Wednesday, November 14, 2018

How to Make Your Customer Experience Stands Out in the Experience Economy

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Chris Ryba of VHT.

To compete in today’s market, companies have to go beyond providing excellent customer service. Today, we work in an experience economy, where people are looking for a memorable business interaction, not just a successful one.

Companies like Apple have dominated the experience economy by making everything from the website to stores to packaging an Instagram-worthy event. Fortunately, you don’t have to be Apple to stand out in your industry; even small changes in the contact center can shift your service from forgettable to remarkable.

1. Build a Friendship
We all love to spend time with our social circles. In the contact center, you can give customers the pleasure of chatting with friends by treating them as friends.

Know your customer.
You expect friends to remember important information about you. And while individual agents won’t remember each caller, most contact centers have good CRM data. Use that information to call people by the names they prefer, use their favorite modes of communication and pick up seamlessly from the last conversation.

Accept responsibility.
A real friend who makes a mistake accepts responsibility and apologizes. According to a study by the W.P. Carey School of Business, call satisfaction jumped from 37% to 73% when complaining customers were treated with dignity, got an explanation of what went wrong, and received an apology.

Show customers you appreciate them.
We like to be with people who recognize our value. But 49% of customers who switch companies do so because they feel unappreciated. When people call in, acknowledge their effort and willingness to work with you. For example, agents can open with, “I see you’ve been with us for X years. Thank you!” They can also thank customers for their patience, positivity, and time.

2. Make it Easy
People love seeing a complex process operate smoothly. Consider the satisfaction of placing an online order with one click and having it delivered next day. When businesses boil difficult tasks down to one or two steps, it feels like magic.

Respect customers’ time.
Most people want to fix a problem or make a purchase and then get on with their lives. Respect their time by scheduling callbacks when queues are long or offering live chats from the website. And never ask a second time for information collected through the phone system or online.

Save them a step.
Save people work, and they’ll want to keep buying from you. For example, use a dynamic interactive voice response (IVR) system to create personalized menus based on caller needs. After complaint resolution or technical support, take the initiative and call back to ensure everything is OK.

3. Have Some Fun
Surprise customers with a little humor, where appropriate. Or if jokes hit the wrong tone, mix in some inspiration, fascination, or curiosity.

Add whimsy.
Many websites, like Forbes and Google, use wit or diversions to amuse viewers. Contact centers can do the same by sharing intriguing company history, inspiring stories, or interviews for people on hold.

Avoid clichés.
The more a contact center clings to tired norms, the more forgettable the experience. Remove any clichéd phrases such as “your call is very important to us” or “you can also visit our website.” Switch to FAQs and knowledge bases rather than strict agent scripts, so conversations feel more sincere.

Upgrade the audio.
Wooden phone prompts and tinny music make wait time crawl. Have voice prompts professionally recorded and upgrade text-to-speech. Also, consider giving the phone voice an appealing personality. People get a kick out of talking with characters like Alexa and Siri.

4. Engage Agents
No one understands customers better than front-line representatives. Mine their knowledge regularly for new ways to create a memorable customer experience (CX).

Collaborate.
Let agents work together on finding clever ways to upgrade CX. Employees can try out new ideas and help direct company-wide initiatives with first-hand knowledge.

Hire smarter.
The right people can make or break the service experience. Consider long-tenured agents that customers love. Identify their key personality traits and look for similar job applicants. Let some of those experienced agents interview new folks; they’ll have a good sense of whether someone is right for the job.

Engage agents.
Engaged employees are more relaxed, happy, and proud of what they do, and they share that attitude with callers. It’s important to recognize and appreciate agents as much as customers. A recent McKinsey study also found that giving new representatives more support in early days and providing the team with opportunities to socialize improved engagement and retention.


According to a Walker study, 86% of consumers will pay more for a memorable interaction, and by 2020, experience will outweigh price and product as the key brand differentiator. If your contact center already treats customers well, it takes just a little effort and some imagination to go from ho-hum to unforgettable.

Chris Ryba, PMP, is the Director of Professional Services at VHT. As a seasoned technology professional with over 20 years experience in the IT/Telecom industry, Ryba has been actively involved in formulating processes, procedures, and guidelines intended to streamline project lifecycles from post-sale integration kickoff through production deployment.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Employee Experience Comes First

Image courtesy of Worthix
There should be no doubt: companies must recognize that employees come first. Not at the expense of customer experience or anything else, but in the scheme of things, without a great employee experience first, the customer experience will suffer!

I had a great time talking about this and many other topics when I joined Mary Drumond and James Conrad with Worthix for their Voices of Customer Experience podcast.

Focusing on employees and making sure they have a great experience is something that I've been talking to clients and prospects about for the last 26 years. It's nice to see that this topic is finally starting to get a bit more attention.

As I mentioned, we covered a lot of ground during the 30-minute interview. We started off touching on the 10 commandments of customer experience and the 7 deadly sins of customer experience - and why I make these religious references! All in good fun.

The gist really is that these are fundamental or foundational elements that must be in place to ensure a successful customer experience transformation. You can't transform the experience if these commandments aren't adhered to and the sins aren't committed. Among the basics: executive commitment, listening to and understanding your customers, doing something with what you learn, putting employees first, and more. On this podcast, we do talk about how to get executives bought in and committed to the work that lies ahead.

From there, we talked a bit about today's typical culture pyramid, where revenue and profits are put before employees and customers - actually, customers then employees, in that order. Sadly. We then talked about what a people-focused culture pyramid looks like, and summed it up as: focus on the people, and the numbers will come. (I'll share my post on these two culture pyramids here soon, but if you haven't seen what these two pyramids look like, you can learn more here.)

We also talked about
  • my five-step approach to working with clients on their CX transformations; 
  • how to engage, empower, and motivate employees;
  • core values and how important they are;
  • and more!
I'd be honored if you'd listen to this conversation. It's a 30-minute podcast. If you don't have 30-minutes to listen, there's also a transcript of our chat.

I constantly remind our employees to be afraid, to wake up every morning terrified. Not of our competition, but of our customers. Our customers have made our business what it is, they are the ones with whom we have a relationship, and they are the ones to whom we owe a great obligation. And we consider them to be loyal to us — right up until the second that someone else offers them a better service. -Jeff Bezos

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

5 Ways to Enhance Your Customer Experience with a Knowledge Base

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Swaathishree Sridhar with Freshdesk.

Creating a memorable customer experience (CX) is not every brand’s cup of tea. Only a few brands ensure great customer experience throughout the customer journey. Of the many ways in which you can enhance the customer service experience, self-service is one of the least-explored options.

What is self-service?
As the name suggests, self-service is a form of customer support where customers help themselves find answers and solutions to problems with your product or service. There are different ways in which you can provide self-service as a form of support to your customers.
  • Knowledge base
  • Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
  • Online forums and communities
  • Interactive voice response (IVR)
  • Chatbots
And of all these self-service options available, knowledge base is the most-preferred choice of self-service. In fact, millennials prefer using a self-service portal to talking to a support agent.

What is a knowledge base?
A knowledge base is a repository of information on the various aspects of an organization from its company policy to how-to solutions for its product and services.

In other words, it can be called an online library where your customers can find answers to questions that don’t require human support.

In this article, I’ll discuss five different ways in which you can enhance customer experience using a knowledge base.

1. Round the Clock Accessibility
Complete reliance on customer support agents without any alternatives can make way for a negative experience when things go wrong. Because it's quite a task to deploy agents round the clock, especially during the holiday season and when your customers belong to different time zones. During these times, a knowledge base can be of great help when the customer is unable to contact your support team. They can get an instant solution from your knowledge base without having to wait for your support agents.

Being accessible in some way or the other is important for creating a good customer experience. Hence, make sure that your customers are able to find your knowledge base easily.
  • Include the knowledge base as part of your Support page
  • Add a Support button on top of your website
2. Creating Customer-Friendly Content
Customers these days prefer using a knowledge base to talking to a support agent. However, it’s not just enough to set up a knowledge base; it is also essential that the knowledge base content is user-friendly. Your customers should be able to find the solution in a single search. This leads to quicker resolution, in turn, providing a great customer experience.

A smart way to do this is to prepare a list of questions for making your knowledge base content-rich. Add solutions that are easily comprehensible to your customers. But, which questions? How do you decide?
  • Ask your support agents for questions that are asked by many customers or go through your support tickets for the same.
  • Take a look at your customer feedback and their online reviews.
  • Ask your customers for suggestions.
3. Timely Solutions
While complex issues take time to get resolved, customers don’t want to wait in a queue to talk to a support agent for simple issues. Product-related questions like how-tos or setting up an account can be resolved with the help of an optimized knowledge base. Implement your knowledge base in such a way that your customers can find solutions quickly.
  • Order the FAQs based on the number of customer searches.
  • Include a search bar.
  • Use explainer videos and screenshots to make the solutions easily comprehensible.
4. Repetitive Issues
When it comes to handling customer conversations, the support agents are required to resolve issues quickly while also providing  a pleasant customer experience. But that can be quite difficult, as a significant portion of an agent’s day is spent handling repetitive issues. This lessens their focus on the complex ones, thus missing out on creating a good customer experience.

In such situations, developing a knowledge base with solutions to those repetitive issues is the best way to quickly answer customers' questions without direct assistance from agents. This reduces the ticket volume and allows the support agents to pay more attention to top-priority, more-difficult  issues. As a result, every support agent will be able to resolve their issues better and provide a great customer experience.

5. Training Your Chatbot
If there is a smarter version to a knowledge base, it’s none other than an AI-powered chatbot. Though many companies have started adopting the chatbot technology, not every chatbot does conflict resolution effectively. The reality is that many customers end up having a bad experience with chatbots.

In order for the chatbot to be intuitive, it needs to get trained, and a vast amount of data and information needs to be fed to the bot. This is because everyone ask questions in their own terms, and the chatbot must recognize and understand these nuances accurately. Here’s where an up-to-date knowledge base can prove to be a rich source of information. When your chatbot gets trained based on the information in your knowledge base, it is more likely to give relevant solutions to your customers. Though there’s more to creating a customer-friendly chatbot, your knowledge base will play a major role in training your chatbot and, in turn, providing great customer experience.

Conclusion
Among the many ways to improve a brand’s customer experience, self-service has rarely been utilized to its full potential. Even the brands that are ready to experiment with chatbots don’t sweat much on improving their knowledge base. But, with customers considering the support team as their last resort, it is imperative that brands offer the option to customers to help themselves. After all, who wouldn’t fancy a knowledge base software that provides the right solution in a single search?


Thursday, November 1, 2018

Are You Part of the Convenience Revolution?

Image courtesy of Shep Hyken
Want to disrupt your business and your industry? And create fierce customer loyalty?

Who doesn't? Right?

Well, there's a secret to doing that, and if you haven't yet read Shep Hyken's latest book, The Convenience Revolution, you're missing out on the secret!

This book is shorter than Shep's last couple of books, but it packs a mighty punch. It's a quick read, but don't let that fool you. Shep gives away the keys to the castle!

In a recent post, I wrote that in a world where products and services are becoming more and more commoditized, customer experience is the only true differentiator. That means that brands need to fight to stay relevant - yet truly struggle to not get Blockbuster'd.

I bet Blockbuster and a few other brands wouldn't be extinct today if they knew what I now know after reading this book. Shep not only outlines in detail the six principles of the Convenience Revolution but also provides a ton of examples of companies doing it right and those who, well, either no longer exist or need to step up.

I'm going to just briefly write about Principle One, which is "reduce friction." This is really the umbrella principle for the other five. I love the quote he shares from Shayla Price at the start of the chapter:
Friction is the enemy of customer experience. It frustrates the customer, annoys your team, and stops business growth. And if friction remains within the buyer’s journey, it can stop future sales
Amen.

I think that, ultimately, this is the goal of all customer experience transformations: to reduce or remove friction from a customer's interactions or transactions. I don't know of a single customer experience professional who would not agree with that.

What is friction?
  • A couple of definitions from Merriam-Webster include: the rubbing of one body against another; the force that resists relative motion between two bodies in contact; the clashing between two persons or parties of opposed views.
  • Study.com notes that friction is the force that opposes the motion of an object.
  • One definition from Cambridge Dictionary: disagreement or dislike caused by people having different opinions.
It's easy to see how those definitions translate to a poor customer experience, if friction exists. Fortunately, Shep provides several real-world examples of companies that have handily reduced friction to create great experiences for their customers: Uber, The Ruhlin Group, Ace Hardware, QuikTrip, CLEAR, and more! Read, learn, and adapt to your situation, where plausible.

Want to know what the other five principles are? You'll have to read the book. Trust me. It is worth the time and money!

Life’s too short to build something nobody wants. -Ash Maurya

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

#CX Buzzwords or the Real Deal?

Image courtesy of CMP
The customer experience profession has a lot of buzzwords. Or does it?

I was recently given access to a report by the team at Customer Management Practice, organizers of the popular CCW (Customer Contact Week) events. The report is titled "Navigating Industry Buzzwords" and contains a compilation of thoughts by the nine members of the CCW Advisory Board on those so-called buzzwords.

For this report, the advisors were asked to identify three words that resonate with their organizations and to dispel the buzzwords myth by getting to the core of why these words (listed below) are the real deal.
  • Journey
  • Voice of customer
  • Engagement
  • Culture
  • Automation
  • Security
  • Experience
  • Metrics
  • Transformation
Let's start with a definition of "buzzword." According to dictionary.com, it is a word or phrase, often sounding authoritative or technical, that is a vogue term in a particular profession, field of study, popular culture, etc.

Given that definition, honestly, none of those words are "in vogue" terms; they're all an important part of what we do, part of our (customer experience professionals') daily language. I feel like calling them buzzwords gives a negative connotation or refers to a fly-by-night term that will be gone next week.

Where I see the problem with these words is how they're defined and how they're used. For example, I heard recently that someone thought "customer journey" was the hot new word for "customer experience," which is now passe. OK, please don't buy into that. Let's stop renaming things - customer experience is customer experience - and focus more on understanding and executing.

On that note, let's take a look at how the Advisory Board members define and use the three terms they picked.

Wendy Liu is VP, Customer Care and Executive Care Response Liaison at Comcast. Her three terms are transformation, journey, and culture.
  • Transformation: Taking the best of what we know about ourselves, examine closely where we have challenges, and enlist our team members in making the change together. 
  • Journey: A view and practice that treats our team members and customer interactions not as single transactions or destinations but as an experience with well-defined maps and thoughtful guides to help our teams and customers navigate and discover. 
  • Culture: What we stand for, our common purpose and how we have a shared consciousness in how we fulfill the common purpose
Brad Nichols, Global Customer Service Leader for Dun & Bradstreet, defined his three favorite terms as follows.
  • Metrics: The barometer of successful performance
  • Culture: The way ‘things are done’ around here. What gets rewarded, punished, and how to behave to get ahead. 
  • Voice of Customer: The direct words, feedback and input of those we serve or want to serve
And when Shep Hyken was asked what his three favorite terms meant for his organization, he answered as follows.
  • Experience: We are all about creating an “amazing” experience for our customers (and for our employees).
  • Metrics: You can’t manage what you don’t measure.
  • Culture: Without the right culture in place, we won’t deliver the experience we want our customers to have. To be the best place to do business with, we have to be a great place to do business with. What’s happening on the inside is felt on the outside by the customer.
Be sure to check out the report to find out how the other six Advisory Board members chose and defined their "buzzwords." And then join me in Nashville from January 15-18, 2019, for CCW Nashville, when Jenn Lim, CEO & Chief Happiness Officer, Delivering Happiness, keynotes the event, and amazing speakers from Postmates, Subway, HBO, and Toll Brothers, just to name a few, speak on the same stage.

IABC Gold Quill entry: Our challenge was to design and implement a multi-faceted customer experience initiative supported by a change-management strategy.
Judge’s comment: Someone graduated with honors from buzzword college.

-International Association of Business Communications Gold Quill awards