Transforming the Customer Experience

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Any Customer Experience Focus MUST Start at the Top

The fastest and easiest way to turn around the lack of customer service that we are currently experiencing is to, as business leaders, practice what we preach.

So many times, our teams within our organization have not been properly trained or even told what is expected of them. Because of this, everything has been left to chance. They are operating with no guidelines or expectations and really have no true idea of what excellent customer service means or even how to go about delivering it.

Leadership has the responsibility for setting clear expectations and guidelines when it comes to delivering excellent service. In order to be a true leader, you must, by definition, have followers.  Your staff will follow the direction and examples you set before them.

So with this being established, it is now up to leadership to clearly define what excellent customer service means in your organization. It needs to be something much more than a snappy motto or slogan, it needs to be something that everyone buys into and can deliver.

Most importantly, leadership needs to model the desired behaviors. Whatever standards are set for service levels, leadership needs to be walking the talk and delivering exactly that. To really been seen as true leaders, the key players should be doing everything they can to exceed even those bare minimum guidelines.

By knowing exactly what excellent service means in your company or organization, your teams will clearly know what is expected of them.

When they see and hear leadership delivering excellent service, they will be learning specifically what to do and say in order to achieve those standards. People love learning from their leaders because they then feel secure in the examples given and aren’t risking too much by trying something that hasn’t been done before.

Leadership is the key factor in excellent service. It is the trickle down effect that carries the most weight. If teams are told to deliver excellent service and the examples are set for them, it instantly becomes part of the culture of service and everyone will encourage the delivery of superior service.

Your competitors are doing everything they can to attract your customers. By starting at the top, your customer centric mentality will permeate your organization and become natural practice.  If you do this correctly,  you’ll create customers that want to go out of their way to do business with you.

The Customer Experience You Deliver Trumps Your Title

Disregard the title on your business card. That’s right, whatever title you currently have, disregard it.  It doesn’t matter if you are the business owner or the entry level summer position.  Your title on your card is irrelevant except for the fact that it details some of your functional responsibilities.  Your true purpose within your business is to serve the customers who pay money for your product or service.  If you don’t serve the customer face to face, you are still working to support those who do.

No matter what your titled position is designated as – you are in customer service.

Everyone in your organization is serving the customer. Even those who work behind the scenes and never come face to face with the customer bringing in the dollars are working to support those who do. The person who answers the phone, the person who distributes mail, the person making purchasing decisions, the person managing projects, the person providing janitorial services – all of these people are performing functions that ultimately impact the paying customer in some form or fashion. The trick is to make sure that all of these individuals recognize that they are not working independently, but as a team to benefit the customer.

The main reason customers leave? You and your treatment of them.

Customers are leaving your business mainly because of how you treat them. The number one reason cited 70% of the time for leaving a place of business is based solely on the experience that you provided. Consumers today are delighted when they are treated as valued partners in the business and are not processed through the system. When businesses practice the basic concept of courtesy and good manners, customers notice it and come back for more. Customers are hungry for businesses that welcome them into their place of business, that greet them warmly, make eye contact, introduce themselves, offer assistance when needed. They enjoy the experience so much more when they are thanked for their business at the end of the transaction and are encouraged and invited to come back again.

Too often, customers are treated as a nuisance or necessary evil of running the business. They are seen as time wasters. While we all have had the occasional bad day and don’t want to interact with another customer, we need to recognize that those very customers are the ones sustaining our business.

If you don’t serve your customers well, someone else will.

The smart companies are those that are focusing on their customers and looking for ways to serve them well. The customer is the sole determining factor in the success of your business. Customers are recognizing this fact and are looking for those businesses that deliver excellent customer service. They want to do business with those that effectively manage the customer experience.

It’s all about Customer Experience Management.

Delivering excellent customer service involves all aspects of the customer experience. It starts from the initial desire of your product or service on the part of the customer and extends through every customer contact point, to the point of follow up after the transaction. When this process is well managed with the customer benefit as the focal point, the entire company has then become customer centric and started to build the relationship that customers are craving from those they do business with.

By making sure that it is the customer and their needs that you are serving, you are working in the best interest of both the customer and your business.

Empathy Drives Customer Loyalty and Customer Experience Factors

Managing the customer experience requires efforts in many areas.  As leaders, we consider the staffing levels, the shopping environment, the product lines we offer, the marketing and advertising to draw customers in, sales incentives, etc. But as much time and attention as we put into these, many companies neglect one critical factor.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

This is a saying that has been around for quite some time and holds so much meaning in so many different contexts.  But, ultimately, it comes down to the fact that you must care in order to reach people.  When you care, you are giving of yourself.  When you give of yourself, you connect with people in a way that most business leaders fail to recognize is the missing ingredient to a successful business relationship.

We many know everything about our product and all of the benefits and features it has, but until we care about the customer and how our product will be their solution, the customer will feel as though they are merely part of a business transaction.

By caring about the needs of the individual consumer, the business is setting itself apart from the competition.  So many consumers today feel that they are simply a number or a part of the bottom line that they feel companies do not regard them personally at all.   When business leaders consider their customers as actual people with a problem that needs to be solved, it brings the relationship to a deeper level.

Consumers have a need for certainty and connection that can be met simply by having the right mindset in place to serve them.  It takes empathy and a genuine sense of customer service to connect with customers and to show them that you genuinely want to provide the best product and experience for them.  When we want to do our best, we usually become more resourceful in ways to accomplish our goal.

Creativity and wanting to best serve the customers are the two main factors I see in delivering excellent customer service that drives the customer relationship.  When we’ve hired the right staff that shares the customer centric mindset we have, the customer wins by receiving the time and attention from those that truly want to serve their best interest.

A team that cares about the needs of the customer is also the team that is empowered to make the decisions that make the customers happy.  By giving the staff more control and power, they are more willing to work with customers, to know what it will take to retain their business, and how to best resolve an issue that has the potential to sever a customer relationship.  The staff also is encouraged to make decisions as if they owned the company.  They seriously consider the long term benefits to the decisions they make and how it will sustain the customer retention levels.

What to Do With Customer Survey Feedback to Improve the Customer Experience

Customer feedback is a critical component of any customer service program.

Today’s successful companies are those that are truly partnering with their customers and integrating their feedback. The smart companies are being

proactive about improving their customer service by asking their customers directly what they can do to retain their business.
In order to truly find out what your customers are thinking about your company and it’s products, just ask them.

Essential steps to take are:

Determine what you want to know – The desired outcomes need to be clearly defined. Anybody can ask customers 10-20 questions, but if they aren’t geared toward uncovering specific information, the benefit to the company or customers is minimal.

Identify the target group – Determine which specific segment of your customers you wish to survey. Once this is done, it is important to capture as much of their feedback as possible.

Develop and conduct the survey – 
More information can be obtained from surveys that are both quantifiable and qualifiable. By having an explanation given for the scale ratings, you will gain the customers reasoning perspective. The results from this initial survey serve as the benchmarks against which improvements and changes will be measured.

Personal follow up – Once the survey has been conducted, follow up with those customers who have given permission to be contacted. Even more information will be gained in conversation and the customer will clearly explain their reasoning and perspective behind their answers. This step also solidifies in the customer’s mind the company’s determination to satisfy their customers.

Implement the changes and resurvey – Integrate the changes or improvements requested in the survey. After enough time has passed for the customers to experience the improvements, resurvey them. Measure the results against the benchmarks obtained in the original survey.

Be certain to distribute the information received from the feedback surveys to all departments in your company. The ultimate customer experience is determined by the integration of efficient teamwork and sharing of customer driven information throughout the organization.

How to Drive Customers Right Into the Arms of Your Competition

Many studies suggest that a lot of customers are non-confrontational and won’t address a complaint with a manger of a business.  They’ll simply take their business elsewhere without telling you why.  Many businesses aren’t even aware that they are losing you as a customer in the first place.  Following are some sure fire ways to lose customers without even really trying to.

Don’t acknowledge them. The best way to let your customers know that you are glad they came into your store, company, or office is to properly and immediately greet them. If you make eye contact and genuinely introduce yourself and ask if you may assist them in any way, they may get the distinct impression that you actually want to serve them and gain their business. In order to have them leave quickly, be certain to ignore them when they come in, don’t be available for questions, and be as uncommunicative as possible.

Don’t ask them any questions or identify their needs. By asking questions to identify the needs of your customers, they will think that you are trying to ascertain which product or service of yours, if any, will best suit their needs. Just tell them in as few words as possible what products and services you offer. Say your script and, if they ask any questions, repeat the script again.

Be sure to drop the ball. When customers ask questions, tell them that you will get right back to them, but never return the call. When you promise them something on a specific date or time, make sure that you are days late without warning them ahead of time. Make sure that no one else in your office knows what is going on with this customer, so that if they happen to contact your office while you are gone, no one else will be able to help them. If customers think that you are a reliable company, accountable, and deliver what you promise, they will be more likely to return to you. Is that what you really want?

Don’t train your staff. If you tell your staff as little as possible and keep them out of the loop on company news, products, and services, they certainly won’t know how to pass any of this information along to your customers that you are trying to lose. By having staff that is well informed on the company, well versed in products and services, it just gives the impression that you know about what you provide and that you are anxious to make sure the customer gets full benefit from it.

Just deliver the goods and head out. When you deliver the product or service, do so without offering any help or suggestions. Make sure that they just get your “thing” without fully understanding what it does or how to use it. Most of all, make sure that you don’t call them to ask them how they liked it. If you deliver your product or service and fully explain what it does, how to use it for their needs, you may give the impression that you know your stuff. Customers like it when they have someone who knows what they are show them how their new purchase works and how will benefit them or their company.

Never look back. By never following up with your customers, you can continue doing business exactly the way you want to. You don’t have to listen to any suggestions from customers on how to improve any products or services, or how your company may better fit their needs. If you do follow up with your customers, they may think that you value them and customer retention levels rise. Customers will also develop loyalty by thinking you are willing to do certain things to keep them coming back for your product and to your company. If you tailor your products and company to better serve your customers and increase customer satisfaction, they’ll just keep pestering you for more.

To receive some valuable tips and strategies that you can immediately apply to win the hearts of your customers, click here to receive 50 Customer Service Tips Made Simple.

Amazon Integrates EASE in their Customer Experience

Yet again, Amazon continues to amaze with the “easiness” of the customer experience by including a customer service component not found in most online retailers.

First, I have to own up to complete operator error on my part…

I had an extremely rare evening alone at home.  My husband and all three kids were all out of the house and I decided to indulge in watching any movie of my choice without having to take anyone else’s preferences into consideration.  I have an Amazon Prime account (which I highly recommend) and decided to rent an instant movie.  Now, keep in mind, I’m one of those folks that knows what I want to do, yet can’t completely figure out the remote controller we have that operates our DVD player.

So, I decided to rent the movie “About Time” since I was in the mood for a “feel good” movie.  I selected the HD version and thought I followed the appropriate steps.  When I couldn’t find the “Watch Now” icon, I went through the process again.  You can probably tell where this is going.  Anyway, I watched the movie and it was fantastic.  Best movie I’ve watched in a very long time.  Anyway, I knew I’d have to double check to be sure that I wasn’t charged twice.

In checking my email this morning, yes, I was charged twice.  Yes, I know it was very likely my error.  So, I found the contact page for Amazon Prime Video and was surprised to find they had an option to have them contact me, rather than me calling them.  I entered my phone number and within 10 seconds my phone rang.  I explained my dilemma to the CSR.  She empathized with me that it can sometimes be confusing the first time you use the process (she was very kind and didn’t point out how simple it actually is).  She asked if she could put me on hold for just a minute, then came back to the phone and let me know my account had been credited for one of the rental fees.  Problem solved and an already very satisfied customer was yet again reassured that they ‘ve made the right decision in doing business with Amazon.

Online retailers are slowly developing a reputation for hiding behind their anonymity.  Because they don’t actually see us, they don’t typically understand the frustration of the customer in having to jump through hoops to contact them to resolve issues.

By thinking outside of the box and having their company contact us, that made it even better.  This is one of the many reasons why Amazon is the online goal that so many others are trying to reach.

Who are your favorite online retailers and why?

 

What is More Important to an Upset Customer – Cash or an Apology?

 

Upset customers and clients are part of any business.  We don’t like to admit that it’s true, but the simple fact is that customers will be disappointed with us, our products, or our services from time to time.  This is when most people in business get nervous and don’t know exactly how to manage upset customers.  Many figure that the customer is going to be unreasonable in their demands on how to fix the issue, expect products or services for free, that they can’t admit to any wrong doing for fear of retribution by the company or the customer taking advantage of the situation, etc.

The good news is that what they really want are two very simple words – I’m sorry.

Really, it’s that simple.  Now, simple doesn’t mean easy.  You have to genuinely mean it when you say it.  The customer wants the empathy for their inconvenience and dissatisfaction before we even try to resolve the situation.  Without the empathy , if you deliver a flippant “So sorry,” it just won’t fly.

Once we convey our apologies, the consumer is much more likely to work with us to find a mutually agreeable solution to the problem.  And, aside from the few exceptions that we all know about, most customers are reasonable and fair in their expectations for resolution.

There is an article in www.dailymail.co.uk that will be surprising to many.  It states that when resolving a problem with a customer, most customers value a true and genuine apology over receiving a cash payout from the company.

The article is based on a study conducted by the Nottingham School of Economics’ Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics.  NSE research fellow and study co-author Dr Johannes Abeler claimed the results proved apologies were both powerful and cheap.

The study was done using a seller on ebay who generated 10,000 sales per month over a six month period dealing with their unhappy customers.  The researches predicted that customers would not accept the apology over the cash.  The apology was given by a faceless company, not face to face, and was certainly in the best interest of the company to apologize rather than to pay out money.

The stand-alone apology blamed the manufacturer for a delay in delivery, adding: ‘We are very sorry and want to apologise for this.’

Customers offered money were told: ‘As a goodwill gesture, we can offer you five euros if you would consider withdrawing your evaluation.’

Some 45 per cent of participants withdrew their evaluation in light of the apology, while only 23 per cent agreed in return for compensation.

The study also discovered that a higher purchase price further reduced the number of customers willing to forgive for cash.

Yet the size of the initial outlay had no effect on the willingness of participants to settle for simply reading the magic words: ‘I’m sorry.’

This goes to show that throwing money at a problem is not necessarily the answer.  People want an apology for mistakes and for responsibility to be taken.  Consumers today recognize that issues arise.

Remember, the problem is not going to define you or your company.  How you respond to it will.  Customer satisfaction and customer retention rates dramatically improve when a company has taken the time and effort to serve the customer relationship.  By focusing on customer service through staff training to include an apology when necessary, you will see customer satisfaction levels increase.

Measuring the Results of Customer Experience Efforts

How Can I Tell if Our Efforts to Improve the Customer Experience are Working?

I'm asked this question repeatedly by business leaders.  They understand that the customer experience is more important than ever before.  They believe that they are delivering excellent service and they want some sort of mechanism on how to measure any improvements.

MEASURING CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE EFFORTS

MEASURING CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE EFFORTS

There are many different answers to this question. There are several different ways to survey your customers – online, by phone, email, etc. In surveys, you want to be certain to get your responses both in a quantitative method and qualitatively. The quantitative answers will give you the rating you are looking for and the qualitative answers will enable your customers to answer free form in their own words.

But the two best ways to measure your customer service and satisfaction are 1) by looking at your profit increases and 2) to actually have conversations directly with your customers.

No mater what your business model, these two methods are very basic and revealing. For example, a country club is trying to increase it’s membership. They think they have all of the amenities and options that their members want, they’ve scoped out the competition, and they’ve got the best golf pros around. The challenge is that they have seen profits and membership plateau despite best efforts to increase their numbers.

So by looking at the first measurement, their profits are stable. Now is the time to examine the second measurement – talk to the club members themselves.

By speaking directly with the members, it is their golden opportunity to find out exactly what their member want, like, and don’t like about the club. Having direct communication with members will also increase the relationship between vendor and customer and turn it into a partnership. Once the members recognize that the club truly wants to provide what they want, they will be more forthcoming and tell them exactly what it will take to keep them there.

The final step in this process is crucial – you must act on the information. While it is certainly not feasible to integrate or act on every piece of feedback, it is crucial to consider it and follow up on it. There are many different ways to consider and follow up on the information, all the while keeping the customer informed along the way.

The communication process that has strengthened the relationship between the club and the member will now pay off in profits because the members will be personally invested in the club. They will start to buy more of the services provided because what they wanted is now being offered. Membership levels will increase because the first string of customers have now become raving fans of the club and they are encouraging all of their colleagues, friends, and acquaintances to join.

It has now become a win-win situation for both the country club and the members. The club is seeing more positive feedback from their members and getting more voluntary feedback because the communication paths have already been established. The golf club also enjoying higher profits and membership levels, and the members are enjoying better service, amenities, packages, etc. because they are getting exactly what they asked for and are willing to pay for it.

Google “Gets” the Customer Experience Through Service

I’m sure that Google is under impressed with my internet skills. I’ll start right off by saying that I am certainly no “techie” and that any errors that you find on this site are likely going to be “operator error.”  Me being that operator.

That being said, I ventured off into the world of “techies” to write some articles and needed to find some keywords to capture my target audience.  In the process, it appeared that when I signed into Google to use their tool, it required me to create an ad.  I don’t do ads for my business and was not interested in that at all.  After spending about 30 minutes trying to navigate the site, watching the instructional video, and extreme frustration setting in, I finally contacted Google at their contact number.

After going through about 4 different automated attendant menus (which I can’t stand) I then waited for the customer service rep for about 2 minutes.  Based on the auto attendant process, I was prepared to have someone be very aloof, indifferent, and even a bit condescending to me about my lack of internet programming knowledge.

I couldn’t have been more impressed with the empathy and caring nature of the Google CSR that took my call.  She completely empathized with my situation and assured me that she would walk me through the process without me having to create an actual ad.  With her help, I was able to get the help that I needed and I was on my way.  I was even so happy that I mentioned how impressed I was with her help to my husband later that day and so relieved that it was such a pleasant experience when I was expecting a painful one.

My point is this…  Business owners should make it easy for their customers to ask for help and assistance.  Not everyone knows how to use the products and services they purchase and help should be easily available.  Customers cite many occasions when they look for assistance but are either unable to find it or are so frustrated by the process, they just neglect the purchase and vow never to do business with that company again.

This dilemma knows no boundaries.  It doesn’t matter if you are a small or large businesses, corporation or “Mom and Pop” shop, financial institution, fast food vendor, pet store, or medical office.  Your customers will ask for help. It’s your responsibility to give it to them… with kindness.

Your thoughts?

 

Spreading Holiday Cheer with an AMAZING Customer Experience

This just made my heart warm!  West Jet in Canada did what most of us would dream to do for our customers… took an ordinary situation and made it extraordinary!

I know, I get it… your business can’t afford to go to the lengths that West Jet did, but you can take the same premise and deliver the same feeling.  Ask your customers (or a percentage of them) what their favorite charity is and help organize an evening of volunteering for them.  Or, ask a select few what they’d like for Christmas and do exactly what West Jet did.  Or, ask a few of them what their favorite chocolate or coffee indulgence is and make a special delivery for them or have it on hand at your next meeting.

Spreading cheer is what this season is all about.  For our customers we should have this mindset all of the time, but what a special opportunity to really focus on this.  Do something special, whether large or small, just do something special and unexpected to put a smile on your customers face!

Click on the image below that is linked to the video and enjoy! It will be the best 5 minutes of your day…  I promise.

 

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