Posts Tagged ‘Customer service’


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.


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.


Refreshing Your Customer Service Experience (Without Losing Your Core Identity)

2-12 hotel guest checking in small

Once you've initially succeeded in interesting your customers in your brand, once you've succeeded in pleasing them with your customer experience and customer service, you need to work on keeping their interest by adding clues and cues to the plot.

Any meaningful service, any meaning customer experience will start to grow stale over time. Service signatures, scripted interactions, and product offerings that delighted customers at first will get copied, replicated, and bastardized over time. They'll lose their intended meaning (Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company's signature phrase, “My pleasure,” for instance, has lost some of its freshness now that you can get a $2.99 rendition of it from a server at —I kid you not—Chik Fil A. This has led Ritz-Carlton to  change up its language of late to keep it fresh and authentic, authenticity being a key attribute that Ritz-Carlton is striving for in its revamped modern-day hotel brand.)

And, of course, design and product offerings will get stale and tired. What's fabulous to a customer on visit one will be "fine but nothing new" on visit five.  And, especially in this era of intensive and friction-free social sharing, you need something fresh, something, literally, to write or tweet home about, to tantalize your customer.

Retelling a story too many times

Retail is perhaps the most ruthless of businesses in the extent that customers are expecting change–regular seasonal changes and special holiday revamps. Restaurants can also feel stale after a few visits and need new menu items, a fresh cocktail list, or new art on the wall to keep customers engaged and coming back from visit to visit, and after three-ish years, most restaurants need a major overhaul to stay successful. The same is true to only a slightly lesser extent for many other service businesses.

For a business to stay relevant, it needs to be relentlessly reinventing itself, including its once cutting-edge practices. A friend of mine described to me his reaction to the practice at Nordstrom of coming from behind the counter to hand you your shopping bag. “This was pretty cool the first five times or so. Around the sixth time, it became annoying; it just seemed like they were slowing me down for the sake of their internal ceremony.” And I’ve seen a similar loss of love for the once-fresh idea of printing a guest’s name on a menu at a destination restaurant. The first time you see this by your plate, you're undoubtedly amazed. The third time, you’re bored and ready for a new trick.

Businesses need to realize the shelf life of any such scripted or quickly-expected service interactions and change it when the expiration date hits. To keep today’s customers coming back a business needs to constantly improve, update, and appropriately add to its line of products or services –on a schedule faster than ever before.

"Freshen the guest experience without changing its core identity"–Patrick O'Connell

On the other hand, change for change's  sake is very, very hazardous.  Because the goal of customer service and the customer experience isn't buzz–it's loyalty; it's repeat business that keeps you alive. So while it's true that customers seek innovation from the companies they frequent, if a company only invests in change, then how can a customer remain loyal–what, to put it bluntly, is left for them to be loyal to? So there’s a tension to navigate between innovation and maintaining quality through tradition.

In an interview I just did with the celebrated restaurateur and innkeeper Patrick O'Connell – proprietor of the Inn At Little Washington and President of Relais And Chateaux – Chef O'Connell puts this well: “Cultivating loyalty is a tricky business. It requires maintaining a rigorous level of consistency while constantly adding newness and a little surprise—freshening the guest experience without changing its core identity.”


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: 5 Things to Look for When Hiring Customer Service Reps

Waiting Room: Receptionist Takes Insurance CardWhen hiring customer service reps, you need to do more than assess the job candidate’s experience and dot the i’s and cross the t’s on a job application. Here are five factors that are just as important as experience, and how to assess them during the interview process.

  1. Friendliness. Natural curiosity about others, openness and willingness to engage and ask questions are key characteristics of a good customer service employee. Small talk during the interview is a good way to explore how friendly a job candidate is. (Just be sure you talk steer the conversation to topics interviewers are forbidden to ask about, such as whether a candidate is married, has children or how old they are.)
  2. Ability to handle negativity. Good customer service representatives deal with negative emotions (their own and other people’s) in a mature way and, ideally, turn negative situations around. In addition to asking employees about a negative person at their prior job and how they dealt with him or her, try putting them to the test by incorporating stressful situations into the interview, such as telling them the interview is delayed and having the receptionist observe how they behave while waiting, having other employees continually interrupt the interview, or having your receptionist purposely be rude to them so you can see how they react.
  3. Multitasking ability. Customer service requires being able to multitask. A representative might be on the phone with one customer while dealing with a queue of other customers on hold. He might be assisting an indecisive customer at the point-of-sale in a store while the line of impatient customers is growing by the minute. Try setting tasks that incorporate multitasking or distractions, such as taking a written test in a room where the candidate has also been told to answer the phone, or interrupting the test to have the candidate complete a form or sign a document.
  4. Pleasant demeanor. A calming presence and soothing speaking voice can go a long way toward making ruffled customers feel better. If the employee will be dealing with customers on the phone, try conducting a pre-interview by phone to see how he or she comes across. You might be able to eliminate candidates who don’t present themselves well by phone and save yourself some interview time.
  5. Emotional awareness. Often called “emotional intelligence” or EQ (like IQ), emotional intelligence incorporates many facets, but basically it’s the ability to sense and respond appropriately to others’ emotions. A customer service rep with high EQ will know when a complaining customer just wants to be heard more than he or she wants an actual solution, when customers are in a rush and need to get off the phone quickly, or when customers need to be escalated to the next level of service before the situation deteriorates.

When interviewing customer service candidates, be sure to trust your gut. If a job candidate doesn’t put you at ease and you don’t enjoy interacting with the person, your customers probably won’t, either.


The Customer Service Speed Trap

2-6 stop watch smallI finding myself carrying on quite often about the need to speed up customer service and the customer experience, because customer expectations for speed of service have become so frenzied. This is thanks to mobile and amazon.com and Starbucks, and is a phenomenon that’s even more intense among the important millennial generation of customers. (Born 1980-2000, Millennials are the biggest generation in history. And they've never known a world without a smartphone.)

But there's a speed trap here, so to speak, and I want to encourage you to be aware of it: In most business contexts you should be equally leery of sacrificing the customer's experience due to some enforced speed march. What you will find–and what you should emulate– is how the companies most cognizant of time are also the ones who allow time for lingering, for connection. Which is the approach you should take as well.

Take Starbucks, since they are such a paragon of consistent timeliness. Even though Starbucks spends a lot of time measuring and improving how well they match their customers’ speed expectations—delivering a custom (truly from scratch) beverage in a matter of minutes—they don’t let the need for speed suck the life out of the Starbucks experience.

In fact, they go in the other direction: They want the world to linger with them over coffee. Everything is designed to facilitate this lingering, which puts them right on track to please the millennial generation (as well as the rest of us). In spite of their penchant for mobile and online socializing, customers today also yearn for face-to-face interaction and collaboration—from their peers and, often, from your more empathetic employees. All of which takes time and the allowance of time.  

Customers today want the stupid, transactional stuff to take less time, less of their time. They want to wave their phones and have their purchase paid for, but they want the meaningful parts of the customer experience to take more time, or at least better time.

Think about Apple, specifically the Apple Stores: When you're face to face with the genius, you want the breathing room to state your problem, to understand the solution. No rush, thank you very much, now that I've driven across town to meet with you. But you do want to be able to pre-schedule that meeting, and you do want to be able to pay and leave without a lick of paperwork or delay.  Getting this dance just right is the sign of a master approach to respecting the customers' time, and it can be a real competitive advantage. 


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. 


Build A Customer-Focused Corporate Culture–By Making A (Very Tough) Decision

1-29 Building blocks smallIf your aim is to build a truly customer-focused culture in your organization, here are two difficult steps to take that will make it happen. These two steps that will change your world–if you really want it changed.

1. Decide.  For example:  “We provide only the highest level of service to our customers, our associates, and our vendors.”  That’s a cultural decision.

2. Get to work figuring out what your decision will mean organizationally and behaviorally.  Because it is going to affect everything. Everything. Including:

  • The way you hire–select– your customer-facing employees. You'll need to stop hiring on a hunch, or just for technical skills, or haphazardly.  Instead you'll need to get scientific about finding the right employees to do the right kind of job for your customers: that "highest level of service" that you've just committed to.
  • Support: You'll need to give those employees great support: in terms of onboarding, training, inspiration, reinforcement, coaching, and setting appropriate standards for service functions.
  • Empowerment: You’ll need to empower those employees to make their own decisions to help your customers (including, sometimes, the decision to deviate from the standards you set down in my previous bullet point!
  • Personnel policies and employee treatment: You’re going to have to revise any inhumane and punitive personnel policies that currently serve to demoralize these important people.
  • Building and maintaining the workers' toolbox: You’ll need to  provide your employees with a proper, and properly maintained toolbox – literally (if they’re carpenters, machinists, or janitors) or figuratively (if they’re not) – that they need to do their best work
  • Broadening your benchmarks: You’ll need to look beyond your own industry for service quality benchmarks.  Your decision to provide the “highest level of service” should mean the highest level anywhere, not just the highest among tire manufacturers or whatever your specific niche. Benchmark those high standards, and strive to reach them.
  • You’ll need to–and you'll need to involve every one of your employees in–looking at your processes, systems, and behaviors as if from a customer viewpoint (this is not easy at all, and once you do it, I promise you you will need to change even more.  And it’ll be worth it.



 
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