CSP Happenings





Topic: Customer Service Experience

8 Do’s and Don’ts for Recovering from a Customer Experience Mishap

February 10, 2016

bad customer service


Sometimes, bad customer experiences happen to good companies. In the worst cases, they happen to good customers whose loyalty you’ve already worked to earn and keep.

It could be a customer service email that went into a black hole and was never returned. Long lines, long hold times, or shipping delays could test a customer’s patience. When a mobile app doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to, or an email marketing campaign floods a person’s inbox, the Unsubscribe button is never far away.

Unsatisfying experiences like these can happen at any point in the customer journey. Prior to onboarding or to a purchase decision, a bad experience can stop the journey in its tracks. After the sale has been made or the account created, customers are even more unforgiving, especially if they feel the problem could have been prevented. Failure to deliver on customer service at this stage feels less like a simple shortcoming and more like a personal betrayal.  

[Related reading: How to Extend the Customer Experience Past Purchase]

Not only are dissatisfied customers likely to take their business elsewhere, they are more likely to bad-mouth your brand to their friends and family. Thanks to social media, that negative word of mouth can ripple across a far broader audience than it could have before. Twitter is awash with complaints – just peep the #customerservicefails feed for examples.

So what can be done to limit customer churn and control potential damage to your brand?

How to Win Back a Customer After an Unsatisfactory Experience

DO: Own up to your mistake
Customers reward businesses who display authenticity in their communications. If an error or oversight was made, acknowledge that fact earnestly. If the problem was more circumstantial than directly in your control, you should still acknowledge the seriousness of the inconvenience to your customer and thank them for bringing it to your attention.

DON’T: Get defensive or over-explain
A customer service rep dealing with an unhappy customer may feel tempted to try to excuse themselves from blame. If the customer is angry and lobbing insults or threats, it’s only human nature to get defensive. But customers by and large don’t care about the explanation for the perceived failure, and responding defensively is a rookie mistake that only escalates tensions.

DO: Extend a personal apology
A form letter or auto-responder has nothing on the personal touch. In one study by Accenture, nearly a quarter of respondents who returned to a business after a bad experience said that a personal apology was responsible for reeling them back in. This jumps back to our first point: authenticity in all things.

DON’T: Delay or let the problem go ignored
The longer a customer has to wait for a resolution, the less chance you have to persuade them to stay. Even if a complaint comes in at 4:58 p.m. on a Friday, there’s no reason to kick the can down the road when it can be addressed immediately. An ignored customer is…well, not a customer anymore, for all intents and purposes.

DO: Sweeten the deal
It may seem like a slick trick, but customers will be more likely to bring issues to your attention if they feel they can get a little special treatment in return. That might include coupons, vouchers, discounts or freebies, depending on the severity of the complaint. It may seem counterintuitive, but would you rather field more customer complaints, or silently lose customers without any indication why they left?

DON’T: Rely on perks alone
A coupon is not a Band-Aid. Without the other elements on this list – authenticity, apology, and responsiveness – special offers can only go so far. At best, they might temporarily placate an unhappy customer; at worst, they can send the message that you think the customer’s loyalty can be bought off, whether or not their original problem was addressed to their satisfaction.

DO: Get down to the root of the problem
Every customer complaint is an opportunity to highlight and examine a potential weak link in the chain of customer service. Maybe it’s something that can be addressed with more training, or by updating processes and policies to meet customers’ evolving needs. Customers like to see you take direct action beyond just a promise that “we’re looking into it.”

DON’T: Treat each mistake as an isolated case
Hopefully, you are keeping track of customer feedback through Voice of the Customer programs and tools. While some bad experiences truly are anomalies, it’s more likely that the experience has been shared and reported by more than one person and can point you to an opportunity for overall improvement.

Of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

In an ideal world, you wouldn’t need much of the advice above, because you’d already have the systems and training in place to support excellent customer service at every touchpoint. In the real world, batting 1.000 isn’t always going to be possible, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your stance and skip practice. Most customers won’t give you three strikes before switching their allegiance to another team. So strive to prevent customer experience mishaps from happening in the first place, and use the data at your disposal to address any chronic underlying problems.

Customer Experience After the Sale: Are You Missing These Opportunities?

February 3, 2016

Google introduced the idea of the Zero Moment of Truth back in 2011, and has invested a lot of effort into getting companies to buy into it. The idea is that the pre-purchase phase of the customer journey, in which a customer researches, comparison-shops, asks for recommendations, and reads reviews, is essentially a countdown to moment Zero. That’s when the customer pulls the trigger and makes a purchase decision. 

We’re not claiming that Google is wrong. The Decision Point is inarguably one of the key destinations on the customer journey. But is this really where the journey ends? Hardly. In fact, it is a pivot point: the countdown becomes a “count-up,” comprised of every touchpoint that happens after the sale. What we’re counting up to: customer loyalty, satisfaction, and eventually, ideally, ambassadorship. In other words, retention.

As it stands, though, most businesses invest far more effort into customer acquisition than retention, doubling down on the notion that their job is essentially done when a prospect becomes a customer. Not only is this short-sighted, study after study has shown that acquisition is more expensive than retention and relationship marketing. (In fact, we couldn’t locate even one that argued the opposite.) The article by eConsultancy linked to above also included some head-turning statistics on this phenomenon:

  • Attracting a new customer costs five times as much as keeping an existing one.
  • Globally, the average value of a lost customer is $243.
  • 71% of consumers have ended their relationship with a company due to poor customer service. 
  • The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 – 70%. The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20%.
Shifting Focus: How to Extend the Customer Experience Past Purchase

Customer experience fact - 71% of consumers have ended their relationship with a company due to poor customer service Source KISSMetricsMake memorable post-purchase moments.
For instance, take a look at your onboarding materials, like “Thank You” pages and auto-generated emails when a customer creates an account on your site. Do they just say Thank You, or do they invite further opportunities to engage with your brand, tips for using your product or service, or incentives like coupons or discount codes? Any touchpoint that can be automated can also be enhanced to build the relationship.

Be helpful, even when there isn’t a problem.
Periodically check in with your customer to ask how things are going and if they have any questions. There could easily be something confusing or bothering them that they either don’t think is a big enough deal to bother you with, or haven’t gotten around to contacting you about yet. Here again, automation can help: reminders, thank-you’s, and Frequently Asked Questions guides can be scheduled at intervals in advance.

Pay attention to the details.
Nothing makes a customer raise an eyebrow like businesses that can talk about their product till the cows come home, yet don’t seem to understand its actual role in day-to-day life, as if they’ve never used it themselves. Imagine how your customer uses or experiences your product or service at home, after hours – not just the obvious, as-prescribed applications, but how it is related to their overall life and priorities.  

Leverage your social & direct marketing channels.
This may be the only area where the acquisition/retention formula gets turned on its head: acquiring followers and subscribers is cheap, but engaging them is where the real effort comes in. Not only do customers treat social media and emails as additional customer service channels (and expect you to meet them there), they assume they will get something in return for following you, such as exclusive offers, informative videos and graphics, or even shareable entertainment.

Listen to the Voice of the Customer.
You had to know this was coming, right? At CSP, we believe that Voice of the Customer tools and measurements are the lifeblood of a healthy customer experience. Relationships, after all, work both ways, so successful customer relationship management means handing the microphone over to the customer to make sure they have their chance to tell you what is working for them and what’s getting in their way.

The Takeaway

Customer experience that treats the sale as the endpoint is an unclosed circle: all the brand equity, sentiment, and trust you nurtured to encourage the sale, are liable to leak out through this gap. Selling to existing customers is easier than converting new ones. It is worth your while to envision the customer journey as a lifetime relationship, not a finite transaction.

Do You Hear What I Hear? Skillful Listening Tips

December 22, 2015

listening skills

Effective communication cannot happen without attentive listening, making listening skills one of the most important fundamental components of customer service.

Customers today have more ways than ever to voice their wants, needs, and opinions to the companies they patronize, as well as to their fellow patrons. Customer service has expanded from sales floors and call centers to the digital cloud and social media spaces. Voice of the Customer tools like satisfaction surveys and comment cards also provide an outlet for customers to express whether their need for service is being met.

Across all of these platforms, no matter which one(s) a customer decides to use, their essential need to feel listened to remains the same. If they don’t feel listened to, they’re only a click away from Twitter, Yelp, and other public forums where they can make sure their voices are heard, and not always with the most flattering language.

Listening doesn’t just happen automatically. It requires active effort and attention. That’s what differentiates it from simply hearing. Fortunately, it’s a skill that can be trained, learned, practiced, and strengthened.

Tips for Becoming a More Skillful Listener

These basic tips apply to all customer service channels and deserve heavy emphasis in your employee training process.

Make a conscious decision to listen. Active listening is a choice, one that needs to happen at the beginning of every customer interaction. The minute you go on “auto-pilot,” communication suffers.

Let go of your own personal agenda. Focus your attention by clearing away all distractions or preconceived notions. If you’re not fully present, you open yourself up to miss key parts of the customer’s message.

Be curious. Try to see the issue, topic, or question at hand from the other person’s point of view. Ask questions that give the customer the opportunity to thoroughly explain or describe what it is they’re trying to convey.

Listen with your eyes. Look at the customer when they’re speaking, not at a computer screen, other people in the room, or your watch. Pay attention to all the visual clues that accompany a customer’s words, like body language and facial expressions. In text-based communication like email, italic and bold fonts and ALL CAPS serve a similar purpose (but can be more easily misconstrued, so use your judgement).

Be patient. Some people take longer to find the right words, to make a point, or to clarify an issue. Sometimes the impulse to “help” and finish their sentences or guess what they’re driving at can come across as a sign that you’re not actually listening to them, just trying to rush through the conversation.

Listen with respect. Listen to understand, not to judge. This means not just maintaining the right internal attitude, but paying attention to your own body language and nonverbal cues, watching out for things like eye-rolling, smirking or laughing at inappropriate moments, or fidgeting.   

Maintain calm and manage your own emotions/reactions. You cannot listen if you are defensive or angry, or if you’re preoccupied by something going on in your personal life. Remember, this isn’t about you or your personal agenda, it’s about the customer. If you can’t put them first, you might be in the wrong job.  

Listen for the whole message. Make sure you understand the entire message before you attempt to respond. If anything is unclear, try repeating the message back to the customer to make sure you understood them properly and are on the same page.

CSP is listening, too! If you have questions about customer service skills, or a story of really effective (or hilariously awful) listening experiences, leave a comment or Tweet us at @CSProfiles.

This post is adapted from an article in STARS, our exclusive library of customer experience management resources. CSP clients can download training material, exercises, and articles written around specific customer experience dilemmas and solutions from STARS. Learn more.

4 Ways to Engage the Millennial Banking Customer

June 17, 2015

millennial customer engagement

Millennials want businesses to meet them where they are, and that includes their financial institutions. So how does a bank go about satisfying this demanding demographic?

In Part One of this series, we got into Millennials’ heads to see the world through their own lenses. Knowing what they value and prioritize can help you shape the customer experience to meet their ever-evolving expectations.

Appeal to their impatience.

Speed of service, whether online or human-to-human, is a must.

If a customer needs to get in touch with you to ask a question or resolve a problem, he’d rather open up a web chat or send a Tweet than be put on hold with a call center or wait for a response from the Contact Us form on your website. And if he does Tweet you a question, he expects you to answer it as promptly as he expects a friend to reply to his text.

He doesn’t want to be beholden to “business hours,” either – in his world, answers are always a click away, day or night. If 24/7 customer service is not something you can promise, at the very least, he should have the option to find his own answers through the resources you make available to him online, like FAQ pages, blogs and articles, or forums.

He’ll also appreciate a degree of automation to processes that would otherwise be tedious or require multiple steps and the intervention of a human employee. Take, for instance, mobile check deposit, or peer-to-peer payment, two innovations that streamline simple financial interactions into a matter of clicks, no middleman required.

Give them control.

Automation and self-service aren’t just about getting from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible; they allow customers to self-determine their customer journey and customize it to meet their own unique needs, rather than be lumped in with the generalized population of your customer base.

Personalization is important to this highly individualistic customer. Jane Q. Millennial doesn’t just want the Fifth Third experience, she wants Jane’s Fifth Third experience. Each channel she uses, digital or human, should greet her by name and anticipate her needs before she even has to state them.

Millennials personify the omnichannel customer experience. Take advantage of the Voice of the Customer insights and transactional data you’ve collected on them to craft personalized and intuitive experiences.

Participate, and invite participation.

Tap into the Millennial customer’s social side by engaging with him, not just broadcasting to him. We won’t claim that it’s easy, but you’ll have to reconcile traditional customer service language and behavior with his native tongue. Show personality in your communications, demonstrate social values that align with his own, and he’ll find you more approachable than the out-of-the box Customer Service Rep™.

Give him opportunities to engage with you beyond the standard problem/solution model of service. Social media is an excellent platform for conducting (completely non-scientific) surveys or hosting contests. You can blend information and entertainment with things like “Did You Know?” trivia or “Caption This” contests for funny images. The prize might be as simple as public recognition of the winner’s cleverness, but that’s still more than he was likely expecting to get when he logged on today.

Be their entrepreneurial ally.

In the past, banks might have targeted the 18 to 35 demographic with messaging around financing their homes, cars, and children’s college educations. But Millennials are famously delaying typical young-adult milestones like marriage and home ownership in favor of pursuing their dreams, creating the perfect opportunity for financial institutions to step in as allies, coaches, and incubators. Make them aware of both consumer and business products.

Consider hosting workshops for start-ups or the self-employed; offering sponsorships, grant opportunities, or other competitive rewards; or coaching them on career advancement or salary negotiation via your blog (you are blogging, right?). Seek out the places in your community where these young entrepreneurs are gathering, like TED Talks, networking groups, and even street fairs, and make sure you have a visible presence there. Think about it: how cool could it be to have a reputation as THE bank that young self-starters turn to?

While we’re on the topic of business products, consider this: Even if your business customers aren’t run by Millennials, they’re certainly employing them. The person responsible for managing banking interactions at any given business, start-up or established, might be a 28-year-old man or woman, who expects your B2B experience to be as modern, flexible, and streamlined as your consumer-facing experience.

 

So, how does your customer experience measure up against the Millennial mindset? By this point of reading, you’re either patting yourself on the back for a job well done, or you have new insights into potential areas of improvement and innovation.

CSP is passionate about improving the customer experience for customers of all ages. Read about our solutions and services, and contact us when you’re ready to take the next step.

Customer Expectations Drive Trends in Online Service & Support

April 8, 2015

These days, many of the touchpoints between customers and businesses happen not in person, not on the phone, but in the cloud. Never have customers had so many choices, nor businesses so many options, for communication and service.

Companies have had to step up their investment in digital customer service solutions to meet consumer demand for these choices. Here are some of the ways businesses have ventured into virtual customer service:

Support Via Web Chat

web chat customer service supportCompanies including Verizon, Home Depot, IKEA, and Bank of America have implemented chat support into their own websites and mobile apps.

In some cases, these chat lines are manned by an artificial intelligence. IKEA’s “Ask Anna” service is automated. On screen, Anna is represented by the image of a headset-wearing woman who even blinks and moves as she patiently awaits a question. The program looks for keywords and phrases in that question to deliver a prewritten response. In some ways, it’s like a slightly more interactive search engine.

Most online chat services are “live,” connecting customers to a human rep much the same way they would if they called the customer service line by phone. Customers might favor this option if they are not in a position to make a phone call or don’t want to sit and listen to menu options and hold music.

They also might need help navigating the company’s site, which is easier when a rep can just send a link to the desired page instead of directing over the phone, “Look in the upper left of your screen, select from that drop-down menu – no, the other one, below that – now log in with your password…”

Social Customer Service

Offsite, a social-savvy customer might still skip calling your 1-800 number in favor of a mention on Twitter or a direct message to your Page on Facebook. Whether or not chat support is something your company is interested in providing, these customers expect a response. The same is true of comment boxes on blogs, articles, or products.

Some companies set up separate Twitter handles just for fielding customer support, like @ExpressHelp for fashion retailer Express, or @AskADT for home security provider ADT. While there’s no guarantee that all requests will go to the appropriate channel, this tactic can keep customer complaints and issues out of the public eye by deviating them from the main account and its larger audience.

Virtual Assistance

Chat and social channels are ideal for short, simple requests. For more complex or personalized needs, virtual customer service is the next level up.

Frontier Bank in Sioux Falls, South Dakota has introduced a virtual teller to their branch, eliminating the traditional teller line and the idea of “banker’s hours.” Customers talk to a remote teller via webcam, who can handle withdrawals and deposits, while other staff are freed up for the more involved tasks of banking.

A virtual stylist will meet you via webcam and talk to you for an hour about your pressing wardrobe questions, like how to dress for an interview out of what’s already in your closet. “E-Doctors” offered by both healthcare providers and insurers can help a patient get non-emergency medical attention without needing to make an appointment, take time off work, or leave the house.

As technology like Facetime and Skype has become common and accepted among consumers, they’ve warmed to the idea of some customer service also happening by video. It’s the 21st century, after all – we may not have hoverboards, but videophone is one dream of the future that we have made real.

 

The right mix of digital customer service solutions will be unique to each business. Introducing new things like virtual tellers or an automated chat line shouldn’t just be done for its own sake and not based on customer demand. Feedback from a Voice of the Customer program can give you key insights into the channels that are driving customer satisfaction, and those that might be turning them away.

For more information about CSP’s customer experience strategies and the programs we build to support them, contact us today by phone at (402) 399-8790 ext:101, via our website, or on Twitter @csprofiles

Superior Customer Service Requires More than Just ‘Checking the Boxes’

April 1, 2015

You’re doing all the right things. You have a Voice of the Customer program in place. You’re capturing, measuring, and evaluating both customer sentiment and employee performance. Your customer-facing staff is vetted and well trained. A superior customer experience is a priority at all levels of your organization.

But when the VOC results come in, there’s still a gap between performance and satisfaction. What’s going on here?

The missing piece of the puzzle could be authenticity.

A satisfying customer service experience hinges on the interaction between the customer and your business. First impressions happen every day and go a long way. So do the little things like using a customer’s name, making sure they are served promptly and efficiently, maintaining a pleasant attitude and tone, making eye contact, and saying Thank You.

These elements make up the basic checklist of Customer Service Do’s and Don’ts. But even if your staff is consistently checking every box on that list, customers can still feel unwelcome, challenged, or dissatisfied with their experience if they sense a lack of authenticity from a representative or from your business as a whole.

It takes more than checking the boxes to win a customer over.

checklist

 

Plainly stated, customers can tell when a business is just going through the motions.

They know, for instance, if the representative they’re speaking with on the phone is just reading from a script or repeating a routine they’ve already performed 100 times that day. The result? They feel unimportant and dehumanized. (This is one reason many customers dislike automated phone systems.)

customer service employee

Customers can tell when your employees are having a bad day.

They can tell when an employee is in a rush – to get home, to serve other customers, to hand them off to the next person in line. The result? They feel like an unwelcome nuisance.

They will pick up on all sorts of little cues like tone of voice, body language, and the level of surrounding stress. If any of those things strike them as being off, it doesn’t matter how many times they heard their name used or made eye contact – their experience has already been negatively impacted, and once that happens, it’s hard to erase.

The same applies for digital and text interactions, too. If you’ve ever written a letter to your Senator only to get a form letter in response, you know how frustrating the “copy/paste” effect can be.

Automation has its place. For example, no one expects every “Forgot password?” request to connect them to someone who can personally help them track it down or reset it.

But it’s still worth being aware that canned messages can convey a different message entirely than the one you want to send. We’re only half-listening to you. We can’t give you our full attention. You are not unique – we have plenty of other customers just like you, and you don’t deserve special treatment.

On the other side of that coin, you have everything to gain by going out of your way to make an authentic, personal connection to a customer – to remember not just their name but something personal about them, to make small talk while you pull their information up on your computer, to pay them a genuine compliment, ask them a question, or offer (if needed) a sincere apology.

Your standard customer service checklist serves as a Pass/Fail measurement of an experience, but authentic effort and personal gestures are the invisible final box that, once checked, pushes an experience from ‘good enough’ to ‘exceptional!’

So if you are seeing a gap between performance and satisfaction in your customer feedback, it may reflect that customers are expecting a little more from you than the bare minimum effort to keep their business. The good news is, this opens an opportunity for growth and innovation in how you meet customers’ needs and provide an outstanding experience.

For more information about CSP’s customer experience strategies and the programs we build to support them, contact us today by phone at (402) 399-8790 ext:101, via our website, or on Twitter @csprofiles