Friday, October 28, 2016

Do What You Can for Customers with What You Have

A word map of how to generate customer loyalty

Running a successful business requires focusing on what matters most.  Revamping your customer service delivery process may not be the top priority this year when you consider other critical choices for investment. But that does not mean that you neglect the importance of doing the best for your customers with what you have. Your customer service strategy for this year may be more around practical adjustments than a complete overhaul. 

Here is our customer service strategy advice on doing what you can for your customers with what you have:
  • Make the most of current resources
    Chances are you collect data on your customers. Now is the time to do something with that data. For instance, if a customer has visited your website to download a whitepaper, follow up to see how useful the paper was and include more information on a similar subject. Or, if a customer called to ask about service on a product, reach out to learn if they were satisfied and if there is anything more you can do for them.  

  • Keep better customer records
    Customers like to be recognized when they call. Make sure your reps have a way to link quickly into a customer’s history so, if passed on to another rep at your company, the customer’s history goes along with the call. 

  • Convince customer service reps of the critical role they play in building customer loyalty
    Work with your reps so they understand that they are the forward face of the company. When they can genuinely project a helpful, interested attitude, the customer feels heard and appreciated.  

  • Empower your service reps to solve customer problems
    One way to have your customer service reps step up to have higher levels of client engagement is to give them more options for solutions. Encourage them to listen closely for customer needs and be creative in trying to satisfy them. Can they offer free next-day delivery instead of the standard 5 business days? Can they authorize a discount on the next product they buy? Can they send a small thank-you gift for a continuing customer?

There are lots of ways to effectively serve your customers even when there is little budget to do so.

Download Whitepaper - How Serious Are You About a Customer-Centric Culture?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Does Your Customer Service Strategy Aim for Excellence?

2 handheld screens for assessments: one checks "excellent" and the other "poor"

Be honest with yourself. Does your customer service strategy aim to deliver just the basics or do you aim to truly delight your customers with every interaction?

We all have experiences as customers that leave us somewhat dissatisfied. A good friend recently went with their family to a seacoast resort to celebrate an anniversary milestone. The house was gorgeously situated on a bluff with a view from every window over the surf. The meal they had catered was delicious and hearty, perfect for their bunch of hungry but non-gourmet kids. The photographer was quick and pleasant…also perfect for kids who were eager to get back to playing. The celebration was a complete and utter success except for one thing. The house was very poorly stocked in terms of garbage bags, dishwasher soap, dish towels, cleaning supplies, and even toilet paper. In fact, they had to make a special half-hour trip into town to get what they needed…twice. Sure, this was not a disastrous situation but certainly an annoying one.

Okay, so when they returned, they called management to give them feedback. 

How do you think management replied? 

Poor: They got the runaround. They claimed it shouldn’t have happened. The cleaning service must have grabbed the wrong bag. They’ll talk to them. No apology.

How could they have replied?

Average: An apology, a promise to review the procedure so it won’t happen to the next guest, and a question as to what they might do to satisfy my friend at this point.

Good: The above with a handwritten letter and maybe a package of some of the “missing” items to be used at their home or at the next visit. Sincere regret with a dash of humor. 

Excellent: All of the above with the promise of free cleaning service the next time they book with them. 

Which response do you think will transform my client friend into a loyal customer…one who will talk about their experience in glowing terms?

When you are designing your customer service strategy, help your customer service reps understand the different levels of service and give them the latitude to deliver “excellent” every time. Build in them the attitude that no customer problem is unimportant or unfixable. That’s the way to grow your customer base, secure their loyalty, and ensure your “brand” is lived and enhanced with every customer interaction.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

3 Steps to Significantly Reduce Customer Churn

a man is running away from a giant hand that is reaching for him

Customer service strategy experts used to be okay with wooing customers until the time of purchase and then leaving them to fend for themselves. That customer service strategy is no longer sufficient. 

In this age of technology where customers have access to unlimited opportunities to search for and evaluate competitive offers, you don’t want to let your customers wander. You need to keep them loyal to your company and brand. 

How? With consistently superior customer service.

Of course new customer acquisition has to be part of any growth strategy. But we know that it can cost 4 to 10 times more to pull in new customers than it does to retain and grow current ones. Your customer service strategy has to work toward client retention as well as new client acquisition. Smart companies who recognize this are being proactive at reducing “churn”—the term for customer changeover. 

Here is what leading customer service and contact centers are doing:

  1. Analyzing what customers value in their service.
    We know what they don’t like…long wait times, rude service reps, and promises made but not kept. But do you know what they do like and what would cause them to stay? Assemble the data and study it to learn why they stay and why they leave. 

  2. Investing in improving service delivery.
    Use the data from your customer research to inform the critical few changes that need to be made in the service end of your customer retention strategy. service reps may need training in communication skills to improve their interactions over the phone; you may need to give them more latitude in solving problems; you may need to hire more reps to shorten wait times; you may need to put a system in place that will reward the behaviors you know will keep your customers satisfied; you may need, in fact, to overhaul the whole process.

  3. Prioritizing the issues.
    But, you say, this all costs money! It does. However, so does fixing mistakes and losing customers. We advise you address the most egregious reasons customers leave you. Focus on what customers find most annoying, on the kind of treatment that drives them elsewhere. 

Make sure that your customer service strategy attacks one problem at a time—get your customer service to a point where the churn is reduced, your reps are happier and, most important, so are your customers. 



Saturday, June 25, 2016

3 Customer Service Strategies to Build Long-Term Loyalty

there are three chalk-drawn door choices, 1, 2, and 3

The big customer service strategy question a client asked their team last week—do you know why some customers leave and why come customers stay? 

Unfortunately, her team did not have the definitive answers required as valuable input for their customer service strategy. Instead, they had to make calculated guesses, monitor the results and adjust along the way. They decided to look at the feedback they had, think about what they sell and to whom, consider their track record with past and current customers, and begin a process to elicit more revealing answers regarding customer growth, attrition and loyalty.

If you and your customer service team are in a similar situation, you can follow these three guidelines that have worked for our clients who seek to build their long-term customer base:

  1. Show that you truly care.Research shows that nearly three-quarters of those customers who left a business did so, not because of a bad product or service but because of a bad customer experience. Customers that stay have an emotional connection to the company. They feel they are respected, treated as an individual, and appreciated for their loyalty. They value the ease with which they can reach you and trust that you have their best interests at heart.

  2. Be understanding and creative as you try to resolve a customer’s issue.Listen well, check for understanding and be sincere in your desire to help. A company’s customer service strategy and culture should give you the necessary authority and support you need as a customer service rep to handle almost any situation in order to reach a satisfactory conclusion from your customer’s point of view.

  3. Follow through on your promised solution.This is the old “do what you say you will do.” You will quickly lose a customer’s trust and loyalty if you do not deliver on your promise. Don’t just talk about a fix…do it and check to see that the customer is satisfied with the resolution.

Customers will stay with you if they believe through your words and your actions that you value their business and care about delivering the top-notch service you promised and they deserve.

Learn more at: http://www.lsaglobal.com/customer-service-strategy/

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Why So Many Customer Rewards Strategies Fail

One colorfully wrapped gift is on one side of the seesaw, on the other side is a dull looking gift

Which of the gifts above would be more tempting?   Most say the colorfully wrapped, close-at-hand, easy to grab one, of course. 

In comparison the other gift looks simply “blah;” it’s old and it’s tired and it’s not readily accessible. Similarly, that’s what is wrong with many customer loyalty programs today…there are too many that are similar, they are not at all temptingly packaged and they are often too difficult to use. Does this sound like your customer reward system? If so, it’s time to change up your customer service strategy so your rewards truly benefit you and your customers.

I used to frequent a drug store that was convenient because it was close by. The pharmacy was well-stocked and well-run. But I soon became disenchanted with what was billed as customer discounts and customer savings. They were never applicable to the products I needed when I needed them. They required special cards which were often “in the other wallet.” They came on extra-long paper receipts with details on limits of timing and products that were hard to read. In other words, this so-called rewards program backfired. It became such an annoyance that I took my drug store business elsewhere. 

What are the characteristics of rewards programs that work? Here are a two that you should consider as part of your customer service strategy:

  • They stand out from the crowd.So many services offer points and, at first, it worked. Credit cards, airlines, retailers, vacation rentals, hotels. But soon the field got overloaded. It was difficult for customers to keep track of the points they had earned and to cash them in before the points expired. Rather than differentiate a business, the rewards system was just more of the same. 
    What you need to do is to find a reward that actually benefits the customer in an innovative way…like the Nordstrom program that keeps a record of such information as their customers’ size and color preferences. These records can be easily accessed to save time as customers use the Nordstrom personal shopper service. And if they use the store-branded card, they are automatically mailed a $20 certificate when their purchases reach a certain level. The shopping experience is improved and cashing in is made easy.
  • They provide true value to the customer.Too many reward systems are designed to benefit the business, not the customer. Find out what would really excite your customers and you will find the key to their loyalty. Consider the hotel chain that recognized their customers were suffering from “point’s fatigue.” They looked for authentic, memorable, local experiences that would enhance their customers’ stay. They offer experiences “from visits to local markets, followed by personalized cooking lessons in the native cuisine to behind-the-scenes tours of museums.”

Loyalty programs are a good way for companies to encourage a target customer’s repeat business and to live your brand promise. But to be an effective arm of your customer service strategy, differentiate your program from others and see that it brings real value to your target customers. 

Learn more at: http://www.lsaglobal.com/customer-service-strategy/


Saturday, April 30, 2016

How to Delight Customers Through Extraordinary Service


5 people with enthusiastic thumbs up

What company wouldn’t love to get a thumbs-up customer loyalty rating along with these delighted smiles? Most would pay dearly for such a solid satisfied response from their target customers. But these positive reactions cannot be bought. They have to be earned. 

How do you gain such customer admiration and recognition? Through extraordinary service that translates into word-of-mouth advertising. The better the experience, the more likely customers are apt to talk about it online and offline with friends, family and colleagues. Of course, the same is true of negative experiences. The worse the service, the more likely your company or your brand will get a black eye and the ugly story will be repeated over and over.

Consider a few examples of extraordinary customer service that we found on the web:

  • Trader Joe’s received a call from the daughter of an 89-year-old man who lived in Pennsylvania. She was trying to find a store that would deliver food to him so he would be able to have meals on hand during a predicted storm. No store provided such a service. Neither does Trader Joe’s…as a rule. But when they heard about the situation, they overrode their usual policy. Within half an hour, the food was delivered…free of charge.
  • The former B. Dalton bookstore had a customer who wanted a particular book for her son for Christmas. The customer service person checked in back but found none even though it showed on the computer as “in stock.” To satisfy the customer, the rep actually called their competition (Borders) to locate the requested book. With directions to the store printed out by the B. Dalton clerk, the customer went to Borders for the book. It was in her name, ready at the front desk. Her gratitude for the successful purchase went to B. Dalton even though they lost the sale.
  • Personally, I recently received great customer service from the company where we purchased our Hot Tub.  Basically a few strange things happened and the company replaced our two-year-old $600 hot tub cover at no charge with little hassle.  They even removed our old cover for free Thank you Darby at Paradise Valley Spas.
Stories like these are apt to end up on the evening news and create customers for life. They are the happy-ending stories people love to hear about. And if not on the news, they get exposure on the internet. This is great when the reports are complimentary. But what happens with negative experiences. Here are a few examples we found on the web that turn the hair of customer service managers white overnight:
  • A Comcast customer tried politely to cancel his cable service. The service rep refused to do so and spent the next 8 minutes insisting that Comcast was the best provider in the country.  Eventually the customer was successful but did some research and discovered a report that indicated Comcast seemed to encourage this behavior with its crew of “retention specialists” whose pay depended upon how many customers they can, or cannot, save.
  • An upscale guest house in New York actually tried to set up a policy to squelch any negative reviews on Yelp. Their web site stated that guests booking for wedding parties would be fined $500 per negative review. Imagine the reviews they got when this hit the fan!
  • On a personal level, our teenage son recently had a fender-bender in our car.  The service, support and help we received from State Farm, our insurance Broker for 32 years, was frustrating and inadequate.  We are now looking to change.  Boo State Farm!

The point? Make sure your customer service strategy takes into account the power of customer stories.   A 5% increase in customer loyalty can boost profits by as much as 25% to 85%.

Give your service staff the clear message that happy customers are good for business and give your staff the authority to come up with solutions that delight. Otherwise, reps will be guided by their own understanding of your policy. At Comcast and at the New York inn, this had disastrous consequences.

Learn more at: http://www.lsaglobal.com/customer-service-strategy/

Friday, March 18, 2016

How Service Pros Best Handle Bad Customers

A box labeled "Fragile, Handle with Care"

Did we really say in the title that customers could be “bad”? Isn’t this the era where the customer rules supreme, and all our efforts are directed toward delighting them? 

Organizations brag about being customer-centric. So do we! To us it means focusing on what the customer needs and finding creative, fair and reasonable ways to provide a solution. We look to build long-term, mutually beneficial, well-balanced partnerships with our customers. Sometimes we run across a customer that has no such goal in mind. This kind of customer needs a closer look. Sometimes it is in both our best interests to part ways.

In building a customer service strategy it makes sense to create your ideal customer profile as well as your worst customer profile. This holds true whether you are an organization with a contact center to support consumer products or an organization selling more complex, B-to-B solutions.

For us in the consulting and training industry, our ideal customer is one who has a problem or goal, wants to solve or achieve it, has the resources to make it happen and values our specific expertise and approach. Our worst customers are those who do not believe in their people and are not willing to invest in building the high performance environment required for them to succeed. They do not look at long-term change, only short-term Band-Aids. They are not interested in true improvement, only checking off the box. There are times when we, as a team, have decided that this kind of customer is not worth our time and energy. They will never be satisfied. And they do not align with our brand promise.  We are much better off spending time with customers who appreciate our philosophy and have values similar to ours.

In the contact center, we believe “bad” customers are the ones who waste time and turn abusive and threatening. Customer service reps need guidance on how to effectively handle these customers. They may be well trained on serving customers who have legitimate questions or complaints. But they may not know how to deal with customers who don’t follow the “rules” of customer behavior. Help them understand what they can and cannot do. In general they should:

Not respond in kind or lower themselves to the customer’s level of poor behavior
Remain professional, polite and calm. 
Not cave in to unreasonable demands. 
Be empathetic and understanding of the customer’s situation.
Try to help them in a way that aligns with your customer service strategy and brand promise.

There may come a time in the exchange when the customer service rep should retreat with an apology for not coming to an agreement. Remember, there are other customers waiting in line who deserve their attention and support.