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Tagged: customer experience

Self-Service Customer Support: How Companies Help Customers Help Themselves

September 9, 2016

Customer self-service continues to rise in popularity as companies adapt to customers’ demand for convenience and independence. Customer service experts agree that self-service is one of the biggest developments for 2016.

In 2015, Microsoft’s annual Global State of Multichannel Customer Service Report surveyed 4,000 consumers. When asked what they expected from customer service, 90% of those consumers stated the importance of self-service options. 2015 was also the first year that respondents in the Forrester Consumer Survey reportedly used the FAQ pages on a company’s website more often than talking to an agent over the phone.

Online support: FAQ and Search

post-it-1547588_1280The Forrester study shows that online information is a great example of an area where self-service is booming. 72% of consumers call self-service support a fast and easy way to handle support issues. Examples of successful online methods include the use of dynamic Frequently Asked Questions forms: support forms that respond to the specific needs of each customer, rather than stating a list of fixed answers.

Design and content go hand-in-hand. You can support customer self-service by simply moving the Search box on your website, and optimizing content for frequent customer searches. While 92% of people use search engines to find solutions, over two-thirds of them say they get frustrated with the placement of search bars on company websites, or can’t find the information they need and call customer service after all. Online support systems can be economical, but they need to be smart and flexible in order to work.

Self-service banking

Although online services have affected customers’ need to physically visit branches, a significant number of customers still visit their bank regularly. While most simple transactions can be completed online, more complex transactions almost always take place in branches. In order to cater to a variety of service demands, most modern banks are now shifting to the concept of full-service locations that integrate digital and personal customer service.

Some banks, including Chase, have experimented with self-service kiosks at their branches. These kiosks can handle many of the same transactions as an ATM, with additional capabilities like issuing cashier’s checks and debit cards, printing statements, and transferring funds between accounts. Not only does this free up tellers to perform higher-value tasks, it also gives banks the opportunity to cross-sell their products and services.

Self-service kiosks began gaining attention in 2015, so it’s still early to tell whether customers are showing a distinct preference for kiosks over human tellers. But it seems likely that some degree of in-branch self-service that’s more sophisticated than a traditional ATM will be part of the banking customer experience in the future.

Call centers are another service touchpoint with potential for automation. Alongside call center employees, some banks are using interactive voice response (IVR). This system allows customers to “talk to” an automated menu of options and guide themselves to a solution. Much like kiosks, this frees up call center reps to handle the more complex callers, and increases the bank’s capacity to take a high volume of calls at once. IVR systems have grown more sophisticated, too, enough to greet customers by name and better understand what customers are asking on the first try, even when they stray from the expected script.

Retail self-service checkouts

One of the most common and visible examples of the changing nature of customer service is self-service checkout lanes at retailers; from big DIY stores like IKEA to supermarkets and drugstores.  To customers, the appeal of the self-service checkout is the option to move at their own pace and zip to the end of the line. To retailers, these lanes also help reduce the cost of staff.

However, self-service checkouts come with their own set of challenges. Theft is a big issue, for example: a recent study by the University of Leicester found that self-service checkouts criminalized normally-honest shoppers, who “resort to theft because it is so easy and the technology so frustrating.”

Help your customers help themselves

Self-service customer support provides companies with exciting opportunities, but it can’t be done half-heartedly, and it’s not a matter of set-and-forget. In order to realize its full potential, self-service solutions need to integrate smoothly with other customer service channels. As they are implemented, it’s essential to continue monitoring your customers’ experience by collecting feedback. Help your customers help themselves. In the end, it will help you.

Why You Need More Than One Metric to Describe Customer Loyalty

August 31, 2016

As a business leader, you know the importance of keeping your finger on the pulse of customer loyalty. A critical part of customer relationship management, customer loyalty goes well beyond a customer making a purchase. Loyalty is steeped in the relationship between the company and purchaser.

A loyal customer believes your organization offers the best option. Loyal customers will purchase a product or service from the same brand, over a long period of time, while turning down competitors, and spreading satisfaction through word of mouth. Loyal customers will stay with you even in trying times. 

Customer loyalty can’t be summed up in a single number.

customer loyalty can't be summed up in a single numberWhile loyalty may appear as a single topic on your priority list, it would be a mistake to try to measure it with just one indicator.

As an example, many businesses looking to improve customer satisfaction use a Net Promoter ScoreSM (NPS®). This system measures the likelihood that customers will recommend a product, service, or company to others, and is often touted as “the only number you need to know.” Likelihood to recommend is certainly worth measuring; CSP uses the NPS® system ourselves. However, this score alone does not tell you enough.

Think of it this way: You wouldn’t use your blood pressure as the sole indicator of your total health, right? It’s important, sure, and it would be convenient if that was all you needed to pay attention to, but it’s not the only vital statistic your doctor needs to track to assess your overall well-being. The same logic applies to customer loyalty.

Instead, what you should aim for is a customer loyalty index that reflects multiple measurement methods and tracks them over time. This allows you to break down the customer relationship into feedback, perceptions, and issue resolutions. Ultimately, you’ll be able to see what you need to do to maintain and increase your loyal customers.

Aim for a full picture of your organization’s brand loyalty.

Measuring customer loyalty in a variety of ways gives you a more comprehensive, multi-dimensional view of your customer loyalty situation. In addition to at-a-glance scores like NPS®, a customer loyalty index can include attitudes and behaviors such as overall satisfaction with customer service, and likelihood of a customer to make a future purchase.

Capturing this data will yield many benefits, among them:

  • Producing a good view of your current standings with the customer,
  • Predicting future retention, and
  • Providing the foundation for building a loyalty profile for your customer.
Closely examine your metrics at the outset.

According to IRI, 44% of Millennials claim to be brand loyal. With their impressive purchasing power, figures like that should motivate you to keep the company-customer relationship at the forefront of your strategic planning.

What do you want your measurements to tell you? Start with the results you want to see to help you decide how to prioritize the data you collect. You will likely find you need more indicators than you thought, but taken together, all these measurements complement one another.

Studying the results of your customer research will produce opportunities to compare your organization against industry standards and your direct competitors, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and zero in on customer preferences. CSP’s Customer Experience Management solutions are designed to provide exactly these opportunities, with the added benefit of guidance from seasoned experts to help you identify what to focus on and what steps to take.


You might also want to read:

Net Promoter, NPS, and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks, and Net Promoter Score and Net Promoter System are service marks, of Bain & Company, Inc., Satmetrix Systems, Inc. and Fred Reichheld.

Are CMOs Ready to Take Responsibility for the Customer Experience?

June 22, 2016

Should Chief Marketing Officers be customer experience experts? Looking at the increasing trend of CMOs becoming the chief managers of customer experience (or CX) for their brands, the answer is a resounding yes.

According to a recent Gartner study, a considerable number of CMOs say the most-increased expectation their CEOs have of them, is that they lead customer experience. A corroborating report by Salesforce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud and Deloitte, titled Bridging the Digital Divide: How CMOs Can Rise to Meet Five Expanding Expectations,” names customer acquisition, personal experiences and customer engagement as the top three external marketing priorities of a CMO. Sanjay Dholakia, CMO at Marketo, even goes so far as to say that by 2020, CMOs will have become responsible for the entire customer journey.

While CX may not traditionally be regarded as a marketing function, new research unequivocally proves it to be not only a decisive factor in brand identity, but also in differentiation within the marketplace. Customer expectations have evolved: a 2015 study found that 42% of Americans would turn away from a branQuote to support CMOs involvement in CXd after just two negative experiences.

Positive customer experiences, on the other hand, not only influence the way a bank is perceived, but also play an active role in retention and repeat business through customer loyalty, and eventually in increased revenue. According to the Gartner study, 89 percent of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience in 2016. Whereas the quality of customer service was once seen as a separate, ‘internal’ issue, nowadays it’s an inextricable and decisive factor in a bank’s advertising and marketing strategy.

That said, the question is not whether CMOs should become the stewards of their bank’s CX. The question is: are they up to the task? “It’s a new expectation and it’s a difficult expectation,” says Laura McLellan, VP-Marketing Strategies at Gartner.

When the study asked CMOs about the areas in which they’d made the most progress, customer experience came in last.

Clearly it’s not just customers who are on a journey; a lot of CMOs have journeys of their own ahead of them. Challenges include tying together web, commerce, and mobile technologies to not leave any gaps in quality; centralizing customer data; and providing customers with the best possible interactions with every part of the bank, down to each branch.

This may sound daunting, but like every journey, building up great CX starts with a single step. There is no need for CMOs to reinvent the wheel: the expertise to research customers’ experiences and help enhance them is already at hand. CSP has nearly 30 years of experience with customer satisfaction research and improvement, specializing in financial services. Our seasoned experts and proprietary tools can help you along your individual journey.

One thing is certain: as marketers invest more in improving customer experience, and banks adopt CX as one of their most important strategies for staying ahead of the competition, no CMO can afford to stay behind. In order to be prepared for the future, take the first step now.

New Challenges in CRM: The Complete Digital Banking Experience

April 27, 2016

It’s Tuesday. Lunchtime. You’re headed to your favorite local sandwich joint. You sit down, don’t even have to glance at the menu. You’re all ready to place your order when your waitress walks up and says, “Hi, I’d love to serve you, but we’re out of food right now. No drinks either. Please try again later.” She turns away with a “bummer!” look on her face.

error messageObviously that type of service wouldn’t fly in the restaurant industry. Nor does it in the digital banking world. Gone are the days when your website can display a pop-up politely announcing, “Sorry, we’re having technical difficulties. Please try again later.” Customers have come to expect more in these times of Amazon same-day shipping and eerily relevant Google ads.

Consumers are increasingly becoming accustomed to the immediacy, ease, and reliability of online experiences. And they’re becoming less forgiving when corporations don’t measure up to their expectations. In today’s world, banks must be aware of serving up a great digital customer experience, much as your favorite sandwich place must serve up a great lunch every day of the week.

What makes up a great digital experience?

Digital customer experience goes beyond having an easy-to-navigate website and the ability to check balances online. Your customers may expect any of the following types of tech-encounters now or in the near future:

  • mobile banking digital appMobile apps to check balances and make money transfers, with GPS technology to show the nearest branch and ATM locations, along with up-to-the-minute lending rates
  • Real-time remote check deposits using scan-and-upload technology
  • Digital wallet, offering the opportunity to pay using a smartphone
  • Text-to-ATM withdrawals
Ham and cheese, toasted

Your waitress knows you always come in on Tuesdays. And you always order the ham and cheese with a side of slaw. You don’t even have to ask anymore. And she always remembers to toast your sandwich for you. Isn’t that nice?

Banking customers want that same nice, toasty feeling when they’re online or on-the-go. Whether sitting at their desktop, on the couch with their tablet, or out and about with their cell, consumers like things quick, easy, and convenient. Customer-centric services that predict what people want, cater to their individual needs, and meet their expectations will help you attract and retain customers.

68 percent of Millennials believe that in just five years, the way we access our money will be totally different.

Setting goals for digital customer experience and measuring satisfaction aids banks in providing value; offering quick, easy, and effective solutions; and advising before a customer even makes an ask. That’s critical at a time when Millennials are becoming key decision-makers. A survey from a division of Viacom Media showed that 68% of Millennials believe in just five years, the way we access our money will be totally different, and one in three are open to switching banks in the next 90 days.

Analyze the entire digital experience

A good or bad experience with any of your digital touch points has the potential to make or break the customer experience. It’s critical to look at the full digital experience and not just one element of it. As technology continues to evolve, so too will the digital definition and customer expectations.

CSP is passionate about improving the customer experience on all fronts. We strive to adapt to whatever technology throws our way. That’s how we help you continue building customer loyalty and retention. Contact us today with your questions about customer experience management for digital banking.

Customer Experience for Women: What Banks Need to Know

February 12, 2016

How are women involved in their family’s finances? How confident do they feel about their financial know-how? What tools and services do they want their banks to provide to help them manage their money?

These are the kinds of questions financial institutions need to be examining to optimize the customer experience for their female customers. Married or single, mothers or child-free, college-age to retired, women are more empowered when it comes to money than they ever have been.

Here are some interesting findings on the preferences and attitudes of women banking customers (UPDATED February 2017):

Women tend to think of themselves as less capable or knowledgeable when it comes to finances than men do. In one study that used a scale of 1-7 to measure overall financial confidence, men rated themselves at an average of 6.20, while women came in at only 5.86. The numbers continue to drop among women under 50 (5.61) or when specifically addressing the area of investing (4.75).

56% of women said they turn to a financial advisor as one of their primary resources for guidance and information. The same percentage of men said they rely on their own prior experience and knowledge. Men are also more likely than women to reference financial books, magazines and websites. 

That said, women aren’t likely to seek financial advice out of the blue. A strong personal relationship opens the doors for women to come in and get into the nitty-gritty with an advisor. Once that foundation of trust is established, women will tell up to 52 people about a good experience they had with their bank, and even more if they had a bad experience. They are also more likely to listen to and act on recommendations, or dismissals, from others.

woman doing online banking on phone and laptop

Women are interested in convenient tools that help them manage their household finances.

Millennial women are more focused on paying off their debts than their male counterparts are. This sense of caution and sensibility is also reflected in their attitudes toward their financial future — 59% feel positive about the future, compared to 72% of men – and saving vs. spending. 54% of Millennial women said they avoid overspending, while only 40% of men said the same.  Women in general carry less debt, use less credit, and are less likely to be late on their mortgage payments than men.

When it comes to traditional vs. digital ways of doing business, women place more importance on the branch than men do, especially when shopping around for a new bank. Women over 50 are particularly concerned about the availability and proximity of branch locations when choosing a bank.

Women are a little slower than men to take up new tech tools like mobile apps and voice recognition. They won’t trust these services until they have evidence that it’s worth taking the leap into something new. That said, remember how they rely on word-of-mouth – once they hear good things about your digital experience, they’re open to coming aboard. Women are especially interested in tools to help them manage their budget. Even if women weren’t using the services directly themselves (maybe through a spouse or someone else in their household instead), they still expect banks to have them. 

Key Takeaways for Banks
  • Women prefer a human touch, someone to walk them through the complexities of managing their money. Your advisory staff should be visible and available to your customers. Make it easy to contact these experts directly to ask quick questions or set up appointments – no one likes being given the run-around or playing voicemail tag.
  • While men are generally content making transactions and purchase decisions directly with their bank, women want a relationship to create a foundation of trust before they’ll take your advice or sign on for additional products and services. Building the customer experience around this relationship makes them feel respected, valued, and welcome.
  • Convenience can come digitally, but not necessarily. It also means convenient access to branches and a pleasant in-store experience while at the branch. It also means the availability of tools, including online and mobile, that help women manage the day-to-day flow of their income and expenses, or that connect them quickly and painlessly to personal help when they need it.
  • FinTech could prove a significant draw. FinTech providers generally lead with the convenience and utility of their solutions. This could draw women customers, particularly younger women, away from traditional banks who aren’t innovating fast enough in the tools-on-the-go space.
  • Women are conscious of financial responsibility, like reducing debt and paying bills on time. So what if their bank started incentivizing and rewarding their financial sense? Little gestures of congratulations, even for something as small as saving a little extra this month, could go a long way in strengthening the relationship between banks and their women customers.

As with all things, these preferences and priorities will vary somewhat from region to region, bank to bank, maybe even branch to branch. Use Voice of the Customer data to track, illuminate, and strategize around the customer experience of your women customers and earn their loyalty.

To learn more about Voice of the Customer solutions, contact CSP.

SOURCES

Scale of financial confidence
Reliance on financial advisor
Preference for strong relationship of trust
Women’s word-of-mouth
Millennial women & debt
Women’s financial responsibility
Women pay attention to branches
Women expect banks to provide tools

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.

Credit Unions Continue to Outrank Banks in Customer Experience

December 18, 2015

According to the 2015 Temkin Experience Ratings, which rank the customer experience of 293 companies over 20 industries, credit unions have earned the highest ranking for financial services over the past four years. USAA topped the list just above credit unions (which were rated as a group, not individually), followed by a bevy of big-name banks. 

credit unions and banks customer experience rankings from Temkin Group

What Are Credit Unions Doing Right?

Credit unions don’t pay taxes; they don’t face the same regulatory environment; and they operate as nonprofits, allowing them to offer lower fees and higher interest rates on deposit accounts – definitely a factor that makes them customer-friendly. But while these distinctions might make the playing field less than level between credit unions and banks, they’re not the only reasons that customers find credit unions appealing.

Credit unions are known for providing a more personal and flexible customer experience than retail and commercial banks. While banks have focused considerable attention on technological upgrades and the impending threat from digital-only banks, credit unions have remained customer- and branch-oriented.

Somewhat counterintuitively, this has given them an edge in customer experience and satisfaction: the personal touch is something customers crave. Financial matters are at once complex and intimate, and customers appreciate feeling like their institution is on their side and ready to assist them, not just make a profit.

Credit unions, for example, tend to be more flexible about working through tough issues like bad credit during a loan application, treating the customer as an individual, not just an application form and credit report.

Indeed, customer-centricity is practically built into the credit union “membership” model, often led by a member-elected board of decision-makers. As virtual shareholders in the institution’s success, members get a sense of personal inclusion and connection to the credit union that can be lacking at mega-sized banks with their own shareholders to please.

So can banks hope to catch up?

It’s not a lost cause. While they may still be at a disadvantage on fees and rates for the foreseeable future, they’re using some of their profits to lead the charge on the technology that is changing the face of customer service, like social customer service and virtual assistance. As customer expectations continue to evolve, we may not be far off from the day that digital availability and convenience start to carry more weight in satisfaction measurements. If or when this happens, we may find out whether it really is the lower cost of doing business with credit unions that keeps customers coming back, or if they’re willing to sacrifice technology in the name of closer connections to their institution.

But that doesn’t mean it’s safe to downplay the importance of personalization and excellent service that makes customers feel at welcomed, heard, and respected. If anything, the drive towards digital – a potentially cold, impersonal, inhuman interface – means banks need to focus even more on a top-notch customer experience that can’t be replicated by algorithms and artificial intelligence.

Would you want to do business with a bank run entirely by droids? We didn’t think so.

The Three Essential Steps to Engaging Customers

November 13, 2015

Customer engagement is a highly coveted measurement of a business’s customer experience. Knowing whether your customers feel engaged by your brand and employees, and which specific measures affect that sense of engagement, can reveal opportunities to build better relationships with your customers.

The goal of generating engagement has driven creative thinking in recent years as businesses look for the secret to getting and holding their customers’ attention. Much of the current conversation centers around social media and mobile devices in the endless race for more followers, likes, clicks, and shares.

While social & mobile strategies are certainly important, don’t lose sight of the basics amid all the chatter. Customer engagement on any platform starts with three key steps: watching, listening, and sharing.

WATCHING

In any interaction, a customer can reveal something about himself or herself that becomes an opportunity to engage in a conversation. Customer-facing employees should be encouraged to look out for such opportunities. Clothing or accessories might reveal if the customer is a fan of a particular sports team or musician, or a graduate of a local university. A parent or grandparent with a small child along with them may appreciate it if you engage the child – “Who’s the handsome little guy you have with you today?”

LISTENING

Just like watching, listening may give you a clue about a customer’s wants or needs that haven’t been covered yet. This applies to in-person interactions as well as over the phone or via text (like email or web chat interfaces). The most important part: being attentive. A customer can tell if the employee’s attention is divided or his/her interest is inauthentic and scripted – in other words, if they’re not being listened to.

SHARING

Conversation is, of course, a two-way street. In addition to engaging the customer with questions about him or herself, you can also use the opportunity to present information about your business, products, or services.

For example, if you know a particular customer to be a dog lover, you might mention that your business is participating in a fundraiser for a local animal shelter or cause. This is why it’s so important to be attentive in the other parts of this cycle: the more information you remember about each customer, the more the relationship can grow over time.

THE CASE FOR DISCRETIONsign-1238534-640x360

There are a few shadowy side-effects to the pursuit of engagement. It’s certainly possible to draw the wrong conclusion from a verbal or nonverbal context clue. A rep might say something potentially awkward, confusing, or in the worst case, offensive. Additionally, not every customer is going to be in the mood to participate in small talk at every interaction.

Similarly, not every customer is going to welcome the idea that your business is somehow following their personal lives, whether from their digital data or from in-person interactions. If they feel like you know things you shouldn’t know, or are disseminating information about them across the company “behind their back,” they might feel you’ve crossed the line from engagement to intrusion.

But playing it safe by avoiding Watching, Listening, and Sharing opportunities is not a way to build customer engagement. Skill, training, and practice can equip you with a service & sales staff who engage customers with grace and ease, even if a slip-up happens.

 

CSP has many resources available for training your employees to engage customers effectively and graciously, including our customized employee training services and our STARS library of exercises, articles, and activities. Contact us or call (800) 841-7954 ext:101 to talk about your customer engagement goals and questions.