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Improve customer experience in the contact center

Customer_Experiences

Five ways to improve customer experience

The contact center plays an important role in building and retaining customers for life. It is one of the first points of contact for customers looking for information, support or advice and that makes a quality customer experience essential every time a customer gets in touch.

Here are five ways you can ensure a quality experience:

  1. Deal with customers over their preferred channel
  2. Give agents time to deal effectively with calls
  3. Manage call transfers to minimize inconvenience for customers
  4. Provide video sharing to enhance the customer experience
  5. Integrate contact center records with other customer data

Deal with customers over their preferred channel

It’s clear that customers are now using many different sources outside the traditional voice–based contact center to obtain information. You need to extend the reach of the contact center and proactively support other channels.

  • Your contact center must be able to interact with customers through email, text, chat, instant messaging web conferencing, and voice.
  • Mobile customers are using apps, text and other tools to interact with organizations. You must respond to the way your customers want to be supported by providing knowledge, resources, email, chat and community site access via mobile.

Give agents time to deal effectively with calls

Traditional contact center metrics focused on minimizing the time agents spent on each call. The aim was to control costs and reduce the number of people needed to staff the center. However, experience indicated that agents under pressure to close the call within a specified time limit were failing to resolve queries. As a result, customers were calling back and satisfaction levels were falling. By giving agents the discretion to spend longer on a call and resolve issues first time, companies found satisfaction levels rising.

Manage call transfers to minimize inconvenience for customers
Improving the quality of call transfers can lower costs, reduce churn and increase lifetime customer value. Unnecessary call transfers frustrate customers, increase costs and tie up contact center resources. An agent is unable to answer a caller’s query; the caller cannot get a suitable response from a self-service facility; or the IVR system directs the caller to an unsuitable agent.

A good transfer can increase satisfaction levels when it puts the caller in contact with a skilled agent competent to deal with the caller’s issue. It can increase revenue when the call is transferred to another agent when there is an opportunity to upsell by meeting the caller’s needs more effectively.

Offer video collaboration to enhance the experience

By enabling video in your contact center, you can move high-value customers to the highest level of interaction and personal contact. Agents and callers can discuss products or support issues via web conferencing, enabling agents to illustrate product information or support processes that would be difficult to explain by voice alone.

Integrate contact center records with other customer data

By integrating contact center records with data in other departments, such as sales, marketing or technical support, you can be confident that anyone who contacts a customer has up-to-date information on all customer issues. Integration with a helpdesk system, for example, means helpdesk teams can check customer records to see if there any open support issues before contacting clients. Integrating sales and marketing records with contact center records gives marketing, sales and contact center teams a single view of all activity with specific clients so they can coordinate activities to improve customer satisfaction.

Evolution pays dividends

The contact center must evolve to stay in line with changing customer preferences. By dealing with customers in the way they want and offering a quality experience on every call, you can help to retain customers for life.

 
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Why Collaboration with Customers Matters

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A great way to keep customers for life is to make them dependent on you. Collaborating on product development projects, arranging customized training programs for their people or setting up dedicated services can help build strong, long-tem relationships that competitors will find hard to break.

There’s more than a loyalty bonus in collaboration. Getting closer to your customers can reduce your sales and supply chain costs, help you plan future inventory, product developments and give you greater account control.

Get to know your customers’ goals

So where does collaboration begin? Do you know why customers keep coming back to you? It could be quality, price, convenience, delivery or a combination of those factors. Do you understand their challenges, their business plans and their perception of you? If they just view you as a supplier, chances are that key account might soon defect to a better offer from a competitor.

But, if they see you as a trusted business partner, essential to their success, you’re looking at a strong, long-term relationship. Here’s an example.

Collaborating to reduce a customer’s costs

A company supplying fuel charge cards to fleet operators faced tricky annual contract negotiations with a major customer that represented a big slice of its turnover and profit. Negotiations were traditionally based around the charge for managing the card program and that made the company vulnerable to lower cost competitors.

The company recognized through discussions with senior executives that the fleet operator faced increasing administration costs in controlling their fleet expenditure. By integrating their information systems with the customer and developing a customized reporting package, the supplier was able to demonstrate a reduction in the fleet operators’ administration costs.

This initiative moved negotiations away from price to business benefits by enabling the fleet operator to improve efficiency and reduce costs. The company transformed its perception from supplier to strategic business partner – a strong basis for a customer for life.

Becoming a product development partner

Collaborating on product development is another great way to build lifetime relationships. The pressure to get quality products to market continues to intensify and that gives suppliers an opportunity to build strong outsourcing relationships based on collaboration.

A components supplier, for example, can take on the design and development of an engineering component that is critical to the performance of the customer’s product. If the customer does not have the skills or resources to handle that work inhouse, the supplier becomes an essential partner.

As the customer gains confidence in the partner, they can plan future product development projects utilizing the supplier’s skills and expertise to add value to products and reduce development times.  It’s a win-win situation for both parties and a good basis for customers for life.

Strategy for success

Collaboration gets you in deep with your customers. It builds relationships based on trust and mutual benefit. And, it puts up big barriers for your competitors to overcome. This is a sure-fire strategy for success in the battle for customers for life. Put your sales and marketing team on the case, find out everything you can about your customers’ goals and challenges and demonstrate how you can become their strategic partner.

 
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How to Become a Customer For Life Company

Customer-Loyalty

Customer Satisfaction vs. Customer Loyalty

It makes sense to cultivate customers you already have. Lee Resource Inc. says, that the cost is up to 5 times higher to attract a new customer than to retain an existing one. As per the Gartner Group, it is the 80/ 20 rule. This means that 80 percent of your income will be derived from just 20 percent of current customers.

But keeping existing customers is challenging. In fact, it is the holy grail of business.

While customer satisfaction plays one of the most important roles in customer loyalty the terms however are not interchangeable. We must differentiate between the two.

Customer satisfaction is simply a measure of a customer’s personal perception regarding how well their expectations are met or even exceeded.

Customer loyalty, is defined as a commitment, feeling or attitude that increases a customer’s likelihood of returning to your company to buy again.

Keeping the Customers You Have

Building customer loyalty is about appealing to all your customer’s senses involving his/ her purchase process. Both objective and subjective criteria come into play. One is objective, the other subjective. The objective criterion is to offer products and services that meet precise needs. The subjective criteria is the WOW experience. This is where a company truly shines. This is where people will talk about how your company provides amazing value and service.

According to TeleFaction data research, Customers who rate you 5 on a scale from 1 to 5 are six times more likely to buy from you again, compared to those giving you “only” a 4.8 score.

Calculate your customer retention rate. Know where you currently stand and decide what an acceptable rate is for you. It is pretty easy.

Legend:

  • CEOY- number of customers at the end of year
  • NNCA – number of new customers acquired during year
  • NCSY – number of customers at start of year
  • Customer Retention Rate: (CEOY-NNCA)/ NCSY
  • Example: (300-60)/280 = .86 or 86%

Below are 10 powerful customer retention techniques you can use to increase customer loyalty and thus build revenue from existing buyers.

Important Retention Tactics

  1. Attract the Right Customers – If you’re attracting the wrong customers, they’re bound to be dissatisfied with your products. Study your market and match products and services with needs.
  2. Segment Your Customers – Remember the 80/20 Rule—80% of your revenue is generated by 20% of your customers. Find out who is buying what and focus your attention on your most profitable prospects.
  3. Identify True Loyalty – True loyalty means your customers are loyal because they truly love what you are offering not because they lack options
  4. Don’t Take Loyalty for Granted – Even if your sales are up it is never safe to assume your customers are 100% satisfied. Survey your customers. Ask them what you are doing right and more important where you need to improve
  5. Always Build Value – Show your customers that everyone in your company is committed to customer satisfaction. Customers may initially deal with sales but marketing and customer service are part of the team committed to their satisfaction
  6. Solve Problems – Problem resolution is a powerful customer retention (and sales) tool. Every company makes mistakes. How you resolve your mistakes determines your success in retaining more customers
  7. loyaltytest

    Start a Loyalty Program – In the chart below from Forrester Research see by industry where loyalty programs are most effective. Retailers have the most success while Airlines have the weakest results. Analyze the benefits of a loyalty program for your business.

  8. Use Coupons – Harris Interactive/ RightNow found that 68% of survey participants were more loyal because of coupon programs. Use coupons to limit customer attrition.
  9. Add Value – Differentiate yourself from the competition. Provide better service and an improved customer experience. Competing on price alone is a losing battle.
  10. Provide Self-Service – Customers want self-service options, such as research, online FAQs, support, satisfaction surveys by other customers, product suggestions, and seamless checkout.

Customer Satisfaction is Great, Customer Loyalty is Even Better

Customer retention can save you money and increase profitability. You also insulate yourself from competition. Customers want more than products that work.

Create an outstanding customer experience and build your brand. Make that one time buyer into a customer for life. Become a Customer For Life Company™

 
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What We Learn from The Grateful Dead Calico and Fans For Life

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Introduction

The psychedelic rock band, The Grateful Dead, was formed amid the rise of the counter culture in 1965. Their unique and eclectic fusion of rock, folk, blues, reggae and country evoked a spiritual awakening in ordinary people. Legions of fans gravitated towards performances laced with space rock, psychedelic tones and live performances of long musical improvisation. A quick cult rose from the unexpected community and the Deadhead was born.

Deadheads or Dead Heads grew from devoted fans who religiously followed the Grateful Dead to as many shows or festivals as possible. The ever-changing playlist each night and the promise of a two set show with an encore kept people coming back for more. Deadheads wanted to hear the sweet sounds of their favorite songs and if they didn’t hear them one night, they would pack up and hear them the next night, regardless of location. A nomadic tribe of wandering Deadheads sold out performances each night as they patiently waited to be spiritually reborn through music. A make-shift community formed complete with solid friendships and a language infused with idioms and slang understood only by Deadheads. The peaceful cult even resorted to commerce by selling tie-dye t-shirts and veggie burritos to fund transportation to the next event. It was a phenomenal response created by average folks simply wanting a spiritual experience through blissful and transcendent music.

“Wiser” Deadheads rose to the occasion and with the support of the band, handed out flyers telling people to “cool out”. This gave way to the creation of the Minglewood Town Council, a group of fanatical Deadheads including the infamous Elisabeth van der Mei also known as “Calico” and later on as “Ruby”.

Calico was born in Holland and as a teenager experienced starvation and homelessness during World War II. The experience taught her to appreciate shreds of good fortune and always share with others. She was a keen learner and took great interest in world events. She was always willing to share her knowledge with others and listen intently to their opinions. Her open and willing spirit was welcome at Grateful Dead concerts where she was a renowned supporter of the band and eventual friend of Jerry Garcia.

Grateful Dead Personal Service

In 1983, Deadheads broke new ground by creating a system to acquire tickets through mail order. Steven Marcus was at the helm of the organization with Frankie Accardi and not surprisingly, Calico at his side. It was at this point Calico became Ruby, a softer and perhaps more subservient version of herself. She lived in service to the people, helping tens of thousands of fans. Her personal handwritten notes touched many including Harry M. Carpenter who remembers “She always sent me notes…and tickets. The greatest tickets! We corresponded many times. I’ve always cherished everything she sent”. Christine Smith Darge recalls “Ruby was always super nice and patient with me on the phone, many years ago, before caller ID, before the internet, before I realized she really didn’t have to be nice to an annoying kid from Jersey.” A surprised Leslie Edmonds remembers “Ruby brought tickets to me at my work one time. Forgot what I messed up on but she kindly drove over and met me in San Rafael…like a favor for a friend. I will pass that kindness on”.

Ruby Spirit of The Dead

Ruby’s gentle spirit was not only a presence in the ticket office, but at the performances, as well. She frequently came to concerts and helped fans who were unwell or promoted peace within the parking lots and campgrounds. Richard De Angelis recalls “Sweet person, she helped me out at a Kate Wolf Festival in Laytonville. Very kind and understanding of my problem that night. Much love…”. Ruby always reminded people they were a community that needed to work together and share possessions and mutual love.

Ruby sadly passed away this year on March 18, 2015 at the age of 79. There has been an outpouring of love from devoted Deadheads through social media, all recalling stories of this phenomenal women who shared great wisdom and care towards complete strangers. Strings of comments describe a sweet, magical, kind person who offered time, patience and unrequired extra effort. “She was committed to communicating with us Deadheads no matter how much effort it took”, writes Francesca Rago, “Thank you, Ruby, for your wonderful gifts to our planet”.

Ruby’s Magic

Ruby appeared to possess a magical formula for drawing people in and keeping them engaged. She kept tens of thousands of people coming back for Grateful Dead tickets with little to no experience and a void of social media to aid her cause. She single-handedly represented the image of an entire legendary band by simply walking through crowds of people at a concert and offering nothing more than a peaceful smile.

In a modern world of rewards programs, flashy advertising, free samples and quantity over quality, companies forget the simple things that keep customers coming back. A personal note, sincere conversation and going the “extra mile” will win over customers who crave to be a person in a world of anonymity. Calico encompassed all of those qualities in an almost motherly fashion that encouraged people to return not only to hear great music, but lay eyes upon a caregiver who was willing to sacrifice her time for loyal and devoted customers. KhatAroo Baker simplifies it by saying “The day we lose a cherished friend is like no other. RIP, Ruby. Thanks for making this world a better place”.

 
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When Did Customers Become Commodities?

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Customer service is becoming increasingly more important than product and pricing. Organizations realize that they need customer loyalty for repeat business and the acquisition of new clientele. Harris Interactive Research indicates it is 6-7 times more expensive to bring in a new customer and 86% of people will pay more for better service. Companies are keenly aware of these statistics and yet they continue to focus on acquiring new customers rather than fostering relationships with existing ones. It is a lack of organization, technology and the ignorance of tried and true methods that keep loyal customers at a distance and companies struggling to keep them interested. Companies should focus on a customer for life strategy.

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)

A major flaw of many companies is their ignorance to the Customer Lifetime Value or CLV. CLV metrics are useful tools for acquiring and retaining loyal customers. These people ultimately balance the costs of acquisition, retention and future spending. CLV metrics accurately determine customers who represent the highest future value and therefore, the model for future marketing efforts. Transactional metrics aid in further defining average individual transactions and purchases. Companies recognize the importance of using CLV metrics in their planning and yet few actually accomplish this task. According to Forbes Insights and Sitecore, currently only 58% use CLV, 18% plan to use it and a staggering 24% have no plans to use it or they simply don’t know. These tools are highly underutilized and as a result, few businesses have insight into their customer return rate and customers who generate the most value. Businesses are left with no marketing direction and the focus remains on acquiring new customers.

Data Failure and Company Disorganization

Perhaps a major reason why CLV metrics are never utilized is a direct result of company disorganization. Attracting and keeping customers is a focus for the whole organization, not just for marketing or consumer-facing departments. The problem lies in a total miscommunication among high level executives. It appears the CEO is usually informed of strategies regarding customer loyalty planning, however the Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and the Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) are left in the dark. Forbes Insights and Sitecore reveal that only 27% of companies feel they are fully integrated, 58% feel partially integrated and 11% feel not integrated at all. The elimination of stakeholders creates confusion and disorganization within the company and results in a loss of customer retention strategies.

It is clearly not surprising that if human ignorance and disorganization is at the heart of shabby customer loyalty, the technology they use will fail, as well. The general goal is to gain a customer centric viewpoint by using various technologies. This seems like such a simple task and yet the overuse and inappropriate implementation of technology is staggering. Data gathering systems are fragmented and disorganized. There are far too many different means to acquire data and nowhere to systematically organize and store the data once it is collected. Forbes Insights and Sitecore claims that some organizations are using 36 different systems, while others are using up to 100. Companies’ complaints include duplicate data, loss of data or siloed data. It is a train wreck of information heralded by mismanaged and outdated technology.

The improper use of technology and data storage lends to the idea that customer personalization is impossible. And yet, businesses try to skip the aforementioned steps and go straight to creating a personal experience for each customer. This is an impossible feat with a lack of metrics, communication and badly used technology. Those three elements must be running smoothly before a company can implement a personal touch. However, this should be the number one goal of customer loyalty. Personalization is everything. Friendly call center representatives, customer emails and positive in store experiences are the face of a successful company who keeps loyal customers coming back for more. Happy and satisfied customers are the only reflection a business needs to know they are succeeding.

The Solution

The solutions to turning ideal customer service into a reality are simple. Practice and preach Customer Lifetime Value metrics every day. Use CLV to hone in on loyal customers who in turn will reduce the cost of acquiring new customers, retaining existing customers and future spending. The metrics reveal a “type” of customer with specific characteristics that can be the basis of a marketing strategy. Instead of shooting in the dark trying to appeal to everyone, acquire a specific personality that will enjoy your approach and frequently invest in your business.

The Implementation

While implementing CLV metrics into your company’s planning, be sure that all members of the company are informed of such changes. Reporting only to CEOs and then skipping your team often results in mass confusion and frustration. According to Forbes Insights and Sitecore, when CIOs or CMOs are involved in customer loyalty planning, integration between teams rises significantly. Clear communication within all levels of a company generates improved company performance.

Collaboration

A team that works cohesively can avoid the data catastrophe when departments are implementing new technologies and not informing anyone of the changes. The goal should be to have a central database collecting data with only a few methods of acquisition picked carefully by a team of employees from all levels in the company. The unit must be uniform, consistent and easily interpreted.

Cohesive data collection methods reveal consistent and accurate results which then allow companies to focus on personalizing customer service. If loyal customers are well established, it is easy to pinpoint the details necessary for producing personalized emails, store coupons and loyalty cards. The customer is already in favor of the store and will be impressed with the attention to making their shopping experience pleasant and genuine.

Conclusion

In a world where anonymity reigns supreme, people are desperate for human contact and validation. Life behind a computer screen is lonely and human interaction is in high demand. People want to be acknowledged and treated like they matter. Using CLV metrics, collaboration and communication throughout the company, a centralized database and customer specific messaging will keep customers coming back for more and turn a one time buyer, into a customer for life.

#BecomeaCustomerForLifeCompany

 
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