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February 22, 2017

Why “Your Why” means everything in Customer Service

dollarbadlineA personal story:

We were all a little excited, done being on a plane for four hours, and ready to get to vacationing.  My son, girlfriend, and I finally had a chance to get away to Orlando for a short, long weekend. As a Customer Experience Consultant, my schedule can run hot or cold depending upon my client’s needs and projects, so being able to plan a time to get away with the people I love can be difficult. I am sure it is difficult for most people now-a-days with work, kid’s sports, family obligations, and everything else.

After landing, we made our way over to the car rental area. As we approached the car rental corridor, we were buzzing about going to Universal and wondering what the river pool at the hotel was all about. The rental area was fairly clear of crowds, except for a couple of families in our rental agency’s line.

The Process Manager in me realized quickly that there was probably room here for some improvement in efficiency, but I was not working, right? There are four agents, three of which were not assisting any customers, and one is helping a customer who appeared to come from the car lot with an issue. 10 minutes go by. 20 minutes go by. A half hour in, and the two families in front of us are still there. A sizable line had started to form behind us. The other agencies were shuffling families off to their car to begin their vacations. Blood pressures started rising. We checked online to see what the cancelalation policy said, and it required a loss of deposit, so we decided to stick it out.

At the 45 minute mark, we were next in line, but I was well past aggravated. At the 50 minute mark, a man who was not helping anyone for the last 45 minutes, called us up. We got our car, and everything was fine with the transaction, but I was still fuming over the experience. As much as I wanted to let it go (even with my car mates singing Let It Go), the experience marred the beginning of my vacation. The vacation that took a bunch of planning, sacrifice, and dollars began with this impression.

So what went wrong? Probably a lot of things, but I think the most important part that went wrong was the car rental service forgot “Their Why”. I’m sure they collect Net Promoter Scores, measure some form of retention, and manage a number of service metrics and SLA’s. But those are results, not why it is important to service their customers well. “Your Why” is never a result, it’s a reason that means something substantial to your customer or WHY your company exist. Examples of possible why’s this rental agency (especially at a tourist town like Orlando):

·       Your vacation (or memories) starts with us

·       We know we are the last thing standing between you and your vacation, let us get you moving

·       We’re your first ride of your vacation (but the line is nothing like Space Mountain)

Your Why should be the foundation of your Customer Service culture, strategy, tactics, and metrics. It is part of a clear and articulated culture, upon which your talent, technology choices, process management, and data metrics should be looking to accomplish.

I am a huge fan of Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why, and creator of the most valuable 15 minutes on YouTube.

Let’s look at an example from my consultancy of when a Why was clearly articulated, and the power of understanding it.

In the first official meeting with a luxury jewelry company’s Director of Customer Service, I asked her the question “Why is it important to create a great customer experience?” After a moment, her answers sounded like:

·       Strong C-Sat or NPS scores

·       Retention

·       Advocacy

·       Customer Lifetime Value

·       Loyalty

After each answer, I said no that is a result. Tell me why it is important to your customers to deliver an amazing experience. Finally, we started hitting on the real why’s:

·       Celebrating life moments (like weddings, anniversaries, special occasions, etc…)

·       Making memories

·       Retail Therapy (yes, it is a real thing)

·       Making a connection

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it.” – Simon Sinek

We articulated our culture around our why’s. Yes, you need to write it down. We used our why’s to recruit incredible talent. We didn’t recruit based on call center experience, but recruited people who could make instant or fast connections with our customers. We selected and leveraged technology that made it easy to make a connection and relate to customers. Our processes centered around making a connection, finding places to celebrate life moments, and budgeting for making memories.

The result was amazing and immediate. We launched their new customer service, and after the first month Stella Services™ rated them as the #2 eCommerce customer experience in the world. Not just other luxury brands, but we beat the Zappos, Amazons, LL Beans of the world. In our second month, we became the #1 brand among all brands. Since my project ended, they have remained in Stella Services™ top 10.

My rental car company forgot, lost, or never understood their WHY. They lost my business forever. My client who lives their WHY has beat their own high expectation eCommerce expectations every quarter since.  Find Your Why.

 

Snowballing Incredible Customer Experiences

By michaelpace on March 6, 2014

Snowballing Incredible Customer Experiences

“Life is like a snowball. The important thing is finding wet snow and a really long hill.” – Warren Buffett

This article originally appeared in ICMI’s Social Media Resources.

It is such a perfect simile. We’ve all had those moments, for good or for not-so-good, when our actions build upon the previous, and create either a gloriously round snowman body or a boulder blocking our driveway.  Hopefully, you are having more of the positive experiences.  I love the simile because it conjures such a clear visual example of creating virtuous cycles.  They are not always perfectly linear, grow based on the force/momentum, conditions, and the overall landscape, and need time to mature.  As I approach developing customer service experiences, I am always trying to identify the opportunities for virtuous cycles.

What is a virtuous cycle?  Dictionary.com describes it as “a beneficial cycle of events or incidents, each having a positive effect on the next”.  Usually in the business world, this is expressed by a boring PowerPoint Smart Art of arrows going in a continuous circle.  We have all seen it, nobody is impressed.  In actuality, virtuous cycles are really like snowballs; with each revolution the circle grows and compounds for the next revolution.  While this appears to be a great post on how to build a snowman, let me bring us back to how virtuous cycles great amazing and profitable customer experiences.  Let’s start with a digital example:

Virtuous cycle

 

 

 

 

 

Moment 1: Customer tweets to your handle or mentions your brand with a question.

Moment 2: Customer Service responds to the tweet, with a link to Knowledge Base.

Moment 3: Since this a fairly frequent question, you post the tweet and response on your blog or community site.

Moment 4: Customer Service “proactive” tweet with a link to your support blog and/or community site, “Wondering how to do XXXXXX, so was one of our customers, see how <link>”.

Now, what just happened with this example?

  1.  Customer is acknowledged on Twitter, hopefully within a beyond customer expectation turnaround time (2-10 minutes).  Both acknowledgement and response time are as important as providing the correct answer in social customer service.
  2. Customer is provided an answer linked to your Customer Knowledge Base.  Not only does this provide an answer to your customer’s question, it builds awareness that answers are available in another digital format. If this is a public tweet, not a Direct Message (DM) or began with the “@” symbol, any follower can learn from your other customer.
  3. Believe it or not, you are now in possession of valuable content.  You have a customer’s voice, an answer to the question, and awareness to alternate forums.  By posting this content to your community or blog site, you have created “searchable” customer support content.
  4. By posting the community or blog site link, you now have created proactive content for customers who may search for their answer via a search engine (Google, Yahoo, etc…) and provided help content on your site.

Even if just steps 1 and 2 occurred, you still created a bigger snowball or virtuous cycle of customer support between your Twitter community and your Knowledge Base.  If moving to steps 3 and 4 produce a sense of fear or out of your current scope of work, you are correct.  But I believe it’s the role of Customer Service and the tools they use that is changing, and so should Customer Service leaders.

This may sound similar to previous Customer Service tactics, such as while your customers are on hold waiting for a service representative, you let them know they can also get answers from your website.  The intention in this message is to reduce or deflect call volume by creating awareness of your website. People and customers all hate this.  They probably called for a reason.  This tactic actually creates a vicious cycle, where the message angers callers on hold, and typically creates a longer call.  Virtuous cycles create value for all parties involved.  Virtuous cycles do not interrupt.  In the example above, the customer received their answer in the forum, format, or medium the customer chose.

If you wanted to introduce them to your website, use a follow up email post or even during the interaction with the customer on the phone.  Let the customer know you will be sending them a link if they ever need this information again, a quick simple place they can find it. 

Other examples where virtuous cycles can be created:

  • Providing your Twitter or other social links on your mobile app
  • Including Knowledge Base information or search functionality on your mobile app
  • Using company blogs or SHORT whitepapers to educate or coach your customer post a transaction, but only if it is relevant to the conversation
  • Invite customers to your communities (in person, via email, over the phone, etc…) – only after the transaction has been completed
  • Using Chat functionality to link to your Knowledge Base (but also provide a in simple written form while in the chat
  • If you have a Customer Success program, make sure you have virtuous cycles imbedded in your processes

Virtuous cycles create exponential value for both your company and the customer.  If done well, you may also begin helping customers who you will never hear from, because they have helped themselves.  And if done really well, those customers will also share their new insights.  Then the snowball starts getting bigger and faster.  Your infrastructure and processes are the hill, and your helping the customer is the first small ball.  Find your virtuous cycles, create momentum, and get rolling.

Image credit

Net Promoter Scoring is Asking the Wrong Question

By michaelpace on February 4, 2014

Yoda Smarts

If no mistake have you made, yet losing you are … a different game you should play

I’m not a huge fan of Net Promoter Scoring (NPS).

Nope.

I am sure this sounds like blasphemy from a Customer Service professional. 

Too bad.

I would not recommend a family member, friend, or colleague to blindly use Net Promoter Scoring to understand or forecast the retention of their customers. 

I’d give NPS a Net Promoter Score of 7 (Passive).

Take a second and answer these questions about Net Promoter Scoring:

  • What do you do with the score?  Individually and in aggregate?
  • What are you really trying to understand by collecting this information?
  • If last month you scored a 27, and this month scored a 28, what does that mean?
  • Is the verbatim on the general survey more important than the scores?
  • Should or do you alter retention or net add forecasts if your scores change?
  • What is the action if the score drops?
  • Do your customers know the difference between a 6, 7, or a 9?
  • How often do you ask yourself if this is a waste of time, energy and money?

Net Promoter Scoring is a good system.  It’s better to collect NPS than to not at all.  Since it’s relatively generic, it allows you to benchmark your industry and others.  It will provide a sense of your customers’ emotional connection to your company.

Why does “Ultimate Question” ask if you would recommend someone who is near and/or dear to you?  It is clearly looking for an emotional relationship versus a behavioral relationship because you would not recommend a commodity company.  I know the end goal is to get the recommendation or referral, but the real underlying question is quite different, and may be more powerful.

What Net Promoter Score is really asking is:

Do you trust <company X>?

Answers should be simple: Yes, No, or Sometimes

If a participant answers “Yes”, theoretically you are recommendable.  I say theoretically, because many companies make it difficult or complex to recommend.

If the answer is “No” or “Sometimes”, the likelihood of achieving a recommendation is low.  Would you recommend a company you do not trust or only sometimes trust?  Why do you think Financial Services, Healthcare providers and cable companies have such low scores?  – No Trust.

How might things be different if you asked, “Do you trust <company X>?”?

(For the score freaks out there, let’s pretend a “Yes” is +1, while “No” and “Sometimes” are -1)

  • How would your CEO respond to a low Trust score versus NPS?
  • Would you find more companies in the negative?
  • There is no question of whether a 7 is a 9 in another person’s opinion. It’s clearer to the participant.

Again, you will still need more context of the answer.  Regardless, if you ask NPS or Trust, this is always harder for participants to explain.  The areas of the brain that handle limbic functions such as liking, loving, referring, emotion, and trusting are not “connected” to the area that handles speech (Broca’s area).  That is why it is hard to describe why you love someone.  However, with help, participants can break down why they do or do not trust <company X>.

I believe trust is a combination of three factors:

  • Sincerity
  • Competence
  • Reliability

If someone does not trust you or a company, you are falling short on 1, 2 or all of the 3 factors above.  Follow up questions, should gather their feelings on your sincerity, competence, and reliability.  By understanding where you are weak in trust, you can take corrective action.  I am sure my cable company means well (sincere) and know how to do their jobs (competent), but their reliability or at least the perception of their reliability is poor.  People love Zappos and USAA because we believe they care about us or service, provide valuable advice, and deliver consistently. 

There are many ways to skin a cat, and other ways to determine the likelihood your customers will stay and even recommend.

More on Trust & Net Promoter Scoring

Customer Service Fortune Cookies for 2014 and Beyond

By michaelpace on December 16, 2013

Complete, wild guess predictions and thoughts by my cousin Pacefucious about the trends in Customer Service for 2014.

Note: The practice of adding “in bed” may or may not work with the following fortunes.

Customer Service Fortunes

Customer Service Fortunes

Pacefucious say: Successful Customer Service leaders will be Customer Success Leaders

Even now, Customer Success strategies and methodologies have been mostly delivered in the Software as a Service (SaaS) world, and even there it may not be considered part of the customer service strategy.  Customer Success is all about providing rapid value and adoption of your product or service to your newly sold customers or trialers.  In a SaaS environment, delivering value to customers in a timely manner is critical to reduce churn and/or boost retention.  In general, Customer Success strategies and methodologies place a considerably higher effort during the initial stages of the customer support lifecycle.  It may involve a “coach” or “relationship manager” helping the customer better understand how the product or service works, appropriate marketing or learning materials sent with context, and hand offs to deeper technical support. 

But there is no reason this level of service needs to remain solely in the SaaS world.  Providing rapid value and adoption leads to improved retention, and every customer service leaders primary responsibility is to retain customers (quality of service is a driver of retention).  Imagine if your newly selected bank contacted you to make sure you better understand the fee schedule or how you could save more.  Or if you buy a tablet, learn how to find the best apps for childhood learning.  Earlier in the year, I provided my steps for Customer Success; you find them here.

Pacefucious say: Mobile is the Combo Plate of Service – Everything at once

Mobile – it is probably the most discussed technology over the past few years.  But what does it mean for Customer Service?  Everything.  First off, mobile is not channel; it is the combination of a device, ecosystems, and circumstance.  A few examples:

  • Using a smartphone to check prices at retail establishment through the general internet
  • Purchasing an item through a company branded mobile application
  • Calling customer service while driving
  • Interacting with multiple screens such as tablet, smartphone, and TV while you are lounging on your couch at home
  • Amazon texting you when you receive a package at home while you’re at the office
  • Pay a bill while or deposit a reimbursement check from your office
  •  Tweeting feedback (positive or negative) to a company
  • Browsing Flipboard while you are waiting for your spouse to finish up the dressing room
  • A FitBit device uploading workout data to a user dashboard
  • I hate this term, but yes, the internet of things

How could or would customers interact with your company?  Do you have a responsive website or customer service site?  Do you have a mobile app?  What are all the customer service channels you can point to in a mobile situation?  Can they connect via phone, get answers from your knowledge base, get their most general questions answered, link to a chat, send an email (yuck), provide feedback or answer a survey, or even just consistently perform routine actions? 

Many mobile apps and sites are typically “controlled” by Product Development, and their goals may be different than the Customer Service Department’s goals.  How can you influence them to include more customer service features and options?  Start with understanding how, why and where your customers use their mobile devices.  The mobile “movement” is still in its early stages (hard to believe), so survey and meet with your customers (whether internal or external).

Pacefucious say: “Your customers will be your most valuable customer service agents” (repeat from ’12 and ‘13)

I still find it puzzling that so many customer service organizations do not utilize communities to help solve their customer’s questions or problems.  Some customer service organizations do not even have relationships with the people in their organization who manage their communities.  I am not sure I have ever even been to a customer service conference where community management was a topic.  Your customers, especially your advocates and superusers, have (collectively) considerably more knowledge than your support agents; why not let them help your customers too?  I am not advocating for the end of phone or chat service (maybe email  – see below), but having a shared community and knowledge base that can be added to and used by your customers is both incredibly efficient and can provide awesome service. I discussed this topic in an interview with Execs in the Know in March, find it here.

Pacefucious say: It may be Big Data buffet, but tummy still the same size

Big Data is all the rage.  How do we incorporate Big Data into the customer experience and their service?  Love this quote from Dr. Eric Topal at Digital Healthcare Innovation Summit, “Big data is like teen sex. Everybody is talking about it; everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it.”

Big Data is a bit of hype.  Yes, technologies have improved that enable us to gather and analyze more data faster.  But data is still data, whether it is big or small.  You cannot be big dead or big pregnant, it is what it is. 

Customer Service and contact centers have been in the Big Data game for the last 20 years, and will be for another 20 more.  Contact centers produce so much quantitative and qualitative data it usually coming out of their headsets.  More often than not, service centers can gather immense amounts of data, but either do not have the ability, competency, or availability to do anything with it, let alone gain insight.  Most companies still need to focus on the basics.  Basics seem to be forgotten when we can look at or “need to look at” 15 different combinations of analytics.  Odds are you not Amazon or Google.  Don’t worry so much as to what Big Data is, and the promises that it can provide.  Instead of collecting more data, revisit the questions that you are trying to solve. 

  • How do I retain more customers?
  • What areas of the experience are pains for customers?
  • How do we do this efficiently for our customers and ourselves?
  • How do I hire, develop, and retain the best associates?

IBM’s Watson can probably give you the answer, or you can just ask the folks in customer service.

Pacefucious say: Why do you think the Menu has Such Pretty Pictures?

How can you be a company worth between $1-3 Billion (yes B), and still never create anything close to a $1 of revenue?  Just be a company like Instagram or Snapchat, where pictures rule.  Who knows how much Pinterest will be worth one day.  The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” may need to be updated.  My point is that we have become a very visually dependent society.  And, there is nothing wrong with that, but it also means you may want to understand how visuals can reduce customer issues.  If we know that visuals (images) are enticing and important to our customers, how can customer service leverage the power of visuals to provide proactive or self service? 

  • Use images to link to your most popular questions answered in your knowledge base
  • Use slideshows to walk customers through longer step by step processes, better yet, link them to your branded Slideshare site (create virtuous cycles)
  • Create short videos (no more than 2 min.) introducing new products or enhancements to your service

The Poo Poo Platter: Things that I hope will disappear down some dark tunnel

  1. Email for Customer Service – email is atrocious for customer service. Let’s take a typical email situation: question to company (waits), reply and clarification from company, customer clarifies (waits), company provides standard message to solve problem, customer needs more specific information, blah, blah, blah, blah etc…  That is a horrible experience, and costs more than you think to provide.  Use email to accept issues during your non-hours of operation, but make sure the customer knows the expectations of service.
  2. Bullpen / Open cube areas – I am not sure how the concept of the open cube area makes for a more collaborative environment came about, but let’s put a chopstick in this idea and call it done.  All the bullpen does is make easier for you to see the person that is IMing you. 
  3. NPS (Net Promoter Score) Monitoring – You got a score of 43 this month. Next month it is 44.  Then it is 42.  The score is pointless unless you know why.  Also, gathering this information and not including it in your customer’s account information is even worse.  NPS has become one of those things that we have to do, but people have forgotten why we do it. 

 

The Art and Science of Customer Service Recovery

By michaelpace on November 5, 2013

“Customers do not expect you to be perfect.  They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong” – Doug Porter while SVP at British Airways

Remember that time a company did not meet your expectations, or something broke, or you received sub-par customer service, or you were just having a bad day, and then something happened …

Something that moved you from “company challenger” to its biggest “champion”.  You go from dislike to love, like a rocketship to the mailbox.  Cupid’s company arrow struck you right through your wallet.  We all have one; what was your most memorable service recovery kiss?

To quote two greats, Chip Bell & Ron Zemke, “Service recovery is the art of fixing what went wrong for the customer and mending the damage that error, mistake, or misstep did to your relationship with the customer.  Service recovery is about restoring trust when your customer is most vulnerable to doubt.”

Service recovery is truly both an art and a science.  It’s about both how you handle a customer who was impacted, and how do you spot them in a sea of customers.  It’s about short term fixes, and long term proactive changes. It requires a special kind of associate, one who is empowered to do the right thing for the customer, while keeping the businesses best interests in mind, and can be consistent with process. 

Below find a presentation on the Art and Science of Customer Service Recovery.  Also be on the lookout for a full step by step article in this month’s Contact Center Pipeline.

 

Resources:

Knock Your Socks Off Service Recovery by Ron Zemke & Chip Bell

Image: Verint Blog

A Gift That Keeps Giving: Review of Chip R. Bell’s “The 9 1/2 Principles of Innovative Service”

By michaelpace on October 1, 2013

Chip Bell Book Customer Service

I can remember when Chip first changed my world.  Almost a decade ago, I attended an intra-company process management conference with the hope I would not literally be bored to tears.  Luckily, the conference was very well run and “edu-taining” as a whole.  On the morning of the second day of the conference, the morning keynote was introduced.  This man with an absolute crazy look in his eye, bound in his gait, and wild white hair appeared from nowhere and lit up the room.  He brought energy, a sense of purpose, and most importantly smart information and storytelling.  I was totally captivated.  

When I returned back to the office, I order a copy of his latest book at the time, Managing Knock Your Socks Off Service. I would say that I blew through the book in hours, but that wasn’t the case.  After each chapter, I was taking too many notes and streaming ideas for my contact center and customer service teams.  When I finished, I ordered another 15 copies of the book for my direct reports, supervisors, and even my bosses.  It drastically changed my customer service long term strategy, and I wanted everyone on the same proverbially page.  He helped me discover:

  • The Power of a Service Vision and Standards
  • How to deliver truly remarkable and memorable service
  • Part of my managerial style of today – helping others Exercise Their Responsible Freedom (my take on the subject)

Managing Knock Your Socks Off Servic

Since then I have read all of Chip’s other books including Magnetic ServiceManagers as Mentors, and Knock Your Socks Off Service Recovery.  But my well worn copy of MKYSOS, still comes with me on every engagement.  A couple weeks ago, I was honored to be asked to write a review of his latest book, The 9 1/2 Principles of Innovative Service.  For me, it was a chance to give Chip just a little something back.

First, let start by acknowledging what the book itself is; it’s a gift book.  Its (obvious) intention is not to provide you with detailed strategies on how to create and develop a remarkable and innovative service organization.  There are plenty of books by Chip that provide that kind of information.  The book itself is only “106” pages.  The book is meant to share basic principles and inspire.  It will make a great gift for:

  • Personal inspiration
  • Thank you gift
  • Customer gift
  • Agent appreciation
  • Reinforce culture
  • Team development
  • Prospect gift

9 1/2 Principles provides the basis for a great experience, with a short story for each and inspirational quotes from leaders across industries.  All are great reminders what it takes to innovate in service.  My personal favorite is “The Speed Limit 23 MPH Principle”.  The story revolves around a group of visitors to a gated beach resort.  Over a game of stump-the-other-team trivia, someone asked what the speed limit around the resort was, and everyone cheered 23 MPH.  The principle is simple, even the littlest details make memorable experiences.  By “working the edges of the box” (a little Seth Godin there), the resort makes you stop and notice, creates a memory, and gives their customers a story to tell.  Give your customers a great story to tell.  In our sharing economy, word of mouth and great stories travel.

9 1/2 is a great introduction to Chip, and a nice gift for someone on your list. Check it out.

For more about Chip, head over to http://www.chipbell.com/

Chip Bell

And the Winner is ….

By michaelpace on April 18, 2013

PerkStreet Announcement

Drum roll please …

And the Winner is …

Ladies and Gentlemen we have a tie, a three way tie.  The winner of an amazing opportunity goes to PerkStreet Financial, Me, and Everyone who is tired of broken banking as usual.

PerkStreet Financial

PerkStreet Financial (located at 114 State Street, Boston, MA) will be my new home away from home, and I couldn’t be more excited.  PerkStreet Financial is changing the way we can bank.  If there ever was an industry that needed to be disrupted, it’s Banking and Financial Services. 

  • Get rewards for using your debit card, rather than going into debt (Hmm … that would be nice)
  • Reach a person 24/7 (Stuff happens, we’re there to help)
  • Use social media to create community (Yes it is possible in Financial Services)

People say things happen for reason, and while the search for the right opportunity took longer than anticipated, PerkStreet is a perfect fit for my customer service experience, social and community management skills, and financial services background.  PerkStreet doesn’t approach business with typical functional silos like marketing, operations and customer service. Instead, they organize around the business objective* with team members with different skills working together in stand alone teams. My job will be to spearhead Customer Care and Cultivation in 4 critical areas:

  • Customer Dialogue – How do we engage with prospects and customers across channels to help them get the most out of PerkStreet?
  • Issue Diagnosis – It isn’t enough to fix things that go wrong, we are applying analytics to our customer interactions to understand how we fix things that went wrong and take friction out of the process.
  • Scale and Flex – How do we grow without losing the human touch?
  • People Leadership – All great businesses have cultures that drive success, how do we maintain and build upon a strong foundation, particularly when we leverage outside parties?

Banking customers and their money deserve better, and I intend on changing their perceptions and realities.

Special thanks to Jennifer Spencer for advocating internally for me to bring me in to speak with such a great team!

*Discussion regarding the need for change in traditional organizations from 2012

 

 

The Best Medicine for Customer Success – Prescription

PrescriptionBy michaelpace on February 26, 2013

  1. Take two of these every 4 hours for 5 days
  2. Go home and rest
  3. Drink plenty of fluids
  4. Make some chicken soup
  5. Take ibuprofen to reduce fever
  6. Gargle salt water for a sore throat
  7. Steam to loosen congestion
  8. Etc…

We’ve all been there.  There is something wrong with our bodies, and we visit a doctor.  After their years of training and experience, they know the path back to health.  They prescribe a solution to help you get back into optimum shape.  They provide clear steps on how to get from poor results to feeling great.  I think you are getting where I am going; Customer Success needs to be prescriptive.

Particularly in the SAAS, but also relevant in other areas, customers need guidance to help them on to the road of success.  A typical scenario has a customer researching a product for a need, considering options, developing intent to purchase, and finally purchase.  During this process, they may consult with a “Sales Coach” or “Sales Representative” from your company to help them understand the possible value and help with initial set up.  Then they are handed over to Support.  Essentially, you have given them the medicine, but as with your personal health, there are multiple steps to success.

Here’s my prescription to help you develop a prescriptive path to Customer Success.

x

Identify the most common paths to Customer Success or “Happy Paths” (no more than 5) – As the doctor has learned from years of training and experience, you must understand the best practices of customers to achieve success.  While product training and experience will be helpful, I believe, you should be leveraging the best practices of BPM (Business Process Management) to clearly understand your customers needs.Map out how your current processes are actually working.  The two best tools from BPM for this activity are SIPOC and Swimlane tools. These tools will help you understand the people and tools involved in the processes, and will help identify overlaps, holes, and general inefficiencies.  You will probably come out of this exercise with a number of opportunities.

  1. Map out how your current processes are actually working.  The two best tools from BPM for this activity are SIPOC and Swimlane tools. These tools will help you understand the people and tools involved in the processes, and will help identify overlaps, holes, and general inefficiencies.  You will probably come out of this exercise with a number of opportunities.
  2. Determine what is Critical to Quality for your customer.  A very helpful tool process managers use to flesh out who your customer is, what they care about, and how to measure what they care about.
  3. Get deep into your analytics.  Hopefully, in this age of Big Data, you are collecting information about your customer’s habits and trends.  You need to understand what your most successful customers are doing, and how they are doing it.  Examples: How often do they log in?  What activities are they doing?  Are they contacting Support or are they using Forums?  At my previous employer, we saw an incredibly strong correlation of success with the amount of times they contacted Support.  They more the better (odd but true).  Do they use your product or service in a specific way?  Understanding your data will assist in the Success Path creation.

Customer Success starts in the top of the funnel.  How have your built awareness, consideration, and intent to buy?  Ease of use is an incredibly important variable in your customer’s purchase decision.  You need to ensure your marketing, or the expectations your company is setting, is obtainable, and the value you provide can be evident quickly.  The most important part of Customer Success is providing evident value quickly.

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The critical handoff(s) after purchase.  As I just stated, you must provide evident value quickly.  Hopefully, within your Sales process you are able to demonstrate real value to your customer.  This is one of the huge benefits of providing trial periods.  If you are lucky enough to have a fast sales cycle, you may need to take additional steps to ensure the handoff of post sales to implementation or support is done incredibly well.  In fact, the harder it is for the purchase to be made (financial, complexity, etc..) the more time and money you need to spend in designing handoffs that ensure effectiveness.  I highly recommend adding a Customer Success team to identify struggling customers.  If your customers just purchased, their will to achieve the skill is at its highest.  A Customer Success team is charged with developing exception reporting to understand customer usage gaps, and remedy the situation through a mixture of well placed content and some courtesy calls.  The behavioral analysis you conducted previously should provide what’s needed for understanding your exception reporting.

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Monitor behavioral and emotional responses.  A low amount of companies are collecting behavioral information about their customer’s actions.  A much larger portion is monitoring emotional ties to your company (Customer Satisfaction and/or NPS).  Guess what? You need to be measuring both simultaneously.  Let me give an example:  I am a customer of a cable company that provides my phone, internet, and cable.  Behaviorally, I am a great customer; I buy all of their services and upgrades.  Emotionally, I can’t stand them.  My NPS for them would definitely be in the detractor category.  Conversely, I am a customer of an internet based music collection company.  I have them on my mobile devices and desktop, but I forget to use it 99% of the time.  I love the service and function, but I forget all about it.  You need to be able to monitor both to prescribe the right action.

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Action. Action.  Action.  Sometimes we end up in analysis paralysis, and forget to do something with all this data.  Regardless, if you are collecting only NPS or behavioral scoring, or both, you need to do something with the info.  If you are scoring low on CSAT or NPS, you do not have a strong relationship with your customer or they do not trust you.  If you are scoring low behaviorally, you may need to increase awareness or education.  Regardless, you will need to determine strategies to move the needle on your customer.  Make sure your post sale marketing is directed to their particular issue.  Make sure your customer service agents can see their scoring and have effective means at their disposal to correct the situation.

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Customer Success is complex, and has been overlooked for many years.  If you leverage process management tools, recognize your Sales team is deeply involved and it doesn’t start at Support, ensure solid handoffs, monitor behavioral and emotional responses, and take action, you have the prescription for Customer Success.

Usual, Great, and Future Leading Companies

By michaelpace on January 14, 2013

 

How Most Companies Sell & Add Value:

How Usual Companies work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Great Companies Sell & Add Value:

How Great Companies Work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Future Leading Companies Help, Add Value & Sell:

How Future Leading Companies Work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Repeat

It’s Time to Grade My 2012 Predictions – Customer Service Fortune Cookies for 2012

By michaelpace on December 19, 2012

Customer Service Fortune CookiesBefore I let my crazy cousin Pacefucious make any predictions for 2013, we need to hold him accountable for his previous Confucius-like prophecies.

Complete, wild guess predictions and thoughts by my cousin Pacefucious about the trends in Customer Service for 2012.
Note: The practice of adding “in bed” may or may not work with the following fortunes.

Pacefucious said: “Transactional social customer service is like making out with pretty cousin” –   I hope my crazy cousin isn’t talking about me, but he does have a point about social customer service (somewhere in there).  I believe he is saying, you get your customer’s immediate need resolved, but you are not forming a relationship.  Once a company receives a comment or issue (positive or negative), they should realize the customer has opened up a channel that you share.  Just handling their immediate transactional need is good, following up with that customer with content that is of value to them, starts to create a relationship, and is phenomenal customer service.  More about this kind of proactive customer service see Is Your Social Customer Service Missing the “Social” Point?

Grade: B+
Rationale: Pacefucious is still ahead of his time on this prediction.  2012 did not prove to be the year that Customer Service and Support teams grabbed the social customer service brass ring.  Per @marketingprofs recent article “Top Brands Using Twitter for Customer Support”, only 23% of big brands have a dedicated Customer Service group.  Don’t even get me started on how poor the response times and service levels appeared.  You must be able to crawl before you walk, and Customer Support is still getting the basics of social media support down.  Hopefully, this prediction will improve its accuracy in 2013.

customer-service-handle-simply-measured

Pacefucious said: “Social CRM platform is silver bullet made of ice” – In 2012, SCRM (definitions) will continue to be a hot topic, but currently it is overpriced (for this economy), overpromising and being mostly sold by people who still believe in traditional sales models and have no understanding of social business.  Don’t get me or my cousin wrong, SCRM can and will be a very important tool for businesses, but I don’t think most businesses (or people running those businesses) will be ready for full blown SCRM tools.  SCRM will not help you understand social business language, develop your strategy for using social media tools or establish governance.  I would love to see more distributors or sales people of SCRM platforms get a firm understanding of social business and practices in 2012 before trying to sell their “silver bullets”.

Grade: B-

Rationale: Pacefucious was correct on the economy, but was slightly harsh on the (S)CRM industry.  Consolidation and platform integration has helped the large CRM companies broaden their product suite, but also brought in more people who understand social business and the needs of their customers.  While Pacefucious’ prediction wasn’t his best, the industry is moving in the right direction.

Pacefucious said: “Benchmark data and metrics make your service taste like cheap Chinese food” – – I always get a little worried when people ask me if I have any benchmark data on customer service or contact center metrics.  I will try to provide what I think a particular industry considers benchmark data (example:  X% of calls answered in X seconds), but that is really just averages.  If you are interested in average customer service, which pretty much sucks, benchmark data and metrics is perfect for you.  If you are interested in providing outstanding service, go understand what your customer finds important or critical to quality, and deliver that and more.

Grade: You tell me

Rationale: How has any benchmark data helped you deliver awe-inspiring service?  It usually gives you a number or metric that makes sense to do better.  Be a differentiator, not a trend follower.

Pacefucious said: “Your customers will be your most valuable customer service agents” – I still find it puzzling that so many customer service organizations do not utilize communities to help solve their customers questions or problems.  Some customer service organizations do not even have relationships with the people in their organization who manage their communities.  I am not sure I have ever even been to a customer service conference where community management was a topic.  Your customers, especially your advocates and superusers, have (collectively) considerably more knowledge than your support agents; why not let them help your customers too?  I am not advocating for the end of phone or chat service (maybe email  – see below), but having a shared community and knowledge base that can be added to and used by your customers is both incredibly efficient and can provide awesome service.

Grade: A-

Rationale: A collective “AAAAHHHHH” is being shouted by community managers around the world.  In 2012, the value of the community manager, their platforms, and the discipline of community management was beginning to be realized.  Communities deliver more content for SEO, helps retain customers, educate prospects and new customers to gain the fullest out of your product, and provides your organization immense scale.  The awareness, desire, and knowledge of communities still has tremendous opportunity within the Customer Support world, but innovative leaders are catching on fast.

Pacefucious said: “Email customer service sucks, your lucky numbers are 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42” – Again, don’t get my cousin wrong, email doesn’t suck, but customer service through email is RARELY good, and almost always includes extra work for your customers.  Let’s take a typical email situation: question to company (waits), reply and clarification from company, customer clarifies (waits), company provides standard message to solve problem, customer needs more specific information, blah, blah, blah, blah etc… Now email can be valuable to a company as an off-business hour service, and possibly outsourced, but why even provide the subpar experience?

Grade: Not Rated

Rationale: Well, it really wasn’t a prediction, more of a customer service fact.  Pacefu also did not guess the $500M Megaball numbers very well.

Pacefucious said: “Be social and transparent organization or soon no organization” – The companies that will succeed in 2012 and beyond will leverage social business principles internally and externally.  It has already been proven during our recent recession; those companies that embraced social marketing and the use of social tools internally have performed significantly better.  Those companies now also have an almost insurmountable time advantage over those companies who have not embraced the social organization.  As I wrote earlier this year, I believe the social organization will be the most important advancement for business in the next 5 years – The Next Innovation in Social will come from … HR

Grade: A

Rationale: “…become a Social Business or die”, I don’t know if that was a mantra from 2012, but I did read it somewhere.  While I agree, social business will be the next big business innovation, you probably won’t die.  Traditional work organizational models have siloed departments, working on their individual goals to hopefully achieve a greater sum for the sake of acquiring and retaining customers.  This model, generally, approaches internal and external customers as someone to talk at or to be spoken to.  People, whether internal to your organization or external, are tired of being spoken to.  Social Business is inclusive, collaborative and open.  I believe people and relationships are every company’s most important and underutilized asset.  We now have the technological ability to act/work/socialize/create relationships like we do in “real life”.  By leveraging the relationships, new technology, and process, we can unleash the ultimate power – PEOPLE.

Big Prediction misses:
•    Power of Visual Media (Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ changes, Facebook changes, etc…)
•    Location Based Services pivot (less gamification, more exploration)
•    Community funding – Kickstarter
•    Mobile payments
•    Mayan calendar

So, what does your fortune cookie say? (Don’t forget to add “in bed” afterwards)

Any other big prediction misses?
Pacefucious is only available via smoke signal or albatross mail, you can contact me with thoughts.

Image via Clutchcook