Transforming the Customer Experience

Category : Customer Experience Management

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Excellent Customer Service is PROACTIVELY Connecting the Dots

One of the best ways to increase customer satisfaction and to improve the customer service skills your staff delivers is to encourage your staff to proactively “Connect the Dots” for your customers.

Customers are looking to service and product providers not only to help make the purchase, but to help them accomplish their goals as quickly as possible.  This may be considered managing their expectations better, asking better questions during the initial sales or consultation, or walking them through the process, but ultimately it is connecting the dots of the entire process to make life easier for your customer.

Case in point, a client of mine recently repainted his daughter’s room.  He decided to do the job himself and headed off to the home improvement big box store.  On his first trip, the employee helped him purchase a gallon of the right color paint, handed him some painter’s tape since he said there would be a design his daughter wanted on the wall, and suggested a paint roller.  He headed home and began painting.  He became a bit frustrated when he had to use three strips of  tape to get the desired width of color blocking and when the paint did not cover as much area as he’d hoped it would.

He headed back to the store and another employee helped him find what he needed.  But this experience was different.  This employee asked him questions about the project and then proceeded to give him the same brand of painter’s tape that was  wider to reduce the amount of tape needed, gave him a larger quantity of paint, told him how to ensure the best coverage with a better roller, and gave him a few paint stirrers since my client mentioned that he’d had to use his wife’s wooden spoon to stir the paint.  He also talked about the pros and cons of using an edger versus a paint brush to handle the corners and edges.

The point here is that the first employee helped my client, but only extended the bare minimum effort necessary.  He was able to start the job, but with large amounts of frustration.  The second employee asked a few more questions, then helped him assemble everything he needed to complete the job easily with no additional trips to the store.  When my client told me about the tape, he said “It never occurred to me that there were two different widths of painter’s tape.  I just wish the first person had offered me the choice and I would have picked the second one.  I just didn’t know what I didn’t know.”

Being proactive means letting the customer know everything you feel they need to based on their reason for consulting you.  It means letting them know who will be contacting them next to move the process along and what they need to do in the meantime to prepare.  It means not making your customer feel like they are at fault for not knowing things that are your job to educate them on.

Customer loyalty and satisfaction increase when customer service includes thinking one step ahead for your customers and helping them connect the dots of the entire process.

Customer Experience Mapping Puts the Pieces of Customer Satisfaction & Loyalty Together

Call it Customer Experience Mapping, Journey Mapping, Customer Touchpoints…  The thing to understand is that the companies that use these practices recognize higher levels of customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.  Why is this?  Well, I’m happy to explain.

The companies that take the time to do this understand that while we all might have a great idea in our heads on what we’d like the customer to experience when they choose to do business with us, unless you have it well planned out, it’s unlikely to happen.

I suggest that mapping be done to outline the ideal perfect customer experience that you’d love to be able to deliver to your customers.  Start at the beginning and consider the journey of the customer through your company as they do business with you.  Each time the customer interacts with a person or department, this is a “Waypoint” on your map.  Describe the ideal experience at each waypoint.  Now, I’m saying to map out what you’d DREAM of doing with/for them, not what your current capabilities are today.  For instance, if you have many customers call into your business it may look something like…

  1. Customer calls in and phone is answered within 2 rings with a genuine, warm, friendly greeting.
  2. The call is then transferred to a a billing representative who will answer without the call going into voice mail
  3. The billing representative will be able to look into the history of the records and identify core issue.
  4. The billing representative will be able to make any adjustments or corrections as necessary to resolve issue during that call, eliminating the need for a 2nd customer call.

Once this is done, then management needs to determine what is necessary to make each of these steps happen.  For instance, Step 1 requires a live person answer the phone within 2 rings.  If you have an auto attendant answering the phone, take steps to eliminate it. Hire a phone receptionist or reorganize staff responsibilities in order to have a live person answer the phone within 2 rings.  If something isn’t possible to implement right now, determine what would need to change in order to make it happen and make all future decisions in line with that goal.

The great companies like Disney, Nordstrom, and Ritz-Carlton all do this regularly.  The great experiences they are famous for don’t just “happen,” they are created.  They are mapped out every step of the way with clear direction, regardless of current capabilities.  To ensure cohesiveness across your company or small business, share these ideal customer experiences.  Knowledge is beneficial to everyone.

The question most folks ask is regarding Step 4. The first thing they tell me is that their staff aren’t able to fix a lot of the issues on the first call.  My question is – Why not train them to be able to?  How much better of an experience would it be for everyone, customer and staff included, to be able to take care of the issue on the first call?  The staff will feel more empowered to do their jobs and the customer will be delighted with less of a hassle than they anticipated.

So, Customer Experience Mapping does a lot more than creating more satisfied and loyal customers, it enhances morale and employee engagement as well.

Customer Loyalty and Profits Thrive In a Strong Customer Centric Culture

Getting new customers, keeping those customers, and making more money are the goals you have for your business, right?

Then let me share one of the most crucial factors into setting up that equation – DEFINE your ideal desired company culture!

If I could shout this from the mountain tops, I absolutely would.  All of the clients I work with online and in person have struggled with this concept initially.  They believe that they need to amp up their sales force or train their front line staff better.  These ideas certainly come into play, but only after we get the critical step of the culture solidified first. When I explain that customers will absolutely do business and spend more money with the companies that have a solid foundation, know who they are, how they want to do business, how they want customers to be treated, how they want their staff to work together internally, they start to pay attention.  Here is where you want to take notes…

1.  Companies with clearly defined cultures have taken the guesswork out of their daily lives.  These companies know what their mission statement is, what their core values are, and how they want their customers to think of them.

2.  Companies with clearly defined cultures have a high level of staff engagement.  Companies with high staff engagement have low turnover rates, high staff morale, staff feels more empowered, and the staff make decisions that benefit both the company and the customers.

3.  Companies with clearly defined cultures do everything they can to protect the culture they strive to create.  They protect it like a Mama Bear protecting her cubs.  Anything or anyone threatening that culture is diverted into a different forest.  Meaning, if there are internal issues and leadership stands and supports the ideal culture, they will make the difficult decision of “freeing up the future” of those who do not embrace the ideals and are slowly but surely destroying morale.

So, how do you define your culture?  Simple.  Sit down with your leadership team, managers, or whomever you see as a leader in your company.  Limit the group to 10 to eliminate the “Too Many Indian Chiefs” phenomena.

You then need to brainstorm and identify that in your wildest dreams of the best possible world where there are plenty of customers, plenty of business, staff is performing at optimum levels, everything is functioning as well as it could possibly be….  what does it look like, feel like, sound like, how are staff interacting with clients and each other? What’s being said?  What is the morale like?   It doesn’t matter how things are currently operating now, this is all about setting goals and aiming high.  

The key here is to have the conversation.  Define what you have in mind, document it, rework it until it feels right.  Then be sure to SHARE it with your entire organization.  If you keep it in your head, you’ll just be lucky if someone else is headed in the same direction as you.  Leave nothing to chance.  Your business success depends on it.

Once you’ve done this exercise, you’ll know that everyone knows what they are working toward.  Everyone will be on the same page.  There will be consistency across your company.  Getting new customers is much easier when everyone is sending the same message and delivering a consistent customer experience.  When customers have better customer experiences on a consistent basis, they turn into loyal customers.

 

Never Under Estimate the Power of a Thank You Note to Boost Customer Loyalty

Remember Thank You notes?  The things that we encouraged to write as kids every birthday or holiday when we received gifts from relatives or friends?  My own personal experience is that I didn’t enjoy writing them at all.  But, my mom had a point – “They made an effort to purchase a gift with you in mind.  You need to thank them for their kindness.”

Hardly anyone sends Thank You notes anymore – ESPECIALLY in business.  I think it sends such an impactful message when we take just a few minutes to send Thank You notes to our clients and customers (and our personal friends too, for that matter).  Think about it… when is the last time you received a Thank You note from a place you do business? ….. cricket….. cricket…   I bet you were hard pressed to come up with an answer.  Most of us can’t think of ANY.

But that’s exactly my point…  Set yourself apart from the rest of the pack by taking the time and making a small effort to those upon whom your business is dependent… YOUR CUSTOMERS.

When to send the Thank You note?  Well, first off, you should be sending them to any new customer.  Now, this can be difficult for those that are retail or commodity based, but you can still find a way to do this.  Pick a dollar amount to be spent that will trigger a Thank You note to be sent.  I do a lot of my clothes shopping at Ann Taylor.  I don’t shop often, but when I do, I walk out with a few outfits.  The manager of the store always sends me a Thank You note.  Now, I know she doesn’t send them to every customer, but not every customer spends what I spend the few times I’m in there per year.

For those of you in a business model where you have Sales Reps that are charged with forming lasting relationships with new clients, this is a perfect scenario to send a Thank You note to each new client that signs on with your company.  It should actually be part of your process.  Once the account is signed, the Sales Rep should be sending a personalized handwritten Thank You note (yes, you may have someone with more legible writing pen the note for them/you).  But the point is this,  I’ve kept all of the notes that I’ve received from Ann Taylor, from Zappos, from  Gazelle Sports, from my financial planner, etc.  I also make it a point to shop those retailers or providers first when I may have a need for their products or services.

The Secret Sauce…  But the real secret is to send a Thank You note to your clients and customers when you are not reaching out to them to sell something, check in on their accounts, review something, or anything related to business.  When you send a Thank You note out of the blue, the impact is HUGE!  In long term contractual relationships, I suggest sending a Thank You note one year after the original contract was signed.  Now, your customer doesn’t know that you may have it on your automated calendar to send this out, but they will feel as though you value them.  They will appreciate the few minutes you took to acknowledge and thank them for their trust in you and your business.  And, when customers feel valued, they’ll repay you with their loyalty.

Keep in mind… you likely won’t have many people mentioning to you that they appreciate these notes.  But, I promise you it will make a difference in the way they feel about doing business with you.  It will strengthen the relationship that you’ve developed with them and will further the sense of confidence they have that they made the right decision in doing business with you.

Please comment below on how you’ve appreciated Thank You notes or how you use them in your company.

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.

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?

 

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