5 Things to Keep your Customers Happy and Reduce Churn
This week was a rough week for me. We had a couple of events that through off everyone in the service team. The WannaCry ransomware outbreak and the media coverage caused panic throughout our client base. We needed to react with communications, blog posts and new scripts to install the emergency patches released by Microsoft. We are always looking for proactive ways to keep our customer happy and prevent churn.
This was coupled with a couple of big P2V or physical to virtual conversions and a hijacked server at a cloud data center. Needless to say, there was a lot of stress in the office and it reminded me what our clients go through when they have a problem. So today I want to talk about 5 things you can do to reduce churn and have to keep clients that are happy to refer you to their friends.
So what are they?
- Put yourself in the caller’s shoes
- Don’t Assume – Listen, think then Speak
- Get the Facts Jack
- Get to Know Your Clients and their Users
- Get Organized – get your House in Order
Some links from today’s show. I highly recommend all of these to help grow your business.
- Dave’s Charm School
- Gazelles and Scaling Up
- Rockefeller Habits and the Scaling Up Book
- Doug Diamond – Gazelles Coach that knows the MSP and Software Development Business
- Digital Equipment Corp – MicroVAX
That’s it for episode 7 – as always, I want to thank you for taking time out of your day to listen to the IT Provider Network. My goal is to help you build and scale your managed service business by sharing some of the lessons I have learned over my 21 years in business. If there is something you need help with in your business, shoot me a note by using the contact form at www.itprovidernetwork.com.
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Help a Brother Out
2017, Terry Rossi
IT Provider Network
Terry: Welcome to episode 7 of the I.T. provider network. My goal is to help you build and scale your manage services business by sharing some of the lessons I’ve learned over my twenty-one years in business.
Female Speaker: Welcome to the I.T. Provider Network. Are you a managed service entrepreneur wanting to take your business to the next level? Do you excel in I.T. but feel your business management could be better? Join Terry Rossi for every episode. He shares the skills, tips and tricks that helped to build a successful worldwide business.
Terry: The five things are put yourselves in your color shoes, your clients shoes. Don’t assume. Listen, think and then speak. Get the facts straight or get the facts Jack. Get to know your clients and their users and get organized. Get your house in order. So let’s start with the first one. Put yourself in your client’s shoes. What I’m talking about here is empathy and empathy is the ability for you to feel and recognize and respond to the needs of your client as if you are going through the situation yourself. So we’ve all had calls that don’t seem important to us but may be important to the client. Things like not being able to print or phone or email problem or some kind of other problem on our payroll day. These are all things that are very important to your client but may not seem that important to you. It’s important that you put yourself in your client’s shoes and understand what they’re going through.
There are basically five steps you can use to create empathy. Step one is to think as if you were the caller. Think in the context of the caller. Put yourself in their position, what are they going through, what pressures do they have, who’s looking over their shoulder, who’s ringing their phone every five minutes wondering about this situation.What is it affecting in their day that they can’t get done because of the problem they’re having. Step two is to watch for body language. Now, this doesn’t work obviously if you’re on the phone but if you’re on site with a customer and your customers are looking at you with his arms crossed you can be pretty sure that he’s frustrated. If he finger points you know you can be pretty sure he’s mad. If he raises his eyebrows pretty sure that he’s looking at you with skepticism. All of these are signs that you should pick up on so you know how to deal with them. Step three is to listen to their tone of voice. This is the one we’ll probably use the most since we’re usually on the phone with our customers when they have a problem. Listen for panic, listen for anger or listen for fear and try to gauge responses based on those things that you’re hearing. Step four is to always respond with empathy. So respond in a way that lets the caller know that you truly feel their pain. Things like,oh, that’s terrible or I’m so sorry to hear that. Let me try to help you. They go a long way to making the call or feel as if you really do understand their problem. Lastly, step five, ask open ended questions and make them completely customer focused, non-judgmental just how can I help you. That’s a great way to show empathy. You’re just trying to help the person. I’m here to help you. What can I do for you? So remember those five steps. Think about the context and the situation that callers in. Watch for any body language if you’re on site, listen for the tone of voice, respond with empathy and ask open ended questions, like how can I help you.
One of the things we’re going to implement in our service department is a charm school for all of our reps. David Russell from Managed to Win has what he calls Dave’s charm school and it’s basically soft skills for technicians. It’s all of the stuff that’s not technical that technicians need to know to really do a good job. I’ve put a link to it in the show notes at the I.T. provider network.com. If you do end up connecting with Dave please let him know that I sent you. We used Dave to train two of our managers over the last six months and we were very happy with the result. We plan on sending the rest of our team through Dave’s leadership training and the service delivery people as I mentioned through the charm school. So that’s number one. Put yourself in.. in the client shoes.The number two lesson that I thought about this week was don’t assume, don’t assume you know what’s going on until you have.. have dug into the problem a little bit more. There’s that old saying you know what happens when you assume you make an ass out of you and me. Well, that’s really rather true. So make sure your team doesn’t go off half cocked. Make sure they don’t propose a solution before they fully understand the problem. Think before you talk. Once the end user hears something it’s really hard for them to unhear it. I’ll give an example. A client calls in, they say they can’t reach a web site. Your rep says, oh, there was a problem with your server last night. It ran out of this space. Just reboot your PC and everything should be okay. On the surface that sounds reasonable but here’s the problem. Why did their server run out of space? Aren’t we being paid to monitor their server? Shouldn’t we have known it was running out of space? This is something that they can’t unhear. They’re going to go up to their management and tell their boss what was said and then we’re on the hook. You got a big problem, managers are going to have to get involved, justify our contract etc.. etc..So teach your reps to really think before they talk. I like to say listen first, then think. Ask questions and then either repeat or solve. So if you don’t know the answer after you’ve asked your questions ask some more questions. Think about it before you answer and then solve the problem. So it’s real critical that your reps don’t assume and that they don’t make statements out of school. It’s very hard to get the client to unhear them.
The third lesson was get the facts straight. You’ve got to teach the techs to dig deep. Teach them how to troubleshoot. They need to ask a lot of questions before they provide solutions and they should explain to the customer that they only want to provide them with the best solution. So that’s why they’re asking so many questions. All the time while they’re doing this they don’t need to remember to be doing it with empathy. I’ve often found in my work career that the simplest solution is often the correct one. I learned this lesson when I was about fifteen years old working with my first computer system. It was a deck. It was a micro VAX, Digital Equipment corporation’s micro VAX and they use terminals that were called VT220 terminals. So now we know of course that if you teach VT220 ambulation is still kind of around but you can’t find VT220 or VT100 terminal. These terminals that had a keyboard arm and a keyboard had a whole screen key, so it was basically like a pause button. If you hit the whole screen key nothing happened. Well, I spent an hour on the phone one time with a deck support rep because I’d hit the whole screen key. I was new. I didn’t know about it but the rep didn’t think of the simple solution first is the power on, is the whole screen key pressed.
There’s a lot of other examples of this. At least once a week we get a call for a machine that won’t boot. Nine times out of ten it’s because there’s a USP stick in it. Very simple problem, should be the first thing the rep checks is anything plugged into the computer that might cause it not to boot or a phone won’t ring. Customers not getting a phone call is the do not disturb on? Again very simple but happens all the time. We also see like with remote users they can’t log in while as their password expired. You need to try it locally first. So there’s all kinds of examples of things that you run into day in and day out that are simple solutions that if you don’t educate your techs to ask the right questions, get the facts and look at your knowledge base of your documentation, they’re going to spend a ton of time looking for a solution that you’ve already solved many, many times.
So here’s some quick tips on troubleshooting. Write down your steps, make sure your text document the steps they took to troubleshoot in the ticket. That way if it’s escalated to a senior technician or a manager we know exactly what happened and we don’t repeat the same steps. Take notes about the error messages. You know, it’s important to get the syntax of an error message correct. Certain database tools and applications will have an error code. That code is critical to get support from the vendor. They look things up based on that code. So make sure your reps are taking accurate notes on the error messages.
Always check the hardware right. Check the cables, make sure the power is on. Make sure the monitor has, you know, the blue light lead etc.. Look at the simple stuff and then finally restart the computer right. I don’t recommend this for servers obviously but for workstations. Restarting the computer is often the answer to some problems. So that’s number three. Get the facts Jack.
Number four. Get to know your customers. Get to know your clients and their end users. There are people just like you. Get to know what situations are critical to them and how you can help them not get into a situation that causes them stress. Remember, when you’re causing an end user stress, they’re barking up the chain to their manager or the owner of the company and they’re complaining about your service level. So if Cathy in accounting needs to print checks every Tuesday make sure printers work and if it’s not know that it’s a critical situation and you need to get it working right away. Know that Paula is the CEO’s secretary, so when she comes in and she has a problem it should be treated as if the CEO has a problem. Note that 4:30 it’s quitting time and the time clocks need to be working.
These are just a few things that are really helpful to have your team provide great service. What you can do with this data is not only serve your customers better but you can make your service more productive, things like maintenance, windows, special monitors and alerts. They can be adjusted in tune so that these customers are not calling you at 7 o’clock in the morning when, you know, when they open because you have a proactive monitor that’s correcting the situation. It’s much better for you, much better for your company, much better for your client.
Earlier in the show today I mentioned Managed to Win and David Russell. Dave is one of the few coaches we used to help us got our business. Another one we use is Dave Diamond. Dave Diamond is a Gazelle’s coach. He owns a company called Business Improvement out of Pennsylvania and he teaches the Gazelle’s methodology. If you haven’t heard of Gazelle’s, Gazelle’s is an organization of coaches and leaders that were brought about by a gentleman by the name of Vern Hardish and I think it was about twelve years ago Verne wrote this book called Mastering the Rockefeller habits and it was basically some habits that he learned through looking at companies and I guess originally through Rockefeller and Standard Oil that centered around people, execution, strategy and cash. So what Verne did was he wrote that book and then he started building a coaching network out of that and then twelve years later he wrote a second edition of that book if you will called Scaling Up and Scaling Up is basically a guide to growing your business or scaling your business. It was about a year ago that we decided to implement that methodology within our company and we hired a coach. Dave Diamond was our coach. So part of the culture of Gazelle’s is the use of huddles and huddles are just quick stand up daily meetings that are held throughout the company either at the department level or at the management level or both typically both so that everyone in the company gets on the same page. We use these huddles to talk about things like the special requirements for customers. That way the whole team, the whole service team knows about them. If we get.. if we forget an emergency page at 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning from a construction company because, you know, whatever there’s .. there’s a scale house. Peter’s not working and no trucks can leave the yard. We know that’s a critical issue and we know no one wants to get woken up again at 7 o’clock in the morning to deal with that issue. So we try to build a process around that. We try to build a monitor that helps us deal with that. We let our overnight guys know that, hey, the scale house needs to be up every morning at 5:00 in the morning, make sure it’s up. So the huddles give us a really good way to disseminate that kind of information to the team. The structure of the huddle is real simple and it only lasts about fifteen minutes on a daily huddle. It’s basically what did you do for the last twenty four hours, so what happened the last twenty four hours you want to talk about, what are you going to do today or the next twenty four hours and is there any stocks or concerns you have and that stocks are concern section of the meeting is where we would talk about what happened in any emergency type situation.
So think about looking at the Rockefeller habits or better yet Scaling Up, which pretty much has all the Rockefeller habit material in it and it’s updated currently and if you’re interested in Dave Diamond, I’ll put a link to him in the show notes at the I.T. provider network. com/ seven. So that’s number four.
Number five is get organized and what I mean by this is you have to get your house in order. If you are unorganized, your clients will see and feel that and they’ll lose confidence in you, especially if your organization is bigger than the four walls that you work in, you’ll have remote employees or virtual employees. You need to really get organized. Just this week we had a situation where we ended up looking like a bunch of smacked asses because one hand within our company didn’t tell the other hand what they were doing. You know, we basically were in a custom development’s situation working with a large multinational client under a pretty strict deadline and we thought we were waiting on the client. The client thought they were waiting on us. There was a miscommunication, wasn’t documented in the ticket, a particular phone call wasn’t documented and that was kind of the root cause of the problem, but anyway have we been a little more organized on that we would have been better in the eyes of our client, further ahead in the project and ultimately would have made more money because we wouldn’t have had four people on a conference call yesterday to discuss it.
So you need processes and procedures in your company or else you’re going to forever be relying on one person. Hopefully, that one person’s not you but I’m sure sometimes it is you. It started out being me I know. But I strive to move myself out of the day to day service delivery and now I’m striving to move my managers out of the day to day service delivery. So we’re doing that. We’re making efforts to do that and then we’re cross-training our staff so that everyone in that team has experience with all the customers and all the situations. Now, I say all but it’s not all but they have.. they have a good grasp on ninety percent of the situations.
So many years when I was younger in business I felt like I was held hostage by my lead tech, right? And that was losing them all the time because I wasn’t doing a good job being a leader. But every two years, year and a half one would lead and all the stress would pile on me because I had to be that go to guy and maybe I wasn’t keeping up with the changes or the technology that my lead tech was implementing. So it was a lot of stress. I’m glad I’m past that point. My advice to you is that if you’re not large enough to have two, three, four, ten techs , then at least make them document the process, right? If you document the process you have a repeatable solution, you have something that you could do if you needed to do and you could help your customer.
Just want to talk a minute about how we do that, how we document and delegate in the company. There’s basically two types of people that I can delegate to. Those that are creative problem solvers. They’re capable of creating procedures and solving problems and, you know, working through solutions and then there’s those that are not and they need a procedure that’s created for them and that’s okay too. But if I’m dealing with the second type what I usually do is I run through the process first myself initially. I create an initial version of the procedure. I give it to them and it’s not, you know, it’s not fully backed out. It’s just kind of a skeleton. I give it to them. I ask them to run through it and cut back to me with any questions they might have. Then what I do is I teach them on the missing links and I make them refine the procedure. We do this over and over and over again until we get a procedure that I really like that’s done the way I want it done. That’s done the way our company way is and then it can be given to anyone to do. Now, this might be a little stressful for that tech that’s going through that process but it does eventually help them learn. They become more creative, they become better problem solvers and hopefully will move them into the first group of people that are the ones that can create it all on their own. So remember that, you know, remember to utilize your staff for that. There’s the old saying you can work.. work an hour and make $10, work an hour make $100 or work an hour make a $1000. I would encourage you to work an hour and make a $1000 and the way you do that is by creating processes and procedures that you can use to scale.
Also I want you to remember that, you know, conflicts are going to happen within your service group. So being organized really helps you when that happens. If you have a signed statement of work, if you have a documented conversation, if you have tickets that are fully documented with the troubleshooting steps and the time stamps on when things happened, you can discuss problems with your customer with facts, not emotion. It’s when you don’t have the facts emotions really come up because you get your dander up. You get your back up. You’re upset about what happened mostly because your team might have dropped the ball or you might have dropped the ball and this is a bad situation to be in with your clients. You want to be able to have a good healthy discussion with facts, not emotion and I find that my clients are usually reasonable when I can state the case with some facts behind them.
So remember these five things. Put yourself in your color shoes. Use empathy. Train your team on empathy. Get them to understand that it’s important to the person that’s calling. Don’t assume. Listen, think then speak. Get the facts, know your clients and their users. Get organized and get your house in order. So that’s it for Episode 7. As always I want to thank you for taking the time out your day to listen to the I.T. provider network. My goal is to help you build and scale your managed services business by sharing some of the lessons I’ve learned over my twenty one years in business and if there’s ever anything I can do to help you with your business, shoot me a note by using the contact form at I.T. provider network.com or send me an e-mail at Terry, T-E-R.R.Y at I.T. provider network. com. Thanks and have a great day.
SPEAKER 2: Thank you for joining us and we hope you’ve been inspired. Check us out at social media. We are @ITprovidernet and visit us at www.ITprovidernetwork.com. For past episodes show notes, videos and more and we hope you’ll enjoy Terry next time on the I.T. Provider Network.