Transforming the Customer Experience

Category : Customer Experience Management

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Do Your Customers REALLY Trust You?

I’ve been saying since Day One that customer loyalty is built on trust.  Think about it, any relationship requires trust in order to be successful and sustainable.  Trust is expected and needs to be earned by both parties.  This is true in both personal and business relationships.

There is an article posted today in Fast Company that really does an excellent job in giving specific hard hitting questions on how well you’ve earned the trust of your customers.  For some of you, it may be a hard wake up call.  If you find yourself falling short, start taking stock now of areas that need attention and get started.

Consumer trust is about transparency, accountability, competency, integrity, and customer specification.  Hopefully, you read the article and know where your business stands in each of these categories.

Remember, any progress is progress.  Just don’t settle for less or “good enough.”  That’s what your competition is doing.  Be better than your competition and your customers will stay with you.

Customer Loyatly – Make the Experience Memorable

Customer satisfaction and loyalty depends really on one thing… how memorable you make the experience.  Businesses and staff that bring an extra nuance to the “business transaction” have a much higher likelihood of retaining customers than those who simply deliver the promised product.

Last week, I had the opportunity to go with my son on his 5th grade field trip to Chicago. The kids were excited because instead of riding on the regular school bus, we were making the trip on a chartered bus.

I’ve been on many of these field trips before and they were nice.  The drivers were friendly and got us to our destinations on time and safely. Everything you’d really expect on a bus trip.

Now, this particular bus trip stands out.  Yes, we got to our destinations on time and safely, same as the other trips.  But, there was something, or some ONE rather, that made this trip memorable.  Joe, the bus driver made our trip an experience, not just a ride.

When we boarded the bus at 6:00 am, he was very friendly and introduced himself to us.  He explained a few of the safety rules that we needed to know and got the formalities of the trip out of the way.  He then went on to say how happy he was to be able to drive us because he just loves the excitement that elementary school kids have when they are on their way to Chicago.

He then told us about a few things he had planned to make the trip fun.  He made a special CD for the trip with songs referencing Chicago and those that he knew kids love to hear (yes, the ever famous YMCA was in the mix as well).  Joe also made a point to have a few treats for the adults.  Mixed into the CD were 5 theme songs to older television shows.  Joe offered his special CD as a prize to the child who, with some help from an adult, could name all five theme songs.

When we made our one rest stop break there and back, Joe provided fruit, water, granola, and fruit snacks for anyone who wanted them.  He had a few riddles for the kids with some little treats for the kids. He even provided a few brain teasers and small prizes for those winners.

Because we arrived in Chicago a bit earlier than expected, he took us to a few of the tourist spots and even took our picture against the famous Chicago skyline and emailed it to the teacher so we may all have a copy.  As Chicago is one of his frequent destinations, he has picked up on a lot of Chicago trivia and pointed out many facts that we would not have knows otherwise.

At the end of the trip, Joe thanked all of the kids and adults for being on time for all of the pick ups and said that he truly enjoyed driving us that day.  He congratulated all of the kids for completing elementary school and wished the best of success for all of them in middle school.  He thanked the parents for all of our help during the trip and commented on our kids being so great.

Now, this may be all part of his standard “performance” for all trips he drives for, but that is the key – he knows he is performing.  This trip was far more memorable and fun than any other field trip any of us had taken before (as a mom of 3, I’ve been on plenty).  He made us feel welcome right away, he provided some entertainment through the music CD and the riddles and quizzes for the kids, he made sure we knew things about Chicago that he thought was interesting and thought we would enjoy knowing.

He could have simply picked us up at the school and dropped us off at our destination, but he went the extra mile to make it special.  Now, how does that happen?  Can anyone replicate this experience?  Yes, and no.  You must start with the right team by hiring personalities that have this service mentality.

You can be sure that anytime our elementary school has a field trip requiring a charter bus, we will be contacting that same bus company and requesting Joe simply because he made the experience memorable.  You don’t have to have the title of customer service representative to earn customer satisfaction and loyalty.  Just ask Joe, the bus driver.  Now, I’m off to listen to my CD.

Personality Can Make or Break Customer Service & Satisfaction

Personality makes much more of an impact on customer satisfaction than most people realize.  While we all are focused on the best way to welcome customers into our businesses, the tones that we set, we often fail to capitalize on the main strength of the people we hire – their unique personalities.

Yesterday I was making a payment on some physical therapy I had to help me get through my last 1/2 marathon.  While I’m not in favor of human cloning, the woman who helped me yesterday would be the ideal customer relations representative that all companies wish they could clone.

Right off the bat, she greeted me in a very friendly, yet professional manner.  While we were discussing the medical insurance glitch that prompted my original phone call, she started asking questions about the progress of my therapy and training. She asked how long I had been running, how I liked it, and told me how envious she was because of her knee issues that prevented her from running.

She then answered my questions about the bill, assured me that she would personally contact the insurance carrier and provide them with the necessary information.

But here is the piece that really grabbed me.  Here are her exact words that she used to close the call…

“Well, it looks like we have everything taken care of now.  Please let me know when you get your statement from the insurance carrier.  If there are any discrepancies, I’d like to follow up on it myself.  Besides, I really enjoyed helping you today.  This was not just a billing conversation, but felt more like a chit chat with a friend.  Please ask for me next time you need any help.”

I’ve never had a billing clerk treat me so kindly.  I then let her know that I’m a consultant for customer service and satisfaction and that I was truly impressed with the way she handled my call.  She thanked me and let me know that I just made her day with the compliment.  Her last call was with a disgruntled patient who treated her very poorly and took all of his frustrations out on her.  She said while that is expected sometimes and part of her job, it get taxing over time and is hard to shake off for the next unsuspecting caller.

I was amazed that she had experienced such a poor call just previous to me calling her.  I never would have suspected that.  Her personality was the defining factor there.  It was in her nature to help and in her nature to connect with the people she was helping every day.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to pay attention to the personalities of the people you hire into your business.  You must hire the smile, then train the skill.  The “Nice” factor isn’t something that you can, or should, train for.  Hire the people who are helpers by nature.  They’ll engage with your customers far more successfully than those that may be more skilled or educated.

I’d love to know what personality traits you’ve found your successful or most engaging team members to have and how your customers have benefited because of them.

A Common Customer Satisfaction Mistake – No Customer Definition

I had a very important Customer Engagement Moment reinforced this morning.  We have two 9 month old Golden Retriever puppies that needed to be boarded while my family and I were gone last week on Spring Break.  This was our first time leaving them overnight and with this boarding kennel.

The owner of the kennel is a wonderful woman. Within 15 seconds of meeting her and seeing her with my dogs, I knew she was the best one to leave them with.  Her love of animals is self evident. She loves to share knowledge and information that will help with any training or behavior challenges.

Stay with me here, the point is coming. Now, while I know I tend to be a bit longwinded, I can’t hold a candle to this woman.   When she shares her knowledge, she also is the type that doesn’t leave a pause for a polite interruption to move things along.  I knew this going into the transaction and was prepared.  I soaked up all of the training tips she could pass along.

A funny thing happened toward the end of our conversation today.  She suddenly stopped and said…

“I’m so glad that you don’t mind me sharing so much with you and letting me talk.  I don’t see many humans during the day and it does me good to have conversations with folks who walk on only two legs.  I’ve had inquiries from folks who call and just want to find out how much I charge and if I have room on the days they need.  When I can sense that they want to be short and to the point, I politely inform them that I don’t think I’m the best person for them to board their dogs with.

I suppose some folks think I’m crazy for turning away some business for that reason, but it goes against my nature and if I can’t relate to the people, I don’t think I would be able to relate well to their dogs.”

I simply smiled and told her that I think she’s doing a good thing for herself and her customers by being clear who her ideal customer is.

That’s the point of this letter to you today.  Be clear about who your ideal customer is. Understand that you won’t be able to be all things to all customers.  If you try, you are guaranteed to fail.  By focusing on a clear niche or group, you’ll be able to identify and build a rapport with them that is much deeper and sustainable.

Many companies and businesses have made the mistake of trying to do all things for every potential customer.  They’ve either failed or not been nearly as successful as they might have been because they didn’t clearly understand who their customers were and how they could help best help them.

Please also discuss this point and train your teams on who your ideal customers are and how to relate to them.  Your team will feel much more ownership with their responsibilities and invested in your business.

There is nothing wrong with sending some customer elsewhere.  In fact, you’ll be respected because not only are you looking out for your own welfare, but that of those potential customers as well.  They may even turn out to be a referral source for your in the long run.  I’ve seen it happen.

Please be sure to let me know what questions you have about this point.  It’s one that always brings about a lively discussion.  I enjoy the discussion and I’m always happy to help and learn.

Customer Service & Humor – Can One Benefit the Other?

Have you made your customers laugh today?  Did you know that you can keep customers coming back by using humor in your business dealings?

We all know that humor is good for the soul.  We tend to hang out with the people that make us feel good and make us laugh.  Humor puts us in a positive mood, gives us a fresh perspective, and helps us treat others well.

Now, take this to the next level and connect the dots to your business.  Would this be a fantastic way to keep customers coming back to you?  Simply make them feel good and use some humor.

In this article in Inc.Com I think the author does a great job highlighting the use of humor.  I especially like the point about humor creating alignment.  Everyone has had similar experiences as a customer, in a family, in a sport, somewhere.  When you can bring two or more people together using humor relating to an experience, it creates an atmosphere of familiarity and comfort, both of which are crucial for a successful business relationship.

Granted, you must be careful when using humor.  I have learned that not everyone appreciates my somewhat sarcastic humor.  But, when I give presentations and consult, people give me the feedback that they appreciate the humor that I use to engage them and hold their interest.

When first starting a new relationship with a customer, relate your humor to the existing situation or light humor in general.  Once you see how your customer reacts, take their reaction as a guide for continued progress.  That might seem that it was an unnecessary comment, but occasionally we as business leaders tend to feel too comfortable too quickly and unintentionally offend or put off our potential customer.  Remember to do everything you can to make your customer feel as comfortable as quickly as possible.

How has humor served you well in your business?  Have you ever run into a situation where it may not have been the best choice?

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/

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