Thursday, November 8, 2018

Employee Experience Comes First

Image courtesy of Worthix
There should be no doubt: companies must recognize that employees come first.

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

How to Create a Superb Customer Experience on the Web

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Today I'm pleased to share another guest post by Lexie Lu of Design Roast.

If you want customers to return to your site, you have to create an amazing customer experience (CX). People tend to remember how your site makes them feel over the specific elements of the site. Everything from the overall design of the pages to customer service to overall functionality plays into CX.

Out of the companies working actively to improve customer experience, about 84 percent saw an increase in revenue. If you want to focus on CX and improve your image with your customers, here are 11 key steps.

1. Show That You Care
Seventy-nine percent of people want to know that a brand cares before they buy something. Brands that show they understand what the customer needs and that have a strong commitment to delivering a solution attract loyal followers. Be upfront about your policies and the attention to detail you offer to make sure your customers are happy. In addition, remember that testimonials are a great way to show that you already have happy customers.

2. Interact with Your Customers
Most people are on at least one social media platform. Social media creates a culture where people expect interaction, including interactions with brands. For B2B businesses, the stakes are higher, with many business buyers expecting a brand to interact with them immediately. Not to mention, most consumers expect a real-time response, as well.

3. Know Your Target Audience
This advice appears over and over because it's so vital to successful branding and the overall customer experience. You can't create a positive experience if you don't understand what your typical customer wants and needs. Knowing your target audience involves studying general data and then digging deeper and learning about purchase history as well as polling current customers to see where your services could improve.

4. Revamp Your Website
For many of your leads, your website is the first impression they have of your brand. If your website loads slowly, is ugly, or has broken links, the user experience suffers. Take the time to audit your website and see what needs updating. Make sure the site matches your overall branding efforts and that customers get a consistent experience whether they visit your website or see you on social media.

5. Offer a Guarantee
People want a positive experience from brands. About 55 percent of customers say they'd pay more if they were guaranteed a good experience. Think about what kind of guarantee you can offer to your customers. What about your brand stands out from all the other brands out there? How can you turn that into a promise?

6. Focus on Mobile
More and more people demand a positive mobile experience. About 56 percent of people said they felt disappointment if they liked a brand but the mobile site wasn't a good experience. On top of that, if the experience on mobile was bad, then 52 percent became less likely to engage with that brand going forward.

It's a smart use of your resources to invest in the mobile version of your site. Test it thoroughly, and make sure it looks good and functions properly on smaller screens.

7. Remain Consistent
Omni-channel is a buzzword these days and simply means that you offer the same or similar customer experience across different platforms. If a customer phones you and asks a question, they should get the same answer as if they walk into a store or talk to an agent via live chat on your website.

In addition, you should track conversations so that customer service reps can review the previous contact from that customer. Eighty-nine percent of individuals dislike repeating the same issue to multiple people. Make them explain the problem only once, even if you have to transfer them to another department.

8. Speed up Customer Service
Around 77 percent of people think it takes too long to get in touch with a live agent. Don't leave your customers on hold. If you need to hire more customer service agents to keep up with volume, prioritize this task. The longer a customer waits, the more likely they are to grow frustrated. If someone contacts you, they likely already have an issue and are frustrated. Making them wait only magnifies the problem.

9. Get Customers Involved on Social Media
Encourage your customers to get involved with your brand on social media. Ask a question, take a poll, or run a contest where users share their own content, such as a picture of them using your product along with a specific hashtag. Figure out ways to keep them engaged, even when they aren't making a purchase. If you develop a relationship with your customers, they're more likely to remember your brand the next time they need to make a purchase.

10. Make Their Lives Better
Is your brand seen as one of the better brands out there? In the United States, 62 percent of people think the brands they love make their lives better in some way. How can your brand make the customer experience better overall?

Create a follow-up program where you contact the customer after the sale to make sure they're satisfied. Keep the order form simple and easy to complete, saving the consumer time. Figure out other problems your target audience faces, and create solutions for those issues, too.

11. Start a Loyalty Program
Loyal customers are five times as likely to buy from you again and more likely to forgive an error on your part. Building loyalty takes time and commitment. You must first build that relationship with your customers, but starting a loyalty program is a good first step. Reward customers who buy from you over and over or refer others to you.

A Better Customer Experience
Creating a better customer experience doesn't have to be rocket science. Look at your website and brand through the eyes of your typical site visitor. What elements work well, and what needs to be fixed? The more seamlessly your site functions, the better your customer experience, and the more loyal your users.

Lexie is a web designer and typography enthusiast. She spends most of her days surrounded by some HTML and a goldendoodle at her feet. Check out her design blog, Design Roast, and follow Lexie on Twitter