Too often, businesses focus solely on the negative feedback from their customer surveys in CSI fashion, identifying the pain points and taking the steps to eliminate them. While this reactive analysis is critical, it is just as important to embrace a proactive approach, taking as much time examining the positive comments for clues in the experiences that customers raved about in their surveys. Here are three steps you can take to move from reactive to proactive customer service.
STEP ONE:Thank ALL customers who gave you survey feedback. Businesses do a good job at responding with a “mea culpa” message to customers who were dissatisfied. But in this age of opt-in privacy guidelines, many do not reply to customers who offer complimentary feedback. That is just wrong. If you were my customer, and you say to me, “You were great! Thank you very much” and I don’t respond, you would think I was downright rude. My bad manners would certainly taint your perception of my previous excellent service. And would you say anything to me in the future? So how do you think your customers feel when you don’t send a response to their surveys?
Remember that people buy from people they know, like, trust AND want their business. The best way to show customers you want their business is by saying thank you. Acknowledging a customer’s positive remarks begins to build a relationship. I would send a letter to customers which, in part, said,
I thanked the individual personally, included your comments in our weekly internal newsletter and forwarded it to our corporate team so they could recognize the employee on your behalf. Please let me know when you return so that I might meet you and thank you in person.
Many of them did just that and they have been loyal guests ever since. If you aren’t responding to all feedback, start today.
STEP TWO:Recognize employees who have earned positive comments. If you want your employees to make it a habit to deliver exceptional service, you need to make it a habit to thank them when they do. Thank them in person and publicly. I forwarded to everyone any email I received from a customer who raved about an employee. We posted positive comments in our social media private group, created a slideshow of the positive comments with a photo of those employees and played it on mounted backstage big screen monitors, and included the comments in our weekly e-newsletter. Remember that what gets recognized gets repeated. So acknowledge your people regularly.
STEP THREE:Brainstorm with your employees to define if there are steps everyone can take to have raveable moments happen more often. In most organizations, there are a few superstars that earn more raves from their customers. Get them together and ask them what works for them in creating an emotional connection with their customers. We found out that our superstars would look for cues, such as a familiar city or state, team logos on caps or shirts, or guests celebrating a special occasion. When these employees took the time to move from transaction to interaction, customers were happier and more inclined to let us know that. Generate ideas and educate others to replicate the opportunities to deliver outstanding service.
QUI TAKEAWAY: Spend as much time analyzing the positive customer comments from your surveys as you do the negative ones. Recognize the actions of your employees who have delivered exceptional customer service. And seek to identify the methods they used so that they might be practiced by all employees. Practice these three steps consistently and you will certainly earn more rave reviews.
When first confronted with this pandemic we moved quickly to identify the high risks for our employees and our customers and then worked to define the action steps required to minimize those risks. We got everyone involved at all levels of the organizations, followed local, state, and federal guidelines which changed week-to-week, and innovated, looking at every possible solution to keep us safe. Within the hospitality industry, we considered everything from hand sanitizers to Plexiglas shields, from floor and door decals to HVAC filters, reallocating the funds to cover the costs. We sought recommendations from experts, vendors, and our competitors to see what they were doing in response. We established protocols when someone was sick or had symptoms. What would have taken many months to implement for any other initiative took only a few weeks. Many of us had to make the difficult decisions to reassign, furlough or lay off employees. We had to make many necessary, yet tough decisions, but we did not hesitate because the need for quick action was crucial.
We can learn from the processes we took during this pandemic to establish the same steps to reassess and create our customer experience in what is the new normal. While improving customer experience is not literally life and death, without offering a good experience we stand the chance to lose the customer forever.
With restrictions being lifted and vaccinations for everyone available soon, now is the best time to assert yourself to reinvent your customer experience. As a direct result of the pandemic, customer expectations have changed dramatically. So, the experience before the pandemic is no longer good enough. Take this time now to make a similar determined effort to evaluate what needs to be done to offer an experience that is simply better than before the pandemic.
QUI Customer Experience Strategies from the Pandemic
Define who is the CX Champion and the key players on the CX team. In our case, during the pandemic, the champions were the director of housekeeping and director of loss prevention because they were responsible for guest and employee safety. Pre-COVID, the CX team may have been directed by the marketing leader. Now is the time to ask yourself who should champion customer experience improvement. Who is the leader of the team who has the most face-to-face customer interactions that can create a raveable customer experience? Be sure to include as co-champions and team members the employees who interact daily with your customers. Choose the group’s internal social influencers so that the message can be amplified throughout the organization.
Identify the experts who deliver an exceptional customer experience. Mystery shop your competitors in person and online. Google the Top Ten Best list, not only in your industry but also in the business category where your customers buy products or services. Is there any idea you can CASE and tweak to make it your own? For example, CASEing the practice of complimentary beverages on an airline flight, we began offering bottled water to guests who were checking in AND when they were checking out. With daily housekeeping services being suspended during the pandemic, the bottled water served as our “peak-end” experience enhancement.
Assess every position. Is the job description of each employee pre-COVID the right job now? In hospitality, for example, could a front desk position be changed to be a pre-arrival concierge calling multiple-day stay Guests to offer their assistance in planning sightseeing activities, making restaurant reservations or celebrating a special occasion? Does each role in your business enhance the customer experience or can it be modified to give customers a better one?
Allocate resources. Review each budget line item. Given the new environment, is that the best use of the appropriation? Is it time to consider upgrading to a customer relationship management application instead of using the contact feature in Outlook?
Involve everyone. As you did in announcing the safety protocols, make sure you publicize internally the action steps and outcomes of your focus on customer experience improvement. Create a channel, whether it is via email, a private Facebook or Yammer group, or a “What are you hearing” voice mailbox to constantly solicit for staff feedback. And make sure you share the feedback and let them know what you are doing as a result. Without the involvement of every employee, there is no commitment to maintaining the newly defined customer experience standards.
Continually remind your people. During the pandemic, we plastered doors and floors with social distancing decals, and walls with CDC guidelines posters. At our hotel, we had safety reminders run on the guest in-house TV channel and on the employee backstage TV channel. Safety reminders were part of the daily 15-minute staff huddle and the weekly e-newsletter. Use the same methods to continually remind your team of your foundational values and daily performance standards. Repeat it everywhere and often to make it stick.
QUI TIP: Maintain a sense of urgency. Choose a date like June 1 or July 4 to define the internal reopening of your establishment with the “new normal” customer experience. Back plan action steps using that date.
QUI TAKEAWAY: At the start of this pandemic, we all worked with a real sense of urgency, innovated, spent money, and elevated our safety game. Now is a great time for you and your team to put in as much critical thought and intense energy to revamping your customer experience.
Social media is bad for customer service. Whether ranting or raving, customers are telling stories online about businesses whether those businesses are listening or not. With customers using platforms like Twitter and Facebook to complain loudly and sometimes virally to the world, companies have had to add resources to respond accordingly. But I am not against monitoring social media or using it as a responsive customer service channel. On the contrary, I believe social media has been literally and figuratively priceless for small businesses. Those businesses offering exceptional customer service don’t build their brand through advertising. Their customers build it for them via their raves on social media.
So, it is critical to know how to respond on social media, especially to the rants from dissatisfied customers. If you feel you need to get better at social customer service, don’t look to me for advice. If you want to become a millionaire, don’t ask me. I am not a millionaire. I’d tell you to go to Las Vegas or play the lottery. If you want to become a millionaire, ask people who have worked hard to earn a million dollars.
When I say social media is bad for customer service, it is because, for retail, hospitality, healthcare, and other bricks-and-mortar customer service positions, it has created a pool of candidates who are lacking in the social skills to connect with and please customers. Millennials have already overtaken Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation. By 2025, Millennials will comprise 75 percent of the global workforce.
While today’s technology can create the opportunities to personalize customer service, it is still up to a person to deliver it. Yet this incoming generation can only deliver to the level of service that they themselves have experienced. And their experience has mainly been without in-person interaction. Text messaging and social media have made their interactions one-way communication. Baby Boomers have cellphones, and the subsequent generations have cell phones. But what is Gen X, Gen Y or Millennials doing on their cell phones? “OMG. LOL.” No real live conversations. I’m so old I remember hearing on my phone someone actually laughing out loud. I contend two text monologues do not make a real dialog. Texting is one-way communication. You don’t hear voice tone or inflection. Even a pause is dubious. Was it because they were thinking about what you said or is it because they got busy with something else for a minute?
Likewise, a post and a reply on Facebook do not make for real dialog. The average Facebook user today has 338 friends. When people post on their page, they have no loss of self-esteem when only eight “like” the post. The other 330 have ignored them – and they are OK with that! Even those that “like” the post rarely leave a comment to begin an interaction. A meager “thumbs up” is all the acknowledgement given to a friend. Really?
Despite all the buzz about how social media keeps people connected, social media is not really social. Look around you. Social media and text messaging have turned people into digital zombies. Walk into your staff break room and see what is going on. Did anyone even look up to acknowledge you? Do you hear any real conversations going on?
At the same time, retail technology in the form of self-service or contactless purchases may have made it more convenient for the customer, but it eliminated the human connection.
As a result, the experiences for many people are not full of 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 where it is OK to ignore our co-workers and worse, ignore the customer. Many don’t feel it is important to greet our co-workers every morning or every customer who walks through the door.
People buy from people they know, like and trust. Likeability is perceived by a smile. Trustability is driven by eye contact. Yet, self-service technology and social media have reduced the number of human interactions for potential candidates to not only experience it for themselves but also to understand the value of its importance. Having not experienced good examples of communication, collaboration or relationship-building skills, how will your people whom you entrust to take care of your customers emotionally connect with them? And if you allow yourself to accept that such a level of emotionless transactions is adequate, how will your business build customer loyalty to succeed? Remember that satisfied customers are not necessarily loyal ones.
QUI CUSTOMER SERVICE LEADERSHIP STRATEGY
For you to succeed in this very competitive marketplace, you will need the right people. You will need people who know how to consistently welcome your customers with eye contact and a smile, listen and respond empathetically, and bid them a sincere fond farewell. You should not assume that every candidate who applies for your open positions will do that just because you put it into your job ad. Finding and keeping the right people starts with the selection process to welcoming them at first day orientation and continues every day thereafter for as long as they are with you.
As the manager, always remind yourself that you are only as good as the people who surround you. Your success is dependent on you identifying the right people among all the candidates by asking the proper interview questions with the specific intent of finding out if the candidates have the skills or potential to express sincerity, empathy and trust. The STAR interview process will better be able to identify the right candidate than the standard interview questionnaire.
Take ownership for the education of those you select to deliver the experience your customers are expecting. That education starts on the first day. Of course, you need to introduce the policies and rules required by your legal department or the state. But the first day should be as much, and I contend should be more about your company mission, values and performance standards. And that message should not be delivered by the Human Resources onboarding specialist. It should be delivered by the highest-ranking operations manager to convey the critical role your employees play in driving customer satisfaction. That manager, ideally the CEO, should convey the message that when employees interact with an individual customer, they ARE the company to that customer. As the general manager, I scheduled myself for every orientation to explain that with every single customer interaction, we were expecting them to commit to “Be the Company”. I shared a video of the CEO of the company headquartered in another state reinforcing that commitment to end orientation.
Customer service training cannot be a “Day One and Done” kind of thing. Soft skills reinforcement must be continuous. Define forbidden phrases like “No problem,” or “Sure, you bet,” and offer the proper alternatives. Role-play recent customer situations and the best responses. Explain the service recovery process and empowerment guidelines. Build in frequent opportunities to remind your team what great customer service looks like. Whether it is a daily 15-minute huddle or weekly update e-mail newsletter, be sure to reinforce often your customer service performance standards. Repeat it often to make it stick.
Regularly ask “What are you hearing?” to get feedback from those who are directly interacting with your customers. Listen, act, and let them know what you did.
And if you want your employees to make it a habit to deliver outstanding customer service, you need to make it a habit to thank them when they do. For example, share customer feedback and rave reviews you earn on Yelp or TripAdvisor with everyone.
QUI TAKEAWAY: Select the right people. Educate them on what great customer service looks like in your business. And then continually remind and recognize them when they deliver it. Only then will you strengthen the interpersonal skills of your staff to drive their success and yours.
Facemasks, door signs, floor decals, partitions, and hand sanitizers won’t keep your customers. Such safety protocols in response to the pandemic are expected from your customers. While failing to implement them will cost you customers, maintaining those standards will not guarantee that you keep them. Your competitors are doing the exact same thing which means what you are doing is average, heightened like everyone else, but still average. And … wait for it … nobody raves about average. Customers don’t rave about a business that simply meets their expectations. Nor are they loyally bound to them. With these safeguards, you have simply changed a negative experience to one that is neutral. But what are you doing to move the experience from neutral to memorably positive?
CARE for your Associates first. Hearing about hospitalizations, the struggling economy, and massive layoffs every day, your associates are still anxious and concerned about their jobs. Reassure them by your actions that their leadership team CARES. Communicate. Appreciate. Recognize. Empower. Serve.
Serve your associates by asking at the end of each interaction, “What can I do for you?” And act on their suggestions to make your associates feel as happy working with you as you want your customers to feel about doing business with you.
Re-orient your Associates to the delivery of the customer experience in what is now the “not-so-new-normal”. In the first weeks of the pandemic, you were focused on introducing all the new protocols. Over the last few months, your associates consistently follow the safety guidelines, from temp checks to facemasks. Take time now to remind them of the principles of delivering exceptional customer service. Emphasize that since your customers cannot see their smiles, they need to use other body language, except handshakes and hugs, their words, and tone of voice to convey a warm welcome. Remind them to practice active listening and responding with empathy. Do they remember the forbidden phrases that distract in customer conversations? Make sure they know the difference between taking care of the customer which is a transaction and really caring for the customer, a relationship-building interaction.
Seek feedback and then act. You may know 10-20% of your customer complaints via your customer surveys. Your customers know 100% of what displeases them and your associates do, too, since your customers tell them every day. So ask your team directly, “What are you hearing?” Then act on their feedback to eliminate those pain points. Be sure to involve your associates in defining solutions to remove these dissatisfiers. Without their involvement, you will not earn their commitment to care for your customers.
Become a storyteller. Three things can happen after customers do business with you. They can say nothing because you gave them nothing to talk about. They can rant about you to others because they experienced such poor service that they want to make sure no one else makes the same mistake. Or they can rave about you. And if you want to have your customers tell stories about you, you have to give them a story to tell. Involve your associates to define key points in the customer experience where they are empowered to create memorable small “wows” so the story can end, “And they lived happily ever after.”
QUI TAKEAWAY: Remember nobody cares about how good you used to be before this pandemic. They only care about how good you are now. And now changes every day. You need to do the same.
This week’s post is from Stacy Sherman, a results-oriented Customer Experience (CX) and Digital Marketing professional with a proven track record increasing brand awareness, sales, and loyalty at B2C & B2B companies of all sizes and budgets. She’s worked on both the client side and agency environments leading projects for well-known Telcom companies (AT&T and Verizon) along with other reputable brands (Martha Stewart Crafts, American Girl, Perler Beads). Throughout her 20+ career, Stacy has gained expertise in developing and launching revenue-producing marketing campaigns, Customer Experience (CX) programs, and Voice of Customer (VOC) initiatives, as well as maximizing conversions through proven optimization techniques. Stacy is currently Director of Customer Experience (CX) at a global company, Schindler Elevator Corporation. Stacy continues to infuse customer centricity in all initiatives to cultivate profitability along with “close the loop” processes for ongoing success. Stacy’s contact information appears below her post. I highly recommend subscribing to her customer experience blog, Doing CX Right.
How many times have you gone to a restaurant that does not take reservations and felt frustrated about the wait time? If you’re like me, it is too many to count.
While many companies tend to focus on customer experiences at the point people are actually using products and receiving services, brand perception and customer judgments occur much earlier in the customer journey. People don’t care if there are internal company process challenges. If expectations are not met, customers will go elsewhere.
With the advent of technology and mobile applications like Yelp, companies can improve customer experiences and proactively address common customer pain points before they occur. My recent restaurant experience provides a great example of this.
Using Yelp to Save Time Egan & Sons does not take reservations. However, they told me when I called that I could save time using Yelp. The app displays an estimated wait time to help in deciding whether to go to the restaurant and a choice to “check-in” to join the waitlist before driving to the restaurant. Having never seen this before, and always looking to save time, I was delighted to have this option.
Making the Journey Easier
After filling out the Yelp online form, the app displayed how many parties were ahead of me. That information helped me determine when to drive to the restaurant. While there was only one other person joining me for dinner, I did notice a useful feature within the app to share the wait time with others. I like that capability and the overall usability. Moreover, I noticed how easy and pleasant my dining experience felt before I even sat down to eat.
Just before I arrived at the restaurant, I received an SMS text to my phone informing me that my table was ready and I should check-in with the host. Within minutes, I was seated and ordering my dinner. Though my story pertains to the restaurant industry specifically, there are key lessons about DoingCXRight that apply to all companies:
Communication is an Important Driver of Customer Satisfaction
I really liked knowing how long my wait time was via the app and receiving a text notification that my table was ready.
Level of Effort is a Great Measurement of Customer Experience
It was EASY for me to request and get a table despite a large crowd. Without technology (both SMS and Yelp) I would have missed out on a great restaurant experience. And the restaurant would have missed out on my business. While I didn’t use the feature, the app allows people the option to leave the waitlist without difficulty (just a click of a button on my phone) making the entire experience simple. I will definitely use it again!
Employees Must Deliver on Promises
Based on the SMS text I received, I had an expectation to be seated right away. Upon my arrival, the host followed through without any wait creating a satisfying, wow moment.
Personalization Improves Cautomer Experiences
The app knew it was my first time checking in and provided me relevant content. It showed “check out reviews while you wait” along with food recommendations from past visitors. This is a great idea, especially because the restaurant has four stars and over 300 reviews.
Where did you start your career?
I started my career producing conferences, and then moved to building a social network and online magazine for contact centers. At this social network I had a podcast show, a blog, and I was an early thought leader on contact centers. I remember my boss telling me that now I was a “brand,” which at the time seemed really strange to me. Now I get it. That was almost ten years ago. I enjoyed studying contact centers, and worked at Intel as a social customer service leader. However after having two years of customer service practitioner experience under my belt I realized I preferred customer experience which included more branding, consumer behavior and more. I decided to focus 100 percent on customer experience thought leadership – speaking at events, writing a book “More Is More,” and even teaching an executive education at Rutgers Business School this August. I will also be keynoting the Genesys conference for 500 people in Australia this summer.
What inspired you to write the book More Is More?
I always wanted to write a book – while books don’t make any money these days, it does level up your career. If you want to be a thought leader, having a book is very helpful.
What is your book about?
I wrote a book about hard work called “More Is More” as I mentioned. Meaning? Not much differentiates us as individuals. Plenty of people have the goods – they’re smart, even talented. But not everyone wakes out of bed ready to run. It’s those that jump out of bed ready to run that end up successful. Others, who don’t have that internal maniac – who seem asleep all day, will let the less smart, less talented competitor win. It’s the same with companies. Companies today need to work harder. They don’t need to be the smartest or most talented. But they need to consistently jump out of bed ready to serve. Why? Products and services are largely the same. Airline, gym, grocery store…pretty much all the same. Companies that will go to any length to make their customer’s life easier and better will ultimately attract more customers. And it’s not even so much as how many hours you work…it’s the consistent focus. The “jumping out of bed” every single morning, ready to serve someone.
How can it help readers?
Often no one person within a company owns customer experience – and that’s how it should be. The CEO can lead it, but everyone within the company should be focused on customer experience. That said, my book is for anyone who wants a simple explanation of customer experience and the many ways it can improve their job, their company and their market share.
What’s the future of customer experience?
In the future we will use technologies to fix many of the common customer frustrations we see today. Technology can fix the mundane customer issues so companies can focus on high touch customer experiences. When people tell me they’re afraid of the looming AI revolution, I wonder if they enjoy the many ways customer experiences are inefficient today. For example I want to ask them, do you enjoy waiting in line at the DMV? Passport control? Do you enjoy doing paperwork for insurance, healthcare etc? There is much opportunity to improve the efficiency of our world and that’s not a bad or scary thing. We need thoughtful, conscientious people leading technology strategies – and that way we can ensure we won’t have a robot take-over, but leverage technology to make people’s lives easier and better.
Blake Morgan is a Customer Experience Futurist. Her first book is “More is More: How The Best Companies Work Harder And Go Farther To Create Knock Your Socks Off Customer Experiences.” Blake is adjunct faculty at the Rutgers executive education MBA program. Blake contributes to Forbes, the Harvard Business Review and the American Marketing Association. She is the host of The Modern Customer Podcast and a weekly customer experience video series on YouTube. She’s been ranked as ICMI’s Top 50 Thought Leaders To Follow on Twitter In 2016, Clarabridge’s #1 Social Customer Service expert to follow and Customer Gauge’s top 20 customer experience experts in follow in 2017. She has worked with Intel, Verizon Wireless, and many more. She lives in the Bay Area with her husband, daughter and their two Yorkie rescues.
Your most important assets are not your customers and your employees. It’s how your customers and your employees feel about your company. Your success as a customer service manager is directly proportional to your ability to drive simultaneously customer satisfaction and employee engagement. Happy employees are inclined to go above and beyond for your customers. And when your customers feel they are cared for, they will return. You can’t satisfy customers with disengaged employees. Start there first. So what can you do to ensure your employees are engaged? As a first step, begin by asking at least one employee these two questions every day:
What are you hearing? You cannot even begin to satisfy customers until you remove all the potential dissatisfiers within the customer experience. The American Customer Satisfaction Index found that the response rates for electronic surveys were averaging between 5% and 15% . So if surveys are your only source of feedback, then at the most, you personally know 15% of all your customers’ angst. If you are interacting with customers while you supervise employees, you may know between 20 – 50% of your customers’ dissatisfiers. But your Associates know 100% of your customers complaints and concerns because your customers tell them everyday. So find out what they are hearing and act to systematically remove any potential dissatisfiers.
What can I do for you? Jan Carlzon, former CEO of SAS Airlines and author of the book, Moments of Truth said, “If you’re not serving the customer, your job is to be serving someone who is.” To serve the customer, your employees need the empowerment, tools and resources to take care of their customers. Without the tools and resources, they will not feel empowered to solve customer complaints or respond to customer questions. As much as you want your employees to fulfill your customers’ needs, you need to serve your employees to fulfill theirs. So at the end of every employee conversation, whether it is a group setting or a one-to-one conversation, ask, “What can I do for you?” Listen and then act on their suggestions. Seriously weigh every suggestion, no matter how small you might think it might be. If they mentioned it to you, it is a BIG DEAL to them. Otherwise they wouldn’t have said anything. And if it’s a BIG DEAL to them, it should be a BIG DEAL to you. Whether you are able to implement their suggestion or not, always personally get back promptly to the individual employee who offered the suggestion. It will reinforce their perception that you are committed to their success, as much as you are to your customers’ satisfaction.
QUI TAKEAWAY: The biggest complaint from employees of their managers and supervisors is a lack of communication. Ask these two questions every day to generate a flow of ideas to continually improve the employee and customer experience. Then act on the feedback you receive to drive engagement and empower your employees to deliver exceptional service that your customers will rave about to you and others.
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 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 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.
I am a big fan of Marriott International. With the recent acquisition of Starwood, Marriott is the world’s largest hotel company with over 5700 properties worldwide. If you ask loyal customers and me to describe Marriott in one word, we would respond with “Consistency.” I am convinced that the enviable growth of Marriott is based the focus of its associates to consistently deliver an experience that meets the high expectations of its customers. And that focus was set by founder JW Marriott with this business mantra, “Only close attention to the fine details of any operation makes the operation first class.” Even more succinctly, Teri puts forth in her post that, in any business,”Everything Speaks!”
Imagine visiting a fine dining restaurant for a special occasion. You’ve been looking forward to the meal and you’ve heard good things about the restaurant. Then imagine noticing something crusty on your fork and lipstick marks on your water glass. Wouldn’t you begin wondering about the cleanliness and quality of everything else in the restaurant? Everything Speaks! It’s important to pay attention to the details of the work environment because everything is communicating a message to your customers. Every detail of your physical environment says something about you and your business. Everything the customer sees, hears, smells and touches creates an impression.
Now picture a technician pulling up into a customer’s driveway. The service vehicle is dirty, dusty, missing sign letters and disorganized in appearance. The customer opens the door to greet the technician who smells, shoes are muddy, shirt askew and hands are dirty or greasy. During the application of the service, the technician receives a personal phone call, then stands around and has a cigarette before continuing the job. All this detracts from your business’s image. It both consciously or subconsciously raises the customer’s antennae and makes them question, “Do I really want to spend my money with this company?”
One of the keys to Walt Disney World’s success is meticulous attention to detail. Using the entertainment analogy of “onstage” and “offstage”, cast members are constantly reminded the importance of recognizing they are “onstage” every time they step into a guest area. Just about everything is carefully planned, managed and orchestrated to ensure a positive guest experience. Cast members are responsible for their appearance with the appropriate, clean costume, name tag and fresh-faced look. “Onstage” behaviors do not include smoking, drinking, eating, or cursing. All cast members are responsible to keep up the work area appearance by picking up trash or noting when things need maintenance.
Great memorable service people are the ones who understand the concept of Everything Speaks. I’m talking about…
The pest control technician who took off his shoes and put on cloth slippers before coming into my home.
The insulation rep who worked in my attic in 90 degrees heat, went out to his service van and changed his shirt before coming back in with the bill so he wouldn’t look or smell bad.
The plumber who showed up in his shiny, well-organized truck, clean-shaven and wearing a monogrammed polo shirt and nice trousers. After he finished installing a new garbage disposal on the kitchen sink, he cleaned up the kitchen floor. When I shared my appreciation for his thoughtfulness, he said “I always try to leave a customer’s home looking better than what it was when I came”.
Teri Yanovitch is a speaker, author, facilitator, and consultant. Her passion is helping organizations create a culture of service excellence.
Previously as a keynote speaker with the Disney Institute, she shared exemplary practices of customer service with organizations world-wide. For more than a decade, she facilitated cultural change as an executive with the company that revolutionized total quality management, Philip Crosby Associates. And for the first five years of her career, she trained hundreds of leaders and frontline staff of the Hertz Corporation in the value of the customer experience.
In 1991, she began her own firm, T.A.Yanovitch, Inc. Over the years, Teri has helped many diverse organizations such as; AAA, Marriott, Ernst & Young, Subway, America’s Blood Centers, Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise, First Citizens Banks, Ocwen Financial, and many college and universities to share her combined experience and knowledge of how to offer a customer experience that delights and differentiates one from the competition.