Customers Rock!

A blog about customers, their experiences, and how businesses can make sure their customer experiences rock!

Archive for the ‘Customer strategy’ Category

Right-Selling Customers

Posted by Becky Carroll on April 22, 2008

 I read an interesting article on “Scientific Selling”, which started with the following tagline:

“The way in which a customer is handled has much to do with results obtained.”

How true that is!  It goes on to discuss how a customer cannot be “up-sold” unless that customer is thoroughly understood.

“The worst evil in selling is the action of the man who merely gives the customer what he asks for.  The man who does this is not a salesman, he is just a clerk.”

This article, by the way, is from the New York Times and was printed June 18, 1922!  It still rings true today. 

We need to understand not just who our customers are and what they say they want, but we also need to understand how they are currently using our products and services.  Yesterday, I spoke with Nancy Arter and Suzanne Obermire at RRW Consulting (their blog here) about the marketing basic of “right selling” customers.  We agreed that the most-satisfied customers tend to be those who are using the products and services which are a best fit for their needs.

For example, when I was at HP, I worked in the division where we marketed service subscriptions for HP’s mainframe computers to businesses.  Part of the service subscription included software updates and the ability to contact the call center (this was before eSupport was prevalent!).  At the end of the year, a customer could decide whether to renew their subscription.  If they never called in with a problem, they might have felt that they didn’t get value from their investment.  The most successful subscription services salespeople (say that three times fast!) were those that helped a business find the right level of service for the next year, rather than trying to renew them on the same (under-utilized) level of service.

Some of you may be thinking, hey, they left money on the table!  You should just try and get the most from the customer.  This, readers, is short-term thinking – trying to maximize the amount of revenues this quarter or year.  This type of thinking backfires when a customer realizes they have been over-paying for services they don’t use, and they then get upset that they weren’t told they could have switched to a subscription which was a better fit. (Does this sound familiar – cell phone plans come to mind…)

The long-term viewpoint says we want our customers to have the right level of service.  That may mean that they reduce the level of service they have with us.  However, if it is the right level of service, the customer will ultimately be more satisfied.  Customer satisfaction equates to long-term loyalty, which equates to increased positive word of mouth.

And that is what right-selling is all about!

(Flickr photo credit: TimParkinson)

Posted in B2B Marketing, Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Customer service, Customer strategy, Marketing, word of mouth | Tagged: , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Focus on WOW for Customers

Posted by Becky Carroll on April 10, 2008

 I just got back from my local branch of Wells Fargo, and something caught my eye behind the friendly teller, Jennifer.  Another employee was preparing a chart to go on the wall entitled, “11 Ways to WOW the Customer.”  Of course, being the customer-focused professional that I am, I had to ask about the chart.

Great Customer Service

Jennifer told me it was to help remind the team about customer service, with the main goal being that customers feel welcome each time they come into the bank.  They want the experience to be such a good one that customers will seek them out for their future banking activities, even if this is not their home branch.  Most of the items on the chart are simple, such as welcoming customers into the bank verbally when they come in the door.  Smiling.  Or, as she said, “Keeping your grump to yourself!”

This is consistent with Wells Fargo’s corporate focus on customers.  Here is an excerpt from the Customer Service page on their website, describing the 11 Ways to WOW.

“Welcoming”

  • you make me feel at home.
  • you care about me.
  • you make me feel special.

“Delivering value”

  • you give me the right advice.
  • you provide me value.
  • you keep your promises.

“Following up and building relationships”

  • you help me when I really need it.
  • you know me.
  • when you make a mistake you make things even better.
  • you thank me.
  • you reach out to me.

Employee Retention

Jennifer said this customer focus makes the branch experience not only better for customers, but also better for her and the other employees that work there.  She enjoys her job more when she is able to truly help customers with their needs.  She spends time talking to them about the task at hand, but she also spends time listening to them talk about their lives.  Customers have become her regulars, and one of them even brought in not one, but two cakes for the team.  The pace at this branch is a little more leisurely, so the employees there have time to chat with customers, their kids, and even their dogs!

I love this line, again from the Wells Fargo website: “We’re only as good as our first impression and last connection. This is all about culture and attitude.”

That, my friends, is what this blog is all about. 

 

WOW Your Customers

I encourage each of you to think of how you can WOW your customers.  Don’t leave it to chance or count on just hiring great employees.  That is not enough.  Customers Rock! companies set a goal for WOW customer interactions, then they make a specific plan to meet that goal.  Finally, they check back with their customers to see whether they made a difference from the customer’s perspective.

Jennifer, you guys rock!  Thanks for making it special, and I will work on baking you some cookies for the next time I come in…

(Photo credit: ChrisL_AK)

Posted in B2B Marketing, Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Customer service, Customer strategy, Customers Rock!, Marketing | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

FreshBooks Rocks: Getting Personal with Customers

Posted by Becky Carroll on April 2, 2008

wagon.png One of the best ways to get to know your customers is to spend time with them face-to-face.  This method of doing business is a hallmark of a Customers Rock! company and is usually supplemented with other types of customer conversation, including traditional and social media marketing.  For FreshBooks, based in Toronto, Canada, this is not an unusual way to do business – it is business as usual!

Unique Customer Outreach

FreshBooks provides online invoicing and time-tracking for service professionals.  I had the chance to speak with CEO Mike McDerment, and he shared with me his story about their unique and effective customer outreach campaign.  Mike and a few other folks from FreshBooks were attending two different conferences here in the USA last month, including speaking at this year’s SXSW conference in Austin, Texas.  Coming from Toronto, the easiest way to get there would have been to fly – but not for this team.  They decided to take the fun path and rent an RV (see photo above), meeting and talking with customers along the way!  By the end of their Roadburn roadtrip, Mike and his employees Saul (who put the trip together) and Sunir (marketing and community development) had 11 meals over a period of 4 days, meeting with more than 100 customers over breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  The Roadburn blog above chronicles the trip, and several customers came out to it, requesting stops in their towns.

vinyl_rev01.png This was not a product roadshow.  This was a listening tour.  Mike and his team didn’t lead the conversations at all.  They merely asked a few simple questions to get them started, such as, “Hey, how are you?  What do you do?”  Rather than peppering their customers with questions, they encouraged the customers to network with each other.  By the end of these meals, many of these customers were swapping business cards and planning to do business with each other.  According to Mike, the result was “almost a mini eco-system!”  Listening in this type of environment provides fresh (get it?) customer insights that you can’t get on a survey!

I loved the way the FreshBooks team described the intent of the road trip on their site:

“The FreshBooks RoadBurn may seem like a stunt or a marketing ploy but in reality it is pretty much what FreshBooks is all about….listening to it’s beautiful customer base and getting to know them on a level that other companies wouldn’t make the effort to do so.”

Getting to Know You

FreshBooks wants to get to know customers and wants to be easy to talk to as well.  They have actually been holding these “customer meals” for about four years now.  According to Mike, every time he goes to a city he gets a list of FreshBooks customers in that city, and he invites them out for dinner to see what is going on with their business.  As you can imagine, this is pretty effective for building customer relationships, as well as for great word-of-mouth.  Mike says,

“We are conscious that there is always someone on the other end of the computer screen who is using our products.  We keep asking ourselves, how can we get closer to our customers?”

FreshBooks does it not only with face-to-face meetings, but they believe that social media really helps, too.  First of all, there is their blog, FreshThinking.  FreshBooks uses it as a way to communicate updates to their customers, as well as business tips and other tidbits.  It must be working – the blog regularly gets comments and has over 1100 readers (per Feedburner).  In addition, FreshBooks is a big fan of Twitter.  They twittered the road trip as they went across the country; Mike described it as “random and quirky” writings.  They Twitter from inside of FreshBooks as well to share with customers what is going on at the company.  It is also part of their customer support mix.  For example, the aforementioned Saul, at home on a weekday evening, sees someone using Twitter to ask how to do something in FreshBooks, and he replies and gives the answer. 

Good customer service, right?  Yes.  FreshBooks is paying attention to customer conversation and helping where needed.  Per Mike, “…we are not instigating these conversations; rather, we are being where they are.”

Caring – A Core Value

Customers are embedded in the corporate culture at FreshBooks; it is in their DNA.  Mike supports this in a few ways.  One, he hires for fit.  He describes this as hiring people who feel good about helping people out.  In addition, everyone at FreshBooks does a rotation into customer support.  This gives all employees the opportunity to hear from customers directly and to understand their pain points.

Mike says one of their core values is caring.  As CEO, Mike is always taking care of employees, making sure they have what they need for their jobs as well as looking out for their happiness and health.  Here is his formula for success:

Take care of staff –> Staff takes care of customers –> Customers take care of referrals

This works!  From customer satisfaction surveys last year, FreshBooks had a customer referral rate of 98%.  This year, the rate went up to 99%!  This rocks.  Per Mike: “There is really nothing better.  Happy customers are a great pool of positive WOM.”

I couldn’t have said it better, Mike.  FreshBooks rocks!

Posted in B2B Marketing, Customer loyalty, Customer service, Customer strategy, Customers Rock!, Marketing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

How do Customers Want to Engage in Social Media?

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 26, 2008

blog.jpg I spoke to a fabulous group of marketers last night at the iMarketers.org meeting, talking about social media and customer loyalty.  Before the talk, I spoke with a few of the attendees about how they were using social media to engage with their existing customers.  As I listened to some of the ways people were working with new media for “old” customers, I started to hear three main themes critical to success.

  • Ask customers – Don’t just assume your existing customers want to engage in a certain way or with certain media.  If the uptake isn’t what you expected, go back and ask your customer/client base whether they use this media.  If so, how do they use it?  If not, why not?  What might get them to use it?
  • Use trial and error- The adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” was never more true than in the age of social media.  One example we discussed last night was a sports and social club and their use of Facebook.  Members were definitely engaging through this medium, and the CEO was looking for ways to further get customers involved.  He thought the “Send someone a beer/martini/drink” application would be a perfect fit for this group of active adults, as the club often met in bars after the sports events were over.  It flopped.  However, putting photos of the sports contests and the after-sports happy hours was a big hit!
  • Make a plan- Don’t just blog or start using MySpace because everyone else is doing it.  Social media needs to be as well thought-out as the rest of your marketing mix, perhaps even more so because it is so quickly visible!  Set goals, create guidelines for your internal team, test with customers, and ask for feedback.  In other words, treat social media as a great marketing tool, using the same rigor as you would for direct mail or email (those are still great tools to use).

Do you have any social media tips for how to better engage with customers?  Come on out and share them here!

Posted in B2B Marketing, Customer experience, Customer strategy, Marketing, social media | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

New eBook on Social Media

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 7, 2008

ebook-solis.jpg Last month, I got a chance to meet another blogger, Brian Solis of PR 2.0, face to face in San Francisco.  We had a great conversation, and the next day he asked me if I would be willing to collaborate on his upcoming eBook on, what else, social media. 

Here we are one month later, and Brian just launched his eBook today!  It is titled, “Customer Service: The Art of Listening and Engagement Through Social Media.”  Brian was nice enough to give me billing right on the front cover – thanks, Brian!

If you haven’t read any of Brian’s writings, then you should definitely pick up this eBook.  He and I come from a very similar perspective on many things, and his thinking is simply brilliant.  If you have read Brian before, then you need to pick this up, as you know what you will be getting – lots of good information!  It relates very well to my three key points from my post earlier this week on social media and relationships:

  • Social media is one tool in the toolbox for interacting with customers.  It will work well if customers are willing to engage in that medium!
  • Social media is a great tool to help create and strengthen relationships.
  • It is all about the people.

You can download the eBook from Brian’s site or from right here at Customers Rock!

PDF version

Word version

Let us know what you think, and if you have any other examples of using social media to engage and interact with customers, please send them along.

Posted in Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Customer service, Customer strategy, eBooks, social media | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Which Customer Matters Most?

Posted by Becky Carroll on February 25, 2008

goofy.jpg In a recent post, I gave an example of doing little things to grow a customer relationship.  It was a good reminder about using long-term rather than short-term thinking when it comes to customers.   An individual could look small now but be coming into a growth period due to their lifestage/change in status.  A small business customer today could acquire (or be acquired) tomorrow and become very valuable.

When I was with Peppers and Rogers Group, we spent a lot of time helping clients figure out how to measure this very thing, as well as creating action plans for each customer value segment.  Don Peppers and Martha Rogers also wrote a great book about this called Return on Customer.  I highly recommend it!

In a down economy, increasing the value of existing customers may be a critical success factor.   Here are some questions to ask yourself as you think about your customer base:

  • Are we focused on growing our business organically through increasing share of wallet with each customer?  

Expanding business with existing customers is often the easiest way to grow.

  • Are we looking for ways to get our community of customers engaged with us to the point where they become “passionistas” for our brand, sharing their enthusiasm with others?  

Brand ambassadors can do more for sales than our own marketing departments.

  • Are we doing something as simple as thanking our existing customers for their continued business – without trying to sell them something? 

Whenever I speak to groups, I always get feedback on how many are making a point to simply thank their customers.  Most aren’t!

As on most Mondays, I was a guest today on the Big Biz Show, a nationally-syndicated radio program.  I was asked which company I considered to be tops at customer service.   I answered, “The Disney resorts.”  Each Cast Member (ie. employee) at a Disney resort goes out of their way to make each moment magical for guests (visitors).  I have had many wonderful experiences myself at Disney resorts, including an experience this past fall where I was overwhelmed by the generosity of a Disney Cast Member.

Over fifty years ago, Disney was one of the first to put customer service first and foremost; today, the Disney resorts are often viewed as a standard for other organizations.

Companies, such as Disney, that are held up as shining examples of customer service or customer focus usually do things a little differently.  They view their customer service department as a key contact point with customers – and measure their agents on customer satisfaction rather than talk time.  They put the customer experience at the center of their strategy.  They hire for people-skills first and foremost.  They empower employees to do the right thing for the customer.   They set expectations properly – then exceed them.  And they consider each interaction with a customer to be critical to the brand experience… 

Because you never know who will be your most valuable customer next month – or next year.

(Image credit:solarseven)

Posted in Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Customer strategy | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

How do I Love Thee?

Posted by Becky Carroll on February 14, 2008

hearts-and-hands.jpg Let me count the ways…

Love is in the air today as it is Valentine’s Day in the USA.  Here at Customers Rock!, we think about the ways we let our customers know we care about and appreciate them.  Some of us are not very good at that (or so you have told me), and we need reminders to make it happen.  Consider this your reminder – go out and let your best customers know you appreciate them and their business!

Of course, this act of recognition should be part of your larger customer strategy – you know, the one which outlines how you want to strengthen your customer relationships.  If you are a little short on ideas, go check out today’s post by Toby Bloomberg at Diva Marketing Blog.  Toby has enlisted many of her friends (me included – thanks, Toby!) to share how they build relationships with vendors/clients.  Some common threads seem to be the following:

  • Communicate openly, honestly, and frequently
  • Seek out the needs of the other person – then listen closely and take action!
  • Look for the win-win at all times
  • Build a personal relationship where possible
  • Be willing to give more than you receive; don’t always look for something in return
  • Shut up and listen!
  • Exceed expectations

I would add one more to the list – follow up with customers/clients at times when you aren’t trying to sell anything… like today.

Now go do it!

(Photo credit: Drx)

Posted in Customer loyalty, Customer strategy | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Re-Experiencing Starbucks

Posted by Becky Carroll on February 1, 2008

coffeecup.jpg Special Project: Jay Ehret of The Marketing Spot and Becky Carroll of Customers Rock!

Howard Schultz has returned to Starbucks and promises a return to the customer experience. We salute that announcement. Starbucks holds a special place in our heart and we want to do our part to help Howard get it right.

Inspired by John Moore’s 2007 Manifesto : WHAT MUST STARBUCKS DO?, Jay and I have decided to work with Howard (even though he hasn’t hired us) to help Starbucks improve their customer experience in 2008.

Today we begin a series of posts that will continue throughout the year. We will analyze the current Starbucks experience, make suggestions for improvement, and then compare at the end of the year. You are invited to contribute with your comments and suggestions; let us know what you see/don’t see changing about the customer experience at the Starbucks you visit!

Jay already has his post up, which includes a letter to Howard and some commentary.   Here is my take on the “state of the Starbucks experience.”

It’s All About Customers

I am very glad to hear Mr. Schultz’s plan to put customers at the center of business decisions.  Starbucks used to focus on being what they called the “third place” – not home, not work, but somewhere in-between the two where people could come to relax and talk.  When I lived in the UK, I found something similar in their pubs.  That was where people went to relax, have something to drink or eat, and meet up with friends. 

It will be interesting to see how this plays out for Starbucks over the coming months.  I understand that more details are coming in March.  In the meantime, here are some Customers Rock! observations about the current Starbucks experience in my neck of the woods, San Diego.

Kudos Here

One of the best things about the Starbucks experience is the baristas. 

At every Starbucks I have ever gone into, the employees are always friendly, smiling, and helpful.  They know the names of their regulars and chat with them upon sight.  They are patient at explaining things patrons don’t understand (there is quite a lingo to learn).  They always listen to kids when they place their orders, viewing them as important (and future!) customers.  They are polite and quick to help when there is a problem (like a spill), never making someone feel bad.  They apologize when there is a wait and thank you for their business.  Starbucks, your employees rock!

They have a nice atmosphere with music and soft, comfy chairs in one area.

We always scope out those soft armchairs when we go in.  They make the environment feel friendly and more like being in someone’s living room.  (Not all Starbucks have this, though.)  The background music is great, and it is kind of fun being able to see that on an iPod now (for possible purchase).

Room for Improvement Here

Improve the store navigation.

Starbucks, like other companies, has expanded their offerings beyond coffee and drinks.  I find that this is often difficult to do well.  In the case of Starbucks, their aisles are now so full of displays of coffee mugs, espresso machines, and bagged coffee that it can become difficult to navigate the store.

starbucks-line.jpg For example, I took this picture today during the morning rush.  It was a little hard not to knock into some of the display items (a major concern for young moms with their toddlers) on my way to place my order in this queue.  Harder still was navigating my way back out!  I couldn’t go down this line in reverse, and on the other side of the display were the ordering stations.

One look into a Starbucks of late appears to be more of a retail shop than a coffee shop.  And people hate being sold to all the time.

Encourage people to stay awhile.

More comfortable chairs (only a few of those aforementioned soft chairs are in each store, and some don’t have any) would be great.  Also, if Starbucks is looking to encourage those with laptops, slightly larger tables would be handy (hard to put a laptop, coffee, and pastry on the table at the same time).  One of my local Starbucks has a nice laptop station, like you might find in a library, with a long table which could accommodate multiple laptops.  It has a power strip down the middle and some low lighting.

Jay also mentioned the high cost of WiFi, which I won’t go into here but do agree with as it is a great way to get customers to stay longer and buy more.

If employees aren’t too busy serving other customers or cleaning/prepping for later, they could offer to clear away cups, etc, for current patrons while they are wiping down tables.  Just a nice touch to consider.

Decide what to do about the food.

I have seen press that states Starbucks will no longer offer the breakfast sandwiches because their aroma overtakes the wonderful smell of coffee.  I haven’t personally noticed that, but I have noticed that most pastries are very dry.  Choose the food you will offer (don’t forget to ask your customers what they want!) and do it well.  Don’t try to be everything to everyone.

Most importantly, spend more time finding out what customers want.

What are the Starbucks customers’ needs and preferences?  Mr. Schultz has referred to comments from baristas as a way he gets input on what works and what doesn’t, which is great!  Talking to the front line employees is very helpful in finding out what to improve.  However, I would like to see more effort spent on finding out what customers like by asking them directly.  Perhaps Starbucks is doing a lot of this already (I do know they sometimes hand out special survey codes with receipts), but it isn’t being discussed right now in the press releases. 

Talk to the different types of customers you get and see what each type would like to have.  For example, those young moms might like to have a changing table in the restroom.  Students, business people, and travelers will all have their specific needs as well.  Who is the Starbucks target/ideal customer?   Starbucks shouldn’t cater to everyone, but they should definitely understand their most loyal customers – and take care of them.  If they can do that, there won’t be a need to offer $1 cups of mini-coffee or worry about losing customers to other chains.

What do you see? 

That’s it for now.  Jay and I will be keeping an eye on how the Starbucks experience changes over these upcoming months and will be reporting back what we observe.  Please send in your observations, comments, and suggestions.  Alternatively, comment on your blog and let us know; we’ll refer to your post with a link.  I have seen some good links on Glenn Ross’s blog, including a reference to a barista blog.

Let’s help Starbucks get back to offering a fabulous experience!

Posted in Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Customer service, Customer strategy, Marketing, Starbucks Project | Tagged: , , , , | 25 Comments »

Buick Reaches Out to Golfing Owners

Posted by Becky Carroll on January 29, 2008

members-only.jpg I attended the semi-final round at the Buick Invitational Golf Tournament this past weekend, held at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego (beautiful course!).  It was great fun watching Tiger Woods and other golfers tackling the rugged terrain (and managing the fans).  Something else caught my eye: the VIP tents.

We looked at the usual VIP tents, sponsored by companies for their guests (many of whom were likely valuable customers); is there any way for the average Joe to get into a hospitality area?  The Buick Owner VIP Area provided that luxury, and all you had to do to get in was show your Buick car keys!  Once inside the ropes, you registered as a Buick owner and had access to an area where you could relax.  Additionally, from what I could understand, you also had access to a VIP viewing area on the 18th fairway!  (As I am not a Buick owner, I couldn’t get in to check it out for all of you, and the security person at the ropes couldn’t tell me much… did any of you readers attend this?  Let me know if you were a Buick Owner VIP!)

I would bet that Buick customers were surprised and delighted at this offering.  Plus, the people who were “in” would feel like part of a special community.  What a great way to tell your customers you appreciate them!

Buick has been reaching out to its customers interested in golf in other ways as well.  Through their Buick Clubhouse loyalty program, Buick owners have the opportunity to purchase special tickets to premier golf events.  Their interactive Clubhouse website is actually kind of fun; Tiger Woods invites you to come in, and he prompts you to click on various areas while you are there (must have been fun for him to do!). 

The loyalty program targets new owners, but Buick is also accepting existing customers into the program.  Per an article in Promo magazine, Buick is using this to engage new demographics for their vehicles:

“Buick traditionally has had the highest loyalty in the automotive industry,” (Larry) Peck said. “Our buyer has been older, too. With this program, we are trying to get younger buyers. Golf offers younger, more affluent, more educated consumers. We are trying to reach our demographic through the Internet…and offer a premiere owner experience.”

Proceeds from loyalty program events or merchandise after expenses will benefit the Buick Open Southeast Michigan Charities.

Building Customer Loyalty

What are your customers interested in?  Where do they spend their time?  Understanding customers, their interests, and their needs helps us tailor not just products and services, but also outreach and loyalty programs.  Do your customers want to feel special?  Create a customer recognition program.  Do your customers want to have “access” to your company?  Create a community, with your key execs/programmers/personnel playing a central role.

One of the most important ingredients in building customer loyalty is consistency of customer experience.  Buick needed to make sure an owner’s experience at the Invitational Tournament was a good one in every way possible in order to contribute in a positive way to the brand experience.  The same experiences now need to occur with the Service and Parts department, with Sales managers, with any emails and marketing sent to customers, and basically, in every single customer touch at every dealer.  This requires knowing your customers, coordinating across functional areas internally, as well as collaborating with partners (in this case, the dealerships).

Is that doable?  Yes – with planning.  And flawless execution.  Customers have high expectations.  The companies that can do this have an edge.  Is your company one of them?

(Photo credit: fintastic)

Posted in Community, Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Customer strategy, Marketing | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

New Year’s Musings 2008

Posted by Becky Carroll on December 31, 2007

new-year-2008.jpg What are your goals for your business in 2008?  Last year at this time, I discussed some suggested Customer Service New Year’s Resolutions.  The customer has become much more front-and-center in this past year, but it is about more than just marketing.  We need to make sure all aspect of our organizations are customer-focused.  I think the resolutions I suggested last year are still valid for this year, so I wanted to share them with you again! 

Here are my suggested Customer Service New Year’s Resolutions.

  • Create a customer strategy for the customer service organization.

While most organizations have a product or marketing strategy, many do not have a customer strategy. A customer strategy addresses who our customers are, how we can differentiate them from one another both in value and needs, and how we will treat them.  This strategy should be built around the interactions and relationship that the customer has with your organization. The right customer strategy in your service organization lays the groundwork for the rest of the journey.

  • Proactively “manage” the customer experience. 

The customer experience takes place through all touch points with a customer, including agents, web sites, newsletters, and automated systems. We can think about each interaction as an opportunity to either increase or decrease a customer’s value to us. Example: I recently moved to a new house and needed to contact multiple utility companies.  In the first instance, I called the customer service line and waited on hold for nearly 30 minutes in order to tell an agent I would not be able to make the installation appointment that was previously scheduled. At the end of that half-hour period, I was not having a very good experience! The next day, the second instance but with a different utility, I called to cancel the service at our old residence. Wait times again were high, but in this case I was given the choice of receiving a call-back from an agent.  An agent called me 25 minutes later, exactly as they had predicted, and a recording of my own voice validated the call.  My elapsed time to deal with that call was 3 minutes as opposed to 30 minutes the day before. In both cases, the contact center was scheduling agents to take calls as they come in; however, in the second case my experience was optimized to make the interaction as convenient for me as possible. Which one built a stronger customer relationship and increased customer value? 

  • Formally link rewards with customer-centric behavior. 

A hard look at customer-based metrics is necessary in order to retain a balance between customer focus and cost reduction, especially in areas such as the contact center. Activity in the contact center should be reviewed based on measures of both efficiency such as call handle time, and measures of effectiveness such as first contact resolution, the number of repeat contacts, and the share of customer data. These measures have the greatest impact when they are linked to performance improvement opportunities including coaching plans and training as well as root cause analysis activities. The wrong measures can cause behaviors which reduce cost but also reduce customer value. For example, if an agent is measured solely on average talk time but not on how well the customer’s concern is resolved, that agent won’t care that the customer has to contact the organization again.   In addition, these customer-based measures need to roll up the management chain so the success of all members of the contact center organization is tied closely to customer success.

(Photo credit: lacreme)

Posted in Customer experience, Customer service, Customer strategy | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 55 other followers