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4 Questions to Ask When Appealing to Millennial Customers

April 10, 2017

Millennials may access customer service in new ways, but many of their priorities remain the same as previous generations.

Millennials may access customer service in new ways, but many of their priorities remain the same as previous generations.

Millennials are taking over the world—literally. As of April 2016, Millennials have edged out Baby Boomers as the largest generation in America. That means Millennials are a driving force behind modern evolutions in customer experience.

The largest, most diverse, most educated generation of Americans to date have incredible spending power. Their familiarity with and reliance on technology defines the Millennial experience and means major changes for businesses and brands looking to court their loyalty.

So how can you become a favorite among Millennial customers?

Millennials still want reliability, friendliness, responsiveness, and quality – they just want even more of it than previous generations were satisfied to have.

No generation before has seen such a rapid progression and diversification of technology. While older Millennials still remember the dial-up days, the younger set are coming of age in a time of ubiquitous and instant availability of favorite resources and channels. Millennials see technology as a lifestyle, not a toolbox.  

If you’re looking to strengthen your appeal to Millennials, your business should embrace a similar mindset. Your business already uses technology to communicate quickly and efficiently. The next step is to embrace the wide variety of apps, devices, and networks that make your brand easy to access and share. The following questions are a good way to gauge if your business is ready to attract Millennial consumers.

IS IT FAST?

Millennials know what they want, and they want it now. Influenced by their always-available, multi-tasking, multi-device lifestyles, their attention span is rather short. Millennials have little patience for clumsy user interfaces or apps that struggle to load. They don’t want to wait for answers! They make decisions quickly and will gravitate to businesses that help them accelerate their progress.

IS IT SOCIAL?

Millennials are always connected to the Internet and therefore, always connected to each other. Businesses quickly realized that the key to engaging Millennial markets is to connect via social media.

Millennials begrudgingly accept the presence of brands and businesses in their social networks, but they expect businesses to behave socially. Personal interactions with businesses make them feel heard and valued.

Rather than picking up a phone, Millennials favor direct Tweets, Yelp reviews, and Facebook posts to describe their experience with a business. An active social media presence demonstrates your business’ willingness to personally connect with customers and keeps your brand fresh in someone’s news feed. 

IS IT MEANINGFUL?

Millennials maintain a heightened awareness of social issues and causes. They’re not interested in money for the sake of money—they want their dollar to mean something when they spend it. Consequently, businesses that include an element of social justice in their work are more likely to successfully engage Millennials.

IS IT AUTONOMOUS?

Millennials are self-starters. They want to feel empowered by their business interactions. Many customer experience disruptions come from Millennials as they initiated their own startups to fill niches not served by the existing market. They’re not content to say: “This is the way things have always been done.” 

This generation saw the birth of “crowdsourcing and online reviews as a significant influencer on purchasing decisions. Conversely, Millennials also value the availability of self-service options, especially those that get them to their destination faster by cutting out the middleman. They’re not opposed to picking up the phone or having a face-to-face customer service interaction, but it’s usually not their first choice. In fact, they may snub a business that doesn’t give them enough opportunity to help themselves.  

Brands Millennials Love

Venmo and other P2P (person to person) payment apps are a recent example of the way Millennials prefer to handle their finances. Venmo provides a slick, no-hassle interface, connects users directly to social networks, and is completely autonomous. Venmo has also partnered with GiveDirectly to make it easier than ever for users to donate to their favorite charity. 

TOMS Shoes is another good example of a brand that successfully engages Millennial markets. Their “One for One” campaign elevated an ordinary purchase of new shoes to an act of goodwill. TOMS also has a strong social media presence. They encourage customers to share stories and make them feel like they’re a part of the TOMS mission to improve the lives of others. 

 

These new insights into Millennial habits in combination with your own Voice of the Customer research will create a customer experience tailored to Millennial demands. In Part Two of this series, we review the areas of the experience to prioritize and provide examples of specific actions to take and offerings to consider when engaging this desirable demographic.

CXcellence: 3 Companies Customers Love

October 3, 2016

In a competitive business climate that increasingly revolves around customer experience (CX), there is much to be learned from companies who have made a name for themselves based on quality of customer service. Below is an overview of some of the most prominent industry leaders and what makes them excel.

USAA: Maintaining trust through technology

In 2015, Forrester published its annual Customer Experience Index, a survey of nearly 46,000 consumers. USAA is one of the highest ranking companies in terms of customer experience, and has maintained this reputation for years. The Index indicates that over half of USAA customers are “highly engaged.” Just to compare: AAA, the next highest ranking insurance company, can only call 34.7% of its insurance customers “highly engaged.”

One of the things USAA excels at is maintaining trust. When asked if their insurance company was “always there when I need them,” 45% of USAA customers strongly agreed, compared to a 28% score for insurance companies in general. What gives USAA their cutting edge is the way they have implemented this trust factor into their technology. As USAA has no walk-in locations, the fact that their customers deem them “easy to do business with” is mostly due to the way they use technology. USAA makes it a point to only implement technology that has been demonstrated to improve member experience.

A good example is the Deposit@Mobile® technology, which lets customers take a picture of their check and immediately (and securely) deposit it into their USAA account. While this functionality is no longer unique to USAA, it still shows a commitment to a modern and responsive customer experience. As Greg Schwartz, former CIO, put it: “Whatever devices the members have, we’re going to be there for them.”

Ally Bank: Approachability is key

Ally Bank is another company that scores high on the Forrester CX Index. Compared to the traditional banking industry, this all-digital bank’s customers give it a higher than average score on all three aspects of customer experience quality: effectiveness, ease, and emotions. Nearly 75% of customers would recommend the company to a family member or friend.

What sets Ally Bank apart from many other banks is their direct approach to banking. They have no minimum deposits and no monthly maintenance fees, but do provide 24/7 live customer service. They not only offer a wide range of services, but also terms varying from three months to five years on most of their financial products. Prioritizing accessibility and service makes Ally Bank approachable to nearly everybody, from the most modest saver to the biggest spender.

Amazon: Customer obsessed
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos: "Our focus is on customer obsession, not competitor obsession."

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos: “Our focus is on customer obsession, not competitor obsession.”

It’s not surprising that a company that was recently inducted into the Customer Service Hall of Fame, and found to be one of the most relevant brands to U.S. consumers in the 2016 Forbes Brand Relevance Index, would spend a lot of its effort improving CX. For Amazon, it’s all about the customer. Or, as founder Jeff Bezos puts it: “Our focus is on customer obsession rather than competitor obsession.”

This obsession with the customer and his or her needs translates into Amazon’s uniquely tailored services. The Prime membership – providing free shipping to loyal customers, among many other extras – is already a household name. More recent innovations include the in-home wireless speaker Echo and its voice-activated service Alexa. As Alexa’s artificial intelligence learns more about customers’ preferences, she is able to provide a personal experience that makes them feel heard and understood – while simultaneously influencing their shopping behavior.

These three businesses have all found successful ways to put their customers first – and reap the benefits. Remember: while customer experience is evolving, there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel. Pay attention to what your peers and other industry leaders are doing, and invest in Voice of the Customer solutions, to fuel continuous improvement for your customers.


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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.

Banks, Don’t Overlook the Business Customer Experience

October 29, 2015

When banks and credit unions look at the topic of customer satisfaction, most likely they are thinking about their consumer customers – students, retirees, and everyone in between. But what about business customers? A new business is started every minute in the U.S., and some predict that over half the labor market will be self-employed by 2020. This creates a huge opportunity for banks to fill these entrepreneurs’ needs.

Banks who want a piece of the small & mid-sized business pie need to devote attention and resources to the business customer experience just as they would to consumers. Business and consumer customers walk through the same door into the same branch, but their journeys, needs, and expectations diverge from there.

What do business banking customers value?

personal-791345_640By and large, the same basic elements apply to both consumer and business banking customers – friendly and competent customer service, product availability and associated fees, etc. — but they look at those elements from different angles.

For example, the availability and quality of mobile and online banking tools are valuable drivers of satisfaction to both consumers and businesses, but they’ll be using them very differently. It’s unlikely that the same portal will meet both of their needs. And while the consumer segment has embraced digital banking readily, small business banking customers still favor visiting a branch to conduct their affairs.

Likewise, a consumer may not be bothered if they interact with different faces each time they perform a transaction as long as the quality is reliable, while business owners are more comfortable with an ongoing, consistent relationship with the same person or team of people. One survey found that small- and mid-sized businesses cited their relationship manager as the most important point of contact with their bank — more important than online banking by a wide margin.

Business owners, especially small businesses and start-ups, don’t just need someone to handle a transaction; they are looking for a partner to help them navigate the complexities of things like payroll, taxes, cash flow, and SBA loans. Consistency helps build and maintain trust, particularly if the business hits a rough patch and needs some flexibility or extra help.

Just like consumers, business customers want to feel understood on an individual and specific level, and want service that’s personalized to them. A later survey by J.D. Power & Associates, referenced here, found that business customers who felt that their relationship manager ‘completely understands’ their business were far more likely to say they’d definitely stick with their bank than those who felt less understood – 47% vs. 19%.

Follow the logic.

The correlation between feeling understood and sticking around as a customer should not come as a surprise. But does that mean banks are going out of the way to deeply understand the needs of their business customers? J.D. Power has found that overall small business banking satisfaction is trending upward in the last five years, with big and mid-size banks eking out a lead over regional and community banks, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

To see things from the business owner’s point of view, you might also be interested in this guide from the Wall Street Journal: How to Choose a Bank for Your Business. Using those criteria, do you think a business owner would feel compelled to choose your institution?

CSP specializes in customizing your customer experience to drive satisfaction among your customers, consumer and business alike. If you see room for improvement at your institution, contact us or call (800) 841-7954 ext:101 to start a discussion about your concerns.

How Banks Can Evolve Alongside Their Customers

August 18, 2015

We’ve written at length on this blog about important changes in the evolving banking industry, including the rising popularity of universal bankers, online customer support, FinTech firms (especially among Millennials), and an omnichannel approach to improving performance across all points of contact with customers.

As the industry forges ahead, so must the banking customer experience. It begins with asking the right questions about the key components of the customer relationship lifecycle:

  • Acquiring Customers: Which products and services capture potential customer’s interests? Which marketing channels are the most productive for prospecting customers?
  • Maintaining Customers: How can you better manage customer expectations? How could you better fulfill promises to keep customers satisfied?
  • Maximizing Customers: What opportunities do you have to up-sell and cross-sell? How could you improve your referral and recommendation solicitation?
  • Customer Loyalty: How else could you increase your customers’ purchasing power? What customer loyalty programs might you consider offering?
  • Customer Retention: How can you keep your good customers and reduce “churn?”

It’s enough to make any bank manager feel a little lost in the dark, feeling around for a light switch that will illuminate a clear path through. Every bank will have different goals, different needs, and different customers motivated by different key drivers, so while the destination is the same, no two enterprises will walk the same path.

The Three Stages of the Journey to Improvement

The three stages of the journey to aligning with customers

It begins with Stage 1, Data Infrastructure – the collection and reporting of Voice of the Customer data from feedback tools like surveys and evaluations. This becomes the Customer Intelligence that is the backbone of every successful CEM strategy. With this foundation, banks can better anticipate their customers’ needs and be proactive in offering personalized solutions.

Stage 2 is Performance and Insight. Once the data is collected, it’s time to do a deep analysis of the performance of all metrics, down to each branch and each retail position.  In this step, we identify what’s changing in customer needs and expectations by sifting through data currently siloed in various channels and integrating it into a complete, 360-degree view of the customer experience.

Stage 3 is Holistic Strategy. Using the data and information from the previous two stages, the real work of improvement begins. This is the opportunity to perform an alignment check on the bank’s internal culture to see how closely it matches customer needs, wants, and expectations, and make necessary adjustments to establish and maintain the proper alignment.

There you have it: a clear path from Data to Information to Knowledge.

In our 25+ years of Customer Experience research, CSP has served as a “trail guide” to hundreds of banks walking their own paths to improved customer experience. We believe a bank’s value to its customers is defined through relationships. Employees, not smartphones or laptops, should remain at the center of those relationships.

Our experts are here to lead you through the three stages along the journey. More articles like this one can be found in our STARS library, available to current CSP clients as part of our full-service delivery. Contact us with any questions you may have.

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:

How a Good Customer Experience Trickles Up to Your Employees

May 14, 2015

Employee engagement is a critical component to a satisfying customer experience. Employees who believe in what they’re doing and in the company they’re serving are likely to provide better service, and lead to better relationships with customers and higher satisfaction.

Companies spend millions per year on surveys, programs, and initiatives to support employee engagement. In evaluating this expense, the focus is often on the end results and bottom-line benefits of highly engaged employees:

  • person-621045_640Companies with high engagement see significantly lower absenteeism and turnover than those with low engagement. Those same top performers also showed 22% higher profitability and 10% higher customer ratings. (Gallup, 2012)
  • 91% of highly engaged employees always or almost always try their hardest at work, compared with 67% of disengaged employees (Temkin Group)
  • Engaged companies grow profits up to three times faster than their competitors. (Corporate Leadership Council)

When employees are engaged in the mission of the business and feel they are being treated well, they will put forth more discretionary effort – that is, go above and beyond, stay to finish tasks beyond the end of the workday, and invest more of their talents and energies into helping the company succeed. That investment of discretionary effort is what most employee engagement tools are measuring.

The themes of employee engagement have been the same for years: productivity and the costs of wasted labor, attracting and retaining the top talent in the industry, improving workplace morale and teamwork, and the quality of service to customers. To affect engagement, companies often focus on the benefits and perks they can provide to employees, and a workplace culture that encourages and rewards high-performing workers. It’s an inside-out look at the issue based on the assumption that employee engagement is the source point of positive business outcomes.

But the inverse is also true. Strong business outcomes lead to strong employee engagement.

Businesses charge their employees with carrying forward their vision for customer service and satisfaction, and when they succeed, that positive customer experience trickles back up to the employees, their managers, and even to senior leadership.

Customer service isn’t always easy, fun, or pleasant, but it serves a purpose. And purpose is one of the four key factors to employee engagement, according to a New York Times/Harvard Business Review survey of 12,000 employees in various industries:

Employees who derive meaning and significance from their work were more than three times as likely to stay with their organizations — the highest single impact of any variable in our survey. These employees also reported 1.7 times higher job satisfaction and they were 1.4 times more engaged at work.

A single positive interaction can make a customer’s day, and an overall satisfying experience will increase their likelihood to tell others about your company. The same applies to employees, who are more likely to describe your business as a great place to work and encourage others to apply for a position there, if they’re regularly involved in positive interactions with satisfied customers.

The Takeaway

Serving the customer and striving to improve their experience gives employees a sense of purpose – something we can relate to at CSP, naturally. By investing in the customer experience and integrating the voice of the customer, a company can take advantage of the feedback loop between customers and employees and provide a happier, more productive workplace.

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.