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Tagged: customer service

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.

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.

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.

What Baby Boomer & Millennial Banking Customers Have in Common

July 30, 2015

Though born decades apart and into very different circumstances, Baby Boomer (born 1946-1964) and Millennial (born 1980-2000) customers show a surprising amount of overlap in their preferences and priorities for the customer experience at their banks.

Baby Boomers are Aging Youthfully

baby-boomer-motorcycle-442244_640

Baby Boomers came of age during the wild 1960s and 70s, and while they might not be able to rock’n’roll all night and party every day anymore, they’re not ready to resign to their rocking chairs just yet.

Here you can begin to see some of the commonalities between Boomers and Millennials. Both generations entered adulthood against the backdrop of oversea war, economic depression, and social unrest. The 2008 recession hit their wallets hard: Boomers watched their retirement funds wither, and Millennials worry if they’ll earn enough to pay off their immense student loans. To varying degrees, both groups know the value of doing more with less and balancing their desire to make purchases against the risks of running out.

It’s Not Just About Retirement

Sure, retirement is a pressing issue for Boomers exiting the workforce and preparing for a new phase of life, but it’s not the only thing they’re doing with their money.

Despite the setbacks of the recession, Baby Boomers earn about 47% of all income in the United States, totaling $4 trillion. [Source] With their adult children leaving home and establishing their own families, instead of settling in, Boomers are active and adventurous. They want to be able to keep up with their grandkids and are using their spending power to catch up with all the dreams they may have put off during their parenting years.

That might mean new car purchases, home renovations or relocations, or even starting a business – all things they’ll be looking to their banks to help them finance and navigate. These products aren’t just the territory of young adults getting established.

As we’ve reported previously, Millennials, too, are entrepreneurial adventurers who tend to value experiences over material goods. So while they may be renting a while longer before they purchase a house and putting off traditional milestones like marriage and child-rearing, they see that as freeing up capital to pursue their dreams while they still have youth on their side.

They’ve also absorbed their parents’ concerns about funding their retirements and, according to the Transamerica Retirement Survey, 74% of Millennials have begun saving for retirement a full 13 years earlier in life than Baby Boomers.

This knowledge should lead banks to carefully consider how and to whom they are promoting their small business, retirement, and home equity products and services.

Linked In with Technology

A major slice of shared territory between these two generations can be found online, and in particular, on mobile.

Millennials and Boomers alike are early adopters of new tech products and are comfortable navigating the world through the lens of their smartphone or tablet. 71% of Boomers bank online at least once per week, and their use of mobile is expected grow exponentially over the next few years.

So by prioritizing a streamlined, personalized, and mobile-optimized experience, banks can satisfy both sets of customers.

Where they differ, though, is in their concern about the security of their financial information. Millennials, who have largely grown up with tech, tend to be more trusting; Boomers are willing to adapt and learn, but remain suspicious about the trustworthiness of devices, networks, and data banks.

61% of Boomers believe the risk of their financial data being compromised will rise within the next three years, compared to 45% of Millennials. [Source] Adults who are not already using online banking options are even more suspicious and unlikely to be converted, no matter how slick the user experience. Nothing will send customers of any age on the hunt for a new bank like finding that their personal information is at risk, for which they unforgivingly hold the institution responsible.

With data breaches making headlines on a regular basis, banks who want to promote their online and mobile services must communicate a strong message of security, not just convenience.

Want to know more about the demands of different demographics within your target market? CSP can deliver all the intelligence you need and offer solutions to meet your specific goals. Contact us today with your questions and concerns.

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.

Position Your CEO as a Customer Experience Champion

May 30, 2015

At many businesses, the only time a customer sees or hears from the CEO might be a statement issued to the press, a column in the quarterly newsletter, or in the worst cases, a public scandal for which the company leadership is held accountable.

Otherwise, CEOs, at least from the customer’s perspective, are mythical creatures that operate behind closed doors, where they make the Big Decisions that directly affect their customers.

Customer experience and service have been growing priorities for businesses across many industries in the last decade. Technology – specifically, customer data, social media, and the move towards mobile – has dramatically changed the way businesses and customers interact. This gave rise to the “omnichannel” point-of-view, and that’s the level where most CEOs (and other C-level executives) operate: overseers, analysts, evaluators, strategizers.

But what about champions?

champion of the customerSure, CEOs have a lot to say about the organizational effects and benefits of customer experience management.

  • 97% of executives surveyed in a global study by Oracle say that delivering great customer experiences is essential to their success.
  • In the same study, 81% of executives surveyed say they realize the importance of active social-media processes and culture, although only 65% had actually gone as far as implementing social service and sales.
  • 52% of retail senior executives surveyed by Timetrade stated that the best way to combat showrooming (visiting a store to view an item, but purchasing it later online) is by improving the in-store customer experience.
  • In a 2013 Deloitte survey, 62% of organizations view customer experience provided through contact centers as a competitive differentiator.

But awareness is not advocacy. Simply knowing where the problems and opportunities are, and what could and should be done to improve the experience, does not a champion make.

CEOs must actively argue for, defend, and clear the path for improvements to the customer experience. In the words of Oracle CEO Mark V. Hurd, they must become “customer experience evangelists.”

This means taking internal actions to prioritize the customer experience, such as allocating enough of the budget to invest in voice of the customer strategies, and rallying employees, from the C-Suite down to the individual customer service representatives, around the cause. It also means maintaining a visible public-facing position of customer advocacy – and not just when crisis strikes.

4 CEOs Who Act As Champions

 Jeff Bezos CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon
So great is Bezos’ customer championship that you practically can’t talk about customer service or experience without his name coming up. As Amazon grew into the retail giant it is today, so did its influence on customer experience across the entire retail landscape, with Bezos himself on the vanguard. He keeps his email address publicly known and available, and is known for not just reading but forwarding customer complaint emails directly to the members of his team responsible for making a fix (which he expects to happen fast).
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple

Photo by Valery Marchive

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple
Apple wouldn’t be what it is today without its excruciating attention to detail and quality, and Cook has carried that through to his personal involvement in customer service. A perfect example: after a customer e-mailed Cook complaining about the quality of Apple’s music on hold, within 24 hours she got a call from an Apple employee saying Cook had forwarded the email to her and reassuring the customer that the matter would be dealt with. “”I get hundreds, and some days thousands of emails from customers,” Cook has said in prior interviews. “This is a privilege, because they talk to you as if you’re sitting at their kitchen table.”
 John Legere CEO of T-Mobile John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile
By eliminating contract plans and lifting many of the other customer-unfriendly policies common across wireless carriers (like complicated data fee structures and keeping phones ‘locked’ and un-transferrable), Legere made the statement in 2013 that his company was looking out for the customers’ best interests, instead of just protecting tech companies’ grip on the industry. In designing the plans, Legere said he listened to T-Mobile customer service calls every night and had customer complaint emails forwarded to him, as well as making his email address public. “We are going to change the rules,” Legere said. “Not for us … this is about what consumers want and need.”
 Sir Richard Branson Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin
OK, so he’s not a CEO anymore, but Branson might still be one of the world’s most accessible billionaires. Despite his fantastically high profile and net worth, he shakes the unfavorable image of the 1% by remaining in close contact with customers (not just of Virgin, but everywhere). He commands a massive social media following – 2 million on Facebook, 5.6 million on Twitter, nearly 8 million on LinkedIn – and is a regular blogger who frequently advocates for the quality of customer service and relations, and is generous with advice.

 

You might also be interested in these previous posts:

Get Your Decision-Makers to Listen to the Voice of the Customer

May 12, 2015

A satisfying customer experience is organizational, not just transactional. The most direct way to affect your customer experience is to start with your own staff. Everyone must be on board, especially managers and executives.

It’s critical that the top decision-makers at your business believe in the customer experience and stay tuned in to the voice of the customer, even if they never interact directly. Without this investment of attitude and effort, they risk developing blind spots or working off of assumptions that are not aligned with the customer’s reality.

Reasons to Believe in Customer Experience Management

executives

If there is reluctance or uncertainty among senior staff about the value of being involved with the customer experience, they might just need a nudge in the right direction.

Objection: I’ve been in this business for (x) years. I know my customer.
Reality: Your customer today is almost certainly not the same one you were serving (x) years ago. Customer expectations of their experience have changed rapidly in the last several years, and customers are forever looking towards the future. What satisfied them yesterday is old news today and will have them yawning tomorrow. Meanwhile, agile, innovative start-ups and tech-savvy companies have changed the face of customer service and set the bar higher for the rest of the marketplace, not just their own competitors. So you may think you know your customer, but would your customer agree?
Objection: There’s just too much data to make sense of.
Reality: That’s precisely why it’s important to make sense of it. With the explosion of data in the digital age, there is so much to learn about customers to enhance what we already know. As more organizations adopt an omnichannel approach to customer service and marketing, it’s essential to dive into the data and see how all of the parts are functioning. Only this 360-degree view can tell you how well your business is performing as a whole.
Objection: Should we really be budgeting for this?
Reality: What is more costly to a business in the long run – a system for measuring customer satisfaction, or dissatisfied customers? If you’re investing in customer service at all, it’s better to work from a foundation of current and thorough information about the key drivers of satisfaction among your customers, than to go by your assumptions of which areas are performing well and which ones need more attention.
Objection: There’s plenty of market research already out there we can use.
Reality: You can take your chances by basing your decisions off of large, sweeping studies and reports, drawn from a sample size that might not even include any of your own customers. Or you can ask them directly and know that the information you’re getting is immediately relevant to your business and your market. While the large-scale market research is helpful for noting trends and patterns, no one can speak for your customers as well as they can themselves.
Objection: I’m an executive, why does this involve me at all?
Reality: When the customer experience is hurting, other parts of the business – including some of the parts the C-Suite cares about, like sales and workplace performance – will suffer, too. Even if your role never has you interacting with customers directly, you still have an indirect effect on their experience by modeling the right attitude to your team. If those working on the front lines don’t feel like their higher-ups value the customer, they’re not likely to go the extra mile themselves.

Consider, too, that in today’s social media age, businesses aren’t as opaque to the customer as they once were. Customers who have any reason to be upset are not shy about publicly calling out Owners, Presidents, Board Members and CEOs. When there’s a communication breakdown or a scandal between a business and its customers, the public looks to the leaders for explanations and accountability. They can tell the difference between canned PR apologies and genuine concern – which can only come from genuine engagement.

The Takeaway

Superior customer service starts from within and moves outwards, but it can only do so if the internal influencers within your organization are giving it the proper momentum. Managers and executives might sign the paychecks, but the customer is really the boss.

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.

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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

Treat Every Impression As a First Impression to Build Loyalty

March 18, 2015

Common wisdom holds that you only get one chance at a first impression, the best opportunity to influence on a person’s overall opinion than anything that follows.

Yes, it’s true that a first impression can only happen once. But first impressions are also happening all the time. Every interaction between a business and a customer begins with an opportunity to set the customer’s expectation of their experience.

shaking hands on a first impression can impact loyaltyWhether for a brand new audience or with longtime returning customers, the first few moments of any encounter with your business impacts their sense of satisfaction and likelihood to remain loyal.

Simple friendly gestures and a professional attitude may seem like small things, but they can make a big difference on the front lines of customer service. Customer-facing personnel get dozens of opportunities a day to put these principles into practice, but it doesn’t fall only on their shoulders. It’s the top-to-bottom culture of a business, down to the individual workplace, that supports a superior customer experience at every touch point.

Not every first impression happens face-to-face, of course. These days, a business’s digital presence creates even more touch points. Every visit to your website, social network profiles, and mobile site or app, and every email or SMS message you deliver to your audience, is another opportunity for a first impression.

Customers care as much about useful and attractive website or app design, and polite, engaging behavior on social media, as they do about the behavior of a customer service rep. This is where customer experience and user experience overlap.

Whether considering a personal interaction or a digital one, the same fundamental rules of first impressions apply:

  • Be polite and courteous. Etiquette may have evolved over the years, but basic good manners still matter. Don’t underestimate the importance of Please and Thank You.
  • Be friendly, from the heart. Trust your customers to be able to spot the difference between parroted or forced friendliness and genuine interest. Even a scripted response delivered in a pleasant tone of voice can create a smoother experience.
  • Be timely. Make it clear you are ready, willing, and able to help. In the age of instant on-demand gratification, customers don’t like to be kept waiting for a resolution or be given the run-around between different resources and personnel.
  • Be thoughtful and considerate. Empathize with customers and strive to anticipate their needs and accommodate their challenges. This goes double for customers who are bringing a complaint to your attention.
  • Use the customer’s name – for in-person and phone greetings, when interacting with them on social media, and with custom fields on your website and email templates. “Dear Customer” could be anyone.

The customer experience is a journey, and every step along that journey contributes to long-term loyalty and satisfaction. So treat every step like it’s the first.

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