Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Ton of Scary #CustExp Quotes and Stats

Image courtesy of hagerstenguy
Happy Halloween! Let's celebrate Halloween customer experience style by taking a look at some scary reasons you need to be focusing on the employee experience and the customer experience. Why? Well...

The thing is, every brand has a lifespan – because every customer has an attention span.
-Mark Di Somma on Branding Strategy Insider

There are so many reasons to focus on a great customer experience, so if you need help sealing the deal with your executives, these stats ought to be helpful.

73% of people surveyed wouldn't care if the brands they used disappeared from their lives.
Source: Co.Exist

Globally, more people trust regular employees to tell the truth than CEOs (50% vs. 43%).
Source: 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer

More than 70% of customers surveyed believe small businesses understand their customer better than large companies, know their business/product better than large companies, provide a more personal customer service experience than large companies, and are more concerned about my needs than larger companies.
Source: American Express Global Customer Service Barometer, 2012

It is 6 to 7 times more expensive to acquire new customers than it is to keep a current one.
Source: White House Office of Consumer Affairs

It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience.
Source: HelpScout

Millennials believe that other consumers care more about their shopping experiences than companies do – that’s why they share their opinions online.
Source: OECD “Electronic and Mobile Commerce,” 2013

87% of global consumers believe business should place at least equal emphasis on social interests as business interests, and ‘purpose’ has increased as a purchase trigger by 26% since 2008.
Source: Edelman Trust Barometer, 2013

While 50% of Americans trust businesses to do what is right, only 15% trust business leaders to tell the truth.
Source: Edelman Trust Barometer, 2013

Only 34% of workers say, “Employees [in their company] have a high level of trust in management and the organization.
Source: Interaction Associates

70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels he or she is being treated.
Source: McKinsey

$83 billion is estimated to be lost by U.S. businesses every year due to poor customer service.
Source: Genesys

Businesses lose $289 each year for every customer who leaves due to poor service.
Source: Genesys

On average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase.
Source: White House Office of Consumer Affairs

In 2012, only 37% of US companies earned a customer experience index rating of “excellent” or “good.”
Source: Forrester

80% of big companies described themselves as delivering “superior” service, but only 8% of customers say they’ve experienced “superior” service from these companies.
Source: The New Yorker

In the past year, two in five consumers or more in most markets indicate that they have not completed a transaction or made an intended purchase because of poor customer service.
Source: American Express Global Customer Service Barometer

Thanks to SAP for compiling 99 Facts on the Future of Business, where many of the above stats were found.

Accenture's recent Global Consumer Pulse Research had some startling stats, as well, with the daunting statement: "The metrics aren't moving."

66% of consumers switched companies in at least one of ten industries due to poor service in the past year. 82% of consumers felt their service provider could have done something to prevent switching. 55% say they’d have stayed if the company had proactively contacted them, and 51% would have stayed had the company simply recognized them and rewarded them for their business.
Source: Accenture Global Consumer Pulse Research, 2013

What are some of those frustrating interactions for customers that can be fixed to prevent switching behavior?
  • Contacting a company multiple times for the same reason (91%)
  • Being put on hold for a long time (90%)
  • Repeating your issue to several company reps (89%)
  • Not being easy to do business with (85%)
  • Not delivering on promises (84%)
  • Inconsistencies in multichannel experiences (58%)
A few great stats from Kissmetrics (click link for sources):

Only 50% of consumers give a brand only 1 week to respond to a question before they stop doing business with them.

After poor customer service, 26% of consumers post a negative comment on social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter.

79% of those who complained about poor customer service had their complaints ignored.

57% of survey respondents said companies are clueless, it sometimes feels like the consumer knows more about the company than the customer service agent.

Some other facts...

For every customer who bothers to complain, 26 others remain silent.
Source: White House Office of Consumer Affairs

Consumers are two times more likely to share their bad customer service experiences than they are to talk about positive experiences.
Source: 2012 Global Customer Service Barometer

A customer is 4 times more likely to buy from a competitor if the problem is service related vs. price or product related.
Source: Bain & Co.

A 10% increase in customer retention levels result in a 30% increase in the value of the company. Source: Bain & Co

I think there's a lot of compelling information here. If these stats don't scare you into focusing on the customer experience, I'm not sure what will. What's stopping you or your executives from focusing on the employee experience and the customer experience?

Although your customers won't love you if you give bad service, your competitors will.
Kate Zabriskie

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Go the Extra Smile

Image courtesy of Out of Kilter
 When a book's opening sentence includes the following phrase in bold, I know I want to read what the author has to say: 

"Good service is good business."

Simple concept, right? Treat customers well, and the business will flourish. Yet some still don't get that.

There's another book you need to add to your reading list: Smile: Sell More with Amazing Customer Service. As is touted on the book's cover, it's a 60-minute crash course to help you get started doing just that - 88 pages packed with more tips and examples than you think might be packed into this book.

Why is this book different? I like that the author, Kirt Manecke, was the owner of an award-winning specialty store. More importantly, he understands the importance of employee onboarding and the employee experience - and the relationship to delivering a great customer experience. The book contains tips from that employee training program and from Kirt's 30+ years of general business and selling experience.

He starts the book with the top ten ways to make your customers smile and outlines how to do each one.

1. Smile. If someone walks into your business, greet them and be polite.
2. Make a friend. People buy from people they trust. Apply the golden rule.
3. Answer the phone with a smile. First impressions are lasting impressions, right?
4. Say "Please" and "Thank you." Simple enough.
5. Acknowledge your customers, even if you're busy.
6. Never ask, "Can I help you?" There are better ways to engage your customers.
7. Uncover the customer's ultimate buying motive. What job is he trying to do?
8. Probe. Ask questions. Dig deeper.
9. Listen.
10. Know your product and your competition.

Early in the book, Kirt introduces some research discussed by Martin Lindstrom in Buyology, i.e., The Smiling Study, in which researchers looked at how joy and happiness affected shoppers. The results: "a smiling face 'evokes more joy in the target person than a non-smiling face,' and it also produces a far more positive overall attitude toward the business in question. ... and the smiling person reported that they would be more likely to keep on patronizing the company in question." (Mind you, this study was all done with the volunteers imagining a smiling scenario. But I still like the results.)

Lindstrom also mentions in Buyology a piece of research done by Duke University that uncovered that people were not only attracted to people who smile but are also more likely to remember their names. "We want to remember people who were kind to us, in case we interact with them in the future."

The proof is in the pudding. Or in the business results.

OK, back to Smile. Making customers smile doesn't just come from what you say to, or ask, them; it's also a result of your attitude and behavior. The next ten tips reflect this theme and are detailed in the book.

1. Make good eye contact.
2. Watch your body language. Make sure it's welcoming and professional.
3. Be enthusiastic.
4. Dress for success.
5. Keep it professional.
6. Don't make the customer wait.
7. Before you put a customer on hold, ask permission.
8. The customer in front of you comes first.
9. Follow up promptly.
10. Master electronic etiquette.

There's more to the book, but I'll leave it at that and let you discover the rest. Again, it's a quick and easy read but filled with great words of wisdom. If there's any doubt about the validity of this concept, this thing that is sometimes foreign in the world of customer service, i.e., the smile, just think about the last time you walked into a store or a restaurant. Did the employee smile? Did he make you smile? How did it make you feel?

Note: Kirt sent me a copy of his book with no obligation to read or review.

A man without a smiling face must not open a shop. -Chinese Proverb

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Can Your Customers Buy Your Products or Services Online?

Well, maybe not easy but certainly more!
Today I'm pleased to present a guest post by Erin Steiner.

Online shopping is no longer a luxury. Today, being able to buy the products and services we want online has started to feel like a right. It's weird when we don't have that option. So, really, the question is: If you aren't offering your products and services online, why not?

From an entrepreneurial standpoint, offering your wares online is good for your profit margin. By selling online, you're expanding your market. The wider your market, the more sales you stand to make. The more sales you make, the more you earn. That's not philosophy - that's math.

Beyond the basic money stuff, though, offering your products and services online actually helps you improve your customer service. How many times have you ordered something through Amazon - even though there was a brick-and-mortar store selling the same thing nearby - simply because you didn't want to carry it home? Or maybe you didn't realize you needed it until late in the evening but didn't trust yourself to remember to stop by the store and get it the next day. Or maybe the store that sells it locally is only open while you are at work.

Selling online allows your customers to buy directly from you whenever it is convenient for them to do so.

In Portland, Oregon, there is a chain of grocery stores called New Seasons. Customers can go to the store and shop in person - the same way they'd shop at any other store. They also have the ability to order their groceries online. While the chain doesn't deliver anymore, customers can still reserve their groceries for a later pickup time. If the store doesn't have something in stock, customers get a call and have the ability to either delete the items from their orders or allow a store employee to choose a reasonable alternative.

A good example of this on a national scale is Best Buy - you can shop a store's inventory and have an item held at their customer service desk or have it shipped to you.

Being able to check a store's inventory ahead of time - and sometimes even pay for it - keeps customers from making what could wind up being a futile trip to the store and wasting their time.

Anybody can set up a website, install code for processing credit cards and other forms of payment, and start selling their products and offering their services via the web. Yes - even services. Thanks to teleconferencing, desktop sharing software and other tools, you can provide all sorts of services via the Internet. Even if your services are primarily home based (plumbing, for example) or require you to meet in person (hairstylists), there are tools that allow your clients to reserve appointment slots and even pay a basic fee for your services online.

Remember, your job is to serve your customers to the best of your ability. Part of that is making it as easy as possible for them to buy from you or to commission your services. So ... seriously - why aren't you offering your products and services online?

< It's only a matter of time before there's one of these buttons on every keyboard.

 Erin Steiner is a full-time freelance writer from Portland whose business is run entirely via the web. In addition to maintaining her own content portals, she writes about small business, internet, and other topics for a variety of clients.

First image courtesy of Stuart Miles; second image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What Happens in Vagueness Stays in Vagueness

Image courtesy of Stew Dean
Do your employees know what's expected of them, in general? And when it comes to delivering a great customer experience?

I wish I could say that I made up this saying, but I didn't. When I saw it, I thought it was pretty clever. And fitting.

What happens in vagueness stays in vagueness.

Vagueness is the enemy. It's the antithesis of everything we teach and preach about what's required to deliver a great customer experience - and a great employee experience.

Vagueness is the absence of clarity. And clarity is required for employees to know what is expected of them, both in their roles within the company and how what they do contributes and relates to the customer experience.

What does that mean? How can we ensure that our employees don't work in a culture of ambiguity? It means that communication is your most important tool, but you need to be sure to communicate the right things! You must provide clarity of:
  • Purpose
  • Vision
  • Values
  • Brand promise
  • Goals
  • Expectations
With clarity, we can ensure that everyone is on the same page.

With clarity comes direction, and your employees will never doubt what it means to do the right thing, either for co-workers or for customers.

With clarity, employees understand how and why their contributions matter. Their work becomes meaningful and relevant.

With clarity, it's easy to focus; more specifically, it's easy to focus on what's important.

With clarity, we understand what success looks like.

Clarity lays the foundation for your employees to deliver a great customer experience. Clarity leads to consistency. Consistency leads to trust. And trust is that two-way street between you and your customers that helps to build those long-term relationships.

There is extraordinary power in a group connected to a common vision. -Joe Jaworski

Dilbert by Scott Adams

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Kicking the #CX Can Down the Road

Image courtesy of Yandle
Are your executives kicking the customer experience can down the road?

People in the U.S. are upset with their politicians because the current budget crisis/government shutdown is being "resolved," yet again, by kicking the can down the road in an effort to end the shutdown and beat the October 17 deadline. Don't worry, this post isn't about politics!

On the heels of my post from a few weeks ago about helping executives understand the value of focusing on the customer and the customer experience, I thought the concept of "kicking the can down the road" perhaps applies to those executives, as well. Why? Let me digress for a moment and share some details from a presentation I heard earlier this week.

Many of you know that I'm one of the CXPA SoCal Local Networking Event team leads. On Tuesday, we held a Local Networking Event in Irvine at Cisco's offices. Our speaker was Jeofrey Bean, and he talked about the research he and Sean Van Tyne had done for their book, The Customer Experience Revolution. The topic of Jeof's presentation was "Customer Experience: Winners, Losers, and the Ones to Watch." Here's how he defined those three categories, based on a conversation he had with Gary Tucker, formerly with J.D. Power and Associates.

The Winners. These are the 5%ers, the customer experience leaders. They get it. They dominate their industries and are more profitable and sustainable. They have pulled away from the "vortex of commoditization," as Jeof refers to it, i.e., they are not relying on a go-to-market strategy with products and services where the only levers are really just price and perhaps messaging and features that are/can be modified.

The Ones to Watch. These are the 25%ers. The bottom of this segment pays lip service to customer experience bringing value to the business and wants to learn more. The companies at the top of this segment are not Winners yet but know that customer experience is a differentiator; they want to learn and do all they can in order to move into the Winners bucket.

The Losers. If you do the math, you end up with this group being known as the 70%ers. Wow! 70% of companies don't believe that customer experience matters, despite the clear and obvious success of the CX leaders that are around today.

What's wrong with these companies? Why have they kicked the customer experience can down the road? Like lawmakers, are they waiting for...
  • "the problem" to disappear?
  • someone else to care, focus, do what's right, etc. later?
Are they putting off one crisis until another one happens down the line? These 70%ers are in crisis mode right now. If you're not focusing on the customer experience, you lose. Need proof? Check out this recently-published graphic from Watermark Consulting.

By putting off until tomorrow what needs to be done today, you're not doing right by your customers, and as a result, you're hurting your brand and your business. The longer you wait, the worse things will get - the harder it will be to regain the trust of your customers, which you know has been lost.

Oscar Wilde is credited with saying, "Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow just as well."

Kicking the can down the road is not a wise strategy on your CX Journey. Thomas Jefferson provides better advice:

Never put off till tomorrow what can be done today.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

CX Journey Lessons from Christopher Columbus

Image courtesy of Wikipedia
What can we learn about the CX Journey from Christopher Columbus' journeys?

Yesterday was Columbus Day in the U.S., a holiday that honors Italian sailor and navigator Christopher Columbus and commemorates his discovery of the New World (Western Hemisphere). The journey to the New World wasn't his first journey, but it was the one that opened up lasting contact for Europeans with the Americas. At the same time, he is largely criticized for destroying the peoples of the islands he visited on his various journeys; this has created a bit of controversy in recent years, causing Americans to question why we continue to celebrate this legend and icon in America's history.

I thought I'd take a look at his story and draw out some lessons for your CX Journey from his experiences. There were a lot more than I originally anticipated. Most are pretty self-explanatory.

Getting buy-in is tough. The idea for his most-memorable journey was rejected three times by other royals before the Spanish monarchy approved his plan; but even then, he had to continue to prove his purpose and the value in his idea.

Persistence and thick skin are good qualities to have. It took Columbus seven years to build his case/sell his idea to get the funding needed for the journey. Never give up.

You will encounter supporters and detractors along your journey. Embrace the supporters and ask them to help engage and win over the detractors.

Having the right vessel, as well as the right people on board, will make all the difference.

Just because you reached a destination doesn't mean you've arrived. Because you need to...

Know where you're going. It was Columbus' goal to find a route from Europe to Asia; instead, he bumped into the New World.

Uncharted waters are tricky. Good navigation skills are needed.

Have a good plan, though a map would be nice, too.

Identify and communicate your goals; define your desired outcomes.

You won't always get things right on the first try or the first time.

The people on the journey with you are as important as the ones you encounter along the way.

People-centric leadership far outweighs the alternative. How does the saying go? You'll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

In times of uncertainty, being honest and transparent and communicating openly will help to keep the crew calm. Columbus' crew had never been at sea for so long, and concerns mounted as to whether they'd reach their destination and then be able to sail home again. What did Columbus do? He lied to them about how far they'd gone so they would never really know how far from home they were.

When the journey seems long and unending and people start to question whether it's worth it, remind them of your purpose and the reward. Columbus promised his crew riches and reminded them that they've gone too far to turn back.

Create a sense of community among your own people, encouraging a culture of working together, to stem the tide of in-fighting and other distractions that cause you to take your eye off the ball.

Under-promise and over-deliver. Columbus promised gold and riches to the Spanish monarchy, but he was never able to deliver; this ultimately led to his downfall.

Create a good story that will outlive you. What will your legacy be?

Now that you've read the list thinking about Christopher Columbus, read it again through the customer experience lens. How will you apply these to make a difference within your organization? How is your CX Journey going?

By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination. -Christopher Columbus

Sources: All About Christopher Columbus, Christopher Columbus | Biography, Wikipedia

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Customer Service or Customer Experience?

Image courtesy of Valerie Everett
Customer service or customer experience? Are they the same thing?

There's been a lot of talk about whether marketing and customer experience are one and the same or if they replace each other - you know, "Customer experience is the new marketing." Well, I have a bone to pick with that one, but this post is about yet another debate - one that I've written about before, and one that we should continue to define and discuss: the difference between customer service and customer experience.

Since this is Customer Service Week 2013, I thought it would be a great time to bring up this topic again and to shout from the rooftops: "Customer service and customer experience are not one and the same!"

When I wrote about this topic before, it was because I was flabbergasted by how many job listings claimed the title of Customer Experience This or Customer Experience That. Ironically, the postings were really sales positions or call center/customer service jobs. And sadly, many of the job descriptions never even mentioned the customer! How can that be?

Yes, customer service is a role (e.g., customer service rep), and it is a discipline (i.e., it's everyone's job to deliver great service). And customer experience is a role (e.g., VP of Customer Experience) and a discipline (i.e., it's everyone's job to ensure the customer has a great experience).

So why can't sales or customer service roles hold Customer Experience titles? Let me elaborate by starting with some definitions.

What is customer experience? In its simplest definition, it is (a) the sum of all the interactions that a customer has with a company over the course of the relationship lifecycle and (b) the customer's feelings, emotions, and perceptions of the brand over the course of those interactions.

Customer service? It's just one of those interactions or a type of interaction.

Another way to look at it: customer experience is what the customer feels; customer service is what the company does (for the customer).

Still not convinced? How else can you tell the difference?

Map the customer journey - from the customer's perspective - and plot all the ways in which the customer touches or interacts with your organization. Yea, the touchpoints. They are parts of the experience - a point in time - but they are not the sum total experience.

Customer service starts where customer experience fails. -Chris Zane

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Turtles and Frontline Leadership

Image courtesy of Gexydaf
As we move through Customer Service Week 2013, what are you doing to help your employees deliver the best customer service possible?

I recently read an article by Holly Regan of Software Advice in which she introduced a concept that Chris DeRose and Noel Tichy wrote about in their book, Judgment on the Front Line: How Smart Companies Win by Trusting Their People: the judgment playing field.

As Holly notes in her article, this refers to employees having the...

"freedom to make decisions - within safe boundaries. ... Senior management must specifically define where front-line employees are and aren’t allowed to deviate from established rules and processes - and then must give them the flexibility to experiment with new ways for serving customers."

For this to work, it requires:

(a) people-centric leadership that is frontline-focused, willing to build trust relationships with employees, and willing to allow employees to use their best judgment,  and

(b) frontline employees that are trustworthy, have/use common sense, have a great attitude, can work autonomously, and are able to exercise good judgment.

Let's hone in on frontline focus. Your frontline employees are the face of the brand; they deliver the first, the last, and the lasting impressions. They are also a rich source of information for the company, as they carry a wealth of feedback and other information from and about customers that can help the company create better products, services, and experiences.

How do we enable frontline employees to do what's right and to act in the best interest of the customer? How do we prepare them to more easily exercise good judgment? DeRose and Tichy have a five-step process to help you do this:

1. Connect the frontline to the customer strategy.
2. Empower them to think for themselves.
3. Allow employees to experiment with new says to solve customer problems.
4. Eliminate the barriers, remove bad policies and processes, and create a culture of customers first/employees more first.
5. Invest in the frontline; hire right, onboard thoroughly, and train on an ongoing basis.

I love this example that DeRose and Tichy give to illustrate the concept:

A store manager at a big-box retailer in San Diego gave us a lesson on this. He noted that turtle owners in apartments often under-nourish their pets and keep them in small aquariums to stunt their growth. Intrigued, we naturally asked, what do turtles have to do with frontline leadership? He told us that most places where he had worked had boxed him in with rules, procedures, and administrative work that stunted employees’ development and their potential contribution.

So I challenge you to think about your organization. Are your leaders frontline focused? Are there rules and policies that stifle the frontline's ability to deliver the best service? Do your employees work from scripts or within simple guidelines? How are you empowering them? Do you invest in the growth and development of your employees? Or are you treating them like these miniature turtles?

There are two kinds of people: the ones who need to be told and the ones who figure it out all by themselves. -Tom Clancy

Friday, October 4, 2013

VOC: Shifting from Asking to Listening

Image courtesy of brittreints
What is your VOC approach? Are you listening to customers, or still/only asking?

As part of the CX Day celebration earlier this week, I moderated two Google Hangouts, one for Australia and one for the Pacific Time Zone. In the former, we discussed the state of customer experience in Australia, while in the latter, our topic was the shift in VOC efforts, from asking to listening.

What do I mean by that? Traditionally, VOC (voice of the customer) has been captured by surveys or some other form of structured feedback, initiated by the company, i.e., the ask. As the approach to VOC (and tools and technology for both companies and customers) has evolved, listening has become a large part of the program; it means that the customer provides feedback on his terms, in his preferred mode, typically initiated by him in response to some stimulus or interaction. Listening includes social media (Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.), customer immersion, customer advisory councils (could also be a type of ask), voice of the customer through the employee (sales, customer service, etc.), CRM data, and more.

Prior to CX Day, John Cass interviewed Hangout participants to get some insights into our topics of conversation. When he asked my panel, including Yvonne Nomizu and Lynn Hunsaker, about our topic, I was also given the opportunity to weigh in. I told John:

When companies listen instead of ask, the customer is in the VOC driver seat. Customers provide feedback on their terms, when, where, and how they prefer, e.g., social media, review sites, discussions with employees. This adds a social element – it’s no longer just between the customer and the keyboard or the customer and the interviewer – and doesn’t allow companies to shove feedback in a binder somewhere, never to be seen again. On the contrary, it forces companies to pay attention, though I realize many still don’t. Asking for feedback is like lobbing a question over the net, while listening is more like volleying. Asking puts the onus on the customer; listening puts the onus on the company.

Here's the video of the Google Hangout on this topic; watch it (it's only about 20 minutes long) to get Lynn's and Yvonne's perspectives on this topic.

 Is it OK to do just one or the other? Do they work together? They sure do work together! Lynn suggests that we "augment our listening by asking very effective questions that delve into the clarification of your assumptions."

Yvonne suggests that asking still has its place. Surveys can size or quantify the voice. Listening adds the depth, i.e., what they want, how they interact, etc., which provides the opportunity to innovate. Asking also adds context, whereas social media doesn't always provide the context around why they are saying what they are saying. Lynn added that having that context allows you to segment customers in a meaningful way

It's confirmed. Surveys are not a dying breed, as many would suggest. Surveys are here to stay.

A happy customer tells a friend; an unhappy customer tells the world. -Unknown