships help drive more product sales, plus referrals.?

To receive a free training worksheet for High-Gain Questions from our Relationship Management Workshop, email krisr@cf-pm.com or visit the contact us page on www.cf-pm.com

Center for Practical Management helps companies achieve organizational goals and behavioral change initiatives through tailored consulting services, leadership coaching, employee skills training and marketing services. Learn more at www.cf-pm.com.