Transforming the Customer Experience

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5 Steps to Improving the Customer Service Experience

How to improve the customer service experience?

It’s a question that is really starting to separate the progressive businesses from those that are wondering where their customers are going.  Today’s customers are more and more savvy and expect to be treated well when they spend their money with us.

I would like to share a report from Customer Management IQ that can help shed some light on exactly how to do that.

In it, you’ll discover…

According to an Ovum survey of 300 US-based consumers, customers are willing to pay a premium of almost 10% in order to receive great customer service. By improving the customer experience at every touch-point, enterprises will gain more loyal customers who are also likely to act as brand advocates.

This whitepaper provides readers with Ovum’s viewpoints on:

  • How changing consumer behavioral trends are impacting customer service;
  • The importance of various metrics in determining the success of a contact center;
  • The five key steps to improving the customer experience.

Please click here to download the report directly to your computer.

Customer Complaint Resolution – A Fishy Restaurant Tale

Resolving a customer complaint isn’t just about handling the issue, it’s the way you handle the issue. Customer satisfaction and customer retention depends on it.  Here is how one unsuspecting restaurant lost a customer for life.

My family and I were on a weekend getaway in northern Michigan and stopped in at a restaurant to enjoy some dinner.  Since I have a younger child, we always get the child’s menu plus some regular menus.  My daughter ordered the fish and chips off the children’s menu for $ 4.99.  My husband and my older son ordered the fish and chips off the regular menu for $14.99.  It was a nicer restaurant right on the water and we were really enjoying the experience.  The server engaged us and was quite attentive.

When the meals arrived, we instantly were put off.  My daughter’s plate had one piece of fish and french fries.  My husband’s and son’s plate each had two pieces of fish identical to my daughters and french fries.  We could have ordered two children’s meals each for my husband and son, received the same amount of food, and saved $ 4.99.

In the first place, the pieces of fish were not that large and was not enough to satisfy anyone that would order a meal off the regular menu.  The second issue was the price difference did not justify the quantity of food.

The server graciously sent the manager to our table.  We explained how we thought there would be a bit more fish on the plate, especially due to the price. We explained the math I presented above. Her response was “I’ll get you some more fish.  I don’t want you to leave hungry.”  When she returned, she provided only one piece of fish for my husband, not for my son.  When we asked for him to have another piece as well, she agreed but was clearly irritated.

My point is this… When customers voice a concern, really try  to understand it.  Customers have a level of expectation that they internally monitor based on the type of store/restaurant/facility factored in with occasion and price points. While some customers are unreasonable, most are not.  Most simply want to be understood and typically have a very good point that deserves to be considered.

While this manager “solved” the problem by bringing more food, she failed to understand the issue from the customer perspective.  The feeling that was in our minds was that we were trying to get something for nothing or receive special treatment.  She didn’t try to understand that there simply was not enough of the protein on the plate to satisfy anyone over the age of 14, aside from the fact that it was simply double the child’s portion at triple the cost.

While everything else about the restaurant really was very nice, we were left with such a sour taste in our mouths, there is no way we will ever go back there.

Now, we fell into the typical business to customer situation.  We didn’t tell the manager that we were so disappointed for two reasons – 1) We were really enjoying ourselves otherwise and didn’t want to spend more time there than necessary.  2) We didn’t think she would ever get it.

How many of you, as business leaders/owners/and managers really train your teams to understand and resolve customer complaints?  How many of you train your teams about not just what to do, but how to do it?  This customer complaint lack of resolution altered our ultimate customer experience.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Please share below.

Can One Person “MakeUp” for the Poor Customer Service of Another?

In between business meetings today, I decided to make a quick stop into a well known national chain of high end cosmetics.  I typically am a brand loyal girl, but was wondering if I was up for a change today.

I drifted away from the makeup counter that I typically shop at and started looking at the counters and aisles of other brands.  I noticed that there were a few women in black capes that worked for the store, but none approached me.  That was the beginning of my experiment.  I’m pretty good at looking “lost” when I need some help, so I put on the “lost” face, but still no one came to my aid.  Four minutes passed.  Because I had another client meeting, I had to get the ball rolling myself.

I approached a staff member myself and asked her a bit about the new brand and quickly told her what what my goals were.  She basically just shrugged and replied “Yeah, it’s a pretty good brand.  It should help you out.”  She didn’t ask any further questions and didn’t offer any other input.

Because the name of the new brand is very well known and I like the colors in the palette, I decided to proceed and purchase the products.  I waited patiently in line and for the two cashiers at the counter to work their magic.  I was next in line eager to checkout.  The moment one of the cashiers was done with their customer, she immediately grabbed some paperwork next to her register and began scanning codes in.  The lady behind me said “It appears as if we are invisible today.” in a joking voice.  By that point, I was really ready to just put my product down and leave.

At that moment, the next cashier was done, smiled, looked at me, and said “I’d be happy to help you now.”  That blew me away.  She engaged me in conversation and told me that she had just purchased the same eyeshadows and was sure I would like them. (I tried to let the fact that she had 6 inch false eyelashes not sway the compliment.)

She then offered some samples of some skin care products to me and I readily accepted them.  She asked if I had “my frequent flyer card” with me.  “If not, I’d be happy to look it up in our system and give you credit that way.”

I left with a smile on my face.  This last interaction that I had was long and engaging enough to make me forget about the neglected feeling I had a the beginning of my shopping experience.  I wonder if I would have had the same feeling had she merely been more pleasant than the others, but kept the interaction to the necessities and not offered samples or help with the card.

The first woman who helped me only offered enough customer service to satisfy my most basic inquiry.  The last woman offered enough customer service to actively engage me to the point that I plan on returning again. If so, why hadn’t the others picked up on that as well.  I also wondered if any of her customer service was taught or encouraged by the manager or leadership of the store.  Your thoughts?

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?

Customer Intimacy – Who ARE your customers?

Increasing customer satisfaction through customer intimacy depends on one very important thing – How well you know your customer base.  Who is it that is doing business with you?  This may seem very basic and rudimentary, but it is actually one of the factors that most businesses have taken the time to ask themselves.

We all know that customer are the ones who bring dollars into our company and sustain us financially, but who are they really?  It’s time to discuss this point with your leadership team.  You need to clearly define who your customers are in order to take the next step toward customer intimacy.   You can’t get to know someone intimately on a personal level without getting to know more about them.  The same holds true in the professional world.

By clearing identifying who your customers are, you’ll be better able to decipher how to serve them better.  Discuss your customer base with your leadership team, front line staff, and sales staff.  What type of customers do you have?  Are they individuals or businesses?  Are they large companies, small businesses, or solo-prenuers?  How long have they been in business?  What field are they in?  What are their similarities?  What are their differences?  Ask yourselves these questions in order to open up the discussion to dive deeply for knowledge.  You must determine who your customers are before you can go about improving your business for their benefit.  If you don’t know who you are serving, it’s really just a shot in the dark.

Improving customer service and satisfaction requires an appreciation of the people that are currently coming to you for your products and services.  By doing this exercise, you may even discover that the people who are keeping you in business are not the ones you originally thought would ever do business with you.  You never know unless you ask.  By asking, you understand. When you understand, you are in a better position to serve and increase customer loyalty, as well as profits.

Customer Service Provides Value

Recognize the Big Picture….
I was recently paying a bill to a medical group with whom my family seeks medical care.  The Billing Specialist commented that she was feeling a little burned out with her job and wished she could make a difference for people.

She Didn’t Recognize Her Value

I told her that she made a very big difference to me and my family.  The current medical insurance requirements and changes have our minds literally swimming.  She has provided us the expertise with coding and requirements to ensure that our claims are billed accurately to receive the appropriate and highest reimbursement.  I reminded her that she educates me every time we speak about how the claims have been billed according to what the physician codes and how the insurance company can pay according to our policies.  When there is a mistake made in the system, she contacts the appropriate people to fix it and have any corrections made.

Above all else, she explains things to us in layman’s terms and reassures me that everyone in their department is working to be sure that our claims are handled appropriately.  This gives me peace of mind.
People Do Business With Those They Know, Like, and Trust
Because Marilyn has proven to be a valuable resource to me in regards to our medical billing, anytime that an issue arises, I simply call her.  I have recommended several people to this medical group simply because of the way she handles our accounts and lets me know that she has me covered.  Obviously, the medical care is excellent, but it is the personal touch that Marilyn gives that lets me know she values the relationship our family has with that group.
This is the type of reassurance that customers need, no matter what the field of business. Customers want to know that you are there to help them solve their problems and are watching out for them.

A Valuable Resource to Keep Improving Everyday

To help you in your continued efforts of raising the bar in service, I’m including this link for your benefit. Five Steps to More Loyal Customers will change the way you interact with your customers the very same day you use it!  When used as a tool for team development, the results are inspiring.  You’ll get everyone talking and involved on how to make the customer experience so much better.

Five Steps to More Loyal Customers will put you in the category of Walking the Talk when it comes to delivering excellent customer service!

Small Stores Trump Big-Box Stores in Service

Why are some small specialty stores having their best year ever?  Because more consumers than ever are putting an emphasis on customer service to determine where they do their shopping. The smaller stores recognize that they may not be able to beat the larger stores in price, but they can more than make up for the difference with the service they provide. Younger adults are now more than twice as likely to choose stores based on service.  This shows that delivering excellent customer service is more important than ever before and shows no signs of fading into the background.

There is tremendous competition based on prices, so the smart retailers are focused on providing an experience, not just a deal.  The Mom and Pop stores, small retailers, and specialty stores are finding their niche in delivering something that the big box stores just aren’t providing – an enjoyable shopping experience that engages the shopper.

Readers of this blog know that there are three ways to differentiate yourself in today’s market:

  • Price
  • Product
  • Service

Service is the easiest, cheapest, and provides the largest return on investment and effort.

Read what a small retailer in Kalamazoo, Michigan has to say about providing a unique shopping experience that sets them apart from the larger stores.

“Certainly there is tremendous competition,” said Vicky Kettner of Downtown Kalamazoo Incorporated . They’ve gone to battle for your buck, placing billboards miles from downtown and right on the front lines of its big box competitors.

Their idea is to sell a holiday experience that consumers say is lacking in modern retail.

“When someone is looking for a relaxed environment, where experience is important, customer service is important and selection is important for the uniqueness of things, then we have a good story to tell,” she said.

To really provide a unique experience to increase your profits and loyal customer base, you’ll find all of the strategies and techniques right here at http://www.kristinaevey.com/products/5-steps-to-more-loyal-customers/

Huddles Pay Off BIG in Football and Customer Satisfaction

Successful customer service and football.  What do they have in common?  They both rely heavily on huddles.  Think about it.  In football, the huddle is when the play and strategy is discussed.  It’s when they make sure that everyone has what they need to make the play and score the touchdown.

The exact same thing goes down in a huddle at the office. The manager, supervisor, or team leader gathers everyone for just a short time and makes sure that everyone knows what is needed to make that day go well for both the customers and the company.

The leader needs to make sure that everyone knows what is expected of them.  All team members must understand their role in the big picture and needs to speak up if they need help or assistance.

It’s during the huddle that the day is mapped out and challenges are prepared for.

I strongly advise you to have 5-7 minute huddles DAILY with your teams. This should be part of the DNA of your business, team, or office.  The huddles need to happen daily and consistently.  As a leader, you need to ensure that they be short in duration and full of relevant information.   They should cover what is being worked on, appointments for the day, any current customer issues, anything that is required or needed for a project to be completed, and requests for information and assistance.

Remember, prepare your team for success by giving them a game plan for the day.  Find out what is needed, what should happen, what to do in case the unexpected happens, offer assistance to those who may need it, keep those working on projects  accountable.  Find out about the challenges facing your team.  Be brought up to speed on customer issues and internal department issues.  With huddles, these should essentially act as a game plan for the day.

Using huddles in the workplace makes everyone a winner.

Celebrate and Share Your Customer Service Efforts – with Worms

Customer service and satisfaction consultants often advise clients to share and celebrate our successes.  It’s wonderful when someone on our team has done something far above and beyond their responsibilities to deliver excellent service for a customer.  I advise clients to do this on a regular basis during every staff meeting.

By sharing successes, it opens up the creativity of the other team members as to how to surprise and delight their customers.  Many of us stumble in our efforts to come up with a new idea, so I highly recommend repeating what someone else has done successfully.  Call it copying, but if it works in the best interest of the customer, everyone wins.

The challenge comes when we have a few team members who are not used to recognizing their strengths or something that they’ve done well.  While a herculean effort always makes for a good story, it is usually the smallest efforts and gestures made under the radar or behind the scenes that are  most appreciated by the customer.  So when we have those instances when no one can think of something that went well, I like to inject a little bit of fun.

“The Gummy Worm Award”

When someone can’t think of something that they did well for a customer, give them an award of a bag of sour gummy worms. No one will want to have that bag of gummy worms for long, so the next meeting, they will most likely have more than one example of something they did well for a customer.

This is all in good fun, but reinforces the fact that we all need to recognize that simply by doing our jobs well, we make a difference in the  minds of our customers.  It doesn’t even need to be something directly job related.  It could be that you made a phone call to your customer’s next appointment and informed them that the customer is on their way.  It could be that you made an unscheduled  proactive phone call to a customer about an issue they’ve been dealing with.  Maybe you sent your customer an article that caught your attention because it relates to their industry.

I hope you get the point here.  The above examples are small acts that make a big difference to a customer.  None of them may seem monumental, but any one of them could be the difference that makes the difference to the customer and gets them to return to your business or renew their account with you. We need to reinforce to our teams that the small things count and will keep the focus on the positives, not the negatives that arise from time to time.

By having your teams share what has worked for them, it gets them to recognize what they do well, gives examples to others to follow, and keeps the focus on the positive aspects of customer service and the difference it makes to our current customers.  When they try some of the strategies that have worked for their peers, their level of customer service improves, as does their feeling of empowerment and ownership in the company overall.

I’d love to hear your comments and strategies you’ve found useful in getting your teams to recognize their efforts.

Increase Customer Satisfaction by Managing Expectations

Manage the Customer’s Expectations Up Front

When customers first begin to do business with you, they will have their own expectations and hopes regarding your product and service delivery. The best way to make sure you are seen as reliable and deliver on promises is to educate them from the beginning what to expect from us.

Let them know how your business works.  Tell them how long processes, program, or deliveries take.  Inform them of your billing practices before the first order is placed.  Advise them of the information or steps you need from them in order to complete the process or order.

You may have to do this a few times in a few different ways.  We, as business owners, often find that customers don’t really read all of the information we give them.  As customers, we’ve done the same thing.  So be sure to integrate a system to cover the same information verbally.  Be it the person who takes the order from your customer or the receptionist they speak with, make sure that someone is talking with the customer to let them know what will happen and what to expect.

Once customers are informed about the way you do business, they will have a clear understanding of what to expect from you.  They won’t be calling you the day after an order was placed frustrated that it hasn’t been delivered yet.  They’ll know it typically takes 4 business day to arrive.  You won’t receive angry calls from customers asking what the status of their insurance policies is because you’ve let them know that in order to get accurate quotes, you need paperwork from them.

Customers really don’t like surprises, unless it is a delightful experience.  Keep negative surprises to a minimum by making sure they know the process, time frames, and expected outcomes every step of the way.  Be sure to keep them informed should something not go according to plan.  They’ll thank you for it.
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