Category Archives: Customer Experience

John Oechsle: How Do You Spell CRM Evolution? With 4 C’s

This week’s post is from Swiftpage CEO John Oechsle.  He examines the evolution of how organizations connect with their customers and how smaller and midsized businesses are finding ways to compete for customers with larger players in their space through the 4 C’s of customer information. Swiftpage is the owner of Act!, the first to market customer relationship management software solution that pioneered the space 30 years ago and is still innovating today, so he has a bit of a unique perspective on how customer communication has evolved and where it’s heading. You can learn more about John and his company at the end of his post. 

Walkmen were all the rage, cell phones were the size of eggplants, and Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody was the No. 1 hit. The year was 1987, a time when technology was advancing at a tremendous pace. Just imagine—in four more years, some Americans would begin communicating via SMS text.

Enter 2017. Driverless cars are cruising the streets, and high school students are Skyping with astronauts in space. New technologies are shaping the world around us, and small businesses have a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on these advancements. This is especially true with customer relationship management (CRM), an area that businesses were smart to pay attention to 30 years ago in 1987—and can no longer afford to ignore in today’s competitive environment.

As the technological complexity of customer relationships evolve, so must our approaches to them. The area is best tackled through the four C’s of customer information, which are crucial components of any business plan.  Currency, correctness, consistency and completeness are – and, arguably, have always been – the most effective path toward forging intimate, long-term relationships with customers.

Currency and correctness

Currency and correctness go together like the PC and mouse. After all, data only has value when it’s up-to-date and accurate. While the Internet makes it easy to link up with others, it’s important to ensure connections are managed properly. Remember, customer information is constantly changing. People move, switch jobs and update email addresses. Social media accounts might be inaccurate or outdated. This all underscores the importance of maintaining current and correct customer information.

If customer information is kept accurately and up to date, it can prove to be invaluable when used with predictive analytics technology. It can help an organization learn a lot about customer trends and who to reach out to for a sale at what time and via which method of contact to give the company the best chance for a successful interaction—giving the business its best chance to retain existing customers while growing by developing new customer relationships as well.

We’ve come a long way since 1987, when the first version of Microsoft Excel was released for Windows. Excel was preceded by programs such as Lotus and VisiCalc, which were used to store customer data and other important company information. Before then, punched cards were a popular way to save information.  Oh, and don’t forget the infamous rolodex, the original CRM. It’s truly incredible to think of the advances information management has made in such a short time period.

Consistency

Consistency has always been a hallmark of helping businesses grow. After all, success is impossible if a business can’t maintain positive and long-lasting relationships with its customers. We have infinite options for storing detailed customer information. We use mobile apps, cloud servers, customizable CRM software solutions, email, Google docs, Excel spreadsheets and – gasp –pen and paper when we’re in a pinch! If the customer information is not consistent across all of them, currency and correctness go out the door!

It wasn’t always so simple to store all that information on a computer. Apple’s 1986 enhanced Macintosh computer had limited capacity and could store just 4 MB worth of files. To put that in context, the ’86 Mac had enough space to store about one decent quality mp3 song file today.

Completeness

Completeness is not just about knowing a customer’s address and birthday; it’s an across-the-board collection of customer information aimed at documenting every individual customer interaction. And complete record keeping wasn’t always easy to accomplish through technology. In the late 1980s, computers were only beginning to make their way into mainstream life. By 1989, just 15 percent of U.S. households owned one and customer records were often kept tucked away in filing cabinets.

Today, we’re fortunate to live in an age where we can keep an effortless record of emails, web analytics and online sales with the right technology. We can detail each interaction a customer has with any point of contact at the business, and that information can then be stored and shared so everyone has the same, complete information about the customer’s experience. It’s easy to make notes of face-to-face meetings and phone calls, too, with tools that have been developed for just that purpose—including pioneering software solutions like Act! that were laying the foundation for modern CRM technology all the way back in 1987.

With such effective and reliable technology available at our disposal in 2017, we are wise to take advantage. Bringing the four C’s together gives businesses the ability to mine information, examine trends, and forge lifelong relationships with their customers that enable the business to grow and thrive.

And, at the end of the day, isn’t finding ways to connect and form relationships with our customers what it’s all about—both today and back in 1987?

About the Author

H. John Oechsle joined Swiftpage in July 2012 and currently serves as president and chief executive officer. John came to Swiftpage with a 30-year track record of building highly profitable and sustainable revenue growth for emerging companies and established global leaders. John is an advocate for technology and education in Colorado and has been an active contributor to the Colorado Technology Association (CTA). He has been recognized several times for his involvement in the tech industry. In 2006 and in 2009, John was awarded the Technology Executive of the Year, and the Titan of Technology awards by the CTA. John was also awarded the Bob Newman Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Community by the CTA in 2011.

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Use of Live Chat or Social Media for Customer Service: One More Way to Make or Break Your Brand!

In 2011, an American Express survey found that Americans tell an average of 9 people about good experiences and 16 people about poor experiences. Today, just five years later, people may still tell an average of 9 people about good experiences, but if they have a bad experience, they can now tell the entire world via social media. We have all seen the  word “viral” tagged to a personal story about bad customer service more often than a good one. At the same time, the millennials and Gen Z  who interact primarily through digital communication are becoming your customers and will expect you to be available to them via social media. So the question about social customer service to your business is “Are you ready?” This week’s guest post from Heather, Chief Customer Fanatic and Founder of  Customer Fanatix highlights the opportunity for businesses to get it right or be left behind. Learn more about Heather and Customer Fanatix at the end of this post. 

social media

I recently read that live chat has the highest satisfaction levels for any customer service channel, with 73%, compared with 61% for email and 44% for phone. I am not sure how true and up to date this statistic is, but it sure did speak to me.

Just the other day, I had a terrible experience with a highly acclaimed web hosting company. I was not in the situation to be able to call them to resolve my account. So, I used my fall back of clicking the Live Chat button. I thought that they would perform the function I was trying to accomplish, or at least, help me get it done. I was very wrong. The representative on the other end was completely stumped with my request and had to walk me through some complicated steps to get to a partial resolution. Then, I needed to call back six separate times to finally get my issue resolved. I was frustrated, to say the least. Everything is good now, but the process to get here was full of friction. They really just needed to put processes in place to take care of me the first time.

The only reason I did not pull my account is that I put so much time into making it look the way I wanted. The pain of starting over stopped me in my tracks! While I set out to accomplish a task on my terms and the way I needed to do it, I discovered that some of the best companies just do not have the people or processes in place to adequately service customers in nontraditional ways.

According to J.D. Power, 67% of consumers have used a company’s social media channel for their customer service needs. According to Twitter, 60% of leading B2C companies are responding to about 60% of Tweets directed at their service accounts. Even more compelling is that over 95% of consumers say they are influenced by what other people say about companies on social media.

I have to say that I am very new to social customer service, but then, most of us are. Previous to the bumpy journey described above, I was a big fan of web chat for my service needs. I chose chat, since I often have a crazy schedule that include kids screaming in the background.

This week, Apple launched its first Twitter account for customer service. It will use this account to address common support issues. Although none of us really know why they are deciding to make this move now. I am going to be watching from afar to see how this move bodes for this big brand. Will this move continue to put them at the top of highly regarded brands for service or will it wreck it?

Some brands seem to have mastered the social media customer service puzzle.

This issue is so important and the opportunity for Twitter to capitalize on this movement is so great that they put together a playbook for businesses, regarding social media customer service. It is quite good. I imagine that many businesses looking to use social as another means to meet customers where they are, or at least, where they choose to be will enjoy this tool more than once.

After experiencing the friction that I did with one company’s chat blunder, I have to say that I am leery to go the social route for service requests as even going with the chat option turned out to be disappointing. In the end, if customers cannot get what they want to get done the way they want to get it done, those brands who were unable to deliver offline will fall short in front of the world.

For the brands that have been successful in social customer service, they may inspire reluctant customers to give it a try. The biggest selling point is that the personal interactions inherent in social customer service can continue to drive positive relationships with customers.

Positive relationships drive excellent customer service.

Given the speed at which consumers of all ages are taking to social media to get their issues resolved, customer experience and marketing professionals like myself will need to quickly increase our understanding of how this impacts brand loyalty over the long haul.

I would love to hear from anyone brave enough to take the leap and tell their story.

Be Well and Good Luck Tweeting!

 

Heather

Chief Customer Fanatic and Founder, Customer Fanatix
Heather, a recovering attorney, is a customer experience consultant, trainer and speaker with proven expertise in building Voice of the Customer and Voice of the Employee cultures and acting as catalyst for customer-driven cultural & process improvements. Heather is a frequent author on LinkedIn’s Pulse platform, a blog contributor for Huffington Post and a member and Certified Customer Experience Professional with the Customer Experience Professional’s Association. She is also a Net Promoter Certified Professional.

Heather truly believes that the most effective way to transform customer’s experiences is to transform organizational leaders into people who better relate to and empathize with their teams, use their team’s voices to inform customer needs and partner with their teams to drive cultural and customer-focused organizational improvements.

Heather has a bias toward action, and she enjoys consulting leaders, training teams and speaking to audiences on topics of importance to customers and employees alike.

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Three Low Cost Ways to Improve Customer Service

Thank them jpeg

Recently in a LinkedIn  group, one of the members asked the following question: “The global economy is slowing down, but you’ve been asked to do the impossible: Control costs AND improve customer service experience. How can you do it?” While I commented within the group, LinkedIn limited the space allowed for the response so I wanted to elaborate here.

Here are three low cost ways that have worked for me in improving customer service.

Create a Customer Satisfaction Investigation (CSI) team. Isn’t it criminal to take a customer’s money and then not deliver to meet his expectations?  This team, with at least one representative from every department, should meet at least once a week to review customer feedback.  Like a CSI team, the purpose of the team is to review all the details of each negative customer experience to see if they can find out why it happened. If you do not have a survey process, ask your employees to document and forward any complaint to the CSI team. For every customer who complains, 26 others didn’t say anything (Lee Resource, Inc.) and simply walked away. No one can afford that kind of customer churn. Once identified, work fast to eliminate the dissatisfier. You cannot begin to satisfy customers until you remove all the potential dissatisfiers. You have got to remove them from negatively affecting future customer experiences.

Continually remind your team of the importance of customer service. One of my favorite quotes is from Samuel Johnson, “People need to be reminded more than they need to be instructed.” Day One and Done customer service training is simply not enough. It’s amazing how much of the first day of new hire orientation is spent on defining the rules and restrictions, usually required by the legal department, that, if not followed, will result in termination. While that information is important, consider the overall message you are giving new employees at the end of their first day. Balance the message by describing the empowerment processes that employees can use to exceed customer expectations and offer specific stories when employees went above and beyond for your customers. After onboarding, continue to reinforce that message with customer service tips and stories via email, screensaver messages, and periodic refresher customer service training. As many of the luxury hotel chains and fine dining restaurants known for delivering consistently exceptional service, conduct a fifteen-minute daily briefing that reinforces your brand’s core values and service standards.

Recognize and celebrate those who deliver great customer service. Too often managers focus on identifying an employee’s service deficiencies. These “areas that need improvement” are usually only conveyed to the employee at the annual performance review. Instead celebrate throughout the year the stories of employees who have created WOW moments for their customers. Create a booklet of customer service stories to be distributed on Day One of your onboarding process. Every new employee is a sponge of company information on the first day. Let them soak in the stellar reputation of your company as built by your customers’ perceptions of your employees’ exceptional service.  To reinforce that Day One feeling, frequently post or distribute via email the positive customer comments. Send a handwritten thank you note to the home of the individual employees who created a memorable moment for one of your customers. You can be assured they will share proudly that note with their family. If you want your employees to make it a habit to deliver outstanding customer service, you have to make it a habit to thank them when they do.

When you systematically remove the potential dissatisfiers, continually remind your employees of the importance of customer service, and habitually recognize and celebrate the stories of exceptional service you will increase dramatically the value of service as perceived by your customer.

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Rhonda Basler: From Adequate to Outstanding: 5 Ways to Inspire Customer Advocacy Through Customer Care

This week’s guest post is from Rhonda Basler, director of Customer Engagement at Hallmark Business Connections. I have been a longtime fan of her blog so I’m honored that she is sharing her customer experience insight here. I am convinced that if you commit to following consistently these five essentials, you will Deliver the World’s Best Customer Experience. 

What does it take for your business to create remarkable experiences for your customers?

Think about that for a second.

Today’s customers don’t just want more from companies – they expect more from companies.  Research shows 70% of buying experiences are based on how customers feel they are being treated, which means it’s up to companies to deliver the kind of experience customers are looking to have.

At Hallmark Business Connections, we believe in the power of the human connection.  By providing customer care that supports your brand’s vision, mission and values, you inspire customer advocates to truly believe in your company’s products, services, and brand, and to share their positive feelings with others (friends, family, acquaintances, social media networks, etc.).

Here’s a closer look at 5 ways to earn customer advocacy through inspired customer service:

1. Commit Random Acts of Kindness

Independent consumer trends firm trendwatching.com has identified unexpected, meaningful actions as a major customer trend in business and I think we all know why: It’s the right thing to do.5 Essentials of a Differentiated Customer Experience

Creating meaningful experiences for your customers doesn’t have to be flashy or expensive.  Sometimes, it’s the smallest gestures – taking the time to listen and encourage someone in need or sharing a story or joke – that can have the biggest impact.

Committing these random acts of kindness can go a long way toward fostering customer loyalty, so it’s important for your company to consider what it can do to make the experience truly special to the individual.  Only then can you provide the types of experiences that touch customers on an emotional level and create greater engagement with your company.

2. Be Proactive

Creating meaningful experiences for customers doesn’t just build customer advocacy: It also makes good business sense.  After all, Bain & Company research shows it costs six to seven times more to acquire new customers than it does to retain existing customers.

To inspire true customer advocacy, you need to find ways of going above and beyond to show customers you’re committed to providing an exceptional customer experience.  Examples of this type of proactivity involve checking in with customers to uncover the root causes of problems and fix issues before customers have the opportunity to get in touch with your company themselves.

This investment in improving customer retention is well worth going the extra mile.  Try thinking about it this way: Instead of investing money to replace customers that have been lost, you’re focusing instead on building such solid relationships with customers that they refer you to new customers.

3. Offer a Plus One

According to McKinsey research, word of mouth is a primary factor behind 20-50% of all purchasing decisions.  People trust friends and family more than virtually any other information source; in fact, they’ll pay two times more attention to recommendations from friends than other sources.

Given the importance of word of mouth referrals, make sure you’re giving your customers something to talk about!  In every customer experience interaction, associates should surprise and delight customers with an unexpected, extra benefit that’s unique, thoughtful, and relevant to the individual.

These sorts of “plus one” benefits can make all the difference when it comes to not only the individual customer’s experience, but also the anecdotal stories that get shared with others.

4. Show Your Gratitude

The key to providing a positive customer experience is to make the experience meaningful and memorable enough for customers to still be sharing it with friends and family days, weeks, or even months later.  There are many ways to do this, but sometimes the most effective is communicating two simple little words: Thank you.

Displaying heartfelt, sincere gratitude to customers is memorable – and it opens the door to doing business again.  Acknowledging and expressing that you know the business would not exist without your customers can have a huge impact on how they feel about your company.

5. Put Yourself in the Customers’ Shoes

The business implications of the customer experience are huge: 55% of customers would pay more for a better customer experience and 89% of customers would quit doing business with a company following a poor customer experience.

What does this mean?  For starters, it reinforces the pivotal role customer service plays in the way your customers feel about your company, which translates directly into how much they trust your company.  But, to go a level or two deeper, it also suggests the importance of empathy as it pertains to the customer experience.

Hearing – and, more importantly, understanding – the emotions of customers can augment a positive experience or turn around a negative one.  To truly understand what matters to customers (and provide the best possible experience for the individual), you need to be able to put yourself in your customers’ shoes.  Research, in fact, shows conveying this type of empathy can make or break a business.

Final Thoughts

Let’s go back to our question at the very beginning of this post: What can your company do to create remarkable experiences for your customers?

Keeping the above tactics in mind, try thinking about the various ways you can transform a customer experience from adequate to outstanding.  By providing top-notch customer service at every step of the way, you can create the type of customer advocates who will share their positive experiences and inspire those around them to do the same.

To learn more about Hallmark Business Connections’ approach to creating a differentiated customer experience, watch our “5 Essentials For Creating a Differentiated Customer Experience” video: 

Rhonda BaslerRhonda Basler is the Director of Customer Engagement at Hallmark Business Connections.  An avid business trend watcher and strategic thinker, Rhonda’s customer advocacy expertise stems from more than 29 years of experience in data-driven and brand marketing for major corporations as well as small companies.

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Ben Puzzuoli: Improving Front Line Customer Service

This week’s guest post is written by Ben Puzzuoli, Chairman of the Board at Cayzu Help Desk (www.cayzu.com).  The real benefit of social media is in meeting people who share like interests. My very first management position was with Marriott Hotels. Back then, there were less than 35 hotels worldwide. Recently Marriott opened the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Washington, D.C., its 4000th.  I believe the growth and strength of Marriott’s success was based on J.W. Marriott’s leadership mantra, ““Take care of your employees, and they’ll take care of your customers.”  You can find out more about Ben and Cayzu at the end of his post. And when you read his bio you will see that Ben and I both share a commitment to engaging associates to help build an exceptional customer experience. 

 

Each company faces the task of managing their overall customer service experience so that it’s the most positive that it can be. Regardless of what industry an organization is part of, customer service remains a central part of a company’s operations and improvement should always be strived for. This improvement should begin with a thorough look at the different facets of the customer service experience.

Service From the Customer’s Perspective

Most customers are concerned with making their purchasing decision, finalizing the transaction, and then moving on. They do not wish to experience a drawn-out service experience, especially if that experience is not getting them to a successful conclusion. Ambiguity, conflicting information, and redundancy will quickly put a customer into an unfavorable mood.

Customers are also very concerned with value, both the value of their money and the value of their time. Coming to a company with support-related concerns is an investment of time; customers want to see a return of value and they want to see it quickly.

Service From the Employee’s Perspective

Generally speaking, employees want a successful conclusion to a transaction as much as customers do. Even if an employee’s only job is providing customer support, there are many customers to attend to and many other tasks that need to be done in order for a company’s operations to run smoothly. A transaction that is unsuccessful in any way interrupts work flow and demands prioritization.

Keeping employees motivated to provide a higher level of customer service is one of the toughest challenges in management. Paying employees competitively is a good start; implementing a system of accountability is another. Managers have to work closely with each employee to figure out what motivates his or her individual spirit of excellence. This requires strong interpersonal skills and a knack for working with people.

Service From the Vendor’s Perspective

Every organization has to take the time to train employees in customer service so they feel empowered (http://www.cayzu.com/blog/4-effective-ways-empower-customer-service-employees/ ) to do the best job possible. This training has to be implemented from the very beginning of employee orientation since each and every team member represents a face of the organization. Vendors have to develop an integrated approach to customer service training.

There are other ways of promoting a culture of customer service, such as:

  • Establishing standards of service
  • Helping employees develop a poised and confident attitude
  • Identifying and applying best practices for phone and email communication
  • Practicing active listening skills to make customers feel valued and heard
  • Creating a respectful work environment

Can a Help Desk Solution Help with Front Line Customer Service?

A help desk solution can help front line customer service by capturing customer complaints posted via the store’s email, web site and even social media channels.  This feedback can help the front line staff in refining their strategy to best suit their customer’s needs.

A helpdesk is a site for customer interaction that encompasses more than the acceptance of comments and complaints. Whether real or virtual, this site is where some of the most complex of all customer interactions will take place. Customer support operations can be augmented through the implementation of software that helps track, manage, and record these interactions. Many such interactions will come from social media networks. The comments that come from these platforms have to be taken as seriously as those that come from more traditional avenues. Support software can connect with these networks for a broader and more effective approach to customer interaction which will ultimately give your business a more productive and efficient front line staff.

 

About Ben Puzzuoli

Ben PuzzuoliWith over a decade of experience in managerial positions, Ben has proven himself as a strategic and logical minded executive that produces exceptional results in demanding environments.

Having co-founded and sold his first business before the age of 30, Ben is a well-spoken, disciplined individual that has demonstrated the ability to lead teams. Coupled with a strong business acumen and a deep understanding of technology, Ben thinks strategically and tactically to fuel growth and the bottom line.

Ben leads by example and doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty. This mentality stems from his FIRM belief that a healthy and fun culture within an organization will lead to a more dedicated and productive employee. Happy Employees = Happy Customers = Successful Business.

Ben is the Chairman of the Board at Cayzu Help Desk (www.cayzu.com)

 

 Cayzu logoCayzu is a cloud-based helpdesk software solution that allows any business to easily manage all their customer service needs through email, phone, website, Facebook, Twitter and even mobile. Coupled with powerful features, a beautiful and easy to use interface and real-time reporting, Cayzu is perfect for any small to medium sized business.  And best of all, Cayzu is completely FREE for up to 3 agents!  Cayzu was founded in 2013 and is quickly gaining traction in the helpdesk software industry as a simple and affordable alternative to more expensive and complicated solutions.  For more information, please visit http://www.cayzu.com or find us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cayzu or on Twitter: @Cayzu.

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Stefanie Amini: How to Sell to Customers the Way They Want to Buy

This is a guest post written by Stefanie Amini, a fellow customer service blogger.  As she describes it, her blog “is focused on Customer Service for the Instant Gratification era.  The ‘I want it now’ mentality. The faster the results, the better for everyone.” Find out more about Stefanie and her blog, I Want it NOW at the end of the post. 

My blog has been aimed at an audience of customer service professionals intent on delivering the World’s Best Customer Experience in person.  Stefanie’s blog offers insight for e-commerce retailers and service providers. As you read her post, you will see that whether you are selling face-to-face or on-line, her customer service advice would work well in either the bricks and mortar or virtual retail environment. 

Time is money. Time is short. Customers don’t have the time or inclination to mess around on a web site when they are intent on buying something. Purchasing patterns, needs, desires, and behavior are changing rapidly and getting customers while they are “hot to trot” is the trick.

There are a number of triggers which get customers to walk into a brick and mortar store. They are:

  • Curious about the store and its merchandise
  • Attracted by what they see in the window
  • Enticed through promotion
  • Acting on a recommendation by others who had a good experience  – service, price, quality

Store assistants – if they are doing their jobs properly – are attentive, helpful, polite, knowledgeable, and efficient. All this leads to a satisfying customer experience, the developing of customer relationships and of course, ultimately profits for the store concerned.

Exactly the same principles apply to customers entering a virtual store on the Internet. But people who shop on the internet have less time to wander around, have less inclination to wait at the checkout, become very irritable very quickly if things are not clear and easy to understand and activate…and will very soon “walk out” of your web store, by clicking on someone else’s. Result? Lost sales.

How do we ensure that customers get what they want? How do we even know what customers want? Let’s crawl inside a typical customer’s head and take a look around. We’ll soon find the most important things for customers when they fire up their computers intent on spending money in cyber-space – hopefully in YOUR cyber-space store. Here are a few keys to good customer service. If the service is good, the customer experience will be good:

  • Customers want to feel that you care about them: that you care about their needs and requirements, that you’re concerned about their problems. Gratification of expectations – the quicker and more efficiently the better – will see an immediate spike in the “like” index for your on-line store….and that means more sales and a better reputation
  • Faster delivery is vital: the faster you deliver, the happier your customer. That means he or she will come back for more.
  • Courtesy and friendliness are vital elements: customers expect to be treated well, they expect courtesy, they expect politeness and while they don’t necessarily want to be your “friend” (unless it’s on Facebook), they will NOT come back if the treatment – virtually or otherwise – is offhand and dismissive.
  • Deliver on your promise: and the promise starts the minute the customer walks in the virtual door. Fulfilled promises are key to customer satisfaction.
  • When people go shopping, they don’t just want to clutter up their homes or lives with “stuff” – they need something to solve a problem. Whether it’s a professional service or booking a holiday flight, they have needs that must be fulfilled.
  • Product knowledge is probably one of the most important elements in developing good service and good customer experiences. Ignorant sales people – or “ignorant” web sites, that don’t help users get the information they need, will not succeed. Users need to feel that they are talking to people or using sites that are experts in their field. A site that promotes and sells green widgets had better be an expert in green widgets. It’s what customers pay for. It’s what implied and expected when you promote your cyber store.
  • Go a step beyond voicemail and automated responses. Customers want to believe that a live person is behind the site – but they don’t necessarily want to do their sale with a live person…as long as support and more in-depth information is just a click away. Live chat caters for this and gives the customer assurance that their queries will be answered (although it can sometimes take time to get a rep online). But there are other “assistants” – such as WalkMe – to hold the customer’s hand and lead them to the checkout.  Taking this all into consideration may seem a daunting task: it may even appear to be overwhelming.  But WalkMe’s “live” ever-present “assistant”, in the form of little pop-up bubbles over various points, solves the ever-present fear of wandering through a web site alone. Users and customers can be easily led through an often complex and confusing interaction, be it a bank website or a complex social tool.

The fact is that you just need to be able to understand your customer and who they are.  Then only can you truly sell to them the way they want to be sold.

Stefanie Amini is the Marketing Director and Specialist in Customer Success at WalkMe, the world’s first interactive online guidance system.  She is chief writer and editor of I Want It Now, a blog for Customer Service Experts. Follow her on Twitter @StefWalkMe

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Martin Kramer: The Six Forms of Service

This is a guest post written by Martin Kramer, a fellow hospitality professional. Find out more about Martin and restaurant-academy.com at the end of the post. If you are a restaurant manager or server, I strongly recommend you follow his blogto learn more on how to create the World’s Best dining experience for your customers. You can also follow him on Twitter @R_Academy. For the rest of us, his blog is great insight about dining out from the inside. 

In the past, I have written about using the CASE Method to improve your personal delivery of customer service. What can you CASE from Martin’s insight on the six different forms of service?
 

Recently, I fell over some interesting ideas from the European psychologist, H. G. Haeusel. He explored 6 different forms of service that are appealing to our guests these days. I would like to share them with you, plus some ideas on how you can put them into action in your restaurant. Here we go:

With the “Happy Service” the guests are experiencing a little unexpected surprise, which are triggering happiness and joy within the guest.

  • It doesn’t matter in what kind and style of restaurant you work, arrange very small dishes to be served in between. It can be a soup in an espresso cup before the starter or a small sorbet as a refresher before the main course. Always a nice surprise and also serves as an up selling tool, when your guests are coming back next time. Of course, please confirm that with your manager.
  • Offering an umbrella service on the way to guests’ the car when it is raining, a shawl in case someone (most likely ladies) feels cold in the restaurant, offer reading glasses are just some examples for added surprises.
  • Also, providing attentive and special service to family with kids with little surprises keeps the kids occupied and the parents can enjoy their meal. Makes everyone in the restaurant happy!

“Easy Service” makes life for the guest easier. Things to do and decisions are been taken away from your guests, which might have been difficult or would have caused worries or even troubles:

  • Helping guests with the menu is always a nice touch. Often, they don’t really know about certain dishes, but are afraid to ask. Just explain a bit about the ‘tricky’ and uncommon dishes you have on your menu.
  • Hanging coats, pulling chairs out, escort to (or at least half way) the bathrooms might be common, but hardly carried out. Help your guests!
  • Also, if guests need to leave the restaurant during their meal for whatever reason, ask if you could keep the food warm in the kitchen. Guests usually appreciate that.

“Care Service”, it is important to recognize the guest and to handle the concern or request between human beings friendly and personalized way.

  • Notice your guests and stay focus when you talk to them.
  • Listen to your guests! This sound easy, but it is actually a skill that needs to be learned and practiced. Start today!
  • In case someone has a problem, show true empathy and that their concern, issue or problem is important to you.
  • If you can, solve the problem for your guests or pass along the issue to the person who can solve it. Just make sure, you are explaining the situation so the guest doesn’t need to repeat him or herself. At the end, ensure that the issue has been solved.
  • Sometimes guests forget something on the table, bench or bathroom. Make sure, you keep it, when you find it. In case you know the guests phone number, call them. If you have no information at all, keep it safe.

With “Trust Service” you build trust and make sure that this trust is justified constantly. Not only reliability needs to be part of it, trustworthiness and transparency are a must. In addition, in case something goes really wrong, a certain degree of fairness has to be shown.

  • When guests are visiting your restaurant, they trust the company, the kitchen and you that everything will be at least to their satisfaction. Show them that they can trust you.
  • Especially, if you have guests with certain food intolerances or allergies, it is a must to write down the requests, confirm with your kitchen and/ or let the guests know honestly, in case the request can or can’t be fulfilled. That builds trust.
  • In case of a justified complain, everything should be done (involve your superior) to handle the problem with sincerity and fairness, so that everybody is at least ok with the outcome.
  • Back to the topic of forgotten items; especially wallets, credit cards and other valuable items are very delicate to handle. Inform your superior immediately when you find something like that. Remember, building relationships with guests through trust, are usually the ones that lasts the longest.

Implementing “Power Service” means to fulfill guests’ needs, desires and demands as fast and efficient as possible, so nobody needs to wait or has to find solutions by themselves the hard way.

  • Observe the way you work! Is it fast, efficient, organized? Are there procedures, set-ups or changes you would need to be better and faster? Talk with your superior to implement them!
  • Ensure you are staying focused. If you are trying to do everything at the same time, the ‘disaster avalanche’ is rolling.
  • Understand your guest’s desires, needs and wishes. Find them out through observation, listening and asking!
  • Let’s be specific; once you know what the guest wants – go and get it done! Fast, smart and efficient! That’s what makes your guests feel special! Don’t loose time!

Very important is also the “VIP Service”, where not only celebrities and other high profile guests are counted to, rather then giving every one of your guests the feeling and assurance he or she is the most important person. If a guest is getting even just a small fraction of being categorized into the ‘unimportant’ section, all efforts of delivering any kind of service are loosing its sincerity and meaning.

  • One of the most often carried out behaviors showing no interest in guests is to look at the next table, screen the restaurant or just daze away while placing a plate in front of guests or taking the orders. Honestly, this is horrible and unacceptable! Stay with your guests, look at them, give them a smile and maybe even pronounce the dish shortly and friendly. Makes even the food tastes better…seriously!
  • Eye contact and focus is the key again.
  • Mostly guests feel categorized unconsciously, especially when they are seen as ‘not so important’ and you can pull your leg out trying to make them happy again, it won’t work.
  • You want to make your guest feel like a VIP? Remember them when they come back next time and pay full attention to their needs, everytime. It’s not always easy, but a lot of fun!

I am quite sure, you are doing a few of those ‘services’ already anyway, but I think it is interesting to become aware of them and use them more consciously to improve your services and grow yourself.

All forms of service mentioned are holding a huge power in themselves individually, but if you combine all of them into your way of service and find more things you and your colleagues can do in each ‘category’, the results in terms of guest satisfaction will soar!

Even though the examples I pointed out above are for restaurants specifically, however, if you have a very close look at the general descriptions of the forms of service, I bet you get ideas what you could implement in your environment and business almost instantly to greatly increase your customer service.

Also, have a look in which areas you already succeed and where some improvements could be necessary. No matter if you are the boss of the company or an employee; sit down with your colleagues and brainstorm ideas to increase your service within these ‘categories’ to add more value to your customers. That would mean you are adding value to the company and therefore to yourself and your team!

Give it a try and enjoy the ride!

About Martin

My name is Martin Kramer, born in Hannover, Germany. So far, I worked for more then a decade in luxury hotels and resorts in Germany, the USA, Thailand and Indonesia. A Bachelor degree from a well-known hospitality management school in Heidelberg, Germany, majoring marketing, could have led me into several departments of hotels, but I love Food & Beverage and restaurants, so I decided to stick with it and apply as well as increase my knowledge in that area.

Recently, I started my own website www.restaurant-academy.com to provide useful information for waitresses and waiters to become more successful and satisfied with their job – keeping in mind that guest satisfaction and exceeding guest expectations are the key ingredients for any successful restaurant operation. In short; happy staff = happy guests and happy guests are leading to a successful restaurant operation.

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Don’t settle for the “Customer Service Checklist” – Buy in to the philosophy

This is a guest post written by John-Paul Narowski, founder of karmaCRM. Find out more about John-Paul and his company at the end of the post.

Recently I purchased a book from the local bookstore.

On the way in, I got a friendly “Hi, can I help you find anything?” from a passing employee. I asked where I could find small business books, and she gave me quick directions to the right spot. Perfect. I smiled.

As I approached the checkout counter with the book in one hand and my wallet in the other, the cashier greeted me with a warm smile and a friendly “Hello, I can help you right over here. How are you today?” As I handed over my credit card, the cashier even took note of my name. “Thank you, John. Would you like to sign up for our rewards program?” I smiled again. The service so far was outstanding – it made me feel like my business was truly appreciated.

I normally avoid rewards programs because I don’t like having all of the extra cards in my wallet. But on that day, the service I’d received put me in a great mood. I said yes. Not only did I say yes, but I also imagined returning to the store for my next book and using my loyalty card. After all, this local store was right down the street and everyone was so friendly.

But when I agreed to take the loyalty card, the happy customer service facade came down. It was as if the switch had been flipped off. The cashier (Claire was her name) stopped smiling immediately, and started typing on her computer, presumably bringing up the page where she could enroll me in the rewards program. Then Claire, the very same cashier who smiled, thanked me by name, and asked about my day, scrunched up her eyebrows. She gave me a puzzled look and asked, “what was your name again?”

I’m sure many of you have experienced something similar. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that Claire had been trained to follow a standard “customer service checklist” – one of those 3 step magic bullet systems designed to, in this case, get me to sign up for the rewards program. Smile, say thank you, read the name off of the card, and ask to join. I’m not the only customer that can see right through that – especially when it becomes obvious that the employee wasn’t really listening.

Let it be known – customer service is not a checklist. It’s a philosophy. Each customer deserves special treatment. Checklists don’t make anyone feel special. They just reinforce the fact that we are all treated the same. Checklists are what I like to call “doing the minimum.”

To Claire, forgetting my name was no big deal. To me, Claire represented the local bookstore. As Bill is fond of saying, “To the customer, YOU are the company.” When she forgot my name after her canned 3-step loyalty card checklist, it made a big difference. It was as though the bookstore had already forgotten about me, my money, and my choice to support their local business.

As a small business owner myself, customer service is one of my passions. After all, the customers pay for the employees, the store, the product, the lights, the counter, and everything else. But here’s the kicker. The customers aren’t thinking about all of that. They pay for their experience, not yours.

So why shouldn’t we focus on customer experience? I call this business philosophy customer-centricity. I’ve made it the focus of my entire business. Every decision I make, from hiring and training employees to refining my product, is designed to provide the customer with a better experience.

Next time you catch yourself or your employees following a checklist, ask yourself if the customer feels special. Then do something extra and see if it makes a difference. Grow out of relying on the checklist. Put in that extra effort to make the customer feel special. Trust me – the customer does care, and they are paying attention.

John-Paul Narowski is a customer-centric thought leader and founder of the Ann Arbor, MI-based karmaCRM, a small business software solution designed to help manage sales teams and build strong relationships with customers.

John-Paul, or JP as his friends call him, is fanatical about customer service and the customer-centric business model. Improving customer relationships is his passion and his business. Every decision JP makes at his company, from hiring employees to developing new features for his software, is based upon improving the customer experience.

 JP was recently interviewed by fellow customer service expert, Shep Hyken, where he discussed further his customer-centric philosophy. You can read that post hereFind out more about JP and karma at http://www.karmacrm.com. You can also follow karmaCRM on Twitter

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Viral Wisdom by James Lawther

In a minute I will turn over this post to James Lawther, this month’s guest blogger. But first an introduction.

Charlie “Tremendous” Jones said, “You’ll be the same in five years as you are today, except for the people you meet and the books you read.” And one of my professional development mantras is “Commit to lifelong learning.” The internet and social media gives us all the opportunity continue learning from others, meeting new people on-line to stimulate and continue a discussion about topics that are important to us. I enjoy reading and exchanging views about customer service, leadership and operational excellence. In that pursuit, I connected with James via Twitter and subscribed to his blog immediately after reading his bio:

James Lawther is a middle aged middle manager.

 To reach this highly elevated position he has worked for numerous organisations, from supermarkets to tax collectors and has had several operational roles including running the night shift for a frozen pea packing factory and doing operational research for a credit card company.

 As you can see from his CV he has either a wealth of experience, or is incapable of holding down a job. If the latter is true this post isn’t worth a minute of your attention.

 Unfortunately, the only way to find out is to read it and decide for yourself.

You’ve got to agree that someone with that kind of broad professional experience and sense of humor about it is well worth following. Since subscribing, we have exchanged comments on each other’s blogs and via Twitter  and I have really enjoyed the dialog. If you are intent in driving continuous improvement for your business, I’d recommend learning from James by visiting his website.

So, without further ado, James Lawther:

Today I am going to infect you with some viral wisdom.

If you haven’t been struck down yet, viral wisdom is the plague of the 21st century.  Victims suffer with assorted symptoms including lost time, vague fleeting thoughts and exasperated looks from their husbands.  The infection passes from friend to friend via the links they post on facebook, and the e-mails they send.  The wise realise that the most contaminated place in the world is the twitter stream sitting on their very own iphone.

The most contagious strain of viral wisdom cloaks itself cunningly.  It appears to be very sensible, creates a palpable “a-ha” moment in the mind of the reader, is a little bit (but not too) clever and compels you to read on because you never know, it could be really informative (unlikely, but possible).

The first piece of viral wisdom I have for you came from my twitter stream:

Modern Art = I could do that + Yeah but you Didn’t

It is hard to be wise in 140 characters but I’m sure you can take some meaning from that, did you feel the “a-ha”?

The second piece of wisdom came form an e-mail a friend sent me.  It was an interview with Will Smith.

Before I share it, I need to set the record straight, I like Will Smith, I used to watch the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air avidly and Men in Black has to be one of the world’s greatest movies, (well the eight foot tall cockroach was worth seeing) but let’s be honest, Mr. Smith isn’t exactly remarkable is he?

  • He is funny, but he isn’t Rowan Atkinson
  • He is talented, but he isn’t Lawrence Olivier
  • And as for looks, well George Clooney has the edge

Having said that he is an extremely successful man, and by his own admission, he didn’t get there off the back of raw talent.  So how did he do it?  In his own words:

“I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill.  I will not be outworked.  You may be more talented than me.  You might be smarter than me.  And you might be better looking than me.  But if we get on a treadmill together you are going to get off first or I am going to die.  It’s really that simple.  I’m not going to be outworked.”

And there is the second piece of viral wisdom.

If you want to be successful there is no substitute for hard work.

What does that mean for you?  Simply this…

Delivering great customer service isn’t really that difficult, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to:

None of it requires genius, massive insight, immense personal presence or super human strength.  It just requires hard work.

Or to put another way:

Great Service = I could have done that + Yeah but you Didn’t

Now would be a good time to stop stumbling, digging or reading blog posts, and give Bill a phone call so you can make a start.

Alternatively, if you want a little more quasi wisdom, you should read my blog about service operations.  It is quite infectious.

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I Know Ritz-Carlton and You’re No Ritz-Carlton

We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.
Ritz-Carlton Motto

We recently decided to visit a golf resort here in North Michigan. It touted having spent $14 million dollars in renovations. While it is the off-season, as a former resort general manager, I still wanted to check out what was new and different. (Yes, it’s what resort GM’s do on vacation.)

Walking through the brand new lobby, we approached the front desk. The agent asked me for my last name. I said, “It’s KEY-sing. Starts with a Q-U-I”. She looked down at her computer, typed the letters, then looked right up at me, and asked, “How would you pronounce that?” Seriously. Then she asks me for a photo ID. Now I know that the controller wants to catch the one guest out of 10,000 who might scam the resort, but for the other 9,999 of us, you’re basically telling us that you don’t trust us. Not a great first impression. After proving to her that I was actually who I said I was, she gave me the room key. While I may have rolled in my luggage, I could have used bell assistance to tell us how to get to our room. No such luck.

I was struggling in front of the room with four pieces of luggage, having propped the door with one of them, when a room service attendant passed by. She smiled and then practically sprinted by me to catch the elevator before it went back down.

After a three hour drive, we weren’t up for being cloistered in the room ordering room service. So we went back downstairs and found out that the only two outlets open for dinner were the fine dining restaurant and the sports bar. We weren’t dressed for elegant dining, but when we went to the Sports Bar, it was so poorly lit that it looked like a cave lighted only by the big screen TV. The menu was limited to bar food appetizers. So we opted to travel into town.

I’m a souvenir collector when it comes to vacations, so the next morning  I walked to the brochure rack next to the bellstand to pick up a resort brochure. There were three bellpersons talking to each other near the stand. And while I was scrutinizing the rack to find a brochure that wasn’t there, none of them offered assistance. Rather than disturb them, I walked away. Never did get a brochure.

At checkout, the only parting remarks from the front desk agent was, “You’re all set.”

Nobody raves about average, but everybody rants about nothing. While I liked the new Great Room lobby and appreciated the flat screen TVs and free Wi-Fi, I have come to expect that in a first-class resort. So I’m really not inclined to jump over to TripAdvisor to give them a Five Star review. In fact, I’m ranting in this post to say that the resort actually fell short in service. When I pay more for a king bedded room in one resort than the same size bed in another resort in the same area, I know I’m not paying the premium for the product or the setting.  I’m paying more because I think the services offered are going to be better. So I have high expectations of what that service should look and feel like. Unfortunately, my actual experience didn’t meet my expectations. It would have been “nothing” for the front desk agents or bell attendants to personalize my arrival and departure experiences. It would have been “nothing” for the room service attendant to lend a hand in helping me move the luggage into the room. Not exactly Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen. In doing their jobs and nothing more, they were average. And nobody raves about average. Disappointed that my experience did not meet my expectations, I rant about the “nothings.”

People are willing to pay much more of a premium to stay at a Ritz-Carlton. And despite paying that premium, people still rave about the exceptional service delivered by the Ladies and Gentlemen of Ritz-Carlton. So what is their secret? Actually it’s not a secret, at all. Ritz-Carlton gives us the blueprint to their success. Simply Google “Ritz-Carlton service” and you will find any number of articles written about the subject or the Amazon listing for Joseph Michelli’s book about Ritz-Carlton, The New Gold Standard. Better yet, go directly to the Ritz-Carlton page on their website that defines the brand’s Motto, Credo and Gold Standards. You also will find the foundation for their exceptional service in The Three Steps of Service:

A warm and sincere greeting. Practice the 10-5 rule. At 10 feet, acknowledge the customer with eye contact and at 5 feet, greet the customer with “Good morning/afternoon/evening” and a smile. Use the customer’s name after it’s been given whenever the opportunity arises.

Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest’s needs. Define customer expectations of the timeline of touchpoints during the customer experience. First remove all the potential dissatisfiers that could displease a customer. Then proactively look for opportunities to create a “small wow” that goes above the customers expectations. It could be something as simple as assisting a customer you may see standing in front of the store directory or looking up at the store directionals.

Fond Farewell. Sincerely thank the customer for choosing you and offer a warm good-bye. Again, use the customer’s name once it’s been given. Better yet, consider an after the sale follow-up phone call or thank you note.

Seems simple enough: Warm welcome, Magic Moment, Fond Farewell. But if it’s that simple, why, then, isn’t customer service everywhere like Ritz-Carlton? The real secret is in the huddles held daily in each department in every Ritz-Carlton and consistent execution of The Three Steps of Service by their Ladies and Gentlemen. So to build your customers’ perception that your service is dependably exceptional, then perform the Three Steps of Service courteously in your personal delivery of service with each customer every day. If you are a customer service leader, remind your Ladies and Gentlemen daily of The Three Steps of Service and recognize and celebrate frequently those you see deliver The Three Steps to your customers.

Make this common sense Three Steps mantra truly common practice with your customers and you’ll soon be earning a reputation for service like Ritz-Carlton.

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