Transforming the Customer Experience

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Making the Extra Effort Creates an Experience – Part 2

Managing the customer experience requires just a little effort and very little cost to make a big difference.  It could even make someone’s day.

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I attended a luncheon honoring the 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan held at the JW Marriott in Grand Rapids, MI.

Now, all JW Marriott hotels are renowned for the excellence in every way.  They are truly centered on their guests and do everything possible to ensure a positive experience.

The luncheon today was attended by a few hundred people and as a result, all of the parking ramps were completely full.  This made for some lengthy lines at the ticket collection and payment kiosks in the ramps.

Here is where the JW Marriott stepped up.  To speed up the process and to prevent malfunctions in the computer kiosks, there were two well dressed parking lot attendants were on hand.  They were sliding the parking tickets and the credit cards through the readers for each vehicle leaving the ramp.  I commented that it was nice to have them there to speed up the process.  The attendant mentioned that when there is such a high volume of cars coming through at once, the machines have a tendency to encounter a glitch occasionally, so they wanted to make the process as smooth and easy as possible for the people leaving.

I found this to be extremely helpful because at that exact moment, the machine jammed.  Now, had I been there without the attendant, this would have been a frustration that would have prevented me getting to my next meeting on time.  By using some forethought, the hotel alleviated any irritation I would have had by having the attendant take care of the issue immediately and sending me on my way after wishing me a great afternoon.

It was a small effort, but it made a huge difference to me.

Making the Extra Effort Creates an Experience – Part 1

Making the mundane memorable is the key ingredient in customer experience management.

I had the good fortune to attend a luncheon today held by the Grand Rapids Business Journal honoring the 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan.  It was wonderful to see the efforts of so many women pay off and be recognized for their leadership in our business world and in our communities.

During the luncheon, I was seated next to a woman who is a Senior Vice President of Huntington Bank.  She told me two very interesting stories that I wanted to pass along.  One deals with making a small extra effort and the other is just in how we treat people.

One of the customer service representatives in a branch recently became aware of a customer having some physical limitations.  It was difficult for the customer to get out of her car and get into the branch without much pain.  The customer service representative then asked the customer to call her before she left her house as she was on her way to the bank.  The bank representative then met the customer in the parking lot and performed the bank transaction.  Did this effort cost the bank any money at all? No.  Did this effort make a large difference to the customer, both physically and emotionally?  Absolutely.

The next example involves a hiring decision.  My lunch partner asked an interviewee why she was applying for a position with Huntington Bank.  The interviewee responded “My grandparents have accounts with this bank and they say that it is the nicest bank around.”  By treating these people well, Huntington Bank has retained the business of this couple and has engaged them not only to recruit potential customers, but bank associates as well. Clearly, the grandparents had been treated kindly during their interactions with the bank and felt that it had the culture that would befit their granddaughter working there.

While the examples are isolated, the premise takes place each and every day in companies both large and small, all across the country, even throughout the world.  The one common denominator is that someone took an ordinary experience and made it memorable.

Tomorrow – Part 2 of the wonderful service from the hotel hosting the luncheon – the JW Marriott.

Would You Like to Improve the Customer Experience?

Customer experience management comes down to positively enhancing the feelings that the customer has when they do business with us. The simple way we phrase things can make a big impact on the feeling that the customer has during our interactions.

I’d like to share with you a brief two minute video I made explaining the nuance of how changing just a few simple words we use everyday can increase customer satisfaction and the positive tone of the message.

Please leave your feedback below.  I’d like to hear your comments.

Please share your comments and feedback below.

Helping you focus on your customers-

Kristina

Improve Customer Service by Holding Staff Accountable

Dear Manager,

Managing the customer experience and my ability to improve the customer service I deliver will now be my main focus in the upcoming year.  My supervisor just gave me my annual performance evaluation and I noticed that 50% of the review focused on customer service and a customer centric culture.

At most companies, the statement “Focus on the Customer” is usually just a lot of talk.  Sure, it’s addressed once in a while, but rarely have I seen a performance appraisal that stresses customer focus so heavily.  What you are really telling me is how well I treat our customers is just as important as my daily job responsibilities.  Since my compensation is directly tied in to my performance evaluation, you can bet that I’m going to pay more attention to that.

When we went over the customer centric culture last month, we did spend a lot of time discussing how each of our teams could improve the customer relationship.  During my review, my supervisor started asking me how I had implemented some of those ideas.  I was embarrassed to say that I hadn’t actually done any of it, just thought about it from time to time.  Now, I’ll really have to make sure I follow through.

I have to admit, this change is going to be a bit of a challenge.  Before, you were pretty hands off.  Now that you are more focused on the customer service and satisfaction levels, it’s going to take some getting used to.  Don’t get me wrong, I can rise to the challenge.  It might not happen overnight, but with you making me accountable for the service levels you expect, if my job is important to me, I’ll do it.

Sincerely yours,

Your staff

Customer Experience Management – Practice What You Preach

Dear Employer –

Customer Experience Management has been a hot topic around our company lately.  You have been giving us many motivational talks about it, but there is something that would really help us out – leading by example.

You serve as a role model to us. If you disregard the customers, focus only on the business and not the customer driving it, or don’t walk the talk, how would we know to do otherwise?  We really need you to practice what you preach. You are our business role model and set the expectation by how you relate to our customers.

To excel at managing the customer experience, we need the leadership to set the example and it will trickle down throughout the entire company.  When you set the tone for improving customer service and to delight our customers, we will then follow suit.

We’ll treat our customers the same way that you treat them, and even us.

We want to make sure that the ideals that you are holding us to are not just merely mission and vision statements that hang on the wall in our lobby.  We want to embrace the customer centric culture we promise and to live it each and every day.

Thanks for listening,

Your staff

Set the Expectation for Quality Customer Service

Dear Manager,

In order for us to better understand how to improve the customer service that we are delivering, we do need you to tell us and show us exactly what you would like us to do.

How do you want us to act?  Is there a specific way that we should greet our customers?  What are the key phrases that you feel are important to developing the kind of customer relationship you desire?

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.  We all think of ourselves as pretty nice people and think that overall we deliver good service.

However, if we are going to be evaluated on the level of customer service that we are delivering, we are really taking a shot in the dark unless you’ve clearly shown and told us what the standards are.  We will follow the example of how you treat us.  When you treat us well, we know that the customers should be treated equally as well.  If you treat us poorly, we will know that you are focusing mainly on the product or service we provide, not developing a relationship geared toward customer loyalty.

Really, without specific customer service standards clearly explained to us, it will be purely luck if we are able to have customers like us.  The customer may not consistently receive the same level of service from one employee to the next if we aren’t all given the same expectations.

Best regards,

Your staff

Who Comes First – the Physical Customer or the Phone Customer?

Suppose you were to walk into a dry-cleaner and the clerk is on the phone with another customer.  You put your clothes on the counter and all visual cues about your stance and demeanor indicate that you are in a hurry.  What would you want the clerk to do if you were the customer physically in the drycleaner location?  What would you want the clerk to do if you were the customer on the phone?

This is where customer service guidelines come into play.  As a manager or business owner, it is essential to train for situations such as this in order to keep all customers happy and to alleviate stress on your staff.

In this example, my advice would be to train the clerk to make eye contact with the customer as she walks in, smile, nod, and give some gesture that she will be right with the customer.  Since we can tell by the way the customer is appearing rushed, looking at her watch and glancing around to see if anyone else could help her, the clerk at this point should ask the caller to please hold, then take care of the physical customer. Once that customer is taken care of, then the caller receives the rest of the help they need.

All three people in this scenario are important and dependent upon each other.  The trick is to identify these situations in advance and train your staff on how to properly handle them.  Assuming you’ve hired right and have staff who truly strive to deliver the best customer service possible, they will also be able to gauge any situations that don’t fit the guideline and make the necessary adjustments and still keep the customer happy.

Your staff need to have the customer service skills necessary to manage the demands of the customer.  It is essential to train for this and to keep training as a continual process, not a one time event.  When you train and empower your staff, they will serve your customers better.

And, your customers will thank you for it.

Good Customer Service Can Grow Your Business, Even in a Down Economy

When I’m first approached to coach a client or give a presentation on customer service, people often ask me what difference good customer service can make on their bottom line.  I’m quick to point out that by delivering excellent customer service, they will likely start to see a higher return on investment by means of higher levels of repeat business, much faster than they anticipated.

Service is the distinguishing factor among businesses that are thriving in these times. For businesses that are providing comparable products and prices as their competitors, customers are taking their spending dollars to the place that values and appreciates them by treating them like royalty.

In an article in The Orange County Register, Bob Cohen, owner of the Fast-teks computer service and repair franchise in Los Alamitos, CA, understands the importance of good customer service by listening and following up with his customers.

“I follow up on every call with every customer,” he says. “Customer service is key, and I go out regularly with my technicians. It helps that we do business on the weekends. More of my business is repeat and referral business.”

Cohen says he learned good habits from the founders of Hewlett Packard where he worked many years. “The founders said they treated every customer as if he was going to be a reference,” Cohen says.

When you train for and use good customer service skills, the customers recognize the efforts that you are making to retain their business and to build a long term relationship with them.  People are much more likely to do business with those that they know, like, and trust.  When you apply these principles into the business equation, any effort put into the relationship to strengthen it will pay off in an increase in growth and profits.

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 Survey? Check. Now what?

Guest post by: Barry Dalton

Customer Satisfaction: a measure of how products and services supplied by a company meet or surpass customer expectations.

Survey: a method for collecting quantitative or qualitative information about items in a population

Ok, so now that we’ve got the basic definitions established, at least according to Wikipedia. Mash up these definitions and we get a reasonable definition of customer satisfaction survey: “a method for collecting and measuring quantitative or qualitative information about how products or services supplied by a company meet or surpass customer expectations”.

It’s hard to argue against the potential value of asking our customers how we can do better. I think we’d all agree it’s a reasonable thing on which to spend time and resources. What, at least to me, is less clear is how companies justify continuing to invest in this process without strategic imperatives or processes that facilitate taking action against this information to drive change.

In light of this however, the state of the customer experience and that of the relationship between companies and customers, in general, continues to erode. Companies continually fail to understand the value of these surveys from the perspective of their customers. As a result, the “CSat Survey” ends up being a check box on the customer service performance management dashboard. For whatever reason, I’ve yet to experience many true role models when it comes to ingesting survey data into the organization and delivering the requisite changes that drive measurable improvements in the customer experience. Many companies that execute surveys fail to act on the stated requests of customers or utilize customer surveys as a way to excite customers and improve the customer experience.

To prove (or disprove) my hypothesis, I make it a point to respond to every survey I’m offered, whether it via email, IVR post call or web. I’m on a mission in 2010 to hopefully collect enough data points to draw some sort of reasonable conclusions about various processes behind these surveys. Stay tuned for more details as this project develops. In the mean time, here’s an example of what happened with a survey I completed just today.

I called the contact center of my mortgage holder, that happens to be one of the largest global banks whose name is a homophone of the word describing a large urban center. Two days later, I receive an email request to participate in a post-interaction survey. So, I clicked through. I was asked a total of 10 questions. One in nine parts! So, I guess technically it was 19 questions. I intentionally rated specific items at the extremes of the Net Promoter 11 point scale. The long and short? Perhaps I haven’t quite struck the right combination of answers that triggers the “potential to defect” business rule red flag. But, if this were my contact center, and a customer indicated that they were in the market for a big new mortgage and indicated that they would be very unlikely to do business with me, I’d have some sort of workflow to route that information to the right person and take appropriate action. In this case, nothing happened.

Unfortunately, this seems to be a consistent response, or lack of, that I’ve seen with respect to surveys. In fairness, there may be some internal action being taken based on those results. But from the customer’s perspective, it generally appears to fall into a black hole.

With the waning attention span of today’s consumer, anything less than full commitment to follow-up on the survey can only damage the customer relationship. Even if action is being taken, communication back to your customer is critical. Customers need to know that, if they’re offering their opinions, those opinions are being heard. If you don’t intend to follow up and change in a meaningful way, don’t waste the money and resources conducting a survey. The only value to both customers and businesses of surveys in today’s experience economy is as a strategic dialogue with full commitment to execution. If you’re not prepared for that level of commitment, don’t ask.

I welcome you to follow the further exploration of this topic over on my blog as I attempt to quantify the benefits of customer satisfaction surveying. And along the way, I’m sure we’ll have a little bit of fun responding to and, hopefully, receiving some interesting feedback from various customer satisfactions surveys.

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