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Archive: Dec 2017

How to deal with difficult customers

Posted: December 18, 2017 9:03 am
Difficult customers are one of the biggest challenges for the customer services team within any business. In the age of the internet they are even more of a threat because a dissatisfied customer can leave a conversation and post content online or on social media that does your business no favours at all. However, difficult customers also represent an opportunity to turn a situation from a negative to a positive – once your customer service team knows how to.

Listen to difficult customers

It’s not easy to listen to someone who is unhappy with a product or service – even someone who is angry about the experience that they have had. However, listening is exactly what difficult customers need. This makes the customer feel that their complaint is being heard and it may even calm them down so that a more rational conversation can be had.

Empathise and engage

It’s not difficult to understand what someone who has had a poor experience wants from the situation – to be heard and to be believed. Empathy is a powerful tool when dealing with difficult customers because it is reassuring and demonstrates concern for whatever discomfort has been suffered. Asking questions, repeating back what has been said and using verbal cues to indicate agreement can all deliver an empathetic message.

Don’t take it personally

It can feel really hurtful and personal when difficult customers attack the business or the service being delivered. However, it’s important to retain emotional control and remember that none of this is aimed at the individual having the conversation but at the wider business. Difficult customers often “shoot the messenger” but it’s important that there is no retaliation and that the customer service agent handling the issue doesn’t catch the emotions of the customer and turn the situation into a battle.

Controlled vocals

When a customer is angry the most effective way to handle this is not to mirror the aggression or volume in their voice. Slow, calm speech and a lowered tone of voice will have an instant calming effect, indicating that there is no emergency and everything will be ok. Often, customers who have been shouting will find anger draining away when met with a soft, quiet, calm voice without any aggression or antagonism in it. Sometimes, the way we speak is even more important than what is said – that’s why controlled vocals are a key part of dealing with difficult customers.

Agreement and surrender

The old saying that “the customer is always right” doesn’t have to be taken literally. But in a situation where you’re dealing with someone very irate and upset, agreeing with them can be a powerful aid in terms of diffusing the emotion involved. Sometimes, angry customers who suddenly find themselves “winning” may even start to backtrack or defend the customer service person they have been talking to, against their own interests. Often, this will make the customer more open to finding a solution to the problem, as opposed to taking out an emotional response on the customer service person they are dealing with. Training plays a key role in ensuring that your customer service team is ready and able to deal with difficult customers. If you’d like more information about our customer service training courses, and how they could benefit your business, please get in touch.

10 tips for great customer service

Posted: December 13, 2017 9:01 am
Great customer service opens the door to business success. A loyal and well serviced customer base will provide any business with revenue and the potential for growth. When it comes to achieving impressive customer service there are some simple ways to get it right.

1. Be accountable

There are few things more off-putting for a customer than a customer service team that just won’t admit to mistakes. If there is fault, admit to it, apologise and take steps to make amends. Value customer complaints and action them if you want to convert them into positive, ongoing relationships.

2. Say yes

Accommodate what your customers ask for whenever you can – there’s no better way to achieve great customer service than to give customers what they want.

3. Listen to your customers

You’ll not only improve the customer’s experience by doing this but also learn what it is that makes your customers tick. This invaluable insight can be fed into many areas of the business that function on an understanding of what it is your customers really want.

4. Train your staff

Training is a positive investment that will give staff the confidence to deal with customers and produce a consistent approach to customer contact right across your business. You can’t be there to steer every conversation in the right direction so training gives your people the tools to do it for themselves.

5. Ask for feedback

Customers are a fantastic source of insight when it comes to working out how to improve your offering. Check in regularly with your customers to see how they feel about the service they receive, where the pain points are and what they’d like to get from your business that currently isn’t there. Listen carefully to what your customers say and you’ll be able to create a much more authentic and well-tailored experience for them in future.

6. Go above and beyond

If there’s one thing that guarantees great customer service it’s a business that goes above and beyond customer expectations. How could you make life easier for your customers, what can you give them that they won’t get elsewhere and what pleasant surprises can you offer?

7. Use the language of your customers

Great customer service is built on communication and that requires all parties to be speaking the same language. Customers want engaging, easy to understand communication and conversations so avoid using language that puts up barriers.

8. Make customers feel valued

Sincerity and enthusiasm are key elements to the kind of customer service that makes for positive interactions. It’s important to make customers feel like they are listened to, treated as individuals and that the business wants them to remain on board.

9. Employ technology as a tool

There are many tools available to improve customer service today, from a CRM system to automation and AI. Invest in technology that will enable you to respond faster and keep quality standards high.

10. Value your staff

It’s your people who are on the customer service front line. If they are confident, well treated and engaged with your business then your customer service will be improved as a result. Our customer service training courses provide firm foundations for fantastic customer service – contact PTP today to find out more about how we could support your business.

How important is finance is to non finance managers?

Posted: December 8, 2017 5:14 pm
Business is driven by numbers. So, even for those managers who don’t have “finance” in the job title, there’s still a need to ensure enough awareness of the impact of finance on the business to provide essential context. Working as a manager in an organisation without an awareness of the way that finance affects the entire business is almost like operating in a vacuum. From the point of view of the career development of any manager, as well as the progress of the business as a whole, the benefits of an understanding of finance for non-finance managers are broad. So what benefits are there of finance for non-finance managers?

Demystifying the terminology

Ensuring comprehensive understanding of financial terms and how they relate to non-finance manager roles within the business, as well as the broader company.

Understanding the context

Everyone within a business is influenced by the figures but a lack of financial awareness may stop a non-finance manager from identifying where this is happening, and how.

Providing insight into the Profit & Loss and the Balance Sheet

A solid understanding of finance gives non-finance managers the ability to read these key sources of financial information. It also enables the information in these documents to be interpreted and understood from the manager’s own unique point of view, which filters down into decision making.

Getting to grips with the mechanics of business

Without a solid understanding of finance and how the numbers relate to an individual organisation it’s difficult for non-finance managers to interpret key financial data and ratios within the organisation. This is a key skill, not just for those who are dealing directly with the numbers but for ensuring that decision making by non-finance managers is properly informed.

The key finance questions

Financial considerations and business performance feed into every role within an organisations and particularly those at a management level. Knowledge of finance is crucial for non-financial managers in order to be able to understand and provide answers to key questions such as: What the management accounts are and how they can be read and interpreted The key difference between profit and cash flow How to get to grips with the basics of budgeting and reading budget reports There are also a number of important skills that non-finance managers need to have to inform positive decision making within the business. These include the techniques of costing and pricing and what the relationship is between the two. Cost control is also another key skill that will come in incredibly useful for those in a management position – it may not be something that is taught or learned outside of a finance role but it can still have a big part to play in making the right decisions. If you’re looking to better understand the role that finance has to play in your organisation – and to have better informed discussions with your finance team – our training courses are designed to help. Using the language of business, and adaptable to your own company’s internal formats, it can provide the key information that all non-finance managers need to have when it comes to the business numbers. For all your finance training needs, contact PTP today on 01509889632.

Why should Britain close the gap on management skills?

Posted: December 1, 2017 5:10 pm
According to the whitepaper released as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy in November, poor management skills could account for a quarter of the productivity gap between US and UK companies. American companies produce a fifth more than UK companies do with the same effort, something that is logically attributed to poor business management. Apart from the natural competitiveness with our cousins across the pond there are also many other good reasons for Britain to close the gap on management skills.

More productivity means more profit

It’s not difficult to understand how a fifth more productivity would be a very positive increase for UK businesses. Particularly if it requires no extra effort other than to close the gap on management skills. To put a figure on how much this lack of management might be costing the UK economy, if the gap were to be closed over night tonight and UK companies caught up with US companies then – without any extra work at all – British companies would be an instant £300 billion richer. That’s an impressive figure for any economy.

It can be done

The example often given of an economy that completely turned itself around with the benefit of management skills is Japan. After the Second World War Japan was just one tenth as productive as America. Within years it had made huge strides with a specific programme of improvement in management skills that was designed to spread across the entire economy, from small businesses to large. Japan even subsidised management consultancies to help disseminate better business practices and set up a state inspection agency to help bring standards up.

Britain will likely fall behind if the gap is not closed

Japan is just one example of how a very conscious and specific initiative to improve management skills in all businesses has had a tangible impact on overall productivity. Singapore is another Asian economy that used a similar tactic in the 1980s when it realised that the foreign companies based there weren’t passing on their management capabilities to the smaller, local firms. So, Singapore introduced a campaign to change management mindsets and brought in consultants to upgrade knowledge and experience. South Korea has introduced similar measures, as has Finland and many other countries that have suffered from a similar management skills gap. It’s not something that can be successfully ignored and the prediction is that Britain’s productivity could fall further behind if it continues to be a problem. There is an awareness in Britain that poor business management is causing problems for our overall economy. In the report The Innovation Paradox, the management quality of British businesses was compared to the worst 10% of firms in China. So, we are already falling well behind. The industry is trying to help itself – for example Be the Business, an initiative to spread best practice. However, most experts agree that when it comes to closing the management skills gap it’s going to require more than just private sector initiatives. As in Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Finland, the government is going to have to get (more) involved. If you’re looking for management training, get in touch with PTP today on 01509889632.