Transforming the Customer Experience

Category : Customer Experience Management

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Take Problem Resolution to the Next Level to Increase Customer Loyalty

Customer service often requires proper handling of mistakes.

We all make mistakes.  Admit it, you do.  Your company does as well.  And, although we all have those customers who are inconsolable when we makes mistakes, you’ll find that most customers are fairly understanding of the mistake when you handle it properly and make it better than right.

Take it a step further ….

Put yourself in the shoes of your customer who had the misfortune of bearing the brunt of your last mistake.  You’ve  apologized profusely, perhaps even gave a free product or service, sent a gift certificate, or done something as a token of good faith that you are deeply sorry.  (By the way, if you don’t do any of these things when you make mistakes, you may as well stop reading now…. the rest of this will seem completely foreign).

So, in your customer’s shoes, you receive a phone call or email from your company.  It goes something like this…

Hello Kristina,

I wanted to follow up with you since our last conversation about the package being sent to the wrong location.  It’s important that you understand how seriously we take these issues and want to do everything that we can to make doing business with us a pleasurable experience.

As a result of our mistake, we’ve closely examined our processes of order entry and shipping methods.  We discovered two areas where we needed additional training and focus.  We’ve put steps into place to prevent a recurrence of these issue and we hope that you’ll give us another opportunity to show you our dedication to providing a superior product and service.

Again, please accept my apologies for this happening in the first place.  I appreciate your patience in working through this issue to improve our internal processes.

Best regards,

Kristina

Now, I don’t know about you, but if I received a letter or phone calls along these lines, I’d be giving this company a second chance.  It is clear to me that they didn’t take this situation lightly and have made a few changes based on my input or as a result of the mistake they made with me.

How does your company handle mistakes?  How well do you follow up with your customers to let them know you’ve made some changes as a result?  If you aren’t sure about these answers, now may be the perfect time to start thinking about it.

Customer Relationships – Can the Online World Eliminate the Real World?

In a recent article posted on CRM Daily, the discussion of online ease of use versus “in person” assistance comes into play.

The discussion surrounding the way that the internet had become such a huge part of our everyday lives leads us to ask – at what point can ease of use override the need for a real person to assist us?  This particular article revolved around online banking and it’s growth, posing the question as to if the local bank branches that so many of us use may eventually close.

Speaking from personal experience, I utilize the web and many online services more than most people that I know.  I buy clothes, medicine, photos, pet supplies, vitamins, movies, books, cosmetics and numerous other products online.  I also do most of my banking, bill paying, and other financial services online.  This allows me to spend more time with my family and doing the things I enjoy.

BUT, the minute I run into a problem, there is no way that I’m satisfied with resolving the issue online.  I need to talk to a real person, either on the phone or in person.  The relevance of that article in CRM Daily was especially true for me this week.  I ran into some issues trying to consolidate my access codes for my personal and business accounts online.  I went into the local branch of my bank and spent 40 minutes with the branch manager.  He not only consolidated all of my accounts into one login code, he saw that my account activity would benefit by being in a different account grouping, set me up for automatic bill pay for my business credit card, and then proceeded to inform me that I had a sizeable cash payout coming to me from that credit card if I cashed in the reward points.  I think it’s a pretty safe bet that I would not have figured out any of that out on my own online.

Bottom line, customer satisfaction is driven by the convenience factor.  Customer loyalty is driven by the relationship factor.  Relationships are nurtured by that human touch.  While it is possible to develop a personal tone online, the face to face interaction will always be needed at some point.  The trick is to find the balance and provide customers the portal they personally desire.

Besides, what online banking portal is going to offer you a lollipop?

Customer Intimacy – Who ARE your customers?

Increasing customer satisfaction through customer intimacy depends on one very important thing – How well you know your customer base.  Who is it that is doing business with you?  This may seem very basic and rudimentary, but it is actually one of the factors that most businesses have taken the time to ask themselves.

We all know that customer are the ones who bring dollars into our company and sustain us financially, but who are they really?  It’s time to discuss this point with your leadership team.  You need to clearly define who your customers are in order to take the next step toward customer intimacy.   You can’t get to know someone intimately on a personal level without getting to know more about them.  The same holds true in the professional world.

By clearing identifying who your customers are, you’ll be better able to decipher how to serve them better.  Discuss your customer base with your leadership team, front line staff, and sales staff.  What type of customers do you have?  Are they individuals or businesses?  Are they large companies, small businesses, or solo-prenuers?  How long have they been in business?  What field are they in?  What are their similarities?  What are their differences?  Ask yourselves these questions in order to open up the discussion to dive deeply for knowledge.  You must determine who your customers are before you can go about improving your business for their benefit.  If you don’t know who you are serving, it’s really just a shot in the dark.

Improving customer service and satisfaction requires an appreciation of the people that are currently coming to you for your products and services.  By doing this exercise, you may even discover that the people who are keeping you in business are not the ones you originally thought would ever do business with you.  You never know unless you ask.  By asking, you understand. When you understand, you are in a better position to serve and increase customer loyalty, as well as profits.

Customer Satisfaction Through Customer Intimacy

Customer intimacy brings customer loyalty like nothing else.  No matter what you are selling or giving away, knowing your customers like no one else will bring them back every time.

How?  Well, think about it.  When you know that someone truly understands you and the challenges you face and tries to help you through them, wouldn’t you return to them?  When they recognize the way you operate and make accommodations to make your life easier, don’t you naturally go to them first see if they can meet your needs before you go to their competition?

Customer intimacy takes place on all levels of the interaction and relationship.  But there was the key word – relationship.  In order to have a intimacy, you must have a relationship or be genuinely trying to build one.  This applies in both the personal and professional worlds, but we’re sticking to the professional aspects here.

As a business leader, I know that I need to get to know my customer before I can help them.  They don’t want to hear what I have to offer unless I’ve established a rapport that will allow them to tell me what their challenges are.  Customers are completely turned off by folks who talk at them.  They want someone who will listen to them first, establish what the need is, then offer up a solution. Without following that simple formula, you are destined to be second to your fiercest competitor for customer loyalty.

We’ll be talking in the next few posts about customer intimacy and they way that it builds relationships, builds customer satisfaction and loyalty, and gives you the competitive edge.  But best of all, it will keep your business in the customer’s mind as the first resource they will go to for help.

To get you started on the path to customer intimacy, this manual outlines five of the essential factors necessary to building relationships with your customers like no one else.  I’m anxious to know what you think about it.

Small Stores Trump Big-Box Stores in Service

Why are some small specialty stores having their best year ever?  Because more consumers than ever are putting an emphasis on customer service to determine where they do their shopping. The smaller stores recognize that they may not be able to beat the larger stores in price, but they can more than make up for the difference with the service they provide. Younger adults are now more than twice as likely to choose stores based on service.  This shows that delivering excellent customer service is more important than ever before and shows no signs of fading into the background.

There is tremendous competition based on prices, so the smart retailers are focused on providing an experience, not just a deal.  The Mom and Pop stores, small retailers, and specialty stores are finding their niche in delivering something that the big box stores just aren’t providing – an enjoyable shopping experience that engages the shopper.

Readers of this blog know that there are three ways to differentiate yourself in today’s market:

  • Price
  • Product
  • Service

Service is the easiest, cheapest, and provides the largest return on investment and effort.

Read what a small retailer in Kalamazoo, Michigan has to say about providing a unique shopping experience that sets them apart from the larger stores.

“Certainly there is tremendous competition,” said Vicky Kettner of Downtown Kalamazoo Incorporated . They’ve gone to battle for your buck, placing billboards miles from downtown and right on the front lines of its big box competitors.

Their idea is to sell a holiday experience that consumers say is lacking in modern retail.

“When someone is looking for a relaxed environment, where experience is important, customer service is important and selection is important for the uniqueness of things, then we have a good story to tell,” she said.

To really provide a unique experience to increase your profits and loyal customer base, you’ll find all of the strategies and techniques right here at http://www.kristinaevey.com/products/5-steps-to-more-loyal-customers/

Increase Customer Satisfaction by Managing Expectations

Manage the Customer’s Expectations Up Front

When customers first begin to do business with you, they will have their own expectations and hopes regarding your product and service delivery. The best way to make sure you are seen as reliable and deliver on promises is to educate them from the beginning what to expect from us.

Let them know how your business works.  Tell them how long processes, program, or deliveries take.  Inform them of your billing practices before the first order is placed.  Advise them of the information or steps you need from them in order to complete the process or order.

You may have to do this a few times in a few different ways.  We, as business owners, often find that customers don’t really read all of the information we give them.  As customers, we’ve done the same thing.  So be sure to integrate a system to cover the same information verbally.  Be it the person who takes the order from your customer or the receptionist they speak with, make sure that someone is talking with the customer to let them know what will happen and what to expect.

Once customers are informed about the way you do business, they will have a clear understanding of what to expect from you.  They won’t be calling you the day after an order was placed frustrated that it hasn’t been delivered yet.  They’ll know it typically takes 4 business day to arrive.  You won’t receive angry calls from customers asking what the status of their insurance policies is because you’ve let them know that in order to get accurate quotes, you need paperwork from them.

Customers really don’t like surprises, unless it is a delightful experience.  Keep negative surprises to a minimum by making sure they know the process, time frames, and expected outcomes every step of the way.  Be sure to keep them informed should something not go according to plan.  They’ll thank you for it.

Customer Service Issues? Try Managing the Customer’s Expectations

Not adequately managing the expectations of the customer can have a negative impact on their decision to do business with us again. Are you losing business because the perception of the customer is jaded due to their own expectations?

Often, business seems tedious because we deal with many customer service issues.  We ask ourselves why customers are so unreasonable or why they don’t understand the process.  We many not recognize the fact that the same questions keep being asked of us.

The reason is usually quite simple – We haven’t done our job managing the customer expectations.  We haven’t told them what to expect when they do business with us or what is involved.

Listen to the points made in this video to better understand how this can impact the customer experience.

What can you do in your business or organization to be proactive in letting customers know what to expect?

Please let me know what changes you will be making or offer your suggestions by posting your comments below.

Is Customer Loyalty Unattainable?

I was asked to review an article post written by a colleague in my field. The premise was that customer loyalty is a thing of the past. His point was that consumer demographics have changed, the economic situation has created a different mindset, and that while customers are looking to form relationships, we, as business owners, can’t expect them to be loyal. Therefore, measuring loyalty should now be a thing of the past.

It’s a good article written by Dean van Leeuwen that I believe gets us to delve deeper into the real world use of the term – customer loyalty. Loyalty is what I think you should always strive for. But in the mind of the customer, like Dean says, they are not going to fall for glossy ads and empty promises. They’ve been let down too many times. They want companies to back up what they promise.

The comment I made is posted below……. What are your thoughts on this?

The title certainly caught my eye and I was ready to completely disagree with you. After reading the rest, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. I believe you are dissecting the word “Loyalty” to nuances we generally gloss over.

My thought is that companies hope for loyalty, but ultimately to break it down – they are hoping for repeat business from their existing customers time and time again. Your point about customers never looking to find a business they can be loyal to is correct. I think that customers are looking for a “go to resource” for that particular need. The way to do that is to create a truly unique experience. You build unique experiences by tapping into the feelings of the customers and thus, building relationships that continue over time.

The key here is to constantly be talking and engaging with the customers. As you so eloquently pointed out, they are not falling for empty promises or glossy ad campaigns. Studies show that 80% of companies think they are delivering good service and making good on their promises, but only 8% of their customers agree. To that point, as you said “companies are now being forced to build genuine and mutually beneficial relationships with their customers” – that is the crux of successful sustainability.

Based on human nature, people remain loyal to those they have positive relationships with, be it family or best friends. As consumers, we absolutely want to have one resource that is based on a positive relationship – one where the customer is appreciated for the dollars it brings to the business, and the customer values the efforts being made by the business by trying to solve their problems and create an environment and experience that draws the customers back.

With my clients, the first thing I tell them is that it is not their product or service that their customers are buying. It is the relationship that is being bought. The relationship based on the promises that the company makes and their willingness and ability to fulfill those promises, wrapped up in a package catered to the preferences of that customer.

So, that being said – I think you are dissecting the word loyalty to one that many have not done before. Loyalty on the part of consumers cannot be expected. The repeat business is what the company is wanting and they must do everything in their power to make their customers want to go out of their way to do business with them.

Very thought provoking post! Keep them coming!

Poor Customer Service – Whose Fault is It?

Who is to Blame for Poor Customer Service – Management or the Staff Themselves?

This was the question posed on a Customer Experience Management discussion forum board.  While on the surface I can see that this question can be answered both ways, it really comes down to one party’s responsibility – the management.

Management sets the tone for the customer service standards and expectations

I think it is first and foremost the responsibility of top level management. They set the tone for the customer service attitudes and exemplify the attitude of service that should be delivered to all customers, both internal and external. They are the leaders of the organizations and will set the examples by what they do and say.  Top level management needs to support mid-level managers and front line supervisors in the area of service.  They need to encourage all management levels to think in terms of service and how to best partner with the customer.  What can be done to get rid of the obstacles that are facing the customers?  What can be done to make the entire process easier, if not enjoyable, when doing business with the company itself.

Top Level Management Needs to Listen to the Mid-Level Managers and Front-Line Supervisors

Listening to the feedback and ideas presented by mid-level management and front lines supervisors provides incredible value.  These folks are the ones in your company that are working directly with the customer, or supporting someone who does.  They are hearing what the customers are asking for, they know what the customers like, what they don’t like. They know how the customers use the product or service and what could be changed or, if need be, improved.  When this information flows back up the organizational chart, the highest levels of management need to reinforce the attitude of service by encouraging feedback, actively listening to it, and responding appropriately.

The Right Hiring Decisions Need to be Made to Support Leadership Expectations

From there, the right hiring decisions need to be made. If you hire folks who are not service oriented in their mindset, it is a recipe for failure. By hiring the right people within your company, you are consistent with the culture and everyone works in the best interest of the customer.  You need to make sure that you are supporting and encouraging the service expectations.  Should sub-standard service be noticed, coaching needs to happen quickly to determine the cause.  The solution would be to set clear service expectations and counsel on how to achieve those, or, the less pleasant but essential step, to correct a poor hiring decision.

Customer service training is essential to the success of any organization – large or small.  Customer service is essentially connecting people to a process when delivering a product or service.  The key is to have the right people in place with the right customer service skills and training.  All efforts need to be focused around the needs of the customer. When working in the best interest of the customer, you are ultimately working in the best interest of your organization.

What Do You Think?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the balance of responsibility here.  How much do you feel is up to the staff and how much falls on the shoulders of management?  What specifically do you think management should do to improve the experience for the customer?

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