Wednesday, May 16, 2018

7 Customer Experience Strategies You Can Hack from Amazon

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Today I'm pleased to present a guest post by Jason Grills with ProProfs.

Ever since 1994, Amazon has been spreading its impact and dictating trends in the e-commerce industry. If you’ve ever used its services, you’ve probably had the chance to directly witness one of the crucial reasons for its success.

What makes Amazon a market leader with constantly-increasing revenue is the relationship that this company builds with every single customer. According to Statista, 67% of US Amazon customers were very satisfied and 28% rather satisfied with the customer support provided by Amazon as of March 2017.

So, if you’re interested in building a customer experience that will keep your customers coming back, it’s beyond convenient to adopt the extraordinary customer experience practices developed by Amazon. This is the reason I'm revealing some of the most important hacks for creating a superior customer experience in this article. Read on and find out more!

Hack #1: Customer Experience is a Reflection of Employee Experience
In other words, if you can’t keep your employees happy, they won’t be interested in keeping your customers happy. This is especially important to recognize when it comes to the employees in customer support, such as live chat agents, call center operators, etc.

According to Glassdoor, 74% of employees would recommend Amazon to a friend, which is definitely an important factor to consider. And this is not a surprise if we consider the fact that Amazon Career Choice program invests up to $12,000 in the employees’ education and certification.
Keeping these facts in mind, it’s obvious that Amazon employees are highly motivated to provide the best possible results and keep the customers happy. So think about the ways to make your employees happy and ensure they are well-trained for interacting with your customers. Your customers will definitely appreciate it.

Hack #2: Forget about Competition
Unless you’re trying to copy their good practices when it comes to the treatment of employees and customers, stop overthinking your competition. Once you realize you’re not in the game to compete with another brand but to make the ones who rely on you as happy as you can, you’ll be able to provide a better customer experience.

As Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, has stated for US News, if you focus on your competition, you’ll always be waiting for them to do something that you should react to. And that behavior reflects a passive approach that you should avoid. On the other hand, if you focus on your customers’ needs, you’ll always be working on new ways to keep them content and loyal. Practically, you’ll be the one to innovate and dictate new trends.

Hack #3: Help Your Customers Help Themselves
Taking up every query can be a hectic task for your support agents. And this can be due to various reasons.
  • There are days when too many customer queries flow in at once. Therefore, it can be tiresome for them. Plus, there may be questions that are frequently asked by visitors. To cater to customer needs and to ensure that agents are able to deliver answers instantly through a live chat support system, it is essential to create FAQs that fill the need for instant answers efficiently.
  • A shortage of customer support agents can also put a lot of pressure on the existing team. There could be scenarios where the entire team is not present. Although the other members do take the charge for a chat, it still puts them in a spot to perform well and provide every customer a delightful experience. But this can be resolved if a knowledge base is integrated into the process.
With knowledge base integration, you not only help your customers get instant answers but also achieve the following benefits. You'll create...
  • a more-efficient live chat support system, since agents will only deal with issues that cannot be solved among fellow customers;
  • a collaborative customer community that will strengthen their mutual bond, and, therefore, the bond with your brand by creating that sense of community and facilitating their interactions; and
  • an interactive, publicly-accessible knowledge base (a forum, a discussion board, or a group) that you can save and promote to help future customers find information easily, as well.
Hack #4: Provide a Responsive Help Center
The key advantage of great customer support is a well-developed help center that allows customers to look for the information they need. By introducing a help center that’s well designed and meaningfully organized, you will:
  • save your customers’ time, and 
  • increase the efficiency of the agents working in your live chat customer support by eliminating interactions when there’s no need for them.
If you’ve ever visited Amazon’s Help, you’ve probably realized that it’s got a large number of topics and subtopics with numerous articles offering concise information; however, even though the content is what matters the most, the minimalist layout that keeps you focused on finding the answers to your questions is equally important. And that’s definitely the way to go if you want to improve your customer experience.

Hack #5: Provide Easily Accessible and High-Quality Live Support
Not only is it important for you to provide a thorough help center, it's also necessary to make it easy for customers to get in touch with your support staff. At Amazon, customers are rarely put on hold, no matter whether they’re contacting the representatives using live chat or by phone.

Apart from providing a quick response, what makes Amazon the first-ranked company when it comes to customer satisfaction is the fact that they invest a lot in the employees’ education in the field of CX. According to Jeff Bezos, call-center training is an obligatory part of annual training not only for support staff but for all employees at Amazon, including managers. This way, the risks of delivering poor customer service are reduced, and managers are indoctrinated into the mindset of not only listening to but also understanding their customers.

Hack 6: Take Good Care of Your Customers
Regarding taking care of customers, I'm not only talking about responsiveness and 24/7 availability but also about providing the best purchase experience. So what did folks at Amazon do to deliver a great purchase experience? They implemented the innovative "One Click" solution that enables an incredibly fast purchase.

Amazon realizes that the idea of storing customers’ data to save time when making another purchase isn’t the best option for all of their customers. They understand that some of their customers prefer a traditional shopping basket purchase, particularly when it comes to multiple-item purchases. Accordingly, they’ve continued nurturing both shopping options, letting customers choose the shopping approaching they’re more comfortable with.

Hack 7: Use Abandonment to Your Advantage
Cart abandonment is a common issue that keeps e-commerce retailers preoccupied. Amazon takes a different approach; knowing that an abandoned purchase doesn’t always mean that customers don’t need a certain product anymore, Amazon has developed a well-planned system of subtle email reminders for each abandoned purchase. They help customers get back to the site in case they just got distracted during the process and still need to make the purchase. This way, Amazon gets the most out of "sales in process," which is a great way of improving business results.

Accordingly, if you want your customers to finish a purchase, make sure to get in touch with them and check if they need any help. You may be surprised by the number of customers willing to buy something even after they’ve abandoned your site.

How to Create a Business Strategy Inspired by Amazon
As you can see from these hacks, Amazon has developed a business model that clearly focuses on customers and the customer experience. To create a business environment where your customers will feel comfortable and appreciated, you must:
  • keep your employees motivated to provide better results and make a stronger connection with your customers;
  • stop thinking about your competition’s next move and start providing superior service by actively listening to your customers’ needs and demands; and
  • provide high-quality support based on the use of live chat customer support, a well-structured help center, and a community of/for your customers.
Finally, deliver a personalized and proactive experience; for example, find ways to address the customers who abandon the purchase process before they buy a product. Not only will they appreciate your willingness to help them out if they get confused during the purchase, but they’ll also become aware that you pay attention to their needs, which can only make them more satisfied and loyal.

Jason Grills is a Sr. Technical Writer with ProProfs. He enjoys writing about emerging customer support products, trends in the customer support industry, and the financial impact of using such tools. In his spare time, Jason likes traveling extensively to learn about new cultures and traditions.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

On Which Does Your Company Focus: Customer Acquisition or Retention

Image courtesy of Quadient
Where does your company put a greater focus, on acquiring new customers or on retaining existing customers?

It seems there ought to be a balance, or a shift in balance, no?

The old debate stands: should companies focus on customer acquisition over retention? Despite the fact that the cost of bringing in new customers is much higher than the cost to keep existing customers, companies place a disproportionate focus on marketing and advertising in order to attract new customers. In doing so, they create what’s called “the leaky bucket syndrome,” i.e., as fast as companies are bringing new customers in the front door, existing customers are running out the back door. Should companies plug the leak or keep filling the bucket?
The debate about where brands should focus their energies and currencies is strong. Despite the statistic that acquiring new customers costs 5-25 times as much as retaining existing ones, marketers (and, generally, their CEOs, as well) believe that resources should be spent on acquiring new customers. Why? Well, I wrote a whitepaper for Quadient recently to more deeply explore this conundrum. I'd be honored if you would download the whitepaper, read it, and give me your thoughts.

Here's my bottom line on this dilemma: Both acquisition and retention will always be important. Companies need to work on both. Without acquiring new customers, there will be no customers to retain. Without retaining existing customers, companies will suffer through the leaky bucket syndrome, and acquisition costs will be outrageous. So there needs to be a better balance between both, along with a strategy for how to do just that.

Make a customer, not a sale. -Katherine Barchetti

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

CX Journey™ Musings: A Lesson in Living Your Core Values

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Have you seen Jeff Bezos' annual shareholder letter for 2018?

Within the last few weeks, Bezos released his 20th annual shareholder letter. Each year the letter is filled with strategy lessons about customer experience, employee experience, leadership, innovation, and culture. And I love how he always attaches his very first shareholder letter to each year's letter. (Because it's always Day One at Amazon.) It's been great to follow and to see the evolution, maturity, and growth in him, his thinking, and the business.

Bezos writes in a style and a tone that is likable and relatable - not in corporate speak but in human terms, words we use every day. That alone wins him major points!

There seemed to be an even stronger obsession for all things employee and customer (if that's possible) than in the past, and I felt that he was really trying to convey a powerful message to teach others about how to do business right. Retailers are already on red alert - as more and more shut down - but there's a lot to be learned from Amazon. Retailers - and other businesses alike - can survive and grow in today's environment, if they have a similar obsession.

While I understand that not everyone has an amazing experience with Amazon, my own personal experience has always been that when it's wrong, they make it right. No business is perfect, but I would imagine that any other company that gets it right 98% of the time would be pretty pleased. And so would their customers.

As I read this year's letter, I thought it was heartfelt and had a slightly different approach from previous letters. It became apparent to me a couple paragraphs in that it was written through the lens of Amazon's core values, or leadership principles as they are now referred to.

As you read the letter, think about their 14 leadership principles, quoted here from their site:

Customer obsession
Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.

Ownership
Leaders are owners. They think long term and don't sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say "that's not my job."

Invent and simplify
Leaders expect and require innovation and invention from their teams and always find ways to simplify. They are externally aware, look for new ideas from everywhere, and are not limited by "not invented here." As we do new things, we accept that we may be misunderstood for long periods of time.

Are right, a lot
Leaders are right a lot. They have strong business judgment and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.

Learn and be curious
Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.

Hire and develop the best
Leaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent, and willingly move them throughout the organization. Leaders develop leaders and take seriously their role in coaching others. We work on behalf of our people to invent mechanisms for development like Career Choice.

Insist on the highest standards (this was a major focus of the letter)

Leaders have relentlessly high standards—many people may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and driving their teams to deliver high-quality products, services, and processes. Leaders ensure that defects do not get sent down the line and that problems are fixed so they stay fixed.

Think big
Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and look around corners for ways to serve customers.

Bias for action
Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking.

Frugality
Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size, or fixed expense.

Earn trust
Leaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully. They are vocally self-critical, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing. Leaders do not believe their or their team’s body odor smells of perfume. They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.

Dive deep
Leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are skeptical when metrics and anecdote differ. No task is beneath them.

Have backbone, disagree and commit
Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.

Deliver results
Leaders focus on the key inputs for their business and deliver them with the right quality and in a timely fashion. Despite setbacks, they rise to the occasion and never settle.

This year's letter is a lesson both in leadership and in living your core values. The two go hand in hand, without a doubt. Executives aren't exempt from living the core values, and Jeff Bezos is no exception. As a matter of fact, he's the cheerleader!

Culture = values plus behavior. The way executives communicate with their employees, their customers, and their shareholders is a reflection of the core values, and hence, of the culture.

How do your executives communicate? Is it through a lens of the company's core values?

The CEO is not in charge of the company; the values are. If, at the end of our careers, we have not passed along positive values, we have abdicated our leadership role. -Dave Logan