Customer Service

The Wild West of Customer Service

trunkAlbert Einstein was the first to coin the phrase “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

The Wild, Wild West of Customer Service

We have reached a time when there is a sales revolution afoot. For hundreds of years, salespeople were expected to “hawk” their products and convince customers to buy. This conjures up a picture of salespeople heading into town with their wagons and snake oil. Since that time, we’ve given them new names: sales consultants, sales associates or relationship partners. Whatever you call them, their main job has been to sell the customers. Salespeople that don’t sell, soon become history.

Separating the Herd

One of the interesting things that differentiates the good salespeople from the bad ones is their commitment to long-term continuous development. If you are not developing your skills, you are going backwards in your career. If you’re not keeping up with the trends, you will have trouble building rapport with prospective customers.

The Internet is insisting on good communication.

Cyberspace: The Final Customer Service Frontier

The Internet has changed the role of the salesperson. The consumer’s first stop in their shopping is the Internet. According to a study in 2013 by PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, 83 percent of U.S. consumers go online to research electronics, computers, books, music, movies and more before going to a brick-and-mortar store. If your business isn’t listed, don’t get too comfortable.

Ask yourself: “Do I go online?” and “Do my friends go online?” These days, everyone is going online to purchase something. Going online gives the customer valuable information and gives her a reason to sell herself on products. Most salespeople have had experience with their customers shopping online but aren’t comfortable in collaborating with the customer or seeing the customer as their equal.

According to Google, in their book “Why ZMOT Matters More Than Ever” they state the following: “Three years ago, we changed the marketing rule book. And by ‘we,’ I mean all consumers. Our shopping behavior — the journey each of us takes on our path to purchase — helped identify a new ‘Moment of Truth’ for marketers and brands. ZMOT, or the “Zero Moment of Truth,” describes a revolution in the way consumer’ s search for information online and makes  decisions about brands.

More customers are seeking solutions online.  Instead of the salespeople being the go-to people, the Internet has taken their place. If the internet is taking the place of the salespeople, what should they do? They need to understand the changes in their role and the changes in how they connect with their customers. The biggest problem for most salespeople is their lack of skill when it comes to using the Internet and social media tools. They’re used to having customers come to them instead of having to reach out to the customers. Business owners need to provide the tools for their salespeople.

Great salespeople understand the value of staying in touch with their customers through some type of communication. The Internet has given us many new venues to stay connected. Unfortunately, many businesses are not allowing their salespeople to spend time online with customers. They say it’s a “waste of time and money.” It’s actually quite the opposite: If your salespeople are still sitting waiting for customers to show up at your door, you’re wasting time, money and talent.

Old marketing venues are less effective and starting to diminish. Newspapers are struggling as are television and magazines. What does this mean? It means salespeople need to spend more time online getting to know customers and finding new ways to connect. The key is to decide how to use these connections.

To get started, look at the venues most used by your customers and develop a strategy with your salespeople to infiltrate these venues and make them work for you.

Lisbeth Calandrino has been doing business consulting for the past 20 years. To schedule a consultation or have her speak with your employees, call her at 518-495-5380 or email at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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By |November 24th, 2014|Blog, Blogging, Customer Experience, Customer Service|0 Comments

5 Ways To Get Your Salespeople Connected To Customers

connecting-with-customer-service-advisorI have been doing sales training for over 25 years, and I am always amazed when I see a salesperson having trouble building rapport. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say on the subject:

 “Rapport is one of the most important features or characteristics of subconscious communication. It is commonality of perspective: being ‘in sync’ with, or being ‘on the same wavelength’ as the person with whom you are talking.”

In other words, rapport is when we ‘get each other’. It’s as simple as that, but it becomes complicated when we believe that everyone should think like us. Not only do we think it, we spend time trying to convince the other person of our position. If you’re spending your time convincing, it shows a lack of understanding of communication. Building rapport is part of customer service and the customer experience.

In order to be a good salesperson, you have to give up your position of having to be right and hand it over to your customer. Remember, if you want to be right to win, that means the customer has to be wrong. In any transaction or relationship, no one wants to be wrong.

  1. Before conducting any type of sales training, I always suggest we do a standard sales training inventory – a test that will show the person how they communicate, who they communicate best with and what gets in their way. The one I like the best comes from BEST Instruments. It is short but conveys lots of information.
  2. Learning about your communication style makes it easier for you to absorb new information and understand how it will help you. This is why school is so difficult for many; they can’t understand why they need the information and how it will help them. Once you do some communication testing, people will open up and want to learn.
  3. Building rapport is the concept of connecting to your customer. Instinctively, we know how to communicate with people like ourselves. If you ask people why it works, they often say, “We just click.”
  4. You can click with anyone. Isn’t that amazing? Instead of passing on a customer because you don’t like them or just don’t get them, once you learn about yourself you can make adjustments in your communication style.
  5. Great salespeople are in control of their communication. They know why they connect and what makes it work. On the other hand, amateurs leave it up to fate. Another great line is, “The customer just wasn’t ready to buy.” Building good rapport has little to do with the customer buying your product; it has a lot to do with whether the customer buys you!

Give a gift to your salespeople: the ability to understand their communication and sales skills. It will benefit them and your business many times over.

To schedule Lisbeth to speak to your employees or schedule a consultation, reach her at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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How to Talk Crazy Customers “Off the Ledge” and Other Tactics

It is about them.

What to do when people are out of control.

The other day I was at Dunkin’ Donuts when a customer started yelling. The store was packed; he was a big man and pointing his finger at the clerk’s nose. His beef was he hadn’t gotten his toasted muffin or tuna fish sandwich. The manager was trying to explain that her oven wasn’t working, and she was sorry for the inconvenience.

The more she explained her side of the case, the worse it got. It didn’t matter what she said, he continued to berate her in front of the other customers. I thought about putting my hand on his arm in hopes it might calm him down. (I knew it wasn’t a good idea, so I didn’t do it.) I thought he might have a gun, and we would all be history. At this point, people were putting their heads down and leaving. I considered the same but realized there was a lot for me to learn. This was nothing about customer service; it was about a crazy and berating customer.

The clerk gave him his money back and explained she would give him the rest of the order for free. This wouldn’t satisfy him either. He slammed through the door and ran into the parking lot still yelling. His partner wasn’t impressed; she started screaming at him for not bringing the order; so much for a pleasant ride to the Catskills.

Was there anything else she could have done? She was upset, shaking but not on the verge of tears. It was obvious she was well trained but “not that well trained.”

  1. There’s a point where she should have shut up. The customer wasn’t listening, didn’t care and wasn’t logical.  He was very emotional. There’s no point trying to defend yourself.
  2. You can agree with the customer. So he believes you’re stupid for not having what he wants, and he believes he’s entitled. I don’t know what he would have said, but the rest of us would have enjoyed her approach and logic.
  3. It would have helped if she had raised her voice instead of retreating into her rather quiet approach. A loud “you’re right “might have helped. It’s called “talking the customer off the ledge.” Power it up, not with the same anger but with matching volume. Who knows what’s going on in his life?
  4. Don’t make the fire any hotter by explaining anything. A simple “sorry” is enough.
  5. Don’t take it personally. Sure this is tough to do, but it really has nothing to do with you. I watched an episode at the bank that was quite amazing. I didn’t hear the original conversation, but I did hear the teller say to  the customer if he said that again, she  would come around to the front and “pound him! “Okay she was fired but I had a feeling he might have been really out of line. Do you want more information on this subject? Check out this article, “10 Ways to Deal with Difficult Customers.”

Lisbeth Calandrino has been helping businesses to build loyal customers for the last twenty years. To have her speak to your company or schedule a consultation, reach her at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com or check out her web site, www.lisbethcalandrino.com.

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By |July 27th, 2014|Blog, Customer Service|0 Comments

Want to Improve Your Bottom Line? Hold Events in Your Store

Proven ideas to drive customers to your business.

I was speaking with a friend of mind that owns a culinary store. “It must have been a tough winter, with all the snow,” I said.

“It was a great winter she said. We started holding cooking classes, and we were swamped.”

I mention her success because holding events has   always been a winner. No matter what your retail store, thoughtful promotions will attract new customers and thank your old ones. Holding events also creates a “buzz” that will have your neighbors paying attention. It doesn’t have to cost much money. It just takes some thoughtful promotions; don’t be  afraid to go all out. The more people you can bring in the better. The purpose of an event is to get people into your store and get to know them. Since 85% of your business is probably referrals, you don’t want customers to forget you.

Anything you do that pleases the customer improves your customer service. The more interesting the customer experience the more the customer will remember you. Customers have so many places to hide online that reaching them  has never been more difficult.

Making people feel special is cheap. Don’t you love getting an invitation to an event even if you can’t attend? It means that someone is thinking about you.

We’re all looking for things to do that aren’t expensive.

Events don’t have to be related to your products. For many retailers not promoting their products seems to be frightening. They’re afraid if they don’t talk about their products, they will lose customers. Actually just having fun with your customers is a way to build relationships. Even though we know it’s a good way to build sales, retailers seem reluctant to hold them.

My advice, “Get over it.”

  1. You shouldn’t spend a lot of money. Having lots of balloons will create a party atmosphere and putting your event on your social media will get the word out. It’s not necessary to advertise in the local newspaper unless you have extra dough. These days social media can do it all for you.
  2. You don’t need a big space. Hold your event during your off season. During the holidays, their is lots of competition for your customer’s attention. With the summer coming, this is a perfect time to have a garden seminar in your parking lot. If you’re a risk taker, have a barbecue at your house. Several years ago, I had a fund-raiser at my house, and it was fun and people just loved coming to my home.
  3. Customer appreciation day always works. David Campbell, owner of Amazing Toys in Great Falls, Montana, holds a customer appreciation in October before the holidays. He also gives reduced prices at his events for Christmas shopping. (Click on the link for information on how to hold a customer appreciation day. )
  4. Have you held an Anniversary party? Why not celebrate your business and share it with your customers.
  5. How about a special “guest” appearance? Every town has local celebrities. Some even have worldwide celebrities. Maybe you can have them make a special appearance. If you can involve a local not-for-profit, you will have a better chance of getting a celebrity to  your business. I remember when we raised money for the special needs program  in our neighborhood; we didn’t have any problems getting Yankee great Phil Razzioto to make an appearance! It was so exciting.

Holding events is the way to bring in customer and build relationships. If you need ideas for events, check out my recently published book, “50 Events to drive Traffic to Your Store.” It will soon be on my website and on Amazon.

Are you attending “Coverings” this coming week? If so, stop into my seminar on “How to Use Events to Grow Your Business” on Friday May 2, 2014, at 9:30-11 A.M.

Lisbeth has been a retail consultant for over 20 years. She specializes in improving customer service and building sales strategies that drive traffic. To have her speak at your store, she can be reached at 518-495-538-.

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4 Ways to Go the “Extra Inch” to Make Your Customer Service Better–Take it from the Japanese Culture

 

High Five Bar in Japan.

As you can probably tell from last week’s post, The Devil is in the Details: Part 1, the overall Japanese customer service experience really made an impression on me. This week, I bring you another example of stellar customer service.

The Bar: A Manager Who Went the Extra Mile

In 2007, I took a job as a paint inspector in a local Japanese shipyard. As part of my inculcation to the company, we all went out to the bar after my first week of work. It was a small establishment, a quaint little set-up with dim lights, plush sofas, drunken karaoke, and beautiful bar-girls.

I ran out of cigarettes, so when I ordered my next drink, I asked the bartender – who turned out to be the owner – where the nearest cigarette machine was. He handed me my drink and took my money, but instead of handing me my change, immediately ran out the door.

Confused, I returned to my seat. A minute later, the man returned with the pack of cigarettes – opened, with one smoke already pulled half-way out – and politely handed the pack, as well as my change, to me. There’s a phrase for that – it’s called exceptional customer service!

Customer Service: Going the Extra Inch

You’ve heard the phrases before – you know, phrases like “going the extra mile” or “going above and beyond.” While those are nice clichés, and they certainly make a good point, customer service is even simpler than that. Going the extra inch is:

  • A smile
  • An open ear
  • A kind gesture
  • Common courtesy

Interestingly, I can’t begin to recount the number of times that I’ve walked into a gas station and asked for a pack of smokes, only to have the cashier all but throw the pack at me. I’m not asking for them to get down on one knee for me; I’m just asking for a little common courtesy (i.e. good customer service). Appreciation is a common customer service tool in Japan.

True, they may not be the owners of the company or the store. They may not even be management for the store, but the better impression they make, and the more satisfied the customers are, the better the company will do. In a sense, it’s in their best interest too. Their customer service skills indirectly affect their job security by inviting repeat customers.

I closing, the moral of these stories isn’t in any way to contrast Japanese business practices with American business practices directly; however, these stories do serve to illustrate how the small things can make a huge difference in a customer’s mind. Customer service in Japanese bars is based on hospitality, how can we service the customer?

Could I have walked fifteen feet down the alley to get my own cigarettes? I certainly could have. It would have taken literally no time or effort to do so, but that’s kind of the point. The owner knew that it wouldn’t take much time or effort. And with that simple, effortless gesture he made such a lasting impression that he instantly won me over as a customer. Seven years later and I’ll still gladly go back for a drink if I get the chance.

Created byWriter,  James Allen, james.r.allen2011@gmail.com.

Blog produced by Lisbeth Calandrino.

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By |March 15th, 2014|Customer Service|0 Comments

Are Your Salespeople Missing in Action?

Sales people must always be on alert for new customers.

The client’s journey begins long before they set foot in a retail store. They are talking with friends, researching products, and looking for testimonials, all before they determine which store to shop. What’s missing? The salesperson.

 

Most stores are  having their salespeople sit around and wait for the client to come into the store.  The customer is in command. This used to work but these days the customer is in control.

 

Why would you want your salesperson to sit around and wait when they can be influencing clients to come into the store? Why are they waiting for the customer to make the decision when they have the opportunity to influence their decision? Why not have them be proactive and go online connecting with the “potential customer?”

 

I know that many business owners are concerned about what their salespeople will say online. Will they insult the customer? Will they be unprofessional? What will be the outcome of their conversation? If this is your concern set some parameters.

But people still buy from people they like and trust. Technology has changed our lives, but it offers the opportunity to for the consumer and salesperson to build their relationship online. The salesperson had to wait until the consumer came into their store to get to know them.  Now they have tremendous opportunities to build important relationships.

If your salespeople could connect with potential customers before they even walk through the door, you would have an advantage over everyone else in the business.

Google (check out this video)  suggests to connect effectively, you must know who your customers are, where they are “hanging out”  and what you’re going to say to them when you find them .

Who knows your customers better than your salespeople?

So it just comes down to what they’ll say. This is a matter of training and policy. Ignoring the potential pitfalls of online communication doesn’t make them go away,it just provides another challenge. A challenge that can be easily managed.   Why not determine the parameters  and dynamics of your salespeople’s conversation? Train them in how to market themselves and the business. This way you can  humanize your marketing, and make your salespeople more attractive to new customers.

The internet is about building relationships; start building yours.

 

These days, a good salesperson has to be a good marketer – there are those of us who think marketing has replaced sales. They must also understand their customer and always be “customer service focused.” Connecting on line is “great” customer service.

 

Social media is not going away nor will customers decide to stop making the Internet their first stop in determining where to shop. The sooner you determine your online policies and how you’re going to have your salespeople connect, the quicker you will increase your customer base.

Lisbeth Calandrino has been doing sales and customer service training for over 20 years. She believes that technology is the key to doing business and salespeople need to be marking and connecting with customers before they come into your place of business. For training or a consultation on the “new selling,” Lisbeth can be reached at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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By |February 16th, 2014|Blog, Customer Service|0 Comments

Are You Keeping Your Promises To Your Customers?

I’ve bought a number of valuable items from Brighton, including a belt and a watch with the darling heart symbol. Their products are not cheap; in fact I would say they border on expensive. But with a “lifetime warranty,” so they say, why not buy their products? I can give you at least one reason: they really don’t mean your lifetime, they mean their lifetime.

My belt is worn and I need to replace the band on my watch, so I contacted the company. They guarantee that their products will last and promise to repair them, so this should have been no problem.

But the company said my watch and belt had been discontinued. It could not be repaired.

What happened to the life-time warranty? I don’t remember seeing any disclaimer. I might just as well buy junk or “look alike” Brighton, and discard it when it looks bad. This way I can afford to buy a new one.

Contrast this to a Louis Vuitton satchel I purchase from Bloomingdale’s 20 years ago. It has been repaired so many times I’m embarrassed to send it back. I wasn’t looking for it to be done free; I just wanted it done. I believe the bag cost $250 but I never thought they would continue to repair it. Now that’s a warranty!

Other companies don’t seem to even think about what they’re promising. An offer at a local dry cleaner got me to walk in the door – but their customer service had me walking right back out. Customer service begins when you keep your promises.  (Check out this article on customer service.)

Are you keeping your promises?

The sign in the window said: shirts washed and starched for ninety nine cents if you bring in a piece of dry cleaning. I thought it was a terrific idea so I took two items and drove 9 miles to give it a try. Keep in mind I have a dry cleaner 4 doors down from my house. After driving out of my way, I found out they won’t accept women’s shirts because they don’t fit the ironing machine. Is this my fault? The sign has been in the window for seven years. Am I the only one to complain?

What are your promises to your customers? Do you stand by your products, willing to repair them forever? You don’t have to offer free repairs, but what are you saying about your product if you abandon the customer who wants to keep using it? All I want is a guarantee that you’re going to be there to talk with me and give me guidance.

My car is a 1998 two-door Lexus with 198,000 miles. When I take it in, no one says it’s too old to be repaired. Is a car different? I think from now on I should ask, how long before you stop talking to me?

Customers don’t want everything for free. We just want to know that someone will stand behind their purchase and at least talk with them if there’s a problem.

Maybe I have unrealistic expectations. But before I buy something “pricey” with a lifetime warranty, I’m going to ask, “Whose lifetime?”

Lisbeth Calandrino has been providing customer service and sales solutions to businesses for the past twenty years. To have her train or speak at your business, contact her at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com or 518.495.5380.

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By |February 3rd, 2014|Blog, Customer Service|1 Comment

Customer Service is not about Technology, It’s About Keeping Up With the Customer

It’s not about technology; it’s about the customer and how the customer is getting information.

Yesterday I receive a  call from a floor covering retailer about technology.

“I just can’t keep up with it, he said, I don’t know what to do first!”

This is a common cry from business owners who believe that technology is the key to their existence.  They think if they don’t learn everything about it, their business will fail.

Yes technology is changing every day, but that’s not the problem. The problem is finding your consumer.  The consumer  has  found new friends in cyberspace. Instead of starting their product search in your retail store; they are starting their search online. To  keep your business alive; you must know the following two things:

  1. Who is your primary customer? No, not everyone is a customer. Your customer should be profitable and should want to sing your praises. (This customer is probably a referral.)
  2. Where online does your customer hang out? (Everyone has their favorite places to connect.)

Your customer may still be at the Chamber of Commerce or at the Networking Group, but they are also online. To keep up with your customers, you will need to know their favorite haunts. Why spend all of your days on Facebook chasing down a customer and then realize they’re on LinkedIn?

Google has been writing about the Customer’s Zero Moments of Truth, ZMOT to give us an idea of what’s fueling the customer. Instead of telling us “what technology to use” they are telling us to find our customer. I have linked you to an article I wrote for the Albany Times Union on the ZMOT.

Three ideas from  Google are worth significant attention. When it comes to the customer, Google suggests the following: Here is a video link to ZMOThttp://v1.zeromomentoftruth.com/google-zmot-es.pdf.

  1. Know where your customer hangs out and show up to engage.
  2. Show up often. (Don’t be a stranger or ‘one-hit wonder.’ hit wonder.’
  3. Know what to say when you show up.

If your primary business is B-to-B, then LinkedIn might be the place to show up. What will you show up for? Note the above. Either join a group connected with your industry and the people you want to know. If there isn’t a group, start your own.

If your primary business is retail, check out Facebook, Pinterest and Houzz. If you’re not sure which ones apply to your customers, ask them.

Let’s stop kidding ourselves. Most searches start on-line. Our job is to decide where our customers are on-line and meet them there. This is where the dance begins.  The idea is to get the customer to engage with you so get to know and trust you. Once this happens they will consider going to your retail store.

Today engagement is all about listening to, and talking with the customer. The days of “telling the customer anything” are over.

Lisbeth has been coaching businesses for over 25 years. Her focus is helping businesses use customer service to impact the bottom line. Not sure where to begin? Give Lisbeth a call and share your thoughts. Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com or 518-495-5380.

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By |January 23rd, 2014|Blog, Customer Service|1 Comment

Does Your Customer Service Need Cleaning Up?

Customer service is all that matters.

Lots of things can clutter up your business. One of them is old customer service ideas. The most important thing a business can do for their customers is to stay in front of them.

What are you doing to keep in touch with your past customers. 85% of your business will come from referrals so it’s time to check in with them.

There’s nothing worse than a customer who makes a referral to your competitor because she forgets about you. Yes, it happens more than you think.

 

Lisbeth Calandrino helps businesses build loyal relationships with their customers through customer service and sales training. Call for a free consultation! 518-495-5380.

 

Years ago, my friend was one of the only people without a cell phone. Several of his friends were in the cell phone business, and he promised when the time came, he would consider their services.

So his car broke down one dark night, and he walked to the nearest pay phone! Yes, this was 20 years ago. When the technician showed up from AAA, he asked the technician about his cell phone. The technician raved about the phone and the carrier. Sure enough, the next morning my friend bought the same cell phone. He never even thought about his friends in the cell phone business.

Start with your email lists, those that have been sitting around for years. The ones you haven’t checked, and you don’t know if the people are living or deceased. By the way, sending notes to deceased customers isn’t a good idea; particularity if their spouses are checking their emails. Start cleaning out all the bounced email addresses and the people who have changed jobs just disappeared.

What about your news contacts? Do they still exist or changed jobs? When was the last time you sent them, a news released? Are you still trying to figure out your password for Facebook? When will the fingerprint recognition kick in? It can’t be soon enough.

How is your social media doing? Are some channels working and others not? You know the ones you signed up for and never used?

 

Time to clean out your customer service.

What about all those news feeds you signed up for and never read? They’re just cluttering up your mailbox waiting to get deleted. Get rid of them or read them. I have lots of feeds that seemed like good ideas, and now I don’t know why I wanted them.

What about your customer testimonials? How up-to-date are they? When was the last time you checked your online reputation, is there anything out there that needs tending?Here is an article on managing your on line reputation.

Do you ever look at your own web site? Is everything in order? What about your blog? Do you ever check your stats to see how many visitors you are receiving?

I know Spring is months away, but why not take a look at these things and make some changes now? There will probably be lots of nasty days where you can be making great changes and be ready for Spring.

Happy cleaning!

Lisbeth Calandrino helps businesses built loyal customers through sales and customer service training. She can be reached at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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By |November 1st, 2013|Blog, Customer Service|0 Comments

Customer Service: The New Profit Link To Your Business

Join me in the auditorium at SmAlbany as I present, Customer Service: The New Profit Link for Your Business.

It’s time  for SmAlbany 2013. I’m excited again to be speaking at the event. . My topic this year is Customer Service: The New Profit Link for Your Business.

How does customer service become the new link to your business? Because sales in its previous format no longer exists.  We’ve entered into the fourth age—it’s called the age of the consumer. (Great article)

Products are commodities, so they no longer represent a competitive advantage.  In this age, past sources of competitive advantage have been commoditized. In other words, having great products isn’t enough because we don’t have a shortage of great products. Now every company can tap into global factories and global supply chains. Brand, manufacturing, distribution, and IT are all table stakes. And with online reviews, social networks, and mobile web access, it’s easy for your customers to know as much about your products, services, competitors, and pricing as you do.

What can your company do? Being different requires some fast thinking and fast dancing as well as protecting and defining your online reputation.

Join me at 8:30 in the Auditorium and my booth at Table 130—right next to the coffee! Sign up for one of my upcoming seminars and receive a $50.00 discount if you sign up at the show.

Lisbeth Calandrino helps businesses build loyal relationships with their customers through customer service and the ‘new sales’ training. Her book, Red Hot Customer Service can be purchased at her web site, www.lisbethcalandrino.com

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By |July 8th, 2013|Blog, Customer Service|0 Comments