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3 Examples of How to Talk the Language of Your Customer

When I think about how brands “talk” to their customers effectively, I always think of Target. This goes back a few years now, but Target was a brand that listened in social media and used social media to learn not only what customers where saying about them, but also how they talked about them. They paid close attention to their customer’s voice and it has paid off for them in a big way.

Let’s go to “Tar-jay”

From Retail Drive:

“Social media has been key for the retailer getting its “Tar-jay” image back. The brand has 29 million followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. While 24 million of those consumers come by way of Facebook, interestingly, Target treats each social channel with a different content mindset. Facebook and Twitter posts present, at times, fun posts such as: “Hello, I’m a Target. You may know me from my greatest hits including: ‘I only need one thing.’ ‘This is only a dollar?!’ ‘I should’ve grabbed a cart.’ And, ‘Thanks, I got it from Target.’ Such whimsical notes are mixed with more transactional content such as discount reveals or buy-one-get-one-free (BOGO) offers.” Target has figured out that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to listening to their customers. Segmenting the customer’s voice between each social platform is a strategy that has worked!

Tar-Jay and Target

So, Tar-Jay just sounds sexier and more affluent. This appealed to the Gen Z and Millennial crowd quite a bit as they were able to shop for fun stuff much cheaper than going to specialty stores. I am sure Target listened by using traditional market research, as well as social. Customer feedback, mystery shopping, focus groups, along with social research are all effective ways to listen to your customer’s voice.

Need to Make a Target-Run

“How does every Target run end up costing me at least $50?” “Because you say you’re only getting milk and paper towels, and then you come home with 12 other things.”

What came first the chicken or the egg? In this case, Target brilliantly coined this term and it resonated with their shopper base. This marketing message stuck with consumers for over 20 years! A few years back they began to develop the saying a bit more.

Target Run and Done

You can now listen to people say, Target, run and done! Target’s Shipt service (Target acquired the start up company back in 2017), has allowed for huge growth in same-day delivery, drive up service and curbside pick up.

“At its core, it’s a campaign designed to help our guests make the most of their day, and an important step in making Target America’s easiest place to shop,” Rick Gomez, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Target, said in a blog post. 

Whether you are talking about Tar-Jay, Target Run, or Target Run and Done, it all revolves around one thing. Consumers enjoy shopping at Target. What more can you ask for?

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Improving NPS for a Better Customer Experience

Net Promoter Score

Quality Assurance in the contact center is being used to improve NPS (Net Promoter Score) and overall customer experience

“How likely is it that you would recommend our company to a friend or colleague? Could you please rate your recommendation on a scale of 0-10?”

These are two questions that can induce anxiety into any business. But the questions are real and have been so since 2003 when Frederick Reicheld of Bain & Company wrote about what he coined the Net Promoter Score (NPS) in an article for the Harvard Business Review.

Reicheld’s premise is simple. Answers to the “likely to recommend” question are rated on a scale of 0-10 and the responses are divided into three groups as follows:

• Promoters (rating of 9-10)• Passives (7-8)• Detractors (0-6)
The Net Promoter Score is determined by subtracting the percentage of detractor responses from the percentage of promoters. The goal is to get as high a Net Promoter Score as possible as an indicator of customer perception of a company’s service and support.

So How Do You Boost Your Net Promoter Score?

1) Truly Listen to the Customer


Perform a deep analysis of your call records. Consider how many calls are subsequently transferred into other departments.  How many result in escalations or complaints?  Do some listening and consider what the main drivers are for these transfers and escalations. A big negative for NPS is when customers feel that they have to deal with many people or departments to get a query resolved. On many occasions, a customer’s issue will have several threads to it, all of which need to be resolved or actioned in some way.
Empower your frontline to handle queries outside their own department’s main scope and provide them with access to whatever systems they need. This greatly enhances their chances of providing the customer with a ‘one-and-done’ resolution to their call.

2) Perfect Your Greetings and Closings


While it might sound obvious, how consistent is your team with their hellos and goodbyes? The greeting is your customer’s first experience with your company, so make sure the call starts out on the right foot – keep it informal, ask them how their day is going, be interested in them as a person and show how you value their business.

Enabling an advisor to see a customer’s history makes for smoother handling of a call without the customer having to repeat themselves. Your employees also need to know what to do when a call is going wrong and how to get it back on track. Having dealt with the call or query, make sure your advisors finish each call on a positive – remember that’s the impression that your customer will leave with.

3) Review Your Scripts


Sometimes an advisor’s strict adherence to a script can bypass common sense and cause more problems than solutions. Giving employees the freedom to act with common sense and not stick rigidly to a script, regardless of the circumstances, can deliver better NPS scores. If a customer has not had their problem resolved and you ask: ‘Is there anything else I can help you with today’, it is likely to be met with a negative response. This lack of common sense is likely to increase dissatisfaction as the customer hasn’t been helped yet.
Frank Sherlock at CallMiner

4) Follow Up Fast


Prompt follow-up with customers can help contact centers drive increases in NPS. This closing works for several reasons:

• demonstrates your commitment to the customer experience
• resolves individual problems
• gives you greater insight into the issues that drag down your customer loyalty


How fast you respond, who follows up and even the means of contacting the customer can depend on the type of feedback received, as well as characteristics of the customer or account. Often, simply hearing that feedback was received improves a customer’s perception of your company. Use follow-up calls to learn more about customer issues. This can help you pinpoint the root causes of recurring problems so you can fix them at the source.
Richard Burns at NICE

5) Boost Morale in the Workplace


Without an emotional investment in their work, most employees are going to have a difficult time maintaining exemplary service, which can cause your NPS to slip. Allow the team to review themselves alongside their superiors. This demonstrates that the individual’s opinion is valued and their development matters, as well as allowing senior employees to build a rapport with their teams. Utilize reward programs like ‘employee of the month’ or competitions that encourage excellent NPS. Pride in good performance is always an incentive to raise or maintain standards of work. These schemes provide continued encouragement for advisors to provide the best service they can, which in turn goes towards raising your NPS.
Enda Kenneally at West Unified Communications

6) Make Exceeding Customer Expectations the Primary Goal


Rather than focus on the NPS itself, make exceeding customer expectations part of your call center’s goal. To do this, you need to look at the NPS as something that measures the difference between the expectations a customer has and the experience they receive.
Prompt advisors to deliver positive surprises and go the extra mile, rather than concentrating on compliance or reducing the call duration. This will exceed customers’ expectations and help you achieve better NPS scores.

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Predictable Vs. Experience. The Retail & Hospitality Shift.

Hospitality

There are over 74,000 clothing boutique businesses in the United States. Included in that high number are online boutiques, who have brought a unique frenzy to the retail industry. Trendy, stylish, and exclusive. There’s been shift from “you’re a predictable brand I trust” to “I am loving this exclusive boutique experience.” With more and more online boutiques popping up, shoppers are provided an unshared, chic, shopping experiences that doesn’t feel like the Gap store down the street.  

Interesting enough, there is a similar pivot within the hospitality industry. Large hotel franchises and chains are changing their hotel concepts to reflect a more unique appeal that correlates to the city or town of their hotel location. These changes then compete with smaller, independently owned hotels who are gaining in popularity. The one-of-a kind charm is alluring travelers across the globe. Guests are constantly looking for what is postable, or the “social return,” according to a recent article by Kristen Morales. With more and more people waking up and looking at their Instagram accounts, posting incredible places they’ve been, the increase in social media influences, and Gen Z gearing up to lead the way, hotels are following suit and adjusting strategy.  

Social Media’s Role

Social media has turned the hotel stay into much more than good service and a clean room. According to a new study by University of Georgia researches, it’s all about the ‘experience’.

Guests are taking to social media to post and show their followers and friends the brand-new experience they had. It’s all about the post and what that individual will get in return from sharing that post.

Bynum Boley, an associate professor in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, says it best, “When you have all these choices out there, you’re going with the one that’s least risky. But service quality is so standardized now-there’s all these reviews online, and service quality is almost a given,” Boley said. “But there’s also a rising influence of people who want a unique experience and also want to be able to broadcast their travel experiences through social media.”

Showing Instagram or Facebook followers the different experiences you are able to have sets you apart. It’s easy nowadays to pull up reviews on a hotel to see how they rank with cleanliness and quality. Going above and beyond for a guest is providing them with an exclusive experience that only comes from them staying at your hotel.

Adjusting Your Focus

So what are major hotels doing to compete with the independent boutique hotel? They are securing their place in the hotel race with new glamorous and attractive accommodations.  The Ranch at Rock Creek offers a Father’s Day getaway that is inspired by iconic film characters. Yes, dads can finally really feel like Jason Bourne or Indiana Jones. Or Mandapa, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve, provides kids with an enchanting education journey through the land of Ubud. Everything from yoga, rock painting, to dance fit, and shadow puppet making is provided.  

Social Media Transparency  

From retail to the hotel boutique experience, both industries have one thing in common, their need to be tech savvy in an ever evolving, competitive market. Transparency is vital as you build your online brand and community. Listening and responding to what is being said about your hotel franchise or independent hotel is a great step forward. For most consumers, the customer journey begins with online reviews. Whether they are seeking to find a new hotel experience or checking out a new shopping boutique. This drives behavior and decisions. Monitoring this activity helps you manage and promote your brand.

About Us:

We monitor social media, and every public review site on the web using unique and multiple software platforms. Let us provide you with a comprehensive report of your online reputation and help increase your sales. The face is, 91% of 18-34 year-olds trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendations.

How are you going to stand out?

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When All Else Fails….Turn to Social Selling

Social Selling

During the COVID:19 Pandemic, business owners have had to be very creative in order to survive. In an instant, an owner may be left with no customers. What is next? Creative thinking to the rescue! Interestingly enough, many find new ways of selling their goods and services. Social selling is one option.

A great example of this is how a Minnesota Farmer got quite creative when faced with meat processing plants closing suddenly. One farmer had 1200 pigs that were ready for slaughter, with nowhere to go. “We went from having planned all of this 10 months out, having a market for these pigs – that flipped on a switch,” Kluver said. Brad Kluver is a third generation pig farmer, who has never seen something like this happen. He goes on to say that they were stuck, with no alternatives and the pigs were getting fatter every day.

Social Media To the Rescue!

So the family decided to try selling their pigs in social media. They turned to their community for help through their social media accounts.

“In just 48 hours, we had over 400 families reach out to us wanting to purchase pork and help support us through this,” Brad said. “We were left high and dry with nowhere to go and nowhere to turn and that’s where our community stepped up.”

The family was also able to get connected with other, smaller pork producers who were able to take some of their pigs and get them ready to be sold to consumers. 

Time to Try Social Selling?

Social selling is really nothing new, however, it is new to some industries. The impact of COVID-19 has made everyone more aware of social selling and it will be interesting to watch and see if this trend continues. When you think of social selling, LinkedIn comes to mind. LinkedIn has been the best place to date to build relationships and acquire more customers. This is especially true for B2B companies.

However, now is a great time to start building your social media community. It doesn’t matter if it is in Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram. The Pig Farm story is a good example of social media ROI. I bet the farmer never would have thought this online community would be of benefit to him at any time now or in the future. But it was. It may also make him think of his business differently post COVID.

Consumer Reports recently reported on the increased importance of social media customer service which goes hand in hand with social selling. Once you commit to being there, you must maintain it and monitor it. Customers are eager to reach out to you there. To get that personalized service that everyone wants these days.

Maintenance goes a long way in social as well as your website. As more and more people turn to online shopping for essentials, be sure:

  • Outbound links in social media are all in working order.
  • Contact information correct.

Take time now to be sure everything is up to speed. Are there ways to increase your followers? How well are you engaging? You never know when it will all come in handy in ways you never would have thought!

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Evaluating the B2B Customer Experience Effectively: Program Design is Key to Success

B2B Mystery Shopping

B2B companies have a unique challenge in evaluating customer experience. Many times the sales and business cycle is long and consists of several steps to complete the entire experience. This may be in the form of initial order placement/purchase, delivery or products and services, and final billing. Depending on the industry, there may be steps in between that don’t necessarily apply to all customers – perhaps a company that offers rentals and some customers may require service calls – so how is it possible to fully evaluate the customer experience with so many moving parts?

A well formulated and thought out feedback process will serve to be an effective tool. Thinking outside of a traditional “how did we do?” type format is the best way to approach this.

Why?

Since the B2B processes are much longer than a typical retail experience, for example, it’s best to get feedback while the experience is fresh in the minds of customers. So the logical thought may be surveying customers at each step of the process. However, that could lead to response burnout as customers may be inclined the respond to one or two requests for feedback, but will soon tire of completing feedback surveys each time they have an experience with a company.

So what’s the answer? There are three guidelines to consider to create an efficient program:

Take time to lay the foundation

Initial planning will help with this. The first thing to think about is the customer experience, from start to finish. What basic steps are involved for a customer to do business with you? If you sell products or services, that may be initial purchase order, receipt of products/services, billing processes, and resolution of any issues if they arise.

If the company rents products, that journey may look a bit different. It may start with the initial order, then to delivery of items, any service or maintenance calls if they are necessary, return of the products, final billing, and overall experience.

Survey design

Once you determine the steps of the journey, it’s easy to create separate feedback surveys to capture journey specific information. This will be effective in reviewing customer satisfaction at each step of the process – you may find that when people are dissatisfied with an overall experience, it could be due to one specific part of the journey. If you don’t know what step that is until the experience is over, it’s too late to work to improve it. However, if feedback is captured along each step of the way, it’s easier to pinpoint the weaker areas of the process and fix them quickly.

Keep the surveys as short as possible. Multiple surveys allows for fewer questions and journey specific questions to be asked. Carefully consider what information is needed to get the appropriate feedback – nothing more, nothing less – and build a short survey for each step of the journey.

Develop contact rules

What about response exhaustion? A well designed system can alleviate response rate reduction that comes with surveying the same customers at each step of the journey.

Consider setting up some initial guidelines for the feedback process. One example may look like this:

  1. Create call list segmentation for each step of the process. A list of customers who recently placed orders is compiled and used to request feedback on this step of the process. A second list is created for those who received a delivery of products/services within the last 3 weeks, and so forth.

Each contact list will reflect a different list of customers. However, depending on the business model, some companies may find themselves on one or more contact lists at one time. To alleviate this, additional parameters are needed.

  • From each list, cross reference to remove companies that fall on one or more list. From there, determine which companies have been contacted in the last six to 12 months. This takes away the chance to contact a customer too often.
  • Create a feedback cadence to request feedback at key times – not too soon after an experience but not too far out either. Some of this will depend on the size of the customer base, the length of the customer cycle, and other key factors. Ideally, customers should be contacted within one to two weeks of experience an interaction with a company.
  • Decide on a request format. Will telephone or email (or a mix of both) get the best results? Initially, test email and telephone based survey requests. Many customers are busy and do not answer calls from unknown phone numbers, but this is not always the case. Some companies find that telephone requests have a better response rate over email requests. Furthermore, they find that customers who are contacted via telephone tend to share more narrative detail regarding their experience. This unstructured commentary can yield information that would never be uncovered with a more traditional survey set up.

With so many moving pieces to the customer cycle, it can seem like an overwhelming process at first. However, once it is set up and a cadence is determined, the process can run smoothly and provide deeper insight about the entire customer experience, quickly finding strengths and areas for improvement.

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Customer feedback across the journey – tips for a successful program

For traditional restaurant and retail companies, feedback programs can be pretty straightforward. However, for others, such as ecommerce, the process can be a bit more complicated. There are many parts of the journey, from the buying experience to the purchase experience, all the way through complaint resolution to overall product satisfaction.

How is it possible to get feedback at each step of the process in a way that doesn’t inundate customers to the point of survey exhaustion and make sure the experience is recent enough to get accurate feedback about the experience?

Below are some tips to creating an optimal, efficient feedback program for businesses with many steps in the customer journey:

Remember, there is no “one size fits all” feedback survey. Try to avoid sending one feedback survey request at the end of the customer experience. That’s too general and won’t give you the best insight possible. Companies also run the risk of customers not recalling earlier aspects of the experience, so the data may not be as accurate. Multiple feedback surveys are the best bet when the overall experience is a series of steps taken by a customer.

But…don’t feel like you have to get feedback from a customer at each step of the process. While businesses think that the only way to get the best feedback about the entire process is to ask for feedback from Mr. Jones each time he has an interaction with the company, this isn’t necessary. You can get feedback from a variety of customers at different touchpoints to gain overall satisfaction data without risking your customers tuning out.

Keep it simple. Feedback surveys should be short; the shorter, the better. If multiple surveys are used for each step of the process, this can easily be done while getting the best information possible. Want to add more bang to your buck? Offer an open ended narrative option simply asking, “What would you like to tell us? What can we do better? What would you like to see? The sky’s the limit, so share your thoughts.” You may be surprised at the ideas and suggestions your customers have.

Look beyond your most loyal customers. Just like not inundating customers with multiple surveys over time, focusing solely on customers who subscribe to a loyalty program isn’t the answer either. Their time and loyalty needs to be respected; it may be easy to use this group for feedback needs, but it’s important to respect their loyalty and not rely on this group too much. This group may also have different behaviors/opinions/experiences than non-loyalty based customers, so it’s good practice anyway to capture feedback from a broader customer base.

Social Media Monitoring

Take advantage of social conversations. Combine traditional feedback with unstructured feedback on social sites. Taking the last step a bit further, go outside social media audiences and look for feedback from customers that are not tied to a company’s social sites but are talking about your brand, products, or services socially. This is achieved through social media listening – there are many tools to listen to customers talking about a certain topic and compiling that data to tie into feedback results. Unstructured data is a technological goldmine and brands should be aware of how to use this data for greater insight.

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Customer Trust – Glass Half Empty or Glass Half Full?

Customer Trust

How does a business gain customer trust? How does a business gain trust in uncertain times? Very important questions. It requires some real thought. The quietness we are all in is the perfect time to step back and evaluate. Soon businesses will reopen and begin new business’ models for the times we are in. Customer trust is critical for survival. In my opinion, it has never been more important.

Winners and Losers

I have seen CEO’s posting in Linkedin about what they are currently doing to retain customers. They are, in part, establishing brand trust. A large restaurant chain offered a catering style dinner delivered, with the exact specifications of the customer. I mark that one a “glass half full” rating because they are pivoting to the new norm. Not to mention the convenience they are offering those families who are home schooling kids while working full time jobs. Great job TGIFridays! They took it a step further by offering to go Meal Kits. I love this and I bet their customers do too. When you check out their website you see true transparency. Another win!

Ice Cream Chain Confuses Customer

An ice cream chain of restaurants are an example of “glass half empty” rating. I recently stumbled on this Facebook post by an unhappy customer.

Customer waits for almost 30 minutes in a drive through lane, trying to bring home ice cream treats for the family perhaps, only to get to the window to read a sign about COVID-19 PPE requirements for the first time. Better yet, I checked out their website, and there is nothing there about COVID-19. No messaging whatsoever. It is like COVID-19 is not even happening in their world. Zero transparency. Notice that this post was commented on by 186 people, but who knows how many people viewed it without leaving a comment. As I scrolled through the comments, a few people discussed how the customer service at this location has been deteriorating for some time. Sadly, this business will never see this post because they are not listening well online.

Social Media Impact & Reach

Social media usage is up right now, which makes social media listening for customer service even better. Leaning in on social data now will help build customer trust.

People in general, your customers, are stressed. They have certain expectations for the businesses they love. What do you think will happen when this is all over and the ice cream store is open for dine in? Would you remember this experience and try out a new ice cream store instead? Let me take it one step further. Let’s say this customer does try out a competitor and they find that their product is not as stellar but their customer experience is fantastic! Speed, delivery and a smile. Recovery from this kind of poor customer service is long lasting. Who can afford that right now?

Leaning in on Customer Insights

The word cloud is a great visual of what we are feeling right now. Another “glass is half full” award goes to ChatDesk and their recent blog post on “How Are Your Customers Feeling About Coronavirus / COVID-19?” Excellent Social Media Listening! It pretty much recommends that we all put ourselves in our customer’s shoes right now.

Listen Like This

*Blog by: Kathy Doering, President of Ann Michaels & Associates. The above example is only one way in which we listen on behalf of our customers. If this is something you would like to see up close and personal, please schedule a demo with use here.

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There’s an Emoji Revolution Taking Place

Emoji Revolution

The Emoji revolution is taking over as a very creative form of expression. Did you ever think we would reach a point in society where a smiley face would change the way we communicate with one another? There are thousands of emojis being used every day and new ones being created. You can uncover a wealth of information by taking a closer look at the emotion behind an emoji used, whether online from a customer or through a text message. From the most popular ones used to the least noticed. Emotional data behind an emoji can be more enlightening and descriptive than listening to words themselves.  

The Emoji Shift During COVID-19

Just last week Horizon Media came out with a study on the emotional shift that took place in the United States during COVID-19, just by analyzing emojis. They took over 28 million Tweets and divided their findings based on gender and geography to reveal patterns. Their goal was to evaluate the difference between emoji use during the crisis and prior to the pandemic.   

In conclusion, the study revealed a more carefree emotion prior to the pandemic taking place. The emotions portrayed during the spread of the coronavirus was a mix of grim and reflective emotions. The top 100 emojis used drastically changed to “Medical Masks,” “Microbe” and “Angry Faces with Symbols.” They ultimately discovered people were expressing thoughtful emotions.  

What Can Emoji Data Do For Your Business?

Analyzing the data provided in a study such as Horizon Media, allows you to change the tone of your upcoming campaigns, the direction of your marketing, selling or online content. Shifting alongside the tone of your customers permits you to stay relevant with your audience.  This may mean incorporating emojis. It would be ideal to use your customers’ favorite emojis, especially as it is used in your brand messaging, and begin using them in your marketing.

Listening to your customers online is an essential part to any business, but what about understanding what your customers are saying through a symbol? Easily interpret the online tone and emotion of your customers through our brand listening program. Emoji symbols are compiled into one easy to access report. Understand the sentiment behind an emoji. Learn more about your social footprint by tracking online and social conversation about your brand, product, campaign or management team.

Other services we offer:

Crisis Management

Competitive Intelligence

Influencer Network

Content Analysis

Social Channel Analytics

Hashtag Tracking

Campaign Monitoring

Are you ready to roll with the emoji revolution? Contact Kathy Doering at kdoering@ishopforyou.com for more information on how to implement this program.

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The Game of Telephone: The Case For Recorded Mystery Shops

customer service

Traditional mystery shopping took a twist when recorded evaluations were introduced, both video & audio. When they first emerged, they were useful for several reasons, some of which include the increased accuracy of reporting and ability to use the recordings for training purposes.

As this type of evaluation took shape, a new use emerged for B2B companies and those with more complex business services. 

Remember the game of telephone, where someone starts by whispering a message in a person’s ear, and that person shares the message with the next person, and so on, until it gets to the last person in the chain? When the last person shares the message, it is often very different from the original message.

On a similar note, have you ever said or emailed something that was not taken as you intended?

This is where recorded evaluations come into play – to ensure messaging and information shared with prospective customers is clear, accurate, and taken as intended.

Let’s face it – you know your industry, products, and services like the back of your hand. Sometimes explaining them using jargon or terms that are every day use for you may not be clear to others. While some may understand, others may not and make their own interpretations. Or it could be something as simple as a prospective customer coming from a different perspective, taking a response to their question differently than you intended.

Benefits of Recorded Evaluations

A company that uses recorded evaluations shared this type of experience. Their business is a financial lending institution. There are a lot of regulations and information around the services they offer, so it is vital that they are not only sharing the right information, but making sure prospective clients understand what is being said.

During a recent evaluation, a shopper was instructed to ask a series of questions to better understand the company’s services. In the narrative detail, the shopper described the sales representative’s response to two specific questions. The client then listened to the recording of the interaction, because the way the shopper described the response was not quite what the sales representative said, but after listening, it was better understood how the shopper could interpret the response in the way he did.

This led the company to revisit how they explain certain aspects of their services; they realized, in reading the shopper’s interpretation of the response and comparing it to the conversation that they were not conveying the information in a way to make it clear and understood as it needed to be.

What’s important to note is that neither side did anything “wrong” – the sales representative did not provide incorrect information, and the shopper did not report the details of the interaction incorrectly; instead, it was a case of information being explained from one perspective and understood from a similar, yet slightly different perspective.

Recorded evaluations were extremely useful in this case for the company to listen to with a critical ear and compare to how the recipient interpreted the responses. Over time they were able to identify areas of messaging that needed to be updated to make their presentation and explanations better.

This is just another use case for recorded evaluations. They can be used for simple operational evaluations but enhanced by including components to evaluate messaging, communication, and improving the potential customer sales cycle. Just something to consider when your company is looking to evaluate the customer experience through mystery shopping services.

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5 Steps to Gain Competitive Intelligence For Your Business

Customer Service

Competitive intelligence for B2B companies is an overlooked method of research because of its complexity. It all begins with questions.

What are your competitors up to? For most small to medium sized businesses, this is difficult to keep up with. It may be something you think about only when you learn you lost a sale to a competitor. Or, when you take a look at their website to see what is new. That easily leads to questions about pricing, etc. Most B2B companies do not post pricing on their website. You either need to sign up for a demo or submit a request for a meeting through their site. There are many ways to gain this kind of B2B competitor intelligence covertly. B2B Mystery Shopping is a great way to begin.

B2B Mystery Shopping

You may be wondering what in the world is B2B mystery shopping? Traditionally, mystery shopping is used for restaurants, retail, banks and even medical offices. Business to Business or B2B mystery shopping is an excellent way to gain market intelligence for your business as well as get a good snapshot at your internal customer experience.

B2B Mystery Shopping Case Study

Let me explain by giving you some details of a recent B2B competitive intelligence study we did for a client. We were hired to reach out to our client’s competitor and initiate interest in their services. The very first step in this process is to find an evaluator in our data base that closely matches an actual customer. We interview the evaluator to be sure they are not involved with the client or the client’s competitor in any way.

Once selected, the evaluator gets briefed on the objective of the shop with exact requirements of what marketing collateral we require they capture. If a demo is needed, screen shots may be part of the report, so the client can see a step by step process.

B2B Mystery Shopping
Narrative from the report

From the narrative example above you can see that it took from November 7th – November 13th to receive an answer. It took so long that our evaluator asked if he should abandon the initiative altogether. We pressed on, and finally received the information the client was looking for.

Steps to Begin

  • Test your own process first. Mystery shop your company to evaluate any internal issues you may have that you were unaware of. This gives you a fair point of reference and you are better able to benchmark against your competitors.
  • Price is important but so is marketing. What type of information are they including in their marketing materials that are better than yours?
  • Take it a further step and conduct an audit on their Google keywords and their social media reach.
  • Listen to the buzz around your competitors in social media. Check out the review sites.
Social Media Competitive Intelligence
Example of an Ongoing Social Media Competitive Intelligence Report

One bad review online, one lost email, or an unreturned phone call message that was never returned can break any business. It gets a little trickier when you are a B2B company.

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3 Ways to Manage Customer Expectations

Let’s face it- if we knew our customers’ expectations every second of every day, we would work hard to meet them. In today’s diverse, ever changing world, it is nearly impossible to know that. Consumers today have so many choices that it becomes difficult to stand out from competitors.

What do your customers expect?

Service is praised or criticized because of expectations.”

Neil Patel

Steps to Start Today to Understand Customer Expectations

  1. Listen: It sounds so easy to say, but harder to do. How do you listen to your customers? Is it by survey? Mystery shopping? Social Listening? I once spoke to a leading retailer’s VP of Operations about creating a mystery shopping program for their stores. They knew they needed it because their district managers were being pulled in too many directions and didn’t have the time to devote to each store in their district. They never started it. The reason? They were trying to figure out who their customer was. A few years later, they were out of business. They were never able to keep up with their customers’ expectations because they never knew who their customers were. They never learned how to listen.
  2. Get Feedback From Customers: Customer Experience for Dummies said it best. “When it comes to getting feedback from customers, annual surveys are out, and constant listening and providing real-time dialogue is in. That means you need to inventory where you are listening effectively today, prioritizing your highest-value listening and dialogue touchpoints, and creating a governance model for managing and responding to customer feedback. The end game here is to be able to converse with your customers in near real-time and to respond to customer concerns, problems, and suggestions as they are happening.” Omni-channel listening is key.
  3. Demonstrate to Customers Your Level of Commitment to Them: The chart above is from Neil Patel’s “Why Understanding Expectations is Crucial for Customer Experience.” Great article about backing up the bus to first and foremost understand what your customers need from you and then determine how you and your team will meet those needs. Neil writes, “Service is praised or criticized because of expectations.” Making sure you are delivering top notch customer service has never been more important. Years ago Zappos helped a customer who called them by mistake order a pizza. This became an infamous story of the day and everyone wanted to deliver service like Zappos. Zappos began to develop an entire philosophy around this by expanding it in their social media marketing. Help the customer with whatever they need. What does it take? An extra few minutes? They will sing your praises. Always try to under promise and over deliver whenever you can, especially in social media.

Ann Michaels & Assoc. provides you the resources to make data driven decisions associated with your customers and branding. Give us the opportunity to help you grow margins and revenues.

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Social Media and Customer Service

Customer Service

The secret is out in living color on the cover of Consumer Reports – how to use social media as the last chance way to get some attention when unhappy with a product or service. This issue shares secrets to great customer service, and social media use is one of them.
Consumer Reports states that 84% of consumers who posted complaints to social media used Facebook.
The report goes on to suggest that social media can be a highly effective way to resolve customer complaints, even when other approaches fail.


JCPenney is one retailer that was cited as having great customer service via Twitter.


When a customer reached out by phone and learned of the hold times, she quickly went to the company’s Twitter page. She said that their phone wait times were “nuts” and within minutes a representative quickly tweeted a reply. After a bit of back and forth, the issue was resolved.


As the chart indicates, the under 25 demographic shows an indication that they will be the ones who will expect this type of service moving forward, so making sure those wait times are on target will be well worth the effort.

Ann Michaels & Associates, a leader in Customer Experience and Social Media Management, conducted a study on this very topic

How long is too long when it comes to receiving an answer to a product or service question in social media?As the Consumer Reports article shows a consumer expectation, Ann Michaels & Associates set out to look at the disparity between what consumers expect as far as wait time for brands to respond to consumer concerns vs what is actually happening.on social.
The study was initiated when it was evident social would serve as a customer service channel – take a look at consumer expectations vs brand response and learn how response time on social shifted over a three year period.
Click here to find out the results

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Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket.

eggs in one basket

Why not?

If you carry them carefully they may not break. But one little bump in the road could ruin everything.

We use this expression for multiple reasons. Perhaps your stock broker has used it as a pitch for the importance of financial diversification . Financial Diversification is explained this way

In finance, diversification is the process of allocating capital in a way that reduces the exposure to any one particular asset or risk. A common path towards diversification is to reduce risk or volatility by investing in a variety of assets. Wikipedia

That sounds like solid advice and it is. It is the “just in case” things go sour reasoning. Shouldn’t this advice be used in other areas of our business life?

When it comes to business, we sometimes fall short. Sometimes it is because of budget, sometimes it is just lack of trust, and sometimes it is not wanting to leap out of the comfort zone. You know, the one we all feel is tried and true. When it comes to marketing and market research we like to stick with what we know will work. We know what we can expect, and that brings us comfort. B2B email marketing may get a solid 15% open rate every time. We like that and so does the boss. So we use it but won’t necessarily keep up with a social media platform because the “likes” don’t add up fast enough.

Do we ever wonder, “what if?” What if we did something different? I am not talking about placing all of our efforts and resources to one new thing. Rather, try it enough to test it. As much as I love the research industry and marketing, this is perhaps one of my challenges. Let’s use some real examples of what I am talking about.

Facebook

When I opened my profile this morning, this was right at the top of my news feed. It surprised me, actually. Isn’t all the data in the world held right within the walls of this social platform? (kidding) Why would they ask for my opinion in a short survey? There may be multiple answers that we will never know. Here is my theory:

  1. With all of this AI and algorithm capability they own, they still need to reach out to the human behind the data.
  2. They know not to place all their eggs in one basket.
  3. Research of all kinds should always be used whenever possible. Each discipline tells you something different and when you put it all together, it often times reveals things management were un aware of.
  4. People are becoming tired of “liking” everything. Many are becoming much more selective. They still read the posts, but don’t always click that like button. This is exactly what the survey was about. It went through post by post (just a few) that was recently in my news feed. Next the survey asked if I saw it in my feed and how much did I find it useful or important. Most were posts that I didn’t hit the like button for.

Feedback Surveys

Years ago, feedback surveys replaced a lot of mystery shopping as a way to gauge the customer experience. Many even went as far as to develop their own surveys through free online platforms.

Now, almost a decade later, some brands are returning to mystery shopping because people have become unresponsive to all the surveys out there. There is either little to no data or the data is on one side of the scale (customers who love everything about your brand) to the other (very unhappy customers). Most customers fall in between.

Smart retailers are looking to evaluate what the customer experiences when they come into one of their locations. They are turning back to mystery shopping again. District Managers are exhausted trying to get to every location and are many times spread too thin. Things may happen differently at a store when they are present. So, the question is being asked once again, “How do we know what is happening at the store level when managers are not present?”

Additionally, incorporating online reviews into the mix, by location ,would be a great addition. Technology is now in place to do just that and to include it all in one reporting dashboard.

In conclusion, as Marketers and Researchers, we need to always stay fresh and be open to new methodologies when diving into consumer data. Try adding one new tactic to your marketing strategy this year. This may be a great 2020 resolution for us all!

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Why Customer Service Still Needs Improvement

Measure Your Customer Experience

In a world where one day you’re in and the next day you’re out, you would expect companies to be doing everything they can to attract new customers and retain those who are loyal. But a 2018 study by sales-and-service-solutions company NewVoiceMedia found that businesses were losing 75 billion dollars a year because their customer service wasn’t good enough, up from $62 billion in losses the year before. So why is this happening? Why are businesses not more focused on customer service?

Let’s think about customer service in the most basic form: an outstanding customer-service experience is one where your customers walk away or hang up believing that you genuinely care about them. They understand that you value their relationship with your company. The same NewVoiceMedia study confirms that 86% of people are more likely to stay a customer if they feel a positive emotional connection with you.

Good customer service is all about bringing customers back. If you’re a good salesperson, you can sell anything to anyone once. But it will be your approach to customer service that determines whether or not you’ll ever be able to sell that person anything else. The essence of good customer service is forming a relationship with customers – a relationship that the individual customer feels that he would like to pursue.

Poor customer service is just the opposite. When customers believe that you don’t care, that you’re uninterested or they’re just another number to you, they will ultimately say they had a bad experience. The negative impact can be detrimental to your business. According to a 2018 study by Microsoft, 61% of consumers stop doing business with a company after a poor customer experience.

If you truly want to have good customer service, all you have to do is ensure that your business consistently implements the following rules:

Answer Your Phone

The first rule of good customer service is that your phone needs to be answered. Customers don’t want to leave a message or be placed on hold for an eternity waiting to speak to a live person. We live in an age of “now” and customers want answers now. And when the phone is answered they want to be embraced by a welcoming and understanding person, so courteous phone skills are a must. Which leads to the next rule…

Train Your Staff

Train your employees to always be helpful, polite, and knowledgeable. Talk to your staff about good customer service and what you should/shouldn’t do. Most importantly, give every member of your staff enough information and power to make those small customer-pleasing decisions, so he never has to say, “I don’t know, but so-and-so will be back at…”

Listen to Your Customers

What’s more frustrating than explaining your problem to someone only to be transferred and have to go through it again? Listen to what you customers say, write down their issue in detail, and then try to solve the problem. If you can’t help them, find someone who can. But don’t make them explain it over and over. This will only lead to a frustrated customer who will more than likely have a negative experience.

Deal With Complaints

No one likes hearing complaints, and many of us have developed a reflex, saying, “You can’t please all the people all the time”. While this is true, it’s important to give the complaint your attention, so you can please this one person this one time – and reap the benefits of good customer service. Let complaints become opportunities, where you can discover issues and correct them. Market research has found that customers who have complained about a product or service and had that complaint successfully dealt with are 70% likely to order from the vendor again. That’s staggering!

Be Helpful by Taking the Extra Step

If someone walks into your store and asks you where to find something, don’t just say, “It’s in Aisle 3”. Why don’t you say, “Let me show you” and lead the customer to the item. Even better, wait and see if they have questions about it, or further needs. Always be thinking about the extra step if you want to provide good customer service. While it may seem unnoticed, customers will remember your effort and tell other people, leading to more referrals.

Throw In Something Extra

Whether it’s a coupon for a future discount, additional information on how to use the product, or a bonus for a referral, people love to get more than they thought they were getting. And the gesture doesn’t have to be large to be effective. Think about your product or service and find something extra that you can offer to customers. 

Reward Customers for Staying Loyal

By increasing your customer retention rate by just 5%, you can improve your profits by 25-95%. Use email lists or apps to provide discounts or exclusive deals to loyal customers. For example, Disney offers individual character meet-and-greet sessions only to their Visa cardholders. Macy’s progressively gives greater discounts based on the total money spent over time. Geisinger Health System offers a refund for customers not happy with their care. Give customers a reason to stay loyal. The longer they stay, the more likely they will be to give good reviews and referrals. These tips will lead to excellent service, greater loyalty, and higher profits.

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Things that Really Annoy your Customers

(What not to do)

Social media can be your greatest asset and your biggest downfall. Do it right and you can gain new followers, create loyal customers, and successfully grow your brand. But a few missteps and you can turn away potential customers.

If you get your approach wrong, it can quickly destroy your social reputation. Once your brand’s reputation is damaged, it is very difficult to rectify. And with so much online competition just a click away, it’s extremely easy for consumers to find another brand to fill their needs if you turn them off with the way you use social media, by your tone, or how you post.

So let’s start with why people follow certain brands on social media:

  1. They are interested in a product or service
  2. They are offered incentives
  3. They are interested in promotions
  4. They find the social media profile entertaining
  5. They wish to communicate with a brand
  6. Their friends or family follow the brand

And why people unfollow brands on social media:

  1. Too many promotions
  2. Too much tweeting/posting
  3. Irrelevant content
  4. Inappropriate use of jargon or slang that doesn’t comply with brand identity
  5. Erratic posting
  6. Failure to reply to comments /messages

(Source: sproutsocial)

So what social behaviors are most annoying to consumers? Here’s what to avoid:

1. Poor grammar and spelling

Poor spelling and grammar are the top most annoying things to social media users as a whole, according to market research. (A close second is the abundance of memes or political cartoons that have no place on a business social media account). It is way too easy to use spell check or hire a professional editor to check your posts before publishing them to make sure everything is correct. Your business page needs to reflect your brand identity, which should always reflect professionalism and attention to detail.

2. Begging for likes

If you are too focused on getting likes for your page you will lose credibility with followers. Social media should be used to engage with your target audience – not to boost your own ego with how many likes you have. Instead of blatantly asking for likes, shares, and comments, provide content that encourages your audiences to engage and gets them excited about being included in the conversation.

3. Improper hashtag use

Some people really love the hashtag – the more they can squeeze into a single post the better. But when it comes to any business profile on social media, you need to use hashtags wisely and appropriately. Use a limited number per post – two or three at most – and make them count. Only use hashtags that are appropriate to your business, industry, or individual post.

4. Ignoring criticism

No matter how great your company is, at some point in time you will receive negative feedback. It may not be deserved, but you should never ignore it. Always respond calmly, concisely, and offer to take the issue to a private forum such as a phone call, email, or direct message. Be polite and non-reactive – you need to be proactive, even in the face of negativity that is completely undeserved.

And address criticism quickly. The longer you wait to address complaints, the angrier the customer becomes. 89% of consumers read businesses’ responses to reviews. Read reactions thoroughly, respond quickly, and defuse the situation before it becomes a major deal. 

5. Posting too often

There’s a fine line between maintain an active presence on social media and completely overwhelming your audience.

Too many posts can be aggravating to the point that customers “unfollow” you or simply result in your posts becoming lost in your followers’ newsfeeds. Be aware that not every single follower will see every post. You should post to Facebook once per day – twice at most – during times when you have analyzed that your posts get the most response. This is critical!

6. Having a bad website

Every interaction a consumer has with your business counts…whether that is on social media, in a brick and mortar store, or on your website. 

For the 64% of you who have a website, remember that this may be the first impression someone has of your business? If they have a poor user experience, chances are they will not follow you on social media or become a loyal customer. The site should look professional and clean, include a menu so users can easily find the information they are looking for, and have links to your social media accounts.

The majority of website visitors (55%) spend less than 15 seconds on a page before bouncing. Make sure your website is worth the extra time.

A few other things to avoid….

  1. Liking your own posts
  2. Being spammy
  3. Following everyone who follows you
  4. Relying 100% on automation

On social media consumers are looking for deeper connections with the brands they choose. They take time out of their day to read your posts, watch your videos, and like and share your content. When done properly, social media marketing can create loyal brand ambassadors that will increase the growth and success of your company.

So work mindfully to make sure you avoid the above mentioned social media mistakes.

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5 Ways to Mystery Shop B2B

B2B mystery shopping

B2B Mystery Shopping To Improve Your Business

A bit more complicated than typical mystery shopping, but definitely beneficial.

Traditional mystery shopping in the business-to-consumer (B2C) model is pretty straight-forward. Mystery shoppers are sent in to a business or retail location with specific tasks and questions to answer about their experience.

Business-to-business (B2B) mystery shopping works in the same manner, with the one exception being that customers, or mystery shoppers, will pose as companies or customers calling to inquire about your services and products.

B2B mystery shopping is one way you can make sure you stay focused on delivering great customer experiences every time and also allows your business to determine baselines and pinpoint areas for improvement. You can evaluate staff performance, review processes and procedures, and ensure your brand reputation is solid.

Understanding your customer’s journey in a B2B environment takes a little more creativity. Here are a few ideas on how to approach being a mystery shopper of your own B2B organization.

1. Evaluate the Call Process.

Find out what it’s like to call in as an actual customer and ask questions: What is it you do? What types of products/services do you offer? What happens if I have a problem/issue arise? What is your return policy? (if applicable)
It’s amazing how many inbound sales departments are totally unprepared for this line of questions. And you can experience what it feels like to be an actual customer.

This also gives insight into whether your employees are upselling/cross-selling other products or services offered by your company that may be important to the customer.

2. Use the web contact form to inquire about products or services.

Is the form easy to fill out? Does it cover the pertinent information? How quickly do you hear from someone? Is the form confirmation written in a robot voice? Lots of areas to consider here!

3. Ask typical questions of the sales person.

You probably know what questions get asked the most, so go ahead and ask them. Email the salesperson back and ask random questions. Ask what happens if you want to add a service in the middle of the contract. Ask about price. Ask the difficult questions salespeople hate and see what happens.

4. Sign up for the free product trial.

If a trial is typically offered, go for it. See what it’s like to sign up, use the product, call support and then either end the trial or not. Pay attention to how many emails and calls you get. Pay attention to if the product trial lives up to the marketing hype.

5. Ask other customers.

Check out forums or communities and ask about others’ experiences. Pay attention to what they say doesn’t work. Or call a few current customers and ask them. What’s working? What’s not? Tell me what can be improved and what works well.

The best way to get a truly outside-in perspective, however, is to ask someone from the outside to do it. You’ll get honest feedback and find holes in your process easy to ignore on the outside. But any form of mystery shopping is better than none. Take a step and examine what experience you’re really delivering to your business customers.

mystery shopping

​Furthermore, fictitious accounts and companies can be created to pose as current customers to evaluate the service ordering process. From here, you can see if your employees are attempting to upsell/cross sell, offering additional products/services that are important to your customers, and the general service levels provided.

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