Transforming the Customer Experience

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Amazon Delights Customers with Sunday Delivery

Online retailers have always used Amazon as the standard to strive for when competing for customer loyalty and satisfaction.  But now, the renowned online retailer has yet again surpassed expectations for  the customer experience in the larger metropolitan areas by offering Sunday deliveries.

This is yet another example of “What is extraordinary today will become tomorrow’s minimum standard.”

The Business Insider just announced that Amazon will begin offering Sunday deliveries to it’s customers on November 17.  Yes, this is a move to drive more shoppers to enroll in their Prime program, but I see it as a way to yet again exceed the expectation of the customers.

Smart companies continually ask themselves “How can we take an ordinary experience and make it stand out?”  Certainly, delivery of products doesn’t leave much room for fancy workings, but teaming up with the USPS to make it happen is something that has never been done before and certainly takes things to the next level.  While most of us may not NEED Sunday delivery, the fact that their stock prices more than quadrupled in a few hours certainly indicates it is something that most consumers WANT.

Discovering what consumers WANT and delivering it is the magic sauce.  Of course, most companies don’t wield that level of influence, but what can your company do to make ordinary processes seem special?  What can you do to make yourself stand out in a way that makes the mundane seem delightful?

Once you come up with that answer, look for ways to make it happen.  Rather than listen to the naysayers, simply say “I know we can’t right now, but what would it take to make that happen?”  As they are listing everything that would need to change, they are giving you the action steps needed.  So, take action and make it happen.  Delight those customers in ways they haven’t expected.  Then, rinse and repeat.

Your customers will thank you for it.  Just ask Amazon how well it works.

I’d love to hear your comments below.

 

Who Is Your Biggest Competitor? It’s Not Who You Think…

When working with companies that are focused on getting new customers, I always ask them who their biggest competitor is.  As expected, I typically hear the names of their competition in their industry.  They are shocked  when I tell them they are only partially right.

The competition is the company that gave customers their last positive memorable customer experience, regardless of industry.  That’s who businesses are being compared to in the mind of the customer.

So it doesn’t matter if you are an office equipment dealer, restaurant, or medical office.  Your customer is comparing the service you deliver to the experience that perhaps their dry cleaner gives them.  Their dry cleaner knows their name, smiles, engages in conversation, asks them how their business and family are, and makes doing business with them simple and quick.  A simple exchange, but one that is focused on engagement, is what customers are craving.

In understanding this premise, focus your attention on every aspect of the customer experience.  Ways to do this…

  1. Build a customer touch point map
  2. Define the ultimate customer experience to perfection at each touchpoint
  3. Train staff to deliver that ideal ultimate experience
  4. Ask customers for feedback on ways to improve
  5. Rinse and repeat

It’s good to have competition.  It gives you a measurement to gauge your service delivery by.  It’s not okay to let your competition surpass you simply because you didn’t try.

Next week is Customer Service Week.  This is a great time to examine what you can do to create that positive lasting impression in the mind of your customers.

 

Hampton Inn Personally Reaches Out to Customer Reviews to Strengthen Customer Relationships

Small Gestures Build Customer Intimacy

I noticed today on the the TripAdvisor Site that there were some reviews for the Hampton Inn in Manhattan/Times Square in New York.  In the review section there were numerous extremely favorable responses and just a few non favorable reviews.

What got my attention was not the reviews themselves, but the responses.  Luis Santiago is listed as the Front Desk Supervisor and has responded to each and every review given for as many pages that I was willing to flip through.  When I hit 15 pages containing at least 3 reviews each, I was satisfied and happily impressed.

The responses that Luis gave were not canned responses at all.  He took the time to craft each and every one.  Now, the beauty is that these responses were just a few short sentences, not lengthy at all.  That’s the point, it doesn’t take an enormous amount of effort or time to connect with customers.  It just takes a small step.

Now, for those of you who may be wondering if there any negative feedback, yes there were a few.  I couldn’t find any that were a “One Star” or “Two Star” review, but I did find some negative feedback imbedded in an overall favorable response.  Luis addressed those topics specifically with the reviewer and thanked them for the feedback.  He also told the reviewer that he would take it under consideration to see if any improvements could be made.

Bottom line… This is an example of building and strengthening the customer relationship after the interaction or transaction has been made.  Just the small effort of thanking for the review, thanking the customer for their business, encouraging them to return and addressing any incidental issues is huge in the mind of the customer.

And, it just may garner some unintended unsolicited marketing… as I’m doing here in this blog.  I have no ties whatsoever to the Hampton Inn or plans to visit New York anytime soon.  I’m hoping that this post serves two purposes… 1) to show business leaders that the little things count massively in the overall customer experience; and 2) to send a little extra business to the Hampton Inn in New York.  Please be sure to tell Luis hello!

Please comment below to share your thoughts….

The Last Impression Counts Just as Much as the First… If Not More

In the customer experience field, we all pay a lot of attention to the first impression we make with customers. 

“You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression” – We all know this saying and drum it into the minds of our teams.

But – what about the last impression?

This really struck home with me this morning as I dropped my daughter off at the bus stop before school.

We had had a wonderful morning.  She woke up on time with her alarm, got dressed, and went downstairs humming a cheerful little song.

Since it snowed a little this morning, I decided to make it an extra special last day before winter break and turned on the fireplace and we ate breakfast in the family room by the Christmas tree and just took our time and chatted.

As we drove up to the bus stop, we talked about some of the fun things we have planned as a family for winter break and what she can do with her friends.  Once we reached the bus stop we waited for the bus to come.  As the bus was approaching, she panicked and remembered that she needed to put her lunch box in her back pack and was doing that as the bus came to a stop.  When she finished, I unlocked the door for her and leaned in for my goodbye kiss and……  That’s where the magic stopped.

She was  frustrated as the bus was now loading kids on and was worried it would leave without her.  A goodbye kiss was simply not on her list of priorities at that moment.  She got out of the car and headed for the bus and got right on with barely a glance back to me.

I sat there for a moment feeling a bit defeated.   I questioned why this bothered me so much since we’d had such a fantastic morning.  Seriously, the morning could not have gone better if I’d planned it right up until that last 90 seconds, and that’s the part that bothered me.

Now, I’ll get over it.  I know she’s 9 years old and didn’t mean anything by it and I know we’ll be fine when she comes home from school today.  But it got me thinking about the way that we leave our customers.  Now, I don’t think there are many businesses that would go so far as to kiss the customers goodbye, but how much attention to you pay to the way that you say goodbye to your customers or consider what happens at the last touch point with them?  You need to be sure to thank them, to look them in the eye, to smile, to do something that signifies a connection of some sort.  For my daughter, it would have been the quick kiss on the cheek goodbye.  For a client or customer, it’s a sincere handshake, a “Thanks for coming in today.”, you get the idea.

Yes, the first impression is extremely important.  But always remember that the lasting impression the customer has of your business or the last person that worked with them is just as important, if not more so.  The last impression lingers far longer than the first.

Please comment below with your thoughts….

Relationship Marketing Improves the Customer Experience and Profits

It’s all about the relationship. Your product and service don’t really factor into the decision making process of your potential customer. Sure, they’ve decided that they need it, but past that point, it all comes down to the relationship that you are promising to deliver.

Relationships Matter

Think about your personal relationships. Don’t you spend more effort and time on those relationships that are positive in nature? People tend to gravitate toward those who make them feel good and generate positive feelings. This same premise holds true in the business world. People do business with those they know, like, and trust.

Get to Know Your Customers

The time that you spend up front with your customers is invaluable. You want to know about them. What prompted them to need your product or service? How did they find you? How do they use your product or service? What benefits does it afford them? How do they earn the money to purchase from you?

What Matters Most to Your Customers?

An essential part of any successful relationship is getting to know what matters most to the other person in the relationship. Partner with your customers. Customer satisfaction levels dramatically increase when special attention is paid to the very ones that drive the business. Discover the pain points and critical issues that your customers face every day. Discover what makes them feel successful in their field and, on the flip side, what makes them feel vulnerable?

Relationships Thrive on Communication

Communication with customers is ranked as one of the highest driving factors in customer loyalty. Communication breeds engagement. Everyone likes to be asked what their opinions and ideas are. Customers are no different. They like to be asked what they like, what they don’t like, what they want to see more or less of, what ideas they have to make products or services better. Your customers will gladly tell you what you want to know if you simply ask them for the information. They’ve already prequalified themselves as market research because they’ve purchased from you before. They’ve used your product and have formed an opinion. Now ask them for it.

Communication is a Two Way Street

Now comes a critical point to differentiate yourself from your competition – when you engage and communicate with your customers, you need to consider and act on the information they provide. When companies request information and feedback, yet don’t act on it, the relationship of trust suffers. They gave you the input that you asked for, they need some sort of a response from you. Even if you can’t do it, that’s fine. At least let them know that you’ve actively considered it. If you are able to implement their ideas, let them know it was thanks to them.

Connect the Head and the Heart

People make their buying decisions based on emotion and back it up with logic. By focusing on the relationship that you can provide your customers, you’ll be setting yourselves apart from any of your competition. Your competitors are caught up in sales numbers and widgets. You need to be caught up in your customers and how you can strengthen the relationship you have with them. Strong relationships equate to strong businesses.

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.

Customer Complaints – What NOT to Do and How to Handle them properly to ensure customer satisfaction

Companies and businesses make mistakes.  That’s fine.  Customers expect them from time to time.  Customers are actually much more patient than we give them credit for when a mistake is made. They expect that we will work with them to fix it and life will go on as usual, if not better. What they don’t expect is to be dismissed.

Well, apparently Netflix didn’t quite follow this philosophy and lost a customer.  Granted, only one customer, but we need to remember the life long value of each and every customer and the revenue and referrals they bring to our business over the course of many years.

In a recent article, a customer had opened up a Netflix account last March for the On Demand services.  He was receiving the services and was actually quite satisfied with the program he had purchased.

That is, until he happened to examine his credit card statement with greater scrutiny one month and discovered that he had been double charged since the account creation in March.  This resulted in a $55.93 overcharge in total. When he contacted Netflix, they indeed admitted that two accounts had been created under his name and credit card number and could verify that one account had remained inactive the entire time.

Imagine the customer’s surprise when he simply asked them to close the inactive account and to credit the appropriate account the overcharged $55.93.  He tells us that Netflix would only agree to credit him two months of fees as it was his responsibility to watch and monitor his accounts and charges.

My thoughts….  This is a case of simply not thinking in the best interest of the customer and being short sighted.  The representative simply didn’t go to bat for the customer or search for ways to help him. There must be a “policy” somewhere that indicates that two months of credit is somehow the standard and this is all the customer service representative was willing to do for him.  She/he didn’t put themselves in the customers shoes and realize how ridiculous the situation really was.  It could have been such a simple fix and such a simple way to keep this customer.

What Netflix should have done….  The representative should have used some common sense and common decency.  First off, they should have realized that there are likely very few customers that would open up two accounts.  Second, since they can clearly tell that one account was never used, they should have immediately apologized for the mistake, thanked the customer for bringing it to their attention so that they could fix the problem, and then stated that they would immediately apply a credit on the other account, and offered two free months of service to the customer to make up for the inconvenience of him having to call to fix the issue.  It’s about making it better than right whenever possible.

Only after the customer contacted a media outlet and their follow up did Netflix agree to refund the entire overcharged amount.  The customer refuses to do business with Netflix again and I honestly can’t blame him.  They clearly didn’t valued him or his business enough to work to make the situation better than right.  This is a case of a customer complaint handled completely improperly.

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.

Lisa Ford Puts Some “Skin in the Game” for the Customer Experience

“Skin in the Game” is necessary to ensure that your team is working to deliver the best Customer Experience possible.

Lisa Ford, a renowned speaker and trainer in the field of Customer Service, Satisfaction, and Loyalty shared her method of keeping your team accountable for working in the best interest of your customer during a discussion we had about the ultimate Customer Experience.

“I think people have to be held accountable for it.

Are we making a part of performance appraisal?  Every three months are we reviewing some numbers?  We don’t just wait and do it annually. But I think people have to have it reinforced at a very tangible level.

I think a portion of individuals’ pay, supervisors, frontline, all the way up, has to be tied to customer satisfaction numbers.

It may be 5 percent, it might be 25 percent.  But I believe there has to be enough – they have to have enough so-called skin in the game for them to be willing to make the kind of changes needed to continue on the path of exceptional customer service, and then, therefore, satisfaction.

Again, it’s accountability, it’s talking about it; it’s team meetings, it’s getting people excited about it.

It’s getting peer-to-peer recognition going, also.  Not just putting it on the shoulders of a supervisor who cannot be everywhere at all times.

It’s letting peers be okay with saying, “Ooh, let me tell you the cool thing I saw Chris do!  Ooh, let me tell you the great thing I saw John do with a customer yesterday.”

So that we get that kind of excitement and momentum also at a team meeting.  That stuff’s priceless in the way of reinforcement later down the road.”

Lisa’s advice to have compensation directly tied to customer service is an area that many of you have voiced hesitancy toward.  But the fact is, when folks realize that their compensation is directly related to how well they work in the best interest of your customer, you’d be surprised with the results.

Please keep your questions and emails coming.  I’m always happy to help.

Helping you focus on your customers,

Kristina

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