A man calls a golf course to add one more player to a foursome scheduled for 8:12 a.m., asking if he can just add a 5th to the group, or does he need to break them up into two groups.
The team member who answered the phone simply replied, “You can’t do it. You can’t have five in the group and we don’t have another tee time.”
The caller said, “I just looked online and it looks like you have tee times available… I see one at 8:40, and more after that. Can we have one of those?”
“Oh, well, if you don’t mind scheduling the second group later, we can accommodate that. I thought you wanted the tee times back-to-back.”
Wow… if the caller hadn’t looked online, or been bold enough to ask the second question, this golf club would have lost the opportunity to add a paying customer (and possibly the entire fivesome) on that day – and who knows how many other days, if they gave these players a chance to find a different course they may have ended up liking better.
Now multiply that scenario by however many times during a day, week, month or year that scenario, and others, are happening, and you can see how much income is being turned away at the door… not to mention how much will be lost in potential repeat and referral business.
Bad assumptions, lack of foresight, laziness and a whole host of other largely solvable issues are costing our companies millions of dollars. But they can be easily overcome with a few proactive actions on the part of leaders who instill the habit of thinking proactively on the part of their team members.
Here’s a simple process that can help (let’s use the scenario above in the example):
- Record every “NO”: Ask your team members to have a pen and paper handy wherever they work. Every time they have to say “no” to a customer, have them write down what happened (it doesn’t have to be a book… just a brief synopsis will do the trick). The synopsis in this case would be: “Caller asked to add 5th player to foursome; no tee time available.” I know, your head is probably exploding right now because there were tee times available later, but this is what happened in the mind of this team member, so this is probably what he would write.)
- Record possible solutions: If the scenario represents something the team member couldn’t do because of a policy or procedural issue, have them write a suggestion or two that they think might help solve the situation in the future. (You will probably get people to record these types of scenarios, because they don’t represent a mistake they would have to admit to making, but helping them identify any opportunity to improve is beneficial.)
- Record every “YES” that took extra effort to fulfill: Team members often do things that help create loyal customers, without leaders ever knowing they did them. Let your team members celebrate their successes, too. Sharing these actions gives other team members new ideas for proactively creating WOW customer service.
- Schedule a Weekly Huddle to discuss what was recorded: Have your team members bring their scenarios to the Huddle to discuss Customer Service experiences and expectations; 20-30 minutes should do it. Make it SAFE for them to report “NO” scenarios – no one will record them if they are berated for not handling something correctly. Thank them for bringing it up, so it could be brainstormed and shared as a proactive learning point for everyone on the team. Be sure to thank them for great ideas and “YES” scenarios!
- For each NO, ask the next logical question(s): Discuss each scenario, looking at the issue as described – and then ask the logical questions that would follow that scenario. The next logical question from the above scenario (after hearing that there were NO tee times available… period) would be: “Really? We were completely booked up all day/morning? There were NO tee times available at all?” The team member would need to truthfully reply, “Well, there were tee times later on – just not back-to-back.” The next logical question would be: “And he didn’t want a later tee time?” Answer: “Well, I didn’t think to ask him that. I assumed he wanted them back-to-back.” (By the way, this process can also be done for each YES, to create repeatable successes.)
- Debrief each scenario and create a teaching point for similar interactions in the future: “What can we learn from this situation?” 1) We should never assume; 2) We should investigate other reasonable options (such as an alternate/later tee time for part of the group); 3) We should present our customer with those options and let them decide before answering “No” for them. Only after all reasonable (and, depending on the situation and the upside potential for future business, possibly some unreasonable) options have been exhausted should we ever let a customer go away unsatisfied.
- Reward team members for bringing scenarios to the meeting: You could thank them instantly and create a friendly competition; for example, the one with the most scenarios/suggestions in a designated period of time gets a gift/award/recognition.
Proactive and critical thinking are often just a matter of instilling the habit of thinking to the next step or two… and asking clarifying questions. It’s not hard to do – it’s hard to REMEMBER to do. But instituting a process of continual improvement depends on people noticing and remembering to bring to the table actions that could create those improvements.
So, begin instilling the habit of thinking ahead in your team members. Not only will you find ways to serve customers (and team members) at a much higher level, but you will also cause them to begin thinking ahead on their own.
In fact, the very act of writing the synopsis may cause a team member to think of the scenario in a different light. For example, when the team member above wrote, “No tee times available,” it may have caused him to stop and think – “Is that true?” Of course it wasn’t true, and he would have had an ah-ha moment that he had just assumed the caller wanted back-to-back times. In this age of Caller ID, it could have been easy for the team member to contact the caller and ask, “Did you want back-to-back times – or would you be OK with a later tee time for the second group?”
This may have salvaged the sale, help the team member immediately learn from the experience, and enable him to feel good about what he did… allowing him to bring a YES to the Huddle, rather than a NO.
And that’s what I call a WIN-WIN-WIN situation!