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Tagged: best practices

Transforming your business’s perception of customer experience

August 15, 2017

If you’re a business executive, director or manager, you know customer experience should belong at the center of your daily activities. However, many organizations focus more on their operations, products and internal work environment than on their customers. How can businesses improve? Creating lasting structural change within an organization isn’t easy. However, executives can encourage their companies to transition toward customer-centricity by focusing on customer experience. Here are four major transitions in mindset and attitude executives can encourage:

As highlighted in this Forbes article, many companies are structured around products instead of customers. This is a symptom of a company being too self-involved to take a step back and understand its customers. When a business focuses too much on itself, it looks at the products it provides, how they can be improved and what new products they can bring to the table. Conversely, a customer-centric business understands who it serves, what their needs are and how the business can delight these individuals. Businesses must switch to customer-centric thinking by letting customers define their business, constantly soliciting feedback and putting their experiences at the forefront of the business.

Business helper to business differentiator

In financial services, most providers think they are relationship-focused above all else. However, according to the Bank Administration Institute, consumers rarely think of financial service providers as being relationship-focused. The reality is that the various responsibilities business face (marketing, sales, project administration, IT, etc.), while important, have the capacity to distract from the central goal of a business to make its customers happy. Businesses must move from a model that likes strong relationships with customers to a model that prioritizes strong customer relationships above all else.

Nice-to-have to must-have

Many businesses fail to regularly solicit feedback from customers. More commonly, businesses solicit feedback, but fail to analyze or act appropriately on their customers’ requests. Businesses tend to prioritize daily operations and revenue goals above trainings and meetings regarding customer experience because the day-to-day items feel more urgent. However, this designation of what is important is based on the perspective of the business professional, rather than the customer. Back-of-the-house work helps the business itself function, but does little to contribute to customer satisfaction. If a company’s priorities stay out-of-whack for too long, hundreds or thousands of customers are left with an underwhelming or mediocre perception of the company due to faltering customer experience. This underwhelming experience risks losing customers, and makes the brand’s/company’s value rely solely on the products it offers, which is a hugely risky strategy, as products are constantly changing and innovating among competitors. Making customers excited about the brands they do business with is a must-have.

General effort to specific behaviors

Almost all business care about customer experience, but they don’t know how to improve. Here is a typical, and poor, format for acting on customer feedback: Negative customer feedback comes in through dissatisfied customers reaching out to management, management calls together a meeting to highlight the issue and demand improvement, and employees make efforts to improve, masking over the underlying causes of poor customer experience for long enough that the issue slips from everyone’s mind. Sound familiar? This failed effort happens due to lack of ongoing coaching and training. The reality is that customer experience relies on a practiced set of behaviors and actions. CSP strives to utilize Voice of the Customer research to guide ongoing coaching sessions and training sessions with management. Meaningful change only comes when it is practiced regularly and when positive customer experience behaviors become engrained through repetition and training.

How to Impress an Off-the-Clock Customer Experience Expert

January 12, 2017

omaha gas station/food shop

Welcome to my favorite gas station / food shop in Omaha.

It only makes sense that as specialists in customer experience and service, CSP staffers are especially attuned to their own interactions with businesses. Here, Brittni Redding, Director of Client Education, describes one business that has earned her loyalty and what others can learn by this example.  

You can really tell quite a bit about the culture of an establishment by assessing the “climate,” or the feel when you walk in the door as a customer.

I have a uniquely memorable experience when I get my daily coffee at a gas station near our offices here in Omaha, Nebraska.  When I walk in the door, the first thing I notice is that all eyes are up from the task at hand, and I’m greeted warmly.  I also notice that the environment is clean and well stocked – if a customer walks through with wet or muddy shoes, it’s mopped up immediately. These may seem like bare-minimum details, but they already set the tone for what kind of service I can expect from this business.

brittni redding with coffee

Starting my day off right!

Keeping the coffee urns full is clearly a top priority in the morning.  You can observe every single employee checking and checking and checking.  One time, (and I mean only once) the original roast ran out for me mid-pour.  I chose another brew and politely notified the cashier during check-out.  His response? “We didn’t get you what you wanted today, so that coffee is on the house.”  Score one for me and another for this business!

My favorite part of this daily visit might be one of the regular cashiers. Chuck dresses up various days of the week in a loud flowered shirt and straw hat (or as Uncle Sam on Election Day) and always says to me “Hey, hey!  How are we doing today?” I can’t recall a time when I didn’t see a smile on his face.  He also always notices if I stray from my normal purchase of a large coffee and granola bar and asks about how the additional snacks fit into my day.  “No time for lunch today?” he’ll say, and we’ll go on from there until he closes by wishing me the best day ever.  He is SO happy!  Every. Single. Day. 

This is how you make customers smile!

My co-workers, who have been patrons of this particular gas station for many years before I joined the team, told me about it when I first started.  Clearly the service has an impact on referrals!  The turnover is minimal, given they have seen the same workers there for years – a good sign that the internal climate for employees is as good as the external impression I get as a customer.

Some key elements that I see at play at this gas station/food shop:
  • a clear picture of their main purpose (the customer), which is shared by all employees, not just one or two “top performers,” as evidenced by their genuine and authentic approach to ALL customers
  • autonomy and empowerment at the shop level to allow employees to make customer-centric decisions, which could correlate to a trust-based internal culture
  • openness to new ideas and willingness to progress through fun social media promotions and crazy outfits. The company itself runs fun promotions via social media every Friday.  Telling employees a chosen phrase, like “Go Big Red” (in honor of the Huskers) earns you a 25-cent coffee.
What really blows me away is that this is a gas station we’re talking about. 

You can go anywhere for gas and food, right?  Yet many times I have gone out of my way to give this particular station my business. Stepping back into my professional shoes for a moment, I’m measuring their “culture” as a result of how I feel as a consumer during my interactions with the business.  My colleague Jeff Dahms (CSP’s Vice President of Research and Development) would undoubtedly prefer some hard numbers related to turnover, business performance, sales, etc. – but the point remains, when the culture of a place is right, the customer feels it.


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The 4 Pillars of a Customer-Engaging Email Marketing Strategy

November 30, 2016

4 pillars of customer engaging email marketing strategyOf the many communications channels that weave together to form an omnichannel customer experience strategy, email continues to be relevant and valuable. Email marketing isn’t just about marketing; it’s a way of maintaining your customer relationships in between more direct touchpoints, like transactions and customer service calls. Like social media, email reaches people where they already spend time – in their inboxes.

But just like any other tool, it all comes down to how you use it. Email marketing is a blank canvas, and there are many ways to go about creating campaigns that help you meet your goals. These four fundamental practices will create the foundation for engaging customers with email content.

1 – Great engagement comes from great content.

Content is hands-down the most important factor in getting customers to engage. In the email marketing world, “engagement” translates to Opens and Click-throughs. Great content is what compels each behavior, followed by the design and presentation of the content. So if you’re going to have an email marketing campaign in play, build it on a foundation of excellent content.

Content is an umbrella term that describes a variety of media that can populate emails. Blog posts, articles, whitepapers, e-books, infographics, video, audio, Tweets, copy/text, and photos are all different kinds of content at your disposal. And it’s a good idea to use as many as you can, especially those that are visual: content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images [source]. 

2 – Prioritize content that is mobile-friendly.

More and more of the digital world is revolving around mobile devices, and email is no exception. At the time of this writing, two thirds of emails are being opened on mobile devices (emphasis on smartphones), compared to desktop email usage. But on the back end, most email campaigns are being designed and run from desktop computers. Template design, list management, and campaign delivery are all easier to achieve on a full-screen device.

Don’t become mobile-blind. When you’re ready to test an email template, make sure you’re viewing it on a mobile phone as well as your computer. You can recruit others in the office who have different devices (for example, Apple vs. Android operating systems) to make sure your content and template design translates well across platforms. And make sure the content you are linking to from your emails is also mobile-friendly. A sales landing page, a blog post, or a document download have no value to a customer who can’t view them easily and clearly.

3 – Try to balance predictability and surprise with your content.

It’s a good idea to be consistent with your email delivery: consistent timing, consistent quality, and consistent design. Customers should have some idea of what they can expect when a new email from you lands in their inbox. If you create an expectation of content that provides value, not purchase pressure, customers will continue to open your messages and engage with that content. Regular quality content also means they’ll be more accepting of the occasional hard sell or special offer, and not feel they’re being spammed or pressured.

But within this context of consistency, there’s also room to try new things or mix up your approach.

  • Vary your header images. Put unique imagery at the top of each message, along with a compelling headline, to grab customers’ attention.
  • Vary your format. Are you delivering a monthly newsletter featuring several recent blog posts? Next time, try just featuring one meaty, valuable post and letting it be the star of the show. Or try different things with your subject lines, like questions, humor, provocative statements.
  • Vary your timing. If you regularly deliver your campaigns at the same time every week or month, try throwing in a one-time message that lands on a Sunday evening, for example. Ideally this message should look a little different than your usual content (see above). The break in routine can catch the attention of readers who have gotten used to a certain pattern.
4 – Make sure you are complying with spam regulations.

What does this have to do with customer engagement? Well, if you run an email program that isn’t compliant with regulations, you soon won’t have an email program to run. Customers can and do report unwanted, bothersome, or low-value emails as spam. These complaints have weight: email service providers use the reports to hone their spam filtering software. Bad behavior can get you “blacklisted,” and there’s little you can do about that once it happens.

The regulations you need to be familiar with are covered by the federal CAN-SPAM Act, which oversees commercial email communications. Technology makes it very easy, and thus very tempting, to do the exact things that CAN-SPAM prohibits – intentionally or accidentally. However, if you are found to be in violation of these rules, the penalties are hefty: you can be fined per email that you send, so the bigger your list, the more you risk.

 

These tips cover the “Before” and “During” stages of running an email marketing program. The “After” stage – how to make sense of, and make use of, your email marketing analytics – is covered in detail here. Don’t forget to follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter for regular updates, or visit the CSP.com homepage (and scroll down just a little) to sign up for our monthly email newsletter!


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8 Do’s and Don’ts for Engaging with Customers on Social Media

August 2, 2016

Customer service via social media has been a growing trend as more and more businesses realize the power of these platforms. But conducting yourself as a business on social media is far from self-explanatory. Here, we review eight tips for engaging with your customers on social media. 

If you’re a business with a social media presence, you want and expect customers to engage with you online. Nearly three-fourths of the U.S. population had a social media profile in 2015, and that number is expected to grow. Figures like that are telling; social media presents a significant opportunity for interacting with your customers. You can gain meaningful information when they react to what you publish. But, whether you intended it or not, customers also often treat social media profiles as alternative customer service channels.

The twist is, unlike phone calls or visits to your location, customer service interactions on social media can be very public — all eyes are watching. And because certain industries like finance are highly regulated, addressing these comments publicly can be challenging.

Following these do’s and don’ts for using social media to resolve customer inquiries will help you provide excellent social care while building a stronger commitment to your brand.

Infographic Engaging with Customers on Social Media

DO Employ These Strategies When Using Social Media to Resolve Customer Inquiries
  • Do go where your customers are on social media. For many organizations, the heaviest hitters are Facebook and Twitter. But sites like Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn rank higher for certain industries. Make sure you’re concentrating your efforts on the right channel so your engagements are mutually beneficial for you and your customer.
  • Do have a social media policy and ensure the right employees are trained on it. Your policy should outline how your organization will interact over social media, and what employees can and cannot post. Ensure your legal or compliance department weighs in so the policy meets the necessary industry regulations.
  • Do regularly review engagement analytics. Pay close attention to how people respond to your content via comments, shares, and video watch time. Study what’s working well, and what’s not. Understand the issues being raised and use that information to help you identify priorities, plan staffing accordingly, and arrange appropriate resources.
  • Do maintain the same high standards of customer care on social media that you do on other customer service channels. Respond quickly (studies show many social media users expect a response the same day) and clearly. Avoid ambiguous answers. Once a problem is resolved, thank the customer for reaching out.
DON’T Run Into These Social Media Customer Service Pitfalls
  • Don’t run afoul of regulations. Certain industries like banking, where customer accounts contain highly sensitive information, have strict rules for how they communicate with customers online and how information is transmitted when operating digitally.
  • Don’t neglect comments. This leads to high rates of user dissatisfaction. A study by Conversocial showed that 88% of respondents would be less likely to buy from a brand whose social media site contained unanswered customer complaints.
  • Don’t be inconsistent. Ensure your customer addressing you online receives the same resolution for the same question as the customer calling over the phone.
  • Don’t let issues linger too long. If a posted comment leads to a lot of back-and-forth or requires that personal data be shared, take it offline onto another channel, whether that be direct message, live chat, email, or a phone call. The ultimate goal for both you and the customer is a resolution.

Managing social media customer inquiries successfully requires teamwork across a number of disciplines, including marketing, compliance, IT, and customer service. According to Bain & Company, “customers who engage with companies over social media spend 20% to 40% more money with those companies than other customers.” When you consider those figures, it pays to create a cohesive plan for managing your social media comments.


RELATED: How Loyal Are Your Customers?

Customers who engage with companies over social media, reports Bain & Company, “demonstrate a deeper emotional commitment to the companies, granting them an average 33 points higher Net Promoter Score℠, a common measure of customer loyalty.” Read 4 Things a Net Promoter Score Can Do for Your Business.