Monday, June 30, 2008

Call Center Survey Shows Importance of Human Contact

A new Genesys Global Communication Survey, detailed here at The Perfect Customer Experience shows that customers make important decisions based on the interactions they have during customer service calls.

Some of the interesting statistics detailed were:

-38% of customers state that call centers have the biggest impact on their cusomter loyalty

-50% of customers have stopped using a service because of a poor customer service call

-84% of customers would like to hear about more of your products if they are products that can be beneficial to business

Friday, June 27, 2008

Customer Service Social Media Strategy

When researching for products and services online, customers are beginning to stray away from looking at corporate websites and are increasingly turning to social media like blogs and discussion forums to share their opinions about what they like and dislike. This post from Marketing Roadmaps details that customers are now for different ways to communicate with other customers, and they want it do it fast. The post lists three things I believe companies can benefit from by adding a blog to their customer service strategy.

  • Content, or posts, presented in an article-like form, in reverse chronological order.
  • Ability for readers to leave public comments
  • Ability to subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed or by email

One thing not mentioned though is the reduction of cost going towards customer service. Blogs are relatively cost-free to maintain, and so companies need not worry about budgeting money for it. Even though customer service agents will not be going away soon, consumers are starting to look to their peers for product recommendations, advice on technical support, and other issues.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Customer Service Spending

Andy Green, Global Managing Editor at Avaya, makes a great point in his latest post on the Avaya Blog in which he details that even though information technology spending will expand by less and less each year, companies should not reduce technology spending on customer service. What’s the reason for this?

Arguably, customers are the ones who will give your company money. Investing in advanced software and applications that will improve response quality for customer service agents is a bargain compared to the amount of revenue lost and the costs of acquiring new customers. After all, repeat customers will be more profitable than new customers will ever be.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Customer Service at Apple is Generating Sales

An article posted in highlights how Apple is changing the face of marketing to include customer service as a facet. Apple doesn’t wait for customers to have a problem, instead employees actively attempt to engage customers as soon as they enter the store. stated that Apple is showing, by example, the benefit of understanding these key points:

- Service is marketing: As marketers struggle to "engage" consumers, service may well be the easiest and most gratifying starting point -- and one with high sales conversion potential.

- Problems are opportunities: Tech support is an emotional experience -- so why not capitalize on that insight by openly and enthusiastically solving problems, giving reassurance and showing compassion for the pain and frustration. A satisfied consumer might just buy something else while making the trip.

- Employee authority and passion aids selling: When employees "walk the talk" in using the product they sell, credibility goes up -- and credibility drives persuasion. Passion and evangelism also move the needle.

Jane Buckingham, president of Intelligence group, a market research firm in Los Angeles, cited in an article in the NY Times that “Whenever we ask consumers to cite a great retail experience, the Apple store is the first store they mention.” also reported in an Apple 2.0 blog post earlier this year, that Apple retail stores were averaging sales of approximately $4500 per square foot. Competitors such as BestBuy only average $929 per square foot, and even luxury goods stores such as Tiffany’s only make about $2,800 per square foot. Both aforementioned sources provide confirmations for the findings in the article.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Track Your Order of Pizza

Personally, I find myself constantly tracking shipments of items I am expecting whether it be a package from UPS or the latest Puma sneakers I’ve ordered online. Searching the blogosphere I came across Becky Carroll’s latest post on Customers Rock where she highlights a great experience she recently had with Domino’s latest tracking tool Domino’s Pizza Tracker.

Within minutes of Becky ordering her pizza online, she was automatically rerouted to their pizza tracking tool and she immediately saw updates on her pizza progress. Updates are made constantly from the moment the pizza is prepared to the second that is leaves the store for delivery. What I’m more interested to find out is how this service tracking ability is made possible.

This is yet another example of how tracking systems set the bar for customer expectations. What are other examples of companies who have had successful and unsuccessful tracking experiences?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Virtual World Customer Service Testing

The main focus of this latest post on Virtual World News is that Kenexa, a workforce retention specialist, has launched SimSJT: Customer Service, which is an online 3D environment comparable to Second Life and The Sims in order to measure the abilities of customer service professionals.

Troy Kanter, COO of Kenexa, emphasizes that standardized judgment tests often make candidates read and interpret lengthy passages instead of putting them in a relevant environment. SimSJT allows for simulated interactions that the candidate watches and listens to instead of traditional tests. Through online simulations Kenexa has noticed that customer service behavior remains unchanged even through different regions.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Twitter: Customer Service Media?

When looking for customer service agents one usually goes through the following media: phone, chat rooms, forums, blogs, and email. Brad Shorr gives an example on his latest post on World Sell, Inc. of how Twitter has made “customer service proactive rather than reactive”.

Brad’s colleague was having trouble logging on to MyBlogLog, so she put out a tweet asking if anyone was having the same problem. Brad tweeted back confirming that he was having the same problem. Hours later, he received a tweet reply from @mblsupport apologizing for the service outage and stating that the problem had been fixed.

Can we expect the same service from other companies out there? Instead of waiting for customers to call in and report their problems, agents are proactively searching for technical issues on social sites.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Airline Service: Go the Extra Mile

In the airline industry, customer service is crucial to a person’s overall experience of the flight since customer satisfaction is on the decline. Whether someone is asking for peanuts or an extra pillow, flight attendants must be ready to deal with any sort of requests, and be able to deliver superior service with a smile. I came across this post on The Window Seat where Holly Burns writes about her recent positive experience she had on her flight with Air Berlin.

Holly’s connecting flight to Dusseldorf was delayed, and so there was no way that she would make it. Air Berlin delivered excellent service by rebooking every passenger who had a connecting flight, announced it loudly on the speaker, and lastly gave everyone on the delayed flight a voucher for 8 Euros so that they could by refreshments while they wait.

Treating people like human beings instead of warm bodies on a plane can really make a difference from an ok airline to a great airline. In this case, Air Berlin realized the problem and exceeded the customers’ expectations of the solution.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Balancing Customer Service and Efficiency

How does one keep customer service calls as short as possible, while still maintaining superior service at the same time? This latest post on details a list of things to do in order to balance customer service with efficiency compiled by Carolyn Blunt, training consultant with the Training Consultancy Real Results.

Here’s the list:


Don’t wrap up previous call notes while taking on a new phone call. The next customer deserves undivided attention so you must be completely ready before taking it on.


Listening to the customer during the first couple of seconds are crucial. You must understand the customer’s needs and their mood, and then tailor your approach accordingly.


Establish rapport with your customers. Think about callers in a positive way so that rapport will develop naturally.


Make sure that their needs are taken care of. Many companies have different teams working on different problem areas, but the best customer experience happens when the front line is able to solve their conflict.


Be clear on the next steps that are to come. If a technical engineer will get back to them, give them a specified timeframe in which that is expected to happen. Most of all, make sure your engineers or whomever follows up with them actually stick to that timeframe that was mentioned.


Always stay calm no matter how frustrated the caller might sound. Customers might also stray away from the problem onto other conversations, stay focused and address the problem at hand.


Do not apologize at the end for the customer’s experience as this should be only done in the beginning. Ending the call should remind the customer of positive thoughts, so thank the customer for calling and wish them a happy day.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Take Customer Photos

This post on Customers Rock gives an example of how Lighthouse Ice Cream and Yogurt in Ocean Beach, CA is taking a new approach to ever so common “customer wall of fame” that many restaurants adopt. The shop is full of white poster boards hanging from ribbons, filled with photos. When the lady behind the counter was asked what the photos were, she explained that they have been taking pictures of customers for the past 10 years!

This is a cheap and effective way to show customer recognition, but there is more that can be done for no cost at all. With the growing shift of Web 2.0 and social networks, businesses might want to turn to the internet to create communities. Becky Carroll gives a great example of how Facebook groups and a Flickr account full of fans might be an easier way for people to interact and to raise awareness.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Good Customer Service is Needed to Maintain Trust

Disgruntled customers just want to know that their complaints are being heard, and that the company is doing something to try and rectify the situation. This post on CRM Daily mentions that the results of a survey conducted by the Better Business Bureau show that 1 out of 5 people cite that customer service is a prerequisite for building trust in a business.

Angry customers are generally not a lost cause. Another study conducted by Harvard shows that an unhappy customer can become a repeat customer almost 80% of the time. The business must take appropriate steps and action to provide phenomenal customer service to exceed the consumer’s expectations.

Since customer service representatives are your first line of defense from losing a customer, very well trained, courteous, and knowledgeable staff is needed to solve disputes. Every business should work on improving customer service and its retention ratio. After all, it costs a lot more money to gain a new customer than to maintain an existing customer.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Positive Customer Experiences

It’s important that your customers have a great experience at every touch point when they are doing business with you. Colleen Frances recently posted her tips for creating the best customer service at all the touch points throughout your customer experience.

1. Love what you sell, the company you work for and the customers you serve. If you show the customer you truly love what you do and what you’re selling, they’ll have a good experience buying the product from you.

2. Be empathetic and compassionate. Know and believe exactly what you’re telling them. Take an interest in the people asking the questions.

3. Add value and give first. Give them something before they buy from you. Show them that they can trust you, and you’re worth more to them than the profit. It may be a dentist or a new business contact, but they’ll see your purpose.

4. Make eye contact. It’s difficult to do, and many other sales people fall short. But if confidence is shown through making eye contact, you’ll truly set yourself apart from your competition.

5. Express your true intent. Don’t fake it, tell your customers your true intentions. Let them know that this might not be the right solution for them, but you’re going to try to show them how your product can fit your needs.

6. Don't go for the big decision all at once. Don’t try to land the big deal on the first try. Gradually move there through a series of conversations, agree on a second or third meeting.

7. Use friendly, warm words. Speak on a friendly level. Limit your syllables and use simple words.

8. Use people's names. Use their names, however, be aware of their comfort level with the name you’re calling them. Do you use their first name, or their title and last name? With the correct name, it’ll make a memorable experience for the customer.

9. Ask the right questions. The right questions can lead to positive relationships. They can also reveal the problem that needs to be solved and build trust between the company and the client.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Word of Mouth Marketing: So How was it?

Searching the blogosphere, I came across this post from one of NACCM’s keynotes speakers, Joanna Brandi. A couple of colleagues talked to Joanna about the recent experience they had at a stay at the Ritz Carlton hotel. Her friend later went on to describe the behavior of the employees there as “It was as if they were anticipating what I needed.”

The conversation quickly led to similar experiences (both good and bad) that they had in local restaurants. Before Joanna knew it, she had a long list of places not to go. When it comes down to recommending places based on customer experience, word of mouth marketing is crucial. Word of good customer service and bad customer service will somehow find its way spreading like a viral disease. Make sure your customers are taking care of, before they spread the word!

Be sure not to miss Joanna’s Brandi’s session “The Positive Leader” at NACCM where she’ll shed some more insight on customer management.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Thing about Call Centers

In a recent article at the New York Times, Alina Tugend discusses the current state of call centers within in the United States. The worst customer service we’ve all seen usually comes from an automated phone system when trying to call into a company. In the 1980s, with the invention of IVRs, companies lost the desire to deal with customers, and chose to save money and use the automated phone systems instead of having people talk with customers live. As a result, their desire to keep customers was outweighed by how much cheaper it was to use the IVRs.

Today, Tugend points out that companies are changing that. Contrary to what people think, only 10% of customer call centers are located outside the United States. Companies have also discovered two things about the way customers perceive their call centers. They’ve noticed that it’s cheaper to keep customers in the first place, rather than constantly find new ones to replace the old ones they loose as a result of poor customer service over the phone. They’ve also had to deal with the technology of today’s world spreading word about 1) customers are spreading word about their poor customer service and 2) websites that tell customer show to get past the automated system and communicate with a human.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Converse Takes Customer Management Seriously

I came across this news story from CIOL which highlights Converse’s latest launch of its Converse One Billing and Active Customer Management solution. This new approach will help organizers manage all subscriber orders, regardless of the payment types, as well as accelerate new promotions and offers.

This functionality will help the overall customer experience, since it is making it a lot simpler to handle many different subscriber accounts. Some of the benefits of this solution include real-time credit control and precise order management data which can be presented ultimately to the end-consumer. Capabilities can even be added due to ever-changing business needs and transformations.

This solution is paving the way for more customer management applications to be released. What I’d like to know is what other companies out there are planning to implement something similar within their customer service operations.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Providing Customer Service Through Email

When was the last time your customer service agents had email response training? Chances are that they have formed bad habits in answering emails. Luckily, this latest post on TipAdept Dot Com lays out some basic groundwork on serving customers through emails.

Always notify customers on how long they can expect to wait for a response. In addition to that, try to adhere to the schedule provided in the response. Customers will be highly satisfied if you can take care of their needs within the specified timeframe mentioned in the previous email. Never types in all caps, include a relevant subject line, and personalize the email to the customer by mentioning their name. Even though this was not on the list, always spell check your responses. You would be surprised how many agents send out emails that contain many simple grammatical errors.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Sprint’s Customer Service

In a recent interview at Fortune, Bob Johnson, the Chief Service Officer for Sprint, took time to discuss the improvements he’s making at Sprint.

Sprint has repeatedly received the worst customer service ratings from J.D. Power & Associates, and the company sees that this may be one of the things that is leading into the poor performance of their company.

First of all, they’ve changed the way customer service representatives are paid. Originally, they were paid by the length of the phone call; the shorter amount of time, the more money would be received. Johnson has changed this, observing that if you’re incentive is to keep the call short, then occasionally the problem will not be resolved. Since the majority of the time they see problems with the billing, Sprint has also adapted a new plan that is a flat rate of $100 a month for unlimited voice and data. Therefore, customers won’t be on the phone as long with errors on their bill.

Bob Jackson states:

We’re already seeing improvement. I am a long way from declaring victory, but we have improved in two key areas - first-call resolution and customer satisfaction - for four consecutive months now.

But Sprint may still have a long way to go before regaining it’s customers faith in their service.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Clue your customers in on the details

In a recent post at Customer Think, Kevin Stirtz gives a simple tip for building an amazing relationship with your customer: give them the details. In the end, you’ve confirmed you’ve gotten the right details, and they know you care about their needs. Here are three reasons why they’ll appreciate it:

  1. You let them know you listened, understood and everything is correct. The customer now knows you cared enough to show them that you got everything right.
  2. You help your customers plan. Now they know you have the correct details, and there is no uncertainty. There’s no wondering for the rest of the day whether or not you got the right numbers in the address.
  3. You’re helping them accomplish what they’ve come for. By giving them the details before, during and after the order, they’ll be happy to know what’s going on with their order.

Monday, June 2, 2008

An Interview with Constant Contact

In a recent interview at Customers are Always, Maria Palma had a chance to talk with Larry Streeter, the Vice President of Customer Support at Constant Contact. Constant Contact provides services so that business owners can utilize email marketing, e-newsletters, and customer surveys via the internet.

At Constant Contact, there are four ways for customers to connect to the organization: phone, live chat, email support and an E-Service group for self help options.

Their mission statement is simple: Delight the Customer. Their goal is to delight the customer through every contact medium, whether it is over telephone, chat or email.

In order to prepare their customer service representatives, they spend three weeks in training. And their training doesn’t stop after that, as they constantly have refresher training courses, team meetings and interactions with their managers.

They’ve also started to utilize the web to bring a community to their website. ConnectUp! is an online community that provides Constant Contact customers to network and work together to discuss their techniques on email marketing. It also gives Constant Contact way to collect feedback on how they’re doing with the customer.

Constant Contact is well rewarded by its customers for their superior customer service, as Larry Streeter states below:

What really drives all of our Support staff on a daily basis is the growth of the company resulting from a great product and the awe-inspiring service we provide our customers. Customers often go out of their way to send us an email praising the Support associate that just answered their question, and it reminds all of us how much impact we have on fueling that continual growth!