B2B Voice-Of-The-Customer: Integrating Decision Influencers’ Views

Picture this: in deciding whether to rebuy from your company, the customer's general manager and purchasing agent are neutral, the end-users are supportive, the safety department gives their approval, but the facilities manager rejects it. Your company loses the sale. Because your team was focused on the end-users and general manager, everything looked like it…

Picture this: in deciding whether to rebuy from your company, the customer's general manager and purchasing agent are neutral, the end-users are supportive, the safety department gives their approval, but the facilities manager rejects it. Your company loses the sale. Because your team was focused on the end-users and general manager, everything looked like it was on-track for renewal, yet one influencer of the buying decision derailed your relationship and your anticipated revenue. After that happens, it's difficult to get another chance. It's best to be aware of all the drivers and factors, and manage them proactively.

* First published at CustomerThink.com

Why Customer Data Integration Matters

Remember that “it takes a village” in most B2B buying decisions, because of the extensive impact of the purchase on the customer's safety, quality, financial, regulatory compliance, shipping and packaging for reliable yet easy receiving, preferences among those who will be handling the product in their day-to-day work, overall fit with the company's or plant's strategy (including long-term relationships with their customers and other quakeholders, environmental stewardship, etc.), scientific specifications, and downstream customer concerns, as explained in the recent article: Business-to-Business Customer Experience: What's It Like?

If your investment in voice-of-the-customer (VoC) is intended to help you grow revenue, then VoC in business-to-business (B2B) situations should represent all of the influencers of buying decisions, as shown in the recent article in Understanding Business-to-Business Purchase Decisions , only a third of B2B companies are identifying and collecting inputs from all of the buying influencers. And still fewer are consolidating the perspectives to create a holistic picture of reality.

One of the reasons for this gap is the reliance on restricted account teams who are charged with figuring out who the influencers are and managing them one by one. But this obscures insights that could be useful to other functional areas within the company in playing their role to set up the account team for success. Especially when those insights form patterns that could have been leveraged across the target market. Patterns are typically most visible when data is grouped in a uniform way across a sample of the population, and when that data is integrated.

Integrating data is one of the big challenges for customer experience management. And it can open the door to the greatest opportunities: the more complete your view of customers is, the more accurate and proactive you can be in guiding buying behavior to grow revenue.

Ways to Integrate B2B Influencers' Views

Should every buying-decision influencer be given equal weight in their expectations and views by averaging their VoC ratings? Probably not; they each play a certain role, and the way you present data about their roles should reflect reality.

How can you help managers in your company forgive the full picture and its implications? VoC managers may borrow ideas from marketing segmentation: some segments have unique interests, and some have overlapping interests. When designing offers and messaging for customer segments, marketers try to address the overlapping interests first, and accommodate the unique needs separately. VoC managers may also borrow ideas from customer journey mapping, flow-charting, cause-and-effect diagramming, activity network diagramming, or interrelationship graphs.

In any case, nesting and weighting the influencers' responses can help paint a representative picture of what's going on across your customer base, within a customer account, and across each type of influencer.

A more accurate way of integrating or segmenting customer experience data is along the lines of common “expectation sets”. Poor customer experience means reality did not match expectations. Conversely, good customer experience means reality matched or exceeded expectations. Therefore, we should be paying more attention to expectation sets rather than demographics and psychographics, functional areas and job titles, when integrating or segmenting customer experience data.

Share Your Integration Insights

The more people across your company and its ecosystem that you share the patterns and insights with, the more they'll be able to see their jobs within that context, and contribute collectively to your customer experience excellence quest. Our study of customer experience practices indicated that companies with the best business results were integrating on many levels: helping managers of various aspects of customer experience touch base with one another, using customer experience insights as determinants of corporate strategy, presenting customer experience insights to all employees and expecting action plan follow-through, and encouraging cross-organizational collaboration for improving customer experience.

Customers tend to look at a supplier company as “one.” They expect unity and consistency. We can help meet those expectations – and grow our revenue – by taking our game to a higher level in understanding our customers holistically.

5 Tips for Being a Call Center Success

My career lasted 17 years at a company that continues to take pride in everything they do including superior customer service. They are an industry leader and winner of years upon years of distinguished awards. As a customer service representative, I learned that I liked helping people. Sometimes though, I did not understand why we…

My career lasted 17 years at a company that continues to take pride in everything they do including superior customer service. They are an industry leader and winner of years upon years of distinguished awards.

As a customer service representative, I learned that I liked helping people. Sometimes though, I did not understand why we did certain things, so I wanted to find out why certain policies were the way they were. So began my journey up the corporate ladder and I actually started helping those ivory tower folks! Over time, I worked to attain my master's degree in organizational management and indeed my six sigma black belt certification.

In 2005, my brother was diagnosed with a rare and very progressive type of cancer. I watched him come and go into medical offices, treatment centers and the hospital being treated as a patient but not usually a customer. During that time, I left my career in global reengineering technologies to start my own company. Here are some observations learned through my customer interaction:

What do most customers want?

1. 100% of the representative's attention

2. Resolution with little to no effort on their part

3. Be heard

4. Feel special

5. Accuracy

1. Do not want to be trapped by a voice response or overly standardized system

2. Do not want to call back or be transferred

3. Do not want to wait

What do most call center representatives want?

1. Help the customer

2. Tools that efficiently and effectively help them do their job

3. Feel confident that their manager will support their decisions

4. Time to dialogue and debate about any changes with one another

5. Leave their work and not bring their work home

What do not most call center representatives want?

1. Do not want to escalate the call to their supervisor

2. Do not want to worry about how much time they spend on the phone

3. Do not want to tell you the wrong thing

Keeping these do's and don'ts in mind, below are some tips to increase performance improvement in your call center:

Tip One: Give the customer a choice to select an option to address their specific question or speak directly with a customer service representative. Voice response systems must always have a zero to transfer to an operator. Call centers are not doing themselves any favors by forcing someone to pick an option that does not fit the reason why they are calling. This leads to dissatisfied, irate customers in addition to unnecessary dial transfers and call backs.

Tip Two: If scripts do not fit the situation, include alternative solutions or attachments to assist the call center representative. If call center services representatives' are following scripting, they must always have a “none of the above” and / or “additional comments” and and / or “additional attachments” option. We must put technology back in its place in a supporting customers and employees not working against them. Escalated and repeat calls based on these types of scripting mistakes are an unnecessary capacity planning nightmare.

Tip Three: Allow appropriate time for the call center representatives to engage a conversation with the customer to fully understand and resolve the customer's inquiry. Give call service representatives' time to understand what is being asked of them. Call center representatives are human beings that not only want but also need connection. They need time to absorb, discuss and debate. We all have budgets, however if something is a major change, or things are changing back to the way they used to be done, customer service representatives' need time to learn and grow from one another. At this point in the process, multiple types of communications are necessary. Communications such as team meetings, town halls, morning huddles, small workgroup interactions, etc. A single electronic communication – chat, email; computer based training (CBTs) will not be effective.

Tip Four: Listen and encourage employee feedback. The call center representative feet the pulse of the customer and can often be proactive to problems that may arrise rather than be reactive to issues. If a call service rep. tells you why something will not work, listen to them. Empowering people means that they have a voice. It means “We heard you, and we are taking action in very specific ways. You make a difference.” Most call center representatives are in the position because they want to help people. Let them help you too! Do not fall into the trap that if you give representatives too much empowerment, they'll do whatever they want. Let me repeat. Customer Service representatives want to help. Let them participate in pilots so they can influence their peers.

Tip Five: Use performance metrics and customer surveys performed by an objective third party to arrive at Best Practices. Pick no more than three to five key performance metrics. One of these metrics must be a Voice of the Customer related. Customer Satisfaction surveys must be connected by an objective third party. We once helped a company understand why their outsourced call center vendor should not conduct Voice of the Customer Surveys. “Traditional” metrics such as Availability for calls, “Auxiliary time” and “After call” time are not the best metrics to tell you what's happening from the customer's perspective. One particularly effective yet tricky metric is to balance (or weigh) Average Handling Time with First Person or First Call Resolution. This requires efficient and effective call center analytics to help with measurement and enable improved performance.

Most businesses measure something; the trick is to make sure that what you are measuring is what the customer cares about. Furthermore, how call centers measure representative performance needs to directly correlate with what the customer cares about and translate into positive performance results.

Improve your employee and customer satisfaction as well as performance by enhancing the overall customer and employee experience; from first time call resolution to empowering the employee to make the right decisions and / or taking the appropriate actions.

5 Customer Feedback Trends to Watch Out for in 2015

As January comes to an end, we start to build and develop our market research plans for the upcoming year. Through 2015, we will see a shift in perceptions and behavior surrounding online market research. As a business owner or operator, it is essential to keep up to date with the latest changes and platforms.…

As January comes to an end, we start to build and develop our market research plans for the upcoming year. Through 2015, we will see a shift in perceptions and behavior surrounding online market research. As a business owner or operator, it is essential to keep up to date with the latest changes and platforms.

So what can we expect from 2015?

Customers are increasing their participation in market research

The perception of contributing to market research through an online survey is changing. It is becoming common practice for businesses to seek help from their customer base and for responses to provide feedback for something in return.

Our customers like the chance to get implied and have their say, and they will continue to do so as long as they can see the results of their feedback. Showing them how the collective results of a survey has changed or altered processes in your business can often encourage future participation more than an incentive.

Your customers will offer feedback through multiple channels

Online surveys are a great tool to have in your customer experience arsenal, but it's not the only form of feedback you can use. To add to the data collected from your online surveys, take into consideration any feedback received through Social Media, in person, or directly through email.

Utilizing multiple channels of feedback can both increase the amount of feedback you receive, but it also extends the reach of your campaign to include those who may not have participated before.

Social Media profiles / pages will be more about communities than followers

With an ever increasing amount of Social Media platforms to add your business to (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, SlideShare, Snapchat, and others) each group of followers have now become a community who follow the online activities of your brand .

These communities will become your dedicated following online. They will talk amongst them, come up with ideas and help out with your promotions as well as provide you with a multitude of feedback.

Incentives are great, but the RIGHT incentives are better.

Incentives are a great way to encourage more responses from your database.

However some incentivies can produce results that skew your data. Respondents can fill out survey's answering questions with answers that they think the surveyor wants to hear. This is called 'satisficing'. The end results can be skewed because respondents were dishonest with their feedback and only completed your survey to enter the prize draw.

To combat this, offer incentives of value to correspondents that are also of value to you. Coupons to your business or a free upgrade will often encourage responses to give honest feedback. And it encourages repeat business.

Customers prefer to answer surveys in their native language.

As more and more customers expect online surveys to be tailor to them, the next logical step is to offer questions or full surveys in different languages. Not only does this encourage those that may have not replied in English, but it demonstrates that you truly value your responses opinions by investing in channels and methods that suit them.

2015 has just just started, and yet the need to know if your customers preferences are changing and what you can do to change with them is increasing.

Why A U.S. Company May Choose A New Call Center In Latin America As Their Customer Service Partner?

Customer service is the most key job that any company can outsource as it has the power to make or break a business. For this reason, a company seeking to outsource their customer service duties looks for some specific set of qualities in an outsourcing partner. These include – Credibility Skill Location Price If even…

Customer service is the most key job that any company can outsource as it has the power to make or break a business. For this reason, a company seeking to outsource their customer service duties looks for some specific set of qualities in an outsourcing partner.

These include –

  • Credibility
  • Skill
  • Location
  • Price

If even a new call center plays to their strengths, they have a very good chance to be chosen as an outsourcing partner of a reputed American company. But first they have to evaluate their pros and cons carefully and then put their best foot forward.

However, if one carefully evaluates the present scenario, bilingual call centers in Latin America show the most promise to be chosen as an outsourcing partner of any US company. Even a new Bilingual call center in Latin America has the advantage in three out of the four prerequisites mentioned above. They are –

  • Skill
  • Location
  • Price

Let's have a detailed discussion on the same, shall we?

What does skill have to do with this?

A company always looks for three things in skill category – fluency, resourcefulness, and language skills.

A bilingual contact center in Latin America can offer its clients impeccable customer service in two languages ​​- English and Spanish.

Spanish is the main language of the Hispanic community, the third largest ethnicity in the US, with one trillion dollar purchasing power. So, most companies are likely to opt for a call center that can support their Hispanic customers.

Spanish is spoken throughout the Latin America and as a result the agents are able to speak fluent accent-neutral Spanish that is very easily understood by the Hispanic community in the US To sweeten the deal further, they also offer state-of-the-art customer service in English to cater to a greater customer base.

How do these call centers get the advantage of location?

As these call centers are based in Latin America, they have a large advantage over call centers located elsewhere. These call centers are close to the United States. In fact, they are more or less in the same time zone that allows American companies to oversee the operation now and then. Also being in the same time zone allows them to have an easy communication.

But that's not all, being being located near the United States; Latin America also has a similar culture as US This allows them to easily understand pop culture references, sports references that the customers may use during the call. This cultural similarity takes the customers immediately into their comfort zone, and it heightens customer satisfaction.

Does Price Become a Crucial Factor?

Price is always a critical factor when it comes to choosing an outsourcing partner. Thankfully, even though they two regions are close to each other geographically, they are very much different financially. Most countries in Latin America are still developing and, therefore, the price of their service is relatively cheaper than the price of that service in the United States.

This coupled with the location, and language advantages make bilingual contact centers in Latin America a hot favorite in any American company's quest for an outsourcing partner.

Last but not the least, since we are talking about a new call center here, it is understood that they do not have much experience in this field and hence, lack credibility. But the lack of credibility and experience is well made up by the skills, location and price advantages that a bilingual facility has to offer.

When Is the Right Time to Send a Thank You Gift?

After completing a project for a client, you may breathe a sigh of relief and quickly move on to the next client. Before you know it, it has been a month or more and you realize you never basically thanked the first client for their business. Oftentimes business owners throw up their hands and assume…

After completing a project for a client, you may breathe a sigh of relief and quickly move on to the next client. Before you know it, it has been a month or more and you realize you never basically thanked the first client for their business. Oftentimes business owners throw up their hands and assume it's too late. People wonder how late is too late to send a thank you gift or card to a client.

Do Your Clients KNOW You Appreciate Them?

Statistics say that 68% of clients leave a business because they believe that business does not care about them. Taking the time to send a thank you gift or card is an important strategy for client retention. That simple act can make the difference between an ungoing client and one that leaves to try the competition.

It's Better Late than Never

Have you ever received a thank you card that was a little delayed and thought badly about the gesture? Chances are you have not. No matter when the thank you arrives, it lets you know you were thought of and appreciated in one way or another. Your clients will most likely feel the same way. They will appreciate the gesture and have reason to think of you and your business fondly.

It Pays for Itself

An interesting thing happens when there has been a delay between the work done and the thank you gift sent. The client had time for you to fall off of their radar and get busy with their life. When you send a thank you gift in the mail it brings you back to the top of their mind. When you remember them, it causes them to remember you.

Many businesses I have worked with have actually reported a direct correlation between sending thank yous and new business. When the client receives the thank you, it may remind them of another project that they need to hire you for or a friend that they meant to refer to you. Receiving the thank you actually becomes a catalyst for them to hire or refer you and you get new business because of it.

Making the effort to send a thank you gift or card is vital to your business growth. It lets your clients know that you value them. It reminds them of more work they may have for you and of referrals to send to you. Most business owners find that client appreciation gifts actually pay for themselves.

5 Reasons Why Strong CRM Is Essential for Staffing Firms

Imagine arriving at the office early one morning and just as you're settling down at your desk, your manager waltzes into your office with a question. “Are our customers happy?” “Um … I think they are,” you reply sheepishly. “How do you know?” Awkward silence … How do you know? According to a survey conducted…

Imagine arriving at the office early one morning and just as you're settling down at your desk, your manager waltzes into your office with a question.

“Are our customers happy?”

“Um … I think they are,” you reply sheepishly.

“How do you know?”

Awkward silence …

How do you know? According to a survey conducted by Oracle, 80% of CEOs say that their companies deliver a good experience for customers. There's only one problem. When Oracle polled customers, a mere 43% could recall a consistently positive experience with a brand. So there is clearly some major dissonance between how companies perceive their own brand image and how that image is actually considered by customers.

What can be done to close the gap between perception and reality? There's actually one incredibly powerful tool that can assist companies: CRM or Customer Relationship Management. CRM is essentially a system to coordinate all aspects of a company's interactions with customers, which provides the ability to measure success. One of the top benefits of a CRM system is that it can answer the question: “How are we doing?”

If we look specifically at the staffing industry, a well-developed CRM system integrated with staffing software can be a powerful combination for recruiting success.

Still not convinced? Here are 5 key reasons why having a strong CRM is essential:

1. Synchronized data through the organization. From marketing to sales to operations, having a solid CRM solution can help keep multiple departments in the loop on the latest developments and interactions with customers. One of the most valuable assets any company has is its data, particularly the data related to customer history. This is especially crucial with recruiting. Maintaining a detailed and accurate record of applicants, job orders, and customers within a CRM system is vital. Illegible notes scribbled by an employee in a loose leaf notebook is useless to an organization. On the other hand, maintaining detailed notes on job history or applicable status can be immensely valuable if it is properly recorded and shared within a CRM system.

2. Enhanced social media marketing. The ability to integrate with sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook is critical with any modern CRM or staffing software. According to LinkedIn's 2015 US Recruiting Trends report, social professional networks are the # 1 source of quality hires in the US. Nearly half (46%) of all US companies name social media networks as their top source for high quality candidates. A good CRM allows you to store social media information and integrates with all of the top sites. The ability to post job orders, pull down candidate resumes, and capture client information directly from social media can take your productivity to the next level.

3. Reporting. One major advantage of using a CRM system is being able to pull real-time reports. It can help answer questions like: Who are my top billed clients? What did Placement Consultant “A” do last week? How many client follow-ups were completed today? An integrated CRM can answer all of these and much more. You can even create custom reports and track unique metrics specific to your company's activities.

4. Increase sales opportunities. Savvy companies tap into their CRM system as a way to identify customer patterns, which can help guide sales strategies. Internal data can provide tons of useful business intelligence such as the hot industries to target or the top positions recently filled. CRM can also help with targeted marketing, allowing you to zero in on the right prospects and develop custom sales strategies for them.

5. Helps keep you organized. A good CRM system improves operational efficiency across the organization and can streamline all major actions of customer interactions. It also makes it easy to create follow-up reminders and notifications, track your tasks and events, and generate follow-up statistics. Furthermore, the best CRM systems are designed with anywhere access in mind, meaning they can be accessed “on the go” with a mobile device. For busy staffing professionals, having CRM access directly from your smartphone or tablet can be a game changer.

Overall, CRM can be a tremendous tool if utilized to its full potential. A strong CRM system can be a one-stop shop for managing all of your customer activities and allows you to keep a pulse on your clients. In today's competitive recruiting environment, a richly-featured CRM system is no longer a luxury to have, but a necessity. It's about much more than just keeping records of client interactions. A great CRM system can positively impact every department in an organization and can provide great insight into your customers, allowing you to stay ahead of the curve.

Why Do Businesses Need to Take Customer Service Seriously?

Most of us believe that our businesses exist for profit. Indeed, we do. But keeping this as a sole mindset may be detrimental to our enterprises in the long run. We must understand that for our businesses to be able to sustain exist for the long haul, we must endeavor to add value to the…

Most of us believe that our businesses exist for profit. Indeed, we do. But keeping this as a sole mindset may be detrimental to our enterprises in the long run.

We must understand that for our businesses to be able to sustain exist for the long haul, we must endeavor to add value to the lives of our customers. We have to remember that consumers purchase our goods and services to solve their pressing needs. They do not do it because they just want us to earn profit.

Gearing for the long haul means building dynamic and productive relationships with the markets we serve. This means listening to customer insights, understanding their needs, and even thinking ahead of them to be able to provide unique and relevant solutions.

We see, the operative words in building a long lasting business enterprise are relationship and solutions .

These two words exhibit the core ingredients in providing exemplary customer service: the kind of service that is relevant, useful, and important to the market that we do business with.

What is customer service?

For businesses, customer service really is putting on the customers' shoes. It is a practice that ensures customers experience unique and personalized connection with the brand from beginning to end the end of every transaction. Customer service is about how we help develop the consumers' personal relationship with the goods and services that we provide.

It is how we design our products or conduct our services in a manner that may ease their problems and concerns. It is providing value and offering solutions.

Simply put, customer service is how we design the consumers' journey from information gathering, purchase, and post purchase, to be as easy as possible, as pleasant and productive as possible.

In a nutshell, customer service is about the consumers' total experience with our brands and services.

Why invest in customer service?

Having the largest and the latest product is no longer an edge in today's hyper competitive market. The trap of having the better mouse trap can be lethal to businesses. This is why, we need to uniquely define our brands and services to stand out – or at least survive in the arena.

Some businesses believe that adopting the latest technology may be the answer. Some think that having a deep pocket to splurge on marketing would save the day. These myopic senses, however, may lead them down the lion's pit.

A cost efficient and relevant business differentiator may lie on plain and simple good ol 'customer service.

We have listed below five of the many reasons why businesses should invest in good customer service:

The age of human to human business

We've also been customers at some point in our lives. We know that it is not cool to talk to a robot on the other line, telling us that our calls are important … but we have to wait … and wait … and wait … until the robot talks to us again. Or after a long automated spiel and garble-y managed ads, we're told, to speak to an operator, press zero.

We've also experienced how to be excited to use a new product only to be welcomed by a thick book of users' manual (or log-on to this complicated site to start enjoying our services!).

Those scenarios are often frustrating, we wished we never purchased these goods or services at all!

Albeit the advancement of digital and telecommunications technology, as humans, we still prefer to talk to another warm blooded human. Similarly, a human voice, any human interaction for that matter, is priceless to our customers.

Humanizing our services creates a strong brand affinity among our customers. They can put a face to a brand or service, they know that they are being listened to. And they know that someone will understand them – beyond algorithms and codes.

After the digital explosion in the past years, customers have become exhausted by cold automation. They need to interact with humans. And this need, once wisely addressed, will provide businesses with opportunities to make a difference.

Approach clutter with personalized service

While most brands aimlessly busy themselves trumpet how good they are, it is about the right time to step back and look at how our business should really make sense to the customers. Let us take time to understand them and their needs and find ways to make sense to them.

As we know in marketing, anything that is not relevant to the consumers does not add value to the product or service. Touting them will just add to the noise and clutter.

Capturing the right market means linking with them and building a mutually beneficial relationship. We are called to approach the market with personalized service.

Mass producing may have been the pill to progress in the past century but this may no longer be the case today. Customers need to feel special and unique, so we also have to design our goods, services, and processes to be such.

By personalizing our approach to business, customers will return our efforts by being loyal to our brands. Customer loyalty means better business for us.

Attract more customers with focus and attention

Given the unique requirements of our customers, we need to ensure that we provide them with specialized goods and services.

To attract more patrons, we need to focus and put extra attention to their distinct needs and wants.

As mentioned above, we need to be relevant to the customers' lives to be able to do business with them. This is where good customer service comes in.

What are our ways to hear them out? Are we providing them total solutions? Are our products and services easy to use and the answer to their needs? Are we making their lives easier? Are we providing them value?

Are the services we provide fast and convenient? Are the queues fast moving? Are our websites user friendly? Are our call center agents knowledgeable, do they listen actively?

Most customers, when hunting for new products and services look for these factors. For all we know, they may have been disgruntled clients of our competitors who look to be paid attention to.

Paying attention to the market and providing them exemplary service may be beneficial in gaining more customers.

Love thy own

Good customer service may also be about retaining profitable customers. We know that this client base may provide us with repeat purchases and may even influence those circles to do business with us.

Some studies have shown that by keeping our customers happy, we can keep doing business with them sustainably. In fact, a study suggests that by increasing our loyal customer base, we may be able to increase steady revenue as well.

Happy customers tend to purchase more, and may, in fact, provide us important insights on how we may improve our business relationship with them. Talk about free insights on product usage, logistics, etc.

Loving our own by providing good customer service will keep us from chasing flighty birds in the bush.

Of course, it can also be about cost

Investing in good customer service may also be about cost. Doing this may save us from spending too much in marketing and new customer acquisition – which may ring up to four times the price.

By integrating good customer experience in our products and services at the sunset, we may avoid costly returns and repairs. We may also less frustration which can usually cause longer term damage to our brands.

We've heard of a number of horror stories where brands needed to spend millions and millions just to appease angry customers. This may have been avoided if a customer-centric mindset prevailed.

If we wish to establish a good customer service system, the investment need not to be complicated and expensive. We can turn to our frontline employees, gather their experience, and farm ideas from them on how to better serve our clients.

For businesses to thrive and be competitive in today's environment, customer service must be taken seriously. We must ensure that our customers experience unique and personalized connection with us. We must provide our customers the right environment to develop close affinity to brands.

Why we need customer service? It is an important differentiator to make our brands stand out from the clutter and attract more customers, retain our loyal clients, and save us on millions on sales and marketing cost.

Turn Employee Customer Service Best Practice Into Standard Practice

I am no stranger to travel … airports, hotels and the like are all in a day's work. On a recent occasion, I was flying into Las Vegas to present a customer service speech. The client had arranged ground transportation, so I expected to find a driver holding a sign with my name on it…

I am no stranger to travel … airports, hotels and the like are all in a day's work. On a recent occasion, I was flying into Las Vegas to present a customer service speech. The client had arranged ground transportation, so I expected to find a driver holding a sign with my name on it at the baggage claim area.

When the plane landed and I turned my cell phone on, I noticed that I had actually received a text message from my driver, Rick Knobloch. The text message said:

Hi Shep. This is Rick, your chauffeur. I'm in the baggage claim area in Terminal One at the bottom of the escalator holding a sign with your name, ready to drive you to the Cosmopolitan Hotel. See you soon. Thanks, Rick.

Rick also included a photo of himself with the text message. I was happy with the personal touch and his proactive approach.

When I came down the escalator into the baggage area, I saw Rick. And apparently, he saw me, too. He started walking toward me. I surprised, “How does he know it's me? Does he know what I look like?”

Actually, he did. Rick told me that he does a Google search on all of his clients. He knew what I looked like, and that's not all. He had used the Internet to learn about what I do for a living and even commented about one of my YouTube videos (which happens to be about a taxi driver). He said that he was hooked to be as good as the driver in the video, and I must say he was well on his way. Minutes after dropping me off at my hotel, he texted again to thank me for my business.

There are some lessons that we can learn from this great customer service experience.

As I said earlier, I travel a lot. So I know that what Rick did was not standard protocol for drivers. While it may not have been the first time I have received a text message from a transport company with directions at the airport, the inclusion of his picture set him apart. Rick said that he came up with the idea to make it easier for clients to find him. And, he also went out of his way to learn a little bit about who he was driving. Both of these are excellent “best practices” that he utilizes for all of his clients.

However, Rick is apparently the only driver in his company to create this great customer service experience for his clients. There is an important lesson here that the entire company should be taking advantage of. Rick's best practices make him stand out, but if all of the drivers followed his example, the entire company would stand out.

I've seen this happen in other businesses as well. One employee does something different, something that makes him or her stand out. Often, customers start asking for that employee by name. Companies need to be aware and observant of situations like this and find out that that employee is doing right and make it part of their standard practice. In the case of the transportation company, for example, the other drivers could have taught to do what Rick does.

I'm sending this article to Rick. I want him to know that I appreciate his efforts to make the customer experience so special, and what's more, I hope he shares it with the management of the transportation company. And if they're smart, they will turn Rick's best practices into standard practice.

How to Reduce Your Call Centre Cost

Lowering operating costs for call center management in today's economy is critical. But how? The answer lies in driving agent performance ensuring that their time is well managed. It is a well-known fact that the human resource, people, component of a call center is the highest cost factor. By streamlining and optimizing the servicing processes,…

Lowering operating costs for call center management in today's economy is critical. But how? The answer lies in driving agent performance ensuring that their time is well managed. It is a well-known fact that the human resource, people, component of a call center is the highest cost factor. By streamlining and optimizing the servicing processes, you will reduce the time spent on unnecessary work and utilize your call center agent's time to maximum. The metric to measure the success of this optimization is Average Handle Time (AHT).

The AHT metric will assist call center management in the following ways:

  • Driving agent performance
  • Scheduling and calculating staffing needs
  • Measure accuracy and effectiveness of the servicing process
  • Managing high call volumes
  • Consider the impact of customer service quality of every call handled
  • Lowering Costs

So how is the AHT reduced without compromising the quality of the call or the service provided?

First let's consider how AHT is calculated. The formula used is:

“the total amount of work time related to calls, including average talk time (ATT) and average after call work time (ACW), divided by the number of calls handled.”

Do not forget that the call center agent should first act as an ambassador for your company by the average talk time (ATT) then act on behalf of your customer by performing the after call work time (ACW). You do not want to compromise these, or the quality of your customer service will suffer.

To lower AHT is a simple 5 step process:

  1. Analyze the existing servicing process by mapping the contact flow and identify components in the process that can be maximized, minimized or eliminated.
  2. Improve the efficiency by employing technology to assist agents without adversely affecting call quality.
  3. Coaching agents to minimize valuable, wasted seconds on the phone by scripting an introduction that will begin each call efficiently.
  4. A comprehensive, educational program of the products and services will build useful knowledge for agents so that they can have a working knowledge.
  5. Measure daily and note the improvements or lack thereof. Remember we can not manage what we can not measure. Note all the changes required and prioritize what is most needed for the desired improvement.

AHT is an important operational indicator only, and you call center management should not get distracted by the figures. The focus for all call center professionals and staff must be to act as ambassador of their companies while at the same time act for and in the best interest of the customer – always!

Keep On Improving For Growth

No matter where a company is at in their growth cycle, every business has room for improvement. It is important to highlight successes and high-five each other on big and small wins. It's just as important to look at what needs to be improved on through the organization. Growth is based on improvement, and this…

No matter where a company is at in their growth cycle, every business has room for improvement. It is important to highlight successes and high-five each other on big and small wins. It's just as important to look at what needs to be improved on through the organization. Growth is based on improvement, and this improvement can happen in any part of the organization.

Below are a few of the areas where I commonly find room for improvement in many of the companies I work with. Just because things may need to change does not mean they are being done incorrectly the first time. It simply means that there may be a different way to do them.

Customer Service
Is your customer service perfect? Probably not. It's actually really good, or even great, but there is usually some room for improvement when it comes to customer service. I'm referring to the level of customer service as perceived by your customers. Sure, having short hold times is important, and so is short call times, but so is the way customers are actually treated. I've called into businesses where I just wanted to reach through the phone and strangle the customer service rep I was talking to (Walmart.com is the most recent of these experiences for me). A couple rules of thumb (coming from a customer):

  1. Do NOT be a smart ass to your customer ( extremely bad for business)
  2. When a customer requests for a supervisor graciously send them to a supervisor – even if the supervisor will tell them the same thing, still send them to a supervisor
  3. If you can not do anything for your customer, pretend like you want to and blame it on the policies – do not ever tell your customer that they should know your policies!

Product Categories
Do you have the best product category lineup for your target customers? Have there been a few products that your customers have asked for recently that you do not carry? If there have been, you've had to send them to someone else's business to get that item. If your customers are asking for a specific item enough, it may be worth it for you to provide that product for them. Expanding your business by adding products to your existing lineup is growth. Just make sure that it's the right products at the right price.

Pricing
Are your prices in line with the prices of your competition and are you in-line with industry standards? If your prices are a little higher, what is the reason? Are the products you offer better in some way than your competitions? Are you showing these reasons to your customers? Is there a way you can lower your prices or offer a special to your customers? Customers like lower prices, but they also like quality (in most products). Get a feel from your customers why they are not purchasing when they come in or shop your business online. If it is about the pricing you may want to look into how you can become better in this area.

Marketing
Marketing is an area where I see a lot of room for improvement in most companies I work with. This is usually because they want to spend the money in other areas. A good rule of thumb is to spend 20% of your business profits on your marketing budget with a minimum of $ 2,000 spend per month. This sounds like a lot, but there is a lot you can do with a couple grand these days! The bigger your brand becomes, the more you should be spending on marketing. If you're not involved in social media (heavily) as a business owner, then you're doing a disservice to your business. This is a completely free way to market your company and brand!

Logistics / Operations
This is another area that I usually find room for improvement with most companies I work with because it's difficult to nail down moving parts in a growing company. That's okay, though. Just keep working at it. Continue contacting new shipping companies to find the best rates for the best service, find new ways to do things that allows your company to maintain a competitive edge while being flexible and focused, and empower employees to find new processes and procedures to help the company run smoother and better.

No matter the area that you find can be improved upon, continue improving so you can continue growing the business. And be sure to celebrate even the smallest wins along the way!

Send Customized Messages Using a Text Reminder Service

Most medical offices are experiencing patient no-shows primarily because the patients forget about their appointments. To reduce patient no-shows, a text reminder service can be implemented at your medical office. Text messages help the patients to remember about the appointment scheduled with the doctor on the right time. The reminders send in the form of…

Most medical offices are experiencing patient no-shows primarily because the patients forget about their appointments. To reduce patient no-shows, a text reminder service can be implemented at your medical office. Text messages help the patients to remember about the appointment scheduled with the doctor on the right time. The reminders send in the form of messages will definitely reach the inbox of the patients' mobile phones. This enables the patient to confirm or cancel the appointment based on their convenience. Sending customized messages using this service is affordable and easy to use. To enjoy the benefits of this service, you do not have to install a software or hardware at your office.

Text messaging is the fastest and most effective communication method in this technological world. It allows the medical offices to send messages instantly to remind about the scheduled appointments to the patients. The service enables the patients to respond to the messages received easily and instantly. By implementing this facility at your office, the appointment scheduling and reminding process can be streamlined effectively. Some of the uses of this service are:

Reduce the number of staff : Preparing and sending messages manually is a tedious task, which may cause errors in the messages. If it is a mass messaging, then customization is not possible. If you are hiring more staff to take care of the medical management tasks in the clinic, then you have to spend great amount of money to provide salary for additional staff. You can use this service to handle the medical management tasks including appointment scheduling and reminding, instead of hiring new staff to the clinic.

Personalized messages : By using this service, your medical office can send personalized messages to different patients at the same time without making any errors. Different templates are available to send personalized messages to the patients. For example, names as well as the appointment date and time of the patients can be included in the messages for personalizing them. When patients are addressed with their names, they will become happy and privileged.

Right on time : A text reminder service enables the medical clinics to send messages right on time to the patients. The messages are usually sent to the patients a day or two before the date of the scheduled appointment. The patients can confirm, cancel or reschedule the appointment according to their convenience. If the patient canceled or rescheduled the appointment, then this service assigns the empty slot to some other patient in queue. This increases the revenue and credibility of the medical office.

Different Types of Mystery Shopping

Mystery shopping, also referred to as secret shopping, is a kind of research and analytical exercise designed to track and assess behavioral and operational performance at different workplaces. It involves calling or visiting a company under the guise of a prospective customer in order to observe how retail staff and other personnel interact with customers…

Mystery shopping, also referred to as secret shopping, is a kind of research and analytical exercise designed to track and assess behavioral and operational performance at different workplaces. It involves calling or visiting a company under the guise of a prospective customer in order to observe how retail staff and other personnel interact with customers and the general public. They can help you to improve your business by identifying areas that need improvement or to assess staff behavior across different parameters.

The mystery shopper often offers invaluable insight in real-time situations on your employees' selling skills, customer service skills and communication skills and so on. Understandably, today it has become a critical tool for improvement across a wide section of industries and accordingly different types available for your exact need.

In-person Mystery Shopping Service

This is the most common type is where a shopper visits a counter or location personally in order to get a first-hand experience of the situation. Typically, a single mystery shopper goes on a particular assignment that can be over within ten minutes or last for more than hours depending on the industry, the format / size of the location or the basic purpose of the establishment.

In-person this can either be a report-only format or involve taking covert video footage. In report-only formats, the mystery shopper will carry a preset questionnaire that he will fill up secretly after interacting with staff under various pretexts.

Cover video operations allow employers to get a first-hand view of how staff behave and interact with customers in different situations. In-person services are muchought after in restaurants and hotels, banking sector, retail, convenience stores, automobile sectors, healthcare and fitness centers and so on.

Telephone Mystery Shopping Service

Such companies are helpful in sectors where telephonic conversation is an integral part of regular customer communication. The assignments are typically conducted over the telephone and involve interacting with personnel from the customer service department or front office.

Here too, preset questions are asked on typical topics that genuine customers are likely to ask. The calls are either recorded or a form is filled up with responses. Telephone mystery shopping services are used by call centers, businesses in the travel and tourism sector, telecommunications and information technology businesses and healthcare sector and so on.

Hybrid Mystery Shopping Services

These days, many companies interact with their customers on different levels and require world-class standard of customer service at different touch points. Understandably, hybrid mystery shopping services involve sending mystery shoppers at different interfaces starting from personal visits to telephone calls to assessment over the internet through mailers. The mystery shopper from the mystery shopping companies may even visit the home of your customers after taking prior appointment in order to assess their experience and opinion.

Such type of assignments are commonly utilized by businesses in the banking sector, travel and tourism sector, real estate, healthcare sectors, automotive industry and so on.

Getting to the Core: Government Customer Service Competencies

Every company, business, and government agency / department should have a set of core values. These core values ​​stand as an ethical code for your work place, and a set of values ​​that your office culture evolves from. Innovative organizations usually aim for excellence, passion, engagement, integrity, and encourage strategic and smart risk taking. In…

Every company, business, and government agency / department should have a set of core values. These core values ​​stand as an ethical code for your work place, and a set of values ​​that your office culture evolves from. Innovative organizations usually aim for excellence, passion, engagement, integrity, and encourage strategic and smart risk taking. In this, core values ​​are not purely an ideal, but a set of attitudes and behaviors to strive for. It is with our core values ​​in mind that we assess what we need in terms of competencies.

The way you do your work is just as important as what you accomplish. That's the importance of competencies. Competencies are realistic, observable behaviors that relate to your goals. In other words, they are the skills you need to fulfill the responsibilities of your job. Core competencies are branches of your organization's core values ​​in the sense that the strengths of those values ​​are extended and, ultimately, complemented by the technical skills and capabilities of your team. While core values ​​are the backbone, creating a foundation for a company, core competencies are what determine the advantage. Having a clear idea of ​​what your organization's core competencies are, result in going above and beyond average profits.

Adapting this model-one that's often applied to the world of finance and product based corporations-to customer service, leaves us with a unique challenge. When we adjust our concept of profit to mean customer / citizen satisfaction, the elements that contribute to that satisfaction become our core competencies. In a government contact center, excellent customer satisfaction is what brings us to that number. We must ask, on behalf of our internal or external customers:

What does the customers need?
How can we assist in meeting those needs?
How can we assist in meeting those needs more effectively and efficiently?

These questions, in sum, point to what the US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) has defined as customer service core competencies; a commitment “to satisfying internal and external customers.” In appropriating HHS's definition, we discover the cyclical nature of the core competencies and core value relationship within government. Our values ​​become our key behaviors in customer service that, in return, establish government's effectiveness which generates an above average service levels. For example, when you have a leadership team driving their work with values ​​like excellence, passion, engagement, and integrity, government's overall improved service delivery excellence reflects that.

7 Reasons Why You Should Leave a Comment!

With our customers, so active online, businesses are grappling with methods to become more visible, more popular and more effective online. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is viewed as the illusive solution as it is deemed as highly complicated, excessively expensive and confusing with conflicting advice everywhere. However, the good news is we can participate in…

With our customers, so active online, businesses are grappling with methods to become more visible, more popular and more effective online. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is viewed as the illusive solution as it is deemed as highly complicated, excessively expensive and confusing with conflicting advice everywhere.

However, the good news is we can participate in SEO activities ourselves with limited budgets and understanding. Commenting on articles takes very little time, and your business can gain visibility and popularity in a relative short time frame.

Here are 7 reasons why you should comment and, of course, how:

1. Introductions create Opportunities – by regularly engaging on articles you are introducing yourself as a person within your business. You can now build relationships with others that also comment; that absolutely will lead to more connections and new business.

2. Be known as an Expert – your comments are a huge opportunity to show others your expertise on the topic which will create more trust in your ability to solve their problems.

3. Drives traffic to your own website – when others read your comments you create an interest as other readers and commentators will want to learn more about you. They may even leave you a reciprocal comment which will give you the opportunity to respond by guiding them to pages on your website!

4. Broaden your experience, knowledge and understanding – by engaging on the comment section of the article you can also enrich your own experience. It will also give you an insight on the views of your target market and what their needs are.

5. Create creativity – Creating a habit to read articles and the comments regularly You will be inspired on creating articles of your own addressing the topic and related identified problem areas.

6. Brand Recognition – By commenting often you, as a brand of your business, becomes a celebrity. Others will start looking for your comments as they will value your input. Until your business solutions will become the preferred choice by means of inbound marketing rather than hunt the next deal always.

7. You are doing SEO – What you should realize is that by commenting on articles you leave your online signature behind everywhere. This creates back links which is one of the most important aspects of SEO, at a fraction of the cost and the time!

Please take note of these taboo's when commenting:

1. Be specific, relevant and informative. Have a view and express that clearly – “Nice Article” as a comment is totally irrelevant, and you will be viewed as such. Also attempt to leave meaningful and insightful comments.

2. Do not spam by leaving comments everywhere. Your business must be relevant to the topic, the website and the engagements.

3. Limit your links in the comment. The guided norm is one but I also advise that when you leave comments more than once on the same article only add your link to the first comment, thereafter omit any links.

4. Find credible websites as you will waste time and effort leaving comments on low ranking websites with few daily visitors.

5. Use branded link text as you can then incorporate a variety to the reader reading your comments. Displaying the same link text always will become a brand and perceived as spam.

6. Always comment as a person and not a business. People talk to people not abstract entities and you will never get others to respond to your comments, which is what you are driving for, if they can not talk directly with you.

Although this is just one activity closer to the benefits of SEO, the value that you will receive is as such that it is well worth your time and effort to leave a comment!

As you understand the importance of commenting now, let's start commenting! Leave a comment and share which reason or taboo is most important to you, and why?

Improving Customer Recovery Process – Adding A “Sixth Sense”

Remember the young boy from The Sixth Sense ? If you recall, he had the ability to identify and communicate with dead people, resolving open issues to help them move on. This rare ability was referred to as his “sixth sense”. In today's complex customer service world, companies need a “sixth sense” when it comes…

Remember the young boy from The Sixth Sense ? If you recall, he had the ability to identify and communicate with dead people, resolving open issues to help them move on. This rare ability was referred to as his “sixth sense”.

In today's complex customer service world, companies need a “sixth sense” when it comes to customer service and recovery. Companies need to find new and innovative methods to identify and communicate with their customers, especially those who have had a bad experience. This involves a multifaceted approach, incorporating people, culture and tools to resolve these issues.

Let's begin with the ability to identify and communicate with unhappy customers; How much has been done and can be done to provide customers a voice? Companies which completely sole on toll-free feedback lines and website feedback forms are approaching customer service from a 1990's mentality. In today's world of smart phones, tablets, mobile websites, apps, QR codes and social media, companies must ensure their reach is significantly greater. In order to determine the efficiency of customer service and recovery reach, customer service professionals should ask the following questions:

  • Is my toll-free number answered 24/7?
  • Does my web feedback form provide self-service options, such as FAQ's, nutritional information, media inquiries, franchising information, etc.?
  • Does my website feedback form allow customers to self-select multiple issues?
  • Do I have a feedback form integrated into my mobile site?
  • Do I have an App available, and if so, is there a feedback component for my App?
  • Do I monitor my company's social media sites for customer recovery opportunities?
  • Do I monitor independent social media sites for customer recovery opportunities?
  • Do I have a customer satisfaction survey?
  • Do I identify potential customer recovery opportunities with survey respondents?

Very few companies can answer positively for all of these questions. Let's review some of the key components a company can use to drive the customer recovery process through their organization. In this example, we'll assume the company has a 24/7 toll-free number and a feedback form on their website. What else should be implemented?

  • Redesign web pages with a streamlined feedback form which includes self-help options. This can allow many customers to resolve the issue themselves, saving the company money and providing better resolution for the customer
  • Companies with a younger target demographic should integrate a feedback form into both their mobile site and integrating it with current or future Apps
  • Create a link to a unique URL with a feedback form designed for social media posts, creating a method to gather the information necessary to resolve the issue (this will reduce back and forth messages, creating a more efficient resolution process)
  • Integrate low-scoring survey responses into CRM solutions, allowing for a consistent customer recovery process and consolidated reporting

Customer service and recovery reach can also include non-proprietary social media sites, QR codes and integration of customer feedback into an app, although an incremental approach often works well for companies embarking on enhancing their customer recovery process. The consistent application of customer service and customer recovery efforts across the most relevant channels for a consumer base will help companies discover a “sixth sense” when it comes to customer service and recovery.