Friday, November 29, 2013

Enhancing Loyalty By Appealing to Your Customers' Kids

Children love to copy parents' behavior
Today I'm pleased to present a guest post by Kate Supino.

"Love me, love my dog." It's a saying dog owners coined to express their sentiment that if you want to consider them your friend, you have to accept the whole package, dog included. Those who don't own pets have adopted this saying and expanded upon it to include anything the person is passionate about. That passion could be scrapbooking, love of music, or family members, including children. The saying is steeped in loyalty. It implies that the person won't go anywhere unless their passion is also welcome.

Most people's passion is their children. To garner customer loyalty, businesses must learn to find ways to express their welcoming attitude toward customers' children.

Here are some great ways to enhance loyalty by appealing to a customer's kids.

Online Activity Sheets
Online businesses can devote a few pages of their websites to fun activity sheets and coloring pages. Grateful mothers can print out these age-categorized PDFs to occupy their little ones while they shop online at your site. Word will spread like wildfire that your business understands moms' needs and wants to help entertain their children. With any luck, their children will begin to request that mom visit your website to get more fun sheets.

Encourage Mini-Mes
Little girls love to play dress-up, pretending they are mommy. They love to emulate your actions around the house, role playing with toy vacuums or toy sinks and dishes. Consider offering mini versions of the products you sell.

For example, if you sell stand mixers, add a "you may also like" feature to the product description page that shows a children's toy mixer for purchase. Make it easy for your customers to add the plaything to their original order. You don't have to stock extra products. You could simply process the order as an affiliate for the child's toy, increasing your revenue in the process.

Play Areas
For a brick-and-mortar store, providing a play area within plain sight of the mother provides a welcome respite from the constant skirt-tugging that some children put their mothers through while they're trying to shop. Fill it with interesting, washable toys that will entertain children of various ages. Don't forget to include a small bookshelf stocked with the classics we all enjoyed as children. Finish it off with a small table and four little chairs for the little ones to play on. Not every activity needs to be electronic to entice children.

Tips for Booksellers
If you run any kind of independent bookstore or store that sells magazines, place the children's books at children's level and the adult material out of children's reach. Children may find books that they ask their parents to purchase, and they will feel empowered to be able to "shop" for themselves. Mothers will certainly appreciate if you keep magazines up high, where children cannot see the ubiquitous provocative covers.

Catering to the delights of children does not mean that your business is trying to take advantage of the children's market. It simply means you are running a business operation that welcomes every member of the family. It also means that you know and understand your customers. Parents will notice your efforts and reward you in ways you probably hadn't imagined.

Kate Supino is a professional freelance writer and small business owner who writes extensively about best business practices, including the necessity to sometimes remove personal information.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Omnichannel Customer Service Gap

How well does your organization execute the omnichannel customer experience? Is there awareness around it? Is it a priority?

If you answered "No," it's time to rethink this. As I noted in a post from this summer: You must protect [your brand] at all costs. And by the way, your customers know your brand - they don't care about your business model. They care about the experience they (know they) are going to get when they enter an establishment with your name over the door. This applies not just to partnerships or licensees, which the post was referring to, but also to your various channels (store, online, phone, etc.) of operation.

Delivering consistent and seamless omnichannel experiences for customers must be a priority for businesses in 2014. Expectations are already there and rising. If it's not already, make sure this is an area of focus as soon as possible.

Not convinced? Need some help selling this notion to your executives?

You're in luck. Zendesk recently commissioned research to explore customer service attitudes and behaviors among 7,000 consumers across seven countries (Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, UK, US). I've captured some highlights of their research below, and you can download the full report here. Note that these are overall findings, and as we know, there are certainly variations by country. Download the report and look at the findings more closely for your country.
  • Showrooming is alive and well. 67% of online shoppers have made purchases in the past six months that have involved multiple channels, e.g., visited a store, looked at a catalog, or called the retailer before purchasing online.
  • The focus is clearly on acquisition and not on retention. 73% think brands pay more attention to generating sales across multiple channels than they do to providing a seamless, integrated customer service experience.
  • 87% say brands need to work harder to create that seamless experience.
  • Sadly, only 7% are "extremely satisfied" that brands provide a seamless, integrated, and consistent customer service experience across channels
  • I think we already know this, but it's great to get confirmation to sell the concept: 69% believe expectations for customer service are increasing year-over-year.
  • Not convinced of that last statistic? Here's more supporting evidence: 37% now expect to be able to contact the same customer service representative regardless of which channel they use, and 47% expect to be able to return purchases through a different channel than the purchase channel. Can your organization handle either of those requirements?
  • 64% expect to receive real-time assistance, regardless of the customer service channel they use.
  • Customers are persistent; 45% say they will try any channel open to them - and wait as long as it takes - to get their queries resolved!
  • The need for self-service is alive and well: 53% think it's important to resolve their own issues rather than rely on customer service representatives. Hmm. Why do they feel that way?
  • 78% say a company’s reputation for customer service is important to them when choosing to buy from a particular brand.
  • Customers who have used other channels to contact customer service resort to picking up the phone if they don't get a response.
  • Resolution expectations vary by channel: 
    • Phone: 50% expect a response immediately, and 59% expect resolution within 30 minutes.
    • Social media: 52% expect to get a response within 2 hours, and resolution within a half day.
    • Email: 62% expect a response within a half day, while 75% expect resolution within a day.
  • The most important aspects of the customer service experience, regardless of channel are speed of response (89%), speed of resolution (89%), and friendliness of representative (82%).
Note that in my experience, quality of resolution is also a key driver of satisfaction with the support experience - for a variety of reasons, not the least of which are expectations that  (a) the problem will get fixed when I call and (b) it will stay fixed.

A closing thought from the report: Fundamentally businesses must work harder to create a seamless service experience for customers [across all channels]. The customer journey doesn’t simply stop at the checkout, but carries on for many years to come.

Words after my own heart...

Monday, November 25, 2013

14 Brand Trends for 2014

Can you believe how quickly this year has gone by? And that it's time to start thinking about what the focus will be in 2014?

The crazy thing is, as I look back at what I proposed as challenges for 2013, I wonder how many of them have actually been addressed or executed? I think companies still have their work cut out for them, but as the world turns, so arrives 2014. And with the new year come new trends that companies must try to keep up with.

A few days ago, I was sent a list of 14 Brand Trends for 2014, as proposed by Robert Passikoff with Brand Keys. I thought there was an interesting mix of items that cover experience, marketing, data, digital, and more - interesting enough to share with you. Personally, I'm encouraged by this (as Robert notes): In numerology, the number 14 is associated with forward movement, new methods of experience, opportunity, and personal engagement, a good omen as to the course the world of consumer outreach and brand marketing will follow next year.

You can't argue with forward movement!

Without further ado, here are the 14 trends.

1. Consumers Expect More: Over the past five years, consumer expectations have increased on average by 20%. But brands have kept up only by 5% annually, a big gap between what's desired and what's delivered. The ability to accurately measure real, unarticulated expectations, will provide significant advantages to brands that can engage and delight.

2. Attention Must Be Paid to Brands: With increased expectations will come a greater sense of product and service commoditization. You may be known, but you need to be known for something meaningful and important to consumers.

3. Category is King: Brands will stop trading away category-specificity for cross-category generalities in how they target, strategize, and execute content. To engage smarter, high-expectation consumers, brand wills need to be smarter about specific category values they can leverage and own.

4. Brands Will Get Emotional: Values that drive the decision process to select one brand versus another has become more emotionally-driven. In most categories the rational aspects are price-of-entry. Successful brands will need to identify what emotional values exist in the category in which they compete, and utilize them as a foundation for meaningful differentiation.

5. Real Brand "Engagement" Defined: For too long, engagement has been associated with consumer attention levels. Successful marketers will link "engagement" to how efforts increase how well the brand is perceived versus the Category Ideal, and a metric that correlates highly with loyalty, sales, profitability, and lifetime value.

6. Targeting Becomes Personal: With consumers craving - and expecting - more, and with more customized and personalized products, services, and experiences, brands that better respond to real consumer expectations will find consumers engaging with brands that are able to personalize messaging and outreach.

7. Digital Done Right: With digital diversification getting bigger and with more channels appearing each quarter, brands are going to shift from "Should I be here?" to "What should I do now that I am here?" Success will be linked not to outreach alone, but to how well the brand can differentiate itself and the levels of emotional engagement it can create.

8. Content Is King, Too: Content marketing will become a specialty unto itself and tools like the Digital Platform GPS will optimize placement and help brands distinguish the difference between paid, owned, and earned media. This will become more important when it comes to dealing with issues related to contextual relevance and strategically navigating brands in digital space.

9. Mobile Optimized: In 2011, Brand Keys trends identified that mobile would move mainstream, and it has. For 2014, brands will need to adapt strategies and delivery mechanisms, content, and flow of communications to match increased consumer multi-tasking and multi-screen behavior.

10. Fewer Tedious Texts: Consumers, having become more visually literate, will move from text outreach to more image-based connections. Visual content will become more important in creating successful viral marketing campaigns, with brands becoming more attentive to image-sharing initiatives and platforms.

11. Micro Becomes Mainstream: Micro videos will continue to rise in popularity and use. Metrics will move away from number of views and toward real brand engagement (see Trend #5). Watch for more :06 and :12 videos to accommodate different digital delivery platforms and increasingly shorter consumer attention spans.

12. Integration Intensification: Brand marketing and digital budgets will fuse as teams work jointly and cross-silo. Multi-platform traditional and digital models will require social media integration into all marketing efforts, with responsibilities extended to customer experience, design, sales, and product development.

13. Data Deceleration: Data aggregations for traditional and digital will become more integrated and streamlined, allowing brands to better separate the "wheat from the chaff." Big Data will actually get smaller and more compact. And more useful.

14. The Funnel Flattens: What used to be a "purchase funnel," which became a "path-to-purchase," will become a "multi-path-to-purchase" and will become extraordinarily category specific. Content and value communication with the right platforms in the right way will become the only way to create emotional engagement - and profitability - with brands.

Which one is your favorite? Without a doubt - and no surprise here at all - mine is #2.

It's a new world out there, and companies must keep up with the trends. As I said to my kids the other day as we were talking about school and homework: You can't keep doing what you've been doing if it's not getting you the results you need or getting you where you need to be. This applies to companies, as well, as we move into 2014. If you're not keeping up - nay, staying ahead - of it all, you'll soon find yourself at the end of the pack, wishing you had.

There are three kinds of people: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened. 
-Nicholas Butler Murray

Thursday, November 21, 2013

5 Ways To Destroy Your Customer Experience

Today I'm pleased to present a guest post by Jeannie Walters.

It always amazes me when organizational leaders think the small things don’t matter. They say things like, “That’s just one comment” or “We don’t pay attention to anecdotes.” It’s OK to use data and big results to guide the big decisions, but it’s not OK to ignore the little things. These small things amount to a lot. In today’s world, where 89% of us will shop with a competitor after a bad customer experience, it’s imperative not to make these mistakes.

Image Credit: wonder_stewie via Creative Commons

1. Make It Complicated
Is there anything worse than wanting to purchase something and realizing it’s just too complicated to do so? It is easy to think of the online labyrinths that drive customers away with too many steps or bizarre registration requirements, but what about the offline experiences that create just as much mayhem? Not staffing appropriately, creating store layouts which are basically void of any direction, or simply not having items in-stock can drive your customers right to your online competitors.

2. Ignore Mobile
Any company that is selling anything online, I beg of you, design a mobile-friendly commerce experience. We are buying things from your competitors because you are forgetting about how we are actually living these days. Customers vanish when the mobile experience is subpar. Mobile optimized is not necessarily mobile. Those teeny weeny buttons are very hard to press when you are on a bumpy train ride. And if I see an item on the screen, I need a way to really see it up close. How about the information someone might be seeking via mobile? Phone numbers, directions, or an email link should be front and center.

3. Keep that 1990s' Attitude
Assuming customers are loyal for loyalty’s sake is a good way to destroy the experience. Just ask Kodak or Borders. Ignoring the reality of today’s marketplace is ignoring what your customers really want. If your customers HAVE BEEN loyal, it doesn’t mean they WILL BE. Treat them as the gems they are. Don’t assume they will be there tomorrow with the status quo of today.

4. Hire Wrong
Your employees drive your customer experience. If they are unhappy, miserable, or just plain tired of their jobs, that will translate into a miserable experience for your customers. Companies like Southwest Airlines and Zappos have made it a huge part of their culture to make sure they get the right people on board. And their experiences for customers reflect that. It’s imperative to hire the right whole person, not just the person with the right resume or skillset. Skills don’t create customer loyalty. People do.

5. Assume the “It’s Not My Problem” Position

Is there anything worse than being a customer who is literally being passed around like a hot potato? Whether it’s the cashier who doesn’t know how to handle an exchange or the customer service rep who has put you on hold for the umpteenth time, it’s extremely frustrating. When there is a real issue to resolve, the person representing the company better be informed and empowered to deal with it.

Of course there are many more ways to destroy a customer experience. But companies who make these mistakes are destined to live with the consequences of losing customers.

What mistakes would you add to this list?

Jeannie Walters is the CEO and Founder of 360Connext, a Customer Experience consulting firm near Chicago. Her trademarked process, called Customer Experience Investigation, has helped large and small companies learn how to walk in their customers' shoes and improve overall customer experience for more than 15 years. Jeannie is an editorial team member for SocialMediaClub and the Chicagoland Ambassador for the Customer Experience Professionals Association. She is also known for her presentation at TEDx. Look for her publications on Sensei Marketing, Multichannel Merchant, Duct Tape Marketing, or SpinSucks. And don't forget to visit her blog at 360Connext.com!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

"Sucking Less" is Not a #CX Strategy

In this day and age, is there any viable excuse for not focusing on the customer experience?

I was part of a panel that participated in a Google Hangout on Air hosted by Fonolo a couple weeks ago. During the Hangout, the panel discussed a few stats on - and trends affecting - customer experience.

My lead topic was about this statistic from recent Forrester research: 93% of respondents say that the customer experience is among their companies' strategy priorities; however, reality shows that only 37% of companies have a dedicated budget for initiatives focused on improving the customer experience. The question posed to me was: Why aren't organizations seeing the value of the customer experience? Honestly, that's an entire Hangout on its own, but we boiled it down to a few minutes of discussion.

Are organizations seeing the value of delivering a great customer experience? Clearly they pay lip service, but we know that actions speak louder than words. Do they really get it? No. There's no real commitment of time, resources, and budgets to initiatives that improve the customer experience. Obviously those companies have not seen the chart from Watermark Consulting that shows how Customer Experience Leaders have outperformed the market over the last several years.

I spend a lot of time talking to prospects and clients about how to sell the value of customer experience to company leaders. It’s so disheartening because it seems so obvious. Instead, what I see and hear is this:
  • Companies still don’t make the connection between a great employee experience and a great customer experience. This is the foundation.
  • They focus on sales and acquisition rather than on retention. It becomes a never-ending vicious cycle if you can't keep your customers.
  • They focus on metrics and metrics alone. Yes, what gets measured gets done. But if you're measuring the wrong thing, you're driving the wrong behavior. And if you're only listening (VOC) for the sake of measuring - and not for acting - then you're doing it all wrong.
  • "Well, we have a customer service department." It's not the same thing!
I think there are three types of leaders that fill up the "don't get it" bucket. (There are probably more; feel free to add them in a comment below.)
  • Those who just simply don't understand that great customer experiences drive business success.
  • Those who just simply don't care (to understand) that great customer experiences drive business success.
  • And those who think they don't need to focus on the experience because "business is good."
The first two are pretty straightforward. That doesn't make them OK, but I'll bypass those and focus on the third type.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend was telling me about issues that his company is having. The company is a mess, literally: bad leadership, no transparency, no communication, no onboarding or training, lots of turnover, and so much more. Yet the business (sales) is flourishing. How is that possible?  They have long-term contracts, so they've got a captive audience. And they don't deliver on all of the requirements within the contract unless the customer complains; so then the requirement is fulfilled, the box is checked, and the customer is "happy" again. This is no way to do business. That's an experience alright - not a very good one. And yet, they are doing well, in spite of themselves. Why? Because, in their industry, they suck least.

"Sucking least" is not a strategy. It's not even an excuse for not focusing on the customer. It's lame, and it's lazy. If they think the business is doing "well" now, imagine what it could be if they pulled themselves together, did right by their employees and their customers, and became the best in the industry, not just the one that sucked least. Imagine what their revenues would look like then. Imagine what that would force the rest of the industry to do. There are no competitive pressures to do better by/for the customer right now. It's a sad excuse, but it's certainly a reason that we have CX leaders and CX laggards.

So here's a thought... and I'm going to borrow from and add to something James Lawther commented in a previous post: Instead of trying to push the noodle up the hill, if executives within your company don't get it, maybe it's time for new executives.

On the Google Hangout, I give an example of just such a change (a new executive who "gets it") for a client that I work with. What a huge transformation for them. The Hangout video is unlisted, so I can't share it here in this post, but if you'd like to view the portion where we discuss this topic, go here.

Update: There's a discussion happening over at CustomerThink, where this blog is syndicated, around this topic. Check it out and/or add your thoughts below. And the guys over at Quality Digest have included this blog/topic on an episode of Quality Digest Video.

We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are. -Max Dupree

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Balancing Hard Skills and Soft Skills

Today I'm pleased to present another guest post by Sarah Simon.

This post marks another installment in Sarah's series on lessons from the high country.

Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there. -John Wooden

What the Mountain Teaches
My friend John was recently lamenting several missed climbing objectives this summer due to flakey, unreliable partners.  During our chat, it became clear to me that when searching for partners to meet a goal (attain a summit or complete a route), climbers have a tendency to overemphasize the importance of “hard skills” (in this case, technical skills like rock, ice, and snow climbing) while undervaluing “soft skills” (such as reliability, sense of humor, and the ability to stay cool under pressure).

A post for a climbing partner may look something like this:

I need a partner for an attempt on Coxcomb Peak in the San Juans of Colorado in mid-September. Must be able to:
•    Handle exposed scrambling up to 4th class / low 5th class
•    Follow up to YDS 5.6 rock
•    Ascend at a rate of 1,000 – 1,500 feet per hour
•    Execute solid route finding in complex terrain
•    Own a high-clearance 4x4


Despite the fact that this fictitious poster would spend 5-6 hours (one way!) in a vehicle with this stranger and most of the day on-mountain with him or her, nowhere is it mentioned that this person should also:
•    Be able to laugh at her own mistakes
•    Keep his chin up in adverse weather conditions
•    Have solid decision-making skills in the face of an emergency
•    Want to enjoy beer and burgers after the climb
•    Be prepared to discuss The Meaning of Life in a downpour or a whiteout

To be certain, in the alpine element, hard skills matter – a lot!  Heck, they can mean the difference between life and death when the margins of safety are slim.  Many of us have choked back some level of distaste and invited some unlikeable hotshot on the trip by rationalizing: You know, I can’t stand that guy – but he can lead the crux pitch without flinching, so let’s invite him. We must seek balance between hard skills and soft skills in the climbing world. After all, a good sense of humor alone won’t get a person to the summit. The same is quite true for VoC and CX – hard skills need to be carefully balanced with soft skills in a sort of uncertain alchemy.

What This Means for VoC / CX
As our discipline matures and gains greater power in the organization, we must be very careful what we ask for in our team members in terms of soft skills.  The VoC / CX industry is still relatively young, and many hiring managers may be uncertain what to look for in a new hire.  Often the hard skills needed to succeed are obvious (e.g., Six Sigma, SPSS, PMA, etc), but the soft skills required for a VoC / CX practitioner are still rather vague.  Here are some verbatim skills requirements I pulled together from a search of strategic VoC / CX opportunities on LinkedIn:
  • Track record for successfully working on cross-functional teams; ability to gain buy-in and collaborate with team members.
  • Ability and willingness to work in a fast-paced, results oriented environment; ability to change directions quickly.
  • Excellent communication skills, both oral and written, and display confidence when presenting ideas and/or responding to questions when consulted by internal stakeholders.
  • Strong understanding of the strategic marketing function and the role of consumer insights to meet business objectives.
  • Ability to leverage existing learnings, synthesize insights from multiple sources, as well as conduct new research.
  • Strong sense of accountability; able to follow projects and activities through to conclusion, meet deadlines and exceed expectations of others. 
  • Acting as a liaison between product management and the customer.
  • Developing programs focused on enhancing the customer’s life.
  • Proven ability to align across corporate functions.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills, including the ability to chair meetings or host webinars.
  • Comfortable with ambiguity, creative thinking, and leading change.
  • Resilient and decisive yet maintain a style of openness, responsiveness and willingness to learn.
  • Demonstrated ability to appropriately challenge current practices, thought patterns, and business models.
  • Strong interpersonal skills capable of communicating with and influencing top leaders through logic & persistence.
  • Comfortable with innovation and challenging the status quo in the interest of driving the business to the next level.
  • Comfortable with informed debate and collaborative discussion.
  • Ability to thrive in a highly-matrixed environment.
  • Highly collaborative orientation and strong team player who places the best interests of the organization above personal objectives.
This list is hardly comprehensive, and each organization needs to fine-tune the soft skills needed for their team’s success.  Yet this list illustrates the evolution of our industry toward being able to better define the soft skills of a successful VoC / CX practitioner as our roles become increasingly high-profile.  (See Getting Used to Being in High Places for more on this topic.)

My Challenge

I challenge you first and foremost to place “Focused on the customer experience” or a related, customer-focused goal statement at the very top of your forthcoming job descriptions. Don’t just talk about putting the customer first; embed this reality in your corporate culture by hiring for customer-centric orientation.

Next, ensure your job descriptions accurately reflect the balanced candidate you seek.  That means including soft skill requirements right alongside hard skill requirements.  It’s great to seek an “analytical story-teller with 5+ years of SPSS or SAS and expert program management skills,” but what else will be required of this person?  Innovative solutions creation?  High level of comfort presenting to and interacting with the C-suite?  What about their ability to handle political maneuvering and to be diplomatically persuasive?

What good is having the industry’s best statistician or a recruit with the highest prestige MBA if this individual doesn’t “get” customer experience?  What if our hired hotshot is difficult to get along with in the office or has poor social skills during client on-sites?  What happens if this person is unable to navigate the political waters of the organization?

Hire the right person – the right fit for your team and your strategic objectives (corporate and team level).  Let the competition deal with the highly-qualified “insufferable jerk” or the brilliant savant with zero social skills.  Soft skills are far too important to the success of your program to leave them to chance.

Sarah Simon is a career insights professional with 16 years of experience in the feedback industry. Specialties include VoC architecture, journey mapping, developing linkages to business performance, reduction of customer defection, results analysis and communication, with expert survey design skills.  She is the survivor of a botched early-generation "big data mining" operation and is happy to live to tell about it.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

When You Take Care of Your Customers, They Take Care of You

This post was originally published on October 7, 2013, on Customer Management IQ.

When your employees deliver a great experience, is it a fluke, or is it a way of doing business?

I've written a lot about what makes a great customer experience; as a matter of fact, I have boiled it down to five criteria:

1.    memorable
2.    remarkable
3.    personalized
4.    emotional
5.    consistent

That last attribute, consistency, has been a huge focus of mine. I believe that it sets expectations and creates predictability. And guess what that leads to? Trust.

So anytime that I have multiple great experiences with a company, I believe they are on to something! There are two such companies with which I've had blog-worthy experiences this year: Automobile Club of Southern California and Ringling Bros. Circus/Feld Entertainment. I've written three posts about the Ringling Bros experience; in today's post, I'm going to add one more story to the Auto Club experience.

I've been an Auto Club member for the last 27 years; I also get my auto and homeowners' insurances through them. The experience I wrote about earlier this year highlighted how they took a bad situation (car accident) and turned it into something that I'm still talking about today. The experience fit all five of the criteria. This latest experience, while with much less drama (on my part), showcases the fact that the Auto Club really gets it.

With interest rates all over the place this summer, I dove in and refinanced my mortgage to lock at a great low rate for the next 30 years. I haven't had an escrow account with my mortgage lender in a while, but the bank now required I either opt in or opt out, with the latter incurring a fee that didn't thrill me. So I opted in. The escrow account includes my annual homeowners' insurance premium, which came due less than two weeks after the refi closed. This made me a little anxious, since I didn't know how quickly the bank would actually pay the premium.

I checked my Auto Club account online to see if the bill had been paid; I watched over the course of a few days, and finally the day before (a Monday) it was due, I saw that my premium was still not paid. I contacted the title company, and they assured me that a check had been sent. I called the Auto Club, and they assured me that they had received no such check. After going back and forth between the two a few times, we agreed that we would wait one more day, just in case the check came in over the weekend; if not, a new check would be issued and sent.

In the meantime, the Auto Club assured me that I had a 10-day grace period but also gave me their physical address in case we wanted to overnight a new check, all the while being courteous and making me feel comfortable that my insurance would not lapse if the check was not found the next day (due date). Here's the kicker. The last Auto Club representative I spoke to  that day said that she would keep her eye out for my check, and either way, she would call me the next morning. She told me she would be in at 9AM, and she would call me as soon as she knew the status of my account.

Yea, right.

I was in a meeting and couldn't answer the phone, but at 9:05AM, my phone rang, and she left me a voicemail letting me know that the check had arrived and had been posted to my account. All was good.

I could not have been more delighted.

What happens when  customers have great experiences? They recommend you. They write about you. They share their experiences.

When you take care of your customers, when you do right by them, when you deliver and delight, then they take care of you.

Worry about being better; bigger will take care of itself. Think one customer at a time and take care of each one the best way you can. -Gary Comer, founder of Land's End

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Leveraging Language to Enhance the Customer Experience

Today I'm pleased to present a guest post by Stan Phelps.

IT’S NOT WHAT YOU SAY, BUT SOMETIMES HOW YOU SAY IT...

The language we choose and how we use it plays a big role in customer experience.

This idea was driven home in a story shared by Joan McGeogh. Joan and I connected at a recent speaking engagement for MENG in New Jersey. Jane related a story about a recent visit to a local restaurant. Here’s the story:

Joan and her husband visited the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ. The Grounds has a restaurant onsite called Rat’s. Why the name Rat's?  In Kenneth Grahame's classic, The Wind in the Willows, the character Ratty represented everything a host should be.  The restaurant resembles a French chateau overlooking a pond. In Joan’s words, “It’s quite picturesque.” Having heard great things about the restaurant, this was Joan’s fifth time trying to make reservations and her first time successfully booking a table.

Upon entering, they were greeted by Troy. A local college student, Troy would be their server for the evening. Troy came out with a basket of bread, served with herb-infused butter. After taking a drinks and appetizer order, Troy returned to the table and said, “While you are waiting, the chef recommended an amuse bouche.” (French for “entertain the mouth.") The complimentary amuse bouche came in the form of popovers with a pomegranate spread with fresh honey from the grounds.

After an appetizer, Troy again approached the table, “The chef thought you might like these.” He presented the table with cauliflower soup shooters. After the party finished their main course, Troy returned with something else. “The chef thought you might enjoy these petit fours.” Petit fours are tiny layered cakes filled with fruit or frosting and covered in poured fondant or icing. Troy shared that they were made from cream from the farm down the street. The chef was interested in their opinion.

Joan mentioned to me that the meal was expensive, but the experience was so worth it. She and her husband rarely order appetizers or desserts. At Rat’s, they ordered both, even opting in for a drink with dessert: a pumpkin martini that Joan described as divine.

Studies have shown that combining greetings and gifting can increase average purchase by over 40%. Rat’s utilizes both masterfully. The chef on three different occasions gives a little extra. “The chef thought” is an expression of caring. It reinforces the idea of being a gracious host. I also love the use of weaving stories about the source of the honey or the cream. The little extras and the language you use can make a powerful difference.

Lagniappe: Think about the labels you put on things. Take a cue from Disney. They don’t have employees, they have cast members. Or Zappos. They don’t have call center reps, they have  customer loyalty team members. Do you merely say “thank you,” or do express your gratitude by saying “My pleasure” like Chick-fil-A?

Stan's lagniappe (giving a little something extra) to my readers: free Kindle downloads of both of his books: What's Your Purple Goldfish and What's Your Green Goldfish. They'll be free until midnight PST, November 7, 2013.

Stan Phelps is the founder of 9 INCH marketing, a consultancy that helps brands obtain customers that are four times as valuable as ordinary customers through the Goldfish Rule. He works with senior leaders to focus on meaningful differentiation to win the hearts of both employees and customers. Driven by client objectives and inspired by bold vision, Stan creates custom keynotes, workshops, and programs that are memorable and on brand, inspiring businesses to become talk-able by design. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The 15 Senses of a Great Customer Experience

Garden of Five Senses
Have you ever considered which of the senses are most important to both the employee experience and the customer experience?

Nope. I'm not talking about THE five senses you automatically think about. Those are important to the experience, as well.

I'm thinking about some other senses that might not be top of mind when someone asks about senses needed for a great customer experience.

Check these out. Which of these does your organization have? Do your leaders encourage you to exercise these senses? Are you aware that you even have these to call on?

Sense of humor. Used appropriately, this is one of those senses that could really make for a great experience. Need an example? Think about your Southwest Airlines flight attendants.

Sense of ease. As in, are you able to put your customers at ease when they are feeling anxious or frustrated? Is there a level of comfort or assurance that you offer your customers that you are there for them, if they have a question or need an issue solved?

Sense of timing. Timing, as in, synchronization. The organization needs to be in sync, aligning what it knows about its customer - right data to the right people at the right time - to deliver a great experience.

Sense of balance. Knowing what to focus on and when. Knowing which levers to pull to make sure things on either side of the equation are in proportion. A great example is the balance between the employee experience and the customer experience. If these are out of balance, business results will reflect that.

Sense of direction. This is critical. If you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you get there?

Sense of responsibility. Everyone within the organization must understand or have a general awareness of its obligations to its customers.

Sense of right and wrong. I think this one goes without explanation.

Sense of urgency.  Is the customer in front of you your top priority? If there's a critical issue, do you attack it like you mean it?

Sense of purpose. Do your employees and customers know your purpose? Do you operate as if that's your guiding light? Your focus?

Sense of place. Often defined or referred to as a sense of belonging or attachment. What characteristics make your brand or your workplace special or unique? What makes customers or employees want to be there?

Sense of community. Being part of something where others are in alignment, linked by a common purpose, goals, or interests. Apple is a great example.

Sense of wonder. This is one that you must never forget about. I believe that a sense of wonder keeps the organization fresh and cutting edge and drives innovation.

Sense of happiness
. When employees and customers share this sense, the world goes round and round.

Sixth sense. It doesn't hurt to be able to perceive those things that are not seen or immediately apparent. That intuition is something that will allow you to delight your customers.

And finally, and this by no means is the last sense an organization must have/use, I do think this is an important one: common sense. I've written about this one a couple of times. Common sense is what helps you to know why the other senses are important and when to call them into play.

I know there are more. What have I missed? Which is your favorite?

Common sense is seeing things as they are and doing things as they ought to be. -Harriet Beecher Stowe

Monday, November 4, 2013

CX Journey Reaches Mile Marker No. 2!

CX Journey turns 2!

This month marks two years that I've been blogging at CX Journey. It's been an amazing journey so far! I started the blog as a way to share what I've learned over the last 20+ years, and I can honestly say that, through this process over the last two years, I've learned so much more.

I've met some great people and made some new friends, and I'm looking forward to meeting and learning from more brilliant customer experience professionals.

To mark my two-year anniversary, I'm rolling out the site with an official logo and a new URL (www.cx-journey.com). All of the old links still work, and you can still access the blog via cxjourney.blogspot.com. I just thought it was time for the blog to "grow up" a little. (I've backordered cxjourney.com, so I'll hopefully have that as my own in a few months, too.)

To help me ring in Year 3, I'll have guest posts this month by Stan Phelps, Sarah Simon, and Jeannie Walters.
 
Thank you all for your support and for reading my blog. I'm looking forward to continuing the journey and to celebrating future mile markers with you!

It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end. -Hemingway