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.

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

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!

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.

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.

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.