Customer Experience Conference Notes
This document contains transcriptions of notes that I took at a conference in May 2013. It's worth noting that notes taken during a lecture are not a comprehensive record of the lecture itself, but merely capture some of the salient points, nor is there much fidelity, as a note may represent something that occurred to me as a result of something that a speaker said, but which was not in the actual presentation.
With that in mind I am preserving only these notes, redacting the name of the conference, speakers, and their companies - not with the intent of plagiarizing their ideas, merely because this is not an accurate representation of them.
Understanding the Digital Customer
The digital channel has evolved very quickly. The smartphone is a revolutionary device that has been around for just a few years (less than a decade) and has already changed consumer behavior significantly.
At the same time there is much hype about digital being the new platform, that the computer will simply disappear, which is a gross exaggeration. The computer, desktop of laptop, is still the primary means of access, with the smartphone functioning as an "as needed accessory" that fills a niche.
However, there are a lot of niches, and a lot of little things that could be done. Consider LG electronics consideration of the smartphone as a device that will be used in the home. You can be in the living room or in the back yard and get an alert that the dryer will be done in five minutes, freeing you from having to give attention to it or stay within range to hear the buzzer.
Even so, it is huge and an intimate part of life. 79% of smartphone users reach for their device within 15 minutes of waking up - and it's 89% among the 18-24 year old segment. It's their alarm clock, and they're checking email before they have both eyes open.
There has been a massive proliferation of data, particularly since storage has become very cheap (EN: A terabyte drive now costs less than $100 at retail - it would have costs tens of thousands a decade ago an beet utterly unthinkable two decades ago.) We collect and store data on the most trivial things and can know every click a customer made over the course of a year.
We don't use it well. The "big data" fad has not been very productive because systems don't share data, people within a firm don't even talk to one another. There's this mountain of data no-one has any idea of how to use. The prize for figuring it out will be a very detailed view of the customer, ultimately enabling us to provide excellent service. The prize for the first firm in any industry for figuring it out is utter domination of the market.
Mobile gives you the conveniences of location, but has a very clumsy user experience. That is not likely to change soon and will only get worse as devices proliferate and shrink. You will not be able to do much with a wristwatch-sized computer, simply due to the small interface size. Seems there is a trade-off between convenience and capability as long as our notion of "interface" involves a screen.
Do not break what you are already doing well. No product or interaction is ever perfect, and any design change is a trade-off. You will lose something - make sure it's not something more valuable than what you gain in exchange.
Take what theorists have to say with a grain of salt, They are very often drastically wrong. Watch what people do rather than what they say. This goes for your customers and competitors as well.
Far more important than the way that customers are buying your product is how they are using it in their lives. The purchase and servicing transactions are but fleeting moments in a longer relationship between a customer and a product.
Usability testing must enter the real environment of mobile. Lab tests where the user is in a quiet environment and focused on task, with the device bolted to a table, are entirely unrealistic. You have to test in the real environment, which is easier to do in B2B (you can observe people in the workplace) than B2C (you likely cannot watch them as they sleep in their own bedroom). This is the most serious mistake most firms are making and it is the source of many bad decisions.
One of the least-used features of the smartphone is the phone. (EN: Much in the way that "baking" is one of the least common uses of baking powder anymore. The product evolved away from its original benefit.)
Meanwhile, the most-used features functions are checking email frequently and sending text messages. It is still primarily a device used for interpersonal communication between people.
Getting information is a distant third, and even then it's taken in small bites. What's my bank balance? What's the weather like outside? What's that actor's name? I want to know but don't want to get off the couch.
Mobile is being pursued with very little intelligence. Just because it can be done doesn't mean people want to do it. Just because your competition is doing it doesn't mean it's a good idea. They may not be getting results and may be harming themselves - and they will not discover it until much later.
Putting your entire Web site into a mobile application is a horrible idea. Time and again, it is stated by customers that they need quick access to a data bite and do not want the full site - which his clumsy and inconvenient on the mobile platform. At the same time, some people are not willing to walk to the corner of the room and switch on the computer, so the full site should always be an option. It will be a clumsy experience, but it is their choice (EN: and they likely recognize this)
Multichannel Customer Experience Strategy
Defining "the customer" in the healthcare industry is a convoluted matter: the product is ultimately used by a patient, but at the direction (and with the permission) of a doctor or other healthcare provider, who is beholden to hospital administrators, who are beholden to government regulators.
Who decides what medicine the customer takes? That also varies by country, culture, and individual. In the US the patient is empowered to demand a specific medication and does not balk at doing so. That is not true everywhere, and while it is believed that many patients do this, far more do not and rely on their doctor, insurance company, or government regulator to make the choice for them.
No other industry is so tightly regulated on a global basis. But given the current economic meltdown, governments have clamped down on the financial services sector, who may find themselves in the same stew. The bad behavior of some becomes micromanagement of all.
The customers interact with a brand, not only by using the product but by hearing about it from others - both those with first-hand experience as well as from those with none (a doctor hasn't taken the pills he prescribes, nor does the journalist who writes about it, nor have most employees of a customer that makes it).
The consolidation of these brand interactions form a perception, which becomes the reputation of the firm. The "reality" of your brand is based on second-hand information that may often be distorted.
Information flows slowly from pharmaceuticals. In many countries it is not legal to advertise or communicate to the public at all. In the US, it is, but very sensitive. It takes about seven months for information to be approved for publication. Make any change along the way and that clock gets reset. It requires careful planning and you can't be sloppy with words or you will never publish.
Companies claim to be enthusiastic about digital but their behavior doesn't follow. The same executives who enthusiastically sign off on a $22 million budget for a television advertisement will balk at $500K for a digital experience that is much richer and more engaging with a far better targeted audience.
Mobile applications are evanescent. People will donload them, use them obsessively for a short time, then never again.
There seems to be no middle ground, customers are with "all in" or "fold" when it comes to adopting new technologies. Companies, and even entire industries seem to be the same way. Some leapt into the deep end of the pool, others (such as healthcare) have dipped a toe and wandered away.
Social media scares lawyers. If you have a Facebook presence you are presumed to be aware of every single comment made on it and may be held responsible for reacting (or failing to react) to what one wag says in a frivolous moment.
Customers seem to expect you to know everything about them - and when you do, they think you are a creep.
A company with many brands must maintain separate sties and presences for each consumer brand. People know the name of the pill, not who makes it, and don't really care who makes it. You cannot make them care.
Business metrics are inward-facing and have nothing to do with the customer's actual needs. That must change.
We should consider customer actions, not brand messages, as the essential molecules of the customer experience.
"We love to plan but hate to respond" is a common problem.
Focus on empowering the customer to take the next most likely action in their moment of need.
"We're discovering portals again." While execution of the portal concept was hideous the last time around, the idea has some merit because different groups of customers have entirely different needs and interests.
Monitoring the Performance of Digital Customer Touch Points
(EN: This was a "directed discussion" which meant that the audience blabbered about whatever was on their minds, which were already taxed from absorbing loads of information - so it's just random stuff.)
- Mobile and Web are as different as newspaper and radio. You have to treat each channel as its own world, but know your customer lives in both worlds at different times.
- The younger demographic is migrating to mobile and will try anything. That doesn't mean they will adopt it for the long run.
- There are many things you can do on mobile that you cannot or shouldn't do with your Web presence, and vice-versa
- Mobile retail shows significantly lower revenue per transaction. People buy the thing they wanted and leave, and do not browse about leisurely or give any attention to suggestive selling.
- A major issue is that people often check email on mobile - and if you provide a click-through to your Web site the experience will be miserable. It's estimated that as much as 50% to 60% of people check email on mobile. So you can't add a link to an email message casually, but must make sure that it can be clicked through on a smartphone
- Technology does nothing to solve problems if it is not used, and it creates more problems if it is used incompetently
- In spite of the fact that there is proof that CX can increase revenue and decrease costs, many firms are still ignoring the data or simply refuse even to collect it. They wish to cling to their preference for doing business rather than serve the customer's preferences. This is going to cost them dearly.
- Companies have gone overboard on paying attention to the customer. The desire to collect data or provide individual service has been taken too far: customers are beginning to express complaints about obsequious service, and are tired of being constantly surveyed.
Improve Your Online End-User Experience
(EN: I gave little attention to this presentation, as it was mostly about the very basics - optimize your images and make sure your Web site doesn't contain any broken links. Very few morsels of interest in this kindergarten-class lecture.)
Executives, consultants, and designers are fond of their novel ideas for how to improve their Web sites. If it does not produce financial results, it's hundreds of thousands to entertain narcissistic whimsy. If it moves the needle in the wrong direction, it's millions of dollars.
Customers are in charge. They decide whom to give their business. How can anyone deny this? But many still do, and continue to behave as if customers have no alternative but to do business with them.
Optimize for interaction, not performance. The mental capacity of the user to absorb information is significantly less than the capacity of servers and connections to deliver it.
Companies are making a lot of bone-headed errors when it comes to social media. Make sure it's easy for a person to "like" or "share" but fail to consider what it looks like on their FB wall to another user.
Cross-Channel Brand Experience
(EN: Very little useful information in this presentation. It was largely a sales pitch for his agency, describing the services they provide for clients.)
Simplicity gets results. Most brands that are successful have a very simple message to the customer - it's not about teaching them the breadth of everything you do, but about telling them how you can meet their needs of the moment.
Components of brand include its purpose, values, promises, and personality. The tone of your copy and the color of your logo are components and should derive from that rather than trying to drive it.
A brand must have an ownable and unique expression. You do not distinguish yourself by looking and sounding exactly like every other firm in your industry or sector.
Consider four basic demands customers: show me, encourage me, help me, and recognize me.
Text that is written by the legal department gives customers the distinct impression that the firm is looking to withhold benefits and keep your money.
Quick Win Strategies for Measuring Social Media
There's a lot that you do not know and cannot know. If your CX map begins with a customer visiting your Web site or entering your store, you are ignoring everything that happens before that. You are also ignoring everything that happens after they leave.
In an attempt to get more information, companies are doing lots of surveys. It is not an understatement to say that there are tens of millions of customer surveys conducted every year, and customers are less willing to participate because they're getting sick of it.
Consider that telemarketers have trained people to screen their calls or ignore a ringing telephone - marketers are getting to that point with surveys. In 1997 you had a 36% chance that a person would pick up the phone. Now it's less than 9%.
Consider that this means when you conduct a telephone survey, you will get responses from only a small number of people who are desperate enough to answer the phone when they don't know who is calling - which his not representative of your audience.
A better approach is social media listening. Lost of people are talking. They may not be saying quite what you want to hear. That's a good thing. Unsolicited feedback is more varied and more honest.
Longevity of customers is key to success. It cannot be argued that retaining a customer costs less and earns more revenue than bringing in a new customer.
Estimated: 68% of customers leave a band because of a bad service experience. Retaining customers has little to do with price - but price is an easy scapegoat. Lowering your price does not bring them back. It's like a discount coupon for a product you do not want because you know it's not very good. The entire notion of brand value is that people will pay more to get something better.
Customer satisfaction metrics are like religions. Everyone will defend the validity of the metrics in which they believe regardless of whether they correspond at all to behavior in the real world. You have to fire and executive and replace him with one that believes in a different approach in order to make real change in your organization.
The speaker's own "religion" of metrics is that prospect conversion and customer repurchasing are the holiest of holies.
Your biggest returns re not in getting dissatisfied or indifferent customers (rate you as a 1 to 3 on a 5-point rating scale) to be satisfied, but in getting customers who are already happy (4/5 rating) to become deliriously happy (5/5 rating)
Surveys are subjective and behavior is objective. Many people will give responses to market research that indicate they will do something that they do not actually do. It's like someone says "let's do lunch" - you should not expect that will ever happen.
If you must survey:
- Don't ask for any information you are unwilling or unable to take action upon
- Ensure that someone, a specific person, is going to take ownership of each question and react
- Don't ask what you already know or can find out from another source
Multichannel Customer Expectations
(EN: This was an attempt to have audience discussion on various topics. The moderator let the audience suggest topics they wanted to talk about it, then left them to chat among themselves. So what follows is largely conjectural - impressions of insiders based loosely on their own experience or what they desire their experience to be.)
Customers seem to have little appetite for chat. Even those who provide an option for customers to contact them via SMS get very few chat sessions, and very superficial ones. For immediate and interactive service, customers call. When they can afford to wait, they email.
Chat fills a niche: when the customer is on the Web site and feels lost they can open a chat on that page to get advice on what they need to do to get to the next page. It's very good for that.
In that sense, chat is a failure recovery system. Something on the page is unclear or insufficient, and chat sessions identify what it is.
Obviously, we should use chat transcripts to help us fix problems. However, while we are able to log chat sessions they do not lend themselves easily to analysis, so most of the data is ignored.
VOC comes from the chat operators, those who take the initiative to reach out when many customers seem to be having the same issue. There ought to be a better way, but nobody's found it yet.
A single operator can typically support six to eight simultaneous chat sessions. This is because users are multitasking when they chat, so there are long gaps in between responses.
Load balancing should be dynamic based on the number of exchanges, not the number of chat sessions. It is a bad experience for customers who are giving their full attention to the conversation and expect your operator to do the same.
The perception if you are answering slowly is that your operator is not very well informed and has to reference information to answer even a simple question, or they are "crafting" a disingenuous response.
In that sense, the "multitasking" premise becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy: because you are not paying attention and there are long gaps between query and response, the customer finds something else to do while waiting for you to respond, which slows down the session considerably.
Customer Expectations in a Dynamic Environment
Some companies seek to be engaged with the customer because they feel the need to be engaged or have heard that engagement is important. They have no idea why they are engaging, and as a result the interaction is unproductive to the firm and frustrating to the customer.
Agenda is an important concept - to know what you wish to achieve by having a conversation, to understand what the other party is seeking to achieve, and to find where those two areas overlap.
You must put the customer's agenda before your own - if you are entirely self-serving in your engagements, customers won't want to engage with you. Which is to say, they won't want to do business with you.
Generally, the customer is motivated by a need to accomplish a goal or sooth a problem. The wish to learn what they must do in order to get you to do what needs to be done to satisfy their need. They are willing to cooperate, and "pay" with their participation in your process, but only to some degree, and only if it benefits them.
The speaker is in the healthcare industry, where customer needs, the competitive markets, and the regulatory environment are constantly shifting, so it's a chore to keep on top of things.
The present trend seems to favor a holistic approach - firms want to handle every need related to a specific area of a customer's life. They end up doing a lot of things very poorly and few things very well. The customer is much happier if you do less and do it better.
Customers demand simplicity. They reward "easy" with their dollars and punish "complicated" by walking away.
Your excellent reputation will attract new customers, but will not retain them. If anything it will attract customers who come pre-loaded with very high expectations that you will have difficulty meeting. Stop trying to grow your reputation - provide a quality service and your reputation will take care of itself.
Expectations pertain to the customer's belief (not your promises) that you will address the "void" between the situation in which they find themselves and the one in which they wish to be.
Of course, customers are not very good at communicating their needs. They will tell you their wants, which are the things they think will address their needs, and they will be wrong about them. And they will feel it's your fault for giving them what they asked for rather than what they needed.
Be grateful for demanding customers: if you meet their difficult and persnickety demands, they will be overjoyed and will give you their loyalty and promote you to everyone they know. Complacent customers with low expectations are easy to "satisfy" (mere satisfaction rather than delight) and are easily lured away because they regard your service as a commodity.
There is a "sea of sameness" created by firms who all listen to the same research and who all attempt to copy the industry leaders. This commoditizes service and lowers overall customer expectations.
Companies that attempt to "educate": customers really want the customer to yield to their preferences rather than serving the customer's preference. Getting the customer to accept your preferred way of doing business may feel like success ... but in the long term it is not.
The "wow" factor can be very alluring, but do not forget that customers have basic expectations that must be met and they will not be happy if they are not. A waiter who has a sparkling personality and who is willing to do everything possible to make sure his diners have a spectacular evening - with the exception of actually brining them something to eat - is not going to succeed.
Just because they pay you, buy multiple times, and do not express complaints does not mean they are happy. You have to ask. And if you ask, you have to listen and then to act.
Companies are glad to do anything that is quick and cheap and makes a lot of money. That's a given. Gaining competitive advantage and keeping it means doing things that are hard and have little ROI (and maybe a short-run loss for the sake of a long-term gain). Few firms are willing to do that. Those that do will win.
Fear of getting it wrong prevents firms from even trying to get it right, or abandoning plans at the first sign of trouble. They are skittish and fearful, largely because of high pressure to make short-term gains encourages them not to think about the long-term. Take the time to ask questions rather than rushing down the shortest path to an immediate sale.
The customer, meanwhile, always has an eye on the long-term. They have an immediate need and will buy an immediate solution, but are always looking for the opportunity to find a vendor that will take care of them for life.
Focus on employee training and morale. Engaged employees generate 11% more sales, are 12% more productive, have 27% less absenteeism, and make 33% fewer errors.
There are also personal agendas for employees: they have an agenda to keep their job and advance in their career and will do the things necessary to accomplish that. Offering incentives (or punishments) for certain behavior will get them to do what you want, not what is right. When you reward compliance rather than performance, your management is compelling them to do things they likely know are wrong and harmful - but desire to keep their job and make you happy will compel them to do that.
Map the customer journey - from the moment they recognize a need to the moment the need is fulfilled. This often requires ethnographic or observational studies rather than interviewing or surveying, because customers confabulate.
You can try codesigning with customers - gather groups of eight customers and ask them to design your product experience from the ground up. Do not take this as the solution, but as input to consider. (EN: Though what was said about confabulation goes double here, and is compounded with lack of experience and knowledge.)
Consider this: a customer's expectations are defined by the very best experience the customer has ever had - not just with you, but in your entire industry, and sometimes across every industry. Anything less is a disappointment that they will tolerate.
Innovations in Customer Experience Design
The goal of CX design is to solve the customer's problem with as much ease and as little frustration as possible.
Executives and especially consultants have no trouble coming up with wacky ideas to improve customer experience. Where they fail is in vetting out and validating the ideas to identify which ones are actually worth pursuing.
The greatest mistake, and this is all too common, is pulling the trigger on a major (or even minor) customer experience initiative without ever having spoken to the customer.
Some elements of experience matter more than other. Get the important things right and the customer will ignore the little things. Focus on making the little things exceptional and miss the important ones, and the customer will walk.
When customers are well treated they change their own behavior. If people "dress up" to come to your place of business with and mind their manners when interacting with your staff, you're on the right track.
The pinnacle of success is not mere satisfaction, but getting customers and prospects to say "You'd be crazy to do business with anyone else."
- Identify the most important moments
- Identify the emotions experience at that moment
- Consider how to heighten or mitigate the emotions
- Consider the customer's willingness to pay for emotional benefits
For many businesses, the period during which the customer will own and use the product is far longer and more important to them than the shopping and buying experience. Even in the service industry: the haircut it takes thirty minutes to deliver is going to be worn for weeks.
Incremental improvement is good, but to overhaul your customer experience requires making big and drastic changes. "Agile" is good for little improvements and fine tuning but is an awful approach for making major changes.
If your brand is not distinctive (different from other options) you have no hope of making a strong and lasting impression on customers.
- Deliver genuine value
- Get the bad stuff over with soon and quick
- Stage the experience (nothing random)
- Empower people to serve the customer
- Create rituals (familiar routines) for the customer
- Use mobile to be there whenever you are needed
- Use social media to enable customers to identify self with brand
- Always finish strong - what happens at the end of an experience creates the most lasting memory
- The key question: would you ever go back?
Loose example of ritual: for some flights, Virgin airlines cabin crew march in formation onto the plane. It creates a spectacle in the terminal, impresses customers greatly, and also helps employees get into character. Even people who aren't flying the airline are impressed by this little parade.
Starbucks taught customers how to order coffee and Siuthwest taught customers a new way to board a plane. Be careful of this, however. Knowing when to accommodate customer behavior and when to control it is a delicate matter.
CX is about behavior. You are looking to change the way that people behave in a way that is profitable/beneficial to you as well as to them. You can't know enough about behavioral psychology.
Human needs and motivations have not changed for thousands of years. The way they must act in order to serve their needs is constantly improving and changing.
The Customer Experience Journey
Customer experience is about a profitable long-term relationship that is mutually beneficial rather than parasitic.
Most companies are "faux customer centric" - they know it is fashionable to focus on the customer but can't bring themselves to really do it. True customer centricity is about serving the needs of the customer, expecting that profit will follow. Faking it means profit is your primary objective, and customer service as the means to accomplish it.
Right now there is a lot of missing "connective tissue" between analysis and execution. We are collecting lots of data and poring over the numbers but it is not translating into meaningful action.
Another major issue is that customers see their relationship with the brand as being across all channels and contacts, whereas companies are focusing on specific channels instead.
There is a correlation between channel use and customer satisfaction: 77% of "highly satisfied:" customers use three or more channels to interact with a firm; 67% of customers only use 1 or 2 channels to get service.
There is no such thing as a mobile customer. There are customers who happen to use mobile - sometimes, and for some things.
Another major problem is transaction-based thinking. The customer's "journey" includes all the touch points they have in the course of accomplishing a distinct task - they may use mobile, web, and store in the buying task. They may use the phone to solve a problem.
Journey thinking considers every action taken between the moment a need is recognized and the moment it is completely satisfied.
There is a sense of gestalt, in that the whole of the experience is considered to be equal - not to the sum of its parts, but to the worst of its parts. Do everything well and one thing very badly, and satisfaction does not result.
Business care about internal process. "Good" to them means it increases revenue or decreases costs. Customers only care about having their needs satisfied - your ledgers are none of their concern.
Companies are doing a lot of things myopically, unable to see beyond the walls of their office or store to the lives that customers live when they are not interacting directly to the firm. When the customer walks out of a store with a product that will not fulfill his needs, the shop owner washes his hands of the customer - anything that happens after that is none of his concern. He ought to be very concerned.
The functional benefits of many products are less important to customer satisfaction than the emotional benefits - even if you do not solve the problem you will gain credit for being attentive and concerned in the effort.
The desire for consistency stems from basic human psychology - it will not go away. Something new and faddish may attract our attention, but we are happiest and most comfortable with the familiar and predictable.
Consider "Segmenting" the customer experience - the balance of pleasant or unpleasant emotions experienced with each step in a process, and make sure the customer stays happy. Happy customers spend more and cost less to serve.
We are "data rich and insight poor." We collect copious amounts of data from which we derive no meaning. "Big data is a big mess" right now - the attempt to leverage the information seems to be focused on the numbers rather than their meaning. Statistical correlation is poor evidence of causation. Numbers tell you "what" but not "why" and the "why" is infinitely more important.
Dirty data is good data. When you attempt to constrain the data or clean it, you are throwing away some of the most meaningful information to reduce it to the lowest (and least useful) common denominator.
In approaching CX, you have to eat the elephant one bite at a time. However, focusing on a design element or even a single transaction is too small a scale. Focus on a journey - just one of many - and fix it.
It doesn't have to be a "big bang" with CEO endorsement - in fact, the "big bang" approach often leads to big mistakes. Because it is highly visible, everyone wants to jump on the wagon in order to take credit if it succeeds and jump off when it's headed for the rocks - even when they are responsible for steering it in that direction for desire to "help" with the work.
Demonstrate the Business Value of Customer Experience
(EN: This presentation was a succotash of random information having nothing to do with the stated topic.)
- Footnotes that void offers are a significant problem for banks and insurance firms
- Fighting to retain control and force customers to do business your preferred way is a very bad idea
- Fighting to shift the customer to your channel of preference rather than letting them choose their preference is also a very bad idea
- Financial services have a sterile and stoic personality, whereas money is highly emotional for people. It's the number one cause of fighting among couples and the number three cause of suicide and depression
- Most customer experience metrics fail to measure what customers actually care about: having their problem solved
- Not all transactions are created equal - but companies focus on what makes them the most money and customers focus on what serves their most pressing needs
- There are four fundamental interactions: the customer provides information to the business, the business provides information to the customer, the customer takes some sort of action, and the business takes some sort of action
- When the organization and existing practices of a firm get in the way of providing service to the customer, it must change.,
Track Multichannel Experiences in Real Time
(EN: This is another presentation that did not at all address the topic promised by its title, but there were some interesting bits nonetheless.)
Companies are based on customer experience - you solve a problem the customer has, and you do it better than anyone else. Eli Lily, a pharmaceuticals giant, was formed on a very simple idea: coating capsules with gelatin makes them easier for people to swallow.
There has been a major shift in strategy. The old-school strategy that arises in a market where people are very needy and deprived consists of finding an unmet need and designing a way to meet it at a price the customer is willing to pay. In a saturated and overindulged market, unmet needs are rare. You have to find a customer whose needs are being met, but in an incomplete or inconvenient way, and serve them better.
- Satisfaction occurs when an experience meets expectations.
- Preference occurs when one brand is believed to be better than another
- Loyalty occurs when a brand is the go-to solution for a specific need, forsaking all others
To succeed at customer service you need advocates who are empowered to speak to anyone in the firm and negotiate for the interest of the customer.
There's more profit to be made (increased revenue and decreased expense) in getting customers who rate you "4 out of 5" than in addressing the neutral or dissatisfied customers.
Many firms pay lip service to customer experience because they have the vague sense it is important to do so, but their heart isn't in it. Look at their strategic statements, and look to where they spend their budget, to see what they really value.
Anything that does not have a goal does not get done. Anything that is not rewarded is not prioritized. And it is clear that customer experience falls into that category. It is simply not a priority.
Take on one goal at a time and focus 100% of your efforts on accomplishing it, without quitting or taking on anything else until it is done. Too many initiatives are sidetracked and fizzle for lack of complete dedication and focus. You cannot be successful fooling about with CX while you're trying to do other things.
Strategy for Continuous Improvement
(EN: This is another presentation that did not at all address the topic promised by its title, but there were some interesting bits nonetheless.)
If you cannot state in plain language what makes you different from other firms, then you are a commodity. If you can state it but the customer doesn't believe it, then you are still a commodity. Your brand is what the customer says it is.
- Random Experience - There is no coordination and no identity
- Predictable Experience - Is coordinated but not distinctive
- Brand Experience - Is both coordinated and distinctive
Employees must be acutely an constantly aware of how their role impacts customer experience. Even back-office workers who don't directly touch the customer should know the "degrees of separation" to understand how their work impacts the front line and, ultimately, the customer, in order to have a sense of purpose.
A firm must seek to be a solution rather than a problem. A common complaint is that "my finances are complicated, and my bank ... makes them even more complicated"
Customer experience doesn't mean fiving everyone everything they want. Serve profitable customers in a way that is profitable to serve them. But keep the big picture in mind - be willing to lose dimes here to make dollars there.
A digestion: the customer relationship is the sum of all journeys; a journey is the sum of all transactions; a transaction is the sum of all actions it comprises.
Experience is cumulative - your last interaction does not erase the memory of all that came before it. Doing little things poorly adds up over time.
Mitigating negative experience is important, and sometimes more important than creating positive emotions. To attempt to "wow" a customer with superficial things while failing them in a basic way is clearly a sham and a deception.
You should implement a "learning strategy" that makes you constantly attentive to customers. Do not survey a random or to support one initiative out of context. Plan to learn, and follow the plan. The problem is that there is no immediate ROI on learning. What you learn makes you more effective at doing other things, and the "other things" get all the credit for the ROI that they could not have generated were it not for the learning that took place previously. It really takes "an executive leap of faith" to get budget for learning.
Interesting: because no university offers a CX degree, this firm has created its own internal "university" to train up staff. You cannot expect an outsider to do it for you. It's also important to give every employee some exposure. It's good to have a CX expert to lead the initiatives, but he cannot be the only person who cares.
Not all process improvements contribute to improved satisfaction. The customers don't count the seconds it takes for you to respond - they only know when it's "too long." You can shave three seconds off a process and they will still think it is too long (they are not incrementally more satisfied - it's pass/fail) and shaving three seconds off a process that is already good enough doesn't impress them.
Creating the Customer Journey Map
Data can tell you the steps that a customer took in pursuit of a goal, but not the reasons they chose to pursue it. You can infer the rational reasons, but not the emotional motivation. In the same way, mapping a customer journey often focuses on the practical steps, ignoring motivation.
MIT group is working on a facial recognition system that can use the camera on a laptop to capture facial expressions that indicate a user's emotional reaction, which his faster and more accurate than asking test participants to tell you how they feel about something.
Changes in customer experience should not be the domain of a small team who daydream a solution and then seek support to prototype and test.
Lab testing, too, falls short: it's testing subjects ability to get through a contrived process to perform an artificial task. Observational studies show that people who have a goal often work around the system, as the process as designed is not aligned with their thought process.
The process itself must work, functionally, but it also must deliver on the brand promise while supporting or improving upon (rather than borrowing or detracting from) the brand's esteem.
Interesting bit: in brick-and-mortar experience design, consider all five senses. We tend to focus too much on the visual, forgetting the audio and tactile senses. The sense of smell and taste are seldom engaged but should not be forgotten entirely.
If something didn't work in the pat, it's worth testing again. Customer preferences change, such that what they reacted negatively to five years ago might be desirable to them now. And because the reverse is true, testing as-is processes, not just new ones, should be perennial.
It's a waste of time to argue internally over what various people think he customer might like: build and test any reasonable option to determine what works for the customer.
Test everything before rolling it out. If you have made a terrible mistake, it's best to gauge that reaction with a few thousand users before inflicting a bad experience on millions.
Your "experience blueprint" should map tasks to channels, recognizing that customers will use whatever is most convenient to them at the moment, and may switch at their discretion.
Nothing can be known if you have no data on customer interaction. Analytics and reporting should be baked into a plan, and there should also be a plan in place to monitor the data and react promptly.
When people explain why they are loyal to their favorite brand, they often tell an epic story of some major event when the brand did far more than expected. Other times, it is a long list of "little things" that the brand does. Few cite functional benefits, and virtually none speak of price. People like saving money, but it doesn't resound with them as much as a positive experience.
Key Customer Experience Measures
We're fond of numbers because it's easy to assign scores to things and perform calculations - but what do the numbers really mean? Many scores are like winning a prize for being "the tallest short man" or the healthiest patient among the terminally ill.
Goals are often chosen at a whim. "Management wants a 9 out of 10" on some arbitrary metric, without considering if it is meaningful to achieve it. What really happens if you achieve that score? What happens if you miss it? There is often no answer.
If you compare yourself to the industry scores, it implicitly means you believe the industry to be doing well. That is not always true. To exceed the industry scores when customers aren't happy with the service they are getting from any company is a meaningless endeavor. Consider the airline industry - a better score than industry average doesn't mean your customers are happy at all.
Trends, likewise, just means that companies are doing vaguely better from one period to the next. Likewise a "benchmark" is an arbitrary number that refers to a firm or group at a given moment in time, with no indication that they were doing particularly well.
Use a statistical analysis to correlate numbers to something that is real, such as revenue or longevity of customer retention. If an arbitrary score does not correlate to real results, then it is not really worth tracking.
Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a metric that has come into fashion and many companies use it, but it does not correlate to anything for them. It's just an arbitrary metric. "Succeeding" by the numbers doesn't mean you will achieve meaningful business outcomes.
Even if you can explain the correlation between a metric and a target, ask whether it is reasonable. Again, if it doesn't achieve real results, it is not worth pursuing.
When it comes to comparing scores, if your score improves but so do your rivals in the industry, than you're just treading water. The increasing score year to year gives you a false sense of accomplishment.
Moreover you may be working very hard and spending lots of budget to accomplish nothing. When resources are scarce, money must be spent wisely. Spending it on doing something pointless means not spending it on doing something worthwhile.
In general, your metrics should aim for one of three goals:
- You should strive for genuine improvement
- You should seek to lead your industry
- You should aim to achieve specific results
Which of these three approaches you take determines what you should be measuring and what your targets should be. It should also give you the means to react in advance if your numbers are not headed in the right direction.
One example was an analysis of casual dining restaurants (TGI Fridays and the like) which showed a strong correlation between satisfaction scores and revisits. Customers who rated the restaurants as tem out of ten were 80% likely to revisit (over an undisclosed amount of time); rations of 8/10 were 70% likely to revisit and 6/10 were 60% more likely to revisit. There is a strong linear correlation between survey responses and actual behavior, and the actual behavior resulted in more revenue for the firm. That is a good metric to strive to improve.
When companies latch onto a given metric, they seldom do adequate analysis of their past performance to ensure that the metric is meaningful for them. It also fails to consider what is achievable. A goal to score "9 out of 10" may be too easy or too difficult to actually achieve.
When people are given unrealistic goals, they are less motivated rather than more to achieve them. To maintain enthusiasm they must have a sense of success, and constant feedback.
The best metric of success differs by market, firm, industry, and other factors. To automatically assume any industry metric is meaningful is haphazard. Again, test the metric against business results to establish correlation before adopting it.
A Journey to Customer Experience Excellence
This was a case study of an education savings provider in Canada, which provided services (access to government benefits) for families saving for their children's education.
Their initial situation was extremely high customer dissatisfaction, a frustrated sales force, organizational chaos, and no sense of ownership or responsibility for outcomes. Everyone thought success was someone else's job and that theirs was going through the motions to support or service.
This led to mapping the experience: identifying the customer, determining their goals, considering their actions over a long period of time to achieve the goal. Then, key events were defined, an owner was assigned to each, and metrics for success were implemented.
Because of the duration (savings from early childhood to college age) it was not sufficient to consider individual transactions or even journeys, but had to begin with the entire end-to-end experience: from the day the family invested their first dollar in savings to the day they spent out the last dollar in benefits.
They also found it necessary to avoid talking to insiders. Everyone in the company had their own idea of what the customer ought to be doing, and it is generally geared to requiring the customer to do some very silly things to make their own business processes seem more elegant. A "clean" flowchart may be the sign of an efficient business unit, but it is certainly not the sign of one that is effective in serving the needs of the customer.
Shifting to customer focus required a huge culture change. In essence, the firm needed to change the very language it spoke in its daily business operations.
Using diagrams such as flowcharts helps a great deal on illustrating the customer's process.
They were able to identify a lot of little things that could be done at their leisure, but the "big stuff" all required major changes. It's at this point that they had to break it down into journeys in order for the work to be at all manageable.
Step one is to map the customer journey independent of channel and ownership - the channels could be investigated and ownership assigned after you have a firm sense of what must be done.
Also, consider event-triggered interactions: what exactly happens when a customer calls with a specific concern, need, or complaint. Consider what must be done to satisfy their need - this makes it easier to see what business operations are essential, which are pointless rituals, and which are altogether missing.
It is also important for the firm to be proactive, and consider when it should spin up an action when a customer has not called them to call attention to a need - or when the customer failed to take a necessary action.
It's also noted that any goal to have a given number of transactions with a customer is pointless and often harmful. The answer varies according to customer expectations.
The found their two key metrics to be customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction. Both correlated to customer retention statistics. It's noted that employee satisfaction scores are always significantly lower than customers. Customers are happy because they are receiving meaningful benefits, and all employees get is a paycheck for doing things that are often boring and unpleasant.
Some advice for others to map their own customer experience:
- Get executive buy-in from as high in the organization as possible
- Hire consultants to assist with the analysis, but never with the planning
- Get input from subject matter experts and process management alike, as neither knows the full story
- Do it sooner rather than later - the longer you wait, the longer you keep doing things wrong
- Get the biggest and most basic things sorted out first, and leave the little details for later
Retooling Leadership through Neuroscience
(EN: This was a complete curveball that seems to have nothing to do with customer experience, but was nonetheless an interesting presentation.)
We have very little understanding of the brain, but that is slowly changing in recent years as the emerging field of "neuroscience" combines biology and psychology to provide insights.
Much of what has been stated about the human brain until recent years is based entirely on theory and myth. The media exacerbates the problem because the myths are much more interesting than scientific fact.
Even if you ignore popular media and focus only on legitimate scholarship, you'll find that we have been mislead. By traditional definitions, you will find that 70% to 80% of people have some form of brain disorder. It's not that abnormality is normal, but that science doesn't seem to have a very good idea of what normality actually is.
Consider the DARE program to keep children off of drugs has been a miserable failure. It's a matter of fact that, in studying schools before and after the program was administered, drug usage actually goes up. Rather than warning the kids away from drugs, they were giving them the idea to try them.
Most people function on cruise control most of the time. We go about our days making hundreds or thousands of decisions without actively thinking, reacting mindlessly out of habit or following established patterns. We live on autopilot.
Switch to leadership: it's something we do in everyday life, not just the workplace. It requires creativity, vision, imagination, charisma, and other skills. The problem is that nobody knows how to train a person to have those qualities.
Toxic leadership is a major problem that causes firms to perform poorly. It squelches innovation and runs off intelligent people.
Bran scanning has shown that stress effectively takes the prefrontal cortex offline. Under pressure, the "thinking" part of the human mind shuts down and we panic in slow motion, frantically doing whatever seems obvious. The stress-causing event is less critical than the accumulation of stress over time.
Leaders who place stress upon their people in order to drive results often achieve the opposite, and a high-pressure workplace is one where there is a constant buzz of frantic but ineffective activity.
Long hours are another problem. Sleep is "candy to the brain" that is shown to increase mental function. Diet and exercise are also significant factors. Consider offices where long hours are the norm, and what people sacrifice to be in the workplace are sleep, diet, and exercise.
Social pressure, another common form of "motivation" used by toxic leaders, is also damaging to thought. The effects of humiliation and shame affect the same parts of the brain, and in the same ways, as a physical injury. The electrochemical patterns most closely resemble those in patients with a broken leg.
The brain uses the same functions to think about things that it hears as those that it perceives through direct sensory stimulation. That is to say that a story we heard seems as real, and as true, as something we experience first-hand.
An experiment asked people what they were doing when they heard about the attacks on 9/11 - within a month, and six months later. There were discrepancies, some of them significant, in 90% of accounts. Even when people were informed that their story had changed, they defended the most recent version over the original.
Another random bit: women in the military are twice as likely as men to have post-traumatic stress disorder. However, women who experienced a highly stressful childhood are more likely to choose a military career in the first place.
Women and children process stimuli emotionally whereas men process it analytically. This leads to different personal experiences and accounts, and causes them to give attention to different things. It's also noted that during the teenage years, even boys are primarily attuned to their emotions, and the rational part of their brains does not take over until about age 25.
The ability to cope with and bounce back from stress varies widely by the person. Some people stand up and bounce back better.
Are Your Customer Interactions Smart
(EN: This was a panel discussion that was also dreadfully unfocused. The "speaker" trotted out four of his clients, who seemed not to know what they were supposed to be talking about, so a lot of random things were tossed out in the discussions.)
- In the "tug of war" between customers and companies, in which companies lose even if they win. Making the customer serve their agenda results in a customer who's going to take his business elsewhere.
- Many firms focus on efficiency at the cost of effectiveness. Hasty service is bad service, and fewer calls means less contact. Spending as little time on serving a customer should not be your goal.
- A phone call is a service failure. People call when they can't figure out how to do something for themselves when using your product or web site. If you want fewer calls, then fix the problems that people are calling about.
- For the same reason, answering inbound calls efficiently is a dirty hack and the real solution is to address the reason they are calling.
- To decrease call volumes, eliminate the necessity for a transaction, simplify a transaction, automate it, consolidate multiple transactions, or transfer transactions to a vendor.
- Aside of the reason customers call, pay attention to the channels you want them to use. To migrate customers to less expensive channels, you have to make those channels better for the customer to use.
- Another significant problem is that calls take a long time to resolve because the front-line sales rep is not empowered to solve problems and must forward the call. The customer must then re-explain the problem to each person to whom he speaks. This is upsetting to the customer, and wastes a lot of employee time.
- A best practice is to give a front-line rep all the authority he needs to completely resolve a customer's problem. There is no need to give him the responsibility for doing so - if he has the authority he will use it. People want to solve problems for others, and find great job satisfaction in being able to do so.
- Putting information on your web site is not a solution if your web site is awful. The perception that "some people just prefer the phone" is a dodge that avoids being frank about the reason they choose that channel - it's because your web site stinks. Moreover, a bad web site makes it more likely a person will not even try to use it the next time they have an issue, but call immediately.
- Mergers and acquisitions are terrible for customer service until the systems, processes, and culture of the two organizations become fully integrated.
- Set expectations for service delivery in advance. Few people will call until you have missed the date. If you are still getting a lot of calls, then it's because you are breaking a lot of promises.
- Customer contact preferences show a high preference for email, a little appetite for SMS, and a low number of people who want you to call them at your own convenience
- Transparency is good. A customer who can check the status of his order for himself is less likely to call, even if he is not happy that it is later than expected he can see the reason why and has the sense it's still moving forward.
- Standard call center metrics like the number of calls, length of average call, hold time, and so on are incomplete. They also drive some horribly dysfunctional behavior, like a sales rep who hangs up in the middle of a call without solving a problem so he can get his average call time down to meet an arbitrary goal.
- In software, an X.0 version upgrade drives a lot of calls because customers are trying to learn new ways to do things they used to do easily, while a 0.X version patch decreases call volumes because problems are fixed.
- Any time you give a customer a list of numbers to call for different things, you are handing him the burden of diagnosing his own problem. You're also increasing the likelihood he'll call the wrong number and need to be transferred
What is All the Hype about Big Data?
"Big Data" has become a buzzword, with lots of talk around a vague sense that the vast stores if digital information can be rendered into something of value - but no clear idea of how that is actually going to happen.
It's been said that data has exploded because we can gather and store it easily and cheaply. What we're not very good at is putting it to practical use.
It's also worth noting that much of the "bigness" of big data comes from rich media formats such as images and video. A single picture can represent as much data storage as a very thick book, and contains far less information.
Switch to mobile: it's big, and so is the data that comes with it. Half the people in Namibia have access to a cell phone, and by the year 2020 it is predicted that smart phones will be as ubiquitous as email is today, and even more so in emerging markets where it's cheaper to erect cell towers than run physical wires.
To say cell phone use is addictive is no exaggeration. 84% of cell phone users keep the device within ten feet of themselves at all times, and smartphone users check their devices 150 times a day (every 6.5 minutes) to see f they have any new messages.
All of this activity generates data. Huge amounts of it. But we still don't know what to do with it.
Switch to the use of mobile for research: being able to GPS locate users is exciting. You can tell what stores people are entering, which ones they drive by, and even which billboards they see on their route. You no longer need to ask them because you know.
Moreover, you know the truth. Ask a person how often he visited a store last year and he will not remember, but give you a guess. Ask him how often he visited your customer and he will be a bit uncomfortable and understate the number. Track him rather than asking and you know for sure.
People claim to be concerned about privacy, but readily opt-in to programs that require them to allow vendors to track their GPS at all times.
Pairing GPS with micro surveys - short surveys designed to be easily answered on mobile - is a great way to collect data when it is fresh in the user's mind. You can also use the device capabilities to get more granular information - ask them to snap a picture of a receipt as they walk out of the store and you know very granular details about their purchasing habits - what, where, and when they buy.
With certain programs, mobile survey s have gotten response rates as high has 80% (from panelists who agreed in advance to receive them). So long as you keep it brief and don't bother them too often, and especially if you offer an incentive, people are happy to play along.
You can't put a man in your competitor's parking lot to ask people questions about what they did in the competitors store. With mobile, you can do this, even talk to them when they are on enemy turf.
Tracking people in their daily lives gives you a keen sense of their flight path. Most people go between work, home, and school and patronize businesses along the way. If they go out of their way to make a special trip to a competitor, it's a critical event that merits investigation.
In terms of data, a sample panel of 300 participants resulted in 365,000 location points and 1,700 store visits over "a few weeks"
It turns out that the store a person visits most often is not the same as their reported "favorite" place to shop, and neither frequency nor favoritism correlates to the amount they spend in a given place.
GPS/WAN can track customers within the store to see which aisles they stroll down. Some random findings are that people spend 40% more in stores when free samples are being given away, and 8% more when there is a live event or a demo.
The closing message is that the use of mobile as a device to track and survey customers means we are entering a "golden age" of customer experience research and are on the threshold of gaining much better, accurate, and more detailed perspectives on real consumer behavior.
Contact Center of The Future
A case-study from, a company that makes a number of consumer supermarket brands
Complaints are only a small amount (6%) of inbound calls. What they mostly get are inquiries and suggestions.
The challenges they facer were having inflexible technology (doing the simplest things costs a lot of money) that was not integrated and incapable of supporting emerging technologies, plus a general lack of VOC insights.
Their goals were to consolidate consumer feedback from all channels into a central database and to facilitate Web site self-service to decrease call volumes. There's also a mention of automated social media monitoring that used natural language analysis to tip them as to when they might need to be proactive.
Of particular importance is that they wanted people to transition to cheaper channels but did not want to force them to do so. If you make something that works, people will use it; if not they will continue to call.
They ended up hiring an outsource partner to handle everything, simply because it cut through the internal red tape and the difficulty of dealing with their own IT department.
The breakdown of inbound contacts are 65% phone, 20% email, 14% social, and 1% letters. People still do write, but it's largely schoolchildren doing class assignments - but taking them seriously get a good brand contact early in life.
43% of their contacts were just asking what stores stocked their brands, and 26% were product-related inquiries.
They tried IVR (interactive voice response) and found that 90% of people just zero-out rather than try to deal with it. Likely because IVR has been very bad - and even if you improve it, people are trained to avoid it.
The company takes complaints seriously. Every complaint is a potential lawsuit if it is not handled carefully - so the savings of pushing people to cheaper channels isn't worth it if they do not get a satisfactory resolution and decide to pursue a legal solution.
A mention of internal "message blasts" sent to phone reps when something trends up - highly successful in getting information needed to the staff quickly - and they are cautious of abusing it because it will lose its effectiveness.
There was a brief mention of handling discontinued products - selling out remaining inventory to the hardcore fans and transitioning them to a substitute product in their own line rather than taking the chance they will transition themselves to a competitor.
Mobile helps close the gap for consumer brands: it enables the customer to retrieve information on your products when they are in a retail location. From what they have seen it is still a channel of convenience people use to get small bits of information when they can't get to their desktop.
A random bit: four minutes seems to be the breaking point where a customer will lose patience with an online chat session and abandon, often picking up the phone.
Someone asked a question about using WR codes on product labels to enable people to get information. It seemed to be regarded as a good notion, but with the note that QR codes have largely failed because they have been used badly (scan a WR code in an ad to see a digital copy of the very same ad with no additional information) so people expect a bad experience and don't bother scanning them. Don't refuse to consider them, but realize they will not get a lot of bang for the buck.
Sustaining the Momentum of a Customer Excellence Initiative
This was a presentation by a marketer from a premium sports car manufacturer.
The company sells fewer cars in the USA than their competitors, so they feel there is a lot of room to grow. With their SUV and sedan lines, they hope to overcome the perception of being a two-seated fun buggy and become a brand that stays with the customer for life.
(EN: Another factor is that their price point is higher. They do not sell an entry-level line under $50K for the wannabe market. When you compare their figures to the $100K lines of their competitors, the gap is not as wide.)
Their main problem is that for many years leadership assumed that customers would tolerate poor service if the product quality was great and the brand had a lot of esteem, but Japanese premium brands like Lexus and Infiniti raised the bar for customer service, and left other manufacturers struggling to catch up.
A further problem is the franchise model - dealers were used to doing things the old way, being generally inattentive and aloof, and didn't see a reason to shift gears. It was a significant point of friction between "corporate" and the dealerships who were not cooperative.
The situation was exacerbated by the manufacturer, who also thought that a great car would sell itself, and was a bit clumsy in making the transition to a customer-oriented approach. They started with an unclear direction, no specific priorities, and a hazy vision - and found that the idea didn't catch on.
The key is that people are goal-oriented. Convincing the dealerships that changing their approach would enable them to sell more cars over time was critical to getting them to play ball. However, "long range" goals have little staying power in a culture of instant gratification, so it's necessary to provide constant feedback on progress.
It's also noted that automotive surveys are never accurate. Dealers basically beg customers for "all fives" in the deal and customers often comply for fear that they will get worse service after the sale if they don't. External rating agencies such as JD Power or Consumer Reports are more reliable.
Their brand is high-profile and has no trouble getting customers to talk about their experience. It starts well before their first purchase, from the day the customer dreams of owning a Porsche some day to the day they sell the last car of the brand they will ever own and are lost.
Customers are lost to a sports car brand for various reasons they cannot control: they start a family and need a practical car rather than a sports car, they get too old to drive, they lose their income and status and can no longer afford, they gain greater wealth and no longer drive (chauffeured everywhere), they move to a place where it is not convenient to drive a sports car, etc.
Still, there are instances when a customer switches from their brand to a similar vehicle from a close competitor, and when customers decide to leave your brand, you are highly unlikely to get them back.
Dealerships tend to be in denial of their own bad behavior. Mystery shopping had little impact until they equipped their mystery shoppers with hidden cameras, and then the salesman could not deny having said or done something really awful.
Transparency drives trust - and it's a particular challenge for a manufacturer to be open with end-users and dealerships alike when some of the interests are conflicting.
A critical factor is to set the expectation that things are not going to go smoothly and a lot will go wrong - that way you do not lose sponsorship or cooperation when you fail to achieve perfection overnight. There will be difficulties on the way to the goal and you need to avoid setting high expectations that will cause people to quit at the first sign of trouble.
It is likewise important to recognize progress and celebrate small victories along the way to the goal, not just after it has been achieved.
(EN: Ultimately it was a good pep talk with some general advice, but we didn't get much of a case study of what the firm actually did - just some before-and-after numbers that showed drastic improvement. Likely they would prefer not to disclose too much specific information about their tactics.)
The Intersection of Technology and Service
In uncompetitive markets, customer service was not very attentive. Companies would literally hang up on a complaining customer or "lose" their letters. A person who had been treated horribly didn't have a way to share their negative experience with many people. You certainly cannot do that anymore in the age of social media.
Customers also expect you to know a lot more about them. They realize that you have computers and databases and expect you to pay attention to information they have given you in the past. Firms are doing a very poor job of that and "Big Data" is mostly aspirational.
Customers want to self-serve. They try your Web site before trying to contact you. If they go immediately to the phone, it means your Web site has disappointed them in the past and they're not going to bother.
Currently, people prefer email to telephone by about 2:1. There's a "growing appetite" for service in social media but it's still not very significant. SMS is negligible. Calls are about ten times more expensive to process than other channels.
Insofar as social media is concerned, you can't ust dabble. Go all-in or stay completely out of it. People expect a response within an hour (60%), and prefer it because social media will reach them in multiple devices and locations. There's also the expectation that a company will be more attentive to a public inquiry than a private one, and less likely to be rude in the public eye.
While SMS is negligible, on-site chat is big. You are 24% more likely to close a sale if you offer chat on your site. 64% of people have stated that they are "open to" proactive chat - that pops up after a reasonable period of inactivity on a page. But set that interval too small and they become quickly annoyed.
It's also noted that the tone of conversation is a bit different depending on odd factors. Depending on the product, people are more polite when they see a male/female avatar or screen name. They are also more polite when the chat is embedded in the same window rather than opening in a new window.
Chat takes longer (about five times longer) than phone calls to resolve issues, but this is largely because people are multitasking when they chat with you, so there are longer delays. Because of the lag, a rep can handle six simultaneous chat sessions - but you should gauge the speed of inbound inquires rather than the number of sessions.
As a bonus, chat sessions are ASCII data and easy to store and text-mine. Because chat is a failsafe used when a person can't find what they're looking for on the page, it's an excellent way to pinpoint issues that can and should be solved on the page itself.
There are statistically significant differences in the level of satisfaction reported depending on the channel used to get customer service. People who receive service by email are 2% more satisfied than those who call (aggregate responses on satisfaction surveys after the contact). They are 3% less satisfied by online chat, 7% less satisfied by text messaging, and 10% less satisfied by social media support. So the cheaper channels are a bit worse, but not by much.
Gifts and discounts do not make people happy with a product that does not meet their expectations. The old brush-off of "send them a coupon" does not work and is often perceived as an insult by customers who can well afford the product, but just aren't happy with the outcome.
For this firm in particular, letting people send you a picture of something can be more effective than expecting them to describe it in words or diagnose it themselves.