Transforming the Customer Experience

Category : Customer Experience Management

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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?

Customer Service Skills Make an Impact on Profits

Small business owners are recognizing that delivering excellent customer service impacts their bottom line.

I was at a business conference last weekend and found it interesting that so many business leaders and owners were a bit surprised to realize the financial impact that delivering excellent customer service can make in their business – either positively or negatively.

Train your staff well.  Ingrain it into the DNA of your culture that the customer is the most important person in your business.  They are the ones paying your salaries and covering your business costs.

I’d love to hear your comments…….

On a side note, which would you prefer to see on this blog….. video posts, written posts… combination of the two?

What Responsiblity Does the Customer Have in Service?

Are customers responsible for the service they receive?

Unless you’ve been living in a literal cave for the past few days, you’ve all heard about Steven Slater.  He’s the Jet Blue airline attendant who blew his stack when a passenger “allegedly” deliberately hit his head with her oversized bag as he was trying to help her get it into the overhead compartment.  When she refused to apologize, he lost his cool, grabbed the microphone, swore over the speaker system, said “I’m done! I won’t take this anymore!” He then grabbed two beers, deployed the emergency chute from the plane, slid down it and was promptly arrested.

The real story is the feelings on both sides

So that’s the nuts and bolts of the story.  The fascinating part to me is the ensuing furor from both sides.  Many are calling Steven Slater a hero for the working class.  He was sick of being treated poorly by customers and finally told the world, or at least that plane full of passengers, how he felt about it all and quit.  There have been hundreds of blog posts about it, news stories, Fan Pages on Facebook, and more coverage than I’m sure he ever imagined possible.  Many are lauding him for having the guts to speak his mind where most of us are timid in fear of losing our jobs, or being required to “suck it up” by management.

Some have also criticized Slater for his actions.  He is in a position that is known for taking a certain amount of abuse from passengers.  Passengers are more and more upset everyday by fees and restrictions by airlines, so he should know that some are going to be more ornery than they used to be.  You could also say that he is being paid to do a job, therefore, he must do it with professionalism and grace.  As long as he chooses to remain employed by Jet Blue, or any employer for that matter, he should perform the required responsibilities and if he is unhappy with that, go find a job somewhere else doing something else.

Customers are EVERYWHERE

So if he did leave, does that mean that the new customers he is serving in his new position would be nicer?  No.  Customers are the lifeline of any business and, unfortunately, one belligerent customer can sour your whole day.  No matter how positive your mindset is and how genuinely you truly try to best serve your customers, there are some folks that you wish you could send to another planet.  There will always be those customers that we love to serve, and those that we wish did business somewhere else.  Ideally, our level of customer service needs to be excellent, all the time, every time, with every customer, in spite of the customer’s actions.

Here’s my take….

I do believe that there is a certain level of responsibility on the part of the customer that determines the attitudes of staff.  Communication is a two way street.  If I irritate a staff member to the point of distraction, I can easily see how the level of service I receive would go down.  I’d hope that the person would be able to maintain themselves, but if I’m annoying or rude, or in this case actually hit someone with something and didn’t apologize, I’d expect poor treatment.  Maybe not to the degree of this incident, but poor treatment would be the appropriate consequence for my actions.

Yes, Steven Slater has a job to do. He is required to do it and ensure the safety of the passengers.  He is not required to be a baggage handler, but to assist passengers.  I haven’t seen any interviews with other passengers who can back up the statement that she really did hit him on purpose, but I do think that she should have apologized for him being hit, even by accident.  By being stubborn and rude, she helped him reach his breaking point.

Customers need to recognize that overall, staff are doing things adequately and generally are not “out to get us.” We need to recognize that every transaction is a two-way street.  There is responsibility on both the consumer and the provider to act appropriately for the situation and transaction in order to make it successful and positive. When one side falters, the other will as well.  Unfortunately, the few unruly customers are the ones that put service providers on edge and in the mindset that there could always be a potential problem.

I think Steven Slater was appropriate in how he felt, but should not have acted out in the manner in which he did.  My recommendation would be to have had someone else handle that passenger and get her settled. Had that not been successful, then she should have been escorted off the plane. He is responsible to provide excellent customer service. He should know that there is a certain level of abuse that will come with the nature of his job.  But I don’t believe that he should be treated rudely, injured – even accidentally, and then not be apologized to.

I know, there are thousands of stories where service providers have been rude and have deserved the rude treatment they got from the customer or deservedly lost the business, but what are your thoughts on THIS particular incident?  What role does the customer have in the transaction?

Customer Service, Core Values, and Leadership – Walk the Walk

Here’s an excerpt from the action guide Creating a Customer Centric Culture that is soon to be launched.  I’m posting this not only to get your feedback, but also because it is the crux of several conversations I’ve had with clients this week.  We’ve been improving customer service training and focusing on customer satisfaction.  It all comes back to the way that you want customers to feel when doing business with your company.  The experience is what will keep them coming back or life, or what will lose them forever to your competition.

The focus of my conversation with clients this past week was to have the Core Values of the company transparent to everyone – staff and customers alike.  It is essential that everyone understand them in order to live by them and to best serve the customer and the company.  Leadership must be committed to this process and serve as the example in all areas.  Staff watch and learn at all times.  Yes, they even judge when we make mistakes.  The point is to lead by example because teams will do exactly what they see their leaders do.

Now that you have your Core Values, broadcast them to your teams.  Share these values with your staff.  Tell them that you value their efforts to uphold these values while interacting with customers and with each other.

Your staff will appreciate the fact that they know what is important to the organization.  They need to know this in order to know what is expected of them and how to best serve the customer and fulfill their own responsibilities.

During meetings and events, hang posters or banners with these core values on them. Some companies even go so far as to have cards with their ideal culture and core values printed and laminated for staff to carry with them at all times while at work.  If you are able to have these printed on your payroll, that is an excellent way to reinforce to your team that they are being compensated for their role in providing a customer centric culture and demonstrating the core values of the company.

While it may seem that they are being flooded with these core values, that is exactly the point.  They need to be the DNA of your company.  Staff needs to be able to recite these in their sleep, practice them, live them, teach them, and demonstrate them with customers.

Again, all of this is for naught without the commitment of the leadership team to exemplify, reinforce, and practice these core values.  You must talk the talk, and walk the walk.  It’s all about accountability and leadership by example.

How many times have you encountered leadership that has said one thing, but they themselves have done another or have not promoted the very ideals that the company has promoted?

Improving Customer Service – The Three Most Important Things

I recently had the privilege to interview Mark Sanborn, author and speaker about leadership, service strategy and turning the ordinary into the extraordinary. During our conversation, he gave me his answer that many of my clients and small business owners ask regarding trying to improve the customer experience through service.

KE: What are three things that every company or organization should be doing right away to improve customer service?

MS: Number 1 – I think all customer service is predicated on a simple idea. I think all business is predicated on a simple idea. Say what you’ll do and do what you say. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Don’t create expectations you can’t fulfill. Make sure you’re every bit as good or better than you’re advertising. So No. 1, say what you’ll do and do what you say.

Number 2 – Treat customers like friends. That doesn’t mean you have to be their friend, it just means treat people like they’re friends. My friend Fred Shea, who I wrote about in my book The Fred Factor is an extraordinary postal carrier. I said to Fred, I said how is it you’re able to give such great service to all the customers on your route? Fred said, well I don’t think of them as customers, I just think of them as friends and it’s easy to take care of your friends.
I think that’s a pretty good guiding principle. If you want to know how to treat people, here’s a question, how do you treat your friends? Assuming you have some. We hopefully all do.

Number 3- The third thing is, and this one will really get the attention of management, compensate customers for mistakes you made. Don’t just say “Geez, I’m sorry.” We had a customer who, because of a snafu in our system didn’t receive something they ordered. We reshipped a second one even though the first one was on the way. Gave it to them for free and paid the shipping.
In other words, we didn’t just fix the mistake, we compensated them for the mistake. It’s not enough to just fix what was broke. You need to demonstrate your commitment to the customer. And by the way, when you do that and the data gets to management about the money you’ve had to spend to keep customers happy, that will certainly get their attention focused on service delivery.

KE: That’s right. When they see it coming out of their bottom line, they also understand that they could have done right the first time, too.

If you’d like to read the rest of the interview, please click on the resources tab and you’ll find both the ebook and audio versions of the Customer Centric Conversations.

EVERYTHING Counts in Customer Satisfaction

The other day my husband and I were driving down the street and we passed a local oil & lube shop. I made the comment that I like that place because they always have cute sayings on their marquee to get people to come and do business with them. The funniest was one they had last year – “The best looking oil change guys in town! Come see for yourself!” That was something that made me giggle and it was different than anything I’d seen anywhere else. When I think of it, it makes me smile because of that and it’s a good feeling. It had nothing to do with the customer service they deliver, the quality of their work or their prices, but it was a feeling generated through humor.

My husband, while amused by my memory of that marquee, has quite a different feeling about the same shop. He had met the owner of that oil & lube shop at a Christmas party in our neighborhood a few years ago. We were new to the area at the time and my husband said to the owner “Oh, you own that shop. I’ve got a Chrysler and am looking for someone local to do business with for minor repairs and oil changes.” The gentleman responded “Oh, Mopar parts. I don’t like working on those. They are always trouble to deal with.”

Guess where we’ve NEVER gone to get our oil changed, even though it’s less than 2 miles away from our house. Now, it has nothing do with the quality of their work, the timeliness in which they can change oil or their price. We’ve never even set foot in the store. It’s because of the negative feeling projected because of the car we owned. And it was in a social setting, not in any way related to business.

The one thing that I constantly blog and speak about is that buying decisions are based on emotion. If people don’t like the way they feel about you or around you, they won’t do business with you. Everything, tangible or not, will impact the customer experience. Even though this conversation had not taken place in the business setting, the experience fed into the feeling of confidence that customers need to have when doing business with us. The customer’s highest need is certainty, and this did nothing to help foster that.

Because the owner clearly told him he didn’t like working on Chrysler cars, my husband questioned the quality of work they would do. Really, it’s not too far of a stretch. If we don’t like doing something, we usually don’t tend to do our best at it.

Had this owner recognized the fact that he had a potential new customer in front of him, he may have used the following response “Welcome to the neighborhood! Make sure you come on by next time you need an oil change. We’d love to have you as a new customer.” Really, that is all it takes for most people to try a new place. An engaging feeling and a sense of value for the business customers bring to them. The words that we use make a big difference. The way we say things make a big difference. The way we communicate in any way with a customer makes a big difference. What we do and say consciously or not feeds into the feelings of the customer that make up the overall experience.

So when interacting with anyone at all, remember that in both professional and social settings, remember that everything counts.

Customer Satisfaction and Service Lessons Taught by my Hairdresser

As I was leaving my hair appointment yesterday, I wished I could send big businesses to Mary to learn about customer satisfaction,customer service skills, and training. She really makes it a wonderful customer experience. I realized why I’ve stayed with the same hair stylist for more than 7 years……

I ALWAYS leave with a smile on my face.  Yes, Mary always does a good job and her price is very reasonable, but it’s the fact that she always makes me feel good during our short time together.

Without consciously knowing so, she follows many of the strategies that successful companies follow….

She greets me warmly. I always get the big smile and the genuine questions about what I’ve been up to and how I’ve been. She also makes a point to tell me how glad she is to see me.

She makes a point to know my preferences and interests. Without making it obvious to me, she takes notes on what I’ve told her that I like in regards to my cut and style. But more importantly, she makes notes of things I’ve told her about my family and interests so that she can ask me about them at the next visit.  That shows me that she really wants to demonstrate to me that she is making an effort to engage me. I’m also tickled that she took the time and effort to ask.

She LISTENS to me. Whether it be concerns about how I’m trying to style my hair, or about an issue I’m sharing with her about life in general, she really listens before offering advice.  Often, as customers we get frustrated when the vendor tries to push their ideas or solutions on us before we feel that they truly understand what we are saying.  By listening, we can better understand our customers and sometimes discover an issue that they couldn’t vocalize easily.

She offers her suggestions with a few options. Once Mary understands what I’m trying to accomplish, she’ll tell me two ways that we can get my hair to do what I want.  That way, I make the decision between a cutting option or product.

She’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Mary is truly one of those people that you consider yourself lucky to know.  She is the perfect person for her trade and as a business owner.  It’s in her DNA to get to know people and serve them in their best interest.  More importantly, she’s engaging, funnier than most comedians, empathetic, and just outright friendly.

This is the tricky part for some  companies. It all starts with the hiring decisions that we make.  When we hire the right person, the rest is pretty basic. Hiring the right fit for your culture and customer service standards is 90% of the equation.

All of these factors put together are the reason why I refer so many of my friends to her.  I really don’t even focus on what a great job she does or her reasonable price, but start by saying how much they will love her because she is so nice and friendly.

If you’d like to get a better feel for what it takes to accomplish the same feelings with your customers, watch this free video series I just put together.  It briefly summarizes what your customers are looking for and exactly how to deliver it.  http://www.KristinaEvey.com/5-step-blueprint/

3 Ways to Distinguish Yourself from Your Competitors

In today’s world, everyone is fighting for customers.  Your competitors are trying to lure your customers away and you should be trying to attract their customers as well.  But how can you set yourself apart from the competition and retain your customers?

There are three ways to distinguish yourself from your competitors –

Price – You must be competitive, however, this usually will bring you into a bidding war with every transaction
Product – If you have the time, money, and research teams available to you, this will support many businesses.
Service – The fastest, easiest, and least expensive way to impress your customers and cultivate loyalty for life if done right.

The nice thing is that delivering excellent customer service is simple. Note, simple doesn’t always mean easy, but most of the time it is far easier than we think.

As in any relationship, it is the little things that make the biggest difference. Customers appreciate the basic common courtesies of smiles, eye contact, “Please and Thank You,” and any small gesture that treats them as a valued part of your business.

Customers today feel as though they are processed through our systems. The majority of face-to-face contact they have with companies are perceived as inconsiderate and aloof.

Customers are craving to feel engaged with us, not as a cog in the wheel or a problem that gets in the way.

Just the mere fact that you are concerning yourself with delivering excellent service puts you ahead of 95% of your competitors. They are too focused on the logistics of their business. You have the mindset to focus on the customers. Customers notice and appreciate that. Sure, they are always looking for a good deal and, occasionally, you will lose a customer over price. Most of the time, however, you will find that they will come back to you because the level of service you provided gave them the connection that they were looking for with a service or product provider.

Consumers make their buying decisions based on emotion and back it up with logic. The customer is NOT buying your product or service. They can buy that from any of your competitors. They are buying the relationship you are promising them.

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