Monday, 14 July 2014

It’s Not the Product. It’s the Experience By Shep Hyken

Deliver a Great Customer Experience

It's More Than the Product - Low Res

What makes the great companies so great?  It’s the customer service and experience the customer receives when doing business with that company.  The companies that get it are customer-centric.  They put the customer in the middle of decisions, ideas, marketing, system design and more.

It is definitely not the product – at least not on its own.  The product can be truly amazing.  It can even be a lifestyle changer.  But that doesn’t make the company great.

For example, cable television.  Cable TV is truly amazing.  When I was a kid, growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, there was a whopping four channels to choose from.  And, the programming usually ended not long after midnight.  We were excited just to have television.  Four channels seemed like plenty.  Today we have hundreds of channels to choose from, and many with amazing high-definition clarity.  We get to record shows on the cable box to watch later.  Other shows we can watch “on demand,” when we want to watch them.  This is an amazing product.  However, the cable TV industry, as a whole, delivers an abysmal customer experience.  One of their less-than-customer-friendly policies: Asking a person to stay home on a work-day to meet the cable TV installer during a four-hour window, well, that hardly seems customer-centric.

Year after year the cable companies are, unfortunately, recognized as being customer service laggards.  Currently, customers put up with the poor service experience because there aren’t really any alternatives.  If a new company were to come into the cable industry and could provide a consistently high level of customer service, and be recognized for it, they would have the opportunity to own the industry.

Then there are companies that have both the product and the experience.  Companies like Apple, who create products that people don’t even realize they need.  Even the packaging of their products adds to the customer’s experience.  And, they are recognized as a leader in customer service.  What would it look like if Apple had a cable TV offering?  I bet customers would even pay a premium if they received the Apple experience.

By the way, a company that delivers a great customer experience won’t survive if the product or service the company sells doesn’t work or do what it’s supposed to do.  There are certain expectations that the customer has.  It’s the combination of the two, a great product and an amazing customer service experience, that can propel a company to the top of their industry.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Moving from Customer Service to Customer Care By Gareth Cartman

However you measure customer service, making improvements is never simple.

Organizations who have moved from good to great and are delivering world class service have done so by implementing root-and-branch change of how they interact with customers.

Indeed, you could say that they’ve gone from customer service to customer care.

The two concepts are worlds apart. It’s one thing to serve customers, but it’s quite another to actually care for them.

We traditionally associate care with health, and the parallels are not wholly out of place. You can provide good service with healthcare, but that only implies the basics – welcoming, reacting, etc. When you care, you’re proactive, and you listen to the needs of the customer (or patient), or better – provide what your customer needs before they say they need it.

Customer care begins with learning to listen to customers

How well do you actually listen? John Cronin pointed out that listening isn’t as simple as we at first thought. In fact, when many people say they’re listening, they’re not – they’re ready to jump in to a conversation with their own arguments and points of view, irrespective of what has been said.

Effective communication is as much about good listening as good articulation.

So, learn to listen to your customers better. Don’t be ready with a standard chunk of pre-learned text, don’t be ready with flow-charts that dictate a conversation – actually have a conversation, and make it a two-way communication where you are listening in the customer’s context, not yours.

Secondly, learning to listen doesn’t always have to be in a conversation. Social listening is the Next. Big. Thing, at least according to the software industry, with large and small organizations investing heavily in ways to listen in to social conversations.

Look at Microsoft’s sudden investment in a field it had so willingly avoided for so long – partly in an attempt to catch up with Salesforce, but also because customer service and marketing teams have been floundering with the disintegration of customer interaction points.

When you show customer care, you’re proactive, you listen and understand customers, then deliver on needs before they even ask for it.

Listening socially means knowing where to look in the first instance, but it also involves human interpretation. You can automate all you like, but sentiment monitoring and scoring cannot always be done by computer.

Growing your customer knowledge

This social listening feeds into a wider view of the customer. We know contact details, purchase & product details, and we even log our one-to-one conversations, but are we logging sentiment? Are we logging those social conversations to which we are not even party?

Right at the heart of customer care is a technological issue that can only be solved by people. That sounds like a conundrum, but the answer is not technology – it’s how you use it.

First consider what knowledge would improve your customer care. What nuggets of information could move you up a level in customers’ eyes? Then decide how you’re going to pull that knowledge in to one central location (CRM, database, whatever) and how you’re going to interpret & use that knowledge.

If a prized customer has been talking to a friend on Twitter about how slow you are to respond, this isn’t an opportunity to jump in and dominate the conversation. It’s an opportunity to log that information against the customer, and ensure that all stakeholders in customer interactions know about it. Therefore, sentiment isn’t too good, and the customer needs quicker responses.

Growing your knowledge cannot happen without a method of centralizing and utilizing that knowledge.

Growing a culture of customer care

We can get hung up on metrics – customer retention, reaction times, NPS scores… but it’s only when we get everyone’s buy-in that these metrics actually make any sense. For a lot of people, they’ll just be figures that ‘management’ have imposed.

A greater understanding of why these metrics are being measured contributes massively to their value.

From there, a greater appreciation of how customer care has made a difference to the business can help ingrain more customer-focused attitudes into the workplace. For instance, celebrating great examples of how customer issues have been turned around, or better – celebrating great examples of how customer knowledge have been turned into customer success – can really enthuse people and get everyone thinking about how to ‘care’ for customers rather than just ‘serve’ them.

Encourage, enhance, then engage with customers

By firstly encouraging people – and then by giving them the resources and tools to proactively care for customers – you can develop a culture that puts customer care at its heart.

These, for me, are the three key elements of moving from customer service to customer care: learning to listen, interpreting your findings, and developing a culture of customer care. Those foundations – of learning, listening and interpreting – should flow naturally through an organisation. If everyone is bought in to the idea, if everyone sees what they’re getting out of it, everyone does better.

Monday, 7 July 2014

When it Comes to Customer Service, Be a Leader By Shep Hyken

I was boarding a very early morning flight to Dallas.  One of the pilots of the plane, Gerald Higginbotham, was greeting every single person who walked on the plane.  He was so outgoing and engaging.  He welcomed everyone and built rapport with many of the passengers.

He would ask, “Where are you going?”  If they said anywhere other than Dallas, he would say, “Well we’re flying to Dallas, and as long as that is on your way, you’re on the right plane.”  Then he would laugh.

He had lots of little sayings that put smiles on everyone’s faces.  I was sitting in my seat and admiring this amazing display of enthusiastic interaction.  I’ve seen pilots engage with passengers before, but not at this level.

Then came the bad news.  Our flight was going to be delayed by at least a half hour due to weather.  That didn’t scare too many people.  But, a few minutes later we found out it would be at least an hour.  Typically when this kind of news is announced many of the passengers start to get restless.  They want to leave the plane, see a gate agent, call reservations or do just about anything, to feel like they are proactively doing something to avoid missing connections or being late to their destination.  I’m one of those passengers.

But, that day was different.  I was in a different mood and so were many of the passengers.  And it was all because of our pilot, Gerald Higginbotham.  His mood was contagious.  And that is what brings me to the point.

You may have heard the old expression: Enthusiasm is contagious.  Well here’s a new one: Customer service is contagious.  Actually it might be better to say that…

Friendly customer service is contagious.

There is no doubt that Gerald put us into a better mood.  His mood made accepting the bad news easier.  It wasn’t the airlines fault that there was bad weather.  And, by the way, there are many passengers that seem to think it’s the airlines fault when there is a delay due to weather.  But, I digress.  It just seemed that the outward friendliness of our pilot made everyone a little happier, more accepting and more tolerant.

And, guess what else?  The other captain and all of the flight attendants were in a better mood too, and as a result, they delivered an even higher level of customer service.

Here’s the lesson:  A friendly, outgoing, customer focused employee can raise the bar for everyone.  Gerald set a great example for the rest of the employees to follow, and they did.  In a sense, Gerald created the plane’s “culture.” Just like any other company might have a customer focused culture, it starts with leadership.

And, here is a reminder about leadership.  My friend and colleague Mark Sanborn says that you don’t need a title to be a leader.  And when it comes to customer service, anyone can step up and be a leader and role model. So, step up.  Set an example.  Others will follow.  It’s contagious!

Shep Hyken

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Customer Centricity Should be at the Core of Customer Service By Tatiana Ceresa

The Internet has changed the way organizations interact with their stakeholders, both internal and external. But, have companies truly made the effort to implement a strategy to communicate effectively with their internal audiences to effectively improve their external audiences? Well, yes and no. Here is one of my favorite quotes from Paul A. Argenti’s Digital Strategies for Powerful Corporate Communications:

“Culture shapes the employee experience, which in turn, affects the customer experience, business partner relationships, and ultimately shareholder value.” 

Essentially, customer service starts from the inside and works its way out. But, how can organizations ensure their customers are receiving the best service from employees? Well, they simply must align culture with values, which resonate with employees and customers alike. Easy enough, right? Maybe, maybe not. It definitely requires all parts of an organization to be connected, which demands a cohesive and integrated marketing strategy. What is an integrated marketing strategy? The Journal of Integrated Marketing Communications defines it as:

“Integrated marketing communications (IMC) is a customer-centric, data-driven method of communication with consumers. IMC—the management of all organized communications to build positive relationships with customers and other stakeholders—stresses marketing to the individual by understanding needs, motivations, attitudes, and behaviors.”

So, IMC emphasizes a customer-centric communications strategy, but what does that really entail and what can you do to create a customer-centric strategy? Simple, give them great service! To show you what we mean, what better way to gain insight into best practices in customer relations than to ask our client services team at GreenRope?  Here are a few tips and practices these client service guru’s use to establish good relations with every GreenRope client:            

1. Create and cultivate a relationship based on human connection.

Client Services manager, Darius, explains that customer-centricity begins with connecting with the customer on a personal level. Most people think support is purely technical, yet Darius believes that building a conversational relationship with the people he helps improves the overall experience, both for him and the customer. His commitment to knowing each client on a personal level allows him to create a more fulfilling experience, which helps establish trust and understanding. This understanding resonates with one of GreenRope’s core values: commitment to the support of our clients. Darius aligns himself with company values, making communication with the customer an enjoyable experience on both ends.

2. Be empathetic and share your own experiences.

When people buy a product or service, they often need direction to effectively use it. Sometimes it can be daunting and a little frustrating to learn how to use a new product or service, even when tutorials, help pages, and step-by-step directions are available to you. People like to speak with people (and preferably don’t want to wait 45 minutes listening to elevator music, until the ‘next representative is available’). Darius explains that empathy is a beneficial trait to have when speaking with customers because it allows you to better understand their frustrations, concerns, or issues. He finds that sharing a personal experience that resonates with the customer is a great way to guide them through the problem. Once the problem is solved, the customer usually feels more comfortable asking for assistance and feels empowered to tackle each issue that arises. This demonstrates customer support’s role as ‘your partner in business,’ another of GreenRope’s core values. GreenRope illustrates our culture of being accessible and approachable by using personal anecdotes and empathy to relate and put all issues and concerns into perspective. 

3. Be quick to respond
Nothing screams “I don’t care about my customers” more than making them wait for a response. Lagging on response time makes customers frustrated before they even speak with an employee. If customers are annoyed from the get-go then it is much harder to create a good experience for them. On the other hand, responding quickly screams “I want to help you solve any issue you have!” Even if you cannot address the problem immediately, merely saying that you acknowledge it will improve the customer experience. It also prevents your leads from exiting the sales funnel. A delayed response can potentially drive people away from your brand, so make sure to gratify instantly!

Client service is at the front end of communicating with existing customers. Of course, customer-centricity must be at the heart of your sales and marketing as well. Are your customers consistently happy with their interactions with your brand? Would they recommend your brand to a friend? If the answers are yes then keep doing what your doing! If your employees aren’t communicating with customers using these three tips, then consider sitting down with your customer service team to get an idea of the main obstacle people are having, or gain feedback on your service using a survey. 

Monday, 30 June 2014

Are These The 13 Worst Customer Service Mistakes Ever? By Micah Solomon

Here’s my list of 13 cringe worthy customer service mistakes I see companies make again and again and again. All fixable (which keeps me in business), but all tragic in their little, or more than little, way.

1.Refusing to say you’re sorry.

2.Saying you’re sorry in a way that makes it obvious that you aren’t, really.

3.Being late, being misleading about timetables, being insensitive to the timing issues and pacing preferences and expectations of your customers.  Remember: a perfect product, delivered late, is a defect.

4.Treating your employees like dirt and expecting them to treat their customers like gold. You get a lot better results (not to mention karma) by emulating institutions like the Ritz-Carlton with its central operating philosophy of  putting employees and customers first: “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.”

5.Burning your customers (and therefore yourself) because something bad happened once, or even never.  Not taking checks, for instance, because one time someone bounced one.

6.Forgetting it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it, specifically, it’s the language you use.   Language needs to be gentle, kind, and brand appropriate—without sounding stilted. And language includes getting the “words without words” right at your company as well: yielding the right of way to customers, never having your back to a guest, and so on.

7.Failing the “cues to quality” test: customers in every setting pick up cues to quality from the darnedest places. Typos in your signs, dirty shoelaces on your nurses—this stuff matters.

8.Getting everything right except the beginning and the ending—the two most important moments as far as a customer’s memory is concerned.

9.Not realizing the beginning starts before the beginning—that customers are picking up info and implications about you before they ever arrive at your official website or the front door of your establishment.

10.Hiring the wrong people and expecting that you’ll be able to provide good customer service anyway.

11.Hiring the right people but then failing to give them power: power to help customers in ways you haven’t thought of, power to design their tasks differently, power to do their best for you.

12.Trying to be all Dale Carnegie by inserting your customer’s name into every other line of a conversation – but using the wrong pronunciation.  Or, personalizing your correspondence with a customer – but misspelling her name.

13.Getting excited about your newly-installed self-service channel, and then forcing every customer to use it, whether it suits them or not.

What did I leave out?  Do any of these not deserve to be on the list?  Any great examples (tragic examples) of anything on the list? I’d enjoy hearing from experts and civilians alike in the comments below, and I’ll update the article as great ones come up.

Micah Solomon is a customer experience consultant, customer service speaker, and author.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

When Business is Good, Customer Service Gets Tested By Shep Hyken

You know your company is doing well when new business comes in the door, and old customers keep coming back. During growth spurts, time gets tight. That’s when customer care is most in jeopardy.

It starts with a whisper that creeps into even the most dedicated minds saying things like:

 “I don’t have time to follow up on that email. It will have to wait.” Followed later with, “I think I’m forgetting something.”Gently nagging while dozing off to sleep, “Did I ever respond to William about his order request for George?”

That whisper will have you weighing which customers are “worth” your limited time, and which ones can be put off “for just a while.

It can hypnotize you to “reach for the nearest cookie” for comfort when you’re feeling time-starved and overwhelmed.  Over time, it rewrites each employee’s definition of “this is the way we do things.”

Customer service can appear to be intangible – hard to measure, and hard to track. It’s not an impossible metric. The issue most people fail to factor in is this – customer service always needs immediate attention, though the bottom-line impacting results are not immediate.

As you look around your business at the height of success, what you’re seeing isn’t your current customer service culture at work. You’re seeing the results of your PAST service efforts.

That whisper that shows up during times of growth, much like a new puppy, needs to be trained so it doesn’t make a mess of things.

What can you do about it?

ACKNOWLEDGE TEMPTATIONS. Pay attention to thoughts that tempt you to skimp on the customer experience and congratulate yourself for noticing it. You can’t make positive adjustments unless you notice what needs adjusting.

HAVE BRAVE CONVERSATIONS. Talk to your team and “out” yourself. Talk about your own struggles with service levels and check in to see if others have had similar issues due to time constraints and growing demands. Your authenticity will make it easier for others to share concerns openly.

FOCUS ON SOLUTIONS. Brainstorm ways to minimize any growing pains your clients experience as you put new systems in place to handle the new work load your company’s success has created.

PRACTICE ACCOUNTABILITY. Hold yourself and your company accountable to maintaining a culture of customer care. Growth is a good problem to have as long as the commitment to uphold service values stays intact.

Today’s Marketing Keeps Customers Coming Back: Customer Service Is the New Marketing By Shep Hyken

Traditional marketing was used to get customers “in the door.”  But today’s marketing keeps customers coming back.  It’s more than a marketing message.  It’s a marketing experience.

More and more, the case for customer service and experience is being closely linked, if not actually one in the same, with marketing becoming stronger.  The marketing department has always been responsible for delivering a message or brand promise that makes customers want to do business with you.  At one time marketing was all about the product.  In some cases, it still is.  However, the smart companies are recognizing that what they sell is a commodity; in that most of the time their customers can find the exact product, or something very similar, at another business or website.  The smart companies market more than the product.  They market the benefit of buying that product from them.  And, the benefit that is commonly used is the promise of customer service and an amazing experience.

Think about the advertising on TV, radio, print and online that touts various customer service awards, such as JD Power.  These companies want you to know they deliver value beyond the product.  That is what they do to de-commoditize themselves from their competition.

The “New Marketing” continues long after customers hear or see the original message. It happens throughout the entire customer journey, and when the customer comes back, it repeats itself.  The new way of marketing is to be so good throughout the customer’s journey – at every interaction or touch-point – that the customer not only wants to come back, but also evangelizes on behalf of the company.  Hence, the term, word-of-mouth marketing.  The perfect situation is when the customer tells their friends, family members and business associates about not only the product they love, but the company from which they bought it.

Tom Baldwin, the former Chairman and CEO of Morton’s The Steakhouse, used to say that the restaurant chain’s best marketing didn’t come from any traditional advertising on television, radio, newspapers or magazines.  It came from the employees doing what they were supposed to do; deliver an exceptional experience that made their guests want to come back and talk about it to their friends.

The key is to manage all of the contact that your customers have with you throughout and after their experience that reinforces, that they made the right decision to do business with you.  It’s about how you handle the touch-points and interactions that the customer has with your people, your website, your support channels and more.

Customer service drives the customer experience.  That’s your best marketing.  That’s the New Marketing.