In today’s world steeped in social media, quality customer service can be your businesses top marketing asset. Just take a look at Zappos. Since day one, the shoes and apparel dealer has made customer care central to culture, and as a result, reaped the word of mouth and customer loyalty benefits.
“Zappos invests in the call center not as cost, but the opportunity to market,” author of The Zappos Experience, Joseph Michelli, told me.
Recently, my company Software Advice had a chance to ask one of Zappos loyalty managers how they track and measure this customer-centric strategy. He told me about four performance metrics they use to drive productivity and incentive emotional connections with the customer. Here’s summary of these measures:
Monitor Total Interaction Time, Not Call Quantities
Instead of valuing quick time to resolution or processing high call volumes, Zappos looks at the percentage of a time an agent spends on the phone.
Agents are expected to spend at least 80 percent of their time in customer-facing communications.This measure – called personal service level – is a way to empower the team to utilize their time how they see best promotes customer loyalty.
Quantify Wow Moments
Zappos measures calls against a 100-point scale called the “Happiness Experience Form.” CSRs are expected to keep a 50-point average or higher. If they fall below that line, they receive extra training. This scale is based on answers to the following questions:
- Did the agent try twice to make a personal emotional connection (PEC)?
- Did they keep the rapport going after the customer responded to their attempt?
- Did they address unstated needs?
- Did they provide a “wow experience?”
Zero in on Idle Chats
Zappos monitors “abandonment time,” or periods when an agent has a session open even though the customer already disconnected from the chat.
This strategy of looking for idle chats zeroes in on the cause of unproductivity. When agents aren’t productive, customers wait longer. And the longer they wait, the more apt they are to abandon the session.
Reward Perfect Attendance and Punctuality
Zappos uses a program called Panda to combat absenteeism. Employees receive a point for every day they miss work or come in late. Staff with zero points in a given period receive a varying number of paid hours off. These hours can be accrued and stacked for an entire paid day off, Carder explains.
The key take away is that Zappos created metrics that emphasize relationship building over rushing the customer off the call. At the same time, these KPIs still successfully improve performance and make employees feel appreciated and rewarded.
This is a guest post.
A properly-aligned buyer persona can mean the difference between squandering your marketing budget and making the most of it. These hypothetical customer profiles dictate everything from what blog topics you cover to the advertising campaigns you purchase (or not).
Many companies conduct interviews with sales and customers to fashion their buyer persona. But there is another often overlooked resource for defining your target customers’ values, wants, fears, and objections – customer service.
Your support team talks to your REAL customers every day. So it makes sense they would be most in tune with their habits. Here’s several tips you can use for leveraging customer service to refine your buyer personas.
Identifying Preferred Communication Channels
Buyer personas help your marketing team ensure they are contacting the right audience, at the right time in the right place. Customer service is a great venue for addressing that last factor – the right place.
This can mean communities and publications where they gather, but also the communication channel they are most familiar with – whether that’s helping themselves online, calling or emailing. Have you customer service team flag each interaction with the communication channel used to submit the issue. That way, you can later pull a report and mine for trends. If one of your personas primarily calls, your sales team will know that’s the most effective means for connecting with that lead.
Assess Technical Savvy
Understanding your customer’s level of technical savvy is also important as you craft your blogs and other marketing materials. To do this, start by meeting with your customer service team to identify the most common questions they receive about your product or service.
Then, for each question, discuss what technical bucket they would fall into — whether that’s “highly technical,” “general,” or “basic.” You could choose more macro tiers that are specific to your company, too.
Here’s an example – my company Software Advice helps companies figure out which software products best fit for their needs. We’ve learned that small businesses generally have broader questions (general) about what business problems various software types solve. On the other hand, larger buyers ask more pointed questions about specific functionalities and features (technical).
Fears, Wants, and Values
Your marketing team should also work with customer service to identify other possible support behaviors that reveal buyer intent for your product, or realized fears from the pre-purchase stage. Let’s crutch alternative producer, Goodbye Crutches, as an example. They have a persona, “Mary the Motivated Mom,” and perhaps she’d call customer service wanting to know if the she purchased could be disassembled because it wouldn’t fit in the trunk of her car.
That’s a really good question. Probably a question a ton of other potential buyers have. It also reveals a concern she and many others have with your product that would be pretty handy to clear up during the pre-purchase stage, eh? Marketing might, knowing this information, include a diagram in marketing materials that shows how the scooter folds up and fits the dimensions of most standard vehicle trunks.
To record and track this data, allow space either in your customer service software or CRM to track these “fears” “wants” or “values.” Ideally you can export the information into Excel to sort and look for patterns that will help you refine your buyer personas as you gather more and more information.
Find Timely Marketing Opportunities
Customers don’t always use your product right away. Sometimes they purchase it for a particular occasion, or just for “when they need it.” This time might be obvious, but it’s likely there’s other situations you didn’t imagine your customers would use your product.
Customer service can help unearth these “when they need it” moments. This can happen in two ways. One, have your service team start to record how customers are using the product or service. In other words, what were they doing when they had to call to figure something out, or solve and issue. Then, you can look for trends on those uses.
The second way is to allow space to record calls that are relevant to a particular time of year or event. Does your persona attend a certain festival every year? Are they a parent, and need to prepare for back to school? Understanding what is timely to your consumer will help reinforce relevancy and immediacy to buy.
Prioritize Marketing Spend
Customer service can also enable your marketing team to prioritize spend better. What’s the support volume required for each persona? How often does each persona call? How long does each call last? How often do they refund?
Depending on what percent of sales that persona contributes, you might choose to decrease marketing investments for that particular persona if the cost to acquire them as a customer exceeds the cost to keep them on board.
How does your marketing team create buyer personas? Join the conversation by commenting here.
Ashley Furness is a CRM Analyst for research firm Software Advice. Her work has appeared in myriad publications including Inc., Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal. Before joining Software Advice in 2012, she worked in sales management and advertising.
Last year, like in the previous years, customer service has become big in any industry. In fact, we have come now to an age where customer service is king.
The latest technology has leveled the playing field, and that leaves customer service as the differentiating factor. An easy example that I can give you is the iOS and Android. When the former comes with a new app, the latter follows. Or when a TV manufacturer comes up with the flat screen the others follow. Some even cheaper.
That’s why companies have to be better in their customer service strategy. I stumbled upon this article on B2C, which lists the top 10 customer service trends for 2013.
The article talks about the rising expectations of the customer, and the influence of social media and free information on the Web. The environment has really changed.
A study conducted by Nunwood showed that UK shoppers prefer online shopping to in-store. The study, the 2012 UK Customer experience excellence program, ranked the top 100 brands in the UK based on the customer experience they provide.
Here are some of the results:
- supermarket customers give the online experience better scores by an average of 3.9%
- non-food retail customers give the online experience on average a 5% higher than in-store
One brand, the Waitrose, in fact, had a 6.5% higher online customer experience. Craig Ryder, a director at the report’s authors Nunwood cited the following reasons for the online preference of customers:
- customers value their time and effort – if a brand values the same and shows it to the customer, they get the appreciation back
- online shopping is a much more controlled environment – vendors can plan out delivery time and supply better compared to in-store where external factors are more unpredictable
But Ryder recommends to have a balance between the online and in-store experiences. I believe, so, too. After all, it’s about brand’s consistent service that is important.
The UK Customer Experience Excellence report is based on more than 40,000 individual experiences from around 7500 individuals. Each experience is analysed by Nunwood and used to rank it against a series of six pillars of experience delivery. These pillars are the distinctive characteristics of leading firms and have been distilled from a database of over 600,000 evaluations across 550 brands and.
Top 10 brands in the UK as ranked by the quality of customer experience:
- First Direct
- M&S Food
- The Co-Operative Bank
- Green Flag
- Virgin Atlantic
In any case, this is now a case of man versus machine. Would you rather interact with your PC or with a real salesperson?
For this week’s good customer service experience, a guy shares his experience with London Gatwick Airport.
How is Your Welcome!
Every time you visit another country, that country has a unique opportunity to provide you with a welcome that you will never forget. Most of us are aware of the importance of first impressions – if you think back through your life, how many people have managed to change your first impression of them? It’s the same with places. I remember, many years ago, going on a fantastic three-week holiday to the Caribbean. Arriving on the tiny island of Canouan in a small aircraft, we were ushered to a small hut that served as the customs and immigration office for the island. The officials were informally dressed, welcomed us to their island, and then when the formalities of checking our passports were completed, they offered us a cup of rum punch as a welcoming gesture. Now, I’m not suggesting that everyone should get a shot of the local alcoholic drink when they arrive in a new country, but there should be some kind of welcome above and beyond the perfunctory checking of passports. I went to Canouan in 1989, and I am still telling people about that experience 23 years later!
London Gatwick Airport is getting this right – in fact, on a recent trip to Canada I was so impressed with the service at Gatwick Airport that I decided to make it my airport of choice in the U.K. from now on. Since the new owners took over from BAA, they have done a huge amount of work on employee engagement and this has been reflected in the improvements in customer experience that are there for all to see.
So, wherever in the world you are reading this, go and look at your national airports. What kind of customer experience is going on there – what are they doing well, and what needs to be improved?
Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression – and that applies to countries and cities as well as people, although it’s the behaviours of your people that you will be judged on.
The story is shared by:
Graham Frost is a customer service and employee engagement specialist. He spent the first twenty years of his career working in front line customer service roles in the hospitality and transport industries and he knows what works, and what doesn’t. Nowadays Graham helps businesses to provide great employee experiences, which result in great customer experiences. He is also an Employee Engagement Adviser for The WOW! Awards and part of the Engage for Success group which is working to improve employee engagement in the U.K.
When it comes to establishing truly loyal customers who act as your greatest marketing arm (through word of mouth referrals), you need to be aware of 3 big pitfalls that so called customer service “experts” pass off as good advice.
Fact is, a lot of the advice touted by the industry is nothing but MYTHS, with little to no data to back up the claims made.
Today, I’m going to break down 3 of the biggest customer service myths out there, and show you the research on how to actually amaze your customers and provide the exceptional customer service that all of the best brands are known for.
1.) The Myth: Fast service is the best service
The truth: 15 minutes of great service always beats 5 minutes of hellish service.
It’s almost seems like blasphemy for me to tell you to slow down your service and spend more time with customers, but it’s not my opinion: it’s fact.
Now granted, there are situations when speed takes priority (as a webmaster, I know when my hosting goes down, I want my problem solved FAST!), but most of the time, the research shows that people prefer slower, more competent service over rushed and “fast” service.
This information was revealed by multiple studies, but one of my favorites comes from the Gallup group, where researchers looked at bank tellers and what kind of service generated the best customer engagement and loyalty.
Their findings were quite revealing:
Customer perceptions of the tellers’ courtesy and their apparent willingness to help were far more important than speed of service in generating customer engagement.
Speed is one factor, but it is markedly less important than having tellers who can deliver services in a friendly and competent manner.
There are also notable examples that come from legendary entrepreneurs within the customer service space like Derek Sivers of CDBaby, who told his employees to spend more time with customers, in order to ensure that they were truly solving their problems to the best of their capabilities. CDBaby later went on to sell for over $20 million.
Speed does still matter, in fact it was the #2 reason (2010) why customers would abandon a brand… behind incompetent service, that is.
Always be mindful of your customers’ time, but don’t fall into the trap of believing that the fastest service possible is the best service possible.
2.) Myth: “WOWing” customers takes a big budget
The truth: Goodwill doesn’t need to be bought with huge gestures; it really is the thought that counts.
These days, everybody (HBR, Forbes, BusinessWeek) likes to talk about how to “WOW” your customers, because after all, “marketing is dead” and customer service is the new marketing (only a small bit of that is true).
Since that’s the case, all sorts of “customer WOWs” are cited as case studies on how to generate goodwill… and almost all of the ones discussed reference big dollar spending that is often quite reckless and unsustainable!
For instance, everybody loves to talk about Zappos for their (undeniably) great way of winning buyers over with their free upgrades to priority shipping and their superior online customer service (where they would take back any purchase, no questions asked), but fewer people know that Zappos was struggling more so than many people would like to admit before being bought by Amazon.
Here’s the thing though: it doesn’t take big money to great big customer “WOWs”.
In a classic study by psychologist Norbert Schwarz, he found that as little as 10 cents (this was in 1987) was enough to change the outlooks of participants who found the money by surprise.
In a later interview, Schwarz would later sum up this phenomenon as such:
It’s not the value of what you find. It’s that something positive happened to you.
This is the concept of “surprise” reciprocity, which enhances the loyalty building aspect of reciprocity by throwing people off guard with a pleasant surprise. The value lies in the surprise itself, the gift can be quite small and still create an impact.
This concept of a “frugal WOW” has been used by companies like Sweetgreen to great effect. By doing things like leaving small giftcards for people with parking tickets (or for those riding bikes in the rain), Sweetgreen has managed to maintain 300% year over year growth and amaze customers everywhere they go.
All without breaking the bank!
3.) Myth: Customer feedback isn’t useful for innovation
Sure, every company tends to listen to their customers to some degree, but I see far too many people quoting Steve Jobs on the fact that “customers don’t know what they want.”
The research says otherwise: In a broad (and scientific) look at customer innovation, MIT’s Eric von Hippel analyzed 1,193 commercially successful innovations across nine industries.
He found that 737 of those (60%) came from customers!
There’s also numerous examples of companies bouncing back from slumps thanks to customer innovation, like 3M:
In the 90′s, 3M’s Medical-Surgical Markets Division was in a big slump, and they needed to make changes fast.
In order to inspire some more creative thinking, they organized a “lead user” (superstar customer) team to help with innovations in addition to their in-house staff.
Fact is, there are just some things that customers can do better than you, and you should be embracing these strengths rather than trying to spur innovation with an iron fist.
Don’t be hesitant to gather feedback from your customers on what can be improved about your products or services. Not every request can be fulfilled (or should be fulfilled), but you could be missing out on some great insights by not polling your buyers.
Now I hand things over to you…
- Let me know in the comments what you thought of this research and of my points.
- Get more data on your customers from our 75 Customer Service Facts & Statistics e-book (it’s free).
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the comments!
About the Author: Gregory Ciotti is the marketing guy at Help Scout, the invisible help desk software that makes email support a breeze for you and your customers. Get more from Greg on the Help Scout blog.
In this day and age, you would think that all customer transactions would take place online. Customers buy and pay online. If they are unhappy about their business experience, they would complain online through email or through comments. Well, they could share it through social media. In fact, we see this happening.
However, a Forrester study shows that customers still prefer to call and even visit the store to air their complaints. According to the report:
Consumers would rather get customer service in-person or over the phone than online… Even online customers are just as likely to pick up the phone or go to a store as use internet customer service such as emailing or instant-messaging.
Customers prefer calling because they find it convenient and think it is the fastest way. The article shows a chart showing where customers in every channel seek out customer service. Note that brick-and-mortar shoppers still make up 87 percent of customers:
Source of Image and Quote: Forrester Research
But I think the real reason is that customers still want real human intervention. They do so because of the following reasons:
- For service to be consummated, it needs warmth from human beings.
- That human warmth will make customers feel valued.
- In decision making, one person needs to consult with another. He feels more confident about his decision.
- Customers, after all, are people They are not commodities.
- Customers want to be treated as people.
In all this, let us not forget also the value of human interaction in B2B sales.
Mercury Drug’s brand of customer service is really worth mentioning and sharing. They seem to have mastered customer touchpoints such as:
- Reliability – We can rely on their pharmacists and sales people for advice on what medicine to take. And mind you, they don’t just dispense any medicine without making sure that the meds will be used properly. I would often overhear them asking customers basic questions.
- Speed – They have set up a system that are able to serve customers fast and quick, and efficient! Clearly, they put customer’s first.
- Commitment - They have been putting up branches all over the country, and I am pretty sure they will be continuing doing so. They have committed to serve.
- Humane – They also show they care. First they introduced the call-order ahead, and then customers can pick up their orders once ready. Now, they can find the medicines for you if they don’t have them in their branch. Proof is the photo above of this post.
For me, these meaningful touch points are going beyond service. It’s already caring for another person.
Convenience stores have become a dime a dozen here in the metropolis. Almost at every corner there is either a 7-11 or a Mini Stop. When you go outside of the city and make a trip to nearby municipalities, you will also see gasoline stations with convenience stores in them. Even drug stores such as Mercury Drug and South Star Drug here have become convenience stores as well.
One thing I like about these stores is that they really deliver on their promise of convenience. I have not had any unhappy experience with them.
People go to them aside from the convenience are the following factors:
- Product supply. Their supplies are those that you really on a daily basis, and are part of your basic needs.
- Friendly salespersons and cashiers.
- Open 24/7.
- Located in strategic places.
I stumbled upon an article that also talks about convenience stores, and it cited the top five factors of customer satisfaction in convenience stores.
- Convenience– 8.55 out of 10
- Gas Prices– 8.48 out of 10
- Employees’ Professional Appearance– 8.41 out of 10
- Employee Willingness to Help Customers– 8.38 out of 10
- Employee Knowledge and Courtesy– 8.24 out of 10
The numbers are not bad.
Now the question: can big department stores beat this satisfaction rating?
Irate customers in airports are not new. Complaints range from delayed/cancelled flights, to lost luggage, yet there seems to be little effort done to improve experience in airports. Despite leaps and bounds in technology, we still keep hearing horror airport stories.
A case in point is my recent experience in NAIA Terminal 2, also known as the Centennial Airport. We went out of town for a week, and just had a “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” experience in Dumaguete, Siquijor, and Cebu.
Our flight back to Manila from Cebu was in the evening, 9pm-ish. Fortunately, we were not super delayed. Just the regular few minutes late. In fact, the passengers wanted the flight to go much later because on TV was the basketball championship game of B-Meg and Talk & Text. As we were boarding, my family chose to board last because of the cliffhanger game (lol). B-Meg of course won! So we were really in high spirits, the kind of feeling you have when you have done all that you have set out to do.
But when we landed Manila and went out to get a cab home, we were slapped by reality. Welcome to Manila, indeed, with rude taxi drivers, or should I say, airport taxi operators who take advantage of passengers. We were approached by one operator, Nissan group, and charged Php800 for Moonwalk, Parañaque. Php800 for only a Php150 max when using the taxi meter. Also, Moonwalk, Parañaque is just on the other side of the fence! We chuckled and gave the Nissan guy a “Are you serious?” look and went off in a huff.
Good thing, there are now the yellow taxis, which are more reliable. Although the flag down rate (set at Php70.000 compared to Php40.000 with the ordinary taxi) is higher, it saves you from useless haggling and it issues a receipt. We were lucky, we got the last cab in the queue. Knowing that our flight was the last one, we were thinking, the next yellow taxi might take a while.
However, I think it’s time that our government improve our airport experience. Let’s make the slogan of the Department of Tourism a real one. Let’s make the tourists exclaim, “It’s more fun in the Philippines!” every time they come and visit.
Some areas for improvement in the airport
- Put luggage carousel announcements clearly and in strategic places. Often, we wouldn’t know which carousel to get our luggage. That evening, there was a guy who used his booming voice (no megaphone for him, poor guy) to welcome us and announce our carousel. We were all amused by him.
- Assign friendly personnel at the arrival area. Back in the day, airport personnel were stationed at the exit of the arrival area and would be checking the stickers of checked-in luggage. That way, too, people have someone to ask if they needed something. These days, passengers are freer to pick up their luggage (good thing, if they really picked up their own) and go. In the event that you needed some information, you had to look for someone yet.
- Provide well-lighted corridors/walkways. Brighter lights are more welcoming and they give tourists a safer feeling.
- Assign reliable airport transportation facilities. As I narrated above, I believe it’s the responsibility of airport management to provide (plenty of) reliable taxi service. Where is the fun, if upon landing Philippines, tourists are swindled by taxi drivers. And we all know this is happening. Sad.
- Do something about the air traffic now! This is an urgent concern bordering on emergeny. Business travel is sorely affected by all these delayed flights. If you are meeting someone at the airport, tell him to send you a text message when your plane has actually taken off. DOTC SOS!
Also, you may want to get some of these airport customer service reps who are holograms. I swear this will be interesting!