Transforming the Customer Experience

Category : cultural mindset

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Strengthen Your Customer Relationships

An article in yesterday’s Examiner.com, Best Practice PR:Keeping Customers reinforces the fact that successful businesses are looking for ways to develop sustainable relationships with their customers. These relationships are what fuels customer retention, customer satisfaction, and customer loyalty.

Consumers today are buying relationships, not products.  Your products and services can be purchased from more than one source.  The relationship comes into play when you personalize the experience for your customer. The relationship that comes with it is the difference that makes the difference to the customer.  People choose their personal relationships by selecting those that make them feel good.  The same principle transfers to business as well.  When we feel good about people or a situation, we gravitate toward that.

Personalizing the experience for your customers is a way to ensure that your customers feel considered and valued.  And when we feel considered and valued, the relationship strengthens, when relationships are strong, we are loyal!

Businesses Grow by Distinguising Their Level of Service

It is so important to recognize that the level of customer service that your organization provides will play a huge role in how successful and sustainable you will be.

Large company or small, service is what will set you apart from your competitors.  Customer satisfaction today is driven by core basic values that truly demonstrate the level to which we value our customers.

“LOUISVILLE — Ron Ertle, founder of “The Original Ron, The Furnace Man,” wanted 1960s-style customer service blended with technology from the new millennium for his heating and air conditioning business.”

Ron was challenged to find staff trained to his expectation levels, so he trained everyone in his company to the level of service he wanted to become known for.  By setting that standard and training everyone the same way, he is developing a corporate culture that will continually strive toward excellent customer service.

When excellent customer service is ingrained in all team members, it will become a routine for them to always think of the customers needs first and to develop new ways to keep the focus on the customer.  You want your team that interacts with your customers daily to have the initiative to be on the look out to improve customer service.

Customer Satisfaction and Retention Should Be Your Focus in 2009

More important, cuts should never negatively impact the customer. In fact, Molloy said, in a time like this, it’s critical to optimize the customer experience, while still looking for ways to cut costs. . –Retail’s Uncertain HorizonJessica Tsai, Posted Jan 19, 2009, Destination CRM.com

NRF Annual ’09: A retailers conference attendees weigh in on what retailers must do with the horror of 2008 behind them and projections of a difficult 2009 ahead.
This article goes on to say that almost 70% of retailers are going to focus on customer satisfaction and retention in 2009.
The main message is clear – whatever your new priorities are for the year 2009, make sure that your customers are at the focus of every product and process.  The needs and desires of the customers will drive your business in which ever direction you choose, either increasing your business, or out of business completely.

Tips for Successful and Postive Customer Relationships

“Superior customer service can often fall to the wayside, lost in the midst of an overload of daily tasks, responsibilities and expectations. However, research studies have shown that customer service is the key to customer loyalty; not something to be overlooked or de-emphasized, especially in this economic climate.

Businesses need to value their customer relationships, listen to their clients, hear their concerns, and carefully plan and put in place ways to make sure their customers are satisfied.

More than likely, if a customer feels they receive poor service, that situation could be enough of a slip-up to make them switch to another company- often the competitor.

Business VoIP solution provider, Nextiva knows the importance of customer service. The company strives to enhance its service with each and every customer, so they feel satisfied with the service provided to come back in the future.” January 16, 2009,  Business VoIP Provider Nextiva Delivers Superior Customer Service, By Michelle Robart, TMCnet Editor

This article sums up the importance of the entire customer experience and the value that companies must put on their relationships with their customers.

The article goes on to state how the company strives to give 110% customer service in order to achieve the highest customer satisfaction rankings possible.

It is this mindset towards customer service that will carry successful far.  By focusing on the  relationship value with their customers, the are making it much more likely that their customers will return to them.

Think of any relationship.  What steps are involved to maintain successful relationships?  Successful communication and rapport leads to trust and loyalty.  Feedback is also essential in order to recognize how the relationship may be changing and to allow the necessary steps to be taken to strengthen it.

These are the same things that successful companies are doing, and must continue to do, in order to remain leaders in their fields.

Great Customer Service…. Do You Really Deliver It?

In so many of my conversations with business people, they are quick to agree that customer service is more important now than ever before.  The customer service that your company delivers can give you a huge advantage over your competitors.

One thing that I have noticed lately is that many people know when they receive good customer service, but they are not exactly sure if they themselves are delivering it.

One way to determine this is to ask for feedback from your customers.  Directly asking them will offer candid responses that may be the most genuine.  There are also comment cards and other methods that when properly used can offer helpful information as well.

Another way to quickly start the process of looking at your customer service abilities is by taking an objective look at your processes in your organization.  Look at things through your customer’s perspective and determine if you are making things as easy and efficient as possible for them.  Does your phone system work for or against your customers?  Can you streamline any processes and cut delivery times?  Do you have an area in which you can have confidential conversations when necessary with customers?  Are your team members ingrained with the mindset of satisfying your customers at all costs?  In your business, how would you define the absolute best scenario for an interaction?  Once you have done that, motivate all team members to strive for that.

Look at your minimum standard expectations that you have for your services currently and better them wherever possible.  It may be something along the lines of “Delivery is promised in five days.”  Is there any possibility of changing that goal to four days?  “All calls will be returned by the end of the business day.”  What about striving to return all calls within three hours?  Little things like these can send large messages of service to your customers.

It really only takes you looking at a situation and deciding how you would like to be treated as the customer.  Make the small changes immediately and the larger ones can always be a work in progress.  As long as you are looking to impress your customers, increase their satisfaction, you will win not only their business, but their loyalty as well.

Offer Up Your Help…… Connect the Dots for Your Customer

I just had two very completely different experiences with two stores.  I was on the phone trying to locate two books for my son.  The library does not carry this series, so my son wanted to purchase them.  I telephoned a large mega store in the area.  After being transferred only once, I was able to speak with someone in the book department.  I specified which books I needed.  He told me that they were out of the first book.  I asked if they had the second one. He said that he didn’t see it on their computer at all.  I asked if they would be ordering any more of the first book.  He said that they would.  I asked when I could hope it would be in the store.  He said perhaps within the next week.

I then called a national chain book retailer and was connected with a bookseller.  I specified which books I was looking for.  He said that they did have a few of the first book, but did not have the second one.  He then asked me if I wanted to have him order the second book for me.  I told him yes, then I asked him how long he could hold the first book for me since the weather is so cold and it is a 30 minute drive to their store.  He asked if four days would work for me.  I told him it would.

Two different stores, two different scenarios.  The first store was not a bad experience, but the second store made life so much easier for me.  The clerk informed me how many they had, offered to order more of the second one, then offered to hold the book for me for a time he hoped would work for me.  I did not have to ask him more than two questions in the entire process.

My point is this,  you know that your customers are in need of something if they call or come into your business.  Offer up the options and suggestions that will help them make their buying decisions.  The easier you can make it on your customers, the happier they will be.

We Are All in Sales….. Like It or Not

The perception of your company’s customer service is only as strong as it’s weakest link.  Where ever that weak link is, that is the point where your customer will make the decision to stay with you or go elsewhere.

Today I’d like to address a point that so many of us forget from time to time……  No matter what your position, you are a salesperson for your company.  The service that you give your customers is a direct reflection on your organization as a whole.  Even the delivery people, phone operators, front desk personnel, everyone who even briefly comes into contact with customers is in sales.  We are all selling the perception of service and relationships in our interactions.

Companies that have truly successful customer relationships have embraced some sort of a corporate culture that ingrains excellent service.  Be it a decision to give a brief warm smile each and every time they pass a customer on the floor, to  developing a service oriented scripted response, each and every interaction gets filed into your customers mind.  All of these interactions form the feelings that the customers get when they interact with your company at any level.

Be sure that everyone in your organization knows the service culture that is desired.  Be sure that they know what is expected of them and give them the tools to deliver that.  One sure way to undermine the best service standards is to have some staff that don’t deliver them.  Make sure that your phone staff, your support staff, your delivery personnel, your sales team, everyone in your company has the same customer service standards.

When the service standards are consistent throughout your organization,  you will set yourself apart as the service leader in your industry.

Patience is a Virtue!

I just wanted to dedicate a special blog post to the folks at GoDaddy.com.  I spent almost two hours on the phone with tech support at GoDaddy.com today with some issues regarding my email account.  Doug, the tech, was more patient that I would have expected. I had already spent quite a bit of time on the phone with a friend of mine regarding this issue and was already frustrated by the time I was in contact with GoDaddy.

Let me start off by saying Customer Service is my game, not computers or anything that it takes to make them work.  So, I do know enough to make me dangerous, but not entirely effective.  Doug walked me through the different settings on my account with the patience of a saint.  He checked and rechecked all of my settings through their system, some of the settings on my computer, and offered more suggestions that I could follow once we were off of the phone.

Doug’s patience and appreciation for my lack of technical savviness clearly came through in his layman’s explanations of what he thought the challenges were.

The bottom line is, customer satisfaction levels will soar when you have people on your teams that can quickly identify with the perspective of the customer.  If you are flexible in your explanations, chances are that your customers will have a better understanding of what your company does and how to address different challenges.

Again, hats off to Doug and the folks at GoDaddy.com!

Where is the Service for the Customer?

I ran across an interesting situation the other day.  My son received the 5th Harry Potter book as a Christmas gift.  Since he is currently reading that book, I took it back to exchange it at a large local bookseller for the 6th book in the series.  I had the receipt that showed the book cost $9.99 but was on sale for 25% off.  I took the new book, the book I wanted to return, and the receipt to the cashier.  She then informed me that I would need to pay the balance of $2.53.  I asked her why that would be, since the value of the new book was $9.99, as indicated on the sticker, the same as the book I was exchanging it for.  She explained that the new book was not on sale and that the store would be losing money.  I showed her that the books were in the same series, the same original price.  It should be an even exchange.  She refused to do so.  The woman behind me in line plead my case as well, but to no avail.

So, because this cashier could not see from the customer’s perspective how this was confusing, she managed to collect the $2.53, but has now lost a customer to the store.  In a previous blog, I wrote about taking into account the lifetime value of a customer.  This book store had the potential to win me over because I am an avid reader, it is a very nice store with a huge selection of books, has a great cafe and sandwich shoppe right inside, and is a nice environment.  However, all of those extra niceties, which are all very expensive to maintain, are lost on me, a potential loyal customer, because of something that costs nothing – excellent service in putting the customer first.  The stores that have the highest customer satisfaction levels are those that recognize situations from the customer’s perspective and work within guidelines.

Excellent Customer Service is Where It’s At

To survive and prosper in today’s environment, and to advantage of opportunities when better times return organizations should change their cultures to growing, tending, and replanting their customers, rather than slashing-and-burning them. They should treat every one who has done or is doing business or could do business as golden, because they are: it is their gold they are spending. They should also welcome each opportunity to interact with customers and prospects as their lives depend on it, because they do. A firm is as only as good as its last interaction, sales, and product made, delivered, and used.To Get Through Crisis Serve, Not Burn, Customers, By Brendan B. Read, December 15, 2008

The above quote is taken from an article in CRM Daily.  It serves as an accurate reminder of how important the service we provide to customers truly is.  Our business lives depend on our customers and the second we forget that, we risk the failure of our business.

No matter what your title is, you are in the field of Customer Service.  The operative word here is SERVICE.  According to dictionary.reference.com, one of the definitions of the word “SERVE” as a verb is – to render assistance; be of use; help.  This definition needs to be in the forefront of our minds each and every time that we interact with our customers, either in person, by phone, or via the web.

Our product or service is filling the need of our customer.  We need to make the process for the customer as easy as possible and MUST do everything that we can to help our customers through our processes and systems.

By doing everything that we possibly can to exceed the needs of our customers, we dramatically increase our retention percentages.  It has been documented that a two percent increase in customer retention has the same impact on our bottom lines as cutting costs by 10%.  In the long run, that means more jobs and company expansion.  Also remember that your retained customers are going to be a referral source for your company.  If you impress them, they will pass that message along to those who matter.

Excellent customer service is not simply meeting the needs and expectations of your customers.  You must find ways to exceed their expectations and experience as often as possible.  What is new today will become tomorrows standard expectation.  Keep looking at everything in your organization and double and triple check each process to ensure that it is keeping the Customer Centric at all times.

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