I often talk about strategic projects that help understand and improve customer experience. But many of you just want to know how you can improve your customers’ experiences today without spending a lot of time and money. Here are a few places to look for customer experience gold.
1. Deal with failure better.
How companies deal with a problem can make or break a relationship. Evaluate how successful you are at managing failure by tracking customer behavior after customers have an issue with your company. Do they run for the hills, or do they buy again? Does their purchasing fall off, indicating that maybe they’re buying from your competition? Do you receive angry e-mails, or are they Tweeting about the failure?
My niece dropped her month-old iPad on the street, and when she went to the Apple (News - Alert) Store, they replaced it right then and there. Apple gained a customer for life. Now most customers don’t expect to get a replacement iPad, but they do expect quick resolution and to be treated in a respectful, courteous way. Train reps to take responsibility and make things right for the customer. Don’t bog them down in process and procedure to the point that you jeopardize the customer relationship. Give them some latitude – if my lawn mower isn’t repaired when you promised, offer me a loaner for the weekend, and offer to drop it off.
2. Treat first-time customers like gold.
In a recent brand loyalty survey by Clickfox, 48 percent of respondents said that the most critical time for a company to gain their loyalty was when they make their first purchase or begin service. Make a point of welcoming new customers, offering discounts or coupons, or educating them in ways to use your service, for example. Train agents to recognize new customers and make them feel special. As far as I’m concerned, you should treat all your customers like gold, but making the extra effort with new customers can garner a huge return in repeat business and loyalty.
3. Connect the dots.
One of the complaints we’ve heard ever since the advent of customer service is “Why don’t you know about the promotion I’m calling for?” Communication is key to understanding the totality of the customer experience, and there’s no excuse for not connecting the dots in this age of hyper communication. Make sure the contact center is on the radar for sales and marketing – and approach this relationship as a partnership in customer experience excellence. Use all the tools available to share information – anything from quick briefings to setting up internal LinkedIn (News - Alert) or Facebook pages where marketing can share a promotion that’s scheduled to hit in a week, for example. Don’t make your customers the victims of your poor internal communications.
4. Little things still matter.
We all aim for the wow factor in the customer experience, but customers truly appreciate the little things as well. At Zappos, the customer loyalty team sends handwritten cards to customers for special events or sends flowers if they know a customer bought a shoes for a special occasion. Similarly, Southwest sends me a birthday card and free drink coupons every year. It’s a small thing, but it always makes me smile.
5. Improve your short-term memory.
How irritating is it to enter your account number and identify your problem in an IVR only to have a rep ask for your account number “and what can I help you with today?” There are numerous ways to accomplish passing customer ID to reps – via screen pop, displaying information on a phone set, or even whispering it before the call is transferred. In many cases, it’s not a technology problem, but a training and compliance issue. I’ve frequently spoken to reps who claim that they can’t trust the data they receive, or say that it’s just as easy (obviously for them) to ask the caller. Make sure reps know what data they get with a call and that they actually use it.
With multi-channel environments, we’re also challenged to remember what customers were doing on a mobile app, on the web, or on Twitter (News - Alert) or Facebook 15 minutes ago. What are you doing to ensure that your multi-channel experience is seamless for customers?
Elaine Cascio is a vice president at Vanguard Communications Corp. (www.vanguard.net), a consulting firm specializing in customer experience, self service, contact center processes, operations and technology.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi