Transforming the Customer Experience

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Customer Service Surveys – Have Them Take a STAND!

I often work with clients to create customer surveys to get valuable feedback from customers about the way they do business, ways to improve, what is working, what isn’t, etc.  One of the most frequent discussions we have is around my guidance to avoid having a neutral response available for the respondent.  I like to provide the following options for quantitative options…

  • Strongly Disagree
  • Disagree
  • Agree
  • Strongly Agree

This forces folks to decide how they feel one way or the other.  Think about it – if you ask someone about a movie or restaurant and they respond with “Eh, it was alright.” Do you really have any insight as to how they enjoyed it or if they would encourage you to see that movie or go to that restaurant?  No, it’s vague.  It gives them the comfort of being vague and neutral… which really gives you no insight to their true feelings at all.

When asking for feedback, you have to be courageous enough to ask for the good, the bad, and – yes – the ugly.  If you are looking to only get glowing responses to lull yourself into a false sense of tranquility, then you really are sticking your head in the sand and eventually you’ll be outpaced by your competitor that truly wants relevant feedback on how they can keep their customers coming back for more.

You’ll be MUCH better off when you ask folks to tell you directly, no sugar coating it.  You need to know what your customers like and what they don’t like.   You need to know what will drive them away to your competition and what will bring them back to you.  You need to find out what you are doing well and what is simply not working.

Now, here is what separates the men from the boys / women from the girls – –  you MUST have a comment section included somewhere for folks to give comments in free form… meaning they can explain any of their reasoning for responding as they did for any of the questions, or to add any additional thoughts they feel you should know.  This is actually the secret sauce… you are getting the customer to articulate EXACTLY, in their own words, their thoughts on the way you do business.

Using customer surveys with both quantitative AND qualitative (free form) responses gives you a complete picture as to the true state of the customer experience with direct customer input.  Who better to tell you how your business is running than the people that are currently working with you?  You’ve already marketed to them.  They’ve already put their trust in you.  Now is your chance to continue to earn it and reap the benefits by making improvements suggested by those that are already keeping you in business.

Coming soon…  The importance of a WELL WORDED survey – it can make or break your results.

Be sure to leave your thoughts and comments below…

What to Do With Customer Survey Feedback to Improve the Customer Experience

Customer feedback is a critical component of any customer service program.

Today’s successful companies are those that are truly partnering with their customers and integrating their feedback. The smart companies are being

proactive about improving their customer service by asking their customers directly what they can do to retain their business.
In order to truly find out what your customers are thinking about your company and it’s products, just ask them.

Essential steps to take are:

Determine what you want to know – The desired outcomes need to be clearly defined. Anybody can ask customers 10-20 questions, but if they aren’t geared toward uncovering specific information, the benefit to the company or customers is minimal.

Identify the target group – Determine which specific segment of your customers you wish to survey. Once this is done, it is important to capture as much of their feedback as possible.

Develop and conduct the survey – 
More information can be obtained from surveys that are both quantifiable and qualifiable. By having an explanation given for the scale ratings, you will gain the customers reasoning perspective. The results from this initial survey serve as the benchmarks against which improvements and changes will be measured.

Personal follow up – Once the survey has been conducted, follow up with those customers who have given permission to be contacted. Even more information will be gained in conversation and the customer will clearly explain their reasoning and perspective behind their answers. This step also solidifies in the customer’s mind the company’s determination to satisfy their customers.

Implement the changes and resurvey – Integrate the changes or improvements requested in the survey. After enough time has passed for the customers to experience the improvements, resurvey them. Measure the results against the benchmarks obtained in the original survey.

Be certain to distribute the information received from the feedback surveys to all departments in your company. The ultimate customer experience is determined by the integration of efficient teamwork and sharing of customer driven information throughout the organization.

Measuring the Results of Customer Experience Efforts

How Can I Tell if Our Efforts to Improve the Customer Experience are Working?

I'm asked this question repeatedly by business leaders.  They understand that the customer experience is more important than ever before.  They believe that they are delivering excellent service and they want some sort of mechanism on how to measure any improvements.

MEASURING CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE EFFORTS

MEASURING CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE EFFORTS

There are many different answers to this question. There are several different ways to survey your customers – online, by phone, email, etc. In surveys, you want to be certain to get your responses both in a quantitative method and qualitatively. The quantitative answers will give you the rating you are looking for and the qualitative answers will enable your customers to answer free form in their own words.

But the two best ways to measure your customer service and satisfaction are 1) by looking at your profit increases and 2) to actually have conversations directly with your customers.

No mater what your business model, these two methods are very basic and revealing. For example, a country club is trying to increase it’s membership. They think they have all of the amenities and options that their members want, they’ve scoped out the competition, and they’ve got the best golf pros around. The challenge is that they have seen profits and membership plateau despite best efforts to increase their numbers.

So by looking at the first measurement, their profits are stable. Now is the time to examine the second measurement – talk to the club members themselves.

By speaking directly with the members, it is their golden opportunity to find out exactly what their member want, like, and don’t like about the club. Having direct communication with members will also increase the relationship between vendor and customer and turn it into a partnership. Once the members recognize that the club truly wants to provide what they want, they will be more forthcoming and tell them exactly what it will take to keep them there.

The final step in this process is crucial – you must act on the information. While it is certainly not feasible to integrate or act on every piece of feedback, it is crucial to consider it and follow up on it. There are many different ways to consider and follow up on the information, all the while keeping the customer informed along the way.

The communication process that has strengthened the relationship between the club and the member will now pay off in profits because the members will be personally invested in the club. They will start to buy more of the services provided because what they wanted is now being offered. Membership levels will increase because the first string of customers have now become raving fans of the club and they are encouraging all of their colleagues, friends, and acquaintances to join.

It has now become a win-win situation for both the country club and the members. The club is seeing more positive feedback from their members and getting more voluntary feedback because the communication paths have already been established. The golf club also enjoying higher profits and membership levels, and the members are enjoying better service, amenities, packages, etc. because they are getting exactly what they asked for and are willing to pay for it.

Improve Customer Service – Asking Questions Is Crucial in the Customer Service Experience

Improving customer service and the customer service experience is something that both small businesses and large companies are always trying to do.

The great thing is that the answer on how to do that comes from one source – your customers. Asking your customers questions about the way they do business with you will gain you knowledge you’d never have insight to otherwise.

Let’s boil it down to basics, you lead or work in a business. You have or want customers. Your customers give you money for your product or service. You hope they come back again and give you even more money. This is pretty much how it works, right?

There is a critical component in here that can make the whole process so much more beneficial and will practically guarantee you customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Ask your customers questions. That’s it. Well, that’s the premise, but it reaches so many different levels. You need to ask them questions about what they need, how they will be using or what they want to accomplish with your product or service, what their challenges are, etc.

You also need to ask them about your business and the way you interact with them. This customer feedback is invaluable. These people are already familiar with your business and if you’ve done a good job cultivating trust with them, they’ll give you honest feedback.

You want to ask questions about what your business does well and what needs some attention. Customers love it when you ask them for their opinion or feedback because it shows them that you value them, and everyone loves to feel valued.

With all of this being said and done, there is one critical piece to this puzzle that left unused will have more of a negative impact than anything else.

If you ask the question, be sure to act on it. Few things irritate customers more than taking the time to answer a question or give requested feedback and have nothing happen from that point.

No, you can’t do everything your customers want or suggest, but you absolutely must acknowledge their input and ideas.

This can be as simple as “Thank so much for your ideas. That’s something I’m going to bring up in our next team/store meeting.” Or, you can go as far as writing a hand written note. Avoid using canned response letters when possible. It is alright to use a skeleton canned letter, but be sure to personalize it by referencing their suggestion or input.

Asking your customers questions makes perfect business sense. They are the ones doing business with you by asking them questions, they’ll be telling you how to keep them coming back to you instead of going to your competition.

Claim more tips and strategies to boost your profits, get your current customers to spend more with you, and to create raving fans, go to http://kristinaevey.com/op/keep-your-customers/ You’ll get access to a short video series that will help you make dramatic improvements right away in your customer relationships.

A Lesson In Customer Service… A Tale of One City

I just came across an article that highlights what can, and hopefully should, happen when you start responding to what your customers really want.

In League City, the municipality started fixing the concrete sidewalks that so many of the residents had been complaining about for quite a while.  This, in and of itself, is a wonderful thing.  The people/customers voiced their concerns  – – the city/business responded by giving them what they wanted.

What they didn’t realize was that once people saw that the sidewalks were being repaired, they started calling about other things they wanted done as well.  This has now caused somewhat of a “Honey Do List” for the municipality.

If they handle this right, they will have one of the most well run cities in the country.  What is happening is that the residents found that the local government was responsive to the needs of the residents and acted upon their input.  Since the residents pay the taxes that run the local government, then they should have a fair amount of say in how things are done.

You know where I’m going with this.  Since your customers are the ones that literally pay your salary and operating costs, they should have a fair amount of input as to what you should consider doing when operating your business.

I’ll bet that the municipality will from time to time grumble about the workload, but once these suggestions or complaints are handled one by one, I’ll venture that they will have a much more highly engaged group of citizens that will stand behind them.  Even through some of the tougher decisions as well.

The same holds true for your business. Customer engagement breeds higher customer satisfaction and retention levels by the responsiveness you show them.

What to do With That Complimentary Letter for Good Customer Service

So, what to do with that letter complimenting that good customer service?

Who doesn’t like to receive a compliment? You’ll be hard pressed to find a person in the world that truly doesn’t like to receive a compliment.

How many people actually take the time to send a compliment letter or email?

The answer to this question is at the other end of the spectrum. Customers are much less likely to send a complimentary letter than they are to send a complaint letter. This holds true to the fact that a customer having a negative experience will go out of their way to tell hundreds of people either in person or through social medial rather than take the time and energy to tell people about an experience in which they received good customer service.

The first thing you must do…

Immediately acknowledge the letter to the sender. When a customer of yours takes the time to compose and craft a letter to compliment your business, or someone within that business, you must reciprocate in kind.

By doing so, you are connecting, engaging, and valuing that customer. Many customers figure that there is some sort of “Business Black Hole” that handles all issues and are hopeful that the information or compliment is reaching the right hands.

In reaching out to the customer, you are letting them know that you value their business, that you want to take the time to connect on a personal level, and you are strengthening the engagement process of building a long term customer relationship.

My suggested wording for a complimentary letter is this…

Dear John/Mary,

Thank you so very much for the letter you sent complimenting ABC Business/Jane Doe’s service and/or efforts. I know that you are very busy and much appreciate the time that you took to let us know that we/she is doing a great job for you.

I will be sure to pass along your kind words as it helps us when we know we have truly made a difference to those we serve each and every day. You are the type of customer we look forward to helping every day and make our jobs enjoyable.

Kindest regards,

Joe Smith

These responses mean a lot to your customer and lets them know that the letter was received and that you value the feedback they passed along. They’ll be much more likely to reward your engagement with continued business.

The second thing to do….

Once you have thanked the customer for their kind words, you must then share the feedback with the person or department who inspired the letter in the first place. It is one thing from our teams to receive praise from leadership, but it takes it to a much deeper level when our teams receive praises from the people they are actually serving.

As your external customer felt valued when you responded to them, your internal customers (your teams) will feel that same strong sense of value when you pass the praise along and thank them for treating your customers so well.

Two of the highest indicators of job satisfaction are a sense of being valued and a sense of accomplishment in their responsibilities. Your engagement in this manner fulfills both of these needs. Teams also appreciate direct involvement with leadership, especially in a positive manner.

Please comment below on the results you’ve seen in the way you respond.

For some practical methods to increase the likelihood of receiving complimentary letters from your customers, the 5 Steps to More Loyal Customers manual will get you started immediately.

Customer Intimacy – What is it About Our Product?

When we are looking to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty through customer intimacy, it again boils down to asking questions of your customers.  You know you have a good quality product.  You know you provide pretty good service.  But do you really think it’s a case of “Build It and They Will Come?”

You need to really be in tune with your customers.  You need to ask them the right questions to determine what it is about your products that brings them back to you.

Ask these questions…

What is it that they like about your product or service?  What is it that they DON’T like about it?  How do they benefit by using your product?  If you are business to business, how do your customers make money with your service?  What challenges do they face when using your product?

Now, a lot of you may think that you already do a pretty good job of asking these or similar questions of your customers.  If that is truly the case, then congratulate yourself because you are already ahead of 95% of your competition.  They are still lagging behind in the “Build It and They Will Come” mentality.  Really, that’s so 1989.

If you want to be even smarter about the way you do business and tailor it to your customers, take this next step…

Ask those same questions, but instead of asking about your product or service, substitute the word “business” to get a better gauge on how your business itself is serving your customers.  How is your response time?  Are your salespeople really helping solve problems or just trying to sell product that your customers don’t really need?  Are your customer support staff knowledgeable enough about  your products and services?  Are there any obstacles that make it difficult to do business with you?

There was a saying that I used when I was young to defend my constant question asking.. “The one who asks the most questions learns the most.”  As a business leader, you could use this same premise with a twist…

“The business that asks the most questions and acts on them EARNS the most.”

What do you think?

Give the People What They Want!

How many products are there out in the world for us to use and consume? Trillions, if not more. How many companies actually ask you what you think of their products? Just a fraction of those trillions. How many companies actually consider and act on the feedback they receive? The number decreases dramatically.

The point is, Dominos has been airing their dirty laundry for the whole world to see in their latest ad campaign to reiterate the fact that they asked, we responded, they considered and acted on that information. They used “The Pizza Turnaround” campaign to show the world that they asked for customer feedback and received feedback that was sometimes hard to listen to. But, they took that information to make a better product.

Like they said in the commercial, many companies don’t like to admit that the are anything less than perfect and hide their faults and imperfections. Dominos clearly points out that they get slammed on their crust and sauce. They then show us that they reformulated their recipes.

We also hear these quotes – “These comments energize us to make it better.” “We want people to love our pizza.” These are the quotes of people within a company that know that they have to do what it takes to succeed.

Dominos understands that unless people like their pizza, no one will buy it and their market share and profits will plummet.

How can you and your organization practice these same principles? If you ask your customers what they think of your products and services, the feedback that you receive will be invaluable. That feedback will tell you exactly what you need to do in order to improve your products and services and to keep your customers coming back for more. Perhaps its the customer service that you deliver that needs improvement. Maybe your products and services are no longer state of the art or need to be fine tuned to keep up with the needs of your customers. If you receive customer feedback and input, be smart and use the information to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Please comment below on if you would publicly admit that your customers weren’t thrilled with your product.

Customer Service and Chocolate – The Ideal Combination

Picture yourself taking over a franchise that had developed a reputation for poor service. Can you imagine how disheartening it would be to have old customers tell you how the previous owner had driven customers away with their poor customer service?

That’s exactly what one entrepreneur found when he purchased a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory franchise in the Galleria Mall in Glendale, California. Brian Pickett knew that he was going to have to turn around the service that his store was delivering in order to win back the business of lost customers and to develop customer loyalty.

Customers would openly tell him that they could go to the well known and respected chocolatiers of Godiva and See’s Candy to get their chocolate. Pickett seems to have recognized the truth that customers can find your product or service from your competitors. But the best way to win their business and loyalty is through the service that you provide. As stated in previous posts – customers aren’t buying your product, they are buying the relationship you promise them. If you treat your customers poorly, they won’t want any relationship with you at all. They’ll go to one of your competitors who realizes that customer service is what keeps customers coming back.

Brian started out by training customer service skills and making improvements in the store itself based on the feedback he was getting from customers.  He also spent time marketing to patrons in the mall, even other business owners.  He says it took him about six months to turn things around and win back the customers trust.

As it turns out, all of Pickett’s efforts paid off – literally. His revenue increased 25% in 2008 and his current numbers are 5% over last year, despite the economy and less than ideal location. By improving customer service, the customer satisfaction levels increased, thus customer loyalty increased as well.  This ultimately resulted in increased business and profits.  It’s a win-win situation all around.

“It’s all about customer service — treat people how you want to be treated,” Pickett said. “Even if they don’t buy anything, we appreciate you coming by.”

Read the entire article in the Glendale News Press here to learn more about how service, combined with good business and common sense, can turn just about any business around.

Can You Use Social Media To Reach More of Your Customers?

Are you looking for the newest way to connect with your customers?  Well, since you are on the internet reading this post, you have access to the newest way companies are taking initiative to interact with their customers – Social Media.

Facebook and Twitter are the top two players in the social media world.  These two sites enable companies to look at what their customers are saying about them, both positive and negative. The customer feedback in a public forum has many advantages that are just now being discovered.

Las Vegas is doing this on a daily basis.  Most of the casinos are looking for posts about them and finding out what customers like, what they don’t like, solving problems, and even recruiting new customers.   A recent article, Casinos use social media sites to reach customers published in SF Gate gives many examples of what they are doing to improve customer service and satisfaction through the social media sites.

“Resorts are setting up fan pages where executives can monitor customer suggestions about how to improve business. They also can collect guests’ kudos, offer immediate assistance to customers in distress — and cringe when unhappy patrons post critical remarks.

For their part, customers are discovering the Web sites offer an unprecedented voice, with comments and reviews not only reaching casino managers but wielding influence with an untold number of customers and potential customers.”

There is a certain degree of risk involved with social media being a public forum for all the world to see any dirty laundry being aired.  However, I see this as an advantage because when the public can see the initial problem online, they can also see how effectively the service recovery was handled.  I’m a firm believer of the fact that when consumers see companies making a situation better for a customer through excellent customer service, then they will be far more likely to remain loyal customers and also drive more traffic to those companies than those who do nothing to resolve issues online.
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