Transforming the Customer Experience

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Amazon Integrates EASE in their Customer Experience

Yet again, Amazon continues to amaze with the “easiness” of the customer experience by including a customer service component not found in most online retailers.

First, I have to own up to complete operator error on my part…

I had an extremely rare evening alone at home.  My husband and all three kids were all out of the house and I decided to indulge in watching any movie of my choice without having to take anyone else’s preferences into consideration.  I have an Amazon Prime account (which I highly recommend) and decided to rent an instant movie.  Now, keep in mind, I’m one of those folks that knows what I want to do, yet can’t completely figure out the remote controller we have that operates our DVD player.

So, I decided to rent the movie “About Time” since I was in the mood for a “feel good” movie.  I selected the HD version and thought I followed the appropriate steps.  When I couldn’t find the “Watch Now” icon, I went through the process again.  You can probably tell where this is going.  Anyway, I watched the movie and it was fantastic.  Best movie I’ve watched in a very long time.  Anyway, I knew I’d have to double check to be sure that I wasn’t charged twice.

In checking my email this morning, yes, I was charged twice.  Yes, I know it was very likely my error.  So, I found the contact page for Amazon Prime Video and was surprised to find they had an option to have them contact me, rather than me calling them.  I entered my phone number and within 10 seconds my phone rang.  I explained my dilemma to the CSR.  She empathized with me that it can sometimes be confusing the first time you use the process (she was very kind and didn’t point out how simple it actually is).  She asked if she could put me on hold for just a minute, then came back to the phone and let me know my account had been credited for one of the rental fees.  Problem solved and an already very satisfied customer was yet again reassured that they ‘ve made the right decision in doing business with Amazon.

Online retailers are slowly developing a reputation for hiding behind their anonymity.  Because they don’t actually see us, they don’t typically understand the frustration of the customer in having to jump through hoops to contact them to resolve issues.

By thinking outside of the box and having their company contact us, that made it even better.  This is one of the many reasons why Amazon is the online goal that so many others are trying to reach.

Who are your favorite online retailers and why?

 

What is More Important to an Upset Customer – Cash or an Apology?

 

Upset customers and clients are part of any business.  We don’t like to admit that it’s true, but the simple fact is that customers will be disappointed with us, our products, or our services from time to time.  This is when most people in business get nervous and don’t know exactly how to manage upset customers.  Many figure that the customer is going to be unreasonable in their demands on how to fix the issue, expect products or services for free, that they can’t admit to any wrong doing for fear of retribution by the company or the customer taking advantage of the situation, etc.

The good news is that what they really want are two very simple words – I’m sorry.

Really, it’s that simple.  Now, simple doesn’t mean easy.  You have to genuinely mean it when you say it.  The customer wants the empathy for their inconvenience and dissatisfaction before we even try to resolve the situation.  Without the empathy , if you deliver a flippant “So sorry,” it just won’t fly.

Once we convey our apologies, the consumer is much more likely to work with us to find a mutually agreeable solution to the problem.  And, aside from the few exceptions that we all know about, most customers are reasonable and fair in their expectations for resolution.

There is an article in www.dailymail.co.uk that will be surprising to many.  It states that when resolving a problem with a customer, most customers value a true and genuine apology over receiving a cash payout from the company.

The article is based on a study conducted by the Nottingham School of Economics’ Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics.  NSE research fellow and study co-author Dr Johannes Abeler claimed the results proved apologies were both powerful and cheap.

The study was done using a seller on ebay who generated 10,000 sales per month over a six month period dealing with their unhappy customers.  The researches predicted that customers would not accept the apology over the cash.  The apology was given by a faceless company, not face to face, and was certainly in the best interest of the company to apologize rather than to pay out money.

The stand-alone apology blamed the manufacturer for a delay in delivery, adding: ‘We are very sorry and want to apologise for this.’

Customers offered money were told: ‘As a goodwill gesture, we can offer you five euros if you would consider withdrawing your evaluation.’

Some 45 per cent of participants withdrew their evaluation in light of the apology, while only 23 per cent agreed in return for compensation.

The study also discovered that a higher purchase price further reduced the number of customers willing to forgive for cash.

Yet the size of the initial outlay had no effect on the willingness of participants to settle for simply reading the magic words: ‘I’m sorry.’

This goes to show that throwing money at a problem is not necessarily the answer.  People want an apology for mistakes and for responsibility to be taken.  Consumers today recognize that issues arise.

Remember, the problem is not going to define you or your company.  How you respond to it will.  Customer satisfaction and customer retention rates dramatically improve when a company has taken the time and effort to serve the customer relationship.  By focusing on customer service through staff training to include an apology when necessary, you will see customer satisfaction levels increase.

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.

Google “Gets” the Customer Experience Through Service

I’m sure that Google is under impressed with my internet skills. I’ll start right off by saying that I am certainly no “techie” and that any errors that you find on this site are likely going to be “operator error.”  Me being that operator.

That being said, I ventured off into the world of “techies” to write some articles and needed to find some keywords to capture my target audience.  In the process, it appeared that when I signed into Google to use their tool, it required me to create an ad.  I don’t do ads for my business and was not interested in that at all.  After spending about 30 minutes trying to navigate the site, watching the instructional video, and extreme frustration setting in, I finally contacted Google at their contact number.

After going through about 4 different automated attendant menus (which I can’t stand) I then waited for the customer service rep for about 2 minutes.  Based on the auto attendant process, I was prepared to have someone be very aloof, indifferent, and even a bit condescending to me about my lack of internet programming knowledge.

I couldn’t have been more impressed with the empathy and caring nature of the Google CSR that took my call.  She completely empathized with my situation and assured me that she would walk me through the process without me having to create an actual ad.  With her help, I was able to get the help that I needed and I was on my way.  I was even so happy that I mentioned how impressed I was with her help to my husband later that day and so relieved that it was such a pleasant experience when I was expecting a painful one.

My point is this…  Business owners should make it easy for their customers to ask for help and assistance.  Not everyone knows how to use the products and services they purchase and help should be easily available.  Customers cite many occasions when they look for assistance but are either unable to find it or are so frustrated by the process, they just neglect the purchase and vow never to do business with that company again.

This dilemma knows no boundaries.  It doesn’t matter if you are a small or large businesses, corporation or “Mom and Pop” shop, financial institution, fast food vendor, pet store, or medical office.  Your customers will ask for help. It’s your responsibility to give it to them… with kindness.

Your thoughts?

 

Spreading Holiday Cheer with an AMAZING Customer Experience

This just made my heart warm!  West Jet in Canada did what most of us would dream to do for our customers… took an ordinary situation and made it extraordinary!

I know, I get it… your business can’t afford to go to the lengths that West Jet did, but you can take the same premise and deliver the same feeling.  Ask your customers (or a percentage of them) what their favorite charity is and help organize an evening of volunteering for them.  Or, ask a select few what they’d like for Christmas and do exactly what West Jet did.  Or, ask a few of them what their favorite chocolate or coffee indulgence is and make a special delivery for them or have it on hand at your next meeting.

Spreading cheer is what this season is all about.  For our customers we should have this mindset all of the time, but what a special opportunity to really focus on this.  Do something special, whether large or small, just do something special and unexpected to put a smile on your customers face!

Click on the image below that is linked to the video and enjoy! It will be the best 5 minutes of your day…  I promise.

 

Customer Service Question -Does Your Business Have a Pulse or a Wire?

Where’s the customer service these days?

Improving customer service and the customer experience is more important now more than ever. And the best part is – it’s SIMPLE.  Keep in mind, simple doesn’t always mean easy, but it can be started simply by focusing on the fact that you are people delivering products and services to other people.

One of the biggest complaints that I hear about companies today is that they are so “processy” and “systematized” that customers wonder if humans work there or is the place being run by robots?

Yes, we need to have processes and systems to run our businesses, but the people running the business need to be just that – PEOPLE.

Customers are looking for one main thing in their transactions that can set you apart from your competition, or anyone else they’ve recently done business with – a RELATIONSHIP.  When people buy from you, they aren’t buying your product or service, they are buying the promise that you will answer their questions, help them find the best product or service you offer to meet their needs, to hold their hand throughout the process, and be there to help if they run into trouble.

Yes, people consider product and price, but with both of those being comparable, the decision always comes down to emotion.  People make their buying decisions based on emotion, then back it up with logic.  If they feel like they know, trust, and like you, then they are likely to buy from you.

Customer service is about delivering a quality product or service, but then providing the emotional support of service.  This means that you need to engage with customers, get to know them, ask what they are trying to accomplish, what are their struggles in this accomplishment, etc.  When you truly engage from a genuine place of customer service and it is your goal to do everything you can to delight that customer, you’ll win a customer for life.

Businesses that don’t focus on the customer relationship are those that are filled with ominous forms, stores with lackluster salespeople, customer service reps that barely look you in the eye, and seem completely disinterested in being there until quitting time.

Energize your staff, especially now during holiday shopping season, and remind them that without the customers, they’d have no place to earn paycheck.  These customers need to be treated like gold.  They want to see smiling, happy faces that are ready, willing, and able to help them.

If you settle for anything less, you may as well hire a robot to serve your customers.

 

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.

 

In Customer Relationships, Complacency is a Profit Killer

We Were Good at Dating, But Terrible at the Marriage Part.  They Left Us For Someone Else.

No, this isn’t part of a marriage counseling session or a relationship reality show, but it is the reality that many of you face.
The really scary part is that many of you may not even realize that this is the situation you are in.
The above statement is what a prospective client said to me a few weeks ago.  His company lost a major client because their competitor came in and wooed them away.  With hindsight being 20/20, this gentleman told me that they had become complacent and took the customer for granted figuring that they would always be there.  They were busy attracting new and other clients.
So, for all of you that find yourself losing customers without knowing exactly why, please reread that last paragraph.
Your customers are NOT buying your product or service.  They are buying the relationship you promise them.  If you don’t hold up your end of the relationship, they’ll leave you.  Often times, the business relationship is the easiest kind of relationship to end.  Your customers don’t need to file papers (usually), they don’t need to let you know why they are leaving, or even that they are leaving at all.   They’ll just go find someone who treats them better than you do that offers the same product at a comparable price.
Just like any personal relationship, check in with your customers to see how they feel with the way things are going.  Is there anything they’d like to see more or less of?  Is there anything they think you should know?  Is there anything going on that they don’t like or would like to see changed?
Asking these questions proactively just may be the difference between your customer saying “I’m so glad that I finally found you!” rather than “We need to talk.”
Please share your thoughts below…

The Best Customer Experience Begins with Customer Service Training – Part One

As a business coach for companies, both large and small, that want to deliver a customer service experience to bring in more money from their customers, I’m often asked “Where do I begin?”

It’s just like eating an elephant… One step at a time.

Successful companies follow seven systematic steps when

1.  Developing a complete training game plan – Before you start on a cross country road trip from New York to Los Angeles, you would make sure that you have a sound stable vehicle to get you there, you’d map out a route, plan how long you’d like to travel each day, approximately where you will lodge for the night along the way, etc.  The same thing applies here.  There must be a guideline mapped out detailing when the training process will start, who will be involved, what will be covered, approximately when it will be complete, etc.

2.  Onboard for successful fit and service assimilation – The way you bring new hires into your company sets the tone for their training experience and subsequent service.  You must think start to finish in this process.  Welcome them into your organization as a valued member of the team.  Show them how important they and their role is in the overall vision of the customer experience.

3. Set clear and specific service expectations – This is one of the areas that many business leaders complain about the most, yet this is the one area I feel is most neglected.  When you are training someone as to how you’d like them to treat your customers, you MUST be specifically clear.  “Be Nice” is too general  Nice means different things to different people and is never consistent.  You need to spell out how you’d like your team to engage with your customers at each and every touchpoint and exactly how they can best serve the customer.

4. Have an accountability system for service expectations – Once you’ve set and trained for your customer service expectations, you need to have an accountability system in place.  By not following through on this one step, it sends the message to your team that either your leadership skills aren’t honed enough to follow through on expectations or that the service you deliver to your customers is not really that important.

5. Assess customer service levels from the customer perspective – Feedback from customers and the rest of the team regarding service levels is invaluable.  You can work this into other feedback or survey methods to gain insight as to how your team is treating customers when leadership isn’t around.  The goal is to have customers come to rely on consistent service levels for them to build a sense of trust and relationship with your company.

6. Last impression counts just as much as the first – While you’ve heard the saying “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” you can actually make as much of an impact, if not more, by focusing on how you bid your customers farewell.  You can say “goodbye” while making sure that you thank them, invite them to come back soon, and by telling them you truly value their business.  Train your teams on how to do this well and you’ll soon be cultivating an extremely loyal customer base.

7. Implement systematic continual customer focus processes into your design – Again, the “shot in the arm” solution rarely works in any business aspect, especially in service.  You know how it goes… everyone gets all exited after a fantastic customer service or experience presentation, but then after a while, it becomes business as usual.  To make sure this doesn’t happen in your group, place the customer focus as a top priority at the beginning of every meeting, every decision, every new idea.  Do this long enough and your customers will soon learn and sense that you truly value their business.

To discover how all of these steps truly fit together to benefit your customers, I’m making my last webinar available here for your review.  This webinar received fantastic reviews from the attendees and I gave so much valuable information that I wanted to make sure it’s available to everyone.

Please comment below on which of these steps you struggle with the most and let me know how I may help.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

What Your 8 year old is Learning About Business in Elementary School

by Don BeeryColorful crayons and apple

The world is accelerating. University students getting younger every year (or maybe I’m just getting more… uh, seasoned). And your elementary-aged child is gaining a valuable business education.  Specifically here’s what your 8 year old is learning about business in grade school.

1. Trading sandwiches

This complex transaction occurs daily in cafeterias across this great land. Armed with lunchboxes rather than briefcases young people are conducting high-level negotiations. A bologna/pickle sandwich is traded for peanut butter & banana. Fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt is exchanged for an oatmeal cookie. These transactions are not trivial commerce when you’re eight. Yet these little people seem to execute this process with ease. Your friend has something you want. And you propose something to offer in exchange (maybe you didn’t really want it anyway). This is the art of persuasion. This is business.

It’s not about arm-twisting or putting your friend in a half-nelson. Instead you have to deliver a compelling value proposition that prompts your buddy to happily give up what he has.

2. You’re Not the Boss of Me

Ever heard this? Ever said it? Truth is that even if you are the CEO or sole shareholder of your company you have a boss. In fact, you and I have the same boss. It’s our customers.

The next sale depends totally on winning the next customer. It’s true for you. And true for me. I spoke recently with a young technology company salesperson. He was struggling with attracting senior-level customers with his solution. He asked what he could do to convince them his solution was best. Had he actually asked them about their needs and wants, I questioned. Apparently he hadn’t. He didn’t view his customers as being in charge.

3. Color in the Lines

Here are your crayons and coloring book – now, remember to color in the lines, we’re told in school. And this drifts into adult business advice too. But could we agree that the most interesting people and solutions come from outside the lines? Consider Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs. I have a LinkedIn contact who is a well-credentialed leader of two organizations. Her job title with one of them is Chief Rabble Rouser. Do you think she might occasionally color a bit outside the lines.

4. The Buddy System

Who doesn’t like a good field trip! Remember the buddy system? Stay with you partner, students are reminded. There are two lessons here. First, bring somebody along on your journey because two brains and two set of eyes are better than one. You both may view the same experience differently, making it richer.

Second, show someone else how something is done. The benefit is you’ll learn it better by explaining it, and you might be cultivating a future team member or customer.

5. The Unpredictable Will Happen

One day upon arriving home from work, my then elementary-aged daughter was sporting a snazzy, purple cast on her right arm. Recess began normally enough. But somehow, while sliding through one of those large plastic tubes on the jungle gym, she managed to land funny at the bottom. We think. To this day she can’t tell us exactly what she did. Stuff happens. Although, by definition, we can’t predict the unpredictable we should expect that something unexpected will happen. Being prepared is simply good business.

 

Don Beery is President of BlendonGroup Consulting and can be reached at don.beery@blendon-group.com

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