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COVID-19 Customer Service

ecommerce

Customer service adjustments. During the last several months we have all had to make a lot of changes to our lives. We all have our own personal story on hardships as well as new opportunities. Working from home for the first time. Working while trying to home school kids for the first time ever. Getting accustomed to wearing a mask for the first time. Social distancing all while trying to work and take care of our families.

During this time I think that most consumers have shown appreciation for the essential front line workers and we understood when our Amazon order took 2 weeks instead of 2 days. We appreciate those hard working people sacrificing for the well being of others.

Are Things About to Change?

While for the most part, people continue to have patience. Some people are showing a great deal of resistance to mask wearing and retailers and restaurant owners have had to quickly train employees on how to handle an unhappy guest who didn’t want to comply.

My concern is more along the lines of people using the pandemic a an excuse for poor customer service. I have two examples of what I am referring to.

Local Steals and Deals

I am located in the Charlotte, NC area, and I see their commercials daily. Sometimes as part of my local evening news (slower news days). They have a spokesperson who is very compelling and does a great job selling products. Their About Us section on their website states the following:

Local Steals and Deals is operated by Knocking (www.knocking.co) in association with Cox Media Group.

We connect the best brands with Cox Media Group’s audience, offering exclusive deals.

I like the concept. However what I wasn’t impressed with was the customer service. I placed an order 2 months ago and never received my purchase. I honestly think I would have forgotten about it altogether if it were not for the commercials! After emailing the company, I found out that the product is no longer available. It left me wondering how many people placed orders and then forgot about them? Automatically refunding customers on out of stock items, should be part of any e-commerce site these days.

Website Hosting

A quick chat with my hosting company regarding a log in issue I was having kept me busy for over an hour trying to trouble shoot with them in a chat. Finally, I was told my issue would be escalated and that I should try again in a few hours. Good enough. I did what he said and even waited until the next day. Still had the same problem. Got on the chat with them again, knowing full well that I would have to start from the beginning. Sure enough. When I asked if my issue was escalated as I was told, I received an awful reply. I was told that because of COVID19, they were working with reduced staff. Really? You are working on a computer from your home office, I would bet. How could COVID be affecting your customer service?

Don’t Neglect Your Customer Service

Times are hard and budgets are tight. Now is not the time however to neglect your customer service standards. In fact, I believe it is the time to make them an even more important priority. Evaluating what is happening when a customer engages with your business or brand is more important than ever before. People will remember the businesses who came through for them during this time.

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Customer Experience vs. Customer Service

Customer service

The terms “customer service” and “customer experience” are often used interchangeably, but they have very different meanings and interpretations. While they are related, there are definitely unique characteristics of both.

Today, research shows that companies investing in customer experience boast a higher stock price. According to a portfolio of publicly traded companies drawn from the top 20% of brands in Forrester’s Customer Experience Index – these companies that invest in customer experience had higher stock price growth and higher total returns than a similar portfolio of companies drawn from the bottom 20% of brands.

So what is the difference between Customer Service and Customer Experience?

Customer service is only one piece of the puzzle — focused on human interaction and directly supporting customers while customer experience is the sum of the entire customer journey with your business.

Let’s get into more detail.

Customer Service

Customer service is the assistance and advice provided to a customer for your product or service as needed. Customer service requires your team to possess patience, product knowledge, and compassion, so they can provide the answers and assistance a customer needs.
The goal of customer service is to increase customer satisfaction, usually by answering questions, but could also include helping a customer choose the right product before they make a purchase, giving assistance to customers on how to best use the product, trouble-shooting any issues, and ensuring they had a great buying experience. Customer service is a vital part of the entire experience—nearly 75% of customers who leave do so because they aren’t satisfied with customer service.

What is Customer Experience?

Customer Experience, or CX, reflects the broader customer journey across the organization and includes every interaction between the customer and the business. Customer experience is the sum of all contact, from first discovering and researching a product to shopping and purchasing, to actually using the product and following up with the brand afterwards. Customer experience measures how customers feel about a company overall and includes the emotional, physical, psychological connection customers have with a brand. It isn’t a one-time interaction, but rather includes the entire customer lifecycle and every touchpoint a customer has with a product or service.

Customer experience includes three main components:

  1. Customer Service: Including Customer Support, Customer Success, and self-service support — the points at which your customer interacts with your team.
  2. Technology: This is the product itself — how it works and the interactivity points.
  3. Design: This is the brand touchpoint — the marketing, the design, and the feelings your brand creates for your customer.

All of the pieces combine to make up the customer experience.

Putting it Together

Customer experience is measured by net promoter score (NPS), which tracks how likely a customer is to recommend the brand to a friend. Customer service is measured through the customer satisfaction score (CSAT), which measures how satisfied customers are with the experience.

The main difference is customer service is reactive and often is only used when a customer isn’t satisfied. If a customer has an issue with a product or service, that is typically the only time they would contact customer service. On the other hand, customer experience is proactive, aiming to reach every customer. The goal being to provide an exceptional journey so customers do not have to contact customer service. While customer service may only be a one-time interaction, customer experience is long-term, creating lasting impressions that will stay with the customer every time they think of the company.

Customer service and customer experience are both important pieces to an organization’s success, yet it’s not possible (or necessary) to draw hard lines between them. Customers consider the whole picture when thinking about your brand, and you should, too. The two elements work together to build a satisfied customer base that is loyal to the brand and will return for more.

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Will Text Messaging Surveys Replace Traditional Surveys?

message surveys
Probably not in the near future, but they can be a beneficial supplement to your current survey strategy.

 

Admit it, you are one of the 72% of smartphone owners who report checking their phone at least once an hour. With 9 in 10 adults owning a cellphone,  text messaging (SMS) has become the communication norm for most of the U.S. population. Text messaging appears to be a useful way to contact survey respondents, particularly those who tend to have lower response rates with traditional survey methods, such as young adults.

But according to Gallup’s research, text messaging is not yet ready to replace traditional surveys. This mode of contact has legal limitations, yields lower response rates than telephone surveys and restricts question length. So don’t use it as your only means of contacting your audience, but do use it as a supplements.

How Text Message Surveys Work

Text message surveys can be administered in two different ways:

The first option is to text questions and answers back and forth, which works well because anyone with a cellphone can respond. But there are significant limitations. Questions are limited to 160 characters, including the question wording and response options. Messages that are longer than 160 characters are broken into segments. While some devices rebuild the messages so that they appear as one cohesive message, messages may not be received in the correct order.

The number of questions must also be kept to a minimum. Questions and responses are sent one at a time, and research finds that respondents tend to lose interest more quickly than with other modes of data collection.

The second option is to text respondents a link to a web survey they can complete from the browser on their phone. Although this option gives researchers greater flexibility with question wording, about 25% of the population does not own a smartphone and will be unable to launch a web survey, and those who do have a smartphone may have to use or pay for data to complete the survey.

survey

 

 

 

 

Experiments Reveal the Pros and Cons of Text Message Surveys

Gallup conducted two experiments to test the effectiveness of text message surveys.

In the first experiment, they wanted to see how an SMS survey compares with a telephone survey in terms of response rates and substantive responses. There were 3 treatment groups: a traditional telephone survey administered by a live interviewer, a text message survey or a text message with a link to a web survey. Two questionnaire lengths were also tested: 5 questions and 12 questions.

Results – Response rates for the SMS-to-web surveys (12% for 5 questions and 11% for 12) and SMS-only surveys (12% for 5 questions and 13% for 12) were significantly lower than response rates for phone surveys (38% and 41%).

In the second experiment, Gallup tested sending survey invites and reminders to Gallup Panel members via email and text message. Respondents were randomly assigned to 1of 3 treatment groups: email and text invites and reminders, email invites and reminders only, and text invites and reminders only. All emails and text messages directed respondents to a web survey.

Results – Response rates were highest when using a combination of email and text reminders. This finding is consistent with other research, which has found that employing a variety of contact methods can increase the likelihood of participation.

It appears that surveys deployed over email are among the best and easiest to supplement with text messaging. At the most basic level, texts can be used as a reminder/delivery system for web surveys. A study by Mavletova & Couper (Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology (2014) 2, 498-518) indicates that surveys sent via email got a much higher response rate when they were accompanied by a text reminder. Even more effective is to use text to deliver the web survey directly. Because 53% of emails are opened on phones, making sure your survey is mobile compatible. By serving the link directly through text, you can remove the need for them to take any intermediary action between receiving the reminder text and beginning the survey.

Obstacles

Currently, the major obstacle for conducting a survey via text message is obtaining the consent to send a message. This legal barrier greatly limits the scope for conducting text surveys.

It is important to note that FCC regulations make it illegal for companies to send text messages without expressed consent. This means Gallup or its clients must have explicit consent from respondents before sending them a text message survey. Simply having permission to contact the respondent via cellphone is not enough. Individuals must give consent to be contacted via text message, which is a major obstacle for most survey projects.

 

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