April 23, 2014

Where is Sales Focused? Part 2

Part 1 of this blog post discussed the importance of focusing on existing customers to help weather the economic storm.  Today, we take a closer look at how your sales team is focused. 

I was inspired to write this by a post at Jim Kukral’s blog about how one bad salesperson can destroy your brand.  In a video post, Jim shares his sad story about a salesperson who didn’t seem to understand Jim’s need to shop around before committing for a big-ticket item (you’ll have to go over and watch the video to find out which store he dissed and which one he ended up buying from).  Here’s an idea of what Jim said:

“I don’t care what discounts or coupons they may have in the future. One employee, with one horrible sales tactic and personality destroyed their brand for me. That’s how easy it is to do.”

What is Sales Focused On?

Take a look at your sales force.  It may be a crew of sales people staffing a retail store.  It may be your channel partners working to incorporate your product or service into their offering.  It may just be one person and a phone.  Regardless of how your sales team looks, most likely they are focused on making sales, as they should be.  But what are they focused on when they are trying to make their numbers?

When I worked as director of marketing for HP in the UK and Ireland, we had several sales teams, each targetting different groups of enterprise (commercial) customers.  As marketing, we partnered closely with sales to help them understand the needs of the various customer groups and how they differed.  The most successful sales teams were those who used their understanding of those customer needs to change their sales approach to one that was totally focused on helping make it easier to do business with HP for that customer.

In Jim’s example of a salesperson that turned him off, the salesperson was more focused on pressuring Jim to get an immediate sale than he was on helping Jim meet his needs.  This self-focus, rather than customer-focus, drove Jim away, and the sale was made elsewhere.  I had a similar experience last summer when we were trying to buy a new truck, but this one was a poor experience with the dealership itself (and an unmotivated, yet professional, salesperson).  The dealership and sales team seemed to be more focused on what was convenient for them rather then what was convenient for a potential buyer.

Do You Want My Business?

Times are tough.  Competition is fierce.  Customers have high expectations.  With all of these factors in play, businesses can’t afford to treat their customers with anything other than respect and great customer service.  If you aren’t sure whether you want your customer’s business or not, take a step back and look at it from their perspective.  Here are some tips to make sure you are ready to meet and exceed customer expectations.

  • Hire a mystery shopper to check out all aspects of your customer’s buying experience.  Notice I didn’t say your sales experience; again, you need to look at it from the other side of the table!

 

  • Talk to customers who have purchased from you recently.  How was their experience?  Were their needs met?  What could have been better?  You might not want to hear all the answers, but if customers aren’t happy, they probably won’t keep buying from you.  Even worse, they could say bad things about you to others.

 

  • Get your best customers to come in and meet with you and your sales team (or do it via phone conference).  It gets sales teams all jazzed up to hear positive feedback from customers, and you will get ideas on what works in your customer’s buying experience.

 

  • Create customer profiles of different customer groups and their needs.  Make sure your sales team understands how they are unique and how their sales approach should change in each instance.

 

  • Train sales in WOW customer service and relationship building techniques.  Customers should be viewed as people, not transactions.

Too much to think about?  Simply put yourself in your customer’s shoes and take one step at a time.

(Photo credit: LatinPoint)

Where are Your Sales and Marketing Efforts Focused?

I was recently reading an annual report for a successful company, and, as always, I looked at the words used about customers.  Some reports are only about a company’s internal products, services, and processes.  They may even include awards the company has won in the past year, in addition to all the necessary financial information.

A Customer Focus

In this report, I looked for more.  Specifically, I looked to see how much customer focus there was in the report.  As a company providing services, their business depends on building strong client relationships.  This is reflected throughout their report!  

On each page where they showcased big wins or achievements in certain industries, there was also a story about rapport with clients and trusted advisor relationships.  These relationships, as it is told, were key to cementing ongoing business with existing clients.  The proactive nature of the client managers was apparent in other stories shared about resolving problems before they became big issues.  On another page, they shared a client success about one who moved on to another job but was anxious to keep the relationships going by doing business with the same people they had been working with for years. 

Strong Relationships

These strong client-company relationships are the foundation of the success of this business.  The annual report is written in such a way as to bring out this focus and showcase it as a competitive differentiator.   These types of client relationships definitely help to create a barrier to exit for the company.  The only improvement I would love to see in these reports is to start indicating the existing customer base as an asset to be measured!  (For more on this concept, see the book Return on Customerby Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, PhD.)

So Where are Your Sales and Marketing Efforts Focused?

When I do speaking events, I have quite a number of people come up afterwards to say they realized they have left the nurture of their existing customers to chance.  They have been so busy going after new customers, they have left the “old” ones to their own devices!  Unfortunately, in this difficult economy, this is often the case.  I just saw a Tweet (that is the term Twitter uses for a message) from Eric Brown, founder of Urbane Apartments (who is also a frequent commenter here at Customers Rock! – thanks, Eric!!).  Here is what he indicated in his 140 characters:

“Six of our eight stabilized properties are 100% leased! We are NOT participating in a poor economy”

I Tweeted back that I was not surprised by this as Eric and his company have a very strong customer focus!  You can see for yourself here on his website and blog; additionally, Eric will be guest posting for us soon and will share his story.  For Eric and Urbane Apartments, Customers Rock!

4 Key Questions to Improve Your Focus

You can bolster business by expanding sales and marketing focus to include existing customers.  In order to do so, there are some critical questions that each business should ask themselves.  I have listed the top 4 as follows:

  1. How many customers did we keep from last year?  Do you know?  Many businesses find that they are good at tracking new customers but lose track of those that slip out the back.
  2. Why did we lose customers?  Ideally, this analysis is done each time a customer leaves.  At that very moment, you need to reach out to them and find out what went wrong.  If you do this religiously, it is possible to salvage some of these valuable relationships.
  3. Why do our best customers keep doing business with us?  Ask them!  Find out whether it is your offerings, your service, your people, or all of the above.  It will help you prioritize where to focus for improvement, as well as understand which things to keep on doing.  It may also highlight potential areas of concern for certain clients.
  4. How many of our retained customers can help us sell more?  Customers can do this for us in many ways: buying additional products or services themselves, specifically referring us to others, and sharing great testimonials about us.  When is the last time you asked a customer for a testimonial?  Make it a regular part of the way you do business!

Do you have other key questions that you use to evaluate and grow your repeat business?  What have I left out?

Winning the Game

Your existing customers want to be loyal to you.  They want to be recognized and thanked for their business.  When a business creates a proactive customer strategy to retain and grow their current customers, everyone wins.  Customers feel appreciated and, in turn, buy more and refer you to others.  The company grows their business with fewer resources.  Sounds like a great way to beat the current economic woes!

(Image credit: olivier26)

Guest Blogger: Esteban Kolsky on Customer Service and Email

Today we have a special guest with us, Esteban Kolsky. Esteban is a VP at KANA where he is very focused on great customer experiences, especially in the area of customer service. He is also an active commenter here on Customers Rock!, so please welcome him and enjoy the post!

Five Winning Strategies to Excel at Customer Service via Email

Back in the “early” days of the internet (read 1990s) we all thought that email was going to revolutionize the way we do customer service. Customers were going to send us all their questions and inquiries via email, which in turn was going to be answered within a few minutes – either automatically through a software package or manually by knowledgebase-assisted engineers. This setup was going to do away with the need to use telephones and call centers (after all, emails can be answered from anywhere), and reduce the cost for customer service.

Fast forward 15-20 years and it seems to be not where we thought it would be. Alas, we did try using email as much as possible yet the results were not as expected: automation was harder than we expected, customers did not like the speed of response (which was down to days in some cases, and non-existent in others), and transactions completed via email were not similar to transactions completed via the phone. This slow realization of the problems of using email for customer service made the adoption slow down almost to a trickle – pushing customer service automation via email to the point of extinction.

So where are we today? After 2-3 years of very painful experimentation and working in the lab, we are beginning to discover how to use email properly for customer service. There are over two dozen best practices and lessons learned that anyone starting to implement email for customer service would do well to read and understand before starting. However, the following five are the top sure-fire ways to get customer service email to work well in your organization:

1. Classification – customers tend to ramble in free-form emails, posing questions somewhere in the middle of long sentences or paragraphs. That makes it almost impossible for parsing engines to identify the inquiry within the email. Eliminate free-form emails in favor of web-based forms with drop-down menus to allow customers to send emails. You can create a unique answer for each unique combination possible, or a workflow to gather more information or open a ticket if needed. Knowing what customers are asking, what are the variables or terms more often used also assist in improving the knowledge-base.

2. Automation – customer service emails, as with phone-based inquiries, follow an 80-20 rule: 80 percent of the questions can be answered with 20% of the content available. However, with the constraints of email as a communication medium (complex, oddly-written messages, lack of interactivity for clarification or expansion of data), the 20% gets reduced very rapidly to around 5% of content that can be properly expressed through email. Alas, still it can answer a large number of incoming interactions automatically, greatly reducing the dependency on agents to answer those emails, and improving the speed of response for customers. Identifying that 5% of content and questions, creating the specific rules and deploying it can greatly improve the experience for customers, and create a fertile lab for organizations to discover more and more interactions that can be automated.

3. Integration – the best way to add value to an email response is to provide the customer with personalized, custom information that matches the customer intent when writing in. If they want to know the status of their order, don’t send them a link to the page where they can get it – send them the information. This is impossible to do unless the ERMS and the data stores and applications are integrated. In some cases, this integration is done directly and the data flows are controlled via business rules. In others, the integration happens through an existing application feeding data back to the ERMS. In either situation, the customer feels as if the system has been custom-made for their needs increasing satisfaction.

4. Maintenance – the quintessential secret to having a powerful customer service solution via email is the maintenance of the solution. This is nothing new; we learned how to do this while deploying our knowledge management solutions. Yet, email has a complicated set of business rules and workflows that must be maintained. Even if you support a centralized model for knowledge management, the email-specific components still carry a heavy load of maintenance. You could streamline the maintenance by deploying a centralized rules server across channels. Alas, as it is with knowledge, business rules and workflows get outdated as soon as they are deployed – making maintenance THE way to manage the content properly. The mid-life of an improperly maintained ERMS is very short, usually not passing a couple of months before customers stop using due to poor results.

5. Marketing – similarly, marketing is the secret to growing the adoption of email among your customers and within your organization. Customers don’t know you offer a specific solution unless you tell them about it, and they understand the benefits they can get out of it. Your organization does not understand the great job your email solution has done for you unless you tell them about it. Advertise your solution. Extol its benefits. Announce the availability of new and upgraded features. Create a killer marketing plan, target the right people to know about it, and distribute the information.

Where are you with the use of email in your organization? Are you an early and satisfied adopter? Or are you intrigued by the promise?

About the Author

Esteban Kolsky has over 20 years of customer service, market research, and technology experience. As Vice President and Practice Leader for KANA, Mr. Kolsky delivers strategic consulting, systems integration and managed services programs designed to help KANA customers deliver exceptional service experiences. Prior to joining KANA Software Mr. Kolsky was with Gartner where he built and managed both the eService and Enterprise Feedback Management practices. He has been featured in television and radio, and quoted in over 400 publications around the globe as an industry watcher and commentator.

(Photo credit: © Yannis Ntousiopoulos | Dreamstime.com)

Rockin’ Customer Feedback: SuggestionBox.com

There are many, many times here at Customers Rock! where I highly recommend that companies listen to their customers as often as possible.  The best way is to take note of the verbatim words customers use, rather than read from aggregated “survey results”.  This becomes even more important as organizations try to decide the best way to implement social media marketing tools.

I had the opportunity to spend some time with BJ Cook, CMO of SuggestionBox.com (they are based very close to where I am!).  SuggestionBox.com is a place where customers can easily send ideas, complaints, or feedback to companies via the web.  Customers can then sign up to track those ideas, while companies can respond and connect directly with customers.  This is a very cool and easy way to not only listen to customers but also show them you are taking action! 

I asked BJ to share with my readers a little bit about SuggestionBox and how other companies can improve their customer listening plans.  Enjoy!

Interview with BJ Cook of SuggestionBox

Becky: Tell us how the idea for SuggestionBox came about.  And why now?

BJ: SuggestionBox is the result of an online search for a place where our founder, Jeff Whitton, could leave feedback for a company he had an experience with. He couldn’t believe that a Google search for “suggestionbox” would take him to a parked domain. So the light bulb went off and he had a vision for the place that you could submit your ideas to any company around the world and then track them. Think of it as your own Idea portfolio and communication tool for all of the companies you interact with each day. For companies it would be a place to capture feedback, connect with customers and build better relationships. Right now as a customer you’re presented with 6 page surveys, URLs’ on receipts, online surveys and other ways that are intrusive and force you into answering questions that may not be relevant to the experience you just had with that company. So enter SuggestionBox. We’ve simplified the feedback process, by focusing on the field in the feedback form that means the most to the customer; the open textbox. This is what can we improve and why? The company wants to know what and the customer may want to give them some of the background on their suggestion. That’s all. This keeps the incoming feedback focused for companies to easily categorize it and open enough for customers to feel like they can share their story.

Becky: The economy right now is difficult for many.  How can SuggestionBox help companies weather the storm?

BJ: With the state of customer satisfaction and being in an economic downturn, placing emphasis on your customers is crucial. SuggestionBox is that bridge between a company and its customers. We want to be the tool that helps you Build Better Relationships with ____. The reason there’s a blank is that feedback and ideas go beyond your internal and external customers. The blank can be vendors, partners, investors, friends, family and so on. It’s a relationship building tool that just so happens to be able to make capturing insights simple and responding to those Suggesters efficient. Focusing on your existing community and asking them what you can improve lets them know you’re listening and you care. What’s better than feeling like it’s a two-way street? What’s even better is that you can avoid missed opportunities by having a tool setup to listen and be able to get back in touch to support goals like loyalty, retention and word of mouth. SuggestionBox gives companies, nonprofits and events a way to respond to people, keep them in the loop and directly have a positive effect on multiple areas of their business like sales, marketing, customer service, PR and even HR.

Becky: How would you suggest that a company/organization fit SuggestionBox into their existing customer listening plans?

BJ: Depending on what stage a company is in with their current customer listening plans, SuggestionBox can be a value-add tool if you’re just starting out or are already using forums, online surveys, focus groups or your blog. The thing to keep in mind is the communication benefits of “keeping people in the loop”. I’d like to cite a line from the book Raving Fans:

“Listening to customers is powerful, responding to them is dynamite.”

There are so many tools out there to listen to customers, but how many of those tools are just one-way? If you’re given the ability to let a customer know 1 month, 6 months or 2 years out that their idea was actually implemented, you may have them for life - and their kids and their kids. The relationship and bond that is created at this level can last through generations. By changing the current expectation, that I’m going to submit this piece of paper or email to this company knowing they won’t respond, can be the spark you need to becoming dynamite.

Becky: Are you using social media to help promote SuggestionBox, and if so, how?

BJ: Yes. It’s all top secret. I would say that SuggestionBox falls into the whole social media realm. We’re essentially helping companies and brands create online customer communities that they can then engage and communicate with. We are heavy users of community-based platforms like Twitter, Facebook, 12seconds and others. We’ve found that by really embedding our team in various conversations around customer feedback, customer relationships, social media marketing, we begin to build these relationships and lifelines with real people. By focusing on reaching into these various communities, we’ve met some amazing people who not only share their insights with us, but we’re able to share and add value as well. It’s taking the time to really engage with each community that’s so important about social media. I would say that the community is helping us to shape our company from the product roadmap to our outreach to even our hiring. The idea of being social plays a part in every role in our organization and something that we’re all passionate about. SuggestionBox is being defined by our community of Suggesters and customers.

Becky: Anything else you want to share with the readers of Customers Rock!  ?

BJ: With so many great tools out there in this space, you need to start off by asking yourself, “Is our organization customer-centric?” And then evaluate each area of your business to see if that is really being applied from a holistic point of view. Then go out and choose the tool or tools to show customers you’re listening.

Think about all of the businesses you interact with each day and when you have an idea, come see if they are on SuggestionBox. If they are not, you can create their SuggestionBox page simply by being the first to suggest.  We also love feedback, so submit away!

Becky: Thanks, BJ!

To my readers – You can set up an account on SuggestionBox.com for free and submit ideas to any company; SuggestionBox will deliver them for you!  BJ has also set up a code (twomos) where you can get a complimentary two months of a corporate SuggestionBox.  You might want to give it a try and see how you and your customers like it.  Here are some companies that are doing it already: TurboTax (part of Intuit), Southwest Airlines, Addison Avenue Credit UnionTrackur, and Zappos (among many others). 

Look for one here at Customers Rock! soon, too.  I would love to get your suggestions, in addition to your comments!

Re-Experience Starbucks, Update 9: Customer Loyalty

Part 9 of the ongoing ReExperience Starbucks project with Jay Ehret from The Marketing SpotDon’t forget our survey, which is still open, at the end of the post. Please tell us what you think about the changes at Starbucks!

How does Starbucks create customer loyalty?  John Moore at BrandAutopsy said this a few years back:

“For years, Starbucks Coffee has used high-touch methods to build and maintain a loyal customer base. In his book, “Pour Your Heart in It,” Howard Schultz, in supremely succinct fashion said, “If we greet customers, exchange a few words with them and then custom-make a drink exactly to their taste, they will be eager to come back.” That is the true description of a high-touch way retailers can connect with customers to build enduring loyalty.

John was writing this post to contrast the approach of high-tech methods of building loyalty with high-touch methods of building loyalty.  Which approach is Starbucks using today?  Let’s look at what they have been doing lately to improve customer loyalty and the customer experience.

Customer Service

Starbucks closed all of their US-based stores for a few hours earlier this year to conduct partner (employee) training.  Right after the training, it was observed that Starbucks partners were making it a point of asking for customer names again (something they had moved away from) when taking drink orders. They also seemed pretty cheerful and upbeat.

Fast-forward to July 2008.  At my most recent experience in a Starbucks I regularly frequent, there was no recognition or asking for names.  My mother-in-law was with me, and she pointed out how “grumpy” one of the partners seemed to be.  I had noticed this before with the same person.  I did notice signs on the wall, directed at partners, which pointed out how to manage fresh bananas (a key ingredient in their new Vivanno smoothies).  

I have also noticed a quieter, more subdued attitude from employees at other Starbucks I have been to lately (including my most commonly visited store near my house).  I wonder if a combination of store closing news and the introduction of new, time-consuming drinks has weighed-down our barista friends.

Customers Rock! Take: Keep focusing on your employees, especially when things are difficult.  They are your brand ambassadors to the outside world.  Customers will notice the change in customer service right away!

New outside seating!

New outside seating!

Customer Experience

 

 

 

 

 

I am not sure if this is happening at other Starbucks, but one of our local stores has put in nice, comfy seating – outdoors!  Now if they can just 1) keep the tables cleared of trash and 2) put some more cushioned chairs inside, we might have a winner.  (Note – that is my Passion Iced Tea on the arm of the chair…)

 

Introducing… New Products

Starbucks has really been focusing on the introduction of new products in their stores these past few months.  First came Pike’s Place Roast, a new blend of coffee meant to hearken back to early days when Starbucks was a true coffee experience.  Although it has had mixed reviews, the idea of grinding in the store has helped boost the coffee aroma (which was sorely missing before).

Most recently has come Vivanno smoothies (mentioned earlier), the Orange-Mango Banana and the Banana Chocolate.  These two new smoothies are high in protein and fiber, and not horrible with respect to calories (compared to the Frappuccino).   Reviews of the Vivanno so far have been mixed.  One interesting thing I noticed in the comments to the blog post Starbucks’ Vivanno vs Jamba Juice was how customers felt like it was out of place to order “smoothies” at a coffee store!  Others who are comfortable with the use of protein powders really seemed to like these drinks (see comments in this BusinessWeek post on Vivanno).  Personally, I would rather stick with my iced tea and get smoothies somewhere else.

Customers Rock! Take: The Pike’s Place Roast has been a good way to try and re-focus on being a coffee store.  It still needs some work, but they are on the right track.  The smoothies are a good option for someone coming to Starbucks looking for something nutritious to drink.  However, is this really why people come to Starbucks? 

Does It Make a Difference?

Here are the real questions to be answered.  Do these new smoothies help Starbucks get back to the “third place” experience?  Does the Pikes Place Roast bring in new customers?  Does the Starbucks Loyalty Card bring back loyal customers?  So far, the reviews are conflicting.  It takes more than new drinks, free WiFi, and comfy chairs to retain customers.  It is not just about high-tech vs high-touch approaches.  It takes building relationships, one customer at a time. 

Starbucks has the opportunity to do so through many channels, both high-tech and high-touch: the daily interactions with customers, the registered Starbucks Reward cards (they have yet to try to interact with me, and I have three cards registered), and their site MyStarbucksIdea (which is heading in the right direction but lacks a true dialogue between customers and partners).   However, it just hasn’t really happened yet.

Starbucks, I would like to see you be successful in re-inventing yourselves through the customer experience.  It would set new standards for other companies who know they should be more customer-focused.  It would make your existing customers happier.  It would help insulate you from your competition, and they are charging up fast. 

There is just one thing you still need to do: look at your stores truly from the customers’ perspective.

What do you think?  Fill Out Our Survey!

Jay and I have put together a short survey to see what you, our readers, think about Starbucks and its “re-Experience” project.  Please take just a minute to click on this survey link and fill it out.  You could even win, what else, a gift card to Starbucks!  We will be report results on our blogs shortly.

(Photo credit: TAlex)

Who Speaks Louder: Marketing or Customer Service?

Overheard the other day from a cashier at my local grocery store (a large chain, by the way): “Can I get a bagger over here?  You aren’t paying me enough to have me bag the groceries, too!”  I heard this as I was coming up to the check-out counter with my purchases (which were only a few items).

Wow, what does that do to the brand’s marketing messages?

The issue here is this: the customer doesn’t differentiate between what marketing is saying and what they hear from customer service personnel.  All messages, regardless of medium or origin, add up to communicate the brand’s image to the customer.  Yet too often, marketing and customer service are managed separately in a company or organization, they don’t speak to each other, and they don’t have common metrics (you know, those things that drive the behaviors?).

When we look at it from the company’s perspective, we see silo-thinking, each department focused on their own area.  When we look at it from the customer’s perspective, what do we see?  One brand, with everyone working together for a great customer experience?  Or many experiences, looking like many brands, with the experience differing based on how customer service personnel are asked to behave?

Customers Rock! was started to focus on highlighting companies that understand these concepts.  Customers Rock! doesn’t mean the customer is always right.  It means we should view our customers as one of the most important assets that we have; therefore, we should plan each step of how we are going to get, keep, and grow these assets.

Who is speaking more loudly to customers at your organization?  Do you need to bring those messages into alignment?  What do customers think about your brand, from all perspectives?  These are critical questions to answer as companies consider how to weather the current economic storms.

“The relationship that is formed when marketing and customer service meet is like saying that you’re making good on your promises.”  Meikah

Tracking Your Domino’s Pizza

Dominos pizza tracker Maybe it’s because I am a geek at heart (I do have a degree in Electrical Engineering/Computer Science and worked for NASA during my college summers – really!).  Maybe it’s because I was hungry.  Either way, I really liked the Domino’s Pizza Tracker tool I used the other day (and my kids liked the pizza, so it all worked out).

It was fairly simple.  I went online to order my pizza (like I have done many times for another pizza company, where I have had mixed results).  Ordering was easy, as it should be.  When I completed paying for my order, the site took me to the screen you saw above and started tracking my pizza order.  Jeff was the lucky guy to prep, make, and bake my pizza.  The site even asked me how Jeff was as my “delivery expert”.  I had a lot of fun watching the progress, which was pretty rapid (and it was a Saturday night, too!).

Questions:

Does someone at Domino’s actually sit there and enter this info, or is is all automated?  Does it assume how long it takes to make a pizza?  Does Jeff hit a “done” button as he completes each phase so it will update?  Inquiring minds want to know, so if any one has an idea of how the technology works, please share.  :)

Customers Rock! Implications

It is always good to set customer expectations.  The more customers can stay in the loop, the less there will be complaints or criticisms.  For my pizza order, this all worked very nicely, and within 10 minutes of the “your pizza just left the building” update, the doorbell rang (yes, it was the pizza).  I was impressed. 

However, I have read other posts that share frustration that the pizza was very late after it “went out for delivery”. Apparently, Domino’s doesn’t have a good way to track that part of the process.  A flat tire, traffic, or a lot of other pizzas to deliver can mar the experience.  This is not all that different from what FedEx or UPS does with their package tracking.  Once the package is on the truck for delivery, it is anyone’s guess as to when it will arrive.  If this part of the experience can be fixed (can anyone say GPS?), then we would have a real winner!

How can you help set your customers’ expectations?  Are they kept in the dark about their purchase or usage experience?  Talk to your customers, find out which part of your process they find difficult or frustrating, then see what you can do to fix it.  Domino’s did.  I am looking forward to ordering my next pizza from them.

Has anyone else experienced this?  What did you think – cool, or a gimmick?

Book Review and Author Interview: Taking Care of Employees

Book review Today I am reviewing the book Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most: A Guide to Employee-Customer Care by Sybil Stershic.  The main premise of the book is this: take care of your employees, and they will take care of your customers!  In seven easy-to-read chapters, Sybil describes how to do this using an “internal marketing” approach.  She helps companies see how to really engage employees so they become committed to the cause, not compliant (doing it because they have to).  Believe me, customers can tell the difference!

Here is a great quote from the first chapter:

“Think about it: most products and services can easily become commoditized, but competitors cannot duplicate the relationship an organization’s employees have with its customers.”

The book goes on to describe how to improve relationships, including employee-employee, employee-management, and employee-customer.  People will make the difference, and Sybil gives us a lot of great ideas on both why and how to make them a priority.  Coming from my customer-centric perspective, I especially liked Chapter 4 on strengthening the internal service culture.  It is so important for each employee to understand why they make a difference in the organization and how that is ultimately reflected out to customers.  A strong internal service culture, Sybil suggests, will help improve both employee and customer loyalty.  I wholeheartedly agree!

For those of skeptics out there, Sybil includes answers to some “tough questions” in Chapter 6, such as this one: “Do happy employees ensure happy customers?”  They are great for arming oneself before attempting to start an employee-loyalty initiative at a business.  The book also has several helpful worksheets and charts to assist in planning out the changes that need to be made within a company.  Thank you, Sybil, for making it easy to follow!

Q&A

Speaking of questions, Sybil was kind enough to answer a few of my own.  Here is the Q&A I had with her about the book. 

  •  Whose job is it to do “internal marketing”? How does it relate to those doing “external marketing”?

 Let me start by explaining marketing in both contexts. You can use it to basically communicate with, educate, and motivate employees, just like it’s used to communicate with, educate and motivate consumers. But while external marketing is usually the responsibility of marketing and/or communications staff, internal marketing is an intrinsic part of management’s job – taking care of the employees so they can take care of the customers. So it’s not really a pure marketing function, which is why I tell people you don’t have to be a marketer to apply internal marketing.

  • Disney has “cast members”. Starbucks has “partners”. Does what we call our employees really matter? Why would customers care?

Interesting question, Becky.  The reality is regardless of how you refer to employees – be it “Associates” … “Team members” … or some other company or brand-relevant name – it doesn’t matter to customers. (And customers will likely call them “employees” anyway.) However, it DOES matter to employees as it sets expectations about the organization’s culture and values. Employees, as well as customers, are quick to see through the rhetoric of employee labels that are merely window dressing.

  • It has been said you should inspect what you expect. How do you measure the success of internal marketing – both from the employee as well as from the customer perspective?

Since internal marketing involves engaging employees and customers, you can evaluate it with the same metrics that measure overall satisfaction and retention for both groups. You can also measure specific internal marketing activities (such as recognition programs, new staff orientation, special events, etc.) through quantitative and qualitative means; i.e., who/how many participated, how did it impact their perceptions and/or behavior?

For companies just getting started with internal marketing, it may be the first time the folks from HR and Marketing Research get together to discuss what benchmarks are available from employee and customer surveys. (Note: For companies that have not done any such surveys, please know there are research providers who measure employee engagement and those who also do “linkage research” which looks at operational practices and employee perceptions and links this information to drivers of customer satisfaction.)

  • How can a strong service culture help grow customer loyalty and improve the customer experience?

Internal service drives external service – when employees take care of each other’s business needs, everyone is better prepared to take care of the external customer.

Here’s another way to look at it – since customers’ perceptions and intentions are affected by what employees experience on-the-job, the way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel. And if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers!

  • For my final question… what is the best customer experience you have ever had?

I was accompanying my husband on a business trip when I suddenly became ill on the plane – a situation that required emergency surgery. When our plane landed in Boston, we were met by ambulance and rushed to a nearby hospital. In between the admissions process and surgery, my husband and I looked at each other and wondered what had happened to our luggage. Since we had gone from the plane to the ambulance, we hadn’t time to get to baggage claim.

While I was undergoing surgery, my husband checked into our hotel and explained the situation. The hotel staff immediately called the airport to find our luggage and have it set aside for us. They had a hotel limo drive my husband back to the airport to get our luggage, after which my husband was dropped off at the hospital to wait for me after surgery, and our luggage was placed in our hotel room prior to my husband’s return that evening. We experienced truly extraordinary service provided by the hotel in a situation that had nothing to do with the hotel.

Here’s what I learned from that experience: customers expect a company to be responsive and “recover” any problems created by service delivery failure … but we can’t always expect the same when the problem is out of the company’s control. Nonetheless, hotel staff went out of their way to help their guests who found themselves in a difficult situation.

The hotel was the Marriott at Boston’s Copley Plaza, and it provided one of my most memorable customer experiences. I’ve shared this story in countless presentations since this experience happened more than 20 years ago! (How’s that for word-of-mouth? Amazing how customers have long memories for positive and negative experiences.)

Thanks for asking, Becky.  And thanks for a great interview.

  • Thank you, Sybil, for your time!

Blog Book Tour Continues 

Sybil’s book tour has already had a few stops this week and finishes up the beginning of next week.  Here is her full itinerary; be sure to linger at each stop, since each blog author is coming from a different perspective!

When Things Don’t Work: Tolerate or Leave?

Stay or go? All of us have days when things don’t go the way they should.  Companies have those days, too.  Service goes down.  Planes don’t take off when they should.  A chef doesn’t show up for work.  Someone slams a product on a blog. 

When things get tough, the company’s response to the problem can make or break their reputation – and their customer base.

The outcome often depends on what kind of relationships have already been built with customers before the problem occurs.  Has the company had a history of listening to customers and reaching out to them in their own language?  Does the company empower employees to take care of things when they go wrong?  Does the company respond to blog posts and other social media conversations?  Does the company build customer loyalty by understanding their customers, then communicating with them the way they want to be communicated with?  These are all part of a strong customer strategy which will help organizations weather the storms which inevitably come.

If a company does have strong relationships with its customers and has built a loyal customer base, customers may cry foul but will most likely tolerate the issues.  They may be very forgiving, even sticking up for the company when others are trying to pull them down.  The customer base will remain with the company – critical in slow economic times!

On the flip side, if a company is only focused on trying to squelch negative comments, if they only talk about themselves, if they forget to take the customer’s perspective – then any falter or trip can result in disaster.  Grumpy customers and their comments come raining down.  Customers spray their problems all over the place, then leave – and take others with them.

Which kind of company do you want to work for? 

If you work for the first type of company, kudos to you!  Let’s hear some of your great stories!

If you work for the second type of company, I know a good customer strategy consultant that can help you… ;)

(Thank you to Brian Solis for the inspiration on this post!  Photo credit: ccaetano)

Social Media and Engagement, with Brian Solis: Part 2

 This is Part 2 of the guest post by the generous and smart Brian SolisPart 1 covered conversations and the use of social media.  In today’s post, Brian helps us take the appropriate steps to really begin listening, then engaging with customers via social media.  Again, many thanks to Brian for sharing his time and talent with my readers.  Brian, you rock!

Social Media Empowers Customer Service to Build Relationships, Part 2

Sociology provides us with an understanding of how human interaction and the ensuing ecosystem shape individual attitudes and behavior. Sociologists study society and social action by examining the groups and social institutions people form. In Social Media, these communities take the form of social networks and the communal groups within them. People establish associations, friendships, and allegiances around content, objects, products, services, and ideas. How they communicate is simply subject to the tools and networks that people adopt based on the influence of their social graph.

Observation, monitoring and listening tells us everything. We’ll learn where the relevant conversations are taking place, who’s participating, what they’re saying and the tone of the discussions, the specific information they’re looking for, impressions and conceptions, as well as revealing the patterns of behavior within specific communities.

The million dollar question that every business executive needs answered is who’s responsible for managing these conversations and how much time and money will it take?
In order to determine the amount of resources, time and money that are required, It all starts with good old fashioned research along with the new tools to help you get to the answers you seek (see below for a list to help you get started). 

First..

- Identify who your customers are and where they go for information.

- Search for key words: Products & Company as well as competitors and their products and services.

- And, please don’t forget the relationships that exist in the real world. They’re also indispensable for providing feedback and insight now and in the future.

Based on the research results, you can measure the average frequency of relevant conversations, identify the more active hubs and communities, and the context of the conversations in order to determine time and variety of resources required (a community manager is required at the very least.) 

Here’s a formula that I developed based on participation averages over the last couple of years: 

The number of average relevant conversations per day per community.

Multiplied by the quantity of relevant communities.

Multiplied by 20 (minutes required to research and respond and also monitor for additional responses), variable +/- dependent on the case, usually +.

Divided by 60 (minutes)

Equals the amount of time required and in turn, the resources and associated costs required depending on internal labor or external consulting fees. 

Based on the research results, you can measure the average frequency of relevant conversations, identify the more active hubs and communities and the context of the conversations in order to determine time and resources required.

Throughout the research process, you’ll undoubtedly see that relevant conversations occur across disparate networks, are representative of a sweeping variety of related topics that require varying responses, and, that they usually map  to specific departments within your organization (those most qualified to respond), i.e. marcom, product management, customer service, PR, executive management, etc. Having someone keeping a pulse on relevant conversations and in turn feeding them, intelligently, to the right people internally and guiding them on the required response and follow-up makes the interaction more meaningful and helpful and also distributes the responsibility across existing resources. 

Here are some places to start listening (note, these tools are recommended for listening, even though many of them are also used for publishing and sharing content):

Social Bookmarks

  • Ma.gnolia
  • Delicious
  • Diigo
  • StumbleUpon

Crowdsourced Content

  • Digg
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • Mixx 

Conversations

  • Google Alerts
  • Blogpulse
  • Radian6 (paid)
  • BuzzLogic (paid)
  • Ask.com
  • Google Blog Search 

Blog Communities

  • Blogged.com
  • MyBlogLog
  • BlogCatalog 

Micromedia

FriendFeed

Pownce

Tumblr 

Specific to Twitter search:

Tweetscan

Summize

Twemes

TwitterLocal 

Social Networks

MySpace

Bebo

Ning

Facebook

LinkedIn 

Customers Service Networks

YahooGroups

GoogleGroups

GetSatisfaction 

Content

Video

YouTube

Metacafe 

Pictures

Flickr

Documents

ThinkFree Docs

Scribd

Docstoc

Once you’ve conducted the initial waves of research, identified the volume, location and frequency of relevant conversations, and estimated the required resources, you can effectively create an accurate blueprint for engagement. I call this a social map.

The next steps are dictated by the sociological work we’ve done, which reveals the culture within each respective network and how we should participate. Generally, each conversations should be treated as if you were approaching someone in real life whom you greatly respect.

- Start by participating as a person, not as a marketer.

- Talk like a person, not as a sales person or message factory.

- Be helpful and bring value to the conversation.

- Please remember, that during this entire process, you’re contributing to the personality and the perception of the brand you represent.

At the end of the day, we’re all people and thus we should approach conversations as such. It may seem like common sense, but as classically trained marketers, we tend to approach these things with our marketing hat on. It’s the difference between authentic conversations and one-sided talking “at” people we may be used to.

Most importantly, the lessons learned in the field should in turn be fed into the marketing department to create and run more intelligent, experienced, and real world initiatives across all forms of marketing, PR, sales, and advertising. 

In a social world, conversations will take place with or without us and the price we pay for missing them is potentially equivalent to the loss of brand equity and resonance.  Participation is the new customer service and the new art of relationship marketing.  Sincere, informative, and authentic interactions count for everything.  In social media, engagement is the only way to earn customer respect and hopefully their business, loyalty, and referrals as we continue to do what matters to earn their friendship.

Relationships are the new currency in Social Media, and as we all know, relationships need cultivation and value from both sides in order to grow into something of value and longevity.

You can connect with Brian on Twitter, Jaiku, LinkedIn, Pownce, Plaxo, FriendFeed, or Facebook.

Brian Solis is Principal of FutureWorks, an acclaimed PR and New Media agency in Silicon Valley and also blogs at PR 2.0 and bub.blicio.us . Along with Geoff Livingston, Solis recently co-authored “Now is Gone,” a new, award-winning book that helps businesses learn how to leverage New and Social Media.

(Photo credit: wds2007)

Social Media Empowering Customer Service: Guest Blogger Brian Solis

The Infamous Metro Photo Today on Customers Rock!, I have the honor of having a special guest blogger with us: Brian Solis.  Brian and I met earlier this year at the Customer Service is the New Marketing (CSITNM) conference in San Francisco, where we were both giving lunchtime workshops.  Brian is one of the brightest people I know on new media and how to best engage customers.  As Principal of the PR and new media agency FutureWorks, Brian is constantly breaking new ground in PR-social media relations. 

His post is a two-parter, so be sure and come back to get the second half!  With no further ado, here’s Brian!

Social Media Empowers Customer Service to Build Relationships

Customer service is the new, new marketing and Social Media is facilitating the convergence between traditional marketing disciplines, customer service, with a new proactive approach to relationship cultivation and management.

 Earlier this year I published a free ebook with Becky Carroll, “The Art of Listening and Engagement Through Social Media,” in which we explored how companies can listen to and participate in the various and important conversations that are constantly taking place online.

 We’re entering an entirely new paradigm for cultivating relationships with customers as well as the people who may one day become customers.
Social Media is about facilitating interactions between people online. Just because we have the tools to engage, doesn’t make it any easier to do this the right way. Or, on the contrary, just because we don’t have the tools to monitor and engage in these online conversations, doesn’t mean that they’re not important or actually happening.

You’ve heard that old saying right?

If a conversation takes place online and you’re not there to hear or see it, did it actually happen.

The answer is resoundingly YES! 

If you’re not part of the conversation, then you’re leaving it to others to answer questions and provide information that may or may not be qualified, helpful, or accurate. Or, even worse, you may be leaving it up to your competition to jump in to become the resource for the community. 

Many companies are participating in social networks as a form of proactive outbound customer service with a twist of social marketing such as Zappos, JetBlue, Southwest, H&R Block, and Dell. They’re engaging customers on their turf, in their way, in order to help them solve problems, find information or simply engage them in healthy dialog. 

It’s breaking new ground and it’s setting a new standard. 

Participating in social media is not as easy as simply blasting messages, answering questions, or joining conversations.  We’re talking about people here, and depending on the online network where they’re participating, the understanding of the culture, demographics, and interaction, our approach will vary. 

We’ve all heard the mantras that the customer is always right. I think we can all agree that the customer is critical to our success and their emotions, experiences, state of mind and their resulting influence within their community are imperative to our survival.

Instead of top down communications and focusing on the influence and control of messages and perception, we’re learning that those influential groups of people are now more like peers and therefore require respect, honesty, and support in order for us to earn their trust – and hopefully their business and enthusiasm along the way.

The customer comes first, and if we fuse sociology, social media, customer service, relationship marketing, experiential marketing, and traditional marketing, we’re creating a new formula for outbound influence and fueling a new generation of brand ambassadors and loyalists.

Essentially, social media empowers customers to effectively sell and represent our brand as a powerful and influential surrogate sales force. Similarly, they also have the ability to negatively affect it if they’re left to influence freely without input or guidance. 

The future of marketing integrates traditional and social tools, connected by successful, ongoing relationships with media, influencers, and people. That’s right…it’s about relationships and it’s about people. Relationships serve as the foundation for everything, whether it’s traditional or new media, and the constant reminder that we’re reaching people, and not audiences, will keep us on a path of relevance.  And, each social network fosters its own unique culture dependent of the people who are populating the overall community as well as niche micro communities. 

As such, social media is driven by sociology and the study of human behavior and online cultures and not necessarily limited to the technology that is fueling it.
This is where we start in order to effectively identify the cultures of relevant online communities and listen to and respond directly to the people within them.

Sociology – The study of human social behavior, especially the study of the origins, organization, institutions, and development of human society.

Through sociology and social media, we’re learning to peel back the layers of our target demographics to see the people underneath as well as their online behavior. As such, we’re starting to figure out that we need to humanize our story and the process of storytelling.  And, through observation, we’re able to find our real customers and those who influence them. 

The recognition of people independently from the tools is an important reminder that their interests are at the center of what we do.

Borrowing insight, teachings, and experience from the school of sociology teaches us how to observe, listen to, and analyze the online cultures we wish to reach. 

However, many marketers are merely engaging in cultural voyeurism at best. They look from afar and roam the perimeters of online societies without ever becoming a true member of any society. This means, they don’t truly understand what, where, or why they’re “participating,” only jumping in because they have something to say and have access to the tools that will carry their messages into play. 

Conversational marketing requires observation, which will dictate your engagement strategies. It starts with a combination of social and traditional tools to discover, listen, learn, and engage directly with customers to help, not market, but indeed help them make decisions and also do things that they couldn’t, or didn’t know how to do, before.

Be sure to come back for Part 2, coming soon!

You can connect with Brian on Twitter, Jaiku, LinkedIn, Pownce, Plaxo, FriendFeed, or Facebook.

Brian Solis is Principal of FutureWorks, an acclaimed PR and New Media agency in Silicon Valley and also blogs at PR 2.0 and bub.blicio.us.  Along with Geoff Livingston, Solis recently co-authored “Now is Gone,” a new, award-winning book that helps businesses learn how to leverage New and Social Media.

(Flickr photo credit: joekerstef)

Defining “Customer-Focused Strategy”

Focus on the customer My blogging friend Glenn Ross has put forth the following challenge to some of his fellow Customer Service bloggers (including me): How do you define “Customer-Focused Strategy?”  Great question, Glenn!  Glenn has posted his definition of a customer-focused strategy, and has included ideas and definitions from other excellent customer service bloggers, including ServiceUntitled, CustomersAreAlways, and CustServ.  There are many good ideas there, and I encourage you to check them out.

Customer strategy is the main focus of this blog as well as what I do (and have been doing) for a living.  I still like the paragraph I wrote on customer strategy last year at about this time; here is the excerpt from the post Rockin’ Our Customer’s Experience Online:

Customer Strategy

Does your organization have a customer strategy?  Most companies have a product strategy and a marketing strategy.  Customer-centric organizations also have a customer strategy.  Put simply, a customer strategy is a proactive plan for how we want to acquire, retain, and grow our customers!  Too many organizations leave it to chance when it comes to retention and growth of customers, focusing most of their resources on customer acquisition.  Why would we want to leave the management of our most valuable asset, our customers, to chance?

In order to align our customer experience with our customer strategy, we need to consider how we have created that strategy.  A strong customer strategy is built around the interactions we have with our customers, and we are able to maximize the value of every customer touch.  In other words,  we make each impression with the customer count.  Customer service and support may have several opportunities to make customer impressions, and it is often where the rubber meets the road.  How do we handle our customers when there is a problem or a question?  The goal of all these interactions is to increase customer retention and loyalty, which ultimately leads to repeat business and referrals.  Done right, a customer strategy will also build customer trust, strengthen the relationship, and add value to both the customer and the company.

In other words, a customer-focused strategy is a planned approach to how we handle our customers at every touch point.  It is more than just giving great customer service.  It is more than marketing with certain customer buzzwords.  It is more than a great customer experience.  It requires a strategic plan to be put in place to address all of those areas, plus the metrics to ensure the success of the strategy. 

I have been part of creating a customer-focused strategy for several clients, and this is no small undertaking.  It requires agreement and consistency across all functional areas in order to be most effective.  No silos allowed!  The customer doesn’t look at a company as individual departments, so we need to be “one brand” to the customer.  The customer-focused strategy helps make that happen.

Great Examples

Glenn also asked for examples of companies who do this well.  There are a few competitions out there for this type of award; a great one is coming up from the team at Peppers and Rogers Group and Gartner.  Called the Gartner and 1to1 Customer Excellence Awards, it will be showcasing those companies that “get” customer strategy – and how to execute it.  (By the way, the contest is open until May 23, so if you are reading this and want to submit your company, you can go here and enter.)

At this blog, I have listed several examples of companies that are doing customer strategy well.  They include FreshBooks and their customer roadtrip, Bungie and the way they are fans of their customers, Element Fusion and their web concierge, Disney and customer delight, and Xerox and their dedication to customer experience, among others.  I don’t think any one of them is perfect, but each of them do many things well across several areas. 

OK, out to you, readers!  How would you define “customer-focused strategy”?  Do you agree with me or am I missing something?  Who is doing it well?

(Photo credit: redbaron)

Focus on the Customer Experience

Lamps at the Grand Bazaar There are so many ways we can focus on our customer.  I wanted to share a very cool post from one of my favorite bloggers, Doug Meacham of NextUp.  Doug is one of the first bloggers I started a conversation with back when I began this blog at the end of 2006 (he has also been one of those trying to get me to start Twittering – I am getting closer, Doug!).

Doug’s post is a great list from another Doug, Doug Fleener at Retail Contrarian, sharing 50 ways to improve the customer experience (note – there are actually 51 – added value).  This is near and dear to my heart!  Most of these apply directly to retail and consumer-based businesses, but they should also be considered for other customer-friendly folks.  Here are a few of the items that I especially liked:

“8. Send handwritten thank-you notes. Come on, do you really do it?”

Come on, really.  Do it!

“15. If you can’t fulfill a customer’s need, suggest another company that may be able to do so.”

Zappos.com does this if they can’t find the shoes you are looking for.  Awesome customer service.

“46. Partner with restaurants and other stores to present exclusive discounts and offers to your customers. (A win-win-win. The other company gets incremental revenue, your customer saves money, and you’re the nice person doing it for both of them.)”

I like this one because, through partnering, your company is able to offer added value (there’s that phrase again!) to customers. This can be a key factor in increasing customer loyalty.  I heard a recent example of this in some interviews I was conducting for a retail client.  The retailer’s store is on a street in a shopping district with several other retailers.  In order to give a reward to loyal customers, the street is holding a drawing for Mother’s Day.  The lucky winner will get one prize from each store or restaurant on the block, including free meals, spa treatments, and clothes.  How fun is that?

Of course, as I mentioned to the Doug(s) in my comments, the best way to take care of your customers is to do the above within the framework of a proactive strategy.   Planning for a great customer experience will make all the difference between “random acts of customer service” and a consistent experience. 

What works for you?  Please share some of your best customer experience ideas with us either by email or in the comments on any of the above blogs.  I will be sure to link to you here at Customers Rock!

(Photo credit: jchambers) (Note – WordPress.com’s photo uploader isn’t working; this photo is coming soon!)  Finally working!

Right-Selling Customers

 I read an interesting article on “Scientific Selling”, which started with the following tagline:

“The way in which a customer is handled has much to do with results obtained.”

How true that is!  It goes on to discuss how a customer cannot be “up-sold” unless that customer is thoroughly understood.

“The worst evil in selling is the action of the man who merely gives the customer what he asks for.  The man who does this is not a salesman, he is just a clerk.”

This article, by the way, is from the New York Times and was printed June 18, 1922!  It still rings true today. 

We need to understand not just who our customers are and what they say they want, but we also need to understand how they are currently using our products and services.  Yesterday, I spoke with Nancy Arter and Suzanne Obermire at RRW Consulting (their blog here) about the marketing basic of “right selling” customers.  We agreed that the most-satisfied customers tend to be those who are using the products and services which are a best fit for their needs.

For example, when I was at HP, I worked in the division where we marketed service subscriptions for HP’s mainframe computers to businesses.  Part of the service subscription included software updates and the ability to contact the call center (this was before eSupport was prevalent!).  At the end of the year, a customer could decide whether to renew their subscription.  If they never called in with a problem, they might have felt that they didn’t get value from their investment.  The most successful subscription services salespeople (say that three times fast!) were those that helped a business find the right level of service for the next year, rather than trying to renew them on the same (under-utilized) level of service.

Some of you may be thinking, hey, they left money on the table!  You should just try and get the most from the customer.  This, readers, is short-term thinking – trying to maximize the amount of revenues this quarter or year.  This type of thinking backfires when a customer realizes they have been over-paying for services they don’t use, and they then get upset that they weren’t told they could have switched to a subscription which was a better fit. (Does this sound familiar – cell phone plans come to mind…)

The long-term viewpoint says we want our customers to have the right level of service.  That may mean that they reduce the level of service they have with us.  However, if it is the right level of service, the customer will ultimately be more satisfied.  Customer satisfaction equates to long-term loyalty, which equates to increased positive word of mouth.

And that is what right-selling is all about!

(Flickr photo credit: TimParkinson)

Focus on WOW for Customers

 I just got back from my local branch of Wells Fargo, and something caught my eye behind the friendly teller, Jennifer.  Another employee was preparing a chart to go on the wall entitled, “11 Ways to WOW the Customer.”  Of course, being the customer-focused professional that I am, I had to ask about the chart.

Great Customer Service

Jennifer told me it was to help remind the team about customer service, with the main goal being that customers feel welcome each time they come into the bank.  They want the experience to be such a good one that customers will seek them out for their future banking activities, even if this is not their home branch.  Most of the items on the chart are simple, such as welcoming customers into the bank verbally when they come in the door.  Smiling.  Or, as she said, “Keeping your grump to yourself!”

This is consistent with Wells Fargo’s corporate focus on customers.  Here is an excerpt from the Customer Service page on their website, describing the 11 Ways to WOW.

“Welcoming”

  • you make me feel at home.
  • you care about me.
  • you make me feel special.

“Delivering value”

  • you give me the right advice.
  • you provide me value.
  • you keep your promises.

“Following up and building relationships”

  • you help me when I really need it.
  • you know me.
  • when you make a mistake you make things even better.
  • you thank me.
  • you reach out to me.

Employee Retention

Jennifer said this customer focus makes the branch experience not only better for customers, but also better for her and the other employees that work there.  She enjoys her job more when she is able to truly help customers with their needs.  She spends time talking to them about the task at hand, but she also spends time listening to them talk about their lives.  Customers have become her regulars, and one of them even brought in not one, but two cakes for the team.  The pace at this branch is a little more leisurely, so the employees there have time to chat with customers, their kids, and even their dogs!

I love this line, again from the Wells Fargo website: “We’re only as good as our first impression and last connection. This is all about culture and attitude.”

That, my friends, is what this blog is all about. 

 

WOW Your Customers

I encourage each of you to think of how you can WOW your customers.  Don’t leave it to chance or count on just hiring great employees.  That is not enough.  Customers Rock! companies set a goal for WOW customer interactions, then they make a specific plan to meet that goal.  Finally, they check back with their customers to see whether they made a difference from the customer’s perspective.

Jennifer, you guys rock!  Thanks for making it special, and I will work on baking you some cookies for the next time I come in…

(Photo credit: ChrisL_AK)