Feel Your Customers For Success

Posted by on Oct 1, 2014 in Customer Experience Management, Customer Service, Feedback | 0 comments

Small businesses now look set for their biggest challenge yet, having survived thus far in the face of supermarket giants expanding and discounting into a range of non-food markets such as books, clothes and even car tyres, and then also competition from global online retailers such as Amazon. This latest test from large organisations is in their deployment of the latest advanced CXM (Customers Experience Management) systems to deliver an amazing customer experience.

As we move into the new age of the customer, driven by CXM, we’re fast leaving behind a time when a business could merely pay lip service to customers care, when a call to customer service involved them being passed from advisor to advisor, and being put on hold so many times that a week later the customer still found themselves humming the hold music.

Social media has given a vast audience to any customer left disgruntled by a service or product, meaning a hard earned reputation built up over years could be shattered in no time at all. More than this a new breed of organisation has emerged that has done the simple maths, and realised that moving a marketing budget across to CX (Customer Experience) is in fact the best way to attract new business, listening and reacting to customer feedback, marketing to the individual, and then using the word of mouth generated after ‘wowing’ their existing customers to grow their business, and of course in turn, vastly reducing the churn rate of previously dissatisfied customers too.

To compete in terms of customer service in the years to come, SMEs must leverage the one advantage to their size, that being the staff and owners in the business can really get to know their customers on a personal level, and building real relationships with each. Further to this using a feedback scheme will be essential to act as a barometer in terms of how customers really feel about their business at any given time, running throughout the lifecycle of the relationship with the customer. The customer isn’t always right, but should be made to feel they are, and any business failing to listen to their feedback scheme and focus on how their customers feel, will find they gradually fall behind in this the new age of the customer.

The customer isn’t always right

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Protecting Your Hotel Or Restaurant Against Bad Online Reviews

Posted by on Sep 25, 2014 in Customer Experience Management, Customer Service, Feedback | 0 comments

If you work in the hospitality industry, perhaps running a B&B, hotel or restaurant, then one of your biggest issues for the last two or three years has probably been the damage that can be caused to your business by negative online reviews.

Whilst you may work hard to ensure a quality service, the likelihood is that from time-to-time you still get negative reviews, as what is considered excellent by one customer, will be viewed as unacceptable by another. The truth is that guests or customers often aren’t best placed to critique an establishment, since they are not an inspector who is spending their days inspecting similarly priced venues in the same locality, therefore their ‘yardstick’ may have been set at an unrealistic level.

So if you are in hospitality, perhaps running a guesthouse, hotel, pub or restaurant, what can you do to protect your business reputation against the often unjustified negative online reviews? Well in reality it is often tough to get existing negative reviews removed. Some sites do offer a system whereby you get points for each positive review, and so collect enough and you can exchange them for having a negative comment removed, but this is often not an available option and so the best solution long-term has to be to avoid getting them in the first place.

It’s impossible to get everything right, for every customer, all of the time…but you should always aim to. However when things do go wrong, to avoid negative reviews firstly provide an easy to use feedback scheme, making it more likely unhappy customers will feedback to you rather than vent their displeasure on a review site as people these days are busy and would seldom have time to do both. Then when you do get negative feedback it’s essential you fight the impulse to be defensive, you must challenge yourself to make the customer happy, remembering often they will then become a bigger advocate for your business than one that was happy in the first place.

Secondly, since you are putting in place a feedback scheme and acting upon the feedback i.e. implementing closed loop feedback, why not go all the way to adopting a customer experience focus within your business, and really set out to ‘wow’ your customers with your service levels. If you do you will find the word of mouth benefits will easily outweigh the extra time, money and effort invested, and also you yourself will feel far more positive about and indeed rightly proud of your business.

It's impossible

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Don’t Fightback, Feedback!

Posted by on Sep 16, 2014 in Customer Service, Feedback, Voice of the Customer | 0 comments

In the new era of social media and review sites, customers have power like never before to damage a business and its reputation. Find a fly in your soup at a local restaurant, and a quick witty post about it on TripAdvisor or on Facebook and you’ll soon have the world believing the establishment boasts more insect life than the jungles of Panama.

A question though perhaps we might ask ourselves is, should we in the first instance be posting views on social media or review sites after we leave a premises, potentially inflicting real damage to the business concerned? Alternatively, should we not recognise it’s very difficult to get everything right, especially for every single customer, and so instead feedback to the management quietly, giving them the at least a chance to improve their business and perhaps even make it up to us personally.

Certainly if the business concerned were run by a friend or member of our own family, we wouldn’t dream of publishing negative feedback online as we’d recognise the hard work they put into building the business, and that it would cause them damage. So why do we so readily seek to take this action rather than feedback as we would do if we knew the owner? The English don’t like to make complaints, we prefer to have something to moan about later, but when this negative comment finds its way onto social media and review sites this is no longer harmless chat, it’s broadcasting, and could indeed be seen as malicious since it potentially causes such great harm.

Business owners also need to play a significant part in changing the feedback culture too; management should consider putting in place a feedback scheme / voice of the customer facility. Once received, it is vital any feedback is acted upon quickly, demonstrating to the customer their feedback will result in a positive change and that the business sincerely cares that they are unhappy with their experience. If a customer rescue is achieved and the situation rectified, research shows that these customers will be more loyal than before, and indeed be bigger advocates for the business.

The English don't like to complain2

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The New Age of Customer Care

Posted by on Sep 9, 2014 in Customer Experience Management, Customer Service, Feedback, Voice of the Customer | 0 comments

Over the last ten years the internet has changed the way most of us do business or indeed are a customer, and we are still very much at an early stage in the evolution of what we currently term the web. It may seem hard to imagine but the next decade will see even greater change, but this time driven as customer service catches up to technology with the advent of Customer Experience Management (CXM) replacing or laying on top of existing CRM systems.

CXM will aid large corporations achieve a high level of customer care that many of which have previously been unknown for, almost anticipating a customer’s needs and listening to their feedback when they have issues by way of VoC, feedback schemes and other contact at customer touchpoints. This is in stark contrast to the first decade of the mass adoption of the internet, when many businesses sought to almost hide behind their websites when customers wanted to make contact. As customers chased purchased products or were seeking to make a complaint, they trawled around websites in vain looking for a telephone number or even just an email address to make a follow-up enquiry. A ridiculous practice when we look back now, akin to a bricks and mortar shopkeeper jumping behind the counter of his store and turning off the lights if he believed a customer might be on their way back to return goods.

If you are running a business in the approaching new age of customer care then the message is simple, now the world has gone online and you no longer see your customers, you better start listening to them. If you don’t listen to your customers your competitors surely will, and would be more than happy to fulfil their needs. For small businesses not able to employ such complex CXM technology they will have to become a beacon of personal service, getting to know their customers like a local shopkeeper might have done fifty years ago. For the customer this is all good news, and marks a welcome shift away from the frustration of dealing with companies that sometimes didn’t even previously pay lip service to customer care.

The New Age of Customer Care

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The Opportunity Is The Problem

Posted by on Sep 8, 2014 in Customer Experience Management, Customer Service, Feedback, Voice of the Customer | 0 comments

Human nature dictates that we trust and value a friendship more once it’s been tested, and the same is true for customer loyalty after an issue arises and the business proves it truly cares. Having had a problem corrected many studies have shown customers become more loyal than they were previous to the issue, indeed oftentimes they then become the biggest advocates for the business.

Most companies today still see contacts made for customer service reasons as a drain on resources only. If we consider the Call Handling Time key performance indicator used in most contact centres, that statistic really equates to how quickly each Customer Service Advisor can end each call rather then ensure each caller is completely happy, let alone go on to use the opportunity for developing the relationship with the customer.

In an overloaded social media world, having a direct conversation or dialog at length with any customer and building a direct relationship has become far more difficult, especially for larger organisations or companies that primarily do business online. So, now in contrast to most, some forward thinking organisations are embracing this type of customer service contact as a chance to develop a deeper relationship, and differentiating themselves from their competitors by showing a high level of care and value toward the customer.

In time with the advent of Customer Experience Management (CXM), each and every contact either via a feedback scheme, Voice of the Customer channel or direct to a contact centre call will be viewed as critical to every business. Until such a time there remains a huge advantage for the early pioneers into CXM, and those organisations seeing the opportunity in feedback and complaints to really set themselves apart from their competitors, by using this customer initiated contact to actually build stronger relationships.

Once its been tested

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The Positive of Negative Feedback

Posted by on Sep 6, 2014 in Customer Service, Feedback | 1 comment

We all love to get feedback when it’s positive, without exception this is true, and conversely the opposite is so for negative feedback which tends to make us instinctively defensive.

It’s not surprising this is the case, if we put in vast amounts of time, effort and perhaps money into building a product or business that we ourselves believe in, then quite naturally it causes in us the emotions of anger and perhaps even pain when someone is critical of it, or the opposite is true if the feedback is positive as it makes us feel a sense of recognition for our labour.

With all feedback it’s important to remember that in most cases the person giving it sees nothing of your effort, nor are they aware of the time you’ve invested, or indeed even understand your intentions or objectives in trying to create something great, they merely see the results of your work and their feedback is simply their experience of these at a single given time.

Since one of your primary aims in business is to make as many customers as happy as possible as much of the time as possible, it makes feedback and each and every customers perspective important. On an individual level it gives you the opportunity to change a person’s negative opinion, and when taken collectively with other customer feedback it can stop you investing your most important commodity which is your time, into things in which your customers may perceive have far less value than you do yourself. Feedback can be a real guide in directing your efforts within your business.

A rather simplistic but useful example of this for illustrative purposes might be in a restaurant perhaps, in which a conscientious chef may love his own grandmother’s particular family recipe for a pie. He may spend extra time preparing this particular dish since it’s a speciality of his and indeed his wife’s favourite too, but if more often than not customers feel it contains too much pepper then the chef would be wise to listen to this feedback, and hold back on what is a minor ingredient rather than seasoning to his own taste. The chef may not prefer the pie himself, but the customers will be happier, the restaurant will sell more pie which is the ultimate objective, and the chef can always be more liberal with the pepper when he next makes the pie at home for his family.

The point being listening to feedback allows you to give the customer what they want, not just what you think they want. Feedback creates an opportunity to save your time and your money, especially negative feedback whenever you can obtain it so it should be welcomed and indeed highly valued. By listening to negative feedback you can achieve greater success, as by adapting your business to accommodate the wishes of your customers you will achieve more repeat business. Positive feedback can also prove useful, giving confirmation of when you are getting things right. A word of caution though in that all feedback is merely a snapshot, and continuously seeking more feedback is essential to maintain standards and to ensure any example of positive feedback isn’t a minority held view, or simply proof that you got things right on one day out of seven.

Listening to feedback

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