Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Real Empowerment Creates Real Results

Organizations serious about creating a customer focused culture have spent
time studying Zappos. Zappos has developed an unusual approach to serving
customers and building loyalty.

They have redefined empowerment. Team members have the ability to spend
time on customer calls as they see best. Zappos measures total time spent on
calls with the goal being 80% of time spent on customer facing interactions. This
is much different from the usual measure of time per call with a focus on quantity.

Excellent insights on Zappos can be found in this Software Advice blog, 
A Zappos Lesson in Customer Service Metrics. Look closely at the 4 factors
measured in the Happiness Experience Form. Ashley Furness outlines
the secrets to creating real relationships with an emotional connection.

Employees also called the customer loyalty team are empowered to connect
with the customer and then are rewarded when their scores are high on the
Happiness Experience Form. The reward is a spin on “the wheel of happiness” to
win gift cards and other items. Smart hiring, training and empowerment is a part
of the culture, so true customer connections can be made.

Does Zappos unusual approach work? Furness states that 70 to 75% of
purchases come from returning customers. Real empowerment of team
members does pay off on the bottom line growth and profitability.

Think about your own metrics and how well they support a customer focused
culture. After reading Furness’s blog, get moving on the lessons from Zappos to
build happier, loyal customers.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What Is The Customer Worth To You?

All companies love the idea of keeping their customers loyal. They survey to assess
satisfaction, create slogans to inspire and make promises to attract customers. However
many have efforts and strategies underway that are roadblocks to loyalty. These
roadblocks could be more easily removed if you put a monetary figure on loyalty.
Increased revenue gets attention and can get “buy-in” from across the organization. Few
are willing to do the hard work to make it happen.

In a recent Dow Jones Report, General Motors Co. stated that for each percentage point
of improvement in customer retention rates, $700 million will be gained in additional
revenue. The auto industry typically retains about 52% of its customers when time to
purchase a new vehicle. GM’s retention rate is right on target with the average. Think
what being above average could do for your bottom line.

Here are some thoughts to consider –

Do you know how much your customer is worth on an annual basis?
How much would be added to the revenue if you kept 1% more of your
If you know the answers to the last two questions, does everyone in the
organization have them committed to memory?
What strategies, processes and attitudes deter the customer from being a retained

It may be hard to calculate the numbers but the work is worth it. Numbers sell others on
seriously moving forward with customer focused efforts. As stated earlier, few do what it
takes to deepen customer loyalty.

Do a quick assessment from your own experience as a customer – when have you
received a “thank you” or show of appreciation from your insurance agent, payroll
provider, mobile phone company and many others. My guess is the answer is not enough
and not often.

Go run the numbers and share the value of a retained customer. Get moving on strategies
to make it easy for customers to remain loyal. Loyalty is fragile and fleeting. Don’t give
them a reason to leave you.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Customer Experience Counts

Customer experience is a tough concept to define. It is designed and delivered by the company yet defined
by the customer. According to research and customer conversations, the experience can be the reason for
defection or loyalty. You must make it your priority to keep improving the experience so you create an
engaged and loyal customer. The best organizations are constantly tweaking their customer experience.

To be at your best, here are strategies to put in place. The reality is most of you will think you already have
these in place. I challenge you to review how well they are being implemented on a daily basis.

1. Are you easy to like?
- Nice counts
- Hire a likable team. Customers are much happier to give money to someone likeable.
- Be kind and respectful

2. There is no substitute for a real connection.
- Eliminate the scripts
- If you’ve hired and trained well, allow your team to use their common sense.
- Great data “married” with common sense will create satisfied customers. The connection
comes when using the data to show customers you know them.

3. It is time to really listen to the customer.
- The customer is talking to you via many channels. How are using “their voice?”
- Use their input to make appropriate improvements.
- Showing you are listening engages the customer and drives loyalty.

The reality is you must get the basics right first. Once you have a reliable, responsive process to serve the
customer, it is time to work on creating a memorable experience. Get moving on doing not just talking
about it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Pay Attention – Your Customer Deserves it.

Customers deserve respect. Their time and money are valuable and their loyalty is

priceless. When you pay attention, you can elevate the customer experience.
Here are some recent interactions that show the power of paying attention. Check
organization and identify if these happen at your company.

When approaching a counter at a retail store, the employee ignored me. The
message is, “If I don’t look at you and make eye contact, then you are not there.”
Now check your customer interactions, is anyone guilty of this? Get people to pay
attention. Train them to be aware, make eye contact and be respectful.

On a recent visit to Trader Joe’s, I had two items on my list and had not picked
up a basket. Once shopping, my impulse list grew and my arms were full. I was
pleasantly surprised when an employee came to me with a basket. They simply
appeared and took care of my needs. How did that act affect my experience? Ask
your team to think, anticipate customer needs and make it easy.

I had placed a call to a supplier and when the representative answered, I gave my
name along with a concise question. She was so focused on her script and her
needs that she did not hear me. She asked for my name as if I had never said it.
Do you like to repeat yourself? Allow your people to connect first. Slowing down
will make the contact go faster.

When making a purchase at a national chain retailer, the salesperson asked for my
email address. I assured her that I was already on the list and did not want to give
it again. Her defeated response was, “The system makes me ask for it.” Wrong
response. If you must ask for the email, then train your team to respond
differently. Try, “Great, then you get our super offers and notices of sales”. What
are your team members saying that could sound negative and powerless? Make it
a positive interaction.

It is time to get your processes and training fixed so you can be fast, responsive and
personal. Start simple – Pay Attention.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The 12 Fundamentals of Exceptional Customer Service

Customer service is mostly average, mediocre or worse.
I find it amazing that the delivery of high quality customer service is
so uncommon even with all the talk and focus on the topic. When
speaking to groups of CEOs recently, the attendees state that
customer service is “not rocket science”. The reality is many
of their employees are not delivering the basics. It is tough to move
on to a discussion of “customer experience” when the basics
are not the standard.

Here is my list of the 12 Fundamentals of Customer Service. The list is
short and to the point – no need to elaborate on simple steps that should be
the norm for all teams interacting with your customer.

1. Answer your phone. It is a pleasant surprise when real people answer
phones and are ready to serve.
2. Respond to emails and social media contacts fast. Engage and
3. Do what you say you are going to do. This strategy solves most
problems and creates satisfied customers.
4. Get it right the first time. First time resolution is expected.
5. Fix problems fast. Apologize sincerely and follow up.
6. Stop blaming. Customers don’t care about your internal issues.
7. Listen the first time. Let the customer know you heard them to keep
them from repeating.
8. Use the customer’s name. This easy step can make a big difference
when done with respect.
9. Make eye contact. When face-to-face, look at the customer and not
just acknowledge from a distance.
10. Be sincere and real. Customers are tired of the practiced phrases.
Connect and engage.
11.Thank the customer. Leave the customer with a positive impression.
12. Have fun. Customers want to do business with likeable, happy people.

Check your daily interactions against these 12 Fundamentals. My guess is
you need either a brush up or a complete rehaul just to get the basics right
with every customer, everyday and every time.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Create a Customer Experience that Builds Loyalty

In the best of all worlds, happy customers mean loyal customers. Loyal customers
talk, create buzz and can be an advocate that leads to more customers. Customers
want an exceptional experience and will quickly switch to another company to get that
experience. Average and mediocre will be your ticket to customer loss. In a recent survey
done by Forrester Research, 76% of executives said they want to differentiate with a
customer experience. However the majority of the same executives state no clear strategy
or budget have been created to support this goal. How can you stand out from the crowd
and move to delivery vs. intention only. Get started with these strategies –

1. Allow team members to use common sense and discretion. Do you have enough
data at the fingertips of everyone so this is a reality? Customers do not want to
repeat themselves to multiple people. They do not want to demand a manager.
They want a real person who can listen and act.

2. Make it easy and simple for the customer across all channels. The best companies
are diligently working at “marrying” the information from the multiple channels
that the customer accesses. Don’t let one touchpoint be the reason they leave you.

3. Make exceptional experience an expectation. Train it, reward it, imagine it and
allow it.

4. Deliver proactive service. This is the key to staying ahead of your competition.
Reach out with information before the customer encounters a problem. This is
a cultural shift away from reactive service. Proactive means anticipating needs,
communicating and building trust.

Customers want an outstanding experience and will shop around for it. Make certain you
deliver one that causes them to stick around.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The 4 Customer “Must Haves”

Let me state the obvious - customers are very demanding and
extremely tough to satisfy. The best companies are trying to figure
out how to stay one step ahead of the fickle customer. And although
there are many initiatives and “must haves”, however let’s start with
this short list –

1. Deliver the product or service right the first time. Be
consistent. Be reliable. This means looking at processes,
systems and the skills of your people. Getting the basics
right solves most of your issues and can create very loyal
customers. Customers love one contact and no hassles.

2. Make it easy. Multichannel access is a must. You know this
but what you know needs to match the reality of how you are
engaging your customers. Customer’s desire for transparency
is here to stay. They like the access to information and
knowledge of how your company works. The customer
knows how to work the system, you better be connected and
responsive – fast is the operative word.

3. Have fixes ready. Customers want problems fixed fast. It is
likely unhappy customers are on hold with your call centers
while tweeting their dissatisfaction. Have real people ready
with real answers – not scripts. Your representatives are the
voice and ambassador of your company. Use them wisely to
amp up customer loyalty.

4. Give them a reason to return. Customers want a memorable
experience. They will tell others and become your advocate.
With customers becoming so savvy, the world is now your
competition. Customers compare all service experiences not
just ones in your industry. Stop talking about improving the
experience and strengthen the relationship, start doing it.

Your team holds the keys to making the experience one that
creates positive buzz.

Customers are picky, demanding and impatient. Their “must
haves” will drive them to shop around. Make certain your service
will have them stick with you for the long haul.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Customers Deserve Better

When customers call a company, they deserve the best treatment. However,
many organizations continue to abuse their customers with poorly thought out
phone handling. The guilty companies range for the largest to the smallest.
The reality is, most companies do not want the calls. Their desire is for the
customer to check the website first, to engage in live chat
or communicate via social media. Most customers have tried one of those
options and as a last resort pick up the phone. So when the experience is
daunting or down right rude, customers get even more frustrated.

It is time to do a review of what customers go through when calling your
company. I recommend a small team, including a director level person,
to check your roadblocks and make the needed changes.

Here’s where to get started –

1. Act as if you are the customer. Listen closely and experience the call
process. I know you have done this before – do it again.

2. Get rid of the instructions that inform the customer, “Listen carefully
as our menu has changed.” Most of your customers do not call you
often enough to have the menu memorized. We don’t know or care
that it has changed. Just give us the choices, the fewer the better.
Also, give us the one chosen most frequently upfront, like press 1 not 6.
For example, physician’s office are the worst offender of this one –
“to make an appointment press 5”. I don’t think pharmacies call more
often than patients yet that option is always stated before the patient
focused ones.

3. Stop telling the customer, “Your call is very important to us, the next
available representative will be with you soon.” Say it once. The more
you repeat the same script the more it angers the customer and they
will not believe you. Change up the recording – some script, some music,
some information about products and services. And please don’t tell the
customer to go to the website, it is very likely they’ve tried it already and
may even be on it while having to listen to the recording, angrily.

4. Listen to the customer representative scripts. Is it time to let the team
be more respectful and engaging? Customers are exhausted with the
programmed scripts. They do not create a real conversation. The
customer called to speak to a real live person – not one with a script
and limited options. Remember the customer thinks their situation is
unique, so listen well and engage them.

Customers will love you when you hire smarter, train better and coach often.
Your team will love working for you and in an empowered environment.
You will get loyalty from customers and employees. Your phone handling
is part of the customer experience. If the customer has to call you, give them
what they deserve – easy to access real people with real answers.