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February 22, 2017

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 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.

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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.