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What Message Are You Sending?


Sometimes the first experience a customer will have with your brand is a phone call – it’s common knowledge that you only get one chance to make a first impression. Once you get that customer, though, you need to make sure you’re continually strengthening the positive first impression they got.


An interesting study was conducted by Ifbyphone, a marketing automation company. Participants were surveyed based on their most recent experience with calling companies, both as a customer and potential customer. The findings show some interesting trends:


* Sales calls were typically responded to more quickly than existing customer calls (half of sales calls were answered in 60 seconds or less, while the vast majority of calls from existing customers (78%) did not talk with a live person for more than a minute.


What is your message? If your company tends to fall into this category, consider the message you are sending. Without realizing it, you may be telling customers that new and/or potential customers are more important.


* Four of five respondents say they wanted to abandon a call due to poor response time. While this wasn’t possible for all respondents, as they likely needed information at that moment, you can bet it left a bad taste in their mouth.


What is your message? Slow response times or “phone tree hell” are the quickest way to lose a customer. Sure, there are many customers who cannot up and leave because they are in a contract with you. However, if customers see a pattern of poor response times, you can bet they will not do business with you as soon as they can get out of the contract period. And, in the meantime, they will likely be spreading negative word of mouth, potentially harming new sales.


Other statistics from this study back it up:


    • 58% of respondents are more likely to make a purchase from a company with response rates under a minute


    • 69% of existing customers are more likely to refer a brand to others when response time is less than a minute


    • 73% of respondents are more likely to recommend a brand to others when they experience quick response rates


There are some ways to combat a potentially negative message being sent to customers and potential customers though.


      • Make sure your entire team is on the same page. Monitor calls to ensure that all customers, existing and potential, are receiving the same treatment. This not only goes for response time, but it’s also important to review the paths to reach a live person. Phone tree hell can turn someone off very quickly. Make some calls yourself to your company to see what a customer experiences; if you’re a larger company, consider incorporating telephone evaluations into your mystery shopping program.


      • Streamline call paths: everyone is trying to do more with less – less staff, less of a budget, less time. Periodic review of existing procedures with regard to phone cal dispatch can help determine if you can make the path between the initial call and speaking to a live agent quicker. It can go a long way in new sales and customer satisfaction.


      • Make self-serve information simple and readily available: there are many reasons customers call where the information can be automated to give them quick answers to common needs. If you don’t have this in place, you may want to consider it. If you do have it in place, make sure the process is as simple as possible. For example, my pet peeve is automated systems that require a verbal response instead of pressing 1 for hours, 2 for directions, etc. For whatever reason, despite ¬†my best efforts, my responses are not always picked up accurately and I’ve gotten frustrated trying to get the information I need. This is another area where I encourage higher ups within the company to place a few calls as a customer would to experience what they do, or incorporate this into your mystery shopping program.

Changing Culture From the Bottom Up


Sounds a bit contrary – isn’t it usually the other way around? Well, maybe not.


Sometimes the C-Suite needs a good dose of common sense. We see the bottom up culture change on the hit show, “Undercover Boss.” One undercover CEO discovered that there was a major disconnect between what the sales department was selling the customer VS. what the installation department was able to actually do. Something so simple but yet something that hurt the company’s image at times with new clients. Once the undercover CEO was made aware of this problem, he created a new position – a type of liaison between operations and sales.


So not everyone can be an undercover boss within their company. What types of things can we do then to insure that our customers are being treated the way we want? Start with your employees for a bottom up culture review. Tapping into what they really think and what they would like to see changed might be the best place to start.


    • Take time to really listen to employees at all levels (open door policy)
    • Create an employee feedback system that allows employees to anonymously give feedback
    • Make sure that managers are using effective communication
    • Slow down when speaking with employees¬†– put away the distractions and really listen
    • Send hand written notes congratulating a success


This is one area that Zappos exceeds at. They are always changing and their employees embrace it. The Zappos rules are:


1. Make customer service a priority for the whole company
2. Make “wow” a part of your company’s vocabulary
3. Don’t measure call times, and don’t force an agenda to upsell
4. Empower your customer service team
5. Don’t hide your toll-free number
6. Have the entire company celebrate great service
7. Create a culture book
8. Find people who are passionate about customer service
9. Give great service to everyone: customers, employees, and vendors
10. Make customer service part of everyone’s performance reviews

How To Make Your Loyalty Program A Success


Loyalty card programs are everywhere we turn. They’re a great way to encourage repeat customers and build excitement about doing business with your company.


Below are some ways to make sure you’re making the most of your loyalty program:


1. Make it easy to sign up: employees should encourage every customer they come in contact with if they’d like to register. Offer registration on your website, social media pages, and anywhere else you can think of.


2. Make it easy to remember: one trend that we’ve seen in loyalty cards is offering a regular sized card as well as a key ring card. Key ring cards are convenient and an excellent way to keep your brand in the minds of customers. Even our local library offers key ring cards!


3. Make rewards attainable: decide on your goals for the loyalty program; do you simply want people to visit the store/restaurant more often? Make more purchases in a particular area of your business? Whatever your goal, think about customers who will not fall into that category – how will the program benefit them?


A popular drug store launched a loyalty card program, and the perception seems to be to reward those who use the retailer for prescriptions. That’s fine and dandy, but I am a regular customer at this store while I rarely need prescriptions. For the life of me, no matter what I purchase (and I’m at this store more than I probably should be), my loyalty points rarely increase. It’s frustrating and makes me feel as though it’s not worth being a part of the program at all. So, while their goal may be encouraging more prescriptions, they are alienating customers like me who spend quite a bit at their locations on a regular basis. Something to think about.


4. Cross reference rewards: work with other businesses to partner in loyalty programs. A great example of this is Jewel-Osco’s newer loyalty program. For every $50 you spend in qualified purchases, you can earn $.05 off gas at participating Shell stations.


I rarely shop at Jewel or purchase gas at a Shell station, but the first time I needed gas badly and the nearest station was a Shell, I remembered the loyalty card I had with Jewel, as it asked for it at the pump. I swiped it, thinking that it probably wouldn’t work because I hadn’t shopped at Jewel that much, and, remembering my experience at the drug store retailer I just mentioned, I figured that whatever I purchased didn’t fall into the “qualifying” category.


Imagine my surprise when it announced that I was getting double off my per gallon price – $.10 instead of $.05. This small savings caused me to do a happy dance at the pump, much to the embarrassment of my children.


After that, I realized it was a game for me – when I need to purchase gas now, I do look for a Shell station to see if I have any discounts. Sometimes I don’t, but many times I do. Cross referencing loyalty programs is good for both businesses – I tend to think of hitting the Jewel more often than I used to, and I now look for Shell gas stations to play the “gas lottery.”


Think outside the box for this – can you work with other businesses to create a loyalty program that gives discounts for their business? Think of things outside of gas stations – restaurants or even online businesses such as Amazon.


5. Talk to your customers and get their feedback: I was recently in a store and used my loyalty card (okay, I’m starting to realize I have quite a few of them!), and the next day I got an email from the company saying that they know I recently made a purchase and asked if I would provide feedback. If I chose to, I would either be an instant winner and be notified immediately after the survey, or could be entered into the drawing.


For a second I wondered how they knew I made a purchase, but then I remembered that I swiped my card and my account has my email address. Very good way to capture feedback!


Make your loyalty program fun and unique, and customers will keep coming back, as you’re now making routine tasks, like grocery shopping and purchasing gas, fun and “game like.” We can all use a little fun in our day!