Archive for the ‘Tuesday Tip’ Category


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Don’t Let Technology Destroy Your Humanity

4-14 automated customer service smallWhen it comes to customer service, how much automation is too much? For a small business owner, using technology to automate customer service assistance—such as enabling customers to schedule appointments online or request quotes online—saves time and money.

However, it’s important to think about customer service not only from a business standpoint, but also from your customers’ point of view as human beings.

A friend of mine recently had two experiences in medical offices that illustrate this point. When she visited her doctor’s office, she was surprised to see that the entire check-in process had been automated. She signed in on a clipboard next to a sign saying “Check In Here” with an arrow pointing to a computer terminal. The touchscreen guided her to update and confirm address, insurance and other information. The receptionist and two nurses sitting a few feet away never even bothered to glance up.

My friend admitted that while she understood the motivation behind the change, it bothered her a bit. “When you’re about to put on one of those skimpy exam gowns and bare your all to the doctor, it would be nice if someone at least said ‘Hello’ first,” she grumbled. She left the office feeling awfully dissatisfied with the customer service. 

A few weeks later, the same friend went to get some tests done at another medical office. This time, she was given an iPad to check in on, but it was a totally different experience. First, she was greeted by a genuinely friendly receptionist, who handed her the iPad, showed her how to get started, walked her over to a seat, and checked on her a few minutes later to make sure she wasn’t having any problems. What a world of difference! My friend left feeling delighted with the new technology—and feeling positive about the medical office.

Whenever you’re making technological changes to your customer service, keep in mind that…

…Different generations have different expectations. My friend is 50, but a 20-something customer might have loved the concept of the no-human-contact medical office. Seniors, for whom doctor’s appointments are often one of their only social outlets, would likely hate it. In general, younger people love self-service, while older people feel slighted by it.

….Your industry matters, too. A high-touch or social-oriented business like a beauty salon or restaurant may benefit from more of a personal touch in customer service.

…Customers’ emotional state matters. Customers who are stressed about a decision or problem may prefer to talk to a live person; those who just need some basic information may be happy to get it from a FAQ list. If you offer financial consulting or tax preparation, you’re likely to be dealing with the former. If you sell shoelaces, you can probably get away with the latter.

The lesson: When it comes to customer service, don’t let your technology get in the way of your humanity. 


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Are You Measuring Customer Experience?

4-7 measuring Customer Service smallDon’t look now, but the pressure to provide superior customer service just got even greater. According to new research from eConsultancy, the customer experience is becoming more and more important because products and services are increasingly commoditized. Companies—especially those, like small businesses, that can’t compete on low price alone—are finding customer experience is the best way to differentiate themselves from the competition.

While the report focuses on retail businesses, I believe these three lessons apply to just about any company:

  1. Customers expect consistency. Today’s consumers want their experience with your business to be the same, no matter whether they’re interacting with you in person, on the phone or via email. If your website conveys a lively, fun and lighthearted brand, but your customer service reps are dour and unhelpful on the phone, you’re in big trouble. If your phone reps provide efficient and helpful customer service but your website is clunky and hard to navigate, you’re in trouble, too.
  2. Customers want personalization. Are you using tools such as customer relationship management (CRM) and help desk software to gather, analyze and share customer data? If your customer service reps have quick access to data on a customer’s past behavior, for example, it’s much easier for them to provide personalized service—which creates a bond with the customer and smooths ruffled feathers if there’s a problem. In the long run, a personal approach to customer service helps build lasting relationships with customers, increasing customer loyalty (not to mention your business bank account).
  3. Customer satisfaction is one measure of customer service—but it’s not the only one. While 63 percent of companies measure customer experience based on customer satisfaction surveys, making this the top measure used overall may be a mistake. Customers aren’t always honest or accurate in such polls. Even if they are, you’ll get a more well-rounded picture of how they really feel if you also measure 1) the size and growth of your customer loyalty programs and 2) the percentage of returning customers. (Average order size and total revenue are other measures many companies use to track customer satisfaction, but the report notes these can be misleading, as someone who buys from you today may not come back tomorrow.)

By following these tips, you can boost your service quality—and build your customer loyalty.


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Spring Clean Your Customer Service

spring cleaningIs your customer service all that it should be? As a long winter slowly ends, the economy (knock on wood) continues its upward trend and consumers feel the itch to spend, now is the perfect time to do some “spring cleaning” on your customer service. Here are X areas that might need a going-over.

  1. Staffing. Do you have enough customer service employees to handle any seasonal increases in business? Conversely, if your business slows down in the summer, plan how you’ll either staff down temporarily or use your customer service employees productively on other tasks. Also consider using downtime to provide additional training or introduce new technology.
  2. Technology. Speaking of technology, there are so many solutions that can help a small business provide big-company customer service affordably and efficiently, there’s no excuse for outdated systems. Spend some time examining what’s out there and how it could help your business provide better service. Also investigate whether it’s time to take the products you’re currently using to the next level.
  3. Website. Does your business website help customers help themselves by providing up-to-date customer service information, such as toll-free numbers at the top of every page so customers can quickly talk to a live person when needed? Popup online chat options and detailed FAQs help, too. If you have an ecommerce site, detailed information about tax, shipping and returns eliminates lots of customer service calls.
  4. Policies. Are your customer service policies keeping pace with those of competitors? Today, customers have higher expectations and more options than ever before. If your employees are still adhering to “That’s not our policy” attitudes, while competitors are bending over backwards to keep customers happy, you’re going to lose business. Empower your employees to be more flexible. Set limits, then clearly explain and role-play how they might handle difficult situations.
  5. Image. How are your customer service actions (and staff) perceived by your customers and prospects? Don’t just talk on social media—listen, too. By listening to what people say about your business on social networks and in online reviews, you’ll have the information you need to make the changes they want to see—or to keep doing more of what they love.

Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Are You Really Satisfying Your Customers?

3-24 Customer Satisfaction smallWhile consumers’ expectations of customer service are rising, very few brands are keeping pace, a new study by Accenture reveals. Mobile, social and digital are converging with traditional channels of doing business, and customers are eager to take advantage of this omnichannel world. But only 11 percent think companies are doing a good job of melding digital, mobile, social and traditional channels, Accenture’s latest Global Consumer Pulse Research found.

Instead, customers are still suffering from the same customer service issues they’ve been reporting for the past several years of the survey. For instance, customer satisfaction with companies’ ability to resolve problems quickly has remained flat for the past six years. Dissatisfaction with resolution time is the number-one reason customers switch from one business to another.

Specifically, 86 percent of customers are frustrated by companies that can’t resolve a problem in the first customer service interaction; 85 percent are frustrated by lengthy hold times and 84 percent get annoyed when customer service representatives can’t answer their questions.

Although online customer service channels have been around for quite a while now, customer satisfaction with these channels has also remained relatively flat, suggesting that businesses are holding steady but not improving in these areas. Still, traditional customer service is falling behind: Just 51 percent are satisfied with the customer service they get from traditional call centers, while 57 percent are satisfied with online chat customer service.

Companies’ “coasting” in customer service terms may be why only 28 percent of respondents in the survey say they are “very loyal” toward companies they patronize.

How can your business beat those odds?

  • Integrate all your customer service channels. Customers may expect to start a customer service interaction in chat or email format, then move to a phone conversation without having to provide all of the same information to each representative. It’s important for the experience to be simple and seamless.
  • Educate customer service teams. Your customer service reps need access to the latest knowledge about your products, services and policies so they can quickly respond to questions without having to find a supervisor. Ongoing training programs and updated, online “knowledge bases” can help.
  • Help customers help themselves. Provide as much information as possible to help customers find their own solutions. FAQs, community forums, product guides or even how-to videos can educate customers in using your product or service so that they can resolve their own problems.

There’s more opportunity than ever to provide good customer service to employees in whatever format they want it. Don’t miss out on that chance to differentiate your business.


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: 6 Ways to Cut Customer Wait Times

busy manLooking for new ways to eliminate customers’ stress while they wait for customer service? Try reducing the wait—or at least giving the impression you’re reducing it, a new study of customer psychology suggests.

A study written by three marketing professors and reported in MediaPost found that people often feel more time-pressed than they really are when they are facing multiple goals that conflict with each other. For instance, a working mother who’s also taking care of an aging parent is more likely to feel stressed at work even on a day when juggling children, parent and work is all going well, just because in the back of her mind she has conflicting roles to play.

How does this affect customer service? Well, any customer facing multiple goals or feeling conflict is going to be more sensitive to wait times. For instance, a customer calling customer service on her 15-minute break feels stressed about getting back to work on time. A customer who’s already had bad experiences with customer service about an unresolved issue will be extra-sensitive to wait times as he tries (again) to resolve it.

So how can you lessen wait times, or at least make them less onerous? Here are some tactics businesses are using successfully.

  • Provide as many self-serve options as you can. Your website can feature FAQs, clear directions, community forums and other information to guide customers without having to talk to an agent.  
  • Identify peak call times and staff appropriately. The more agents available, the more manageable wait times will be.
  • Offer to call customers back. Providing an option to call customers back at a time and number they specify is a less stressful alternative to waiting on hold.
  • Don’t leave them in a vacuum. Stress increases when customers have no idea how long they’ll be on hold. Have your hold message identify projected wait times (pad them a bit so customers will be pleased when they get helped “early”).
  • Give customer service agents access to a detailed and updated knowledge base so they can quickly get answers without having to find a supervisor or other agent to help.
  • Measure your call metrics. Set goals and benchmarks such as average time on hold, average time to resolve an issue, how many calls one agent can handle at a time before service starts to suffer, average numbers of transfers during one call and average number of times customers are put on hold during one call. By measuring these numbers, you’ll be able to identify bottlenecks slowing service and resolve them.  

Nextiva Tuesday Tip: To Find Good Customer Service Staff, Get Social

3-10 hiring with social media smallLooking to hire customer service employees this year? You’re not alone. According to the most recent SurePayroll Scorecard, which tracks small business hiring trends nationwide, 38 percent of small business owners are planning to hire salespeople or customer care representatives in the coming months.

With competition for good customer service workers heating up, more and more small business owners are turning to social media to find job candidates. In particular, 25 percent of small business owners use LinkedIn for recruiting—a huge increase from the 4 percent who did so last year. In addition, 18 percent use Facebook and 4 percent use Twitter.

LinkedIn has long been known as a hiring spot for big corporations, but now the nation’s smallest businesses are embracing it, too (the average company in the SurePayroll Scorecard has just six employees). It only makes sense if you’re looking for customer service employees—who need to be energetic and people-oriented—you’d turn to social media. After all, social media is all about interacting and sharing with others, so you can get a good sense of an employee’s people skills by using it.

How should you start when looking for customer service staff on social media? LinkedIn is a great place to start, since people often begin there when looking for jobs. Make sure your company LinkedIn profile is up to date, and post updates about changes in your company, new projects or opportunities. Of course, you can also use LinkedIn’s job listings to actively seek customer service employees, but sometimes you can find good candidates by looking for them, instead of waiting for them to come to you. Try joining groups related to your industry or customer service related issues. Pay attention to who contributes to discussions in the groups and what they have to say. You can then reach out to people you might want to consider as candidates and see if they’re looking to make a switch.

Facebook and Twitter can also work well for alerting potential customer service employees to opportunities at your business. You can tweet or post with a hashtag related to your industry, the job title or customer service jobs in general. You can also share photos or videos of your staff at work, or testimonials from your employees, to convey a sense of what your company is like to work for and get job candidates interested.

No matter how you reach out to candidates on social media, make sure you always direct followers to a place they can get more information about the job, whether that’s your business website or an online job listing. 


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: What Customer Service Benchmarks Should Your E-commerce Business Measure?

2-24 e-commerce customer service smallWhat type of customer service benchmarks should your ecommerce business be hitting? The E-Tailing Group’s 17th Annual Mystery Shopping Study has some insights. The survey, conducted at the end of 2014, studied 100 top retail websites for their best practices. When it comes to customer service, these are the benchmarks used and how you can incorporate them in your business:

Self-service information

What type of self-service information is available on your website? How easy is it to find? How comprehensive is it? If there is a lot of information, is it categorized properly or searchable?

Of the 100 retailers surveyed, 83 percent have FAQs on-site. However, only 26 percent offer the ability to search FAQs. Surprisingly, the percentage of sites that list customer service hours of operation dropped from 83 percent in 2013 to 77 percent in 2014. This is the type of basic information every business should include on its website.

Online shopping cart

How easy is your shopping cart to use and edit? Is make-or-break information such as shipping costs and taxes presented before the end of the process? Can the customer save key information (shipping addresses, etc.) securely?

Top-rated retailers enable customers to checkout with five or fewer total steps/screens to fill out. Nearly all of the retailers (98 percent) now offer the ability to pre-populate the customer profile in the shopping cart so shoppers can check out faster. In addition, half have enabled one-click checkout.

As more consumers are browsing and buying on different devices, the “universal” shopping cart (which can be accessed from any device) is now offered by 82 percent of the top retailers, up from 73 percent in 2013. Another desirable feature: 65 percent of top retailers allow shoppers to move items from the shopping cart to a “wish list” or “buy later” list, up from 54 percent in 2013.

Days to receive ordered products

How long does it take to receive orders? What types of shipping options do you offer and for what prices?

Top retailers in the survey average delivery in 3.42 days, a slight improvement over 3.8 days in 2013.

Order confirmations

How quickly do you provide order confirmations? What information do they contain? How easy is it to adjust or cancel an order after receiving confirmation?

Some 81 percent of e-tailers include customer service phone numbers in their order confirmation emails, up from 77 percent in 2013.

Quality of and response times for email/call center customer service queries

How quickly are emails/calls answered? What are average hold times at the call center? How many times is the average customer placed on hold or transferred during a customer service call?

The top retailers not only answer email questions within 24 hours, but also include a personalized salutation and content.

Return policy

How easy are returns? If you have a brick-and-mortar store as well as an ecommerce site, can customers return online purchases in-store? Is there a charge for returns or are shipping costs covered?

Two-thirds of retailers now have one, uniform return policy for both online and offline purchases. Retailers are also adding convenience to the online return process by providing prepaid return shipping labels—64 percent of sites provide these, up from 59 percent in 2013.

By monitoring these benchmarks and continually seeking to improve upon them, your business can reach new levels of customer service success.


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: How to Measure and Use Net Promoter Scores

2-17 promoter score smallHow loyal are customers to your business? How likely are they to recommend your products and services to others? Doing a Net Promoter Score survey (NPS) can help you get the answers to these questions quickly and take action to build more customer loyalty.

The Net Promoter Score survey was developed by Bain & Company and works like this: You ask customers one simple question: How likely are you to recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague? and have users answer on a scale of 0 to 10 (where 0 means not at all likely and 10 means definitely likely.

The test is scored this way:

  • Promoters” are loyal customers who keep buying from a company and urge friends to do the same (scores of 9 and 10)
  • “Passives” (scores of 7 and 8) are satisfied customers, but are also at risk of being wooed away by your competitors.
  • “Detractors” (scores of 6 or under) are dissatisfied and at risk of spreading negative word-of-mouth about your company.

To find your Net Promoter Score, subtract the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters. The resulting percentage is your score. For instance, a company with 40 percent Promoters and 10 percent Detractors has an NPS of 30 percent.  Any NPS over zero is good; an NPS of 50 percent or more is considered excellent.

In order to make your Net Promoter Score survey effective:

Deliver the survey at the right time. It needs to taken sent soon enough after the customer experience that customers remember it, but not so soon that they haven’t gotten to use the product or service yet.

Include room for open-ended follow-up. After the single question, include an optional section on your survey for additional comments:

  • Please tell us what you like or don’t like about our company.
  • Would you like to be contacted to discuss this?
  • Name/Phone Number/Email

This gives customers who are unhappy with you space to “vent” about what they didn’t like, as well as to be heard.

Take action on both Detractors and Promoters. Promoters are much more likely to be loyal to your business, buy more from your business and prove more profitable to your business. Use tactics such as:

  • Offering them loyalty rewards
  • Offering rewards for referring a new customer
  • Upselling additional related products and services

Detractors, meanwhile, are likely to badmouth your business, so do your best to change what they’re unhappy about. If a Detractor asks to be contacted, do so immediately! Positive outreach can turn Detractors into Promoters.

Share results with your team. Let your staff know your business’s NPS as well as any specific praise or criticism that customers share in the survey. By doing so, you can help them improve customer service and overall performance.


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: How to Personalize Your Customer Service

2-3 personalized customer service small2015 has barely begun, but already personalization has emerged as one of the hottest buzzwords in customer service this year. How can you take advantage of this trend and make your customer service more personal?

Of course, small businesses have always had an edge in that their smaller size inherently makes them more personal. But today, with huge companies using automation to personalize the customer service experience (how ironic, right?), your small business needs a combination of the human touch and automated systems to stay ahead of the pack.

Here are some suggestions for how customer service reps can personalize their interactions with customers:

  • Human touch: Always find out and use the customer’s name, whether addressing him or her over the phone, in an online chat or by email. People love to hear their own names—it makes them feel “heard.”
  • Automated system: Give customer service reps access to appropriate tools, such as customer relationship management (CRM) software, so they can quickly review a customer’s history with your business. For example, being able to see order history and details of the most recent order placed enables ecommerce sales reps to dive right into solving problems (“I see that your order placed two weeks ago still hasn’t shipped. Let’s see how I can expedite that for you…”) without the customer having to provide a lengthy explanation.
  • Human touch: Humanize reps by using their names in communications and conversations. Getting a response from Tracy.Wilson@yourcompany.com in response to an email complaint feels much more personal than getting an email from customerservice@yourcompany.com. It also makes customers feel someone is taking ownership of their issue.
  • Automated system: Have reps input details of their interactions into your customer service or CRM system. This enables new reps to pick up where the original rep left off if the customer is “handed off” or has to re-contact the company later on.
  • Human touch: If possible, have the same rep deal with an issue from beginning to end. If not, humanize the handoff, too. Don’t just transfer the customer to another rep and hang up; instead, say something like “Mrs. Smith, I have Joe from Accounting on the line, and he is going to help you resolve this billing issue,” or CC the new rep on an email to the customer so that the two get introduced.

As you can see, a few simple steps can make the difference between treating customers like cogs and treating them personally. 




 
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