NewBrand Analytics put together this infograph titled “2014: The Year of Customer Experience.” The findings are as relevant today as they were in 2014.
One of the first things taught to writers is that before you write a single word, you must first know your audience. This is true of authors, playwriters, speech writers, journalists, and, yes, bloggers too. It’s
helpful for us because it keeps us on target by sharpening our focus. Are you wondering why this matters to you as a person delivering customer experience? Good. Read on.
Let’s talk about football. Superbowl 49. Well, ok let’s talk about the commercials. Did you see the one about the guy with the Doritos bag on the airplane? How about the one with the screaming goat (or were there two with screaming goats?) Or that tear-jerker with the race car driver dad trying to balance work and home life? That one was my personal favorite. Sometimes it feels like these advertisers really get you, they really nail it. What about that insurance commercial, you know the one where the kid never got to grow up because of an accident in his house? Ouch. First, what a buzz kill in the middle of the Super Bowl. Your friends are over, you’re having drinks and snacks, in the mood to celebrate life and cheer for your team, and then this comes on. Second, does anyone have a friend who unfortunately had a child that died at an early age? I do. Can you imagine how horrible those friends felt watching that? What about couples who can’t have children that are reminded of all those milestones they won’t see their children go through. Yeah. Feels like those ad agencies really missed the mark, doesn’t it? Anybody run out and buy insurance after that commercial? I’m betting not.
So, what does all this have to do with your customer experience? Just this: know your customer. The reason these ads worked or didn’t work is because of demographic research. The commercials were slanted to father/child relationships because demographic research from last year showed that men weren’t really identifying with the 1960’s image of man as having little to no involvement with child rearing, and we know that today many more dads split child care duties or maybe outpace their wives in that department. GoDaddy even pulled their commercial before the Super Bowl because a preview before the event drew huge criticism. When they wrote a commercial that showed a couple happy to have their lost puppy returned because they planned to sell it to Danica Patrick on their website, they vastly misread how the general public would react.
In our general interactions with customers, we need to first endeavor to learn who we are talking to before we make assumptions about what that customer wants or needs. If you start off talking about how great it was that New England won right off the bat, there is the possibility your customer a) doesn’t even know that New England was in the Super Bowl; b) disagrees with you vehemently and thinks it’s a disgrace that Seattle didn’t win. Ask questions before making statements or recommendations. Test ideas and products on your target market before launching. Give free samples. Ask friends and neighbors. This research before launch might slow you down a bit, but it could save you heartache in the long run and get you much closer to the end result your customer is seeking.
The title says “marketers;” however I believe this infograph by Keepify really speaks to customer experience as a whole. I think the last point is especially interesting: only 12% of current marketing spend is used to to retain customers. Here’s something that is not included in the infograph: some companies spend no marketing dollars at all to tout exceptional customer service. Providing excellent customer support on social media is a great venue in which to showcase your company’s great customer service.
As I briefly mentioned in 2015 Predictions for Social Customer Support, current thinking from research firms indicates that customer experience will be more more important than ever. Let’s take this apart and have a look at why and how.
We know, as consumers, that dealing with companies can be much more complicated than it needs to be, and take much more of something everyone has less of these days: time. We have to wait on hold, we are transferred a million times, and we just want one teensy thing. In recent years, thanks partly to the increase in social forums that allow customers to talk back, companies have caught on that we want things done faster and easier. This has resulted in companies receiving fewer reviews that indicate customers find them truly awful to deal with. Which is great. One side effect for companies is that the competition is also getting better.
Think about the advertisements you see on TV or the internet. Brands mainly pick one thing that differentiates their product from the other guy: they claim to be either 1) cheaper 2) better quality or 3) have better service. Apple (or Samsung, I wont’ judge your camp) have great quality and a focus on user experience. Costco aims to provide the best prices. Southwest is known for its service. So, if you’re not the best gadget in town, or the best available quality, chances are you need to be focusing on your customer service/experience. And these 2015 predictions are telling us that efforts to be just a little better than the next guy won’t keep customers coming back.
So, what to do? Where to go? It’s All In The Details with Social Customer Support provides a few tips for getting started, such as asking customers what they want, improving the quality of your outputs, and using proper etiquette (this last one will likely get you much farther than you imagine.) What if you’ve already done those things, and you want to do more? See if some of these suggestions help.
Improving Customer Experience
- Provide a Full Service Experience – In your customer’s journey, do they have to move from station to station at your store or be transferred several times on the phone or online chat? If so, do everything in your power to make that stop. If the transfers can’t be stopped, try a personal handoff. This will reduce customer effort and create a “wow” moment. I recently called USAA with an unusual financial question, and though the first rep couldn’t help me with my concern, she handled the details of explaining my needs to the next person on the phone. The next thing I heard was the new rep calling me by name and restating what he understood my question to be. That feels nice.
- Surprise Me – Is there some way that you can anticipate a customer’s need? It could be something simple. In E-Trade Nails It with their Customer Support I shared that they proactively changed my mailing address after being alerted to my move by the United States Postal Service. Nice, right? How much does it cost to link up with USPS and make that happen? I haven’t looked into it, but it made me stop and think about how smart E-Trade is.
- Make Exceptions For Me – Ouch. I know, deviation from process can cost time and money. But I do believe customers that are shown compassion and understanding tend to develop positive feelings towards that brand. I remember several years ago a promotion took me from one city to another. I panicked as I realized at the airport that in the midst of the move, I forgot to pay the credit card bill. And, this was a big deal, because it had that nice zero percent interest associated with it. I remember telling my sad story to the customer service rep on the phone. She could have been snarky, or acted superior, or given me a lecture. Instead she chose to show compassion, and her company had the (uncommon at that time) policy of forgiving one late payment and thereby not immediately causing your interest rate to skyrocket. I clearly remember that, to this day.
Can you find a way to work one or more of these ideas into your organization?
Let’s talk about Net Promoter Score (NPS) for a second. This is a measurement on a scale from 1 – 10 based on a simple question: How likely are you to recommend this company to someone else? 1 is least likely, 10 is most likely. Any score from 0-6 considers the respondent a detractor. 7-8 is neutral, and a score of 9 or 10 labels one a promoter for that brand. Subtracting the total detractors from the promoters (while omitting the neutrals) yields the overall score. Of course, to ensure the validity of the data you must ensure an automatic survey set to avoid only happy transactions being calculated. The overall score of is thought to be a strong indicator of future growth potential for that company.
I find myself wondering this: what do the highest scoring companies do that return these fantastic results? Well, some of it can be observed as a high quality product. Apple is brutally dedicated to design simplicity. Trader Joe’s offers products you can’t find anywhere else. Other components include a commitment to customer service. The hostess at Chick-fil-A comes around asking if you need anything as you eat your meal. USAA lets you know about other services you might find beneficial, and changes addresses for all products at the same time. Southwest is known for excellent customer service from happy employees. And Amazon, well, I’m not sure if their customer service is great or not because I tend to receive my packages on time (or early) and in good condition.
So what can we do to be more like these companies? Well, measuring NPS is great, but you don’t have to institute a big survey program to get started on making customers happier. . If you re-read the previous paragraph, what you might find is that regular attention to small details gets noticed by customers in a big way. Southwest is being nice to customers; same with Chick-fil-A. They’re just using their manners. Amazon and Apple are paying attention to quality on the front end to improve brand image and minimize customer service needs (hopefully) on the back end.
Social isn’t a place. It’s a way of thinking. When we say “social” we tend to think only of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the like. But the point of social is to benefit from interacting with people and benefiting in some large or small way from the collective knowledge. Ask your customers what is important to them. Make every attempt to deliver quality the first time, based on what they said they wanted. If you make a mistake, use your manners to apologize and make it right for the customer.
Ask Yourself These Questions to Deliver on the Details:
- Can I ask my customers what they want? If I can’t ask them all, can I ask a few for general knowledge?
- Is there a way I can quickly and inexpensively improve the quality of my work?
- Is there an opportunity for me to use proper etiquette more regularly?
This infograph by Visual.ly shares statistics that indicate customers who engage with companies on social spend more money, and would prefer to use online support options if they are reliable.
Ah, what a year! As I prepared to write this year’s predictions, I looked back to my 2014 Predictions for Social Customer Support. I can say that from my own experience and in speaking with colleagues it seems that my predictions were accurate. Measurement is getting more precise and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are becoming easier to find. Many more customers are looking to social media before attempting to use more traditional contact methods. Companies are striving to respond faster, and when they can’t, customers are voicing their dissatisfaction. This has driven more volume, and additional staffing is required to keep up with this volume. Integration of data is easier to achieve, though still potentially costly.
As 2014 went along, I noticed something that you may have noticed as well: a distinct lack of new material being published about customer support on social media. From 2010 through 2013 there were articles and infographs and videos everywhere touting the importance of providing customer service in the social media space. Everyone was looking for the ROI, selling the ROI, selling tools, and convincing firms to join the movement quickly. Then, content seemed to decelerate in 2013, and slowed to a trickle in 2014. This led me to wonder, has the shine worn off of social media customer support? We had plenty of information explaining the benefit, urging action, and even providing some information on initial setup of a social customer care team. But the next wave of data, including early metrics and findings, was absent. Then I realized that the companies that started social customer support teams were busy learning and scaling and trying to understand the new data they were receiving.
So then, what now? What can we expect to come in 2015? Well, we know from other predictive data that companies will continue to add more funds to digital advertising budgets. We also know that customer experience is still top of mind for businesses, and they are using that data to inform internal product and process information, customer desire, and any opportunity to gain advantage in the marketplace. And there has been no visible slowdown in the number of requests for assistance coming through social media channels, or shortage of new platforms online where two-way communication is possible. Knowing that, here’s what I see coming our way in 2015.
5 Social Customer Support Predictions for 2015
- Specific Metrics – Companies will learn from the data collected over the past few years and be able clearly glean traditional call center metrics like cost per transaction, response time, and handle time.
- Large Scale Buy In (or Out) – Concrete facts in the form of traditional call center metrics may reveal a hard ROI based on costs to deliver social service, calls avoided at call centers, and the like.
- Social Selling – This has been a touchy subject in the social customer support space, with most deciding that selling has no place in social media. But we may be ready to start offering suggestions for products and services where customers would truly benefit.
- Staffing Trials – There has been discussion in the industry around whether it’s time to call social “figured out” and put it into general call center population, where reps can be added or removed from social media as volume occurs. This would make the companies that create listening and engagement tools who charge per seat very happy. It could also answer questions about staffing challenges and overhead costs. The risks can be high though, as less specialized front line reps are given access to represent the company on a very public stage. Companies may also find that when call volume spikes, social media volume spikes at the same time. This would limit the benefit gained from all that additional tool licensing and training expense.
- Change – Yes, that’s right friends. The data we have been feeding to the C Level and other departments is powerful and has been getting noticed, if you’re doing it right. Companies will be making faster, customer-directed change to improve products and services. This should help improve customer experience and reduce customer efforts. And that, my friends, is what it’s all about in my book.
There you have it. I hope to see more of those infographs and articles that share specific insights on how social media customer support has really made a difference because consumers finally have a way to voice their opinions. But social customer support may not get the glory for these changes. For one thing, it’s not the only vehicle providing this feedback in many organizations. Customers are filling out online surveys and paper comment cards and those are working as well. For another, social media is really just a big magnifying glass that shows all the flaws a company has in product, service, policy and process, and provides opportunity for improvement. But if you have a front row seat like I do, you can have a great view of the change that social can bring about. That’s exciting stuff.
Do you ever go to meetings or training classes with new, random groups of people and have to complete those ice breaker activities? You’re going about your day, getting “real work” done, and then you have to stop what you’re doing to go play silly games and interact with people? It can feel really uncomfortable to get into these new situations with these new people outside of our comfort zones. But these exercises tend to be effective tools to take us out of our current mindset, outside of our comfort zone and get us into a more open and relaxed frame of mind. The truth is that learning new things and working well in groups is an important part of our jobs.
I bring up these scenarios because customer service can feel that way. Employees that interact with customers are typically have “down time” responsibilities such as filing, sending emails and the like that they complete between customer interactions. If there is a slow period with few customers, good momentum can build on those offline tasks. The first customer that requires assistance can feel like an unwanted interruption just when progress is being made. That can create stress, and allow a mindset to creep in that taking care of customers is interfering with the ability for the employee to take care of the customer’s immediate needs.
It’s helpful for us as leaders to recognize this challenge from our employees’ viewpoint and to help provide tools for employees to remember to switch mindsets and remember to put the customer first.
Tools To Help Remind Employees That Customers Come First
- Model Behavior – Model the behavior yourself by stepping up and happily taking care of customer issues prior to daily chores
- Discussion – Point out opportunities you notice, and suggest alternatives
- Display – post your customer service vision and goals where employees can see them.
See if some of these steps help improve customer experience for your company!
I’m hopping the pond (and departments) to bring you a clever and informative infograph from Experian. Sure, they’re measuring in pounds and labeling things as “marketing,” but they clearly illustrate that longer wait times cause customers to leave, which mean you lose business. That ties back to my recent post, Waiting Takes Too Long For Customers. They also discuss accurate targeting, which means getting the right message to the right customer in the right place/time. Getting that targeting wrong leads customers to think you’re not listening to them, which often leads them to assume you don’t care enough to listen. The multichannel marketing lane can cause the same reaction in customers, because they already told you once how they felt/what they wanted, why should they have to tell you again? Good read. Cheers!
Customer experience is clearly still all the rage in business these days. We’ve gone from the age of making as many widgets as possible, to making them as BIG as possible, and then trying to get them as small as possible to selling experiences more than the widgets themselves. For some, making the transition to this experiential push is tricky, because it shifts shape and form and is different from person to person. That personal effect makes it challenging to mass produce.
I had an experience with E-Trade last night that nailed it, in my mind. I’m still floored at the simple genius of it all, and the mass-production potential for other companies. My family has recently moved. If you’ve moved lately, you know how big of a task that can be. Things get broken, take longer than you think, and seem to drag on forever. And where is your magazine? I know I’m showing my age, yes I get the digital subscription too, but you can’t smell the fragrance samples from the tablet just yet (dear iPad/Android app developers, save some trees and work that out for us when you get time? Thanks.)
Anyway I went to the mailbox last night and saw an envelope from E-Trade with one of those yellow forwarding labels and I thought “Oh great, I forgot to change my mailing address with E-Trade. Yet another chore to do tonight. When I sat down and opened the envelope, I was amazed. E-Trade was reaching out to let me know that the United States Postal Service indicated I had changed my address, and so they went ahead and changed the address on my account for me. They just wanted to let me know, in case that’s not what I wanted them to do. Imagine my surprise and delight! One less task for me!
So, let’s look at risks here. Some percentage of customers (I would think a small percentage) may find this creepy and complain. It could smack of big brother. Some other percentage (I’m still thinking a vast minority) might not have wanted to change the address on their account, even though they forwarded their mail with the USPS. And, yet another small minority may have had their address changed in error, but this should be caught with the notice to the previous address.
I love this. I’m often caught saying at work and in life that our customers don’t work here. We do. So do as much for them as possible. This appears to be one low-risk strategy that could benefit more companies. I know I would appreciate it. Feel free to use this example as starting point for similar ideas. Are there things you can do to take care of the details for your customer?