Tag Archive for customer service

Customers Still Want the In-Person Customer Experience How to Capitalize on it

How can you make the customer experience better? It’s pretty simple actually…talk to your customers.

While the digital experience is important due to the rise of social media shopping and interaction, new research has found that putting extra effort into the personal touch – phone or face-to-face contact – is more successful at making the customer experience memorable and increasing sales.

Almost two-thirds of customers say they spend or invest more in products and services after they’ve had personal contact with someone at the company, according to research from BookingBug. And 50% said that being able to speak with a service or sales professional when issues arise is critical in making the decision. Plain and simple, when customers talk to someone, rather than corresponding through email or social media, they are likely to become a loyal fan.

It’s important to build both a competent digital experience and a feel-good personal experience. “By closely following customers along their dynamic journey between digital and physical worlds, businesses will engage more effectively, build trust with customers and ultimately drive increased revenue,” says Glenn Shoosmith, CEO of BookingBug.

How can you bridge the digital and personal experience?

Make your people accessible – online and on the retail floor. Customers still want to gather as much information as possible on their own…from your website, on social media, and by reading online reviews. But eventually, many of them will want to talk to or meet with a service or sales professional. Make that as easy as possible by adding the ability to schedule an appointment to every page on your website and on your social pages. And know your busiest shopping times so you have ample sales staff available. There’s nothing more frustrating than walking around a store hunting for an associate to answer your questions.

Customer service

Know their experiences. When customers get in touch with you, the service or sales professional should have an idea of what the customer has already experienced. Businesses can use tracking software to better understand what customers are interested in and the processes they have already gone through to handle their issue. Once they’ve asked to talk or meet, review what’s already been done, ask what questions they have, and move forward with information targeted at the needs they’ve shared.

Be prepared. The most important aspect of a personal customer experience is knowledge. Customers routinely give top ratings to experiences when the person they work with can answer everything they need answered – or, at least, know where to find answers and respond with them quickly. You can do this by providing ongoing training for all staff members so they stay on top of developments on your products, services, uses, technology and industry.

Managers also have the responsibility of understanding and managing workloads across all teams. Knowledge of their team’s attendance and performance trends, including nonproductive hours and overtime, can empower retail managers to become more successful in responding to workforce challenges, addressing individual employee needs, and building stronger customer relationships.

Keep in touch the right way. Just because customers have a personal interaction doesn’t mean they want to continue communicating that way. Make sure you ask how a customer wants to continue to receive information, handle follow-up or be contacted in the future. You’ll likely want to keep in touch with customers after calls or visits, but you’ll want to do that on their terms.

Great customer experiences lead to loyal fans and repeat business. In order to achieve this, brands need to invest in educating employees and making sure all members of the team are focused on positive customer interactions – whether that is digitally or in-person. Take care of your team and they will take care of you and your brand.

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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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How to Talk to your Customers More Effectively

Heard any of these before? “I’m going to put you on hold for just a second.”; “I think you misunderstood me just now — what I actually said was…”; “I understand you are upset, but…”

Let me guess…those statements frustrated you more than helped you. In these instances, customers were seeking help but what they received was a negative interaction brought about by tone and wording. Although the problem could still be resolved, the customers received a negative customer experience, and unfortunately that’s what they’ll remember.

Effective communication is the key to building and nurturing any relationship, whether personal or professional. Communicating with customers effectively can help you gain their loyalty – leading to repeat purchases, positive word-of-mouth, and referrals.

But on the flipside, failure to communicate well can create dissatisfaction, frustration, and a decrease in sales. And, in the day and age of social media, negative word-of-mouth from unhappy customers can spread like wildfire, tarnishing your reputation.

Regardless of the medium through which you communicate with customers, the bottom line is that it needs to be done well. Here are some simple ways to communicate with customers effectively.

Use the Right Tone

In some situations, it makes sense to take an authoritative tone, for example when providing a technical answer about software functions to a B2B customer. Other scenarios may call for a more empathetic tone, such as assisting a customer who is frustrated with a malfunctioning product.

How and when we accentuate words and phrases also conveys a message. Customer service expert Shep Hyken illustrated this in a recent column, pointing out how vastly different common responses to customers can be. In a café, servers often respond to a customer’s thank you with “No problem,” or “My pleasure.” They may then ask a customer “What else can I get for you?” or “How is everything?” All of these phrases are very common in the service industry, but Hyken points out that a sincere “My pleasure” is the preferable phrase in response to customer thanks because it more effectively communicates that you value the customer. Similarly, a caring “What else can I get for you?” conveys a willingness to provide additional service in a way that “How is everything?” can’t replicate. Both are great examples of why tone matters in customer communication.

Choosing the Right Words

Let’s revisit our opening example: “I’m going to put you on hold for just a second…” Both parties know “just a second” is a figure of speech and it sets an unrealistic expectation. A better approach is to ask customers if you can put them on hold and give them a ballpark timeframe for when you’ll be back.

Using the word “but” in a sentence negates everything that was said before it. More effective phrasing would be an acknowledgment of the customer’s frustration and an apology: “I can understand your frustration and I’m very sorry you experienced that”. With this response, the customer will feel heard and may be more receptive to discussing solutions.

It’s also important not to sound defensive or deflective. Instead of saying, “You misunderstood me,” an agent could reply, “Sorry about the misunderstanding, what I meant to say was…” to put the focus back on the customer issue and avoid escalating the situation.

And try to avoid scripted language. It is impersonal and customers are quick to understand if you’re resorting to such responses in your conversations with them. Make sure your support representatives have real conversations with your customers.

Focus on Quality and Sentiment

In a competitive environment, it’s easy to get lost in a web of metrics that are focused on quicker resolution times. Quicker resolution means fully resolving a customer’s issue in the quickest possible time. 51% of customers believe that they can get the fastest resolution to their problems over the phone, followed by live chat (23%). But instead of worrying about hitting certain metric goals, focus on the quality of your response and develop a team of representatives who are committed to engaging meaningfully with customers. Train your team to be your customer’s ally and try to solve their problems effectively.

You also need to equip your team with the right tools. Your representative should instantly be able to pull up a customer’s records. This can include information about their purchase history or any recent interactions with your team. Information and insights such as these can help to give your team member some context about a customer’s issue. This allows the support representative to share relevant and accurate information. Lack of accuracy is one of the top reasons for customers to get frustrated with support.

Conclude your Conversations Properly

Conclusions are just as important as your first impressions. Customers can tell when support representatives are in a hurry to attend to the next person in line. Your eagerness to solve one more ticket could cost you a customer. Make sure your representatives end their conversations well, even if that extends the call by a few minutes. Your objective should be to end the conversation in a way that leaves your customer happy and content.

The Bottom Line on Communicating Effectively

It’s important to remember that customers seeking help aren’t always looking for a solution or additional information. Sometimes how their issue is resolved can be more important than actually fixing the problem because it indicates how much a company cares about their business.

Representatives who use the right tone and choose their words carefully send a positive signal to customers that they are respected and valued. Communicating effectively requires people skills, but it’s also helpful for agents to have the right tools. That allows them to understand customer needs immediately, find answers quickly and efficiently, and communicate effectively with every customer.

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