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5 Things Customers Don’t Want to Hear…EVER

Oh companies. Relationships are SO much easier than you make them. In fact, there are only a few things that you need to do in order to make your customers significantly happier. Or rather, there are a few things you must stop doing and saying that will change your customers’ experiences drastically.

I’ve compiled a short list for you (though there are more). Here are some things you need to stop doing and saying:

1. “It’s our policy.”

Now, you may use this and think: “Why is this wrong? It enables a fair way to treat customers across the board.”

The problem with trying to treat customers the same across the board is that not every situation is cut and dried. And, frankly, some policies are antiquated and outdated. The moment you have to let a customer down by saying “it’s our policy,” you are failing that customer.

And yes, I know that you don’t want your customer service staff running all amok with bleeding hearts and breaking your bank, but that is why you need to train them properly and empower them to help your customers. A good customer service policy is to:

a. train your agents on multiple scenarios and then;

b. give them a buffer allowance each month and;

c. give them all sorts of ways to help the customer instead of shutting down the conversation.

If they have a certain budget to play with each month where they can make a decision on whether to give a customer a break or take a return marked “no refunds”, they can use their training to decipher a reasonable response and then be empowered to make it. Here is an example:

A customer calls their cell phone company and says, “My bill is outrageous! I didn’t realize that going over my data would cost me an extra $200! I can’t afford this!” The agent then can walk through a customer’s bill and figure out if the mistake was made in earnest and then either undo the $200 OR adjust the bill a smaller amount (maybe cut it in half), but talk the customer into a more robust ongoing data plan (which can help the company make the money up in the long run).

Of course, if a customer doesn’t know what to expect, this is an issue in itself. Which leads me to #2.

2. “It was in your contract.”

Newsflash: nobody actually reads contracts. I’m not sure why anyone uses a big long legalese document to give customers upfront information about a service. It’s the worst way to present information in the universe. You may as well write it in Sanskrit on a stone tablet.

I’m not saying your customers have no responsibility to read what they sign, but when you are excitedly signing up for a new service or website or whatever, the last thing you do is to sit and read a long document. And the salesperson moving the sale through doesn’t really give you much of a chance either.

Why not present limitations and terms and conditions in a readable, fun manner? A great example of turning boring, mandated information into something people will engage in is Virgin America’s awesome in-flight safety video. Everyone knows that when those safety videos come on, our eyes glaze over and we focus on the book or magazine or anything else. But not when you are on a Virgin Flight:

Watch a Video here YouTube: http://youtu.be/DtyfiPIHsIg

Right? You don’t have to go to that level of production, but why not make it readable and enjoyable? This way, you will never have to say, “It’s in your contract.” Your customers will know. In fact, they may even be able to sing it back to you.

3. “See our answer here [with link].”

Why not just talk to me? Seriously. If I ask something that is too long for a tweet, answer me with a few tweets. That’s cool.

Scenario:

@myhandle: Hey cable company! Why am I on hold for over 45 minutes today? WTH?

@cablecompany: @myhandle Sorry for your inconvenience. Go check our outage schedule here: [link to website]

Grrrrrrrrrr. A wee bit of effort would help a whole lot here. I have probably already gone to your website to find your really hard to find number to call to be put on hold. I’m trying to use Twitter to get some answers and be more efficient. Don’t make me click something else!

This would be better:

@myhandle: Hey cable company! Why am I on hold for over 45 minutes today? WTH?

@cablecompany: @myhandle Sorry for your inconvenience. I see you are calling from Toronto where there are lots of outages. Can I help?

@myhandle: @cablecompany Yeah. Do you happen to know what’s wrong? When the cable service is expected to be fixed?

@cablecompany: @myhandle I just checked internally. It’s a weather issue. :( It may take more than a few hours. Sorry! Time for a good book? :/

@myhandle: @cablecompany LOL. Okay. Maybe it’s the universe telling me to hit the gym. LOL.

@cablecompany: @myhandle Hit the gym for me, too! Oy! ;) Sorry again!

Even if it doesn’t go as smoothly as above, it’s a MUCH better interaction. I can hang up the phone with a bit more information and reset my expectations. I also feel taken care of even if the representative couldn’t give me a definitive answer.

4. [Insert Lame Company Excuse Here]

Just recently, we had a ISP tell us that their service was bad because one of their partners (the people who owned the fibre) were playing dirty.

Really? I couldn’t give a damn. Fix our service. I don’t need to get involved in your business drama. I’ve just paid you $300 to get my internet installed. I’m not your mediator. Guess what happened? We canceled, asked for a refund, then went to the partner in question. They seemed to have the upper hand and get things done. We wish we knew that in the beginning.

Your company woes are YOUR company woes…and quite often they are the result of bad decisions/deals you’ve made (short-term thinking). Your customers don’t care, nor should they. They just want to get the stuff they paid for. Don’t make excuses. Fix it. If you can’t fix it, own up to it and refund your customers. Apologize and hope that they will forgive you and come back when you’ve fixed your stuff.

The customer experience should be seamless and simple. The mess and duct tape and hoops behind the scenes? Invisible to the customer’s eye.

5. [Silence]

It’s late 2013 and 72% of customers expect a response within the hour on Twitter from your brand after they complain. And it doesn’t really matter if it’s during business hours or not.

I, personally, have a black list of companies I will no longer buy from after getting radio silence to a concern or complaint. I’m sure I’m not alone.

Even the most angry complaints can be handled. People are just upset and need to be heard. One of the best pieces of advice I ever heard was to respond to an angry complaint like this:

A. Identify
B. Apologize
C. Assist

@myhandle: @restaurant FU! I will never eat at your awful overpriced restaurant again!

@restaurant: @myhandle Oh no! What happened?

@myhandle: @restaurant After waiting for a table FOREVER, your server treated us like crap and the food was cold by the time it was served. Grrrr.

@restaurant: @myhandle Oh man, it sounds like you had the WORST experience. It’s not what we aim for. Is there any way we can make it up to you?

@myhandle: @restaurant I don’t know. I don’t want to feel that way again. But I appreciate your response. Maybe it was just a bad night.

@restaurant: @myhandle I know you don’t want to take my word for it, but it sounds like it may have been. Let us know if you want to try again. We’ll set you up. :)

@myhandle: @restaurant Okay…well…I’ll consider it. Thanks again. I feel kind of bad for being so angry now.

@restaurant: @myhandle I would have probably felt the same. Glad I could help.

Identifying completely diffuses a situation. Trust me on this one. Even if you can’t help someone, just identifying and apologizing will help. And that customer will feel a bit bad for blowing up at you online. If they don’t come back, they’ll certainly tell the story differently. This time, you’ll be cool…not a jerk that doesn’t listen.

So there you go. Simple ways to respond to customers in a way that will help you build bonds and loyalty and probably a few more sales rather than letting angry customers fall through the cracks (and tell everyone they know about their awful experience). In fact, take some of that billboard and other outbound advertising spend and put it into your inbound/customer service channels so you can totally empower them. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but I guarantee you that these interactions will benefit you far more than that extra month on the billboard.

Source: LinkedIn

Image Source: LinkedIn

Customer Service is a Two-Way Street

The customer is always right.

It’s hard to argue with that sentiment.

After all, the most beloved businesses are those that love their customers back.

What we often forget, however, is that we, as customers, also shoulder some responsibility in the service that we receive. Customers themselves play a very important role in the customer service process, but this role often goes overlooked.

And it’s true, isn’t it? In many ways, this is why many people don’t see customer service as a 2-way street—when we don the title of The Customer, the feeling is that we shoulder no responsibility in the outcome of our experience with a company.

But is this what the interactive process of service is all about?

The Give and Take of Great Service

“It is our job to ensure you have the best experience possible. It is hard to do that when you don’t communicate with us.”

That’s a quote from Reddit’s Tales From Your Server, an online forum dedicated to those working as waiters and waitresses.

It describes how we as the consumer often don’t hold up our end of the bargain—that we must be willing to communicate with the staff or the business if some part of the consumer experience has disappointed us.

It seems that review sites like Yelp are a common source of contempt for many local small business owners for this very reason.

Review sites offer, for the first time ever, a way to leave anonymous feedback based off of a single experience (and on a whim). The sentiment from many business owners is that this encourages some customers skip the give-and-take should some part of their experience be unsatisfactory.

Instead of first notifying someone from the staff who may be able to make it right, they scurry home to write a scathing “review.”

Consider an example like this one from Reddit:

“Service was great. All the food was great. The cheesecake was square… it made me uncomfortable because it was not at all what I expected. It tasted great. But it was square. 2 stars.”

(And don’t get me started about the rectangular napkins…)

Obviously, this is one of the more ridiculous examples out there that I shared for a laugh, but believe me, it’s far from the only one of its kind. The tragedy here is that any restaurant worth its salt would have no problem rectifying the situation… even if it meant cutting the cheesecake however the customer wanted it.

Some folks take reviews like these in stride:

Come Try The Worst Meatball Sandwich That One Guy on Yelp Ever Had in His Life
…but you should understand that comments like these, where it’s apparent that the customer did little to communicate their problem, are a very real concern for business owners.

The sort of relationship between customer and business where zero communication happens about the quality of the service is not only bad for the business, it’s bad for future customers.

They won’t be hearing an honest take on the service quality, and that is perhaps the most concerning outcome of when this process is handled incorrectly.

But wait, why should the customer have any responsibility for any of this? Isn’t it the business’s job to make sure everything is perfect for paying customers?

It’s Not About Silent Consumerism

I’d like to make it clear that I’m not advocating that you become a doormat who is willing to accept bad service.

You are spending your money with these businesses, and they need to earn it.

I’m simply highlighting that we as a consumers are not passive observers without any control over our customer experience. Given the recent popularity of a post entitled Maybe You Get Bad Service Because You’re a Bad Customer, it seems this is a feeling shared by a large number of people—that sometimes the poor service you receive is a result of your own actions (or inaction).

Customer service is all about the interaction between the customer and those servicing them, and as a person—even with the vaunted title of The Customer—this interaction is your responsibility too.

Telling a business what they did wrong in a calm, collected manner (like an adult) is a win-win situation that can often easily turn a mishap around. Many companies are more than willing to make sure their customers walk out the door happy, going as far as to giving refunds, upgrades, speedy fixes, or the simple offering of a genuine apology.

In Reddit’s Small Business section, I thought this point was made abundantly clear by an owner of a local business who just couldn’t understand a recent negative review:

“I just wish people would know that this is my livelihood—your experience matters so much to me that I will do whatever I need to in order to make you happy, but that isn’t possible if you leave without saying a word.”

As critics, we all tend to suffer a little from the fundamental attribution error—the tendency to blame others on character for what we might normally blame on circumstance, e.g.:

Jack fell down the hill because he was careless.
I fell down the hill because it rained and the grass was slippery.
We have to recognize that even the best businesses are not infallible, and we shouldn’t expect them to be.

Great customer service isn’t about always being right. It’s about always being willing to make it right.

It’s very frustrating to be the customer on the receiving end of a slip-up, but without giving businesses at least that one opportunity to prove their worth and make things right, what sort of message are we sending?

Most of us do not hold ourselves to the same standard. Imagine if someone were to stop by your office when you were having a rough day, and then silently leave a 2-star review of your performance for the hour that they observed you (without telling you). Would you deem that as fair?

You needn’t pity small business owners though—it’s a tough deal, for sure—but they chose to go into business, and they should be willing to accept the responsibilities.

One of those responsibilities is realizing that first impressions matter, and that they must deliver on their far bigger role in the customer-to-business interaction, which is providing the best service possible, as often as possible. Even genuine apologies and hasty “fixes” don’t make up for a regularly shoddy experience.

But we do need to remember when we are playing the role of customer, we have some responsibility too, both in telling businesses where our experience is lacking and in voting with our dollars to make sure great service thrives.

In a recent Q&A about companies people would never use again (surprise, Comcast was mentioned the most), this comment stood out:

The common denominator [here] seems to be companies that don’t individually respond to your concerns. This actually highlights how one should behave: do reward companies that provide individual attention to their customers. Do consider their service a financial benefit.”
Your candid, constructive feedback directly to those providing you with service gives worthy businesses a chance to stay on top of what they are doing right, and come to terms with what they are getting wrong.

As the comment above mentions, it also allows you to weed out those businesses who truly do not care about their customers—if you handle your responsibilities as a customer and give them a genuine chance to make you happy, they need to seize the opportunity to do so.

Otherwise, they become deserving of whatever verbal smackdown you decide to later leave on their review page!

Originally Posted HERE

The Future Is Customer Experience Management

Customer experience management (CEM) crosses the boundary from contact center to enterprise-wide customer care and provides a new way for companies to differentiate and grow. Those who shift their focus to address the new realities of CEM will ride the wave of the generational shift.
CEM is the discipline of managing and treating customer relationships as assets, with the goal of transforming customers into loyal brand advocates. CEM balances customers’ needs — such as resolution, value, competence and convenience — with the organization’s needs for growth and revenue, efficiency and obtaining the highest customer lifetime value (CLV).

Anticipating customer needs

Consumers have many choices, and switching providers is easy and inexpensive. Many products and services have become commodities. Organizations in this environment have two choices: Compete on price or add value.

CEM is a proactive process through which a customer’s needs are anticipated and solved. It requires an understanding of every touchpoint when a customer interacts with the organization and forms an impression. Positive interactions drive customer satisfaction, loyalty and lifetime value, but the cost of acquiring a new customer cannot be ignored. It’s cheaper and easier to retain a customer than it is to acquire a new one. Managing the customer experience throughout the life cycle can deliver a higher ROI on initial acquisition costs and increase the CLV.

Adopting a CEM mindset

CEM seems like a natural fit for the customer service department or contact center. However, successful CEM relies on an enterprise-wide commitment. Obviously, customer service representatives should have a CEM mindset, but so should developers, engineers and accounts receivable reps.

Understanding the customer’s perspective is critical

Surveys and focus groups can provide a deeper understanding of what customers really think. It’s a good idea for employees to do their own shopping or self-service support and report their experiences as a customer rather than an employee. From an internal perspective, an e-commerce site may have streamlined order fulfillment and payment processes, but how does it work for customers? Is it easy to find products and place an order, or is it confusing? What is it like to shop in a retail store?

In addition to surveying customers and walking in their shoes, organizations should identify every possible interaction that a customer will experience. What moments are critical? How can the experience be personalized? This may seem overwhelming, but sometimes all it takes to improve an experience is a small tweak or an acknowledgment of an issue.

As a company moves toward CEM, it’s a good idea to set specific goals and define how success will be measured.

Finally, both front-end and back-end processes need to align to support the CEM initiative. The IT department will play an integral role in CEM; include them from the beginning. Delivering a good customer experience addresses both customer and business needs, resulting in value for both the end customer and the business:

For the customer, CEM delivers satisfying experiences so that they feel valued and understood. Loyalty for life and positive word of mouth become likely

For the business, CEM improves CLV and drives higher revenue and improved margins throughout the customer journey. CEM can transform a cost center into a profit center

CEM begins with a change in mindset, but that’s just the beginning. The opportunity and rewards are substantial for organizations that recognize that the customer experience is their brand and that understanding and responding to the customer journey drives customer lifetime value.

Read more: HERE

Be distinct or get extinct

A five star hotel in Bali once had a very unique guest who had specific food allergies. But when he reached the hotel, he realised that his specialised milk and eggs which he brought along were spoilt. The manager and staff looked all around town for those ingredients but not having found them, the manager called his mother in law in Singapore and had them picked up and delivered to their kitchen!!! And it’s not a solitary show of excellent customer service. This chain of hotels, the Ritz Carlton, is famous for such exemplary customer service. Needless to say, their customers aren’t going anywhere else.

If you’ve ever eaten at Pizza Hut, you have must have seen a huge bell hanging at the exit. If you ring the bell while leaving, you will hear a loud Thank You from the staff members. It’s a simple practice but it gives the consumer a chance to express themselves and acknowledge that they had a good time. Even within the kitchen, you will hear shouts of ‘Well done’ among the chefs to goad each other for a job well done. Can you imagine the positive energy in such a workplace?
Pizza Hut gathered a fan following, and not to mention, some hard core patrons who will associate the ringing of the bell with some of their happiest times. Now can you think of any other Pizza chain that does this?

In a market filled with brands, products, competition, local as well as international, have you taken the effort to make yourself stand above the crowd? In both the above examples, the unique customer experience was what determined the die-hard loyalty of the customer.

Say you have a product which similar to that of your competitors…it is that extra effort you will take to make the experience special, that will turn a casual customer into a fan and a lifelong patron.

A very small example is of a cabbie from Mumbai who has fixed everything, from a small TV to a multi-pin battery charger to a first aid kit and a free newspaper too, to make his cab ride comfortable. Anyone travelling in that cab is never going to forget that. It’s not mandatory to fix all those things in his cab. No one else does. But it’s what sets him apart from other cabbies so much so that people note his number and call whenever they need a cab. It’s the unique customer experience that made a difference to this cabbie’s business.

While you aim for perfecting your product or service, you should also aim to delve deep into the psyche of your consumer and give him an enriching and memorable experience. Conducting timely audits of your retail spaces, mystery shopping exercises Going out of the way for your customer and doing something which he or she does not expect, will certainly leave a positive and everlasting imprint on your customer’s mind.

Image Source

Does Shopping Really Make You Happy?

Have you ever noticed how sometimes the experience of anticipating something can be better than the experience itself? Let me give you an example. I always wanted to drive a Ford Mustang. As a boy I was enthralled with the Mustang and its power. I saw the commercials and ads in magazines that described the horsepower and speed at my disposal in this unrivalled sports car. As an adult, I decided to rent one. My anticipation was palpable; I had a big smile on my face as I walked up to the car and turned the key the first time. The engine roared to life and I took off down the road.

I know this may be seen as heresy but despite the grand start to my drive, the sound and look of the car, after a while I have to admit I was a little bored. Honestly, more than bored, I was disappointed. The interior was bland and the visibility was restricted. My anticipation of being behind the wheel of this vehicle was overtaken by the reality of the experience of being in the car.

I was in love with the idea of the car, not the car itself.

The anticipation was a much more enjoyable experience than the experience itself.

This sort of thing happens all the time. Have you even gone to a party which you really looked forward to but when you got there it was nowhere near as good as you’d hoped? What about finally seeing the sequel to a movie you really enjoyed but the second film just didn’t live up to the first one?

Probably the place where this concept is best illustrated is in Lottery winners. Is there a single one of us who hasn’t won the lottery that believes that it wouldn’t make us happier to have won it? But studies show that after winners experience the joy of winning the lottery, they are usually less happy after they win. In all the cases, including the lottery, the anticipation was a lot stronger than the car/party/movie/lifetime of riches was in actuality. Wanting things at times is better than having them.

Consumers Like Retail Therapy
Sometimes when we are stressed out, we decide to go shopping. People call this ‘retail therapy’. Buying things we want can make us feel less stressed and generally happier, at least for the moment.

A great example of this behavior was in a recent story on CNN’s site, about a woman who had a stressful marketing job for a global tech company who enjoyed shoe shopping to relieve her stress. She talked about how deciding which shoes to buy was a way to escape ‘the drama going on at work’. As she shopped online for shoes, she described the anticipation and arrival of her shoes in the mail was like ‘Christmas morning’.

This behavior isn’t just for women and shoes. The retail survey conducted by Ebates, an online shopping cash back site, published its results recently that said that over half of Americans (51.8%) bought things to improve their mood. Women were more likely to buy clothing or accessories while men were more likely to buy food. But both groups agree that the purchase was intended to cheer them up.

When it comes to retail therapy, there were participants that shopped in brick and mortar stores as well as those who shopped online. Both venues provided an escape for the shoppers and both were relaxing for them but most people preferred online shopping for therapy. The online shoppers said they preferred to shop online for the following reasons, ranked in order by highest percentage of respondents:

43.7% Don’t have to leave the house
42.6% More convenient
37.9% Don’t have to drive
30.8% Wider range of stores to browse
25.7% Don’t have to lug purchases home
22.2% It’s immediate
13.1% Don’t have to have anyone see what I bought

What many of these shoppers may not realize is that while the act of buying things is performed, the intended effects of the activity (stress relief) are achieved in the desire and search for the item more than the actual purchase.

Found it, bought it, now what?
Research shows that after purchasing an item, the positive emotions associated with the purchase don’t last. A study published in the journal Emotion last December, explains that the desire for an item, deciding on it as your next acquisition, and anticipating how it will improve your life is more soothing than the actual purchase itself. Researchers have studied the emotions of shoppers before and after their purchases. Before the purchase shoppers are peaceful, excited, and optimistic but after they experience what experts call a ‘hedonic decline’ or a change from these emotions to more negative emotions and in some cases, buyer’s remorse. In most cases, however, the item becomes a part of their lives, the feelings subside and the shopper starts prowling for the next purchase.

I know exactly what the researchers are talking about on this topic. Instead of food like my male counterparts, I like to buy fishing lures. For me the lure is a representation of the bigger fish that I will be able to catch once I have it. I usually search for them online. The Marketing people who sell lures will tell you ‘the first thing a lure has to do is catch the fisherman’s attention’. Once I find just the right one, I buy it. I look forward to its arrival. Then, when it arrives I unwrap it, smiling while I visualize my catch where my prey has no chance due to my superior equipment! I put it in the tackle box for my next trip. It is the buying it, waiting for it to arrive, looking at it and the anticipation of using it for the first time. After the first use, it goes in the box with the 500 other lures!

Does Your Customer Experience Leave Them Wanting?
So what does this have to do with your customer experience? A great deal, in fact. Because one thing we haven’t talked about is what happens when the item that is shopped for, dreamed about, visualized in their life as the answer to their problems is purchased and isn’t great. Or wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be, like my experience with the Mustang.

Expectations are a huge part of the buying process. There are, though, rational and emotional expectations. Most organizations just focus on a Customer’s rational expectations, for example the time it takes to answer the phone or deliver a product. Ask them to show you research on a customer’s emotional expectations, how the customer wants to feel, and they will be found wanting. We have discussed this before in my blog called, ‘Motivation is Key’. People have needs that they intend to be met with the products they buy, like the customers we discussed in that post who were buying milkshakes on their way to work to keep them full all morning and not mess up their car on the commute. Understanding their needs and showing them how your product meets those needs should be a critical part of your marketing plans.
You do need, though, to be conscious that in your advertising you don’t create an expectation you can’t fulfill. Promising something and not delivering is the surest way to create a negative customer experience. If, in your research, everyone says they wanted your product/service but when they got it they were disappointed, it could be that you may have created expectations that you couldn’t meet. This can have a major negative effect on your sales.

Resist the temptation to promise consumers the world. It won’t serve anyone better in the long run. Instead, it’s much better to ‘under-promise’ and ‘over-deliver’.

This will facilitate an opportunity to delight your customer by surpassing their expectations. This is the surest way to create a positive customer experience.

When you are designing your customer journey you need to consider the difference between what customers’ expect and what they get. In Moment Mapping we look at the psychological effect your consumer would feel after purchasing your product or service and put in place a program of events after the purchase to reinforce what a good decision it was to buy the product or service.

Customers are irrational, particularly when they are stressed out by their work and shopping for shoes! So be sure that you are accommodating that with your customer experience design. Use reinforcement of the brand. Play up the prestige that owning this product can have. By using these tools and creating realistic expectations, your customer experience will not leave them wanting but leave them wanting more.

What have you bought where the anticipation was better than the experience?

Originally Posted HERE

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