The New Qualities for Customer Service Excellence

The current pandemic has clearly highlighted those companies who care about their customers and who provide them with customer service excellence.

If you claim to be customer centric are you sure you’re truly walking the talk and not just talking about customer service excellence? Many companies are and the pandemic has brought them into the spotlight.

A few years ago I was prompted to question this of the local Swiss cable company Cablecom. It had been desperately trying to address a long-term deficit in customer service excellence versus its main competitor Swisscom.

Swisscom has made customer service their MSP (main selling point or value proposition) and they are renowned for putting their customers first. Cablecom, on the other hand, had, until then, been trying to win customers through aggressive price cutting. In today’s connected world, especially when internet connection is concerned, dissatisfied customers will be quickly heard – across the net.

Back to the incident that prompted this post. After a few days of being ignored by Cablecom – my perception at least because my emails and phone calls were not being answered – I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that I resorted to Twitter.

It is more than five years ago that Twitter was first referred to as today’s call centre. Social media usually guarantees a quick response whereas contacting customer services through the usual channels often results in nothing.

 

What makes a great customer care centre?

Customers these days expect a response in minutes or hours rather than days. Recent research shows that 88% of customers expect a response from your business within 60 minutes, while 30% expect a response within 15 minutes or less! How good is your own customer service?

Most call centres today are a frustrating if sometimes necessary experience for customers to endure. In many cases, they are automated, with an often long and complex self-selection process of button pushing to arrive at the department one needs – if you are lucky that is!

Usually, the result of all that effort is just a recording that either announces that the department needed is not open at the moment, or that the collaborators are currently busy and to please stay on the line at best, or to call back later most often.

We are next subjected to music supposedly designed to calm our nerves, interspersed with messages suggesting alternatives to waiting on the line: going to the website to find a solution, to check their available FAQs, to complete a contact form, or to send an email. And then, of course, to add insult to injury, we hear the infamous message about our call being important to the company! Really? If so you’re not showing it, you’re not walking the talk.

Companies that have understood customers’ frustration with help-line queues have found alternative solutions, such as arranging a callback or providing sufficient staff to cover the busiest times, or at least to be available when the customer is most likely to need support.

Today there is no excuse for a consumer goods company to not be ready to help their users when they need it the most; for example:

  • Early morning or late at night for personal care products
  • Breakfast, lunch and evening meal times for food manufacturers
  • Evenings and weekends for TV and technology products

Whilst in a few cases, there may be customers who use Twitter to jump the call centre queues, in most cases, it is a customer’s final cry for help after being frustrated by long waits on their careline calls, or self-service selections that led nowhere.  Continue Reading

What Consumer Goods Companies Can Learn From Healthcare. 7 Lessons of Customer Service Excellence

If you work in consumer goods you probably think you have nothing to learn from healthcare, right? After all, you have consumers in your industry name and well healthcare’s reputation is not that great.

But think again. I was recently in a clinic for surgery and was surprised by how customer (patient) centric they are.

I remind my clients that exceptional customer service examples can come from anywhere! So they keep their eyes and ears open and find inspiration everywhere. Do you? If not, then these lessons will come as your wake-up call so you start opening your eyes to new possibilities. Do this every day and your business will only get better.

 

Background

Before I give you the lessons I learned, I think I owe you a little background to what led up to this list.

I had been suffering from a bad back for a while. Unfortunately, not so unusual for those of us who spend too many hours at our desks. However, one morning I tried to get out of bed and fainted as an explosive pain shot down my back to my right foot! I was totally immobilised in three seconds flat!

Now living alone I realised that this was serious as I couldn’t move. Luckily my mobile was by my bed so I called the emergency services who immediately sent an ambulance. I ended up spending a night in a local University Hospital for the first time in my adult life.

However, the story doesn’t end there. Two days later I fell down the stairs because my leg had become partially paralysed. Another visit to the emergency room, an ankle brace fitted, a consultant’s assessment, an MRI scan and finally emergency surgery the following day.

All these experiences of hospitals and doctors gave me the superb opportunity to see the health service from the patient’s perspective. I work a lot with the Pharma industry but luckily have never been a patient, at least until now.

As you probably know, actually becoming your customer and seeing the market from their perspective, is one of the exercises I suggest to better understand them. How often do you do it? Ever?!! You really should, because you’re missing out on a valuable – and free – experience.

Perhaps surprisingly, this incident showed me that many of the practices of the nurses and doctors that I witnessed in my heavily sedated state, are easily transferable to any business. This is why I decided to share them with you.

So here are my seven learnings about customer service excellence:

 

1. Introduce yourself

Customer service excellenceEvery time someone came to my room, they introduced themselves and explained why they were there. Over the course of the days I spent at the hospital and then the clinic, I saw many different doctors, nurses. cleaners, waiters etc. I appreciated that they themselves always started by introducing themselves and stating what their responsibility was in caring for me.

How you can apply this idea: In business, we often forget to introduce people in meetings and when we do, we forget to explain their responsibilities, why they are there. Continue Reading

How Can You Provide Better Service For Your Clients?

How Can You Provide Better Services For Your Client? This is a great question isn’t it? It was asked recently on Quora and I answered it, as I do many that are posed on topics such as brand building and customer understanding.

But this question is I believe very different from most of those asked on Quora. That’s because it is one that every company, product, service and brand should be asking!

The answer is actually in the question itself if you look closely.

 

Provide Better Service

Firstly what is better service? Is your clients’ perspective the same as yours? And better than what or whom? Whenever a comparison is made it is vital to understand with what it is being compared.

To answer that, we need to understand what is important for customers. What is essential and can’t be forgotten, and what else would delight them and make them not just satisfied, but delighted and maybe even surprised. That’s a lot to ask I know, but even that is not enough!

We also need to ensure that we are better than our competitors, assuming that they are to what we are being compared. You’d be amazed how many brands are not competing in the category in which they think they are. We need to understand the exact category in which we are competing so that we can also identify the major competitors. Let me give you some examples.

Are dried packet soups competing with other dried packet soups? Or also with canned soups, or boxed soups, or homemade soups, or even sauce mixes? Depending upon the answer to each of those questions, the competitive set is going to be vastly different.

Once you know with which other brands you are competing, you can identify your strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of your competitors. You should be able to identify one thing at which you excel in order to have a reason for customers to buy your offer rather than a competitors.

Now it is obviously difficult to be better at everything, but we should strive to be better than every other competitor in the category in at least one area. That should be our USP or unique selling point. It should be what we are known for and hopefully also the reason people buy what we have to offer.

To identify this, we need to know our competitors very well and understand why their customers buy them rather than us. Is there anything about these customers that we could satisfy better than they are? Is there anything about our competitors that their customers are still dissatisfied about? Is there something we can offer that our competitors can’t? Then when we have found it (them), all we have to do is to make sure our current and potential customers know.

Here are some great examples:

TOMS: With every product you purchase, TOMS will help a person in need. One for One®

Target: Expect More. Pay Less. Continue Reading

The New 7Ps of Customer Service Excellence. Are You Following Them All?

If you claim to be customer centric are you sure you’re walking and not just talking the talk of true customer service excellence?

Last year I was prompted to question this of the Swiss cable company Cablecom. It had been desperately trying to address a long-term deficit in customer care versus its main competitor Swisscom. Swisscom has made customer service their MSP (main selling point or value proposition) and they are renowned for putting their customers first. Cablecom on the other h and had, until then, been trying to win customers through aggressive price cutting. In today’s connected world, especially when internet connection is concerned, dissatisfied customers will be quickly heard – across the net.

Back to the incident that prompted this post. After a few days of being ignored by Cablecom – my perception at least because my emails and phone calls were not being answered – I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that I resorted to Twitter.

It was more than a year ago that Twitter was first referred to as today’s call centre. Guy Clapperton, author of “This is Social Media” wrote an interesting post about this in 2011 and surprisingly this idea was actually questioned at the time. Today, I would argue that it is much, much more than this.

Today’s call centres are a frustrating, if sometimes necessary experience for customers to endure. In many cases they are automated, with an often long and complex self-selection process of button pushing to arrive at the department one needs. Usually the result of all that effort is just a recording that either announces that the department needed is not open at the moment, or that the collaborators are currently busy and to please stay on the line. We are next subjected to music supposedly designed to calm our nerves, interspersed with messages suggesting alternatives to waiting on the line: going to the website to find a solution, to check their available FAQs, to complete a contact form, or to send an email. And then of course to add insult to injury, we hear the infamous message about our call being important to the company! Really? If so you’re not showing it, you’re not walking the talk.

Edison recently ran some research showing the patience that we have or rather don’t have today, on social media. Convince & Convert published some of the first results in an interesting article showing that companies must react immediately to customers using social media. One in five expect an answer within 15 minutes and 42% within the hour. For reference, when Guy Clapperton wrote his post almost three years ago, the level was almost half that at just 25%.

Companies that have understood customers’ frustration with help-line queues have found alternative solutions, such as arranging a call back, or providing sufficient staff to cover the busiest times, or at least to be available when the customer is most likely to need support.

Today there is no excuse for a consumer goods company to not be ready to help their users when they need it the most (>>Tweet this<<); for example:

  • Early morning or late at night for personal care products
  • Breakfast, lunch and evening meal times for food manufacturers
  • Evenings and weekends for TV and technology products

Whilst in a few cases, there may be customers who use Twitter to jump the call centre queues, in most cases, it is a customer’s final cry for help before “going under”. Continue Reading

How Great Customer Service Leads to Great Customer Loyalty (And That’s What We All Want!)

Last week I wrote about some of the issues keeping marketers up at night and offered some suggested actions for each. Do you know what they are? Are you too worried about them?

The number one challenge faced by marketers today is reaching their customers, which may come as a surprise in this multi-channel, always on, environment we live in. However, once you have reached them and convinced them to buy, you still have the, perhaps even tougher, challenge of keeping them.

With so much on offer and the desire for novelty constantly growing, customer loyalty is declining. In fact, according to Bain & Co and Kantar Worldpanel’ 2012 survey mentioned, 50% of a brand’s ‘loyal’ users today will not be with them one year from now. 

Therefore, to follow on from last week’s post, I want to review what makes good customer service, since I believe it is one of the few ways of both building and keeping loyalty, as well as getting that vital advocacy that can grow your customer base even further. And I don’t seem to be alone in this belief.

Steven Van Belleghem wrote a great post on “Why customer loyalty is declining and what companies can do about it in which he shares his views on why this is so and what companies should do about it. His three solutions were:

1.      Treating customers well

2.      Treating employees well

3.      Doing good for society

So, assuming we accept (at least) his first solution, what do you need to do to treat customers really well? Here are a few thoughts from my side, but feel free to add your own ideas below:

#1. Really value the customer

When I was younger I was very house proud, but these days I prefer surfing to dusting! That is one of the reasons why I have a Dyson vacuum cleaner; it gets the job done more easily and speedily and without too much mess or effort. You can therefore understand my frustration when the turbo brush stopped working. This was the second time in four years that this piece had ceased to function properly; the first time I was told that the newly introduced guarantee didn’t apply to me as I had bought my cleaner before its introduction! I therefore found myself paying a hefty price to replace the brush head.

Imagine my surprise therefore when I called Dyson this week and was told that as I had already bought a replacement brush before, this new one was going to be offered to me for free, in appreciation of my loyalty! Talk about being surprised AND delighted. The two-week delay for its delivery, which could have frustrated me, suddenly was no longer an issue; I’ll make do for now.

Dyson understands their customers. They turned a problem – being out-of-stock – into an opportunity to reinforce my loyalty. They clearly value my custom AND my patience and are happy to pay the (small) price in exchange for my continued loyalty. Continue Reading

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