Transforming the Customer Experience

Category : Customer Experience Management

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How to Make Your Customers WANT to Give You Money

I’m thrilled to present a guest blog post from one of my favorite sites www.FlyingPigCommunications.com and speaks directly to the experience we all desire to create for our customers.

by Laura Petrolino

In these tough economic times, it may seem like a false hope to create an environment where your customers not only freely pay you for your product or service, but do so eagerly and gratefully. Ah Contre’ dear business owning friends….it perhaps is easiest in a tough economy to produce this type of sentiment in a customer. Since money and resources are scarce, a customer wants to feel confident and justified in what they spend their hard-earned dollars on, all you have to do is give them a convincing reason why spending their money with you is worthwhile (and then, of course, follow through).

I had a great experience last night that served as a perfect example of this. While I was in the shower, my wonderful (yet mischievous dog) decided it would be a good idea to devour an entire bottle of a new glucosamine supplement I had bought earlier in the day. I discovered his ‘joint relief’ feast too late to simply provoke him to throw up, so I was faced with the need to call up animal poison control (run by the ASPCA)  to see what I should do and if he was in major danger. As I was researching where to call, I found myself becoming very angry at the fact that I would be forced to pay $65 for a call. “What a rip-off!”, I thought to myself, “$65 for them to tell me that he would probably be fine but just have a bunch of diarrhea”.

Since my dog is my child, although the $65 angered me, I didn’t see any choice in the matter, so I begrudgingly called up. I was greeted with a HUMAN voice…not an automated machine, who was extremely friendly and carefully went through the situation with me, did a google search to find the exact supplement he ate, gave me a case number and then passed me on to a Vet.

The Vet was also extremely pleasant, took quality time to double and triple check things, told me what a normal reaction would be, and what an abnormal reaction would be. She then set up a follow up call and told me to call back (for free) at any time if things didn’t seem right or I had any questions. Before she took my money, she took the time to see if I was registered with a specific microchipping organization, which if I had been, would have made the consultation free.

I hung up the phone in a completely different state of mind than I called with. I felt like I truly received a quality service and would both call again for any reason and recommend them to others. I was actually happy to give them my money! What created this change of opinion? I can narrow it down to a few things, that can be actively applied to any business or service:

-They were nice: seems simple huh? Guess what…it is! Too often though, businesses act like the customer should be serving them vs. the other way around. Being nice goes along way!

-They provided a complete service: Consultation, follow up and emergency call back (if needed) ALL INCLUDED. They didn’t try to nickel and dime me, but instead provided more than I expected. Nothing bad ever comes from OVER DELIVERY

-They trusted me as a customer: Although they mentioned at the beginning the fee to make sure I was aware of it, they didn’t charge me until the end. They trusted that if they followed through on their service, I would follow through as a customer. I could have easily just hung up, but they provided such a good service it was well worth paying for. Communicating trust to your customers is an attribute of good businesses that is often overlooked and undervalued. Trust is important to a customer and it is a two way street. How can you expect your customer to trust you, if you don’t trust them in return?

-They established credibility: This goes along with feeling like I’m receiving value for my money.

What do you do to make your customers feel good about paying for your product or service?

Are Thank You Notes to Business Customers Silly?

Last weekend, I ran a 5K and it was very apparent that I needed new running shoes. Being that I’m not an expert runner (except in my own mind), I usually go to a department store, try on a few shoes, and buy a pair at a reasonable price.

This time, I took the advice of one of my running buddies and headed to Gazelle Sports in Grand Rapids, MI.  The customer service experience that I had was truly a Zappos.com experience, but in the “real world.”  The customer service skills of the staff were superb and they connected with me on a personal level that engaged me as a customer, not just processed me through their system.

The Positive Customer Experience Engaged Me Immediately

I entered and we immediately greeted by two people who directed me to where the running shoes are.  Josh then found me looking at a variety of shoes and offered his assistance.  He listened to my concerns about my feet, special arch support needs, and had me take my shoes off and watched me walk around for a few minutes to see how my feet actually moved in action.  He brought me four pairs of shoes to try on and explained the benefits of each pair.

He also spent a great deal of time speaking with me about my running the race that morning, the pain I have in my IT band, my plans to run a 1/2 Marathon in the fall, and finding a training schedule for me.

Now, like Zappos, Gazelle does not typically sell discount shoes and has sales infrequently.  That being said, the benefits they offer far outweigh the higher sticker price.  At least three times during the trying on phase, Jose reminded me that I could run with the shoes for a few weeks, and if they did not feel “just right” I could exchange them for a different pair that would work for me.

I left the store with a new pair of running shoes, a sense of excitement for my next run, and an appreciation of a good customer experience and the knowledge that excellent customer service skills are not lost on those companies that truly value their customers.

The Final Touch

This post could end there, but they took it one step further.  Yesterday in the mail, I received a handwritten Thank You note from Josh.  He thanked me for letting him help me, hoped that my new shoes fit me well, reminded me to stretch like we spoke about, and wished me luck in my training.  This Thank You note connected the final “Dot” on the Customer Service Skills.  It further deepened the good feeling that I had by doing business with them in the first place.

So the answer to the title of this post is – NO, Thank You notes are not silly. I’ve not met a person yet who was not thrilled to get the Thank You note that they considered to be the icing on the cake of the customer service experience.

The first thing that people have said when I tell them I bought my shoes as Gazelle is “Aren’t they a little pricey?” I say that they really are competitive for “real” running shoes and that the level of service that they give convinces me not to try on 10 different pairs of shoes in a department store, left on my own to wonder if these shoes are good for my feet, and with the anxiety that I will be stuck with these shoes if I run outside and discover that I can’t actually run in them.  The customer service experience has been well thought out by their leadership team and they have developed that loyal customer base that all companies strive to achieve.

Top Ten List to Improve Customer Service and Satisfaction

Dear Customer Service Leader:Staff Wish List

It’s us, your staff.  You’ve been talking to us lately about how we should focus on improving customer service with our company.  So, in order to do that, we’ve compiled a list of things that we need from you to help us deliver excellent customer service.

OUR TOP 10 WISH LIST TO IMPROVE CUSTOMER SATISFACTION

Tell us what is expected of us. We have no way of knowing what it is you want us to do or how to act if you don’t tell us what you expect.

Communicate with us. By opening the lines of communication as to how we are doing, what you like or what you don’t, we can tailor what we do to the expectations.

Empower us. The more power you relinquish to us, the better able we are to serve our customers needs.

Recognize and reward me. We don’t need a party thrown for us every time we do something well, but it is certainly nice to know that you notice when we do things right.“I noticed how you took the extra time to really help that customer.  I like the way you handled that.”  Those words will carry me for a long time.


Treat us the way you want us to treat the customer.
When you give us the service you’d like us to deliver to our customers, we’ll know exactly what to do.

Hold me accountable. When I know that my compensation will reflect my efforts to develop positive customer relationships, I’ll do everything I can to deliver quality customer service.

Help me manage customer expectations. Please work with us to let customers know when they can reasonably expect products to be delivered, to see results, or know what to expect.  When we say, “You should receive this soon.” Soon can mean tomorrow or next week, depending upon the customer’s perception.

Support my decisions that we make using good judgment.
Know that we make the best decisions we can at the time with the information available to us.  It increases our confidence when you support us.  Yes, we will make mistakes sometimes. We promise we will learn from those and not repeat them if at all possible.

Walk a Day In Our Shoes. Could you take an hour a week and do our jobs?  If you answered the phones once in a while, made  the deliveries, scheduled shipments, prepped the procedure, you would know the challenges and needs that we have.  We would also know that you truly appreciate the work that we are doing.

Set Customer Service Minimums. Help us set some Customer Service Minimum standards that we all know are the very least  we will do for our customers. This will encourage us to revisit our service and continually increase the level of service that we provide.

These requests are really customer retention strategies that will help us to develop profitable customer relationships.  We know that without our customers, there is no business.  Without the business, we don’t have jobs.  In today’s economy, good jobs are hard to come by and we sincerely appreciate having our jobs.  We would love to work with you to build customer loyalty and improve the customer’s experience when they do business with us.

Sincerely,

Your Staff

Enough about Me, let’s talk about Me

Kevin Stirtz by Kevin Stirtz

Several times a year I get a CD from a well-known PR consultant. She is a very aggressive and consistent promoter of her business. She has done a good job making herself well-known in her niche.

But, when I listen to her CD I often resist her message. Not because of its quality. She has a lot of good ideas and advice. What drives me away is the amount of time it takes to introduce her on each CD program.

Her intro seems to go on and on. It talks about every little thing she’s done. By the time I get through it I’m exhausted. Or I try to fast forward through it and I miss a big chunk of the program.

Even though this PR expert might be the best in her business, I am still left with a less than great experience when I listen to her CD program. This experience transfers to her as a professional. Whatever emotions I associate with that experience will also attached to her, in my mind.

In other words, her CD programs have the opposite of their intended effect. They don’t make me want to hire her. And the main reason for it is the long and winding intro. It makes the whole thing sound like it’s all about her.

But as a customer (or potential client) I want it to be about me. I’m interested in what I want, in what I’m trying to accomplish. I want the experience to be focused on me and my objectives.

Sure, I want to know my PR person is good. I’d like to think she or he has the experience and expertise to help me accomplish what I want.

But I determine that in many ways. A brief intro that highlights her experience and successes would help me determine this. I would also listen to and read her content. Does it mesh with my view of the world? Does it make sense to me? Does it challenge me or bring me new ideas? Does her material position her in my eyes as an expert I can trust to look out for my interests?

Most of what I base my opinion on will be the expert’s performance. It will not be based on her advertisement disguised as an introduction. An ad is an ad no matter how well you try to cloak it.

We’re in a time where advertising is becoming less effective at establishing credibility. It’s less effective at showing how good we are at what we do. We have many more tools available to us now to help people become informed about who we are and how we might help them. Blatant ads touting our greatness are a waste of time and money.

And beyond the new tools we have to communicate with our market, we also have new standards to meet. In ‘the good old days’ we were just fine blabbing about ourselves. Decades ago that worked.

But not anymore.

These days customers want it to be about them. The whole experience needs to focus on the customer, not the supplier. Customers are more knowledgeable, more informed and more demanding than ever before.

If you ask most people they’ll tell you they ARE customer focused. They exist to serve the customer is what they might say. Then you’ll see their latest TV ad or brochure or website and 90% of it talks about them. It reminds me of the song called, “Let’s Talk Me”.

When you talk about yourself (or your company, your product, your services, etc.) you are showing people that’s where your focus is. If they believe you are more focused on yourself than on them, how likely are they to want to do business with you?

Take advantage of the new economy. Work with the trends that are shaping how business gets done in the 21st century. Show your customers you are focused on them in as many ways as possible. A good start is to talk about them.

Integrity Builds Customer Satisfaction, Service, and Loyalty

Customer loyalty is a direct result of the integrity displayed by the company.

Integrity – adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.

In the business world today, integrity is something that we hope to find in the companies that we interact with.  The successful companies are those that have integrity as one of their core values.  This characteristic comes through in the way they do business and the way that they treat their customers.  Customers appreciate the organizations that work in their best interest.  Working in the best interest of the customer is the typical business model that most organizations strive to  live by.  It’s a common principle that if you treat me well, I’ll treat you well by continuing to do business with you.

Holding Integrity as a Core Value, Even When it Results in a Loss for the Company

6pm.comRecently, 6pm.com, a sister site to Zappos.com that offers greatly discounted and reduced prices, encountered a pricing issue which resulted in a 1.6 million dollar loss to the company.  Their pricing engine capped all products on the site to $49.95.  The system allowed this glitch to happen for approximately six hours, resulting in many products being purchased far below their true price on the site.

In an excerpt from the 6pm.com blog post, Aaron Magness, Director of Brand Marketing and Business Development explained how they handled the situation.  It’s an example of real class and integrity displayed by a company revered for their dedication to service.

While we’re sure this was a great deal for customers, it was inadvertent, and we took a big loss (over $1.6 million – ouch) selling so many items so far under cost.  However, it was our mistake.  We will be honoring all purchases that took place on 6pm.com during our mess up.  We apologize to anyone that was confused and/or frustrated during out little hiccup and thank you all for being such great customers.  We hope you continue to Shop. Save. Smile. at 6pm.com.

Cheers!

Aaron Magness

Director of Brand Marketing & Business Development

Zappos Development, Inc.

To explain why they did not contact customer and notify them of the issue to recover some of their losses  Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, added these comments to the blog post….

To those of you asking if anybody was fired, the answer is no, nobody was fired – this was a learning experience for all of us. Even though our terms and conditions state that we do not need to fulfill orders that are placed due to pricing mistakes, and even though this mistake cost us over

$1.6 million, we felt that the right thing to do for our customers was to eat the loss and fulfill all the orders that had been placed before we discovered the problem.

The payoff is increased customer satisfaction and loyalty

Although 1.6 million dollars is a lot of money, I suspect that 6pm.com will recover most, if not all of those costs simply because of the fact that consumers appreciate and value the way they handled the situation.   Studies show that truly loyal customers will come back to your business and spend more money with each return visit.  Based on the comments that the blog post generated, they have now converted many customers into the truly loyal customer category and can certainly expect higher purchase points from most of them.

Integrity should be part of your branding

While most small businesses don’t generate as many sales as Zappos.com, why can’t they still handle similar situations the same way?  By doing so, they will be developing loyalty and strengthening relationships with their customers in a way that matters.  Knowing this, their loyal customers will then turn into their best marketing resource – spreading the news by word of mouth referrals.  People do business with those they know, like and trust.  Given this situation, 6pm.com did a fantastic job of branding themselves with integrity, even at their expense in the short term.  I bet the long term payoff will make them glad they handled it the way they did.

Managing the Customer Experience is Good Business

Customer Experience Management is Good Business

When we consider customer service and it’s basic premise, it really comes down to the fact that it’s just the right thing to do.  If people pay me money for something, I can’t imagine a scenario where it wouldn’t be the right thing to be appreciative and deliver the best service possible.  If you are trying to profit from your products and services, and people are willing to pay for it, why on earth would you treat them indifferently or with aloofness?

Customers Deserve the Best You Can Provide

Customers are the driving force of any business.  It makes good business sense to treat those who sustain you with respect, genuine caring, and customization.  Too often, we tend to let our customers become a hassle to us. Granted, we all have days when we just can’t accomplish anything or we have those few customers who truly do cross the line.  We need to recognize that these are the exception, not the rule.  Most of your customers are pleasant people and deserve to be treated as such.  Again, they are giving you money.  When we were young and we received a few dollars from an aunt or the Tooth Fairy, didn’t we hold them in high regard?  Well, now that we are adults in business and depend on customers to remain in business, we need to hold them in the same regard.

How Pleasant is it to do Business with Your Business?

Consider your business as objectively as possible.  Would you want to do business with your company?  If not, they why specifically?  Look at all of the customer contact points.  Consider the portals through which your customers access you – web, phone, store, office, etc.  What works and what doesn’t? What are pleasant experiences and where are the barriers or obstacles?  Who or what would make you want to return?  Who or what would make you want to leave?

Please comment below on the biggest obstacles you’ve found in business as well as the nicest surprises you’ve found.

Deliver Excellent Service Always-Value Add with Purchase Points

The ability to make each customer feel as if they are the most important customer – this is the experience customers crave.  Everyone knows they are not your only customer, but if they felt that they were important to you when they last did business with your company, they will return to you.  If you delivered excellent customer service and created an experience that gave them that feeling of importance, your competition is no longer an issue.

Your Most Important Customer

Assume for just a moment that you actually do run a business that is 90% financially dependent upon one customer.  How would you treat that customer?  What would you be doing for that customer?  What are the bare minimum service expectations that you would expect everyone within your organization to practice when interacting with that customer?

Now, apply those principles to each and every customer that walks through your door.  Every customer needs to be treated as if they are important, because the are.  Each customer contributes to the financial stability of your business.

Stratifying Customers

This brings up the topic of stratifying your customers, or providing better service or perks to those customers who spend more money with your business.  While everyone deserves to be treated with excellent service no matter what their expenditures are, it is in the best interest of your business to provide value added services to those who do spend more. The key is to be transparent about it.  Perhaps it’s free shipping to those who spend a certain amount of money during a transaction.  Perhaps it’s free deposit tickets and deposit stamp for those customers who maintain a certain balance in a business bank account.  Some department stores offer personal shoppers to those purchasing suits to help them create a matching ensemble or accessorize.

The point here is that customers will know from the onset that when they spend more money with you, they will receive more services.  Not better service from the staff, but value added services.  Customers not qualifying for the added services will know that if they spent more, they would get more, but are still delighted with the service they did receive from your associates.

Excellent Customer Service is the Best Prescription

I love being a mom more than anything else in the whole world, even chocolate.  But, one of the things I dread as a mom is getting that phone call from school informing me that one of my children has “Pinkeye.”  So, last Tuesday, I picked up my daughter from school and headed to the doctor’s office for the diagnosis that I already knew was coming and then to the drug store to pick up the prescription drops.

Now, putting drops into the eyes of a six year old is no easy feat.  Especially when that six year old has decided that she is a drama queen and is going to milk the situation for all it is worth.  When I picked up the drops, the pharmacist at Rite Aid suggested some methods for administering the drops that might make it easier and less stressful.  Nonetheless, the suggested methods were just as torturous as me literally sitting on my daughter and squirting the drops in her eyes.

However, after two days of drops every four hours, my daughter and I came to a point where we did try the pharmacist’s suggestion and were able to administer the drops with no drama at all.

So, this is a pretty mundane situation.  Nothing really noteworthy.

Until………. we get the call from the pharmacist two days later asking how my daughter’s eye infection is doing and if we had any problems administering the eye drops.  No, this wasn’t a call from the doctor’s office.  It was the pharmacist from Rite Aid delivering excellent customer service.  She was taking the time and interest to call and see how the treatment was working, if we had encountered any problems, and if we had any questions she could answer.  She was connecting with me, the customer.  The business transaction, for all practical purposes, was complete.  She was following up to nurture the relationship.  That’s effectively managing the customer experience.  Now, they may have designed this into the process at Rite Aid.  But that’s the point – they design a positive customer experience into their plans.

This really might not seem like a big deal, until you think about how often this doesn’t happen.  How many times do you receive a follow up phone call from the provider of  the product or service you purchased from to see if there was anything they could help you with?  I’ll bet it’s less often than you think.

The noticeable thing is that it wasn’t the physician who treated her, or even that office.  I paid them much more for the physician’s time and diagnosis than I did the drug store for the drops.

Customer satisfaction comes from the extra step that we put on to our delivery of service.  I was happy just to leave the pharmacy with the drops I needed and the fact that they were nice and pleasant to me.  I’m delighted that they called to follow up.  Even though I know I may pay a little more to go to Rite Aid, the fact that I received that follow up call tells me they care about my business.

What do you do for your customers that tells them you value their business?

Congratulate Your Customers to Enhance the Relationship

Enhancing the customer experience sometimes has nothing to do with the product or service that you provide.  Customer experience management is all about focusing on that customer and the way they do business.  Customer satisfaction dramatically increases when you reach out to your customers for something relevant to them and their business.  It’s about building and nurturing the relationship you are forming. When you communicate with your customers outside of the business transaction, they value that.

Notice the Coverage or Accolades of Your Customers

Today I received an ezine featuring one of my clients, a small business owner.  She has built her business from the ground up and has endured many of the same challenges that small business owners encounter today.  The article detailed her start in her industry and how she finally made the decision to start her own business.  It represented her well, both professionally and personally and gave an accounting of her growth over the past few years.

Celebrate the Successes of Your Customers

I emailed my client congratulating her on the article and the way it presented both her and her company.  I congratulated her on the feature coverage and on the success of her business and told her how proud she should be of her accomplishments and all that she has ahead of her.  She immediately emailed me back and thanked me for the note.  She was very happy about the article and that I had noticed it and congratulated her.  One line stood out in particular –

This has been such an exciting ride and I’m so glad to know that the people who have helped me along the way in business, like you, are here to celebrate my successes and to help when I face challenges. I’m glad I have you in my corner.

When you reach out to your customers, you strengthen the bond – both professionally and personally

When you take the time to notice anything said or written about your customers, be sure to pass it on to them.  It lets them know that you are thinking of them not only as a revenue source, but as a partner.  Everyone loves to be noticed and thought of on some level.  If you come across an article relevant to the field of one of your customers, email or send it to them with a short note that you thought of them when you read it.  Perhaps they might find it  helpful, perhaps not.  But the point is that you are showing them that the relationship you have with them is not focused on the dollars they bring in, but on them as a person and the way they do business.

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