Happy New Year

How This Blog Will Change in 2012

Instead of a roundup looking back at the past year, I thought I would take a look forward in this final day of 2011. This blog will be changing a good bit in the coming year, and I wanted to talk briefly about the new direction.

[UPDATE: As the redesign has already occurred and this post was moved to the new domain, some information on this page will be dated.]

 

Name Change and Redesign

The name of blog and the domain name will be changing. The focus on customer service and customer experience is not aided by a confused branding message.

Do you sell fences? Are you a fence company? Do you have a clue — no, really… do you?

While IntenseFence Management Solutions will still be the business entity that owns this blog, the blog will have a new name and a new look. The new domain is already secured, and no, I’m not telling what it is. My wife’s latest copy of Vogue says I’m supposed to be mysterious.

(Gini knows, but she would never betray me. Unless you have Bears tickets on the 50.)

We are currently working on securing a designer. Also, we have to find an SEO expert to move everything without losing our Google juice, which I hear mixes well with vodka.

 

Content, Content, Content

As most of you know, I have posted religiously on a schedule over the past year.

<Insert pause as regular readers fall over laughing.>

Okay, so regular content production has not been a hallmark of this blog thus far, but that is going to change.

I just counted, and I have over 30 blog titles in my tickler file just waiting to be written. So, it has never been about ideas, just priorities. While I am still working on balancing (sorry Kaarina) this blog with multiple offline businesses, I am committing to step up content in a big way. I probably won’t adopt an actual blogging schedule until after the relaunch, but content production is going to increase measurably in 2012.

 

More Depth of Information

Look for entire sections of the site to develop focused on content areas. This will be an ongoing process, but I’ve already mapped out some key sections that I intend to develop in Q1 and Q2. Also, I will be producing more “pillar” type posts like this one on customer lifetime value.

 

Active Email Newsletter

It’s time… Enough said. Look for this to appear in Q1.

 

Video

Long overdue (right Marcus?). Not sure how many me-looking-at-camera, Blair Witch style videos I will be posting, but you can look forward to interviews and other video content to appear in the first half of the year.

 

More Guest Posts

I will be soliciting more guest posts, particularly for the Customer Service Stories series. Drop me a line if you have a story of exceptional service, either positive or negative, that you think might be a good fit. I also hope to increase my guest posting at other blogs, but that will not be a focus in the early part of the year.

 

In Sum…

I hope this look to the future gives a sense of what to expect as we roll into 2012. I’m very excited about the new refinements and making this blog one of the top customer service destinations on the Internet!

Happy New Year

Moving Forward Into 2012!

Not all of the changes above will happen at once. The goal for the relaunch is Feb 14 because I’m a romantic at heart…  because that is the one year anniversary of this blog. Other than that, most of the items above are ongoing processes more than achievable milestones.

 

And Finally…

Last but not least, thank you.

Whether you read this today or on the other side of midnight, whether this is your first time here or your fortieth (Bill), I appreciate your taking the time to visit my little corner of the blogosphere. I look forward to seeing you in 2012 and making your time here more rewarding than ever.

 

A happy, healthy and safe New Year to all!

 

What would you like to see out of this blog in 2012?

Average Customer Service | Dodgeball Pic

Why Average Customer Service is the Norm — And Always Will Be

The original title of this post was Is Bad Customer Service the Norm? It is a catchy title — better than my current one — however, there is only one problem with it:

It isn’t true.

My original inspiration for the piece came from a January blog post by Harley Manning over at Forrester summarizing the results of Forrester’s Annual Customer Experience Index (CxPi) Survey. In the summary, Manning says:

 

“So what did we find this year?

First, we saw that customer experience ranges from just “okay” to “very poor” for almost two-thirds of the brands in our study. We place the cut-off point between “okay” and the next highest rating (“good”) at 75 points on our 100-point scale. This year, 65% of the 154 brands in our report didn’t make it over that 75-point hurdle. In all, 35% of scores fell into the undifferentiated “okay” range from 65 to 74 points — our most heavily populated bracket and not a good place to be if you want your brand to stand out from competitors.

Digging a little deeper, we saw that only 6% of firms ended up in the “excellent” category by earning a score of 85 points or higher, down from 10% of the brands in last year’s report.”

 

At first blush, the passage above seems to intimate that bad customer service is the norm.  By lumping the bad and the okay together and by stating that 65% of the brands didn’t make it to “good,” it frames the conclusion that the majority are not good, i.e. they’re bad.

However, if we dig deeper, we see that 35% actually registered as “okay,” which means the breakdown really looks like this.

 

Average Customer Service Graph

In fact, while we certainly don’t have the data to prove this* (stat geeks, see note below), it is not hard to imagine that the state of customer service falls into something close to the ever-familiar shape of the standard normal distribution.

 

Average Customer Service - Standard Normal Distribution

Now, while my intention is not to perform a detailed dissection of a general synopsis, I do wish to use it as a springboard for a more basic argument.  And that argument is…

 

Average service is the norm — that’s why it’s average.

 

The Revolution Will Move the Middle

My buddies at The DiJulius Group have a great tag line that says: Changing the World by Creating a Customer Service Revolution. It is a vision I believe in and wholeheartedly support. To me, it represents a desire to make every experience more pleasant for the consumer and to make business in general a more human, and humane, activity.

If a customer service revolution can succeed on a large scale, it will inevitably improve the experience for everyone and make the world of commerce a better place. For there is an absolute aspect to customer service, and it is based on human relations. For example, when the definition of “very poor” service is no longer being outright ignored by a salesperson but just being half-heartedly attended to, that is an absolute improvement. Everyone is better for it.

However, there is a relative aspect to this change as well. Once the needle has moved for very poor service, it will have moved for all service. The old good is now the new average, and smart companies will have to improve even further to be considered very good or excellent.

 

Average Customer Service Is Here to Stay, So Be Better Than Average

Of course, many bemoan the state of service today. When people say bad service is the the norm, they basically mean that the average has moved backwards. That the standard they remember from days of yore is no more. That today’s average is yesterday’s poor.

However, this approach is a dangerous way to view customer service.

Average Customer Service | Dodgeball Pic

Because average only wins in the movies.

Sure, a general deterioration in service can be a source of competitive advantage for companies with a defined service mission. But this does not mean we should rest on our laurels. In customer service, world class organizations never strive for average or even good. Excellence is always the goal, regardless of where “average” might be.

Why is this important? First, this discussion is occurring at the broadest of levels. Your industry might be super competitive. Your pricing might set expectations of superior service. Customer service perceptions are inherently relative to context.

Second, the average could always move to the positive. In fact, based on a number of societal and economic trends, I believe that the definition of average service will improve over the coming decade. Companies that are not continuously striving for an ever-greater definition of service excellence will eventually find themselves closer to average.

And to quote Mr. Manning, average is “not a good place to be.”

 

Has customer service gotten better or worse in your lifetime? Do you think yesterday’s average service is today’s poor service?

 

*Statistical note. This post attempts to make a broader point about the bad customer service is the norm nowadays meme. Forrester’s synopsis, and the way they framed the conclusions, is used as a basis for discussion. I do not have access to Forrester’s data nor the details of the CxPi calculation. Also, I understand that jumping from the data snippets I do have to a standard normal distribution is not methodologically sound. In this post, the stats are merely a launching pad for a more general point about the perception of average and what that means in the field.

Picture of Snow Owl | HootSuite Owl Representation

Monthly Mash: Customer Experience Tools and The HootSuite Owl

Volume 2: November 2011 Mashup

Welcome to the Monthly Mash, a mashup of tools, tales and tips on customer service and the customer experience from around the blogosphere.

 

Customer Experience Resource: “Hootie” The HootSuite Owl

This month’s spotlight is on HootSuite, a social media management dashboard, who has affectionately been renamed Hootie in my household.

How does HootSuite relate to the customer experience? As social media increasingly becomes part of the customer experience for businesses across industries and sizes, properly scaling social media monitoring and response is essential to enhancing the customer experience and responding to customer service complaints made in the social sphere.

Multiple social platforms can be challenging to maintain. HootSuite enables organizations to consolidate most of their social media management, monitoring multiple streams in one location.

HootSuite Screenshot

For instance, with Twitter, you can have a column for lists, a column for keywords, a column for @mentions, and more. HootSuite allows me to keep track of Facebook and Twitter for multiple retail businesses, as well as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for my personal/blog — all with one login.

HootSuite’s mobile app (at least for iPhone) is an excellent way to keep on top of social accounts; however, if you suffer from any type of smart phone addiction, it is likely to only increase the condition. “Please put Hootie down and take out the trash” has been heard quite a few times around my house.

One of the best selling points for HootSuite is it scales economically for small organizations but is robust enough to be used by large media companies like Fox and The Huffington Post.

HootSuite provides an excellent way to delegate responsibility without giving up control. If you are concerned at all about Facebook fan page security (and you should be), then HootSuite allows you to have others manage the page without giving up dangerous admin privileges.

While HootSuite has too many features to list in this short spotlight, I hope this brief introduction has helped expose you to some of the possibilities for monitoring and managing social customer service. While HootSuite is not the only platform for managing multiple social accounts, it is one of the most popular and, to my mind, the best in class.

The Month in Customer Service Blogging

A collection of the best posts about customer service and the customer experience I read this past month.

  • Language Engineering: Finding the Right Words to Use with Customers – Careful word choices are an integral part of not only reactive customer service but also of the customer experience as a whole.
  • Do You Believe Customers Are an Asset… Or a Cost Center? – Many firms need to evaluate whether they have systems in place that inconvenience the 99% just to protect them from the 1%. Context is everything in this discussion, but most businesses fail to have the discussion at all.
  • Customer Equity — Should you treat all customers equally? An interesting post that ties in well with the discussion of Customer Lifetime Value from earlier this week.
  • Infographic: The Word and The World of Customers — An interesting look at word of mouth marketing both online and off.

 

And in the spirit of the holiday season, a couple of posts on how to get, not give, better service…

 

Someone Was Listening

Sometimes the most popular post from the previous month; sometimes just the one I am most proud of.

  • Understanding Customer Lifetime Value: A Non-Geek’s Guide. Calculating Customer Lifetime Value can be a complicated undertaking, but extremely worthwhile. This post takes an exhaustive look at CLV using a back of the napkin approach. This is the longest post on this site, and it has received the most initial traffic of any post yet.

 

Thoughts on the Customer

“Even loyal customers like to try new things.”
Jack Mackey

As you might know, I recently heard Mackey speak at The Secret Service Summit. This quote really stood out, because I believe it strikes at the heart of how customers view loyalty versus how many businesses do.

Much writing on customer loyalty tends to view the customer relationship as a marriage, as if customers are only truly loyal if they don’t stray. Companies have even attempted to reinforce the idea through marketing (particularly cigarette companies back in the day): “Us Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch.” “I’d walk a mile for a camel.”

However, in most cases, customers do not view loyalty the way we wish they did. Our customers will always be tempted to try the competition, and it is human nature to want to experience new things. Accept that loyal customers will stray on occasion, and remember that your service experience and value proposition should be ready to withstand the enticements of newness.

Customer loyalty should not be viewed as a chain that binds but as a home where the door is always open.

 

I hope you enjoyed the Monthly Mash. Please join others in sharing it using the social share buttons below.

 

Understanding Customer Lifetime Value: A Non-Geek's Guide | Blackboard equations

Understanding Customer Lifetime Value: A Non-Geek’s Guide

Understanding Customer Lifetime Value: A Non-Geek's Guide | Blackboard equations

What is Customer Lifetime Value and Why Is It Important?

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) attempts to determine the economic value a customer brings over their “lifetime” with the business.  At the heart of understanding CLV lies the recognition that a customer does not represent a single transaction but a relationship that is far more valuable than any one-time exchange.

However, CLV is not about any one customer; it is about stepping back and taking a look at your customer base as a whole — understanding that while some never return and some never leave, on average there is a typical customer lifetime and that lifetime has a specific economic value.

Understanding Customer Lifetime Value is incredibly important for customer service professionals and for businesses of all types. Why?

Because if you don’t know what a client is worth, you don’t know what you should spend to get one or what you should spend to keep one.

For instance, if it costs you $100 to acquire a customer, and your customer’s CLV is $75, then we’ve got a problem Houston.

Understanding CLV allows you to drill down and understand the economic value of each customer, so you can make sound decisions about how much to invest in acquisition and retention.

Read More

Customer Appreciation | Thank You Receipt

Customer Appreciation: Giving Thanks On Another Level

The spirit of Thanksgiving is embodied in the name of the day. Somewhere among the football games, the super-caloric gorging, and the tryptophan-induced dozing, we all hopefully pause to reflect and to give thanks for the things we cherish in our lives.

Customer Appreciation | Thank You ReceiptFor most, this means reflections on family and friends, on health and happiness. Having just posted about the Blue Key campaign and the global refugee crisis, I am even more conscious of the many things we have to be thankful for living in the United States.

This post is not about customer appreciation ideas — thank you notes, branded gifts, and the like. This post is a simple reminder to appreciate our customers and to take a moment to give thanks for those who support our businesses.

It is simple nudge to not forget that it is our customers who make possible many of the other things we are thankful for.

Creating a great customer experience begins with a mindset and, to me, one of the cornerstones of a great service mindset is gratitude, a sentiment at the heart of Thanksgiving but usually reserved just for family and friends.

Perhaps this Thanksgiving, we should extend the circle of gratitude a little further.

 

As Sam Walton once said:

“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

Walton’s quote is a testimony to the importance of customer appreciation, a strong reminder to be grateful for those who choose to spend their money in our businesses.

So, take a moment tomorrow to give thanks for your customers and then let us all resolve to keep that sense of gratitude with us the other 364 days of the year.

 

Whether you are U.S. based or not, I extend a Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families.

One of the things I am most thankful for is your attention and support!

 

Children at refugee camp in Liberia

Nonprofit Spotlight: Help Refugees with the Blue Key Campaign

On occasion, we like to take a break from our regular content to highlight a worthy cause outside of our normal discussions of business and customer service.

Children at refugee camp in LiberiaThis Nonprofit Spotlight is dedicated to the Blue Key Campaign, which is a “U.S. based initiative to channel the energy of individual citizens to speak out for refugees.

The campaign aims to provide a broadened base of support for the leading organization safeguarding the rights and well-being of displaced people around the world — the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).”

 

So, Why the Blue Key Campaign?

I discovered Blue Key from the efforts of my friend Shonali Burke whose PR agency represents the Blue Key Campaign, and I am now honored to call myself a Blue Key Champion.

The Blue Key Campaign seeks to help alleviate some of the suffering associated with the global refugee crisis, a crisis that most of us rarely hear about unless there is a natural disaster or large-scale conflict. Here is a little about the Blue Key Campaign from their site:

“In December 2011, UNHCR will commemorate 60 years of working to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees and internally displaced people. 

Our goal is for 6,000 U.S. residents – thoughtful, caring people like you — to get a Blue Key. By doing so, you’ll tell the millions of refugees worldwide that they’re not invisible, and our staff that their live-saving work does not go unnoticed.

 

Who is a Refugee?

Joseph Stalin once opined that “A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths a statistic.” If true, this quote comes directly from the mouth of a monster who embraced its message to nightmarish effect.

While Stalin is long gone, there are scores of monsters across the world who recreate his legacy of pain and cruelty every day. They operate in the shadows of places many of us have not heard of, dark corners of the globe that are a thousand miles away from the Real Housewives, high speed Internet, and venti soy lattes. Places, quite frankly, most Westerners don’t even want to think about.

And while the statistics are sobering, they do not move us. What resonates more are the personal tales of those who have suffered. And I would like to share just one of those tales with you.

Below is the story of Scisa Rumenge of the Congo. Of the many heartrending stories UNHCR has on its YouTube channel, I found Scisa’s story to be particularly powerful. Please take the time to watch Scisa’s story and then check in at the end of the post to see how you can double your contribution to this important cause.

Scisa’s story is unique, but sadly, not uncommon. It is retold every day, thousands of times; every year, millions.

I know it is hard to believe that $5 and five minutes of your time will do anything in the face of such immense suffering. It is a natural feeling, but whenever I begin to feel that way, I try to remember the classic parable of the starfish:

A man was walking along a deserted beach at sunset. As he walked, he could see a young boy in the distance. As he drew nearer he noticed that the boy kept bending down, picking something up and throwing it into the water. Time and again he kept hurling things into the ocean.

As the man drew closer, he was able to see that the boy was picking up starfish that had washed up on the beach and, one at a time, was throwing them back.

The man asked the boy what he was doing, and the boy replied,”I am throwing these starfish back into the ocean, or else they will die.”

“But,” said the man, “You can’t possibly save them all, there are thousands on this beach, and this must be happening all along the coast. You can’t possibly make a difference.”

The boy smiled, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the sea. “I made a difference to that one!”

 

Please take 5 minutes to get your Blue Key now and make a difference in the life of someone less fortunate.

 

And if you buy your key within the next 48 hours, you have the chance to double your contribution…

Double Your Impact

For the first 25 Blue Keys purchased in the next 48 hours, we will double the amount by purchasing a matching Blue Key.

 

The counter above reads 3,528 as of the time of publication. We will match the first 25 keys sold between now and 8:30am EST on Friday, whether sold through this blog or not.

So, please… take five minutes now and purchase a $5 key (or more) to help those who need help most. You’ll feel better knowing you did. (*Note: Changes were made to the original text of this post to clarify that, technically, a $5 Blue Key is considered a purchase, not a donation.)

 

Please share your thoughts on the refugee crisis, Scisa’s story, and the Blue Key campaign in the comments below.

 

Secret Service Summit | Customer Service Conference

A Superb Customer Service Conference: The Secret Service Summit

I had the pleasure of attending the DiJulius Group’s Secret Service Summit last week. While many of my fellow bloggers were attending Blogworld in sunny Los Angeles, I decided to head a different direction entirely. After all, what’s better than November in Cleveland, Ohio?

It turns out that if you’re into customer service, not much.

The two day summit was filled with speakers who have lived the customer experience from different perspectives. Large company service experts such as Craig Russell of Starbucks and Michael Coburn of Nestle brought both B2C and B2B execution to the forefront, while speakers such as Dick Hoyt and David Wagner provided incredible inspiration.

Below is a a recap of the content from the conference. It will give you a sense of a customer service conference agenda, along with quick highlights and key takeaways to give you a sense of what you can expect if you want to attend next year’s Secret Service Summit.

Day 1: A Customer Service Conference with a Standing Ovation

Michale Caito, Restaurants on the RunMichael CaitoPresident & CEO, Restaurants on the Run, a multi-restaurant catering and delivery company that delivers over 150,000 meals per month. Mike told a great story about turning around Restaurants on the Run. His job matrix, which simplified the accountability and vital factors for customer care positions in the company was illuminating. Also, I was impressed to see that Mike was one of the few people tweeting during the Summit.

Key Takeaway: Using a report to track vital factors monthly.

 

 

Michael Coburn, NestleMichael CoburnDirector, Customer Service at Nestle USA. Coburn spoke a lot about the challenge of instituting a customer service mindset in a large company that is not forward facing to consumers. It was a fascinating look at a business whose products we all know but whose business we know little about.

Great Idea: Nestle actually has branded mirrors at each phone reps’ station so reps can see if they are smiling when they are talking on the phone.

 

 

Craig Russell, StarbucksCraig RussellSenior Vice President for U.S. Store Operations Services at Starbucks. Russell spoke a great deal about the transformation of Starbucks in 2008. Most fascinating was the breakdown of Starbucks’ work with John DiJulius to rewrite its mission statement and to create its customer service vision statement. The statement itself was takeaway enough.

Key Takeaway: “We create inspired moments in each customer’s day.”

 

 

Jack Mackey, Service Management Group Jack MackeyVice President at Service Management Group (SMG), where he helps companies guide and energize their people to deliver remarkable service. Some of you might have heard of Mackey before, as he is a popular speaker. And now I know why. He was a true pro — both funny and insightful. Mackey had so many great bite-sized takeaways that I will probably be quoting him in my Monthly Mashup for years to come.

Key Takeaway: “All business is personal. It goes where it’s invited and stays where it’s appreciated.”

 

Dick HoytDick Hoyt – Team Hoyt is an inspirational story of a father, Dick Hoyt, and his son, Rick, who compete together in marathons and triathlons across the country. There is really nothing I can say about Dick Hoyt, except that he is an incredible human being. The video below says more than I ever could about his story and message. If you do not take a good look at yourself after hearing his story, then you truly lack the capacity for introspection.

The team at the DiJulius Group wisely scheduled Mr. Hoyt as the last presenter of Day 1, and he was granted an extremely powerful standing ovation. A note to professional speakers everywhere: Make sure you never follow Dick Hoyt on stage. Unless your name is Bill Clinton or Tony Robbins, you probably won’t be able to pull it off.

Key Takeaway: We can all do better.

 

Day Two: The Heart of Secret Service

John DiJulius, Customer Service SpeakerJohn DiJuliusBest-selling author, consultant, keynote speaker, and President of The DiJulius Group. John, of course, spoke numerous times throughout the conference. On Day 2, he led a workshop drilling down into some of his core teachings, such as having a service vision and focusing on service aptitude when hiring.

Key Takeaway: Create non-negotiable standards for your team using an Always and Never list.

 

Panel Discussion: An interesting panel discussion covering a wide range of topics. Panelists included:

  • Rick Sonkin: Managing Partner of Sonkin and Koberna Co., LPA
  • Melissa Gottlieb: Vice President of Sales, Smart Business Network
  • Ron Higgins: President, Cogneato
  • Darlene Campagna: President, Direct Opinions
  • Ellen Jo Plass: Executive VP, TLC Laser Eye Centers
  • Dr. Dawn Hoslted: SR VP, TLC Laser Eye Centers

Key Takeaway: Email is not for communication; it’s for documentation. (We should all remember this one.)

 

Mark Moraitakis, Chick-Fil-AMark MoraitakisDirector of Service Innovations, Chick-fil-A. There is nothing quite like the retail environment, and it was truly illuminating to see the outlook on service Moraitakis and his team have instilled in the Chick-Fil-A organization. He also shared the company’s customer service training video, which readers of this blog are familiar with.

Key Takeaway: When your product is no longer unique, it is your service that will distinguish you.

 

Matt Stewart, National Services GroupMatt StewartCo CEO of National Services Group which operates College Works Painting and Empire Community Construction. Stewart told an interesting story about how a severely disgruntled customer waged a war against their company and brand and how they turned things around to make sure that never happens again.

Key Takeaway: Savor contrarian opinion and learn from it.

 

David Wagner, Life as a DaymakerDavid Wagner  – David Wagner is the best-selling author of Life as a Daymaker: How to Change the World by Simply Making Someone’s Day. Wagner’s message was more inspirational than instructional, and his speech told the story of his becoming a “Daymaker” and remaining one even as he battled cancer.

Key Takeaway: Whose day will you make today?

 

Final Thoughts

In the end, the Secret Service Summit was about both usable content and inspirational messaging. I have attended many conferences in the past few years, and I can say that I have never left a conference so excited about the possibilities and so full of actionable ideas. Literally, the biggest challenge we have had is triaging the ideas to figure out what to begin with.

I hope this recap helps those who are interested in customer service and customer experience optimization understand the quality and value of the Secret Service Summit. It is two days that are well worth your time.

Kudos to John DiJulius, Denise Thompson and David Wagner (the other David Wagner) for putting on an incredible event!

If you have any specific questions about the summit, feel free to ask them in the comments below.

John DiJulius | Customer Service Keynote Speaker

Monthly Mash: Customer Experience Tools and Secret Service

Volume 1: October 2011 Mashup

Welcome to the Monthly Mash, a mashup of tools, tales and tips on customer service and the customer experience from around the blogosphere.

Many thanks to those who participated and supported the naming of this series! You know who you are.

Customer Experience Resource: John DiJulius

John DiJulius | Customer Service Keynote SpeakerThis month’s spotlight is on John DiJulius, one of the premiere customer experience keynote speakers, authors, and consultants around. He has written two excellent books about customer service: What’s The Secret and Secret Service, both of which I highly recommend. I had the pleasure of seeing DiJulius speak at the Multi-Unit Franchise show this past spring, and his presentation was simply excellent. I mentioned the customer service video he showed during his talk in an earlier post.

I thought John DiJulius would be a fitting first spotlight for the Monthly Mash, as his work has been one of the bigger influences on my customer service thinking and, more aptly, because I am very excited to be attending his Secret Service Summit this week! One of DiJulius’ core teachings is having invisible systems (hence, Secret Service) that seamlessly help organizations deliver an exceptional customer experience. Please check out John DiJulius’ website, blog, and books. You won’t be disappointed.

The Month In Customer Service Blogging

A collection of the best posts about customer service and the customer experience I read this past month.

Someone Was Listening

Sometimes the most popular post from the previous month; sometimes just the one I am most proud of.

Thoughts on the Customer

In China a Zen master traveled with a few disciples to the capital and camped near the river.  A monk of another sect asked one of the disciples of the Zen master if his teacher could do magic tricks.  His own master, said the monk of the other sect, was a very talented and developed man.  If he stood on one side of the river, and somebody else stood on the other side, and if you gave the master a brush and the other man a sheet of paper then the master would be able to write characters in the air which would appear on the sheet of paper. 

The Zen monk replied that his master was also a very talented and developed man, because he too could perform the most astounding feats.  If he slept, for instance, he slept, and if he ate, he ate.

Buddhist Tale*

I’ve thought more and more about this story in recent years, as our lives have become increasingly intertwined with the technologies of the day. While there is a powerful lesson here for life, there is also a powerful lesson for anyone who touches a customer.

Our customers deserve our attention. Are you present in the moment and focused on the person you are serving? Have you left your inbox, To Do list, and voicemails behind while you focus on the customer and what they are saying about their needs? It sounds simple; yet, as most of us know, in today’s world, true focus might be one of the most difficult feats of all.

I hope you enjoyed the Monthly Mash. Feel free to share it using the social share buttons below.

*Please forgive the lack of attribution. I copied this from a collection of Buddhist stories over 15 years ago, and an exact word search on Google yielded nothing.

Angry Customer Snow Monkey

Six Easy Ways to Make Sure Your Customers Hate You

 

Laura Click | Blue Kite MarketingGuest Poster: Laura Click

It is my pleasure to introduce Laura Click, who has been kind enough to babysit this blog while I am away at a conference. Laura is founder and chief innovator at Blue Kite Marketing, a Nashville-based marketing and social media strategy firm that’s passionate about helping small businesses reach new heights. I discovered Laura’s blog earlier this year and have enjoyed her insights on how small businesses can excel with social media and marketing.

_______________________________________________________________________

Every business thinks they are excellent at customer service.

But, most are dead wrong. And maybe you are too.

Sure, you might take care of the big, obvious things. Your staff might be friendly, and you have real people answering the phone. But, I’m willing to bet there are some things you are doing that are silently frustrating your customers.

And, you have no idea.

Sure, there are the squeaky wheels out there that love to make noise about how you’ve wronged them. However, the silent majority stew about their irritating experiences with you.

Sometimes, the smallest things make the biggest impression. If you want to want to keep your clients and encourage them to refer your business to others, make sure you don’t commit these offenses:

 

Angry Customer Snow Monkey1. Miss deadlines

We often have good reasons for not getting the job done on time. Maybe you were sick or buried under other deadlines. However, your clients don’t care. They want the job done on time as promised.

If you’re unable to reach a deadline, give your client the heads up. They will be much more forgiving if you let them know you will be behind, especially if you have good reason for it. But, whatever you do, don’t let this become a habit.

2. Arrive late to meetings

Occasionally, unexpected things come up that prevent us from arriving somewhere on time. However, meetings running long or difficulty finding parking are not good reasons to be late. That’s just bad planning on your part.

Give yourself some cushion between meetings should things run long and allow enough time to travel to your next appointment. If you’re going to be more than a few minutes late, be sure to call and let them know you are on your way.

3. Ignore emails and phone messages

It’s easy to get crushed under the weight of an overflowing inbox. However, that’s no excuse for not returning messages.

Most messages should be returned within 2-3 days (if not sooner). Even if you can’t get the answers to the person right away, acknowledge that you received the message. That goes a long way.

4. Forget about results

Whether you offer a product or service, we’re all in the business of delivering results. Your product should work properly, and your services should focus on helping clients reach their goals.

If you’re not helping your customers solve their problems or make their lives easier, you are going to have a difficult time staying in business.

5. Ignore your budget or pricing

If you’re in a service-based business, you likely have to provide cost estimates to your clients. And sometimes, there’s no way to predict when things are going to take longer than you projected.

Although your time is valuable, think before you start charging extra for projects going over budget. Customers don’t care about how long it takes to get something done. What they do care about is that the job is completed. Be mindful of how you price your services so you can avoid nickel and diming them.

6. Neglect feedback or complaints

If clients vocalize their concerns about your business, it’s important to listen to their feedback and work to make things right. It’s easy to get defensive or just ignore negative comments, but that will just make the situation worse.

People often change their tenor when they hear back from the company that wronged them. So, Listen. Respond. Make things right with the customer. Then, work to correct the issue moving forward.

 

Keys to Amazing Customer Service

If you want to wow your clients and keep them coming back for more, here are a few principles to remember:

♦ Treat every customer as if they are they only one

Every customer wants to feel important – even if they are the smallest client or one of many.  It says a lot about a company if they roll out the red carpet for every customer, regardless of their size or how much money they spend. And believe me, your customers will notice.
 

Strive to impress your customers at every interaction

Think of every way your business interacts with clients – phone, email, meetings, invoicing – and make sure it is seamless and positive. Every employee is a customer service ambassador, not just the frontline staff. Make sure they all know how to handle clients with dignity and respect.

Delight and surprise your customers

If you want to stand out for all the right reasons, go out of your way to do unexpected, over-the-top gestures for your customers. Do this and you won’t be able to stop people from spreading the good word about your business.

 

What frustrates you most as a customer? As a business, how do you ensure you’re not making these missteps?

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Guest Post Disclaimer: Guest Posts on the Customers That Stick blog are submitted by individual guest posters and in no way represent the opinions or endorsement of CTS Service Solutions, its owners or employees. CTS Service Solutions does not represent or guarantee the truthfulness, accuracy, or reliability of statements or facts posted by Guest Posters on this blog.

Customer Experience Roundup | Hat and Lassoo

Help Me Create A Smokin’ Hot Customer Experience Blog Roundup

To the wonderful members of this community:

I would like to enlist your help with a new project. I am starting a regular roundup post centered around this blog’s topics of customer experience and customer service. Based on my available personal bandwidth and the amount of content I have time to digest, I figured a monthly roundup would be most appropriate.

Customer Experience Roundup | Hat and LassooMy roundup idol is Kristi Hines of kikolani.com. Though she addresses a different set of topics, her Fetching Friday roundup is simply the most consistent, focused, and well-curated roundup I follow. My goal would be to create something as helpful and, hopefully, of similarly high quality in the customer experience sphere.

So, here’s the part where I ask for your help…

Inspired by The Sales Lion Marcus Sheridan’s success tapping his community to help him choose a tag line, I would very much like to crowdsource the framework for the roundup. While I am sure the format will evolve over time, I figured I could shorten my learning curve and not test the patience of my readers by enlisting the wisdom of crowds and my not-near-Lion-level-but-still-awesome community. Below are some of my ideas for the roundup — some more fully formed than others. I would love to hear your revisions and additions to the following ideas:

 

Title

Gini Dietrich has her Gin and Topics, a fun and often funny weekly roundup; Brankica Underwood has her Sweet Sunny Saturday, an excellent biweekly roundup on blogging, social media, and more; and, as mentioned, Kristi has Fetching Fridays. Here’s what I have… Uuggh.

  • Customer Experience Roundup – Simple, yet understated…
  • The Customer Experience Corral – The official blog of the Urban Cowboy. The closest I could get to “roundup” and some alliteration with the letter C. It stinks, and I hate it. But I’m listing it anyway.
  • Customer Experience Monthly Mashup — Top contender so far. It did the mash… the monster mash.

Anything else… No, seriously, anything…

Bueller?

 

Four Sections

1. Customer Experience Resource: Website X
This section would highlight a blogger, web site, Twitter chat, etc. that could be valuable to those interested in customer experience optimization and customer service.

2. Links
Not sure whether to have set categories, have none, or let them develop organically each month relative to the content. Here are some categories I am considering. Thoughts?

  • Customer Service Stories
  • Customer Service Research
  • Social Media and Customer Service
  • Miscellaneous

3. Last Month’s Most Popular Post
This would highlight the most popular post on this blog during the previous month and give readers who missed it another chance.

4. Thoughts on the Customer
Most likely a quote or particularly insightful excerpt from a book or blog.

 

Other Ideas?
So, that’s it. I would love to hear what’s bad, what’s good, and any ideas for improvement. Should I add anything? Remove anything? Add something that is fun and not all business? If you made it this far, I thank you for your time and look forward to your comments below.

I will be at a business conference these next few days. So, please know I appreciate your input, even if I am only replying at night.

Please stay tuned: I am excited to announce that Laura Click will be babysitting this blog while I am otherwise engaged! Please stop by on Tuesday to see what Laura has to say about making your customers hate you.