Category Archives: Customer Satisfaction

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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Don’t Confuse Customer Services with Customer Service

This was originally published as a guest post on Shep Hyken’s  customer service blog.  

HYKEN Human Touch

There are only two ways to make a profit in business. One way is to increase sales. The other is to reduce costs. Companies have relied on technology to reeduce one of the most expensive costs in any business – human labor. Banks have replaced tellers with ATM’s, direct deposit and internet banking. Gas stations and supermarkets have moved to credit card readers and scanners, reducing the number of cashiers and eliminating gas attendants and grocery store baggers. Even hotels are experimenting with robots to deliver room service.  But in this technological evolution, too many companies are confusing customer services with customer service. Customer services is all about how to speed up the transaction. Businesses have used technology to become more efficient at the process of serving customers.

But being good at customer services does not build customer loyalty. All a competitor has to do is ante up with the same technology. Now even non-related businesses are looking to take revenue from each other. Where banks might have been the first to offer self-service options and debit cards, stores now offer ATM’s and their own credit card services, stealing fees and interest revenue from banks. In fact, how loyal would you be to your bank if it started to raise fees for its services? When was the last time you actually walked into a bank and interacted with a teller? Businesses may have reduced labor costs by offering hi-tech customer services, but by reducing human interaction with their customers, they inadvertently have jeopardized customer loyalty. As a result, customer services may help to keep customers, but rarely does it increase sales.

Walt Disney had the best formula for boosting sales, “Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it they will want to come back and see you do it again and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.” Great companies will always remember that despite advances in technology, customer loyalty must be earned by nurturing a genuine emotional connection.

Focus on the interaction, not the transaction. Define ways to personalize the customer experience. Restaurants that take reservations usually ask the question, “Are you celebrating a special occasion this evening?” Many will offer a complimentary dessert for an anniversary celebration. But the best create a wow moment by personalizing the menu header with the couple’s names and delivering that dessert with Happy Anniversary and their names written in chocolate on the rim of the plate. Of all the pictures taken that evening of the food, which do you think is featured and forever immortalized on Facebook for their friends to see and like? And how many friends have gone to that restaurant hoping to have that same kind of experience?

Personalizing the customer experience can be as simple as using the customer’s name. Simple, but simply not done. Think back to the last several times when you were a customer. You hand a credit card with your name printed right on it to the cashier. Yet the last five times you used your credit card, how many times did the cashier use your name in giving it back to you? Rarely, if at all. An opportunity to embrace you, as a customer, is lost.

The sales adage that people buy from people they know, like, and trust should be your customer service mantra. If I were a retailer, I’d use the technology to make sure that the card swipe info would post the customer’s name on the mini screen in front of the cashier. I’d educate every cashier to look at the screen or the credit card and then look back to the customer to establish eye contact (trust), smile (likeability) and sincerely say, “Mr. Customer’s Name, thank you for shopping at Name of Company. We certainly appreciate it.” That small wow would make a big difference in having that customer return again and again.

So don’t confuse customer services with customer service. Real customer service is all about how to enhance the human interaction. As Shep Hyken has said, “The greatest technology in the world hasn’t replaced the ultimate relationship building tool between a customer and a business – the human touch.”

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Filed under Customer Loyalty, Customer Satisfaction, Customer Service

How to start using Social Media for Customer Service

This week’s post is written by Ravi Shukle.  In my posts, I provide advice to improve face to face customer interactions. But today’s customers are expecting service on-line and on the social media channels that they use. One of the great benefits of social media is connecting with people who we would otherwise not meet. Since I certainly am not an expert on how to use social media for customer service, I reached out halfway around the world to someone who is, Ravi. And he was kind enough to offer his insight here. You can learn more about Ravi at the end of this post.

 

Ravi

Are you a business owner or entrepreneur looking to use social media for customer service?

If you said yes – then your customers are very lucky people, and you have come to the right place!

Ravi Shukle social media for customer service

I recently gave a talk at the SocialHackUK conference here in London on how businesses can use social media for customer service. In this post I am going to share with you my journey on how I have used social media to deliver great customer service online, as well as some of the key tools & techniques that have helped me to drive results for my clients & brands over the years.

So sit back, take a sip of coffee, and let the discovery begin!

How to start using Social Media for Customer Service

So where do you start?

Now that is a great question. Having helped online businesses owners manage their online customer service & social media for nearly 10 years, I’ve made all the mistakes along the way, and as a result, I have discovered what works the best & what doesn’t.

So today we are going to take a look at the 2 core areas of getting started with social media for customer service, covering the best practices I have picked up over the years & the top tools that have helped save me precious time & money.

Best Practices

As we are going to be taking a look at how to begin using social media for customer service, it’s important to start from the very beginning. That is why I have outlined some of the key best practices you will need to follow when both starting & maintaining your social media channels.

These strategies will help to ensure your business remains consistent in being able to serve its customers in the long run.

Content Calendar

A content calendar is simply a table of information that shows you what you are posting & on what day & time. This is essential before posting to your social channels, as it helps to keep your content organised & relevant. When creating your content calendar, a good starting point is to plan content for a week in advance, stating the days & times you are posting. One golden rule you want to remember is to always leave space in between your planned posts to allow for real time events & content.

Golden rule of planning social media content is to leave space for real time events ~ Click To Tweet

Escalation Process

To avoid a back log of customer queries it’s important to have an escalation process in place. This simply means your business should ensure it has a list of people it can escalate queries to should they be needed.

For effective social media customer service ensure you have an escalation policy in place ~ Click To Tweet

If you have a small company, it’s crucial to determine who is in charge & can make decisions on behalf of the business. This helps to save time & resources as it ensures the customers’ queries are dealt with efficiently & by the correct individual.

Response times

67% of consumers have used a company’s social media site for servicing & this number is set to grow even further~ Click To Tweet

This means that online customer service has now gone social – a trend that is set to grow even further. As a result, you literally can’t afford to keep your customers waiting, as they will go elsewhere. To help combat this, as a starting point your business needs to make sure it is able to respond to all social comments within 1-3 hours.

If you do not have an answer to a query, don’t ignore it until the next day. Instead, be sure to leave a reply for the customer, letting them know that you’re looking into their query & will get back to them. This helps the customer feel appreciated & shows you have acknowledged their input.

Personality – sign off names / engage without automating

Treating your social media fans as individuals & not numbers is the key to creating great customer service service ~Click To Tweet

I know that as a business owner you are very busy & time is very precious. However, responding to customers via social media is not an area where you want to cut corners.

Here are a 5 ways your business can inject some personality via social media ~Click To Tweet 

  • Signing of comments with your name
  • Addressing fans by their first name / @ tagging their username in comments
  • Sharing personal stories or company stories that relate to the customer’s query
  • Being honest – if you do not have an answer or have made a mistake, admit this right away
  • Last but not least, have fun! Adding humour is a great way to connect on a more personal level & deepen the relationship with your fans. Of course, this should only be used at the appropriate times ;)No Days Off

While this may sound obvious to many, it is still one of the biggest mistakes I see on social media.

Creating great customer service on social media means taking no days off ~ Click To Tweet

Now this doesn’t mean you should hibernate away in your office 24/7 waiting for replies to come in so that you can respond. However, your business does need to manage expectations via your social channels, which means being prepared for comments or questions to come in on the weekends & public holidays.

To facilitate this, assign someone on the team to check these channels during weekends & holidays to ensure you do not miss out. Ignoring these comments can often mean creating more angry customers or even worse – can cause your fans to look elsewhere.

Customer Feedback – data from insights & asking questions

Encouraging customer feedback is a great way to generate insight from your key target market ~ Click To Tweet

Customer feedback can come in many forms on social media. However, there are two key ways in which your business can gather this information:

  • Asking questions directly via your social channels
  • Analysing social media insights

It really is that simple – asking your fans directly allows your business to get instant feedback on social media compared to a survey, and analysing social media data through insights allows you to get information on your customers in almost real time.

Using this information is the key to creating a great customer experience, as your business will be able to determine what your customers’ pain points are & what type of content they like to engage with.

Employee training

It’s important to train all employees on how to use social media for customer service as it’s everyone’s responsibility ~Click To Tweet

Training all employees on social media is vital, as it’s the role of the whole company – not just one department – to better serve your customers. Therefore, training employees on how to use social media effectively empowers them to accurately represent the business outside working hours, and enables them to feel confident in replying to customers through social media.

This also gives them the confidence to reply right away, which means your team will also be more responsive – a win-win for both you & the customer!

Rewarding fans

Customer loyalty on social media means focusing on the quality of the interaction, not the quantity ~ Click To Tweet

Rewarding fans on social media is a great way to build customer loyalty, as it shows you truly appreciate your community & are willing to give back.  What you want to remember here is that customer loyalty on social media doesn’t just mean the person who “likes” or “comments” the most.

It should be based on the quality of the interaction or conversation. If you had one customer who gave you very detailed feedback or shared a great story, this should be considered for a reward just as much as a customer who always looks to engage with your posts.

Tools

During my SocialHackUK talk I also went over some of my personal top tools, programmes & websites I use on an almost daily basis to effectively create content & manage social media for customer service.  I didn’t want you to miss out, so here they are:

10 Tools to help you create content & manage social media for customer service ~ Click To Tweet

Jing

Offers a free & simple way to start creating & sharing images & short videos of your computer screen

Pixabay

A free resource to help you find high quality & commercial free images to use on the web & your social channels

Hootsuite

A free social media management tool that allows you to manage & schedule content across many different social networks

Powerpoint

Perfect for creating great images & presentations for your social networks

Canva

Offers a simple way to create graphic designs for your social channels with many great templates to choose from

PicMonkey

A free online photo editing tool that allows you to add frames, text & effects to your images

Post Planner

An app that makes it easy for people to find & post amazing content consistently to their social channels

Agora Pulse

An app that helps you to manage all social media messages & content in one place as well having the ability to launch contests & promotions

Buffer

An app that allows you to easily schedule, create & publish content across your social channels

Shortstack

Lets you create Facebook apps & build engaging social media marketing campaigns including contests, promotions & much more

Summary

Implementing these strategies and seeing results using them wont happen over night. It’s important to realise in order to build a true customer culture within your company as well as across your social media channels the company as a whole must embrace an open minded attitude to customer service and see this as a role for all employees and not just one department. Training all employees on the effective use of social media will help the over all responsiveness of the organiastion and help to increase that all important relationship with your fans helping to create that 5 star customer service.

 

Ravi Shukle Customer Service Specialist

Ravi Shukle  is a customer service specialist who loves to help businesses create happy customers for life through customer service. He reveals his Secrets to creating Five Star service here. Follow him on Twitter @ravishukle.

 

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In customer service, your people are NOT your most important asset.

In the book Good to Great, Jim Collins writes that “People are not your most important asset. The right people are.”

Customer service is all about building relationships – relationships with superiors, direct reports, vendors and customers. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, claims that success in any job is 20% knowledge and 80% interpersonal skills. Ultimately success in customer service is all about interpersonal skills.

Unfortunately, while there are people who want to work in customer service, many lack the necessary interpersonal skills because they have grown up or interacted with others in a generation far different from our own.

I am convinced that people can only deliver an experience that they themselves have experienced. In order to succeed in customer service, they would have had to personally experience and learn from great examples of others exhibiting stellar interpersonal skills in their day-to-day interactions.

But those opportunities to learn firsthand from face-to-face interactions have all changed in less than a generation. Like many of you, when I earned my first paycheck there was no direct deposit or internet banking. We would have to go weekly to the bank to deposit our paycheck. After a while, the teller got to know who we were, where we worked, what we did there, and regularly asked how work and our company was doing. We learned how to communicate personally as a result of those interactions. But with on-line banking and ATM’s, when was the last time you had to actually go into a bank? We have lost that opportunity for regular personal interactions.

I was a member of after school clubs in school and in that process I collaborated with others in person. Now many young people are more apt to spend as much time with an on-line team of avatars of people they have never met playing Call of Duty or Warcraft. All those hours on-line, but what interpersonal skills are they learning from that experience?

Remember when gas stations used to have the attendant check your oil and tire pressure, clean your windshield and ask us if there was anything else they could do for us ? How bad has customer service gotten when we never see an attendant and actually pump our own gas? Where is the interpersonal skills reinforcement in that experience?

This will date me, but I remember when the baggers at the grocery store would actually take the bags in a shopping cart and help me load them into my car. Not only are the baggers gone, but so are many of the cashiers, replaced by self-serve checkout lines. And even the cashiers who are on duty certainly have no time to strike up a social conversation.

The average Facebook user today has 200 friends. When people posts on their page, they don’t have a loss of self-esteem when only three “like” the post. The other 197 have ignored them  – and they are OK with that! Even those that “like” the post rarely leave a comment to begin an interaction. Social media, then, is rarely social.

I have a cell phone and young people have cell phones. But what are they doing with their cell phones? OMG. LOL. I’m so old I remember someone actually laughing out loud on my phone. Texting is really one-way communication. You don’t hear voice tone or inflection or a pause. Two text monologues on do not make a real dialog.

So the experiences for many people are not full of the good examples of emotional intelligence, body language or verbal communication that only face-to-face interactions can teach. I believe that translates in a real world that is OK to ignore the customer and our co-workers. We don’t have to greet our co-workers every morning or every customer who walks through the door. Having not experienced good examples of communication, collaboration or relationship-building skills, how will those people we entrust to take care of our customers be successful? And if we allow ourselves to accept that level of performance as adequate, how will our businesses succeed?

The answer is that we, as managers, are responsible for the education of those who do not have those skills. For us to succeed in this very competitive customer service marketplace, we will need the right people.  We will need people who know how to consistently welcome our customers with eye contact and a smile, listen and respond empathetically, and bid them a sincere fond farewell. So we will need to ask the proper interview questions with the specific intent on finding out if the candidates have the necessary skills of expressing sincerity, empathy and trust. And we will be the ones who will have to educate the people we select to deliver the experience our customers are expecting from us. Customer service cannot be “Day One and Done” training. Soft skills reinforcement must be continuous. Only then will we build the interpersonal skills of our staff to drive their success and ours.

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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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Holly Regan: Richard Branson-Style Tips to Empower Your Customer Service Team

A while ago I had blogged about using the CASE Method to improve your company’s customer experience.  CASE stands for “Copy and Steal Everything”. If you feel uncomfortable with “Steal”, then “Copy and Save Everything”.  I said you should be more intent on observing within and outside of your industry for ideas that you can CASE. Then tweak the idea to make it your own.

I recently read an article in Software Advice’s Customer Service Investigator, which featured a discussion with Communications Coach and Author Carmine Gallo on some strategies for mimicking the customer service efforts of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. While the tactics discussed are agreeably good ideas for promoting a strong customer experience, I wanted to further explore how other organizations could CASE Virgin’s best practices with the article’s author, Software Advice Managing Editor Holly Regan. You can learn more about Software Advice at the end of the post.

What is the risk involved with allowing customer service reps to operate within the “judgment playing field” (make their own decisions within boundaries)? How can other organizations comfortably adopt this tactic?

When you allow employees the freedom to make their own decisions, you open yourself up to the possibility that, occasionally, they will make the wrong ones. However, if you delineate clear boundaries for your judgment playing field ahead of time as to what employees are and aren’t allowed to do, you can ensure that even the occasional wrong decision won’t significantly harm your business. Defining these limits for acceptable behavior and communicating them to all staff members is one way organizations can feel comfortable about adopting this tactic. The other piece of the puzzle is smart hiring. If you have a strict screening process that ensures you only have people on staff who fit with your company culture and values, you can feel comfortable trusting them to make the right decisions.

Are there other benefits associated with instilling the company mission in all staff besides an improved experience for the customer – that is, do you find that employees also have a greater sense of purpose with knowledge of company goals and are willing to work harder?

Yes–instilling your company mission in all members of your staff not only allows them to deliver that mission to customers, it also gives them a higher-level view of what the company is trying to achieve through every customer service interaction. Employees who know what they’re working towards and why tend to work harder and are better able to internalize the mission and become passionate about it. They are empowered to deliver great service, regardless of their level of authority within the company.

Virgin’s employees are proof of this: customers of Virgin America and Virgin Atlantic laud the consistency of their service experience from boarding to baggage claim. The staff member checking them in for their flight portrays the same passion and enthusiasm as the flight attendant serving them in the air, because they’re both working towards the same mission. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company is another great example: everyone who goes through training at one of their hotels is immersed in the company mission, from basic etiquette to service psychology, and employees of every department are empowered to do whatever it takes to deliver on that mission. As a result, they are praised as some of the most passionate customer service reps in the world.

Which members of the customer service team should have an open door policy, and how does such a policy satisfy employees?

Anyone in a management position should have an open-door policy, from the shift supervisor to the CEO. Having a forum in which employees can provide feedback – and encouraging them to do so frequently and honestly – is crucial for any service-oriented organization. Management needs to have an accurate picture of what’s working and what’s not on the ground, and who better to provide that than the employees who are directly interacting with customers day-to-day? Your service reps are the best source of feedback on what customers like about your company, and what they need that they aren’t getting.

Having an open-door policy is not only helpful for management – it also shows employees that they have a voice and that their managers genuinely care about their needs, concerns and suggestions. Employees must feel truly valued in order to feel passionate about the company they work for. Managers must also make sure to communicate with employees about how their suggestions for improvement are being implemented or why they decided not to act on them. When employees know they aren’t just giving feedback in a vacuum, they’re more likely to keep providing it. And seeing their ideas put into practice is empowering and inspires them to always be looking for new ways to innovate in customer service interactions.

Customer service reps might find it difficult to “bring their personality” to work, as many are instructed to go off scripts. Should scripting not be so heavily practiced, or should managers encourage employees to simply integrate their own “personal touch?”

As mentioned in the article, customers don’t want to interact with a robot. Service is much more effective when it’s perceived as genuine, and scripting definitely discourages this. Instead of giving reps specific instructions for what to say and how to act, managers should focus on hiring quality employees who exude the company’s culture, mission and values – and who can be trusted to use their own judgment to deliver on that. By clearly defining the judgment playing field, you can ensure your employees don’t get too far off-track while also allowing them to interact naturally with customers, as they would with a friend or colleague. This not only gives reps the freedom to be themselves, it gives customers the benefit of a unique, memorable and genuine interaction that will keep them coming back.
software_advice_logo_v2Software Advice is a free online resource that reviews CRM, marketing automation and sales force automation software. Follow them at @CRMAdvice.

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Stefanie Amini: What can we learn from American Express about Customer Care

Stefanie AminiThis 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. 

 
Technology is rapidly evolving, and along with it marketing and the means of getting in touch with customers are evolving too. Nowadays, a successful selling strategy is no longer enough to attract customers’ interest on the long run, since more and more companies are resorting to it. By comparison, few businesses have witnessed the true power of customer care, and how a strong support team can make the difference between winning a customer and losing him. One of these businesses is American Express, a company which is constantly pursuing to find new means of enhancing its relationships with the customers. Next, we’ll describe you a few ways in which American Express has revolutionized the marketing game through customer support:

The net-promoter concept

Before 2005, the customer service at American Express (AmEx) wasn’t very different from what others had to offer. However, in that particular year Jim Bush was invested as the company’s marketing president, and he was the one to break the regular orthodox means of conversation into some more dynamic and flexible human engagements. Thus, instead of judging the quality of service reps by how quickly they managed to answer customers’ queries over the phone, he switched the style to the net-promoter score concept developed by Bain Fred Reichfeld. Basically, it all resumes down to a single question for the customer: “Would you recommend our company to a friend?”. By adopting this strategy, customers’ retention quickly went up, while the “bounce rate” went down.

New analytic software, no scripts

Thanks to the software implemented by Bush, every time a customer calls the service department, the service rep gets to see a list filled with all the information related to him/her, such as name, address, age, buying tendencies, and payment patterns. By taking advantage of these info, the employee has to guide on the conversation without being restricted to a script. Thus, if he discovers the opportunity to tell the customer about a new AmEx service or product which he isn’t aware of, it is possible for the customer rep to uncover the benefits of this service/product in a friendly and personal manner, one which is more likely to sell than a traditional-based script.

Additionally, the AmEx analytic software is capable to calculate and indicate on screen the likelihood for a customer to end the phone call, plus any other early warning signals which tell if he isn’t interested in the conversation anymore. When such case occurs, the employee has to dig for the customer’s underlying problem and try new ways of solving, as it has been previously instructed at training. AmEx aims to reduce customer’s phone stress this way, and their strategy seems to rejoice from an overwhelming success.

New employee training strategy

Since the way service reps interact with customers has been changed, they needed to be taught differently how to approach a phone call. Thus, Bush has brought a whole new meaning to employee training by basically reducing the technicality means to a human, friendly conversation which customers benefit from the most.

Bush said that he was inspired to approach this strategy as he witnessed how warm and interactive people at the hotels’ front desks were. He quickly adopted the same friendly means, only that in a virtual environment, leading to customers being treated in a more personal manner.

American Express’ strategy in terms of customer care quickly paid off, since lots of people are actually recommending the credit card company to friends and relatives from social networks, workplaces, neighborhoods and not only.

 

iwantlogoStefanie 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 @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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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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