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Know Your Customer, Like You Know Your Friends

Guest Post by Parker Hathaway

customer service friend

I was in a conversation with friend this week. He’s an avid murder mystery and investigative reporting fan. He loves shows like Making of a Murderer60 Minutes20/20, and True Detective. I asked him if he was a podcast fan. He said he wasn’t. With a grin, I leaned in and said, “I’m about to change your month. Have you heard of Serial?”

We need to know our customers like we know our friends.

Serial revolutionized podcasting, coming in with over 40 million downloads in its first season as it followed a murder mystery story week by week. My buddy devoured all 12 episodes and spent countless hours reading on the web about possible theories.

And I had no doubt he would.

We need to know our customers like we know our friends. The question is, how?

Peter McCarthy, founder of The Logical Marketing Agency, has laid the groundwork for us. He describes three buckets that help you identify your customer: (1) Demographics, (2) Psychographics, and (3) Behaviors. You can read more of his work here. For the exercise, take your customer and create the below three buckets and then start asking questions. Here’s a start:

Demographics:

Where do your customers live? What’s their age? occupation? income? political affiliation? urban or rural? gender? ethnicity? These are general questions that you might find on a census. However, you must dig deep. It’s laborious, but it will serve you in the long run. At the end of this exercise you should be able to picture your customer when he/she walks through the door, and that’s huge.

Psychographics:

How do your customers think? What do they believe in? What are their attitudes towards this or that? What are their preferences? What do they love? hate? crave? What are their emotions towards a given topic? What do they value? What gets them excited?! Make a list of emotions and attach a description of your customer to each. Use what you learn to write better copy or apply it to the design of your website or, better yet, your product! When we say “we feel,” we attribute a cognitive value. Learn what your customer feels.

Behaviors:

This is where things get exciting, especially if you have access to a large data depository. What does your customer do? What do they purchase? read? use? crave? search? How do they engage with social media? Instagram more than Facebook? Twitter more than Snapchat? What are patterns that you find with your customers? Why do they drop out at point of purchase? Use A/B testing as a tool to discover behaviors.

Next time: Identifying your customer can be laborious, but it’s crucial for risk mitigation and customer growth. I’m going to introduce you to tools that will help you to identify your customer in 30 minutes. These tools are free and fun to use!

Conversational AI: An Introduction

Guest post by Nine Connections

Is customer service dead?

The other day, my 73-year old father, was grumbling about something he read in the news about automation of processes at the local bank.

“People don’t talk anymore. In my day, customer service meant talking to someone, saying hello, asking how your day was. Now it’s a recorded voice or reading tiny print online. Customer service is dead.”

That got me thinking. The role of a traditional customer service representative has evolved over the years. Once the domain of primarily the service and hospitality staff, the role of customers and our relationships with them has seen several costume changes — the phone IVR, surveys, forms, smiling uniformed people, you name it. But even as the modes change, the role of customer services and engagement has only just increased. Today customer relationships have become a full-fledged industry. 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated. The more people feel they’re being listened to, the happier they are and the more money they’ll spend — or that’s the hope. An Adobe report even suggests that customer service can deliver a higher ROI than marketing. Customer service, once upon a time, used to be about happy people, lots of solicitous questions and a solution with a smile. While it’s certainly true that the human factor seems to have declined over the years, the key tenets of a human interaction customer service have remained — conversations, solutions and a smiling demeanor.

So can a bot — the latest entrant into the customer service role — actually deliver these admittedly-human qualities?

Chatbot as the perfect concierge

Businesses that recognize how much time consumers spend on messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and Slack have developed automated messaging technology. In 2015 messaging apps surpassed social networking apps, and chat apps have higher retention and usage rates than most mobile apps. Today, brands are looking at bots to become the next concierge, to understand what the customer wants, which direction they’re headed on, to involve them in interesting content, spread brand awareness and indeed, carry on conversations with a smile. But is all of that realistically possible?

On paper, it’s the perfect solution. Bots are machines, easily duplicated and incapable of human drama. They can be taught to function perfectly with a specific set of rules or through machine learning. These capabilities, limited as they are, can be trained to emulate the perfect customer service person’s skills — kindness, patience and solution-oriented. A machine can be taught to never be sarcastic and to always have a listening ear. And because it doesn’t have human failings such as fatigue or just being an asshole, it’s becoming an increasingly widespread phenomenon.

Any company with a chatbot interacting in the marketplace has the opportunity to gain valuable customer information. This has benefits in several areas — more personalization, targeted marketing, sales strategies as well as manpower allocation.

Not there yet

While bots were also a hot topic at the recent Corporate Social Media Summit, the jury were admittedly slightly skeptical. Bots are still very much in their nascent stage. And there have been several failures. In the rush to develop the next Siri or Cortana for their businesses, what most companies have ended up with are simplistic, underdeveloped tech with limited capabilities and faulty data. Of course there are the filthy people of the internet. It took less than 24 hours for Microsoft’s Tay to turn into into a filthy Nazi racist troll and two weeks for the cute little hitchbot to become roadside shrapnel. Even if the world were a perfect place, everyone was sunshine and unicorns and keeping empathy and other qualities aside, the actual functions and solutions given to customers by these bots need to work. That requires very skilled developers — but even they aren’t free of error.

Having said that, the possibilities for a bot are immense. Even though the big tech companies haven’t quite cracked how to make it work. Our co-founder Chris has a strong vision on the problems with Conversational AI, and perhaps more importantly — he offers solutions. He will share his vision 26th August on Startup Friday (still some spots left) and will start to share his vision in our blog series about Conversational AI that’s coming up here on Medium.

I know I will be paying attention. My own life have tons of bots — from the local Asian store from online magazines to Facebook to even my fitness wearable. Chatbots might very well be the face of the future one day. Now if they only knew how to smile.

Customer Service: Its Importance and Value

Customer service is often overlooked by many companies because it’s hard to measure the direct value of providing great customer experience.

In today’s highly competitive market, businesses have to make tough calls on what to focus on next to survive, and unfortunately, providing customer satisfaction is usually on the lower end of the list.

Without being able to properly quantify the direct value of great service, many businesses can’t justify spending time and resources on providing it. Other businesses just see customer service more as a pain, and choose to be reactive, rather than proactive to customer expectations. However, the truth is, great customer service is absolutely crucial to the long-term survival of the business.

customer-service-happy

The Importance of Customer Service

You can argue that price is the main reason your customers choose you, so you focus your energy and resources on being the most affordable. I’m telling you, there will come a day when a competitor comes in with a better product for a cheaper price.

In the the same way, you can also argue that you focus on innovative developments and that’s why your customers buy from you. Again, there will come a day a competitor swoops in and take your customers from you because they made better innovative progress. Do you know what you can invest in that your competitors can’t take away from you? Loyalty. Good old customer loyalty.

The best way to gain customers’ loyalty? You charm them with your service.

By continuously engaging with them through customer service and marketing efforts, you are fostering a relationship with them. It’s hard for people to walk away from someone or something they have formed an attachment to.

A study conducted by Forrester Research found that strong emotional connections with a brand is a stronger driver than other factors like ‘ease’ and ‘effectiveness’ across 17 different industries.

So now you know why it’s important, what’s the value of providing great customer experience and service to create highly engaged customers?

The Value of Customer Service

1. Retaining customers is much less expensive than acquiring new ones

It’s true. Acquiring a new customer can be anywhere from 5-25 times more expensive than keeping a current one. You don’t have to spend so much time and resources finding a new customer and converting them. Instead, you just have to make sure they’re satisfied and will repurchase from you.

Customer support contributes a large portion to the retention and satisfaction of customers. Many companies put a lot of time and resources in their sales and marketing teams, when just as much emphasis should be put in support or success teams. When done right, they can have a bigger impact on your bottomline than new acquisition activities.

2. Repeat customers generally spend more than new ones

A study by McKinsey found that eCommerce spending for new customers on average is $24.50, compared to $54.50 for repeat customers. Even better, highly-engaged customers buy 90 percent more often and spend 60 percent more per transaction.Making a customer happy shouldn’t be a one time thing at the beginning of the relationship. Most relationships are more valuable the longer they are. Businesses should be putting more emphasis on their customer service, success and support teams because the financial growth potential is much larger than in newly acquired customers. Plus, the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 – 70%, whereas the probability of selling to a new prospect is only 5-20%.

2. Great service reduces the severity of overall problems.

We’ve all had problems with companies before. In the moment, you might be upset, angry, annoyed or all of the above. If you had to talk to a rude customer service rep on top of all that…I’d imagine you wouldn’t be too happy. What originally may have been a small problem would go from 0 – 100.

In the same way bad service can escalate problems, good customer service can reduce them. When delivered well, customer service can diffuse negative emotions from the customer and the situation. Excellent customer service can turn the situation around into a positive. Small things like apologizing, empathizing and being genuine can go a long way to reduce a customer’s negative emotions and the severity of the overall problem.

82% of satisfied customers will “likely” or “very likely” keep shopping with a company and give it another chance if something goes wrong.

3. Builds brand awareness with minimal effort.

Customers are being more and more vocal about how a company treats them and how a company makes them feel. Considering your customer service team are likely to be the only people in contact with a customer, they play a crucial role in shaping their customer experience, and by extension, whether they have good or bad things to say about the company.

It is therefore important that every interaction with a customer should make them feel valued, listened to and supported. Extra points for going beyond expectations like Paul from Zappos. It was a simple response to a customer whose shoes were falling apart, but he made it so much more. This ended up being shared on Reddit, Hubspot and Helpscout and championed as customer service at its best.

Zappos Customer Service

Source: Reddit

4. People remember the service a lot longer than they remember the price.

Think back to a purchase you made a couple of years back. Heck, think back a couple of months even. I can’t even remember the price of something I bought in the last few months!

What I do remember though, is the service, the delivery and the effort I had to put in to make the purchase. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. And in this case, the price you paid is the destination, and all that leading up to the purchase, is the journey. People will talk. If they liked the journey, they will recommend it to others.

5. It’s a competitive advantage no one can take away

With rapid innovation reducing differentiation between one product and another, and competitors just a click away, customer service is one of the last frontiers of sustainable competitive advantage for businesses.

Many businesses will pay lip service to the value of customer service, all the while cutting costs and resources to provide it. This will only ensure they provide the bare minimum to support customers, it doesn’t mean it’s anywhere near good enough to be a advantage. When normal customer service standard means going above and beyond for a customer, that is when customers will choose your business over someone else’s.

Customer Service Takeaway: Customer service is becoming more important than ever as competitors increase and are closer than ever. A customer is 4 times more likely to defect to a competitor if the problem is service related than price or product related. No one wants to do business with someone they don’t like. The product or service doesn’t matter anymore. They can easily substitute with other products or services that function similarly. Customers would rather deal with the slight inconvenience that the competitor’s product or service doesn’t function the same way, than to deal with the huge inconvenience of not being supported by your business.

Customer service, when delivered to the satisfaction of customers, not only creates a powerful marketing opportunity for the business, but also helps with the bottomline. Not only are return customers easier to sell to, they will spend more per transaction and would pay extra to guarantee better service.

customer service charter template download cta woveon

Using Smart Technology for Smarter Customer Service

Smart technology is rapidly changing the world we live in today. From smart houses to high-tech artificially intelligent robots, the world we live in is being saturated with advanced technology that simplifies our lives today. One industry that is fully embracing artificial intelligence is customer service. Companies across many different industries are jumping on board and using artificial intelligence and machine learning to create chatbots, remember customer problems, and create suggested responses. These are just some of the few incredible capabilities that AI and ML and other smart technologies are bringing to the field of customer service.

How Artificial Intelligence is Leading the Smart Technology Revolution

quick-intro-ai-ml

Smart technology is transforming the customer experience, but there’s also a more self-serving business benefit from its use. Those teams enabled and empowered through the likes of AI and predictive intelligence have higher rates of employee engagement. This is because agents feel more empowered and experience first-hand the positive impact this personalized style of service is having on the customer. There are two main ways that businesses are augmenting their customer care units with AI: “front-end AI-powered bots” and “AI-assisted human agents.” A front-end AI-powered bot is a conversational computer program that interacts directly with a customer without human intervention. On the other hand, an AI-assisted human agent is a human customer service representative who is supported by AI technology. Both these models are being used in service departments across industries.

Chatbots

Of all the fields in the chatbot-crazed world, customer service is one of the prime targets for automation. Virtual customer agents (customer service-focused bots, or VCAs) are intelligent systems able to understand what users ask via chat and provide them adequate answers.

In 2015, the number of people using messaging apps overtook the number using social media. Beyond communicating with friends and work colleagues, individuals are increasingly using messaging apps to interact with brands. Messaging services are a brand new space for organizations to connect with existing and future customers. Businesses now have the opportunity to create new revenue streams using real-time, customized customer service bots within messaging applications. More than 34,000 chatbots on Facebook Messenger alone are a reflection of this opportunity. The airline, clothing and tourism industries are already leveraging this space. Consumers are connecting with brands through messaging apps to purchase airline tickets, book hotel accommodations and receive fashion advice. It’s only a matter of time before the other industries catch up.

The WeChat Messenger bot deployed by China Merchant Bank, one of the largest credit card issuers in China, is another example of a front-end bot. According to the AI technology provider Xiaoi, the China Merchant Bank’s front-end bot handles 1.5 to 2 million customer conversations per day, an inquiry volume that would typically require thousands of additional employees to answer. As most questions relate to card balances and payments, automation via a bot interface presents a relatively easy and cost efficient solution.

These above examples of chatbots already in use give a great introduction of the possibilities that AI brings to the field of customer service. AI makes it possible to create these large indexes so that the bot can respond back with pre-understood phrases or suggest responses to the human controlling it.

Suggested Responses

AI and ML are frequently misunderstood in the business world. They are not taking over jobs, but further enhancing current human positions. With suggested responses, companies can get through all of the requests at a much faster pace. AI bots can be used to read through customer requests and find the problem they are having. If you have repeat customers, customer conversation history is extremely important tool for your AI and ML. It can learn from past experiences and more accurately detect the problem the customer is having.

Conversation History

Woveon, a startup that provides intelligent customer service, uses AI programs to enhance its customer conversation history. Conversation history is simply saving past conversations between the customer and the business. Customer service representatives can then go back and use this data to help future questions the customer may have. Woveon is using this to essentially make a 3D diagram to further help the representative. The program will be able to go into the conversation history and track down the problems. It will then make a web with the biggest points being recurring problems. Branching off of the bigger problems will be other related problems that customers often have. This program, though still in development, will change the way customer service is able to work with customers. Woveon’s software, as mentioned above, is an AI-Assisted Human Agent and proves the importance of human interaction as it simplifies and speeds up these interactions.

Smart Tech Integration to the Business World

“As humans, we advance, that’s what we do. And the rise of AI in the customer service field is just another step in our advancement and should be looked at as such. There might be some growing pains during the process, but we shouldn’t let that stop us from growing and extending our knowledge. When we look at the benefits these chatbots, suggested responses, and conversation history can provide to the consumer and the business, it becomes clear that we are moving in the right direction.”

customer service charter template download cta woveon

How to Turn Your Company into a Multi-Channel Success

Multi-channel is the future. Recently, a survey involving a thousand consumers was conducted to study into consumer shopping habits. Of the thousand surveyed consumers, 80% preferred having a choice of shopping in store, by telephone or online. There was a time when all the power in a customer-seller relationship was with local shops. A customer would drive for hours to get a chance to buy something but often, he/she would end up being turned away because the shop had already sold out. Since they got results without making any extra effort, multi-channel marketing or sales did not make sense to the sellers at the time.

Call center online customer support woman operator concept

Today, the entire relationship has been turned upside down. Now, all the power is with the customer and sellers have to constantly adopt new technology just so that a customer considers them when buying. Today, businesses need to make it as easy as possible for customers to buy something from them. In such times, a good way to increase your chances of netting a sale is appearing on different channels familiar to potential customers. In short, you need to whole-heartedly embrace multi-channel sales and marketing.An opportunity to engage with consumers across a variety of channels, multi-channel marketing allows you to maintain a consistent message and brand. On the other hand, multi-channel selling can help you to profitably sell to more people. With a multi-channel strategy, you can reach the right customers, at the right time, using the right channels and the right messages. This allows you to focus towards marketing efforts, improve customer engagement and achieve better Return On Investment.

To collect customer contact information, companies today use at least three channels. Considering this, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that more and more businesses today are focusing most on their efforts on multiple channel initiatives. Moreover, businesses are doing everything they possible can to make these initiatives successful. So, what are the efforts you need to make your multiple-channel initiatives successful? Following is how to turn your company into a multi-channel success.

Plan Carefully

The most important aspect of your multiple channel strategy is planning. Even if your idea is great, it can turn out to be disastrous if you execute it without much thought. Instead of helping you grow, this will end up costing you. For this reason, you must plan carefully what channels you’ll sell on, what systems you will use and how you will integrate those systems together.

Turn Multiple Channels into A Single View

Using a carefully planned strategy, you can accurately capture and link multiple engagement points into a single identity. When this happens, you will be able to get a single customer view into your multiple-channel activity. With this single customer view, you will know exactly when a customer wants you to reach out to him/her. This in turn will help your business to generate a positive response.

Eliminate the Need for Manual Data Entry

A multi-channel strategy creates repetition of finding customer information, sharing information and customer profiles across different systems and importantly, repeating the same conversation again so the customer service rep can understand the situation. The information stored in these systems includes information related to customers, inventory, items etc. Sharing this information across your systems is mandatory. Whether a customer buys in-store or online, you would want to track his/her order history.

If an item is purchased from your webstore, then the decrease in inventory should reflect in your amazon account and vice versa. Moreover, you must share product information from your point of sale (POS) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) to your online sales channels. Often, businesses using a multiple channel strategy for the first time rely on manual data entry to transfer data from one system to another. Unfortunately, the time and cost incurred in this process is something the business underestimates. It may take hours to manually enter data such as entering online orders into your ERP or POS. Moreover, manual data entry makes you prone to typing mistakes that result in out of stock, lost orders and worst of all, ticked off customers.

For the reasons mentioned-above, you need to eliminate manual data entry when using a multi-channel strategy. Today, there are numerous software-based solutions that automate data processing, speed up processing of orders and eliminate those costly human-errors.

Know Who You’re Selling To

multi-channel-success-single-customer-view-manual-data-entry

As important as knowing where to pitch, knowing who to pitch to can increase your chances of making a sale. You need to create various ‘buyer personas’ i.e. the customers you’re likely to run into when selling on various channels. These personas represent the different customer groups interested in your product. By customizing your message appropriately to those groups, you can increase chances of making a sale. Ultimately, this will help you to turn your company into a multi-channel success.

Managing Multiple Customer Channels

The way people reach your business’ customer support has changed significantly in the past couple of years, primarily because of the advent of the internet, social media and more importantly, smartphones. Companies are now expected to answer the customer’s grievances over a vast array of channels – these can include emails, messages over social media such as Facebook and Twitter, SMS, contact page on the website and last but not the least, the very traditional but still relevant… phone.

The customer expects your representatives to be available for any queries around-the-clock, 24/7 and wants prompt replies. Failure to address your customer can result in losing out on important business resulting in loss of revenue. All the different channels of communication should be consistent with each other, for instance handling the customer’s emails should not keep your agents so preoccupied that they miss out on a customer’s phone calls.

Here’s How to Manage Multiple Customer Channels

1. Different Channels – Different Challenges

social-media-lead-generation

Each channel has its own set of requirements, challenges, resources and your customer representative team will have different skills. You can’t expect one agent to perfectly handle all your channels with perfect tenacity. You will have to gauge their strengths and weaknesses and assign them certain roles accordingly. You will need someone with good communication skills in order to handle a large number of phone calls, while fast typing speed would be required of someone who is handling emails and social media.

See also: The Art and Science of Customer Engagement

With phone calls and chats, both the customer and the support agents are available at the same time and this can allow you to find common ground very quickly. Channels such as SMS and emails mean that neither the customer nor the support agent are burdened with the pressure of time, and can respond to each at their own leisure (not really true for support agents). While both channels have their strengths and weaknesses, the main purpose of a well oiled customer support team is to ensure that your customer has access to useful information in a short amount of time.

How you can go about designing your customer support team depends entirely on the size of your business and how much volume each channel receives. Depending on the type of business – whether it conducts most of its business online or offline – most customers might try reaching your support team on social media than on phone. This is most often the case with media publication sites with a strong online presence. For insurance or professional service companies, however, phone calls and traditional letters seem to be the order of the day.

It isn’t Practical to Blindly follow someone else’s Multichannel Strategy

It really isn’t one size fits all, and the preferable means of communication really depend on the customer. For most small scale businesses in Australia, it really isn’t a good idea to invest in every single type of channel you can get your hands on. It takes time and resources to gather useful, talented individuals and train them to properly handle their roles. It isn’t practical to be available 24/7 across phone, email, SMS and social media. Pick one service that might work best for you. If you’re an online seller, chances are that your customers might not really try to reach you on phone. However, that might not be the case if you’re a physical business with a physical store. For restaurateurs, it is more beneficial to have support agents dealing with phone calls 24/7 or during working hours, rather than having a team address customers online. Your preferred method of communication also depends on which channel the customer themselves choose.

Variety is Beneficial for both Employees and Customers

A key point to understand is that your support team also needs a break from the hassle of going through a monotonous job on a daily basis. You need to change their roles every now and then to keep them engaged so that the quality of your support teams doesn’t falter. For instance, one week an agent would be addressing the customer over chat, the next they might engage them over phone. The idea is to ensure they don’t get bored. Boredom can kill productivity and your customers might actually interpret this as lack of concern or empathy for their problem.

The operator over the phone needs to have an encouraging, bubbling voice that exudes enthusiasm which can instill confidence in your customer. So even if their problem might take some time for your team to get back to, they will always be patient because the person on the end of the line was so… enthusiastic.

Studies have shown that deploying omnichannel solutions can boost the employee’s morale by more than 80% while giving your customer more options to reach you.

Make Notes about the Customer

By keeping a history of the customer’s purchase history, complaint records and other such data, your support agent will be able to address their problems more efficiently the next time they receive a complaint. This also means you can track the customer’s trends by quantifying key business metrics such as the customer loyalty and retention.

Has customer service and experience changed? What’s next for your business?

Guest Blog By Cassie McInnes

That is a very good question! The answer is yes, and no. I’ll explain why.

Why the meaning of customer service and experience hasn’t changed

The description of ‘customer’, ‘service’ and ‘experience’ remains the same in the dictionary:

Customer: Someone who buys goods or services from a business or a person who has a particular quality.

Service: The action of helping or doing work for someone.

Experience: Direct observation of or participation in events as a basis of knowledge.

I like to keep service simple, because it is. (Except it is so simple, it often gets missed).

Service = kindness.

service-kindness-helping-hand

So in these simple terms, service has not changed one bit. The language of the heart is love and we know and understand love. No, I do not mean a certain kind of love, for example the way you love your mum or the way you love your partner. I’m just talking about the pure energy or effort that’s put into any interaction because it is ‘the right thing to do for someone else’. To me, this part stays the same, always.

So, then, what has changed and continues to change?

Our awareness has changed. We’ve woken up. Gone are the days where you’ll hear a company say they don’t have a Customer Service Training module in their on-boarding programs. And if you are reading this and you don’t have induction training that focuses on CS/CX, then you really need to wake up. It is predicted that in a few years, the main reason for losing or gaining customers will be how they are treated. Historically, it has been price and convenience (due to the increasing population of mega corporations competing against each other). Yes, we all agree value for money is important and we all want to save our hard earned dollars. However, value does not just mean low cost, we all know the saying ‘you get what you pay for’. So, the meaning of value is changing.

Our customer satisfaction tools are smarter

No matter how much a business ‘thinks’ they know what a customer wants – the best way to know for sure and keep up with them by always listening to them. This is usually done by methods including:

  • Customer Satisfaction Surveys (CSAT)
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  • Email/ post/ text surveys
  • Real time feedback during any interaction
  • Response on social media
  • Word of mouth/ Branding

Many jobs are created for all those listed above, and businesses are not shying away from putting in to get more out.

If you are a smart business owner, your CX investments will be going into all of your departments, as happy and engaged staff will ensure your chance of happier customers.

When it comes to specific CS/CX budgets, the investment focus of your business should not just be in customer service. The focus needs to be in every division in your business. If you do this and cooperate accordingly, it will result in a positive, healthy and safe culture. Some examples of divisional teams you would want working together are: your managers working on positive leadership initiatives, reward and recognition, social activities, physical and mental health initiatives and development of staff. All of these divisions should be constantly reminded of your organisational service goal or model and the behaviours demonstrated should mirror this in every interaction.

The training for CX and CS coaching and training is evolving at a rapid rate. There is increased research and awareness abroad in marketing, behavioural science and communication skills. In general, people are struggling mentally everywhere, life is tough. One in five Australians will experience mental health issues in any given year and up to fifty four percent to do not seek help. So, people are not feeling okay generally and are craving to be treated better just to get through their day. Because of this, businesses are learning that they not only have customers to win over for business but they have responsibility humankind to help customers through service or as I like to say, kindness. For any caring and sensible manager, it makes sense to be a star in service and experience.

 

cassie-mcinnes-customer-service-customer-experience-expert-woveonCassie is an expert in the field of customer service and coaching and loves to develop people. As a certified trainer and facilitator, Cassie is also passionate about designing and teaching Service Training and linking it to behavioural science. In 2014, she received the award for ’emerging manager of the year’​ along with 29 other National winners for The Australian Institute of Management’s “30 under 30″​ program. She was also awarded the state award for Collaboration at The ARCBS in 2014 which Cassie attributes to her passion for teamwork. One of Cassie’s favourite quotes is: ‘We are all in this together’​.

How to Do Customer Service The Right Way

Customer service is an extremely important part of a business. Your product is what catches your customers attention, and your service is what keeps them loyal. A strong company will already have great customer relationships. But a smart company will always be asking “What is good customer service?” If you are not constantly on the lookout for opportunities to improve your customer service, then your relationships will stagnate. Here are a few customer service tips for identifying ways to better serve customers.

Customer Service Done Right

1. Get Personal

Your customers want to feel like they have access to real people, not bots and FAQs. Offer more than just automated email responses, and do not let your telephone prompts or website send them down a rabbit hole. Take full advantage of social media (such as Facebook, Twitter and Yelp) and write responses when your customers post on your page. Post photos and bios on your website. This shows your customers that you are real people working on their behalf.

2. Be Available

contact us customer service

Part of the personal touch is making sure your customers can reach you. For example if your business is primarily online, meet in person occasionally with local customers and offer video calls (such as Skype) for those farther away. Work early and late when needed, especially if your customers are in different time zones. Even providing customers with your physical address helps build their trust and reminds them that your company exists off the internet as well.

3. Cater to Your Customers

Make sure you are fully meeting your customers needs. Consider assigning reps to specific customers so they can build a relationship. Offer VIP treatment for your best customers to let them know they are appreciated. What special services might your customers like? Set up focus groups, interview customers, or run a survey to get ideas.

4. Create Communities

Your customers will feel even more valued if you treat them as important members of a community. You can bring various customers together in numerous ways, including webinars, interactive websites, social media, trade shows and conventions. And don’t forget that while your customers come to these forums to learn from you, you can learn as much, if not more, from them.

5. Specials Services / VIP

Are there special discounts or services you can offer that your competitors don’t? Can you offer something special for existing customers only? Could your services be considered luxury? Offering special treatment to your customers will help them to feel taken care of, and it’s also something they might be willing to pay more for. There are so many “bait and switch” offers and promotions for new customers only– reward the customers that have been with you the longest.

6. Offer Knowledge

Building strong relationships with our customers is great, but we also get to offer and trade knowledge with them. In our trade, a customer can compare several competing copies of a book online, but they won’t get a conversation about the title’s complicated printing history. When we’re speaking with customers, we spend the majority of time talking about the merchandise itself, trends in the market, and the customer’s own collecting habits. Afterward, we negotiate a deal. A customer can even know more than you do on a particular topic! Take advantage of this opportunity to learn more.

7. Let Customers Get to Know You

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If you’re running your business from an unknown (or internet-only) location, it makes you more anonymous. This is common nowadays, but adding a face or an address to your business could help assure customers that you won’t disappear overnight. You don’t have to rent office space if you don’t really need it; just be upfront about where you operate from and consider ways of contacting customers aside from email. A little personal information can go a long way, and could minimize concerns of accessibility, trust, or safety.

Customer service is an extremely important aspect of your business that is often overlooked. Following these simple steps can boost your customer’s loyalty to your company and also increase sales! I suggest you start by creating some customer service goals for your support team. Be sure to align these goals to your business goals so you’re on track! This Customer Service Goal Template will help you get started!

How Do You Know If The Customer Service Representative You’re Hiring Will Boost Customer Loyalty?

Customer service, the faces behind the business. When hiring customer service representatives, it is important to look for people that will represent your company well. They are one of a few direct contacts that your customers will get. Because of this, it is extremely important to leave a good impression. Having friendly and helpful service agents at the front line is important to the longevity of any business.

Tabatha Naylor writes, “Customers don’t buy from businesses they don’t trust, end of story. Luckily, building trust in a customer/business relationship doesn’t have to be difficult. While it does take effort, the steps to get there are easy if you are willing to be open, honest, and efficient when communicating with customers.” Finding people to hire for your customer service team is extremely important and these are some of the traits you should be looking for:

The Art Behind Hiring The Best Customer Service Representatives

1. Self control

You are sure to come across customers who will be difficult to deal with. For this reason, you must have self control. You must be able to handle both the easy and hard times that comes with serving the public.

2. Superior communication skills

If you aren’t a good communicator, then customer service may not be the field for you. Customer service jobs require that you deal heavily with the public. Do you know how to handle the many problems that come with customers? Communication skills are essential to get a good customer service job.

Communicating to tough customers can be hard, but they don’t have to be! Here’s 5 email templates to get you out of a sticky situation with an angry customer.

3. They are Loyal

Author Alexander Kjerulf says, “Happy employees make the customers happy”. It might sound rather straightforward, but happiness and satisfaction within a company will inevitably lead to loyalty.

When interviewing a candidate, pay attention to what they say about the previous companies they’ve worked for. There might be some underlying unhappiness, but a potential employee that speaks highly of their previous company despite having left is one that is both respectful and loyal. A loyal customer care representative will put the company’s interest first when dealing with difficult customers. They are likely try their best to protect the company’s image even in the presence of the most difficult customers.

4. Natural Problem Solvers

Companies that excel at customer service don’t wait for a problem to arise before addressing it. One of the great customer service skills is the ability to take a preemptive approach in managing possible risks and being prepared when a problem does arise.

Similarly, customer service employees must be able to provide a solution even before the customer poses the question (within reason, of course). In combination with a problem-solving nature, the candidate should also be a great listener in order to gather “clues” and read between the lines during communication.

In customer service, nothing is perfect and things will go wrong. This is not a failure. The best businesses show how they fix their mistakes.

5. Willing to go the extra mile to please customers

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The customer always comes first and is ALWAYS right. You must be willing to go the extra mile to please each and every customer. Sometime, this can be at the expense of your pride. You must be willing to swallow your pride and move on.

6. They are highly conscientious

Look for candidates who are highly conscientious. The candidate that arrives late for the interview, looking completely flustered and confused is probably not the ideal choice.

Conscientious individuals are reliable, disciplined, methodical, organized, and goal driven. The Journal of Applied Social Psychology noted that individuals who are identified through tests as highly conscientious are more likely to be aware of how good interpersonal interactions positively affect customer service and are more likely to behave this way.

To a degree, conscientious individuals are pleasers in the sense that they are aware of what works for certain people and what doesn’t. They have a strong intuition about what is morally right and wrong as well as how to treat others.

When customers call a company they’re actively seeking help in resolving a problem. A conscientious customer service agent will be better equipped to pick up the clues interlaced in the customer’s words, which will allow them to resolve pain points.

7. Customer appreciation

A good job in customer service will require that you have a general appreciation to customers. After all, they are the ones who will be providing you with a job. Without them, your job would not be necessary.

8. They are Persuasive

A great customer service employee will also have some amazing marketing and sales skills. It’s not always about being a manipulator, but being able to steer the customer into a direction that is beneficial for both the company and the client.

If you want to know if your candidates have this trait, ask a simple question in the interview such as, “Why should we hire you?.” This way they have to sell themselves in a persuasive manner while listing qualities, traits and reasons–a perfect, practical test of their customer service skills.

Get Out and Hire!

When interviewing candidates to become your next customer service hero, look for for these qualities, traits and skills. Look for someone who is communicative, persuasive, is polite, patient, conscientious, and loyal. Remember these are the people who will be serving your customers directly and you want a positive impact so your customers return again and again!

customer service charter template download cta woveon

Epic Customer Support Fails

Our world, filled with viral videos, constant facebook and twitter updates, and an unimaginable amount of snapchats being sent out, requires companies to be more responsible for their customers. With the click of a button a company’s reputation can be put to the test with millions of people viewing their services and interactions online. The importance of customer support is on the rise with increased visibility between customers and businesses.

Putting Your Customer Support to the test

Empty Table and Plate with Fork and Knife

United Airlines

David Dao. Have your heard this name recently? Chances are you have at least heard of this incident. CNN- “The United Airlines passenger who was left bloodied and bruised after being forcibly removed from a flight earlier this month was swinging his arms, his hands balled into fists, as officers from the Chicago Department of Aviation tried to pull him out of his seat, according to incident reports from the officers involved. David suffered a broken nose, missing teeth, and a concussion. And all of this was captured on film instantly going viral.” This mistake set United back millions of dollars and a huge hit to their reputation. Fortunately, they have recovered from this blunder by taking quick action and improving the procedures of booking seats and flying other flight crew.

VolksWagen

VolksWagen Clean Diesel TDI

VolksWagen, a leading international car manufacturer was recently in the news for cheating the emissions tests they put their diesel cars through. The emissions cheating scandal that began with Volkswagen in 2015 has now spread to include all the big German automakers. In recent weeks Daimler, VW, Porsche, BMW, and Audi were found to have manipulated nitrogen-oxide emissions from some of their diesel cars and issued mass recalls.”

A German Volkswagen executive pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy and fraud charges in Detroit in a scheme to cheat on emission tests of nearly 600,000 diesel vehicles. Shackled at the wrists and ankles and wearing red prison garb, Oliver Schmidt appeared before U.S. District Judge Sean Cox as part of the U.S. government’s case involving the automaker, which has admitted to using software to get around U.S. emission standards.

Schmidt, 48, is a former manager of a VW engineering office in suburban Detroit who was arrested in January while on vacation in Miami. He faces up to five years in prison for conspiracy to defraud the U.S., wire fraud and violation of the Clean Air Act. A second count of giving a false statement under the Clean Air Act carries a possible sentence of up to two years in prison.”

This debacle setback VolksWagen over $25 billion dollars and immensely hurt their customer trust. After this scandal they changed up the management and promised better standards for their cars and customers.

Chipotle

Food Poisoning

Chipotle, a forerunner in the fast food industry (behind Pancheros of course) has had multiple run ins with food-borne illness problems.

The company’s shares have spiraled nearly 14% in the last week, after news emerged of a norovirus outbreak connected to one of its restaurants in Sterling, Virginia. Research analysts are now downgrading the company’s stock and cutting sales estimates ahead of its quarterly earnings report on Tuesday. Analysts say the outbreak has renewed customers fears about eating at the burrito chain since the E. coli and norovirus outbreaks in late 2015 that affected restaurants in 14 states. We infer major setbacks to Chipotle’s ongoing recovery efforts at 15 health-related concerns on virus outbreaks at several locations that precipitated a steep and protracted downturn in customer traffic, CFRA analyst Tuna Amobi wrote in a research note Monday. He downgraded Chipotle to “hold” from “buy” and cut his 12-month stock price target by more than a third to $US350 per share.”

Chipotle’s failure to catch these sickening foods and slow steps to fix the problem hurt their business financially and once again their customers trust. (Tip: Go to Pancheros!)

Comcast

Have you ever had a good experience with Comcast? The chances are slim to none, but hey, they are the only option in some cities. I don’t think anyone enjoys talking with their television provider, but time and time again I hear stories of how bad Comcast’s customer support is. Here are a few examples of the lucky customers who interact with Comcast customer support.

The story: I was trying to get some information from the local cable company, Comcast, about my bill. I couldn’t understand the different groupings of channels which had no explanation just names like Extended Package. She couldn’t explain it and kept getting the same channels in different groupings. I said, very politely, “I don’t understand your explanation, is there someone else who can explain it to me so I will understand it.” She replied: “You’re stupid.” Then she hung up. -Submitted by: Elaine””

When Lisa Brown called to cancel the cable TV portion of her service, she was, of course, transferred to a retention specialist specifically trained to talk her out of it. She didn’t back down, though. Much to her surprise and agitation, the next service bill she received was addressed not to her husband, Ricardo Brown, but to “Asshole Brown.”

“I was never rude,” Brown told consumer advocate Chris Elliott. “It could have been that person was upset because I didn’t take the offer. Just days after Brown’s story went viral, three more Comcast customers came forwardreporting their names had been changed to derogatory words.”

Keep Sending Those Videos!

When customers have a bad customer service experience, they don’t just get mad; most of the time they try to get even. A recent survey by ClickFox took a close look at what the repercussions are of poor customer service experience. While 52 percent of disgruntled customers spout off to family and friends, an even more astounding 32 percent altogether will stop doing business with the company that provided a lousy customer experience. And when customers take to social media to air their ire, more than 60 percent of consumers are influenced by these detrimental comments.

There’s a whole new school of loyalty that companies need to enroll in and fast. It’s no longer good enough to sit around and wait for a bad customer experience to happen, and then react. Companies need to catch support disasters way before they happen.”

Looking for ways to improve your customer service? Check out Why is Customer Service Even Important, Hack: Lazy Customer Service Tips to get the Most Loyal Customers, 5 Trialed and Tested Customer Service Strategies That Work, or 7 Core Customer Service Skills Your Customer Support Team Needs to Have.