Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Engage your Customers Through Learning Moments

Very few customers walk into a grocery store prepared for class when they shop for cheese. Not many people look up “pest control” companies online expecting to learn about mice, when they need an exterminator. (Get it: mice, cheese?). But both of those scenarios is an opportunity for your team to engage customers in learning moments.

Delivered the right way, customer education won’t feel like education. It will feel more like a great interaction with a concerned, compassionate and committed team member. Learning can happen anytime–as part of an online information search or an in-store personal visit. Let’s see how you can add learning moments as part of your customer service philosophy. These opportunities motivate team members (they can make work feel a lot less like…work) and provide a great experience for customers.

1. Define Your Audience Needs

Cover the “how, when where, what and why” of learning. What do they want to know or need to know? (not: what do you want to tell!). Our best advice? Observe them, ask them.

Design your learning through questions like: “How much information do your customers already have?” “Is what they know usually correct or “urban myth?” Next, determine if they want an informal experience (your team just happens to engage them at the store…) or something more instructional, like a illustration explaining the habits of field mice and how to keep them out of the house? Answering these questions will determine whether you design team member prompts, a very basic class, or technical or in-depth instruction for budding experts.

2. Define Some Learning Objectives

What do customers need to know? What will customers be able to do (differently) after they engage in the learning moment? Example: buying cheese. A good learning objective might be: We want guests to be able to recognize, through sight and smell, the differences between hand-crafted cheese and factory-produced cheeses. This helps you create a more informed consumer, and allows your team to offer their expertise on a topic.

Two very important objectives for every customer learning moment: 1) Keep it light. You want these moments to be engaging and fun, not a return to calculus class. 2) Keep it real. You want customers to see how your team, and the value they offer through this interaction, is far superior to the competitor's.

3. Tell A Great Story

This is a great way to check your research and any assumptions. Jot down images or thoughts as to how the learning might occur. Invite your team members to design the story with you. You can envision this story being told: 1) by an associate in your store, 2) through an illustration on your website, 3) via an online learning module, 4) as part of an in-store video... there are many, many options. Worry about the story now, the delivery method in Step 4.

Draw the process on a napkin or tablet. Keep those learning objectives in mind as you or your team sketch the story. If the story you create doesn't address the learning objectives, that’s an indicator that you included some “nice to have” information versus the “need to know” content. You should probably leave any unrelated content on the napkin, or create a second course that focuses on another topic.

4. Engage Your Customer

Different people learn in different ways, so include actions and prompts that target the visual, auditory and kinesthetic (activity) learners. In an aisle or showroom, your team members can explain the differences between two cheeses (auditory), provide a handout (visual) and quickly let the customer compare the two by tasting (kinesthetic).

Need to squelch an urban myth by providing consistent, clear communication? You may find that an online interaction is the best way to get the right information out to customers quickly. Want more ways to engage customers in your store? You can help employees by providing them some quick coaching and prompts that help them tell the story, as they engage their customers through conversation.

5. Establish a Relationship

Don’t hit them over the head with a sale–that feels too much like a setup. Most customers don't respect that kind of entrapment. Remember, this type of learning moment–where your associate is positioning themselves as a trusted advisor–is a customer's first step toward a long-term relationship with your organization, not a quick-close sale.

In this situation, allow your customers some autonomy to call the next shot. Is this something they are passionate about, or are they just curious? Are there other topics they can explore? Are there additional opportunities (like a class or demonstration offered by your team) available to them? Would they like to bring in something they discovered online or recommend a similar product you should carry? Engage your customers - don't pressure them. And, if they really, really enjoy the topic, perhaps they might have a future working for your team...

The more you think about customer service as an education process, the more likely your team will begin to find meaning in their interactions, while uncovering previously hidden opportunities for additional sales and service. And don't forget, those materials you develop to educate customers can be repurposed as training tools for new staff, and vice versa.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:47 AM

    Thank for this great post, i like what you