Today we are excited to share with you a guest blog from Jeff Toister.
Experienced customer service managers give it two weeks.
That’s the maximum amount of time you see employees increase their effort and service focus immediately after the typical customer service training class. However, it is often much less.
Most employees have good intentions. Usually, the training just doesn’t stick or it’s not powerful enough to override ingrained habits. In some instances, employees resent having to go to training and consider it a waste of time, so they don’t bother applying any new skills.
I’ve facilitated thousands of customer service training workshops over more than 20 years. During that time, there is one lesson I’m forced to acknowledge—most customer service training fails to generate a lasting improvement in service.
That’s the bad news. On the bright side, the good news is that there are clear reasons why the training fails. Here are the top three and what you can do to avoid them.
#1 No Goals
Many customer service training requests I receive are too vague.
One client told me she wanted her team to get back to the basics. Another client asked for help serving angry customers. Still another client wanted his employees to deliver world class service.
The challenge with all of these requests is they are ill-defined. When pressed for details, each of these clients struggled to articulate precisely what they wanted their employees to learn or what specifically they wanted employees to do.
You must set clear goals before you schedule customer service training. Without them, the training becomes generic or even random.
For example, my “back to basics” client went back to her executive team and asked them to define the basic customer service skills they felt employees were lacking. The leaders soon realized there were many differences of opinion regarding these skills, even among themselves!
The leadership decided to put the training on hold and work with employees to create clear and specific service standards. Once they complete this process, the organization will be able to set much clearer goals for training.
#2 No Buy-In
There are two groups where a lack of buy-in can sink a training initiative.
The first group is the employees who are being sent to training. Imagine an employee attending a customer service training class merely because her boss told her to be there.
Employees in this situation are unprepared for learning and might even be uninterested. They’re not sure what specific knowledge or skills to concentrate on. Some employees even think they’re being sent to the training class as a form of punishment for doing something wrong.
Your training participants should know the answer to three questions before training begins:
What is the training about?
Why are we doing it?
How will I be able to apply what I learn back at work?
Which brings us to the second group that needs to buy-in—managers.
Employees take their cue from the boss. That means the boss needs to whole-heartedly champion a training initiative or else employees will think the training isn’t really important.
The best customer service leaders take the training right alongside their employees to send the message that the training is worthwhile. This also helps the manager know how to reinforce the specific content learned in training once the training has ended.
#3 No Follow-Up
We’re conditioned to think the training ends when the class is over.
There’s an evaluation form to fill out. A definite end time. Some classes even provide a certificate of completion.
In truth, the training has only just begun. The real learning happens when employees go back to work and apply their new skills. Here, a lack of follow-up can ruin even the best training program.
For example, imagine a training class on serving angry customers. Employees might hear about a few new techniques. They might discuss their own experience and then participate in a role play.
None of that matters if they don’t use those new skills the next time they serve a real-life angry person. The tough part of the equation is employees won’t encounter an angry customer until after the training program has ended.
This is where follow-up is critical.
A manager, trainer, or mentor should be available to help employees apply what they learn. In the case of an angry customer, did the employee try new skills? Which skills worked? Which did not?
There are many questions that require reflection, coaching, and additional development.
Customer service training typically requires a large investment in time, money, and resources.
There’s too much on the line not to do this right. Setting clear goals, getting employees (and their managers) to buy-in, and providing structured follow-up should be an integral part of any training initiative.
Jeff Toister helps customer service teams unlock their hidden potential. He is the best selling author of The Service Culture Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Employees Obsessed with Customer Service. More than 140,000 people on six continents have taken his video-based training courses on LinkedIn Learning (a.k.a. Lynda.com). Jeff also holds a Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) certification from the Association for Talent Development.
In January of 2012 almost every financial analyst was forecasting the demise of Best Buy. Amazon was Best Buy’s largest competitor with overall annual sales of $61.9B. Five years later Amazon’s sales have almost tripled to $177.8 B. Although Amazon’s consumer electronics business continues to increase, Best Buy has continued to increase its share too. While there have been many stories about the Best Buy turnaround, my story is focused on their customer service.
We all talk about getting back to the basics, but Best Buy’s Hubert Joly, who came on board in August 2012, knows what that means to the average consumer. No one wants to overpay for a product that can be easily found on Amazon at a lower or competitive price with super delivery, easy returns and massive selections. But consumer electronics are now more technical than ever and sales associates, who both know the merchandise and interact with customers with a smile and price guarantee is a perfect formula for success. When Joly took the reins in 2012, he said, “I want my company to be the place that makes it easy for consumers to understand technology. He continued, “Customers need more advice than ever; that makes sense.”
When my wife and I moved recently moved into a larger apartment to accommodate our growing family, we needed a new TV and advise on which TV to purchase. Our son-in-law had recommended either a Sony or Samsung. However, I’m not sure if you have shopped for a TV lately, but each manufacturer has multiple options, price points, features and benefits. It’s confusing. But within 10 minutes of walking into a Best Buy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, our confusion turned into confidence. Simple, direct advise from our salesperson assured us we were purchasing the right TV.
As a customer experience thought-leader I’m always analyzing every transaction to see how I can make it better. My experience with Best Buy left me with nothing to correct. The critique was everything positive. This is my step-by-step analysis:
My salesperson associate, Larry, introduced himself and asked us for our names. He referenced our names at the appropriate time during our interactions. He made us feel welcomed and created a personal connection.
We could tell he was knowledgeable. He explained the variables in quality and pricing and then showed us four different models; two from Sony and the others, Samsung. For our particular needs, we would be served best with one of the Sony models. The trust that Larry had developed during our short interaction made it an easy decision for us.
We lost our remote from the TV we already had and my wife reminded me we needed to replace it. Another sales associate overheard that conversation and volunteered to go to another part of the store to find a Universal remote. Another example of good customer service and teamwork amongst the employees.
We were going to have Best Buy install the TV on the wall, but after Larry explained the costs involved to hire an electrician to rewire and patch, he suggested we try just placing the TV on our living room buffet, to see if that worked before incurring more costs. Good idea! We took his advice and the TV is in a perfect spot. Larry saved us money.
Larry ran the charge for our new TV at a cash register in his section – no need for us to stand in a long checkout line. When he gave us our receipt, he mentioned his name again, told us it was on the receipt, gave us his schedule and said he would love to help us again. He invited us to return.
He also told us that if we find a better price within 30 days of purchase, we could get a price adjustment. It made us feel 100 percent comfortable with the price we paid.
We chose the option of delivery – Best Buy brought the TV to our apartment, set it up, and took away the empty box. This service cost $100. The people who completed this task were on time, professional, and friendly.
About 40 days later we were experiencing problems with the circuit breaker connected to the TV. Our building staff came up multiple times to resolve the issue, but it was recurring. They said, “Although it’s rare, it could be an issue with the TV.” We called Best Buy told them what our building maintenance staff told us, and their response without a second of hesitation was, “We will bring you a new TV tomorrow.” I thought ‘wow’!
When we need to purchase another consumer electronic product, of course there will be nowhere else to shop but Best Buy. The company’s revenues are vast, $44B, not a mom & pop operation, but the service delivery is the same as my father provided his customers in his neighborhood store. Hubert Joly is a man on a mission. He is proving that good customer service, coupled with knowledgeable sales associates and competitive pricing is the ticket. Yes, you can outmaneuver that big elephant in the room whose name is Amazon. Huber Joly and Best Buy – you are the winners of the Customer Service Award.
One of the ways that major brands enhance marketing is by appealing to all five senses. Engaging customers at every level provides them a better experience.
To help your customers adjust quickly to your physical store, make sure you have a well-organized layout and use colors wisely (e.g. yellow suggests youth, red inspires creativity, and blue builds trust). Your visual strategy could include free-standing displays promoting a certain product, overhead banners in key traffic areas, and cross-merchandising to draw attention to related items.
Online sales on the other hand, can include videos, pop-ups, and infographics. Since online shoppers can only judge by what they see, quality photos are crucial. For items related to fashion, art, or collectibles, incorporate storytelling to convey values. A combination of several high-resolution photos and clever storytelling boosts sales of these items.
You can use treats to satisfy visitors, particularly during social promotions. You’ll make customers feel more comfortable and appreciated during wait times by offering free beverages and snacks.
Provide incentives with a high-ticket purchase, such as a box of chocolates or a bottle of nice champagne. Any pleasure and gratitude you inspire will reflect on your brand.
Before you buy a new mattress, you want to try it first. With new clothes, the feel of the fabric against your skin will influence your decision.
One study showed that texture affects a customer’s likelihood of purchasing. Emotional attachment increases if shoppers enjoy touching an item, even with one finger. The sense of touch also applies to electronic items, such as using a mouse or navigating a touch-screen.
Odors, even if barely detectible, have an impact on feelings and memories. Your business premises should never smell musty or unclean. Harsh chemicals can also be offensive. Try using fresh flowers and scented cleaning products. Plug-in odor diffusers also work or you could create an inviting aroma by providing baked goods or hot chocolate.
Free samples and scented ads are another marketing tactic you can use to attract clients.
Dead silence creates tension. Businesses play background music to enhance the experience and reduce stress. You can also incorporate audio that automatically replays jingles, useful information, or a friendly welcome message. Select the tone, style, and rhythm to fit your brand, but remember not to play your music too loud or else you’ll startle your customers.
Another important tip is to consider the legalities regarding your choice of music regardless of whether in store or in online marketing videos.
In conclusion, if you’re going to optimize the customer experience, you’ve got to appeal to as many of the five human senses as you can. Strategic visuals, pleasing scents and textures, enjoyable audio, and tasty drinks or snacks are all positive elements your customers appreciate and remember.
Jasmine Williams covers the good and the bad of today’s business and marketing. She was rummaging through her grandma’s clothes before it was cool and she’s usually hunched over a book or dancing in the kitchen, trying hard to maintain rhythm, but delivering some fine cooking (her family says so). Tweet her @JazzyWilliams88
No matter the industry, any time that frontline representatives are at work, they are learning how to deal with and manage customer expectations. While typically, the primary goal is to always deliver exceptional customer service, a truly skilled employee understands that there is a time to wow and a time to step back.
“Wow” service is often misunderstood by companies who do not understand customer expectations. Micah does an awesome job of explaining how it can be misapplied. I completely agree that wow moments give you new and innovative ways to connect with customers and appreciate any company that does so in a way that is helpful to me. However, like Micah points out, it does come down to going beyond fulfilling basic customer expectations. I was once at a bank and they gave me the incorrect amount of cash back. After “discussing” it for about 30 minutes, the manager got involved and corrected the mistake. He then smiled proudly and said it was their goal to provide “wow customer service.” As Micah points out, “wow” cannot make up for operational errors and just because you say you do it, does not necessarily make it true.
Micah does a really great job of highlighting some of the subtle nuance that exists in the customer service industry. While it is always important to keep that “wow” experience in mind when dealing with customers, it is also important to recognize that sometimes a customer just wants to be left alone; to them, being able to navigate the store on their own and find what they are looking for without being hounded by an employee is a “wow” experience. Depending on the mood we are in, sometimes we want to be engaged in store and have a conversation with the employee, and other times we simply want to enjoy a solitary shopping experience knowing that the employee is there should we wish to engage with questions or comments. I think the biggest takeaway from Micah’s argument is that satisfying customer expectations does not always require a grand gesture, sometimes it is as simple as thanking them for their business or inviting them to come back in the future.
If we are to learn anything from Micah’s argument in this piece it is that a truly great customer service representative understands the nuance in dealing with customers. Sometimes a customer wants an extremely hands on and involved interaction and sometimes they wish to be left alone. Being able to deliver both with a positive attitude and knowledge of their product/service allows representatives to perform at the top of their game.
5 Ways Ecommerce Stores Can Keep Existing Customers Engaged
Did you know that about 571 websites are created every minute of every day? Whether they are directly competing with your start up business or not, there’s a clear message that’s pervading here: the success of your business venture depends not only on hard work, but also on practical strategies that can help you cut through the noise across the internet.
Indeed, making customer engagement happen is as crucial as building your customer base from the ground up. As you engage your customers within and beyond your ecommerce site, you also get to develop customer loyalty for your brand.
Whether you like it or not, everything starts with content. You need to create content that stands out from everyone else’s.
To make sure that your content gets talked about and shared a lot online, it should be relevant, meaningful, and timely. It’s also important that you inject your brand’s personality into it. From your headline to your copy, you should be able to appeal to human emotion.
Most of all, you have to always stay true to what you promise to deliver. Any content that falls in the hook, line, and sinker category is out of the question.
Be active on social media
The power of social media in digital marketing can never be overrated. Just look at the hundreds of thousands of videos, articles, posts, etc. that are liked and shared on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the rest of the social network bandwagon.
That said, you could take advantage of the different ways of connecting with your customers on these platforms. Use social to share the best customer reviews or feedback you receive, post Q&A pieces, and share your company’s milestones with your followers.
These practices can open up business opportunity leads, boost your brand following, and multiply customer visits to your site.
3. Utilize customer accounts wisely
It’s quite tempting to push customer accounts to people who are frequently visiting your site. After all, it makes placing and processing an order so much easier for both your customer and your store.
However, there are those who might be put off by this strategy. If you sense that a customer is not ready to commit to creating an account on your site just yet, at least provide an option to become a registered user each time the same customer places an order.
Offer attractive freebies
This one is quite a giveaway (no pun intended), but there’s no better way to attract your customers’ attention and lock them into your online store, than through an incentive or rewards program. You could offer discounts that customers can apply on their next purchase.
Additionally, you could distribute coupons alongside requests for product reviews to help increase customers’ sense of connection with your brand.
Get brand ambassadors on board
Sometimes, it takes just one positive customer experience to get people to tell others about your brand. When marketing your products or services, you could very well use some love from your most loyal followers, as well as new, happy customers.
These people can become your brand ambassadors, actively promoting your business offerings in their own circle of family and friends, who in turn could spread the word further down the line.
Once you have your brand ambassadors on board, don’t forget to reward them for referring additional business to you.
Show appreciation for customers
Birthday greetings sent via post used to work like magic for customer engagement in decades past until newer technologies took over. With the level of interconnectivity that most of us are enjoying, it’s inexcusable for businesses not to express appreciation to their customers through email.
Alternatively, surprising them with a redeemable gift in their account says a lot about your customer care philosophy. Then again, a simple, sincere, and handwritten note mailed to your customer can make this gesture even more special, as it comes with a more personal touch to it.
Either way, it’s important to let your customers know how much you value their support.
There’s so much wisdom in trying your very best to keep your customers coming back to your store. They can be your greatest allies whom you can tap for your marketing and advertising efforts, and they come with so much credibility, having tried and tested your products and services for so long.
It’s nothing short of a big disservice on your part not to take care of them. Not to mention, a precursor to your business’ downfall.
Johanna Rivard drives the product and data strategies at PureB2B. She’s a two-decade veteran of the online publishing, B2B demand generation, and technology media markets. When not in the office, Johanna enjoys her family, fitness routines and reading self-help books.
In this week’s episode, we draw attention to the fact that despite having the latest technology, only retail stores with dedicated associates who wish to help customers will see high return rates. #DeepCXThought
Deep CX Thoughts Episode Nine: Retail Loyalty - YouTube
To finish out the CX Circle year, we chose to read Everybody Lies: Big Data. New Data. And What The Internet Can tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz. When we first picked up the book, we thought it would be primarily about personal data and how it can be used to target certain individuals and learn about them. However, this book proved to be much more revealing than we had thought. Hidden within the pages of Stephens-Davidowitz’s research are some great insights on society and in the field of social science as a whole. What you may write off as innocent or simple Google searches that you make each day, could really reveal much more about your personality and how you view the world around you than you ever thought possible.
What We Learned/Key Takeaways:
Everybody lies…seriously: I had never given much thought to the difference between what I say and do in life and what I Google, but the more I read, the more I saw it. We’re all liars! It was fascinating to read all of the statistics and differences between self-reported data and “actual” data. Which leads us to our next learning…
Big data gives you big insights, but surveys still give you insights too: Surveys still have their place in this world. Although they can be biased, there is still a use when it comes to making business decisions. They are good tools to support decisions made by big data insights.
Finally, someone confirmed what why we seen differences between telephone and online surveys: As a survey research company that started out doing telephone interviews, in the past 5 years we’ve moved to online surveying. We saw differences in the results and the author does an great job crystalizing the reason. “The more impersonal the conditions, the more honest people will be. For eliciting truthful answers, internet surveys are better than phone surveys, which are better than in-person surveys. People will admit more if they are alone than if others are in the room with them” (p. 108).
Testing your hypotheses is as important as coming up with them: Stephens-Davidowitz provided an example of how Google utilizes A/B testing to determine ad effectiveness. “Testing fills in gaps in our understanding of human nature. These gaps will always exist. If we knew, based on our life experience, what the answer would be, testing would not be of value. But we don’t, so it is” (p.217). This is a great reminder in the value of A/B testing when developing products, services and strategies. It is something easily forgotten when you’re in the think of it.
Correlation does not imply causation: It can be easy to get caught up in correlation between data sets, but it’s imperative to remember that this does not imply causation. This was a similar theme we uncovered in our last CX Circle book, Sensemaking. Context around the findings gives life to the insights and can explain causation.
One of the things that I really enjoyed about this big was the author’s ability to take a typically un-sexy topic like “Big Data” and make it compelling and interesting through a wide variety of examples he used to illuminate his points throughout. Whether he was breaking down “Big Data” geographically by looking at the popularity of hateful and/or racist search terms, or looking chronologically and comparing the how old a child was when their favorite baseball team won the World Series to their propensity towards being a fan in adulthood, Stephens-Davidowitz always found his way back to a main argument. What I took away from this book as being one of the author’s main points was that if we are going to use “Big Data” to influence decisions, we have to commit to following it. We cannot half commit or say we are going to listen to “Big Data,” if we have no real intention of doing so. The author ends the book on this note, “…I conclude this book in the only appropriate way: by following the data, what people actually do, not what they say” (p. 284). In the world of market and consumer research, it is easy to get caught up in what people are saying or telling you as the truth, however it is essential to follow the trail and look at what they are actually doing. Do the choices that consumers are making match up with what they were telling you in their response? If we want to know our consumer best, we need to start looking at their actions in addition to what they are saying and identifying how, why, and when any mismatch occurs. That is where there is opportunity to advance and increase satisfaction.
In any form of research, it always important to recognize a bias that your sample may have. So when speaking with consumers and gathering their thoughts on a certain product or service that your business offers, it is important to realize that what their conveying to you may not be their true feelings at all. While this is not the case for all consumers, some may be tempted to sugarcoat their responses or even over exaggerate on the negative parts of their responses in hopes that they receive a response from the brand and/or company. While first person responses do have some value in making decisions regarding how a business is run and how consumers needs are being met, I think it would only benefit companies to look at the gaps between what a consumer is saying and what they are actually doing. As the old saying goes: “Actions speak louder than words,” and in the world of consumer research that is no different. It would be interesting to start looking into why consumers may say one thing and act in the exact opposite manner. This could present many companies/brands opportunities to develop more personal relationships with their loyal customers and improve the experience they offer.
Well, there you have it, our final CX Circle book choice for 2017 proved to be one of the most interesting yet. This one certainly sticks with you and if you read it, you’ll think twice about what you’re typing in to Google before you hit ‘search.’ It will be interesting to see going forward how companies can leverage all of this search data to assist consumers and ensure a positive customer experience in any transaction. As always, if there is a book that you’d like us to read in the New Year, please reach out to us on Twitter @TCFCR and let us know. We look forward to reading with you!
Although self-serve and technology may make customer interactions easier, these tools do not create loyalty. Hiring employees who care to help customers and foster a relationship will build out a base of loyal customers who come to you for help time after time. #DeepCXThoughts
Deep CX Thoughts Episode Eight: Creating Loyal Customers - YouTube
In this week’s episode, we are sharing a #DeepCXThought highlighting that each purchase a consumer makes has a human element to it. If employees can recognize this human element, they will begin developing meaningful and longstanding relationships with their customers.
Deep CX Thoughts Episode Seven: Human Story Behind Each Purchase - YouTube
TCFCR’s 2018 Customer Experience Trends is now available to download as a FREE eBook! Download this eBook to learn the most popular trends that will rock the customer experience world next year. Whether it is wearable technology, or voice assistants that better understand and help us, 2018 is sure to see a great deal of new and exciting CX action.
If there is one element that remains common through each of these trends, it is the ever-growing presence of consumers that know exactly the kind of service they want, when they want it, and how they want it. In 2018, we will see consumers being served exactly the drink they like without even having to place their order through a small wearable medallion. We will also see concierge services moving in to uncharted territory like the world of medicine.
The trends outlined in this eBook are certain to be taking the customer experience world by storm in 2018. Complete the form below to download your FREE copy today and get a head start on what all CX Experts will be talking about in the coming year.
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