Posts Tagged ‘customer experience’


Using Adventure, Even Danger, To Improve The Customer Experience

Adveturer man sitting on a rock with his feet dangling on natural landscape. Adventure travelCustomers of all ages, from older “bucket-listers” to the young and increasingly important Millennial generation of customers, crave adventures and discoveries, whether epic or everyday. The more stimulating and surprising an environment, an experience, a “movie” you can create for your customers to engage with, the more your customers will want to text, Facebook, and talk about your business.

Virgin America: Consciously Creating a Tweetworthy Airline

This is a powerful phenomenon.  Think about how much people love to tell/tweet/FB their friends that they’re flying Virgin America, because the airline is intentionally providing an experience that’s worth talking about.

The details crafted by Virgin America offer a story that people want to retell: purple lighting, wildly catchy dance-based safety videos, abundant TV options, leather seats, great waiting rooms and the “Here on Biz” app that lets you meet other passengers with similar interests. These details make people talk, tweet, post and write about Virgin, because of the distinction and immersion of the experience the airline has created for them.

Smart Hospitality Operators Are Learning This Lesson

The more forward-thinking operators in the hospitality and travel industries have, perhaps not surprisingly, embraced this message more quickly than have other industries. For example, Dove Mountain Resort, a new and relaxed Ritz-Carlton property in the Sonoran desert outside Tucson, where adventures range from those you can engage in while seated to those that challenge all of your muscle groups and mental acuity. 

The adventure starts, in a sense, with the design of the hotel, a conscious effort to bring guests outdoors through large windows and doors that invite them to wander everywhere without interruption from visible and obtrusive barriers.

As the sun starts to set, guests hear a Native American musician playing wooden flute on a nearby hill, playing modal melodies that echo off the surrounding mountains in a way that gives you an auditory impression of the unique landscape in which the hotel is sited.      

In the morning, guests are challenged to pick their adventure: trail riding or Addle Addle lessons (addle addle is an ancient form of projecting arrows that predates the invention of bows) or a hike to learn about the prehistoric petroglyphs in the land trust property through which the resort and its guests have a protected right of way.

Maybe this doesn’t sound like it applies directly to your business, your entrepreneurial pursuits, but I suspect you’re wrong.  This craving for adventure, even for “danger” (more about that in a moment) can be made use of in many, if not most, industries and business niches.

When shopping, for example, many customers (including the majority of younger customers — the millennial generation) prefer what’s known as an “experiential lifestyle environment”_ (a retail environment where shopping is not just a transaction and the pleasure of being in the store isn’t limited to the goods customers take home). And when dining out, more people than ever before are looking for something exotic, adventuresome, memorable or new to explore during their dining experience. Especially among younger food enthusiasts, this has helped transform cuisine searches (“tastespotting”) into an adventure—and food truck-following (a concept sure to evoke fears of stomachache in some of their elders) into its own culture. 

Many customers — primarily younger — even say that they are are willing “to encounter danger in pursuit of excitement,” according to research by Barkley. This may sound irrelevant to you as a businessperson if you don’t sell bungee ropes or the like, but consider the idea of “danger” more broadly than actual risk to life or limb. For a customer, “embracing danger” can mean traveling across the city for artisanal cupcakes, knowing that there’s a high risk of disappointment since the bakery famously sells out each day before 10 a.m., or shopping, as a lark, at a popup store with no history and nothing but word of mouth to recommend it.


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.


10 Trends in Customer Expectations

3-20 Customer Expectations smallHere are 10 trending ways that customer service, customer experience and, most of all, customer expectations are changing.

  1. Customers’ definition of what’s fast and what’s not has grown more extreme on an almost daily basis. An escalating expectation of timeliness doesn’t just apply to product and services delivery (where amazon.com has so dramatically set the lead). It applies to the speed of response they expect from you to any issue they have or query they shoot your way. Remember, “we respond to all inquiries within 24 hours” means you’re answering in about 46 days, I figure, if you do the conversion to internet time.  It’s simply not good enough.
  2. Customers, more and more, expect omnichannel integration. I hate to get buzzwordy, so I apologize for this one, but omnichannel at its essence just means that customers expect you to honor the same offers in all channels (web, in-store, phone, mobile), and they expect you to let the customer move between channels without it being a hassle. A credit card given over the phone should be on file when you try to shop in the store. A purchase made in a store across town should be returnable by ups. And so forth.
  3. Customers expect extended hours: 24/7 or as close as you can get. When I interviewed Google not long ago, they quietly mentioned to me that they offer support to their adwords advertisers in 42 languages, including offering English-language support 24/5. That’s pretty good, considering we’re talking about B2B, non mission-critical support. And it puts pressure on those of us who aren’t Google to up our game, or at least our support hours.
  4. Customers expect accuracy. Typos are no longer acceptable in a cut and paste world. Nor are inaccurate claims of what is in stock, or missed delivery dates, considering the technology and process improvements that your competitors have made, and that customers have grown accustomed to. However…
  5. Customers are more willing than ever to assist you (or, I suppose, assist themselves), participating in the service process on a self-service basis, including typing in their own contact info and hard to spell names to avoid the unacceptable typos I refer to in point #4.
  6. Customers expect just about everything to come with a money back guarantee, implied or explicit. You can put in all the fine print you want, but they’re going to expect you to waive it and take the damn dog back, period. Even if pulling it off means, ultimately, sticking it to your own vendors. Amazon of course set the lead here, both in offering the guarantee and in doing the back-office vendor stickage [which I don’t actually encourage] required to pull it off.
  7. Customers don’t want to pay for shipping, or other “hidden fees,” for that matter. Amazon yet again set the lead here.
  8. Customers especially expect you to be monitoring their communications, complaints, and compliments, regardless of channel–and bending over backward to respond both quickly and thoroughly. If a customer says something about, or to, a company via twitter, a web form, or any other channel, they expect the company to notice, to react, to respond.
  9. Customers dislike overly scripted service. This is a prominent aspect of a larger trend: the desire for authenticity.
  10. Customers feel empowered. It’s not just that they know they’re “always right,” they know they always have a voice due to all of the social media options at their disposal, if you forget that they’re “always right.”  The good news is that while they know they have options, just a click or two away, by and large customers hope you realize this too, and that you don’t make them use that twitchy clicking finger. They’d rather stay than switch, but only if you treat them right.  For which, as a start, refer back to points 1 through 9 of this article.

Nextiva Customer Success Story: HagBros Precision

Nextiva customer Hagbros Precision is a manufacturing solutions provider that designs and produces competitively priced molds at their Round Rock, Texas headquarters just north of Austin. Developed by a group of inventors, entrepreneurs, and metal workers, Hagbros focuses on precision tooling, mold making, and customer focused manufacturing solutions.

We met with Roya Foroughi, Project Manager at Hagbros, to learn more about how their team uses their Nextiva phone system on a day-to-day basis. “One of the things that’s really important is being able to talk to our customers on a regular basis, because one of the things we do is custom-order parts and machinery,” said Roya. “Having a good quality phone system that works around the clock is really important.”

Prior to Nextiva, Roya had to provide customers with multiple phone numbers to reach employees at their two different office locations. With Nextiva’s advanced call forwarding options, she’s now able to transfer phone calls to other team members, creating a much smoother customer experience. “If we have the connection between our two buildings, it makes things seamless,” explained Roya.

Another obstacle that the Hagbros team was able to overcome by switching to Nextiva was the necessity of clear call quality. Roya says, “When our engineers are on the phone with customers talking about parts they’re trying to order, it’s really important that they have clear conversations so they can hear the precise measurements.”

Meet Roya and the Hagbros team:

 


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.  

Creating A Self-Reinforcing Culture Of Customer Service Excellence

3-12 Customer Service smallHere’s an important question, the answer to which determines whether or not you have any hope of creating a culture of customer service excellence: Are you willing to put the customer at the center of everything you do?  At the center of…

…your company

…your daily routines

…what you determine are best practices

…the way you schedule your day

…even the way you design your webforms?

Let’s look at that last one: webforms. There is a company I know that has over 97 percent of its customer base within the U.S. Yet, to fill out any form on this company’s website, you’ll find yourself trudging through over 200 unlikely options (Swaziland, Solomon Islands, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu…) just to get to the U’s to select “United States.”

This company, like so many others, hasn’t made the decision to put the customer at the center of its operation.

Assuming you’ve made this decision, we can get down to business.

And it’s an arduous business. It’s not easy. Putting the customer at the center doesn’t just mean being sweet as pie, over and over, and over and over again. It does mean that, but it means more than that. Putting the customer at the center is a more complicated, subtle, and demanding adventure than it sounds.

But it will ultimately be a very, very fruitful endeavor.

Doing what comes naturally. Sort of.

Once you’ve made the decision to have a customer-centered mindset, a “spreadable” situation will grow, more or less naturally. This, really, is central to thriving commercially in our world where customer service, customer experiences, are such a crucial part of real-life marketing.

Here’s how the doin’ what comes naturally virtuous circle works:

  • You commit to allocating resources, improving processes… based on the interests of the customer
  • You hire based on the customer
  • Those whom you hire inspire the next people hired through positive peer pressure.
  • Engaged customers themselves become ambassadors for your brand: your extended marketing team for the human-driven world of today.
  • The inspiration you receive from these customers, and the customers they bring to you, inspires you to do your work better and better. Putting customers at the center is no longer a chore, but an inspired passion.

I’m sounding a bit airy-fairy, new agey here, which I assure you I am not. And I have indeed left out many of the hard parts in this description, including developing detailed and battle-tested customer service standards for almost everything you will do that will affect the customer.

But all of this will flow, and will be self-reinforcing, if you start with the decision. 


Customer Success Story: ABBOTT Engineering

We always enjoy meeting with Nextiva customers and recently had the pleasure of meeting the team at ABBOTT Engineering in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California. ABBOTT Engineering is a full service HVAC and plumbing design firm that serves the greater San Diego area with building energy optimization, plumbing, humidification, engineering reports, and more.

Louis Abbott, President and CEO, told us about how his growing team of mechanical engineers uses Nextiva’s cloud phone service to keep in touch with contractors and clients. His business received multiple benefits from switching to a VoIP system, including:

  • Affordability– Previously, the team at ABBOTT had a single cordless phone that they passed throughout their 10-person office. Now, each employee is able to have their own desk phone at a price that the company can easily afford.
  • Scalability – Louis has enjoyed how easy it is to add new phone lines as his team continues to grow.  “All we have to do is just plug it in, and it works,” Louis says. “It caters towards growth.”
  • Advanced Features – Louis’s team enjoys utilizing Nextiva’s phone functions, especially voicemail-to-email and call forwarding so they can receive messages when out of the office (and on surf breaks!)
  • Accessible Customer Support – The ABBOTT team is able to reach out to the Nextiva support team whenever they have a question or issue so they can spend their day focusing on what they excel at: mechanical engineering.
  • Enhanced Company Image – The professional features and organized forwarding that Nextiva has put into place for the ABBOTT Engineering team has allowed their 10-person team to project the image of a larger company.

Meet Louis and hear his story:


Improve Your Company’s Customer Experience – By Thinking Like Steve Jobs

“You‘ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.”

2-26 customer experience smallThis is a message that Steve Jobs would repeat, over and over and over. It means that the technology sold by Apple, or used by Apple in support of the customer experience, doesn't have to be invented at Apple. And the technology Apple has lying around at its disposal doesn’t have to end up being used.

A company like Apple, and perhaps yours, suffers from almost a surplus of technologically adept employees.  But Apple, when it is at its best (which isn't always, unfortunately), refuses to let technological capability drive the customer experience.  Siri, to pick just one small example, wasn’t developed at Apple.  It was envisioned at Apple after which Apple went on a hunt to see how their vision could be brought to life.

The Apple Store, to pick another example, was envisioned as the best customer experience anywhere (not just the best electronics retailing experience).  So Apple benchmarked its customer service not against Best Buy, not against Radio Shack.

Instead, in preparing to open the first Apple Store, Apple chose to benchmark a company in an entirely different industry, hospitality: The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. From their study of the Ritz-Carlton, they developed the Genius Bar (a repurposing of the concierge station in the lobby of hotel: just like concierges at the Ritz, the Apple Genius Bar is staffed with empathetic, knowledgeable people who will, so to speak, help you get to where you want to go), as well as their very specific approach to greeting customers as they enter the Apple Store.

Apply this to your own business situation

Obviously, Apple is a unique company, with a unique historical and financial position.  But there is a practical entrepreneurial lesson here: Think about how different your customer experience could be if you channeled Steve Jobs’ "first things first" attitude and made it integral to your customer experience approach.  A couple examples that might apply to your business:

  • What if you didn’t force customers to suffer through your use of the (probably obsolete) CRM technology you have in house, but instead reconsidered what it would take to actually create the experience you want to provide for customers?
  • What if you didn’t surrender responsibility for your social media interactions with customers to those in your company who are most technically adept at social media, but instead kept it firmly under the reins of the people who are truly your long-time customer service experts, with, of course, the helpful support of the above-mentioned technocrats?
  • What if you picked up the doggone phone and called your customer (telephones are fantastic technology, albeit often poorly used by business) when that's the most direct way to resolve a customer issue, rather than thinking you need to sit back and hopelessly watch a simple customer issue escalate via twitter, email, and live chat?

Nextiva Launches Zendesk-Integrated App

Nextiva and Zendesk have created the best customer experience. Ever.

Your two favorite business tools have joined forces for an enhanced customer experience! Integrate your Nextiva cloud phone system with your Zendesk console to increase team efficiency, functionality, and productivity. The best part? The app is FREE to all Nextiva users who rely on Zendesk for their customer service needs. 

Nextiva App for Zendesk - large

Key Features:

  • Make and receive calls through the Zendesk console
  • Identify the customer as soon as an inbound call is received
  • Automatically generate tickets for new customers
  • Instantly look up information for existing customers
  • Reduce wait time associated with looking up record history

For more information about the Nextiva App for Zendesk and how to install the app on your Zendesk console, click here.




 
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