Category Archives: CUSTOMER SERVICE

Six Keys to Creating Wow Customer Service Experiences

Six Keys to Creating Wow Customer Service Experiences

Customers of every kind of business imaginable these days bemoan the state of customer service. While the global economy and the Internet have given businesses the opportunity to serve more clients than ever before, the trend has also given way to impersonal, lackluster customer service. It’s unfortunate that most businesses today don’t realize that they are regularly losing valuable customers if they don’t focus on providing an exceptional customer service experience.

In most businesses, once a customer begins dealing with the customer service department, he or she is already in a negative mindset. The best customer service representatives aren’t those that simply neutralize the problem. Outstanding customer service representatives take a negative and turn it into a positive that ensures the customer is not only happy, but is convinced he or she has had an outstanding experience – the Wow Factor – that he would not have gotten with any other company.

The key ingredients of the Wow experience are:

o Seamless Service

o Trustworthy Service

o Attentiveness

o Resourcefulness

o Courtesy

o Pro-active Service

Seamless Service means providing everything the customer needs, not just what is required to meet the minimum standards. It’s about making sure that they don’t have to wait and wonder. Customers will appreciate a smooth, seamless process for addressing their needs. If there are several steps needed to take care of their concerns, keep them in the loop – update them by email or with a quick phone call so that they know you are working on the situation and progress is being made. By keeping them abreast of what is going on, you are letting them know you haven’t forgotten about them and that you understand their concerns – reassurance and communication are powerful customer service tools.

Trustworthy Service is essential to retaining customers. Promising a customer anything and delivering nothing is the surest way to not only lose a customer, but get the kind of “word of mouth” bad press that can ruin you. Under promise and over deliver – If you promise a satisfactory solution and then go the extra mile to not only satisfy the customer, but gain their appreciation and “Wow” them, you will get word of mouth that will bring new customers to you.

Attentive Service means paying attention during and after the initial contact. How many times have you contacted customer service and been subjected to an obviously scripted response from the customer service representative? Does it give you the feeling they aren’t really listening, but just trying to get to the end of their canned presentation?

Attentiveness should run through every customer service experience, from listening carefully to the customer’s concerns to following up after the exchange is over to make sure their needs have been met. Listening isn’t just about hearing – it is about understanding what is really being said. The words are just the beginning -what about the customer’s tone of voice? Her mood? Is she disappointed, angry or frustrated? Keying in to the customer’s mood and responding appropriately is essential, and it means not following a script.

Resourcefulness means finding solutions when there appear to be none. Many companies have iron-clad policies that must be followed whenever a problem arises; however, sometimes a customer won’t be satisfied by the “company line” approach. Resourceful customer service representatives know that there is always a way to move beyond the standard procedures in order to make a customer happy. Resourcefulness involves finding a solution when a solution isn’t apparent. This may mean moving up the chain of command before the customer demands to talk to your superior. Companies with excellent customer service also give their representatives some leeway so that they can come up with creative solutions on their own. When a customer senses that you are going beyond the norm to help them, they will feel valued and respected.

Courtesy is a commodity that is becoming rarer every day. It takes so little to be polite but it is becoming a lost art. Say please when you ask a customer a question, thank them for their information and take your time talking to them. Nothing makes a customer feel more devalued than being treated like a number. Use the person’s name, make requests rather than demands and know when to apologize. When something goes wrong for a customer, they want to hear that you understand their frustration and that you are genuinely sorry that they are being inconvenienced. It takes nothing to say, “I’m so sorry you aren’t satisfied and I hope we can do something to correct this.”

Pro-Active Service means not waiting for the customer to come up with a solution that you simply follow through on. A pro-active customer service representative anticipates the needs of the customer and follows through. Don’t wait for the customer to ask you what you are willing to do – anticipate the question and answer it before they can ask. If they call and say they aren’t satisfied, apologize and immediately suggest some solutions. Customers want you to take the lead – acknowledge their unhappiness, offer a solution or solutions and explain to them how you are going to follow through. Pro-Active service means taking the lead, which will reassure your customers that you know what you are doing and that you will follow through.

If you keep these six keys in mind – seamless service, trustworthiness, attentiveness, resourcefulness ,courtesy and pro-active service – you will be able to offer every customer the Wow Customer Service Experience that inspires loyalty and keeps customers coming back for more.

How to Restore Customer Satisfaction after Customer Service Failure

How to Restore Customer Satisfaction after Customer Service Failure

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A customer service failure, simply defined, is customer service performance that fails to meet an individual’s expectations. Typically, when a service failure occurs, a customer will expect to be compensated for the inconvenience in the form of any combination of refunds, credits, discounts or apologies.

The success of such customer service recovery efforts is determined by the individual’s expectations and perceptions of the organization. Two key elements impact any effort to restore customer satisfaction: the strength of customer relationships and the severity of service failure.

Service failure: Service performance that fails to meet expectations

The strength of the customer relationship with the organization prior to a customer service failure has a buffering effect in the event of failure. Research suggests that customers who expect the relationship to continue actually have lower service recovery expectations, and in turn, are more satisfied with customer service performance after recovery.

While this may seem counterintuitive at first glance, consider the expectations of customers with a stronger relationship with the organization. A customer who does not have much commitment to the organization tends to be more transaction-focused and expects immediate service recovery when a particular transaction fails to meet expectations.

Conversely, a customer with strong commitment may demand less immediate compensations with the expectation that strong future interactions may correct the customer service failure over time. Such findings suggest that service providers not only have measures in place to identify the strength of customer relationships but also the ability to react to customer service failures.

The severity of the customer service failure moderates the relationship between customer satisfaction and commitment. Even with strong service recovery, research indicates that customers may still be upset, engage in negative word-of-mouth, and be less likely to develop trust with and commitment to the organization, if the original customer service failure was really bad.

In these cases, managers may need to do more to mend the strength of customer relationships and restore commitment. To identify such cases, service organizations need to track and identify occurrences of customer service failure as well as the severity of each.

The data available at the point of any customer service failure, most notably the information provided by the customer at the time of the complaint, should be viewed as critical marketing research data necessary not only for immediate service recovery but for improvement of future performance.

Remember, a customer service failure is defined as a failure to meet customer expectations and the success of any recovery effort is measured by each individual customer against his/her own expectations. Therefore, managers would be well served to conduct a post-recovery assessment of customer expectations and perceptions of recovery performance against those expectations.

Classic customer service failure: serving cold

The impact of service failure recovery on customer satisfaction can be easily illustrated with a familiar example. Consider the case of a restaurant patron complaining about his meal being served cold. In all likelihood, this is not a severe customer service failure if managed properly.

If the customer’s server fails to offer a sufficient apology and brings back a reheated meal after a 20-minute wait, a first-time customer may be immediately deterred and never return. If this is a long-time customer who has always received excellent service, he may or may not write this failure off, but either way will expect this sub-par service to be countered with excellent service in the future.

While you may expect the customer with a long history of having received excellent service to be more demanding in the case of such a failure, in reality the new customer has the higher expectations. His perceptions of the restaurant are impacted by only this one experience where customer service performance failed to meet his expectations. Without a formal apology from a supervisor, a refund, and perhaps a future credit, this new customer may allow this experience to so alter his expectations of customer service performance at this restaurant as to prevent him from returning.

The long-time customer has his expectations set by a long history of excellent dining experiences and may be easier to satisfy in the immediate wake of a customer service failure.
In either case, the restaurant manager must immediately begin to turn his focus on ensuring future service delivery levels and enhancing the strength of customer relationships with each of these patrons.

8 Strategies to Improve Customer Service

8 Strategies to Improve Customer Service

Every brand believes that its customer service is excellent. In reality, however, customer service across brands is mediocre. The experience is generally inconvenient, unpleasant, unsatisfactory, sometimes humiliating, and definitely expensive.

Good customer service is an integral part of business. It affects important brand and business objectives like customer satisfaction, loyalty, retention, repeat purchase, up selling and usage revenue. In light of these business implications, there is continuous pressure on brands to improve customers’ perceptions of their service.

Improving customer service should not be that difficult. It can happen if organizations reconsider certain business strategies. In my opinion, the following eight strategies are very important to improve customer service:

1) Incorporate in business planning: The quantum and nature of service requirements are dependent on the activities of many other functions. Organizations should incorporate customers’ service requirements into all aspects of business activities like product design, procurement, production, handling, pricing, communication, people, and culture. This would help organizations to prepare better for service eventualities and at the same time make customer service the responsibility of the entire organization.

2) Change attitude to service: Despite being a critical business activity, customer service function does not command the same respect that many other functions do. Many perceive it to be dirty, menial, and unpleasant. Service center appearances and resources are always far inferior, especially to that sales and marketing. If an organization treats the service function in this manner, customers are likely to get the same treatment from the service function.

Organization’s attitude to service is a reflection of its attitude to customers. Management has to go far beyond providing mere lip service if the rest of the organization has to respect customer service and customers.

3) Integrate with marketing: Customers are an important marketing resource. They are the most credible brand ambassadors, their word of mouth recommendation is far more effective than all other marketing activities put together. Given its importance to marketing, organizations should make marketing solely responsible for customer care and if necessary create a separate customer marketing function to protect, nurture, and leverage its core assets (customers) far more productively. Integrating it with core marketing will also remove the stigma associated with service.

4) Shed the profit center approach: Many organizations try to make a profit through customer service. In a profit center approach, revenue-generating activities like sales of maintenance contracts, spares, and expensive call charges become more important than the aforementioned business objectives. Selling at low margins is normally the reason for the profit center approach. Attempting to increase profit through service would anyway not work as customers expect service charges also to be low if the product purchase price was low. Expensive service charges would also force customers to choose cheaper third party service providers.

Brand and business objectives should be the only purpose of the customer service function. The collective value of these business measures, in near term and long term, would always be higher than the profits made from normal service activities. A profit center or cost center approach, disregarding business objectives, would be detrimental to the brand.

5) Adopt retention pricing: Product pricing should include the cost of acquisition and the cost of retention including the service cost. Discounting the service and retention cost to make the sale price attractive would only force the brand to recover the lost margin through subsequent transactions.

It is wrong to believe that customers do not deserve good service just because the sale price was low. Every customer, irrespective of the price that he pays, expects good service. The product price should therefore, have a sufficient margin to meet those expectations.

6) Manage expectations: Customers have explicit and implicit service expectations. Explicit expectations are formed basis the claims and promises made by the brand at the time of purchase. The brand has complete control over explicit expectations. Implicit expectations formed basis the customers’ perception of brand image, stature, reputation and the price premium they pay for a brand are far more difficult to gauge and manage.

Most often organizations measure only the explicit commitments. Failure to identify and measure implicit expectations is a big reason for the gap between its understanding of the quality of service rendered and customers’ perception of the service received. Customers’ perception of service will improve only when both these expectations met.

7) Recognize the role reversal: Brands make an emotional pitch to sell but provide service by the rulebook. Customers though, buy rationally but react emotionally to product and service failures. Recognizing this role reversal will help brands to appreciate the customer’s pain better and adopt an appropriate service response. Brands should remember that they are not dealing with failed products but with people’s emotions caused by failed products. An emotional approach to service, similar to the sales pitch, might work better than a rational response.

8) Focus on customers’ convenience; not yours: Most service facilities and procedures are not customer friendly. Service centers are far and few, the locations are remote, phone lines are always busy, the service center timings always conflict with customers’ work hours, and the waiting time at the service center is invariably long. Further, asking such aggrieved customers to fill lengthy forms, answer questions (often interrogatory and structured to make the customer feel that he or she is responsible for the problem), wait inordinately, listen to policies and rules is inconsiderate and humiliating.

These inconveniences dissuade customers from choosing company service. Removing such irritants, besides improving customer experience, would also encourage more customers to choose company service over third party service. Increase in service revenue because of more customers choosing company service should compensate for the increase in cost, if any, of providing service at customers’ convenience.

7 Best Tools for Providing First Rate Customer Service

7 Best Tools for Providing First Rate Customer Service

“People used what they called a telephone because they hated being close together and they were scared of being alone.” Chuck Palahniuk could be right and wrong! In the world of e-commerce, the telephone could be the single most important tool next to your car keys. An online merchant will not exist and survive in the cutthroat world of online business without key customer service tools. First and foremost, the phone! It’s true that people do not want to literally knock on the company’s door to ask for technical support when they’re having trouble. But they also do not want to be left hanging in the air not knowing who to contact when they need help. If you can provide this means of contact and more, your online business has crossed the line from zero profit to a treasure trove.

DIAL TOLL- FREE

Needless to say, if you can provide toll-free phone numbers for your customers to contact, it would be easier for them to gain confidence on you. The same goes for fax numbers which customers can use to send documents when they need to, such as checks and billing proofs. This is extremely important for you and your customers as it helps establish a quick, reliable way to communicate with the simplest tools.

USING VOIP AND IM

Some companies provide a way for customers to talk via voice-over internet protocol (VOIP). VOIP, for the uninitiated, connects people through the internet on a phone call basis without having to disconnect (if they are using dial-up). All they need to do is use a program similar to Skype. Most Instant Messenger programs allow VOIP calls but companies may buy an in-house program that is exclusive for their business transactions.

LIVE CHAT, ANYONE?

Although I would say live phone calls are more favorable than IM text messaging, live chat is also an excellent tool that helps customers easily reach you in real time. Most high risk merchant account owners such online casinos and adult websites offer live chat customer services to ensure that their clients get all the support they need.

AN AUTORESPONDER, DAY IN, DAY OUT

The e-mail is another great channel for customer service. If you’re a Mom ‘n Pop, brick and click store and have a small clientèle, providing business e-mail address to your customers is the next best thing to a phone number. You may be out on the holidays and will be back in a few days but still want customer queries coming. The best way to deal with this is to use an Autoresponder program. The Autoresponder is programmed into your server so that every time a customer sends an e-mail, a message such as “We will get back to you shortly” will be sent to her. This way the customer knows that she is taken cared of even though technically at the moment you are out sunning and drinking papaya shake in the Bahamas!

ONLINE SHOPPING CARTS

Perhaps the best way to complete the set of customer tools is to employ a highly efficient, user-friendly virtual shopping cart. A shopping cart works for low risk and high risk merchant business owners alike. The purpose of the online shopping cart is obvious enough: it allows customers to browse through your online store using their registered accounts, pick the services or products that they intend to buy, add them to the cart, and check out after they fulfilled the information it requires such as billing address, shipping method preferred, credit card details, and sender/receiver details.

FORUMS, PODCASTS & BLOGS

A company that has grown with a considerable customer base can take advantage of establishing a forum. Customers can use it to tackle problems, build rapport, or help each other in the community. This is the best way for online merchants (who may act as moderators) to know how else they can improve their products and customer service. They may also take advantage of creating product-oriented blogs. These blogs may be customized in order to be highly readable for the clients. Merchants can make use of newsletters, webcasts and podcasts to reach their customers when they release new promos and announcements.

In fact, there are a hundred and one ways to prove to your customers that they come first. Whether you are a low risk merchant affiliated to a local bank or a high risk merchant whose account is established offshore, there’s no shortage to happy ways you can serve and keep your customers who are, in the end, the bread and butter of your business!