Posts Tagged ‘customer experience’

5 Ways to Improve Your Communication with Your Customers

If you want to keep your customers happy and loyal, it isn’t enough to offer a groundbreaking new product or service anymore. The customer experience has to be memorable and surpass their expectations, and this starts with offering exceptional customer service.

There are five key principles we subscribe to at Nextiva to ensure we are providing the best customer experience we can. Over the years, we’ve found that it is the little things that make all the difference in the customer experience. And thanks to the help of technology and cloud communications, many of these principles will be easy to implement in your business.

1. Act human and always add a personal touch to the customer interaction

Do you like talking to a robot? I would think (and hope) that you said “no”. As consumers of products and services, we want our interactions with the company we are buying from to feel genuine and personal. The little touches such as calling someone by their correct name and remembering their preferences will go a long way. While a script or general guideline may be necessary for certain job functions, don’t be afraid to let your employees inject some of their personality into their interactions with your customers. Also, go the extra mile whenever possible and make your customer feel like you genuinely care about them and their needs. The bare minimum isn’t enough anymore and will cause you to lose customers to your competitors.

2. Integrate your CRM with your phone system

It’s a fact of life that the majority of people dread calling a company’s customer support. So rather than slowing down the process by having to ask your customers for their name and account details, integrate your phone system with your customer relationship management (CRM) system. Cloud phone systems have made this easy to do and it will significantly improve interactions with customers, as well as save your customers (and your team) valuable time. The Nextiva App for Zendesk is one example, but there are a variety of options out there and many of these integrations are free, or come with a small fee, depending on the systems your business utilizes.

10-1 Customer Communication smallThe main benefit of integrating your two systems is customer records are at your team’s fingertips the minute they answer a call. You can reference past calls and check-in on other questions or concerns the customer may have had in the past. Additionally, this will help management identify trends in customer calls that can be used to create change—from updating messaging and communication to revamping processes and user tools.

3. Follow through

Do what you tell your customers you are going to do. How many times have you been promised a follow-up email or call back and never received it? Your customers’ time is precious, and they are counting on you. Don’t make them follow-up with you, instead provide them with the information they requested when you said you would. If you don’t have an answer or all of the information for them, at least check-in to let them know you are still working on it. This goes for all departments in your organization, but especially sales and customer support. This also builds trust between your business and your customers, which leads to a better overall customer experience and customer loyalty.

4. Remember them!

Without customers your business would cease to exist. It is important to show that you appreciation them. This can be done in a variety of ways, from a special promo offer to a simple email or phone call. At Nextiva, we send a "Happy Nextiversary" email to the businesses we serve on their “anniversary” of being a Nextiva customer. It’s a fun video where members of our team thank our customers for their business and remind them that we are always available to help with anything they may need.

To implement something like this at your business, pick a milestone, event, holiday, etc. to show that you value their commitment to your business. It’s even better if you can offer them something that will encourage them to continue doing business with you, such as a complimentary service, discount on their next purchase, or an exclusive access to your new product and service before anyone else.

5. Create a customer referral program

Reward your customers for bringing you more business via a referral program. Consumers are smarter than ever, and they are much more likely to believe a recommendation from a friend or peer than they are from a billboard or banner ad. An endorsement from your customers is the most important marketing tool in your arsenal and the more you reward your current customers for promoting you to their network, the more likely they will be to continue sending business your way.

But it isn’t enough to simply have a referral program; you need to make sure your customers (especially those that are happy) are aware of the program and its benefits. Send emails, have your sales and account management teams mention the program when speaking to customers, share on social media, etc. The options are endless, and do what works best for your business.

Grow Your Business by Facilitating Social Sharing

In most commercial arenas today, sharing by customers is the order of the day.  Before a purchase decision is being made, while it is being made, after it has been made. In the travel industry, this change is particularly striking: there’s no longer a clear before, during and after. It’s all “during,” and the “during” is spent with your friends and loved ones, wherever in the world they may be. Friends are, in a sense, always along for the ride: kibitzing, advising and being advised by you as they plan their own trips while you’re taking yours. Boston Consulting Group has attempted to quantify this: “For a four-day leisure trip, the average consumer spends 42 hours online … dreaming about, researching, planning and making reservations, and then sharing their experiences while they travel or when they get back home.”

This holds true as well for retail, where girlfriends share selfies from the dressing room so offsite friends can help with fit and style. In dining, customers share course-by-course photos of their meals (“foodographs”) in real time. In live entertainment, fans attend concerts and switch perspectives throughout, between the unmediated live experience and viewing or streaming it on their video camera’s tiny screen.

Even in healthcare, tweets and status updates from inside the ER are not unheard of, notably from professional athletes who suffer serious game-time injuries. Getting medical opinions from offsite friends and family members before and even during some procedures is far from rare to boot.

This is a multigenerational phenomenon: Even the venerable Silent Generation has long moved on from shooting slides and loading them into carousels, often thanks to the influence of their younger, more tapped-in family members. Customers today of all ages shop, dine and travel socially, thanks in no small part to smartphones.

Other technological factors include customers’ now effortless ability to share their experiences and reviews on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, as well as the ease of organizing friends, families and unaffiliated interest groups online in ways that result in real-life meet-ups, dinners, dates, drinks and events.

 This socialization of consumption extends beyond what might traditionally be considered friends. Even ostensible strangers—online followers and brands’ online reviewers—are in many cases trusted by younger customers more than the information that comes directly from even well-established brands

Customers today live and consume in a world of search and social. People look for authority online and from acquaintances with similar experiences, perspectives and backgrounds. This is quite a shift in how customers end up making their buying decisions. Buyers include their circle of acquaintances, both the physical and virtual kinds, in practically all their commercial activities—which has a real effect on what ends up getting purchased, and how it ends up being experienced.


Since social consumption is a fact of life for and with today's customers, why not build it right into your product or service? Here are two inspiring examples:

• Hotel 1888 in Sydney, better known as the “Instagram Hotel,” facilitates social sharing throughout its customer experience, with predetermined “selfie spaces” and an “Instagram walk” that they’ve mapped out for you. By celebrating the role of the hotel and its environs as a backdrop, 1888 makes sure it gets in the picture as well.

•   Drybar, the “blowout bar”  that has transformed the haircare industry with its runaway success (they’ve grown from 4 locations when I first encountered them to nearly 40 in the U.S. and London opening soon)  encourages relationships between its customers in several ways. With permission, Drybar posts before-and-after photos of customer blowouts on Facebook and Instagram, whereupon fans critique and comment on the transformations, in some cases selecting certain winners to “hang” on Drybar’s Facebook-based wall of fame. The Drybar mobile app has sharing functionalities built right into it as well. When a customer makes an appointment, she’s invited to share it with friends (who may parlay this originally solo invitation into a real-life Drybar meetup). And offering these social media features works especially well for Drybar because the company follows through by making its physical space conducive to gatherings beyond the solo flyby or two friends catching up. The comfortable, open yet sound-level-aware layout in Drybar makes it a natural choice for birthday parties for nearly all ages as well as for girls’ nights out, bachelorette parties, sweet 16s and more.


So start thinking about how you can turn your business into a stage for customers to share, online and offline, with the people who matter to them.  It will help your business matter more to them–which will matter a lot, in the end, for the success of your business.

The Power of 90% Customer Loyalty

9-10 Customer Loyalty smallCustomers today have more purchasing options than ever before as well as fewer obstacles afterward if they want to switch to a different supplier. This embarrassment of riches strains traditional notions of loyalty. But it hardly spells the end for loyalty, not for customers in general and certainly not for millennials, despite what many claim. In fact, even in the supposedly loyalty-averse millennial generation, things aren’t really moving in the direction that you might imagine.  Boston Consulting Group research has shown that younger millennials (ages 18 to 24 at the time of the study), “are three times more likely to report strong brand loyalty than their non-millennial counterparts.”

If my take on this sounds more hopeful than what you’ve heard elsewhere, it’s partly because my definition of customer loyalty differs from most. In everything I do, I aim for what I call “90% loyal” customers—the ones who will stick with you through thick or thin, good times or bad, most of the time.

This 10% wiggle room makes the loyalty goal a bit more achievable by bringing the concept of loyalty more in line with what’s achievable in reality. Because every one of us in business knows the score: If a sexy new restaurant or shop opens across the street from ours, even our best customers are going to want to try it—once. But they’ll be back once their itch for novelty, their fleeting need to cheat on their main squeeze, has passed.

And sometimes, it’s not this need for novelty that makes customers stray from you periodically. Practicality may demand it. A 90% loyal Whole Foods mom or dad may do some shopping at Trader Joe’s or Wegmans when she or he is stuck in a different part of town. And if Mom or Dad's preferred airline doesn’t have a direct flight while another carrier does, this otherwise loyal passenger will most likely take the direct flight if that’s what it takes to get home in time for her or his kid’s soccer game.

Even the ever-competitive Richard Branson once recommended his customers use his archrival British Airways—if only to remind themselves all the more of why they love Branson’s Virgin Airlines. Of course, Branson being Branson, he timed his recommendation for the day British Airways offered a fire sale that he knew Virgin couldn’t affordably counter, and on which British Airways was sure to lose money.

Two more loyalty trends

A couple of trends are complicating the loyalty landscape.

Portfolio loyalty: This occurs when customers are equally loyal to every brand in a small portfolio of trusted brands in a particular category. This behavior wouldn’t be possible without the surfeit of choices consumers now have in almost every consumer category. Consumers have the globalization of commerce, improvements in many companies’ return policies due to competitive pressure, and the various defect-reduction campaigns in manufacturing of the past several decades to thank for all these offerings. (Formerly an automotive punchline, Ford is an impressively reliable manufacturer today. Even a Jaguar—should you be so lucky—will rarely leave you stranded these days.)

Micro-loyalty.  Customers today can have micro loyalties, loyalties for very specific parts of a company’s product line, for example, they can be loyal to Apple for this but Google for that, to Reebok for this but Nike for that, and so forth. They don’t buy an overall identity related to a single brand; they mix and match. They still consider themselves loyal, but it’s a more targeted type of loyalty.

How did this come about? Younger customers today were raised with a lot of support for individuation: They were allowed to make their own choices and work with the results. From mismatched socks (ultimately commercialized by Little Miss Match) to tattoos and piercings to control over hairstyles and how they dress for school, this generation was empowered by its parents to shape its own identity. As marketers and generational researchers Van den Bergh and Behre point out, the Internet has further fostered such mix-and-match identities, at least in the commercial sphere of their lives. Easy-to-find product review sites like Gizmodo make it far easier to sample and choose brands, comparison shopping on mobile phones has long been a reality, and thanks to iTunes and many other sites, even the playlists they listen to are easily stitched together song by song from their own choices rather than relying on the decision of any single artist or record label’s vision for their music.

The “New Reality” of Customer Service

Do employees at your customer service call center feel like they’re dealing with more frustrated customers than ever before? New research from Mattersight offers some insights into why this might be. According to Mattersight, more than two-thirds of customers who speak to call center reps feel frustrated before they even place a call. What’s more, 75 percent are still frustrated after the interaction, even if the representative solves their problems.

With more than 70 percent of customers saying a bad customer service experience could keep them from patronizing a business again, keeping customers happy when they call should be a high priority for your business.

One reason for customer frustration, Mattersight notes, is that there are so many ways for customers to reach out to companies for support these days. When a problem arises, most customers start by using the company’s website, FAQs or other online help tools to try to figure the problem out on their own.

By the time customers actually dial in to a call center, they’ve usually tried every other way of solving a problem, with no results. So what may seem from the rep’s end like the customers’ first attempt to resolve the issue is, for the customer, the end of a long and frustrating journey.

However, instead of acknowledging this “new reality” of customer service, most call center reps still focus on getting the customer off the phone as quickly as possible to meet their goals for handling X number of calls in X amount of time.

How can your company improve the customer experience and enjoy higher customer satisfaction? Here are some takeaways from the report:

  • Acknowledge the customer’s frustration and the seriousness of their issue. Be extra patient working with the customer. By validating their feelings, you can help them feel more taken care of.
  • Offer personalized assistance. Your call center reps should be able to quickly access all of the data you have available on the customer on the other end of the phone, such as order history, current order status and recent interactions with the company. Showing knowledge of the customer’s past behavior and history with your business will persuade them your rep is in a position to really help.
  • Take time to understand. A long wait time is customers’ number-one frustration with call centers, but number two is dealing with representatives who don’t understand what they need. Make sure your reps really listen, restate the problem to the customer and clarify that they’ve understood all aspects of the situation.
  • Follow up after the solution. After resolving the problem, don’t just rush to get the customer off the phone. Take time to apologize once again for the difficulties the person encountered, thank the customer for his or her patience, and ask if there’s anything else the rep can assist with. Let the customer be the one to end the call.

By taking a few simple steps to get into the right mind-set when dealing with call center customers, your customer service reps can not only solve problems, but also leave customers with a good feeling about your business.

Seven Steps Toward Customer-Focused Culture Change

Changing the culture at your company isn’t easy (It’s not that it’s necessarily complicated, it’s just an awful lot of work). But culture change done right can transform your company into a customer-centric and employee-embracing company. Here are seven steps that will help get you there.

  1. Make the decision.  If you don’t make the decision to drive cultural change at your company, make it loudly, proudly, and in a way that’s hard to turn back from, it’s not going to happen.
  2. Spell it out. Take a very, very few words–really, just a handful!–to say what your decision looks like. For example Mayo Clinic’s “The needs of the patient comes first.”  Seven words, none of them consultantese, only one of them longer than a syllable.  If you need more words than this, that’s OK.  The Ritz-Carlton not only has the timeless “We are ladies and gentlement serving ladies and gentlemen” but also “The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission.
  3. Start talking about the change at every orientation. If you waste orientation talking about the employee fridge and how it’s emptied out on Fridays, how to file for vacation time or sick leave and such, you’re blowing it.  Orientation is a time when employees are (ironically), disoriented, and as such it’s a crucial time to have someone at the very highest level in the organization (at the Ritz-Carlton it’s the CEO, every time a new hotel opens; at Danny Meyer’s restaurants it’s Danny Meyer) talk about what is central and immutable in the organization’s culture.  Its purpose, in other words.
  4. Overhaul your hiring and personnel practices. Every single employee, from this moment forward, needs to be hired for reasons that are congruent with your newly stated values.  This is very, very important. And as far as personnel policies, no more docking people for coming in late from the lunch break to assist a customer they found in distress.  No more ranking based on average handle time on phone calls.  And so forth.  The CEO can make the highest of high-minded values statements, but here is where the rubber hits the road, where your culture can be supported or sabotaged
  5. Standardize (in the right way). Everything that can reasonably be expected to occur between you and your customers deserves to be standardized, explaining (to your employees) both what to do and the reason behind the suggested behavior (so that they can deviate from it when the situation calls for a different approach)
  6. Commit yourself to employee empowerment, including employee-directed job design. Jobs should not by default be considered activities that are done by employees but designed by their so-called superiors.  While, of course, to some extent this has to be true, especially in life-threatening situations–your employee can lead an evacuation down a fire escape but can't necessarily design standards for what is an acceptable or unacceptable level of smoke inhalation–it's important to simultaneously push against it, to let your employees know what they need to get done but not necessarily how they should go about designing their day and carrying out their duties.
  7. Keep the momentum going. Ongoing reinforcement is crucial.  Consider how the Ritz-Carlton has maintained its culture for decades, even in the face of leadership changes and some very challenging economic times.  The centerpiece is daily lineup approach:  a few minutes every day discussing just one of your list of cultural values or service standards, with the meeting led by a different employee every time. The result, added up over a year or years, is a lot of reinforcement. And it makes every single one of those days of that year or years better on its own.

The Power of Crowd-augmented, Transparent Customer Support

Rather than solely rely on its employees to answer customer support inquiries, Applegate, the successful purveyor of humanely raised and slaughtered meats, openly crowdsources commentary and advice from other customers to answer these questions honestly, making use of a community software platform called “Get Satisfaction.” By using the feedback from customers who have already explored these kinds of questions, Applegate is making transparency work in its favor, elevating the customer and its products at the same time. This is particularly useful to the company and to its customers, because Applegate regularly fields specific, detailed and emotionally charged questions about both the meat and the packaging in which it is conveyed.

Letting your customers be the experts–in support of other customers

JD Peterson, chief revenue officer at and well known as a force behind the popular Zendesk customer support platform, points out that the millennial need for recognition and feedback drives the push toward crowdsourcing: “Let your power users be the voice [of your brand]. Customers these days are more willing to do this kind of work for your brand, but they want recognition for doing it—they would like to be given that badge or stamp that says, ‘You’re the power expert in Applegate bacon.’ Giving power users that recognition, a badge, points [or] some sort of title, giving them something they can stamp on their resume or their LinkedIn profile that says they’re an expert or a power user, I think, is really important to customers today. It’s certainly a win for [the] business as well: You’re not having to take on all the burden of support costs because your users are able to do some of that for you—and your customers get closer to the brand at the same time by assisting you.”

The power of ratings and review transparency

Ratings and review transparency is likewise an important commercial trend: from voluntary transparency on sites like that openly show customer ratings for all products (including sometimes mixed reviews for Amazon’s own Kindle tablets and Fire phone), to enforced transparency via TripAdvisor, Yelp and the like that post reviews of your services and products whether you want to be rated this way or not. Embrace this trend even though it can be uncomfortable, because it’s not going away. Reviews are now decentralized and user driven, and you can’t control product ratings, product discussions or much else in the way of reviews, except by providing the best customer experience possible and by being proactive in responding to negative trends that come to the surface in your reviews and ratings.

Emulate a company like Engine Yard, a San Francisco-based cloud application management platform that has taken the brave step of putting a real-time (not to mention cute and cuddly) indicator of its current customer satisfaction stats right on its support site. You’ll find 100 panda icons featured prominently on Engine Yard’s website with just a few “sad pandas” crossed out in red. Looking at the company’s site right now I see 97 happy pandas and three that are crossed out, indicating a current 97% customer satisfaction rating. How does Engine Yard arrive at the proportion of happy and sad pandas? Each time there’s a support interaction, Engine Yard asks the customer, “Are you satisfied with the response you got? Yes or no?” They then total that percentage on their website for anyone to see. This transparent approach goes a long way toward reassuring customers (and, perhaps as much to the point in the competitive arena in which Engine Yard plays), prospective customers that this company is, and will remain, on the ball throughout the life of the customer relationship. 

Five Tips for Social Media Success with Your Customers

Here are five secrets to succeeding on social media even in the face of the most irate customer postings (though read all the way to #5 for how to avoid most such postings in the first place).

1. Reach out directly to online complainers.
Suppose that you’ve spotted the following outrageous tweet about your firm:

Company X double-bills customers—Must Think We R Suckrs—#FAIL

This is insulting, and hard to handle. Not only will your staff need to suppress the urge to respond angrily, they also will need to prepare a response that is thoughtful and positive. A thoughtful and positive response in a situation like this is rare precisely because it’s so hard for somebody who has just been insulted to muster thoughtful positivity.

But that rarity makes it powerful: A thoughtful and positive response can come as such a surprise to an online critic that it can help to convert the critic into your advocate. At the least, it will stanch your losses.

First, however, in order to respond, you’ll first need to reach your critic. How can you do that online? That depends on your professional relationship with the critic. If the person behind this message follows you (or agrees temporarily to follow you) on Twitter, or if she’s in your database, send her a direct, “backchannel” message. Include a real, monitored email address and phone number. Otherwise, reply publicly in the same forum she chose. List offline ways to reach you (including a real, monitored email address and/or phone), and express your regret and concern.

Contacting a social media critic to request an offline conversation is the digital equivalent of ushering a loud and angry customer into your office for a discreet discussion. You move the discussion out of a public venue and into a one-on-one situation, where you can work directly with your antagonist without thousands of eyes dissecting your every move while failing to understand the whole story. After a successful resolution, politely ask the complainer to amend or even withdraw the original ugly comment.

2. A delayed response can create a social media fiasco. Can you spell F-I-A-S-C-O? The formula in social media is simple: Small Error +Slow Response Time = Colossal PR Disaster. Put differently, the magnitude of a company’s social media embarrassment is proportional to how delayed its online response was. An event in the online world gathers social steam with such speed that your delay can become more of a problem than the initial incident. Even an afternoon’s lag in responding can be catastrophic.

3. Whoever handles your social media responses needs as much customer service skill and training as your traditional customer service reps. Social media responses are customer service, plain and simple. Sure, it’s customer service at breakneck speed, with lots of hazards and quirks, but it’s still customer service. So if some of your customers expect that you will serve them via social media, meet their online expectations superbly. Engage and assist those customers online as energetically and effectively as you do through traditional service channels.

Get this effort off on the right foot by staffing your online presence with your company’s people. This is crucial. Companies often make the mistake of leaving social media teams instead in the hands of technical experts. Technical wizardry is a crucial resource, but don’t let that technical tail wag the customer service dog. Let your people experts lead the way — because your social media team needs to be every bit as customer-centric as your other support/response channels. If not, it’s bound to hurt your brand rather than help it.

4. Beware the Streisand effect. When someone uses social media to attack your business, your first urge, naturally, may be to sic lawyers on the critic, or otherwise try to intimidate the attacker into removing the complaint. Think carefully before taking that course of action. The rule online is that a defensive reaction tends to bring additional publicity—very negative publicity. This rule even has a name: the Streisand Effect, named after Barbra Streisand, who sued a photographer in a failed attempt to remove a photo of the singer’s precariously sited mansion from the California Coastal Records Project. Streisand’s aggressive reaction to free expression offended some netizens and titillated others. The result was far wider distribution of the photograph she wanted to suppress – on T-shirts, websites, coffee mugs – and a permanent blemish on her public image.

Over and over, brands and businesses discover the inviolability of the Streisand Effect the hard way. Threatening your online customers almost never solves the harm they are causing you, and it often backfires dramatically.

Any public, digital argument with a customer is an exponentially greater risk for your company than the old-fashioned kind of argument that didn’t involve social media. Without a doubt, arguing with customers has always been a losing proposition for time immemorial. But today, online, those same arguments are far costlier online, because of all the additional customers and prospects you risk losing who are watching from the sidelines. So make sure everybody who represents your company online has taken the time to learn how to slow down, breathe, and bite their tongue — consistently. Train them to think of the big picture. The future of your company likely depends on it.

5. Prevent most online complaints in the first place. Unhappy customers are unlikely to complain by public methods like Tripadvisor or on their blogs if they know they can use email, the phone, or a feedback form to reach you directly — and if they feel sure that their problem will be addressed immediately. You can do a lot to ensure that the first impulse of such customers is to reach out to you directly, day or night: Offer “chime-in” forms everywhere. Provide direct chat links for when your FAQ’s fail to assist. Provide an easy way to respond directly at the bottom of every corporate email you send out, instead of ending with that obnoxious “please do not reply to this email” footer.

Overall, become widely known for your rapid and satisfying responsiveness, and such customers will come to you, offer to help you improve — and will keep their complaints and misgivings “in the family.”

6 Customer Service Trends You Need to Know About

A lot has changed in the business world since 2007, but perhaps what’s changed the most is how rapidly customer service expectations have risen. As customers evolve, your customer service has to keep pace. Just how are customers’ expectations changing? Customer2020, a new study from Accenture, has some insights every business owner should know about.

  1. They want it now. Accenture dubs today’s consumer the “Nonstop Customer”—which should give you a clue as to what type of service they expect. Customers don’t just want rapid resolution and minimal hassle—they expect it. If your business doesn’t deliver, they’ll move on to your competitor. Slightly more than half of consumers polled say they have become more impatient with the buying process since last year; two-thirds say they turn to online channels for customer service because they’re seeking speed and convenience.
  2. They have more options. Not only are consumers today more impatient, but they also have more places to go if they’re not happy with your customer service. Two-thirds report that the number of companies or brands they consider when making a purchase has increased significantly compared to 10 years ago.
  3. They care about what others have to say. Word-of-mouth has always been important to growing a business—but never more so than today. Last year, Accenture reported that 78 percent of consumers used at least one online channel when prospecting. Today, 88 percent do, which means they have many more opportunities to hear good (or bad) things about your customer service. More than half of respondents say they rely “much more” on other people’s experiences or reviews when making a purchase decision than they did 10 years ago. If bad word-of-mouth about your service spreads, either offline or online, you’ve got to turn it around.
  4. They’re itching to switch. Consumer loyalty isn’t quite a thing of the past, but it’s definitely become much harder to come by. Two-thirds of respondents say they have switched providers in at least one industry as a result of poor customer service. Six in 10 say they are more likely to switch providers now than they were 10 years ago.
  5. They want you to fix it the first time. Of those respondents who switched providers because of poor service, over 80 percent say the original company could have kept their business if their issue had been resolved the first time they contacted the company about it. In fact, first-contact resolution has been consumers’ number-one source of frustration for the past five years of the study—which suggests that companies aren’t getting much better at it.
  6. They still like human contact. While some consumers have “gone digital,” seeking to interact with customer service via online channels at every opportunity, many others of all ages still prefer traditional channels for resolving issues. To keep everyone happy (isn’t that the whole point of customer service?), your best bet is to provide a wide variety of ways for customers to resolve service problems.

By incorporating these six trends into your customer service systems, you’ll be able to step ahead of the pack and provide the kind of service today’s customers expect. 

To Win the Hearts of Today’s Consumer, Stand for Something and Mean It

A business that wants to win the hearts of today’s consumers benefits from standing for something and meaning it.  “Meaning it” is key: Customers are always on the lookout for corporate hypocrisy. One test for gauging an organization’s trustworthiness is whether it engages in greenwashing, the practice of merely paying lip service to environmental issues. Greenwashing is considered bad enough on its own, but customers also feel it likely to indicate hypocrisy at the company concerning other ethical issues as well. These knocks include the more general phenomenon called “causewashing,” where companies put up a façade of sympathetic labor practices, community involvement, ethical dealings with vendors, humane treatment of animals and more. One millennial I interviewed told me, “People my age are especially attuned to and adept at figuring out if a company is being pro-people or pro-environment in its marketing, and anti-peopleor anti-environment in its actions.”

With social media ubiquitous and “inside information” a Google search away, an organization can’t hope to hide its hypocrisy for long. A causewashing company, or any company that appears to differ between its words and its deeds, can find itself flayed online before it knows what happened. When Lululemon showed reluctance to take responsibility for a see-through yoga-pants debacle, it turned off customers, who had previously considered the company a paragon of New Age virtue, to the tune of a massive drop in share price. You’d do better as a company to emulate Starbucks and strive for honest marketing practices, walking the talk of your corporate philosophy. The coffee giant spends more than it needs to spend on coffee beans to buy only the most ethically sourced beans. It also famously shells out (heh) more on employee compensation by insisting on giving health insurance to every part-time worker, not just to the company’s full-timers

Transparency is a corporate attribute that today’s customers particularly value. And transparency is inherently an attribute that a business can’t superficially slap atop its brand. “I look for total transparency in a company I buy from—or, for that matter, work for,” says Adriana Dunn, a customer behavior and marketing expert and a youthful consumer herself. “I want to know what’s behind the brand.” Two brands that Dunn singled out for making transparency a cornerstone of their business practices are Everlane and Honest by. Everlane offers designer goods with transparent pricing and sourcing: Vendor practices, markup, and materials and production processes are laid out online for all to see. Honest by sells luxury brands with complete sourcing transparency. Its openness corresponds to its lengthy ethical statement, so lengthy in fact that I'm not going to strain your eyesight reprinting it here.

This phenomenon is significant, and extends to all demographics.   Three years ago, a study of consumer habits confirmed that shoppers are becoming “more deliberate and purposeful” in their purchasing decisions, and another study showed that 87% of consumers in the United States believe that companies should value the interests of society at least as much as strict business interests.  Today, with the rise of millennials (born circa 1980-2000) as customers, this commitment to values-based purchasing is becoming more pronounced than ever.  So getting ahead of the curve is key. 

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