Tag Archives: talking to your customers

Ask not what your customer can do for you, ask what you can do for your customer

Why do organisations take us for granted?

In the light of my recent experience with Sony, (including yet another highly unsatisfactory call during which it became abundantly clear that hell will freeze over before they will give me a refund) I have decided to write about the differences between good and bad customer service.

Does this customer expect me to assist her

  • 86% of customers will stop doing business with you after a bad customer service experience
  • it takes 12 positive customer service experiences to make up for one poor one

The irony is that the majority of companies say they pride themselves on good customer service. A Forrester report from 2010 identified that:

  • 90% of (North American) firms view customer service as important or critical and
  • 80% would like to use customer experience as a differentiator.

I would say that the reality is how they believe they treat their customers is not how their customers feel like they’ve been treated and that there is an essential mismatch between what they think they are delivering against what we think we’re getting.  Just because people aren’t complaining, it doesn’t mean they aren’t happy:

For every one customer that complains, there are 26 who don’t (Lee Resource Inc.).

That means there are 26 customers you don’t know about who will go elsewhere because they perceive they have had poor customer service. That’s quite scary isn’t it?

Convinced yet?

So, let’s look at bad vs good examples on the journey through customer service

1. Ease of contact

In another Forrester report – 79% of people would prefer to use the telephone as their communication method of talking to an organization. This is far and away, the most popular method of contact. So customer call centres are here to stay!

So why is it so hard to call these companies?
There are many culprits here. Some don’t even have a phone number for you to contact them:

Skype are one such organisation – you have to go and use their forums to find an issue. And then make it almost impossible to post a query.

Sony (who may appear a few times in my bad examples, being as they are the most recent organisation to upset me) make you wade through several pages of their website and want you to put things like your product serial code in before you eventually get to a page where there is a number. Even then it’s not terribly clear if it’s the right number.This organisation apparently has a high NPS – how did that happen?
Vodafone – a telecoms company right? I’ve just gone onto their website to try and call them. It’s six clicks to get to a phone number.

There are of course some good examples out there. Those websites where the telephone number is on every page of the website and easily found.

Having said that, I’m actually having a bit of difficulty trying to track any down – certainly not in the large corporations. Bear with as I try and find some…

If you google Sky customer service – You can get to a telephone number in two clicks once you get to their website.

EDF – offers a live chat from their Help Centre page (which is where you go to if you type in EDF customer service) and a telephone number after a couple more clicks. Interestingly enough though, the sales numbers are shown before the customer numbers which you have to scroll down to reach.

Barclaycard win!
If you put in Barclaycard customer service this comes up on Google even before you’ve had to go to their website.  I’m impressed with that.Barclaycard customer service number

Three top tips for ease of contact

  • Have an easily accessible customer service number – if it’s not going to be on your home page, make it easy to find from wherever your customer is on your website
  • Don’t make it an 0845 or other premium rate telephone number – why should we have to pay for the pleasure of having our queries dealt with?
  • Do not try and fob your customers off with an FAQ section. I’m not saying don’t have one – a good FAQ section is very useful – as long as it’s easy to search and get the answer you’re after. But there is nothing more frustrating than trying to find an answer before you’re allowed to contact an organisation. And worse still, after you’ve typed in that the FAQs haven’t answered your question, there’s a final double check from them ‘Are you sure you haven’t found the answer in our FAQs?’ before you’re allowed to submit.

2. Having found a number

We dial the number, only to be faced with a barrage of options. Very few will offer, at this stage, an option of speaking to a human being. What’s more frustrating is if you go down the wrong decision tree of options and end up in a cul de sac from which there is no return. They may want something from you which you don’t have and all you get is ‘That is not the correct response, please re-enter your customer number/Invoice id/starsign of the CEO/whatever else it is that you couldn’t possibly know the answer to’ with no other alternative. Then you are disconnected or you have to hang up and start again with a different route.

Three top tips for ease of contact

  • Depending on your business, do not have an automated system, allow your customers to go straight through to a person. Beauty clinics and hairdressers come firmly into this category for example
  • Always ensure there is an option to speak to someone at every stage of the options
  • If you need the customer to put in a code or reference and they don’t have it, or they do it wrong, the default should be they get put through to a person
    And a bonus fourth:
  • If you offer a call back service. Make sure you call back within the service level time you have told the customer you will call them. Sony never bothered to call me back.

3. On-line chats as an alternative
These can be very useful if you have a quick query, or you want a log of your interaction with an organisation. I have used them to great effect to cancel policies or to get a refund (big hand to Norton for dealing with me so well – no fuss, no bother, a straightforward refund with no quibble).
But these can be managed badly too.
– If the service is offered, but you can’t get anyone to reply to you.
I was working with one client and their customer support staff had to manage four chats at a time. Which caused all sorts of problems as the product they were supporting was very technical. They would leave customers waiting – I saw screens full of ‘hello, hello’ and ‘is anyone there?’ , or they may respond with an answer that was for a different customer or even simply hang up on them. It was pretty poor!

Three top tips for ease of contact

  • If you’re going to offer on-line chat, ensure there is someone to manage the chats for the hours you say you offer the service for. There is nothing more frustrating than being told there is no service currently available.
  • Ensure your staff only deal with an appropriate number of customers at the same time. If it’s a technical service or product, then giving them four to manage is probably excessive.
  • Ensure your staff have the authority and access to the right systems to carry out the kinds of transactions that your customers may want to do, such as getting a refund, or wanting to know when a particular product is going to be in stock.
  1. Yay – you’re finally through to a human being!

But are you through to the right person?  How many times do you get pushed from pillar to post with no-one taking responsibility for dealing with your issue or query whilst your blood pressure and irritation levels steadily rise?

Vodafone used to be very good at this. I got passed round four people to whom I had to explain the issue each time, only to be passed on and eventually got passed back to the first person I spoke to with the issue still unresolved. Repeat the process…

The four biggest complaints customers have about call centres are rudeness, buck passing, taking too long to resolve an issue and being shoved around from one rep to another (American Express Global Customer Service Barometer survey, 2012). And 93% of the 1000 customers they surveyed believed that companies fail to achieve their customer service expectations.

As I mentioned above, Norton were excellent when I contacted them (admittedly by on-line chat). The lady I ‘spoke’ with, grasped my issue quickly, dealt with me politely, was able to issue me a refund and the whole process was over and done within five minutes.  I was suspicious. Could I really have resolved a matter that I suspected was going to take a lot of effort to sort out in five minutes flat? Wonderfully, yes.  But isn’t it a sad indictment of customer service that I was wary of when it went well?

Sony could learn a lot from them.

Where most companies fail is in the lack of empowerment of their frontline staff. They are stuck in a process from which they cannot deviate, pass go or collect £200. So unless they have an answer that’s on their list of things they can do and say, you’re in trouble.  And then the most infuriating thing of all – they will not pass you on to their manager.  ‘It’s not possible’, or ‘the manager is busy now’, or ‘if I can take your details, I will get them to call you back’.  I think it’s appalling that management hide behind the frontline staff who have to bear the brunt of their customers’ ire and yet are not given the tools to deal effectively with their customers.

And more often than not, the manager doesn’t call back. And if they do call back, quite often, they too are unable to take any responsibility to deal with the issue.

Top tips for dealing with your customers

  • Employ people who like talking to people and who understand the issues your customers face (having empathy)
  • Train your staff so they are able to fully understand your products and services and what your policies and processes are.
  • Give your staff access to sufficient information that they don’t have to pass your customers on to other departments, or if they do need to get information from elsewhere, they continue to deal with the customer and don’t pass them on to some new person
  • Empower your staff. Give them discretionary powers to perform certain actions (within guidelines of course). Allow them to delight their customers from time to time – there is a wonderful example of someone ordering and paying for a taxi for a customer who was having a spectacularly awful morning and needed to be somewhere urgently
  • Have a proper escalation process which enables your customer to be passed up the line if they are unable to sort out an issue at a lower level. Have that process documented and listed on your website, so people know how to complain.

In summary – Good customer service is not rocket science.

The saying ‘treat others how you would wish to be treated’ sums up good customer service to me.

  • Help customers to contact you – put details clearly on your website or paperwork
  • If you need an automated system, make sure there is a way to speak to a human easily.
  • Be responsive
  • Be nice to your customers
  • If you say you’re going to call them back, do so.
  • If they send an email request in, don’t take five days to get back to them.
  • Help them out if it’s clear you have let them down in some way, or even if they have made a mistake. They’ll love you even more if you help them out of their own errors.
  • Encourage your staff to walk in your customers’ shoes – get a bit of empathy going
  • Empower your staff to be able to deal with the customers
  • Find small ways to delight your customers
  • If someone complains, help them, don’t obstruct them
  • Learn from your customers – ask if there’s anything you could do better

All of which will result in far happier customers, who are more likely to buy more from you and tell their friends how wonderful you are. And it will definitely differentiate you from your competitors.

And the downsides of not treating your customers well? Also not rocket science. You will lose them and they will tell lots of other people too.

Want help improving how you manage your customers/clients – email me: karen@thechameleonguide.com

http://www.thechameleonguide.com

 

How to sell the way your customers want to buy

One of the key questions we ask our clients when we work with them is ‘ What business are you in?’  Most people will tell us they are the thing they sell, so for example, this week, I had ‘a financial adviser’, ‘an events planner’, ‘an accountant’, and ‘a sales trainer’.

But is that really what the customer is buying? The customer using the financial adviser may be looking for help to ensure they can retire with no money worries, or the customer using the events planner may be trying to organise a surprise 50th birthday party so will be looking for a memorable experience.

When you buy a drill, you aren’t buying it because it’s a drill, you’re getting it to make holes in order to hang up pictures or put up shelves.

At The Chameleon Guide we work hard with our clients trying to get to what it is their customers are buying off them because this will affect the marketing messages they use.

But not only is it important to understand why they are buying off you, your other challenge is to find out how your customers like to be sold to, and where they can be found for you to get them to buy your product or service.

Percentage of customers who will buy from us

In order to find out these things – you need to talk to your customers (see my previous blog on the importance of communicating with and keeping your existing customers).

In my quest for understanding how best to communicate with customers, I came across a book by Kristin Zhivago called ‘Roadmap to Revenue – How to sell the way your customers want to buy’.

It’s split into three parts

– Discover – Finding out about your customers
– Debate – Analysing  and discussing what you’ve learned to come up with a list of priority activities that are most important to your customer
– Deploy – Work on the delivering the action plans you came up with in the Debate section

I’m going to briefly cover off the ‘Discover’ bit – the finding out about your customers.

Kristin recommends an in-depth interview process – here are the top tips summarised:

  1. Identify the customers you want to interview
    Your top customers are a clear option, but if you can do more, so much the better. If you have multiple channels or services, try and get a good range across all the different areas.
  2. Email requesting the interview
    The email needs to be either come from the top or be shown to be endorsed by the owner/CEO/MD i.e. this is an edict that has come from the top.
  3. Interview process
    a. Only do phone interviews – you will get much more information from people as they aren’t being put on the spot by you facing them
    b. Record the phone interviews – this allows you to concentrate on the call totally
    But still take notes
    c. Confidentiality – let the customer/client know it’s completely confidential. This must be followed through even after the process and someone internal thinks they know who an interview belongs to. Do not let on as to who it is.
    d. CEO/Owner led calls – It’s highly recommended that the owner/CEO does the first five interviews as this will really give you a feel for how your customers/clients are feeling. You may end up wanting to do them all! After that, it’s better, if possible, to get an external agency to do the calls, but you may not have that luxury.
  4. Handling customer/client complaints
    If the customer complains at all, do not try to tell him/her how things have improved. Acknowledge the issue and thank them for their honesty and that it’s really helpful information to know.
    Do not get defensive – this will put the customer off and make them less inclined to share honest information with you.

She suggests a structure for the questions which are deliberately written in such a way as to get the best from your customer/client. These questions are far more focussed on understanding how the experience was for the customer – you will get far more valuable information this way. And they will feel much more valued rather than you asking if they’d write a testimonial. Come back to that a later stage after you’ve interviewed them if they’ve been particularly glowing – but do not ask them in the interview because you’re back to ‘what’s in it for me’ rather than what’s in it for them..

If you have any key suppliers or partners, it may be worth interviewing them as well.

The information you get from the interviews will inform all aspects of your selling, from customer service, to the website to the information you give customers etc.

The questions are very customer-centric and you may well get resistance internally, particularly from sales people who always want to ask more direct questions about getting more business or shy away from asking the hard questions. Resist them! Her structure really works. One of my clients used the technique and got some tremendous feedback from his clients, including some more business.

Questions include:

  • What do you think of our service?
  • Have you had any interaction with our staff? How was it?
  • If you were John Bloggs (the CEO) tomorrow, what’s the first thing you would focus on?
  • What problem(s) were you trying to solve by using our service?
  • How did our service help you solve your problem?

There are a total of 12 and they are all based on open ended questions which may well result in sub questions being asked hence why the interview can take in excess of an hour to complete.

If you’d like a sample of the questions with tips and template emails to send out, let me know and I’ll email it to you (karen@thechameleonguide.com)

Clearly, once you’ve done all the interviews, you need to do something with it!

This is the Debate phase of the book, where you analyse the information in-depth and report it back to the management team.  Essentially, you will be identifying and prioritising the results in terms of what you need to focus on. This could be very broad ranging, from your website, through to how you sell and to how you manage your customer service. The book covers off how to manage this process in great depth before going on to the final phase of Deployment (actually implementing the changes). It’s rather less easy to summarise here, so I recommend the book – ‘Roadmap to Revenue – How to sell the way your customers want to buy‘ * if you are keen to follow the process through as she describes it.

What she proposes, is not a quick solution unlike Net Promoter Score. It requires a lot more effort, planning and commitment of the organisation, but is very powerful and will help you map how to match your customers’ buying process so they buy more from you. Resulting in happy customers and happy you.

For more information on how to grow your business email me – karen@thechameleonguide.com

http://www.thechameleonguide.com

* I get no commission from book sales

Do you know how much more business you could get from your customers?

I’m sorry if that sounds quite a mercenary question, but it’s meant with the best intentions. Not only for you and your business, but also, and as importantly, for your customers.

The cost of getting new customers

In business, we spend a lot of effort and money trying to get new customers, sales people are rewarded for bringing new customers into the business and probably the largest proportion of our marketing spend goes on trying to acquire new business rather than keeping the customers we’ve got, let alone thinking about how to grow our business with these customers.

We’ve seen all the great introductory offers banks give. To new customers. How annoying is that? When we’ve been loyal to them, it feels like they think they’ve done their job getting us on board, complacency sets in and they’re off to find new shiny things.

But if we look at the statistics, maybe we should start taking a bit more notice of our customers.

It costs six to seven times as much to gain a new customer than it does to keep one.

And 68% of people will leave a supplier based on the treatment they receive compared with ‘only’ 14% who will leave due to dissatisfaction with the product or service.  How we treat our customers is nearly five times more important to them than the actual thing they came to us to buy in the first place.

service19

Many a (un)happy hour can be spent regaling our friends with the horror stories of our customer care nightmares.  Over the years I have sent quite a few rather more than scathing letters to CEOs of various organisations in utter frustration with the, what feels like, obstructive inaction of their staff.  Who I assume are mostly bound by process and procedure resulting in the ‘computer says no’ response.

A classic this week ‘But Ms Espley, I don’t want to go the refund route because the process for refunding your item (a Sony Vaio laptop. Oh, I’ve finally gone public on them!) is very long winded, time consuming and complex’. Only because they make it so. This is after nine months of having a malfunctioning laptop that has had more factory resets than I’ve had hot breakfasts, a cursor that jumps erratically, and a range of other ‘features’ that renders it useless as a laptop. It’s been back to them once and returned in a worse state than when I sent it to them. And they still didn’t want to give me a refund.  As I tried to explain to the brick wall that was the customer relations manager (who called in response to one of my aforementioned scathing missives to the CEO), that if they’d just given me a refund, or a new laptop months ago when the issues arose, I’d be singing their praises from the rafters. As it is, a) I shall never use Sony again and b) you now all know about it!  *

The downside of poor customer service

And that is the other downside of poor customer service; we tell others and in this world of rampant social media, it’s a dangerous thing indeed to upset too many of your customers.

The plus side of this, is that if you keep your customers happy, then not only will they buy more from you, but they tell their friends too. And that suddenly wonderful social media plays a big part in that.

  • The statistics vary, but around 80% of people will read reviews which will affect their likelihood of using a particular supplier.  And it’s an inverse rule – you can read ten great reviews and then read one poor one, and you will seriously consider not using that supplier, unless that 11th review was obviously written by a fruit loop with a bee in his bonnet.  When I was on my midlife crisis walkabout in 2013, I religiously used Trip Advisor to help me work out which the best campsites were and what tourist attractions I should spend my precious money on.

I have digressed somewhat from the original purpose of the article, but I’m back on target now and which brings me back to my original question.

If it costs six times as much to acquire a new customer, why on earth are we not spending a lot more money on keeping and delighting our existing customers?   Particularly in the world of B2B where hopefully there is the potential for recurring revenue.

Be nice to your existing customers

At The Chameleon Guide, we are big on looking at existing customers. It can make a massive difference to your business.  One of our clients, the owner of a training company, went to talk to his top ten customers – not to ask for more business, but to ask them about their business and what their plans were. As a consequence of those conversations his customers realised he had a much larger range of training courses than they had thought and which business they had been giving to his competitors. They liked him and what his company did and gave him the additional work resulting in him doubling his revenue. And that was just from his top ten customers.

As Dale Carnegie so succinctly put it ‘the only way on earth to influence the other fellow is to talk about what he wants and then show him how to get it.’ Get your customers to do the talking.

How to engage your customers

There are a number of things you can do to make your customers feel loved.

  1. Talk to your customers as part of an annual review process/account management
  2. Getting customer feedback
  3. Have an on-going dialogue with them
  4. Loyalty schemes

As this blog is in danger of becoming a book, I’m going to cover the first one here and then write more on the other three areas in my next blog.

Talking to your customers

‘Spend a lot of time talking to customers face to face. You’d be amazed how many companies don’t listen to their customers’ ~Ross Perot

This is really aimed at the B2B market, though there may be some useful tips for those selling to consumers, particularly if what you sell is a high cost item, or it is a recurring sale e.g. printer cartridges and there is the opportunity to expand your product range with them.

How often do you talk to your customers?  Or once you’ve got a customer, do you too forget them in your hunt to get new customers?

How many businesses know in-depth what their customers need and want and who they use to satisfy those requirements?

Do you know who your top ten customers are?

Pareto’s principle states you will get 80% of your business from 20% of your customers. We recommend you look at your top ten customers as a starting point. The ones who generate you the most revenue and/or profit.  Focus your attention on them.

Implement a plan for meeting them. Be clear on your objectives when meeting them. Be clear to your customers when you contact them, why you are contacting them.  If it’s the first time you’ve done this, you could perhaps let them know that as a key customer, you are instigating an account management programme of regular meetings to ensure they are getting what they need from you.

The sorts of questions you may like to ask are:

  • What are their strategic goals and plans for the future?
  • What are market conditions like for them at the moment/the foreseeable future?
  • What opportunities and challenges do they have?
  • Are they using your competitors for anything?  And if so what do they supply or deliver that you can’t do (or they perceive you can’t do).
  • Is there anything you should be doing differently, or are there products or services they need that they haven’t found a supplier for yet, or that aren’t being delivered to their requirements?

If you identify any opportunities or challenges that you can support them with, summarise what you’ve identified and ask if you can share with them ways in which you may be able to help. Or if your competitors are supplying services that you too could provide (that maybe the customer doesn’t know you do), then you will hopefully be able to share that with them.   Or it may be that you have some information or other contacts that will be beneficial to your customer. This may not immediately impact on your business, but it’s all part of supporting your customer to be as successful as possible.

The benefits of talking to your customers are:

– Your customer will feel loved – who doesn’t like to be asked their opinion and it shows you are genuinely interested and want to help.
– You will get some valuable market information, be it about market conditions, new innovations or your competitors
– You are more likely to retain the customer
– You may get more business out of your customer
– They may start referring you to others
– They may be prepared to let you use them as a case study/write you a testimonial

If you offer to supply information or put them in contact with other people, then it’s really important that you do so as soon after the meeting as possible. It’s always a great idea to follow up your meeting with an email thanking them for their time and summarising the meeting along with any other follow up actions.

‘In the world of Internet Customer Service, it’s important to remember your competitor is only one mouse click away.’ ~ Doug Warner

 If you have any tips on how to engage with your customers, I’d love to hear from you.

* Re my laptop – I won the battle with the brick wall eventually – a refund should be winging its way to me in the next two weeks…

karen@thechameleonguide.com

www.thechameleonguide.com