5 Steps to Customer Care Excellence

A few months ago, I took a very early flight with BA out of Geneva International Airport and as on many previous occasions, BA staff demonstrated their excellent customer centricity, which prompted this post.

On that particular morning, it was Lionel who was working in the Club lounge who impressed me, for allowing me to enter and have a quick coffee, even though he had already called the flight and everyone else was on their way out.

The rule in such circumstances is not to admit any passengers once the flight has been called. It was refreshing to be treated as an individual and not as one of the mass of passengers taking the flight that morning. By allowing me to have a quick coffee before dashing to the gate certainly made my morning and my speed in gulping down the much-needed brew, as I had promised, enabled him to empty the lounge as he was required to do without too much delay.

What has this got to do with your own customer centricity you might ask? Well quite a lot in my opinion. As more people move from rural to urban areas, we are all challenged with living in a crowded environment, with little chance of being treated as an individual. This has created an increased value perception of space and service; people desire and actively search for recognition and a little extra personalised service. In the case of Lionel, he apparently saw me as a low risk and that he could trust me to have the quick coffee I so desperately needed at that time of the morning. I felt so special, he made my day and all because of a cup of coffee!

How do you train your own Customer Service Advisors?

Are all your company’s interactions with your customers scripted? Do your metrics of call centre efficiency include time per call, which is targeted down, or calls per advisor, constantly targeted up? If so, then there is little likelihood that you are making your customers feel very special or valued.

A few months ago I shared some information about a CEO who had decided to throw away the scripts that his call centre personnel were using and to trust his advisors to satisfy the callers in the best way possible – for the client! I am sure you can see how satisfaction went way up, for both the advisors and the customers.

If throwing away your call centre scripts is too far for you to go, at least for now, but you know that you could do with improving your care centre operations to make them even more customer centric, I have a few ideas for you:

#1. INVITE: How are you currently inviting your customers to connect with you? Are you putting a (free) telephone number, email or web address on your pack or in your advertising? Is the invitation clearly legible and does it offer your customers a choice of channels that they can use to connect with you? You should encourage as many connections as possible with your customers, so openly invite them wherever they will have a chance of noticing.

Some of you will certainly see this as a risk; more contacts will equal more complaints, no? Well yes – but hopefully at the same proportion as currently – and wouldn’t you rather know if your product or service has any perceived issues so that you can resolve them as quickly as possible? You will also get more chances to be praised on your offering, which means you will get information on what is particularly appreciated by your customers.

#2. LISTEN: Advisors should listen attentively to what the customer has to share: it always amazes me how often they try to interrupt the customer as quickly as possible in their explanation of the reason for their call. Perhaps this has to do with the call / time targets you have set, which I mentioned earlier. Why not replace these metrics by satisfaction targets? Let the customer talk until the reason for calling is fully explained and she feels that the advisor has really listened. Only then should your personnel start to respond with suggestions of possible solutions and actions.

#3. RESPOND: If your care centre is working with scripted responses and you feel too scared to throw them away immediately, at least give your advisors the freedom to go the extra mile and do whatever it takes to satisfy and even surprise the caller. Your customers have taken the time and effort to reach out to you, so don’t disappoint them. Delight them with your response. Don’t just offer them a replacement product or coupons; everyone else does that. What more can you do for your customer, so that they feel special and valued? If they do, then they will certainly be prompted to share their positive experience with friends, family and even the world at large if they are active on social media. One satisfied customer can do a lot for your image, several and your reputation grows significantly.

#4. KEEP LISTENING: Don’t assume that the first thing your customer talks or writes about is the real reason for the call or connection. Sometimes there are other things that would be useful for you to know but you never get the chance to hear them because your advisors are ending the contact too quickly.

Perhaps your customer believes you wouldn’t be interested so never calls you about ideas that they have had or suggestions they would like to make. Why not ask if there is anything else your customer wants to share or talk to you about. More information is better information and more underst anding.

#5. ASK: Only when your customer is fully satisfied with your responses and has no other things they want to share, can you broach the subject of whether or not they would be willing to answer a few questions for you. If they do agree, then keep it short; if they refuse, respect their decision.

And, please don’t go through your full segmentation questionnaire if they do accept t answer a few questions; keep it short, a maximum of about five questions that will help you know her better. You can always complete a further five when she contacts you again – which they will do if they have been treated with interest, respect and openness.

These are my five steps to customer care excellence. Do you have any others you would add? I am sure everyone would be interested in hearing your additions and so would I. 

Why not contact us today to discuss how we can help you optimise your own customer care centers? No obligation, just opportunity!

Find out more about connecting with your own customers on our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage

This post has been adapted from one which first appeared on C3Centricity Dimensions on December 22nd 2011

C3Centricity.com uses images from Dreamstime.com

How Smart Marketers lower their Cost per Lead Dramatically!

Are you worrying if you should allocate more of your lead generation budget to social media or company blogs?

 

Stop worrying! Read this article to learn how relationship marketing will lower you cost per lead – to keep you in business!

# Be noticed in an over communicated market

To take the subject of this article by the horns – relationship marketing. Why should you care about relationship marketing? As more and more people enter the social web and spend a lot of time on Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+ or LinkedIn, it’s getting harder for every marketer or entrepreneur to connect with their target audience. Simply, as the amount of content grows each day, the amount of lost content grows equally. So, how does your business get noticed on an over communicated social web?

Push marketing is outNot with one shot marketing messages! The old days of mass marketing PUSH messages are gone! Pushing your messages on the social web is like shooting arrows in the water; they don’t stick! Not you, but your receiving audience decides if your content is worth their valuable time. And if they value it high enough, they will most likely share it with friends.

As HubSpot says:

“…outbound marketing (businesses that push their messages at consumers) has become less effective as buyers have behaviorally and technologically (e.g., DVR, spam filters, ‘do-not-call’ lists) tuned these interruptive campaigns out!”

 

# Value your customers – focus on relationship first

Value your customersOkay, suppose you agree to put more effort in inbound marketing to pull your customers to your central hubs (website, local store, restaurant, et…). So, how do you get your audience attention – given that there’s so much noise out there pulling them each day!

Well, here’s a simple solution: create a REMARKABLE message. A message that people make a remark about! However, remarkable messages might get your business some viral visibility on a short term, it’s not a solid strategy for the long term.

Luckily you have an alternative: invest time and effort in building relationships with your audience. Keep doing that for a long time without expecting anything in return. Make them laugh or cry – wow or inspire. Share content that makes them coming back for more. The kind of content that reliefs their everyday worries, helps solve their problems or fulfills their dreams. After a while, when the relationship gets stronger – you’ll notice they even want to do business with you. Congratulations! You finally figured out how to lower your cost per lead dramatically.

 

Here are 3 simple action steps to change the course of your business today:

  1. start a business blog and/or increase the frequency of your blog posts to more than once per week (59% of companies consider their business blog “important to critical” for their business; HubSpot – The 2012 State of Inbound Marketing);
  2. dedicate most resources to social channels that have proven to be most effective in your industry (blog, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube, etc…);
  3. know ‘the words’ your audience uses in their desperate search to solve their problems or fulfill their desires: optimize your content to increase your organic generated web traffic (Search Engine Optimization | SEO);

[According to HubSpot’s 2012 State of Inbound Marketing Report, businesses that follow these 3 action steps and dedicate resources to inbound marketing, lower their cost per lead with 50 to 60 percent!]

 

# Stick to Pareto’s Principle: 80 – 20

So, how do you lower the cost per lead even more? Here’s a simple and straightforward answer:don’t push yourself to serve every customer! Stick to Pareto’s principle  and you’ll do great: generate 80% of your sales with 20% of your customers. In other words: focus – focus – focus!

Think Niche marketing. If you focus on customers who value your weirdness (uniqueness), you most certainly will build a solid relationship. Every solid relationship thrives on passion. So, follow your intuition in the relationship and use your rational mind to track the results over time with solid KPIs (key performance indicators). Focus on those ‘weird’ customers that generate the highest revenue for your business.

Take away: if you want to stay ahead of your competition transform your marketing efforts to focus on relationship marketing! You’ll need creativity, empathy, smartness and a lot of focus to craft your social marketing strategy that thrives on solid relationships for your long term business success.

Please leave your reaction or question in the comment box below. I value my relationship with you icon smile

For more ideas on connecting with your customers, please check out our website here: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage/

This post was first published on Felix Relationship Marketing on February 28th 2012

When Did You Last Really Delight Someone?

Now just to be clear, I am not talking about your spouse or significant other, whom I assume you delight every day! I’m talking about your customers, consumers or clients; the ones whose satisfaction and delight makes your business grow. 

An article last year on Forbes Blogs detailed a discussion with Amex EVP of World Service Jim Bush, where he was quoted as saying “we have been taking them (customer service personnel) off the clock and tossing out the old, robotic scripts”.

He also mentioned that “we believe that great service is about what the customer thinks after every interaction”.

 

Delight or Delete

Did you know that if a customer contacts a service centre and is dissatisfied with the response they get, they are more than twice as likely to not repurchase your product or service as someone who had a complaint but did not contact the care centre? Customers who reach out to a company to complain, become fervent detractors if not satisfied by the response they get.

If they have taken the time to call, you need to do everything possible, not only to respond to their needs, but also to surprise and delight them, by “going the extra mile”, going beyond what they had expected, to solve their problem or answer their query. In this way they then become advocates and will share their experience with friends, family and even strangers over the Internet these days.

 

A personal example of ABCD Service

At the end of last year, I tested a few companies’ customer care services as I did online purchasing of my Christmas presents. One company’s products were delivered by the post office to the wrong address (an empty house) and when eventually found, the package had been completely ruined by the rain and snow.

I called the company, even though it was not directly their fault; they not only replaced the damaged goods, but sent them by first class post to ensure I got the parcel in time for Christmas. Now that is service ABCD (above and beyond the call of duty!) the story of which I happily shared with everyone over the festive season. You can be sure that I will use their services again and choose them over other suppliers in the future.

 

What more can you do for your Customers?

I wish more companies would start thinking like Jim Bush and treat every single customer as vital to the success of their business. Whenever a customer contacts you, by whatever medium and for whatever reason, you have a unique chance to engage one-to-one with them on their terms, and to surprise and delight them.

How are your own customer services personnel trained? Do they have a script to which the must adhere and targets of time or cost limitations to respond to each contact?

Here are some ideas on how to improve your Customers’ experience when they reach out to you:

  • Start by thanking the customer for having taken the time to call or write
  • Listen to everything the customer has to say before responding
  • Solve the issue if possible, or say how you are going to get it resolved, by whom and in what timeframe
  • Ask if there is anything else that the customer would like to ask or share
  • Then and only then may you invite the customer to respond to any questions that you would like to ask, if relevant, but keep it short
Please share this post with all your friends and colleagues; the more people that know how to do customer service right, the better we all will be!
Do you have any ideas on what other things you can do to turn your customers into advocates? If so please share here.

For more ideas on how to improve your company’s connection with your customers, check out our website for more ideas: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage/

This post was originally published September 27th 2011 on C3Centricity Dimensions

C³Centricity sources images from Dreamstime.com

Top 3 reasons why CRM fails to earn my loyalty ( and Social CRM won’t, either)

At a recent conference I had an interesting discussion with an executive for a large non-profit organization, originally hired to lead the organization’s “CRM” activities.

Shortly after starting, she changed her job title to include “customer experience.”

Why? Because with a “CRM” title, her boss expected that one of the first things to be decided was which CRM system to implement.

The “customer experience” angle allowed her to focus the organization on learning how constituents perceived their experiences—like giving donations, interacting with people, and web visits too.

That took a year.

Now they’re driving systems changes with an outside-in approach. Start with what the experience should look/feel like, then figure out what systems and data are required to deliver experiences that will make constituents happy and loyal.

Now, some may say this is what CRM is, or what CRM was supposed to be. Fine, then why did this leader feel compelled to change her title, if “CRM” meant focus on customer experience/loyalty?

 

Treat me as a person!

Which brings me to the point of this post: Why does CRM fail to drive loyalty? Speaking as a customer, I believe it comes down to three reasons.

  1. I am not a “lead,” I’m a person There are tons of marketing automation systems designed to separate the wheat (qualified leads) from the chaff (time wasters). While it’s true that marketing organizations need such systems, they are not designed to provide a loyalty-building experience. Especially if you don’t end up as a prospect worth “nurturing.”
  2. I am not a “deal,” I’m a person Once a “lead” is passed to a sales automation system (SFA), the job is to manage these opportunities to close as many as possible. I can see why reps need (or at least tolerate) such systems, but it doesn’t do anything for me. You see, I’m only concerned about whether my needs are met, not whether I’m a good “deal” for the rep. Sadly, Sales 2.0 hasn’t changed this internal orientation.
  3. I am not an “incident,” I’m a person When something doesn’t work, getting it fixed quickly is of course important. Service/support systems can certainly help. But I don’t want to feel like I’m just another number in the system. A little empathy and personal caring goes a long way. Putting agents on Twitter won’t make them more social.

 

Will “Social CRM” be any different?

Years ago we did an ROI study on CRM projects and concluded that about two-thirds were “successful.” But successful at what?

Turns out that most managers bought the idea that CRM would increase loyalty (it was the No. 1 expected benefit). In practice, however, CRM delivered tactical benefits that were mainly valuable to the company: efficiency, cost reduction and improved decision-making. Few reported that CRM had anything to do with increasingly loyalty, and this I feel is one key reason for the dissatisfaction with CRM performance over the years.

Said another way, CRM has been mainly about systems, data, and how the company can extract value from customers. I think IBM gave one of the most straightforward definitions in a recent  Social CRM white paper:

“CRM strategy, enabled by processes and technologies, is architected to manage customer relationships as a means for extracting the greatest value from customers over the lifetime of the relationship.”

Social CRM proponents tout it as “CRM 2.0″—a strategic makeover that is all about customer collaboration and mutual value. My recent study found that expectations are sky high that Social CRM (broadly speaking, meaning the use of social business applications to support customers, partners and other external relationships) will improve the customer experience and increase loyalty.

Personally, I’m skeptical. Not because social technologies can’t help, but because business people are slow to change. It’s far too easy to apply new tools to old thinking.

Most of Altimeter’s  18 Use Cases of Social CRM are a social update to marketing, sales and service automation. Which is mainly intended to drive leads, manage deals, and h andle service incidents.

Which brings us full circle. If you treat your Social Customers like leads, deals or incidents, Social CRM won’t help build customer loyalty, either.

This post first appeared on CustomerThink on December 10, 2011

For more on customer connection check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage/

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