Transforming the Customer Experience

Category : Customer Experience Management

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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?

 

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?

 

Amazon Delights Customers with Sunday Delivery

Online retailers have always used Amazon as the standard to strive for when competing for customer loyalty and satisfaction.  But now, the renowned online retailer has yet again surpassed expectations for  the customer experience in the larger metropolitan areas by offering Sunday deliveries.

This is yet another example of “What is extraordinary today will become tomorrow’s minimum standard.”

The Business Insider just announced that Amazon will begin offering Sunday deliveries to it’s customers on November 17.  Yes, this is a move to drive more shoppers to enroll in their Prime program, but I see it as a way to yet again exceed the expectation of the customers.

Smart companies continually ask themselves “How can we take an ordinary experience and make it stand out?”  Certainly, delivery of products doesn’t leave much room for fancy workings, but teaming up with the USPS to make it happen is something that has never been done before and certainly takes things to the next level.  While most of us may not NEED Sunday delivery, the fact that their stock prices more than quadrupled in a few hours certainly indicates it is something that most consumers WANT.

Discovering what consumers WANT and delivering it is the magic sauce.  Of course, most companies don’t wield that level of influence, but what can your company do to make ordinary processes seem special?  What can you do to make yourself stand out in a way that makes the mundane seem delightful?

Once you come up with that answer, look for ways to make it happen.  Rather than listen to the naysayers, simply say “I know we can’t right now, but what would it take to make that happen?”  As they are listing everything that would need to change, they are giving you the action steps needed.  So, take action and make it happen.  Delight those customers in ways they haven’t expected.  Then, rinse and repeat.

Your customers will thank you for it.  Just ask Amazon how well it works.

I’d love to hear your comments below.

 

SHARE Your Ideal Customer Centric Vision with Your Teams

Continuing on with Customer Service Week, we are focusing on encouraging our internal teams to foster the customer centric attitudes and service.

 

 
Tip # 2 –  Share Your Vision with EVERYONE in your company.
 
It’s not a secret.  It needs to be shouted from the rooftops, okay training rooms and reception area, of your company.  You need to define your ideal customer experience and what it looks like from the customer perspective.  When you define it, then you need to share it with your teams so that everyone knows it, understands it, and embodies it.
It doesn’t matter if you are a “Mom and Pop” shop or a larger company, you must share your vision of exactly what your ideal Customer Experience looks like at all levels.  Your entry level positions should have the same vision as the CEO or owner of the company.
 
Ideally, you can share your vision with everyone during training on the very first day they begin working with you.  They’ll know immediately why your company is different and what their role is in making customers feel that difference.
That being said, sharing that vision must also be a continual process.  We all know that information shared once tends to be forgotten.  By keeping the vision of the ideal customer experience clear and present throughout the company, it will quickly become ingrained into your culture.
 
Leadership must interact regularly with teams, lead by example, discuss ideas and suggestions, and continually examine how the current state of the customer experience is moving toward the vision of the ideal.
It’s no accident that Disney, Ritz-Cartlon, Nordstrom, and Apple are known for exemplary customer experiences.  They have clearly defined that customer experience and how everyone plays into it.

Customer Service Week – 5 Tips in 5 Days!

The First of Five Tips for 
Customer Service Week
So I’m thinking that it’s wonderful to have Customer Service Week to encourage our teams to work in the best interest of the customer and improve our service delivery, but I have one question…
 
Why are we dedicating only ONE week per year to focus on Customer Service and the Customer Experience?
 
We should be doing this Each. And. Every. Week. All. Year. Long.
 
Tip #1 –  Communication is a Two Way Street
We know that customer relationships are built on trust and communication.  The same holds true for your internal teams.
 
You need to be sure that you are in touch with your teams and understand what they see as an opportunity and where they are facing challenges.
 
I’m a big fan of huddles.  Huddles are something that football teams do before a play.  Business leaders need to huddle either as a team or one-on-one with their team players to discover what they need to know and how to encourage and set them up for success.
 
The huddle is also a fantastic time for leaders to be open to ideas and suggestions from their teams.  After all, they are most likely spending more time interacting with customers than the leader is.
Customer Service Skills – Do You Train Well Enough?
70% of consumers stop doing business with a company because they aren’t feeling valued or that the company doesn’t engage with them.
If you lost one customer each week, what would that mean to your bottom line?
To help you, during Customer Service Week, I’m reducing the fee for my “Training for the Best Customer Service Skills – Start to Finish”  .  You’ll still get all of the benefits and modules, but because you are in my community, you get the reward of a special price!
Many of you have already invested in this training for your teams and have responded with great results and stories.
Take action now to be sure that your efforts during Customer Service Week don’t fall prey to the “All Talk – No Action” pitfall that plagues so many companies today.

Customer Service Consistency Is More Important Now Than Ever Before….

86% of consumers quit doing business with a company because of a bad customer experience, up from 59% 4 years ago

Source: Harris Interactive, Customer Experience Impact Report

Consumer confidence increases when consistent results are produced. They will return to you again and again when you have not only built a sold relationship with them, but when they are certain that they can count on consistent results time after time.

Customer satisfaction increases based on consistency and relationships.
 Relationships, whether professional or personal, are built on the solid foundation of trust. This trust extends into a level of service that is depended upon.

Fluctuations in service will result in disheartened referrals.
 Should your consistency fluctuate, the referral will sound like “Try XYZ Company. Sometimes they do a pretty good job.” The referral that you want is “I recommend that you call ABC Company. They consistently deliver a quality product and they will treat you well. I know you’ll be happy with them.”

They want to know that what they see and feel one time is what they can count on in future interactions.Regardless if you are going into a chain coffee house, hiring a caterer, working with a realtor, or working with a large office furniture manufacturer, customers want consistent quality products and services. Customers will be much more likely to refer their associates to you when you have consistently shown a track record for results.

Relationships factor greatly into the consistency equation. The customer is looking to see if they are being treated well each and every time. They are looking to see if they are treated the same way by everyone in the organization. Customers will figure out quickly who will and won’t help them in a company. Your customer service reputation is only as strong as your weakest link. All associates in your company need to be delivering excellent customer service, in each and every interaction.

Review your core values regularly to determine that they are being considered in every interaction with your customers.
 The customer will recognize the consistency of exceeding their expectations while holding true to the core values your company was built upon.

Please comment below with your thoughts!

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