The Perils of Customer-Centricity

Committing to customer experience continues to be a significant challenge organisations will face in 2017.

It is becoming virtually impossible to find a company who has not tried to become customer-centric by embracing customer experience, however, not many were capable of transitioning fully.

The inability to commit to customer experience or to sustain focus on the process at hand, including the numerous challenges it presents, is the reason why consumers have so many negative experiences. Ones, which leave them unsatisfied with the service or product but also the varying level of customer service which accompanies it.

Few organisations have been capable to truly transform the way they operate, and it’s still hard to cite actual names of companies who managed to fully “take on the mantle” of customer centricity apart from the obvious brands. Are companies simply unwilling to fully transform or they commit to the cause but once challenges appear they’re not “equipped” to deal with them properly?

Bellow you’ll find 5 reasons we at OpsTalent think are the biggest obstacles in becoming customer-centric, and putting customer experience at the forefront:

 

Leadership
We all know this, “talk is cheap” – nothing changes from just talking about the need to change. Unfortunately, businesses seem content with this practice.
Organisations are eager to hype up the importance of customer experience but when the time to take action comes they fail to operationalize customer experience. Thus, making it impossible to embrace customer centricity.
If leaders have the desire to transform their brands, then they also need to possess the drive required to make customer centricity the top priority.

 

Stability
In the corporate landscape the word “restructure” makes every employee tremble in fear – executives and managers included. This coupled with the fact that a lot of organisations restructure annually makes you wonder, and doubt how successful these processes are.

Each restructures causes instability, a possible change of priorities as well as company vision realignment. Which makes sustaining a customer-centric strategy through each consecutive restructure extremely challenging.
Stability is a necessity if you want to achieve sustainable, long-term success – including strategy and approach reinforcement.

 

Strategy
If you want short term results, then, unfortunately, customer experience transformation is not the valid way to achieve them as it’s a long-term business strategy.
Transformations require patience, tenacity and a firm belief in achieving success, only when you possess these three traits you’ll see your vision come to fruition.
Oftentimes stakeholders who are not on board with the customer-centric approach, apply too much pressure to switch focus to short term gains. Thus, bringing your customer experience efforts one step closer to failure.

 

Competencies
Lack of knowledge is what holds many businesses back from becoming customer-centric.
Without the required skills and competencies, shifting your companies focus on customer experience, not to even mention sustaining it, will prove to be a futile effort. You need people to drive the change by incorporating their abilities into the transformation process.
Developing operational knowledge needs to be a top priority (not limited to customer-centric companies mind you), at all levels of the organisation. Most importantly, leaders should not be exempt from this rule as they too need to continually develop in their role by acquiring familiarity with relatively new skill sets and lead by example.

 

People
Businesses are failing to put people first – both employees and customers at the forefront of their strategy.

You need to put your own people first, failing to do so is a surefire way to void your organisation’s chances of becoming customer-centric.
Only happy, highly motivated employees are capable of delivering excellent service – become people-centric and you will succeed.

 

We do hope that the text above didn’t dissuade you from embarking on the customer-centric journey.
The path ahead is a perilous one, however, it’s not only filled with challenges as it provides plentiful opportunities for your company to grow.

Tech Support Training Tips

Most people think customer service and tech support are virtually the same role, well it might seem so at first glance, and with how customer centric the customer care industry has become we might see those two roles merged in the near future.

There are differences, most notably in the type of training and offered services

Soft skills are relevant in both roles, especially active listening, problem-solving, and the ability to de-escalate issues.

Never let your agents approach new roles untrained

If you’re facing staffing issues or your customer care centre is facing high communication volumes and you’re forced to ask your customer service teams to handle tech support issues, make sure that they receive proper training.

Not everyone is tech-savvy

Equip your teams with proper ‘tools of the trade’, they need them in order to help customers with their tech problems.

 

OpsTalent has prepared a list of five crucial tips that will turn your customer service experts into amped-up tech-geeks.

 

The Beginning 

The greeting phase is crucial, as it dictates the conversation’s flow. Your team needs to understand that this initials phase has to be short as well as professional.

Agents should start with providing their first name in order to make the call more personal, then they should immediately establish that the customer has reached tech support. The greeting itself shouldn’t be overly lengthy – short and to-the-point. Lastly, coach your team to sound friendly and happy to help, this might seem as a no-brainer for most managers in the customer care industry but it’s worth to mention.

 

Active listening

Ask what issue is the ‘user’ experiencing. In the active listening phase tech support agents need to carefully listen to the description of the problem while noting down vital information, such as software version used, model of the hardware in question, operating system, and any other technical aspects what will aid in successfully diagnosing and fixing the problem.

After the issue has been explained the agent should paraphrase the problem back. This reassures the customer that we value his input, furthermore by describing the problem back at the customer we confirm that the correct issue is noted.

 

Apologise, empathise, reassure

The customer needs to be reassured that his issue will be handled properly. Be sure to apologise only when it’s your company’s product or service at fault.

Next, comes empathy, use phrases such as “I know it’s frustrating for you, I’m sorry that the issue at hand is taking time out of your day, but we will resolve it ASAP.”

Lastly, reassure the customer that you’re going to personally oversee his case.

 

Problem-solving 101

The 4th step is where the magic happens. Look up the symptoms and take steps to solve the problem.

If more research is necessary then ensure that the customer is periodically reminded that “we’re still on the case” – there’s nothing worse than leaving the customer guessing as it creates more stress in an already volatile situation.

 

Mission Accomplished

The last step is the most crucial one, ensure that the problem was resolved.
Consultants need to ask a question along the lines of “Did we fix the problem you were experiencing?” Is there anything else I can do for you?”.

The agent needs to confirm that the issue was indeed resolved, which is why asking the final question is important. It also enables the customer to confirm he or she feels satisfied with the solution and has no further enquiries.

 

Instil Confidence

Training, coaching and proper guidance will provide your customer service agents with enough ‘know-how’ and confidence to handle tech support.

Proper ‘Tools of the trade’ are essential for your employees to provide exceptional customer care services.

 

 

How to Deal with Day-to-Day Grievances

Skilful use of language to calm an angry customer is a vital part of an agent’s skill set and here’s a list of potential phrases capable of defusing any situation in a fashionable manner.

We will also discuss the four most frequent angry personality types alongside with the appropriate responses which will aid you in tackling even the most difficult ones.

Keep in mind that every customer is unique and some of them will be a mixed breed of two or sometimes more personality traits. These particular cases can be tricky so approach with caution and choose the best response.

 

The Anger Venter

Most of the time this caller will have no legitimate reason to rage at your enterprise. They probably suffered personal strain and just need to vent and your staff will be the target their anger will rain down upon – complaints will be blown out of proportions often inflating the most minute matter.

This type is quite frustrating to deal with as most contact centre agents encountered a legitimately furious customer at least once in their career and The Anger Venter type, in comparison, will just seem like a waste of time and energy.

Treat him with respect and take him seriously.

Phrases:

  • “I’m so sorry that you feel this way, Mrs Anyperson…”
  • “As a solution, may I suggest that…?”
  • “What I’ll do right now is…”
  • “We really do appreciate this feedback, Mrs Anyperson…”
  • “May I arrange for an update call, at a time most convenient for you?”

 

The Legitimate Problem

Everyone makes mistakes, that’s a fact and most of the time those are forgivable. However, from time to time, enterprises miss their quality of service by such a large margin that when an experienced agent hears about the level of incompetence it boggles their mind.

This particular archetype of an unsatisfied customer in the most important one on the list by far. You as a company failed to deliver and now they’re back with a vengeance.  One which needs to be sated.

Your agents should quickly escalate the matter but also provide immediate comfort him; be empathetic and reassure him that everything will be fixed before he even notices.

Phrases:

  • “Thank you so much for letting us know about this, Sir/Madam…”
  • “I’m so sorry to hear about this, Mrs Anyperson…”
  • “I completely understand how you feel, Sir/Madam…”
  • “Thank you so much for your patience/understanding, Mrs Anyperson…”
  • “I will action this for you right away…”

 

The Profanity Spewer

The Spewer is quite a fascinating specimen, easy to identify thanks to his high pitch roar and the overwhelming amounts of profanities he spews out.

Contact centre agents will welcome this particular customer with open arms as this is one of the few and rare interactions, during which they are allowed to terminate the call.

No employee should put up with personal abuse but the standard within the industry deems it necessary for the agent to warn the customer at least thrice before ending the conversation.

Train your staff on the emotional side of dealing with obscene callers, there is no excuse for consultants “going off the rails” themselves or spewing profanities back.

Phrases:

  • “I truly understand your concern, Sir/Madam, but unfortunately we cannot tolerate the kind of language you are using right now…”
  • “I’m going to do my very best to help you, Mrs Anyperson…”
  • “You seem very upset, Mrs Anyperson. Would you prefer to continue this conversation through email or post?”
  • “I’m sorry you’re so upset, Sir/Madam. Would you like for us to call you back when you feel a little calmer?”
  • “I apologise, Mrs Anyperson, but if you continue to use this language, I will be forced to end this call.”

 

The Threat-Monger

During the initial contact, often mistakenly identified as The Profanity Spewer but after closer examination, it becomes quite clear they’re a different beast altogether. The former’s intention is to insult the agent into cessation, the latter seeks to resolve his problem through emotional and sometimes physical intimidation.

Remember that insufficient re-compensation will only encourage more complaints. Keep in mind that despite being unpleasant and harassing your staff he is still a vital customer who is an essential source of revenue. Call takers should strive to balance their response between cool-headed formality and empathy.

Phrases:

  • “I do understand the inconvenience you’ve faced, Sir/Madam…”
  • “Let me see how I can fix this, Mrs Anyperson…”
  • “I recommend that you (insert action here), Sir/Madam, so that I can take further action without delay.”
  • “I am more than happy to help you, Mrs Anyperson…”
  • “For the quickest resolution, I would request you to…”

 

We do hope the guidelines and phrases above will prove useful in recognising troublesome customer archetypes. The biggest takeaway from such encounters is to remember one simple fact: we’re all human, we make mistakes and we do let our emotions get the better of us.

7 Daily Grind Lessons to Apply to Customer Service

Have you ever thought about how more complex our daily tasks are than we give them credit for?

There’re so many psychological layers attached to our day-to-day interactions, and yet we do not pay any attention to them anymore as we’ve grown accustomed to them.
Is it then possible to adopt the same mindset in regards to customer service and create a seamless customer experience?

We’ve sat down with our customer excellence advocates at OpsTalent. After a heated discussion, we came up with these seven examples of how to evaluate your customer experience according to real-life examples:

 

First impressions matter

When a friend or an acquaintance recommends a restaurant to you it can either be a hit or miss (but nor for the most obvious reason). You decide to visit the recommended restaurant on a Saturday evening, you expect to see many people having the time of their life and yet when you pull up you see an empty parking lot as well many vacant places in the establishment itself – you decide against going in as the situation at hand does not bode well.

The same can be applied to online approaches to customer experience such as self-service. Users need to see imminently see what makes these such a popular choice, and most importantly why they’re useful to them. A simple, inviting and always up-to-date support home page is an invaluable tool but it also needs to contain relevant content on more in-depth problems on additional pages.

 

We’re still open

Actions speak louder than words, which is why you not only have to speak about going the extra mile but actually prove to your customers that you’ll be there for them at any time – even if they’re a tiny bit late.

Embrace a positive culture by hanging out the “We’re Closed” sign later than the actual closing time. Reinforce it by implementing a company-wide rule, that all support teams need to help at least one more user before finishing for the day and before you notice, it will turn into a habit.

Customers will also catch on as they will notice their tickets resolved faster – a classical win-win situation.

 

Recognise good service

The amount you tip the person serving you is tightly connected to the quality of service. While tipping is not present in the world of customer service, it’s still important to give credit when it’s due by incorporating solutions enabling the customer to rate your consultants immediately after their customer experience while it’s still fresh in their memory.

Evaluate these customer ratings, recognise agents who constantly excel at their job and provide unique experiences to customers – distribute additional accolades if they routinely go far beyond their regular responsibilities.
The Best feedback is free feedback

Unfortunately initial feedback, despite being great is often just too basic to prompt operational change. Which is why free samples are so common throughout the beauty product industry as they are a great way to receive actionable feedback.

Implement a free sample policy, one which focuses on obtaining customer insight into your product but also over customer experience in regards to all stops on your customer journey. Boost support team morale by sharing positive customer feedback and use negative feedback as a catalyst for policy as well ass support procedure change.

 

Too many choices are overwhelming

When you need to do a quick grocery run to your local supermarket you just sigh with resentment. Because you realise, all too well that upon entering the premise you will be bombarded with vast options to choose from, thus turning a quick trip into a journey.

A similar problem recently appeared in the customer service field. Customers are experiencing issues when met with the necessity of evaluating the best way to get in touch with you. The problem gets exponentially convoluted depending on who the customer wants to reach. Do they intend to contact the technology, software or application group? How severe is their issue, is it Tier 1 or Tier 2?

Which is why it’s essential to properly define presented to your customers in a clear and simple format, taking the weight of “too many choices” of their shoulders and just letting your consultants do their work.

 

Don’t be afraid to guide customers

It’s pretty common for retail stores to push sales of certain products they have a surplus of by placing the product at eye level on the shelf and further reinforce it by setting up in-store displays.

Customer service solutions are not that different and can implement a similar approach by featuring their best support method across multiple digital assets as well as featuring it at a prominent spot on their web page. Furthermore, it’s possible to up the ante by pushing live chat on the main self-service page (the one covering basic topics) while keeping email and phone numbers on topic-specific subpages.

 

Public service announcements

We’re conditioned to react in a certain way to public service announcements, we take them seriously as they inform us of potential disruptive or even dangerous conditions happening near us.

Fortunately, you can condition your customers in a similar fashion. If there’s a major problem causing a system-wide support crisis let your customers now how will it impact the availability of your service but don’t stop there. Make them aware how you’re dealing with it, provide an approximate problem resolution time and most importantly, keep them updated when the issue extends or new issues are discovered during your troubleshooting efforts.

The only way to effectively acknowledge your customer’s problem is to inexplicitly show them you’re not ignoring it by providing a constant stream of informational updates and providing a fix.

 

There are more ways you can apply daily-grind schematics to customer support situations and we only covered the most obvious ones. However, the above vividly shows that you can guide your customers and consultants down a certain path, and in time turn it all into a habit.

Don’t be afraid to forgo traditional approaches to customer support in favour of anecdotal ones. Unique approaches, when reinforced by practical application of real-life experiences make your business more relatable – and that’s what modern customer service really is about.

Reduce Effort & Supercharge Your Customer Journey

Technology is perceived by many as the ultimate problem solving tool, one which makes life easier and more efficient. However, when consumer expectations are not effectively met it ends up being inconvenient and frustrating.

It should not come as a surprise that brands and manufacturers spend massive amounts of resources on their R&D (research and development). With each passing year products and services become more complex in terms of technology used as well as device interconnectivity. Unfortunately as a result, enterprises lose sight of the big picture and fail to implement a customer-first approach.

If you want mainstream adoption for your tech product or service, you need to make customer effort and usability your number one priority.

Focus on every aspect of the customer journey

Retention, loyalty and advocacy all take a massive hit when brands ignore customer effort

The average user will get discouraged if technology is too complex or confusing to set up and use regularly, which is why you must lavage innovative support strategies and drive meaningful engagement to improve customer experience.

Tech companies should interact with and listen to their consumers at every possible opportunity.

Identify problem areas and minimise customer effort by driving engagement and collecting valuable feedback at every stage of the customer journey.

The three most time consuming stages of the customer journey are: setup, maintenance and troubleshooting. Sadly these seem to be lower priority, than their highly streamlined pre-purchase and purchase counterparts. It should be a major red flag for any technology product as it correlates with retaining customers and building brand loyalty, thus directly impacts the bottom line.

Make it easy for the customers and meet them where they are

You can please everyone, just provide the ability to interact with your brand through multiple communication channels – sounds easy, right?

In reality, it’s far from easy as consumer expectations continue to evolve in response to changes in our increasingly connected digital world. Personalised strategies across multiple channels are no longer an added bonus, they are a necessity if brands want to reduce customer effort while meeting expectations.

Maintain uniform context but tailor interactions to fit each channel specifically

The current consumer generation is actively pushing for more self-service options, ones which let them troubleshoot and solve issues on their own, without professional tech support ever getting involved – provide flexibility by implementing self-service but have live customer support as backup.

But with omnichannel you need to focus on maintaining uniform context for customer interactions across all channels by keeping track of interaction history, whether assisted or unassisted.

This will streamline the process as customers will be able to seamlessly change channels and escalate easily if necessary, thus allowing them to resolve issues faster and with less frustration as nobody likes to repeat the same information over, and over again.

No matter the communication channel (email, social media, VOIP), tech brands need to reduce customer effort and show how much they value their customers time by implementing personalised support options on each channel and at every step of the customer journey.

Leverage data and provide proactive support

Consumers expect proactive support, therefore provide sufficient self-diagnosing tools and suggested fixes which streamline the troubleshooting process even further.

Tech companies are great at gathering and leveraging data, therefore they should have no problem applying the very same approach to custumer journey: gather, analyse and apply user data to tweak your customer care processes and create a lasting, positive customer experience.

By pinpointing the key areas where customers are experiencing problems in brands can direct them to appropriate self-support solutions or assign them to a tech support agent who has access to the right information and is able to resolve the issue quickly and with minimal frustration.

Leveraging user data as well as providing proactive support are both essential during early stages of setting up or implementing new technology solutions, as consumers will be more likely to experience a seamless, positive brand experience.

Long term impact on the bottom line

Technology brands and manufacturers need to take a step back and look at the big picture when developing new products, the entirety of customer journey matters – do not focus on the early stages only.

Nurture your relationship with consumers by implementing flexible self-service options, leveraging user data and providing access through multiple communication channels, thus being there for them in their time of need.

Positive engagement is essential to reducing customer effort, boosting brand loyalty and increasing revenue.

Customer Centricity: Gather, Rate, Engage & Measure

What each and every customer-centric business strives to achieve, is to create the perfect customer experience and making it last.

Focus your strategy on making the whole experience as convenient and approachable as you possibly can for the customer – if you manage to create such an environment, other aspects follow suit.

Create a great starting point for your business by following these simple steps:


The power of feedback

To be customer-centric you need to keep customer relationships up to date, engaging in proper conversations and gathering feedback through multiple channels is crucial.

One way to do this is through conducting ongoing customer surveys on a weekly basis, especially to newly acquired customers

Conduct customer surveys on a weekly basis, but don’t limit those to product or service information. Gather opinions on the ease of use your website, web-chat performance, load times etc.

Simply ask your customers what could be improved and what additional features would they like to use.

Separate the data into key groups, gather the most frequent requests from each and implement them over the course of three to six months – don’t forget to notify the customers about new features and interface or usability changes.

Constant feedback, gives you the insight to create a smooth customer experience.


Rate your “stuff”

Rating your own products is in your best interest, it shows you value your customers time and money as well instills confidence in your expertise.

The most commonly used practise when rating products, is to base them according to customer purchase and return history.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy for consumables and various merchandise which can change its quality over a period of time. You need to notify the customer, that a particular product is ranked as a four out of five condition.

This gives your customer the option of choosing the best product quality there is, or going with the “Most bang for your buck” approach.

Quality of your products or services matters the most – nurture it with extreme care.


Measure customer engagement

The more data you can gather the better. Create a profile for each and every customer, remember to include their purchase and return history, log what products they were browsing, what is on their wish list etc. – be creative.

Also, take a closer look and see if the particular user is mostly going for high-end products, or goes for the budget option, examine brands – does he favour one?

You can always improve the way information and product rating are displayed, the possibilities of creating an engaging environment for your customers are endless – get to it!

Personalise the experience for each individual, and engage them each time they visit your web-page.


Pay attention to shifts in trends and pricing

The current economic “climate” has effected most industries, but for every negative try to find a small positive.

Selling less high end products is not a bad thing, most customers will shift their focus to brands which deliver similar quality for less cost. If you notice these trends fast enough, you will exceed at selling more budget products than your potential competitors.

This is why measuring online engagement and customer feedback is crucial when creating an adaptable business strategy.

The above steps are all you need in order to create a great and lasting customer experience – get to it!

10 Rules of Social Sales

You can start your social selling venture by messaging potential leads on LinkedIn, or sharing relevant content on Twitter, or you might go as far as publishing a blog post.

These are all good starting points, but to be successful you need to go in with a solid game-plan.

All great social sellers have a process in place, one that supplements their tactics, thus creating a definitive framework to help navigate through this relatively new phenomenon called social selling.

The latest SlideShare from PGi lists 10 rules that effective social sellers and social selling programs need to contain in order to become coherent, efficient and most importantly successful.

 

 

Five Milestones on The Path to Business Growth

When customers engage your company, they embark on a journey, one which will hopefully turn them into loyal customers and brand advocates.

How can we ensure the customer reaches the desired destination?

Sematrix’s latest infographic does exactly that. It shows us how to improve customer experience at each stage of the customer journey by implementing five milestones on the path to business growth.

 

Customer_Journey_Infographic_

5 Ways to Make Your LinkedIn Profile Irresistible

How to create the perfect, irresistible profile?

According to the latest infographic from Social@Ogilvy, all it takes, is just five steps.
Start by adding SEO keywords to your page. Treat LinkedIn as a vessel for your career story, think how you want to portray it. Finally, enhance your profile picture and streamline your link.

Who could resist this perfectly ‘polished’ cupcake?

 

5-LinkedIn-Tips-Infographic