Customer Service Strategy Made Simple: A Useful E-Book

How many of you consider customer service strategy as an element of your marketing? Consider this … if done well, don’t you think both could create things for customers to talk about? And therefore let customer experience and service be enablers for the centerpiece of your marketing?

Check out our thoughts on customer focus.

 

The key is to set realistic customer expectations, and then not to just meet them, but to exceed them— preferably in unexpected and helpful ways.

—Richard Branson

Related post: Client Satisfaction …10 Secrets to Improve Customer Experience

 

Let me share a story with you.

 

One day I took my sister to our local credit union branch office to take care of three different transactions: getting a credit card reactivated, depositing coins, and ordering checks. The coins required a visit, but the other two transactions could have been done by phone or maybe online. I hoped one visit to a local branch would be easier, but deep down I feared it wouldn’t.

 

Honestly, I expected we’d be shuttled around the branch to different people to take care of each transaction. Or, worse, told to use the phone to call the credit card support number directly.

 

Instead, it turned into a quick and extraordinary experience. Because when we entered the branch, a banker warmly greeted us and asked how he could help. After learning what my sister needed to do, he invited us to sit down at his desk.

 

He then took care of everything: Called the credit card division of Wells Fargo to activate a credit card, Took the coins to the teller to make the deposit and returned with a receipt, and ordered new checks. I call attention to the fact that the banker didn’t know us or how much money we had in the credit union

 

So you see how these events represent a great way to market to customers, don’t you? Think I would talk about my experience with my friends and neighbors? Most definitely.

customer experience and service
Customer experience and service.

 

Why customers choose

Are you clear why customers choose your business? A crucial question for your business, isn’t it? Related to the service and experience, you have provided? More often than not it is very related. It is surprising to us how many clients and potential clients aren’t clear on this question.

 

A differentiated customer experience is critical for business success. Companies that consistently provide the best customer experiences are most often the most successful.

 

Several specific factors drive Customers’ feelings about their interactions with companies:

 

Customer service strategy … time

Most people today suffer from too little time. Always and it is an increasingly important factor. Time is the one thing that even the richest customer doesn’t have enough of. So customers’ perceptions about your company’s customer experience are largely influenced by time. Often the meaning correlates with convenience. This means you have to reduce the time it takes for them to:

 

Find you

Engage with you

Communicate their problem

Resolve that problem.

 

How well are you doing with these components of the problem?

 

Employee Expertise

Customers need to believe that your company’s employees are good at what they do. They must perceive that your staff is well-informed about products, services, policies, issues, and any other relevant subject matter. So, to project knowledge to customers, you have to make sure they are empowered with information that’s accurate, complete, and up-to-date. You must also have the ability and time to provide sound advice.

 

Personalization

Customers don’t want to be treated like a number. They want to feel valued and understood. What is their belief? That the money they spend with your company entitles them to such treatment.

 

The experience differentiation a company delivers will be contingent on the ability to personalize your customer interactions. That means knowing their name, their previously expressed preferences, or the particulars of their current situation. There are plenty of small ways to create customer personalization.

 

Care

Customers like knowing that you care. Great service is the top reason customers keep giving their business to companies. It is also the top reason they recommend those companies to others.

 

On the flip side, 80 percent of customers say that they have stopped doing business with a company because of a bad service experience. More often than not, they will never do business with such a company ever again.

 

For these reasons and others, it is critical to ensure that your company delivers great service care. You must deliver the care that results in great experiences that are remembered and talked about.

 

You can’t over prepare for your customer experience if you want customers to select or stay with your company.

 

Remember, customers create the most value for you … when you create the most value for them.

step by step guide
Step by step guide.

 

Customer experience and service … importance to marketing strategy

Peter Drucker always believed the quality of a service or product was not what the business put into it, but rather what the customer got out of it. Like with the banker. The end state quality of what the customer received was what counted. Including the experience, the customer received while he purchased the item. Often that is what was remembered the most.

 

So what constitutes a great customer experience?

The quality of your company’s customer experience is ultimately determined by the way customers feel after their last interaction. If the customer is unhappy, your company’s customer experience is bad. If the customer doesn’t have a feeling one way or the other, your company’s customer experience is mediocre. If the customer feels good, your company’s customer experience is satisfactory. But if the customer feels delighted, your company’s customer experience is a substantial competitive advantage. That is the only one that matters to success.

 

One other thing you need to consider. One bad customer experience usually negates ten satisfactory customer experiences. So you need to pay attention to the cardinal sins which create these bad experiences.

 

Here’s the thing, social isn’t just a new way of marketing, it’s a new way of running a business. Many businesses certainly have figured this out and are using social marketing and improved customer experience to grow their business rapidly.

 

Customer service strategy plan … social customer care

Maya Angelou once said people never forget how you made them feel. She certainly had a firm grasp of the subject on social customer care, didn’t she?  Feelings and emotion are the keys to social customer care. And social customer care is the key to your marketing campaigns … particularly word of mouth marketing. So you are getting the picture, right?

 

Social customer care is no longer an emerging trend to keep an eye on. It’s a burgeoning movement that companies would be very wise to embrace.  Instead of returning to a store or calling a helpline, people are increasingly turning to social media to resolve their gripes. It is called social customer care.

 

With everyone so focused on the positive impact social customer care can have on the customer experience, many companies fail to realize that social customer care can have just as big positive an impact on the employee experience. And that alone multiplies the importance of social customer care to customer experience design.

 

Approaches to social customer care can vary, and this adds to this challenge. Some companies are using social channels to resolve customer concerns and questions publicly. Others prefer to take social feedback offline and route the customer to phones or online chats. Some are investing in social-listening tools and vendors, while others are creating in-house social care teams.

 

In the end, the biggest challenge is finding the right balance. That is would we will address today … steps to achieving the best in social customer care.

 

Here are nine steps we recommend you take to achieve these goals of being balanced:

 

 Select your channels

To select your best channels, you must know who your customers are and do good research. Look at the data and study trends. This will help you determine what consumers are thinking and saying, what channels are most popular, and whether you have the resources to deal with issues.

 

 Gain customer insights

The data you gather through social media monitoring can be a valuable source of customer insight. Lots of customer insights that simply can’t be found elsewhere.

 

 Empower your staff

Empower the social customer service team to act quickly. Make them feel completely supported. If you can’t trust them, then you have the wrong team.

 

Etiquette

Judge whether customers want your help and engagement before you jump in.

 

Prioritization

Define your social media engagement plans based on your objective priorities. And don’t make the mistake of underestimating the time required to do the job well.

 

Connect multiple channels

Conversations with customers will quickly spread between channels. Businesses need to be able to monitor across multiple channels.

 

 Employ social media tools

By now you are probably very aware of how much time social media can consume. Social media tools are available to reduce the time requirements and improve your performance. Choose your tools to combine an ability to both listen and engage.

 

Establish a listening program

Here you need to consider the terms you will monitor carefully. Pay particular attention to the mention of your brand and miscellaneous negative terms.

 

Overachieve expectations

Without a social media listening program in place, brands cannot hope to live up to customer expectations, let alone over achieve. Listen, interpret and then act.

 

This is your time to create remarkable social customer care. With good continuity and persistence, you will be able to develop lasting relationships with your customers. Lead with initiative and own the moment. Dive in today and notice your business improvements build.

 

Rise of Social Customer Service

So it’s perhaps no surprise, then, that 80% of companies are planning to use social media for customer service.

 

And when you hit that sweet spot and create a well-oiled social customer service machine, the pay-off is huge. 71% of customers recommend a brand that gives them a “quick and effective” response on social media.

 

And note that almost 50% of social media users have used social customer care.

 

Shift in Customer Focus

Brands are emphasizing their focus on the people behind the posts. They are putting great effort into building platforms that allow for open, honest communication. Open communication that supports superior customer service, not just the bottom line.

 

As customers expand their use of different channels to satisfy different needs, many companies continue to build out their support capabilities across various channels, including social.

 

And as companies gain more experience with social support, many contact center leaders are trying to strike a balance. A balance between the expectations that customers have for problem resolution and response times. Also what’s practical from costs and resource standpoint.

 

 Customer Expectations

According to research by The Social Habit, 42 percent of consumers who contact a brand, product, or company on social media expect a response within 60 minutes. 25 percent of consumers in the same study said they expect a response that same day. Some customers are more demanding, with 20 percent expecting a response within 15 minutes.

 

Many companies scale back or discontinue social support at night or on weekends. The Social Habit study finds that 57 percent of consumers expect the same response time during these intervals as during normal business hours.

 

 

Customer service strategy plan example … customer influence tactics 

Have you noticed how customer experience design has grown in the importance of brand marketing? More and more trying to astonish the customer. Certainly, a real discriminator, isn’t it? Here we will examine ten different ways brands have chosen to use their customer experience. Ways to stand out above the noise and become significant contributors to brand marketing.

 

The end state quality of the product or service the customer receives is what counts. However, this includes the experience the customer remembered while he purchased the item. Often that is what is remembered the most.

 

Let’s examine these ten smashing examples:

 

Deliver happiness

Feelings and emotions certainly have a significant role in the way customers influenced in the marketing process. Zappos and its business culture of ‘delivering happiness’ certainly has established this as one of its distinct customer experience designs, hasn’t it?

 

See more on Zappos.

 

 Product presentation

Have you ever been in a Whole Foods grocery store? If you have, you will remember the emphasis on the visual presentation of their products. Draws your eyes to many, even if you are not looking for them, right? Helping customers visualize and sometimes taste the products.

 

See more on Whole Foods. 

 

 Product trial usage

Get the customer involved in trying their skill with your different products. More and more businesses are building product trial engagements into their customer experience designs as discriminators. Two of the best at this design approach are Bass Pro Shops and Legos, which often have become major attractions.

 

Engage all the senses

Starbucks is the master of the customer experience design of engaging all the senses. From the luring visual appeal of their stores to the coffee aroma, to the new sound headset stages, and the unique tastes of their products, they engage all of your senses. You may not be Starbucks, but you should consider how you can better engage customer senses in their experience.

 

Immersion in product and the brand

Here what the brand represents surrounds the customer and positively influences everywhere they turn. The two best example of brand immersion?  You’ll surely recognize the Disney World and Legos brands in this regard.

 

Creating good feelings

When a business does something good for someone, that somebody feels good about them. Are you familiar with the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream brand? They are leaders in this type of discrimination.

 

Differentiated value

This example, while being traditional, will surprise you in the best brand in this discrimination category. Ever flown Jet Blue? Our favorite airline because of its great, unique discriminators. Consider its high-touch service, its Direct TV and XM radio and quality snacks. They are number 1 in our minds.

 

Customer collaboration

Fostering ideas, intentions, and interests is the key to this experience. Dell and Starbucks are the standouts in this category with their long-standing use of customer crowdsourcing. Legos is also growing its crowdsourcing usage.

 

 Custom products

Giving customers an ability to create a uniqueness in the product they want to purchase is a great way to discriminate the brand. This technique is probably the most difficult for most businesses to employ. The standout here is Nike and its NikeID product line.

 

 Solving customer problems

Being very good at solving customer problems is a great way to create a good experience. Very needed in the technical product lines of computers and electronics, for example. The standout in this category is Best Buy with its Twelp Force and Geek Squad home services.

 

 

Experience and service design truths

 If you were asked to name the top 5-10 items that could improve customer experience or service, what would your list include? Our agency often runs customer experience/service design workshops, and this question is a key exercise in the workshop.

 

Let’s examine nine customer experience and service design truths that we believe are the foundation building blocks of the best experience and service your company can offer:

 

Acknowledge that I am there

As soon as possible. If you are busy with another customer; inform me you will be with me shortly.

 

Be personable

Always smile and introduce yourself.

 

Be human and show your personality

Businesses are made up of people … always show your enthusiasm and passion.

 

Don’t sell

Use your knowledge and experience to help customers with their decisions.

 

 Listen to me

Help me complete my visit as quickly as possible, without seeking other help, or ‘handing me off.’

 

Make your conversation and message relevant

Make your conversation relevant to this particular customer.

 

 Be easy to work with and exceed expectations

Exceed expectations whenever you can. If you don’t have what the customer wants, offer alternatives, including recommendations for other businesses.

 

Be honest

Always do what you say (promise). Credibility and trust matter.

 

 Always follow through promptly

Follow up promptly and keep me informed until you can close.

 

These are things that we already know, of course. They are not rocket science and shouldn’t be.

 

This list of little things simply reminds us of what we have forgotten. Then it is up to us to put these lessons (or reminders) into daily use through persistence and practice.

 

Remember, your experience and learning trump all!

 

 

Making a difference with great communications

Small things. Sometimes not so small impacts to a customer’s impressions. After a while, these can add up and make the job of customer experience improvements more difficult.

 

Words are very powerful whether written or verbal and can leave a lasting impression in a customer’s mind. So it’s essential that words are carefully chosen because once used, they can’t be taken back. The effects can either be positive or negative. Negative words can be damaging to your business and are often the cause of loss of customers.

 

A friend recently shared examples of 2 different hotels visits and pointed out these small, yet significant differences.

 

A Hotel in Seattle would offer guests some items if they forgot to pack them for their trip. They provide a written message to advise guests about the products they have available.

 

This is what it said:

 

Should you need any other amenities, don’t hesitate to call our Solutions Centre. Just press # on your phone. Items include hair kit, sewing kit, nail kit, dental care, mouthwash, shoe mitt and razor kit.

 

A very impersonal message that certainly was not at all inviting. The customer was happy not to have to make a request.

 

However, two weeks later, the same customer was in New York City, staying at a different hotel. The hotel left a small note on the bedside table. This note said:

 

WITH COMPLIMENTS: If you need any essential toiletries, please contact our receptionist. We will be more than happy to deliver them to your room with our compliments. Available items include razor, shaving cream, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, cotton wool and feminine hygiene products. Welcome home.

 

The same basic offer, but delivered in a different tone.

 

Our friend felt better about staying at that second hotel and made a point of keeping that hotel (and chain) in mind when booking future travel … unlike the Seattle hotel.

 

My takeaways

Little things?  What a difference a few well-chosen words can make to a guest.

 

By the simple choice of different words, the hotel in New York City communicated they cared more about the overall customer experience than the Seattle hotel.

 

The same formula can be applied to any situation where written or verbal communications are used. When dealing with customers, take your time. Listen carefully. You will hear many of the same types of requests. Have your responses prepared and practice your tone. Be personal and as helpful as possible. Think before reacting.

 

Any written content on a company website, in a brochure or any other written material, should be well thought out before being used. Does it say what you want to be said or can the message be taken in a neutral or negative light?

 

If you have to send emails or physical letters to customers, employees or other companies, have you thought about how those messages will be received?

 

 

All words have mood and meaning and every word matters when it involves customers or employees in any way.

 

From your customer’s perspective, which words and phrases are helpful, positive, respectful and appreciative? Think carefully. Which words have neutral or negative connotations?

 

You can’t over prepare on your communications.

 

service recovery strategies
Service recovery strategies.

Common mistakes

Products and services that are below par get talked about even more than those that are truly outstanding. Guarantees of poor customer service? They are everywhere you look. Like fireflies on a hot summer night.

 

Many businesses spend considerable time trying to create great customer service and customer experiences. Problem is they start their work on the complex side of the equation.

 

And an important perspective from Seth Godin:

 

People don’t believe what you tell them.

They rarely believe what you show them.

They often believe what their friends tell them.

They always believe what they tell themselves.

 

 “Your call is very important to us,” is not a true statement because it’s a promise not meant to be kept. The truth is self-evident. You’ll often say what you need to make customers go away.

 

“I promise I’ll tell my manager about this,” is of course not a real promise either. It might be uttered with good intent, or might be designed to get an annoying customer to go away.

 

You can already guess the problem with little lies. They allow you to blur and then ultimately get you to cross the line, and they lead to bigger and bigger lies.

 

The worst kind of little lies are the ones you make to yourself. Once you’re willing to lie to yourself, it’s all downhill.

 

So here are some great examples of poor customer service. The easy stuff, so to speak. The stuff your business needs to start with … to make sure no issues here. But while your business is working to build the great customer service, the little things are killing you.

 

We’ve all seen and heard these before:

 

Lack of empathy … employees are not engaged. And they don’t care.

 

Employees not empowered  … can’t act on their own to solve your problems.

 

Broken promises … no, follow up. No closure on what they tell you. Little lies that start to grow.

 

You answer questions … get handed off and have to repeat the answers. Sometimes 3 or more times. Annoying.

 

No menu option … to talk with a real person. Until you have been through the wringer three times or more.

 

Long waits … on hold with a repeating recording telling you that the business will be with you momentarily.

 

Multiple handoffs … you are beginning to wonder if everyone in the company is brand new. And knows little.

 

Customer survey requests … multiple requests starting before you have even had any service.

 

Very long time to get a response … either verbally via the phone or on-line chat.

 

Nowhere on the website to find information … you assume it should be readily available.

 

Companies that refuse to break small promises have a much easier time keeping big promises. And they earn a reputation, one that makes their handshake worth more. Simple things were done right.

 

They make sure the little things are working well. Only then do they turn their attention to the most complex elements of service and experience.

 

But if they know you will always do right by them, they will treat you like someone they can trust. And they’ll come back more often.

 

Remember, the more you engage with customers, the more you can own the moment. The better your understanding of their needs and these insights the easier it is for you to win new customers. And keep the ones you have happy. This is the most important thing you can do. Making poor service goes away.

Related post: Building a Customer Experience Strategy for Business Success

 

Service recovery strategies

Be prepared is the motto of the Boy Scouts. Also, applies to just about everything else we do in life.

 

Does your customer service prepare for contingencies? Contingencies and strategy design for when things don’t go as planned?

 

We’ll use a story to explain what we mean:

 

This is a story about poor customer service and the resulting bad customer experience at a restaurant. A large group of business people had arranged to get together for lunch to celebrate a colleague’s birthday. They chose a restaurant that they hadn’t been to before, as they wanted to give it a try. Plans and reservations for the group of 25 people were made several days in advance.

 

Arrival at the restaurant was on time. However, despite having made the reservation, they had to wait 20 minutes before they could be seated. Once seated and menus had been handed out, the group was ignored. Everyone was hungry and ready to order. They also had a limited amount of time before everyone needed to head back to work.

 

A waitress finally arrived to take everyone’s order.

 

After waiting for longer than seemed necessary, and observing other tables get their meals ahead of theirs, the group’s meals arrived. The missing one was for the meal ordered by the birthday guest. He didn’t receive his meal until most of the others were finished.

 

A complaint was lodged with the manager, with no success. He was totally indifferent to the situation. He offered no apology and, after being asked to comp that meal, refused to do so.

 

This bad experience triggered on of the group to write a letter to the head office of the restaurant chain. They detailed the experience and mentioned that in addition to the 25 customers they had lost directly … everyone would tell their friends they would not recommend visiting that restaurant as well.

 

Ultimately, that meant more customers that would be lost.

 

A few days later my colleague received a letter of apology in the mail and a $40 gift card. However, they couldn’t find anyone willing to return to the restaurant to use it due to that bad experience.

 

 Key takeaways

 

First of all, bad things happen in every business. But good preparation can usually eliminate most of them. For example, you need to decide how large of a group you can handle on top of your normal crowd.

 

 

If you can’t handle a group of 25 with your normal great service, then you owe it to the potential customers to let them know what extra wait time would be required. Or, just apologize and don’t accept the reservations.

 

The key to keeping customers happy is through honest communication, being accountable for the poor experience, and being prepared to deliver what you promise.

 

Then, if things go wrong, you should have service recovery strategies in place, with everyone prepared and empowered to act. Prepared and empowered to make things right … on the spot.

 

Research tells us that when we fix a problem on the spot that loyalty increases more than if the customer is simply satisfied.

 

So rather than seeing a complaining customer as a problem, start seeing them as an opportunity. Create the opportunity to demonstrate your service recovery strategies as a way to build loyalty.

 

For example, if there was to be a delay in the preparation of meals, then the customer needs to be informed. Informed ahead of time. Offering something to help address the situation also helps. In this case, perhaps a basket of bread or something else could have been offered while they were kept waiting.

 

In this case, the effort was too little and way too late. They couldn’t regain the trust of the customers they lost through one bad experience. And unhappy customers tell everyone. Not good for any business.

 

The key is to take steps to rectify the problem quickly … instead of ignoring it.

 

A simple reminder: we all know it’s easier to keep existing customers than to find new ones.

 

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Need some help in building better customer trust from your customer experiences?  Creative ideas to help grow your customer relationships?

                 

Call today for a FREE consultation or a FREE quote. Learn about some options to scope your job and pay for results.

Call Mike at 607-725-8240.

 

All you get is what you bring to the fight. And that fight gets better every day you learn and apply new ideas to make your customer experiences better.

 

When things are not what you want them to be, what’s most important is your next step. Call today.

 

Test. Learn. Improve. Repeat.

 

Are you devoting enough energy to improving your continuous learning for yourself and your team?

 

Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+Twitter, and LinkedIn.  

 

Digital Spark Marketing will stretch your thinking and your ability to adapt to change.  We also provide some fun and inspiration along the way. Call us for a free quote today. You will be amazed how reasonable we will be.

  

More reading on customer experience from our Library:

Customer Orientation … the Worst Customer Experience Mistakes

Customer Experience Optimization … 10 Employee Actions that Lower It

Random Acts of Kindness for Customer Experience Improvements

10 Ways to Employ Customer Experience for Influence

 

Like this short blog? Follow Digital Spark Marketing on LinkedIn or add us to your circles for 3-4 short, interesting blogs, stories per week.

 

 

 

Customer Service Strategy Made Simple: A Useful E-Book