How to Avoid the Seven Sins of Customer Experience


Sharon Daniels . CEO . April 18 2013

Photo credit:www.marketingsavant.com

Today’s business environment is one of heightened competition, and customer experiences are part of a complex matrix that determines customer loyalty.  Customer experience can ultimately be an organization’s primary competitive advantage, if it is managed correctly.  Exceptional customer service produces loyal customers who buy more, refer friends, resist special offers from competitors and forgive the occasional mistake.  Our newest research report on customer experience sheds new light on the “seven sins” of customer experience – key missteps that make organizations stumble when it comes to customer interaction.

The study surveyed 5,500 consumers and conducted in-depth interviews with outstanding customer service employees in seven countries. Among its significant findings:

– Customers are sharing their rants and raves about their service experiences around the clock and around the globe. Almost 40% reported they posted complaints about a company or brand after a bad service experience.

– Negative experiences have a bottom-line impact. Half of those surveyed said they would defect to a competitor after only one bad service experience.

– Consumers give low ratings to customer service. Only 25% of survey respondents said that service employees “make me feel they are on my side.”

– Service employees’ interpersonal skills are what makes or breaks the customer experience. One third of survey respondents believe it’s more important to be “listened to and shown respect” than to have their issue resolved.

– Reinforcing the need for human contact, most survey respondents prefer communicating with service employees by telephone (43 percent) or personally (37 percent), compared with email (18 percent) or text (2 percent.) Though they’re quick to make complaints online, they want real-person interaction.

As the survey data indicates, the customer experience counts mightily in organizational performance. Recognizing this imperative, CEO Kevin Peters of Office Depot invites customers to a prototype store near company headquarters so they can help design a superior customer experience. Their input affects factors like the shelves on which products appear and even where employees stand as they stock the shelves.

These are the seven sins of customer experience:

1. Not Minding Your Metrics

Company leaders are failing to take full advantage of new tools that make it easier than ever to monitor customers’ experiences. The tools include a wide variety of CRM systems, voice-of-the-customer software, customer-interface technology and predictive analytics. Data on customer retention and the results of cross-selling by service reps can be especially valuable.

Obtain a comprehensive review of your customer’s opinions and actions through quantifiable metrics. Regularly survey them on key pints – whether they would recommend your company, what specifically is influencing their buying behavior, and what ideas they have for improving the customer experience.

Among the businesses that use highly sophisticated measurement frameworks is EMC, the IT storage cloud computing company. It identifies the aspects of the customer experience that have the biggest impact on loyalty. It then determines which ones require immediate changes, which to improve over time and which to promote as its strengths.

2. Underestimating the Power of Emotion

Even when the service provider can’t immediately fix the problem, customers can be satisfied if the employee connects with them on a human level. The service employee has to walk in the customers’ shoes.

Employees must listen actively so they can communicate sincere understanding, using a voice tone and/or body language that shows empathy with the customers’ emotions — even when the customer caused the problem. An angry customer may expect urgent concern, while a confused one may be satisfied simply with kindness. When it’s appropriate, an apology can work wonders and service employees shouldn’t hesitate to provide one.

3 Fumbling Defining Moments

Every customer interaction has defining moments that must be handled carefully. One of the first defining moments occurs when the customer is greeted, and it sets the tone for the entire interaction. A drive-through customer at a fast food outlet wants speedy service, as does the chain itself. KFC drive-through employees are required to greet the customer no more than five seconds after the customer reaches the intercom.

Another defining moment presents itself when the customer has a complaint. The Ritz-Carlton hotel chain, which prides itself on maintaining an excellent customer experience, allows every staff member, regardless of position, to spend as much as $2,000 to resolve a guest’s problem without seeking approval.

A customer who must return a product faces another defining moment. Customers often complain about return policies. Zappos, which has a 100% satisfaction guaranteed return policy, actually encourages customers to order several sizes of a clothing line and return what’s not wanted.

Another defining moment crops up when an employee answers a customer’s questions. The employee has to answer directly, without evasiveness or circumlocutions. Another is when asking questions. The employee has to clarify the customer’s concern without putting the customer on the defensive. Finally, the customer shouldn’t be put on hold for a prolonged period.

3. Employees on Autopilot

Service people must stay engaged. They should do it by asking a blend of open questions, which keep customers explaining, and closed questions, which help confirm facts and isolate the customer’s needs.

Employees should explain what happened in terms the customer understands. They should be clear about what they know and don’t know about the situation. They must avoid blaming anyone for the problem — the organization, another employee, and certainly not the customer.

Most importantly, they should provide the particular kind of service each customer needs. Geek Squad, which provides support for technology product users, trains its employees to understand that customers have radically different levels of knowledge about the products and to serve them accordingly.

4. Focusing on Features

Some well-meaning service providers, hoping to give their customers insights about the product, talk too much about its features rather than the customers’ problems. This can make the customers feel their concerns aren’t being addressed. This is no time to try to up-sell or cross- sell.

More than 40% of survey respondents worldwide said they get annoyed when an employee “talks to me about things other than the problem I am trying to resolve.” Customers dislike complex processes and generally want to be spared the details of internal activities and issues.

5. Getting Negative

It’s not what the employees say but how they say it that leaves a lasting impression on the customer. The interaction must be positive throughout its duration. Words like “can’t” or “won’t” can quickly send the conversation spiraling downward. It would be wise to give service employees lists of words to use and words to avoid as they communicate with customers. Verint Systems, a consulting and research firm, identifies some of the words and phrases that can antagonize customers. They include “you people,” “let me speak,” and “you promised.”

6. Escalating Anger

Angry customers sometimes express their feelings by verbally assaulting service providers. Employees must avoid responding with anger. Help them understand that customers aren’t attacking them personally. Teach them how to ease tension and clear a path to address the customer’s problems.

Customer loyalty is built one successful interaction at a time. Customer-facing associates are likely the most critical link between the customer and your brand. Indifferent or unhappy buyers among your customer base can be converted into brand promoters by taking a holistic view of the customer’s experience and determining how employee skills and behaviors fit into it.

Advertisements

Power Boosters: How to Land That Job When You Think You Can’t


  David Dubois  |  INSEAD |    April 8, 2013

To land that dream job, adopt a mindset that signals power, even if you don’t feel so powerful.

Candidates invest considerable resources in the form of time or money to prepare for that interview that will grant them entrance to their dream school or land them their dream job. In these situations, candidates are often tempted to work on planning how the interview will go and what they will say: why is my background relevant for that job? How can I bring value to the company? Why do I want to work in this industry?

While thinking of answers to these questions is important, recent research suggests that what interviewers are looking for is a specific mindset.  In particular, what will persuade them to hire you is whether you communicate a powerful mindset – one that signals the candidate will be a great recruit. In the midst of a crisis, will you know how to take the right action? When it comes to selling a product, will you communicate enough enthusiasm to the client?

What is this “powerful” mindset anyway and how we can acquire it? Here are two tips for candidates that will make a difference in interview settings.

1. “Think powerful”

Job candidates are rarely in a position of power as interviewers decide the fate of their future career prospects. Yet, the winning strategy in these situations is thinking that one has power, in spite of the situation. As a candidate, how can you engineer a powerful mindset? Well, a simple trick is to remind yourself about a time you had power over a situation right before an interview, and invoke the precise feelings associated with that memory – feelings of confidence and competence, as well as decisiveness during decision making.

One of my recent research projects, Power gets the job: Priming power improves interview outcomes co-authored with Joris Lammers (University of Cologne), Derek D. Rucker (Northwestern University) and Adam Galinsky (Columbia University) tested just that idea: as part of a session of individual mock interviews, we assigned business school applicants to one of three conditions. In the first condition, applicants wrote a short essay about a time they had power just before entering an interview. In the second condition, applicants also wrote an essay, but this time about a time they lacked power. Finally, the last group did not write anything.

Then, we asked interviewers the likelihood that they would accept the candidate into a business school. When candidates went straight to the interview, interviewers accepted 47.1 percent of the candidates. However, the admission rate went up to 68 percent for those people in the group who wrote an essay about a time they had power, and fell to a low 26 percent for those who wrote an essay about a time they lacked power. Importantly, interviewers were unaware of the power manipulation we had given candidates. Thus, merely recalling an experience of high power increased candidates’ likelihood to be admitted by 81 percent compared to baseline and by 162 percent compared to those who recalled an experience of powerlessness.

Of course, there are other ways to engineer personal feelings of power. For instance, candidates can wear objects that make them feel powerful, such as a watch or a particular bag – anything that links you with feelings of power.

2. “Behave powerful”

Power is not only a mindset; it is also a behaviour. Small, almost unconscious moves signal power to an audience and can significantly change the outcome of an interview. In her recent TED talk, Amy Cuddy (Harvard University) provides an excellent summary of how non-verbal language can have a profound effect on how people are judged in contexts as varied as hiring or promotion interviews, a sales context or even a date. As such, physical poses such as wrapping legs, hunching or relying on one’s arms are many subtle signals of powerlessness that cast doubt on what candidates say, regardless of the content of the conversation.

The Virtuous Circle of Power

Interestingly, adopting “power poses” does not only affect how interviewers judge candidates, but also ironically reinforces candidates’ feelings of power. In recent research, Li Huang from INSEAD and colleagues had participants take powerful (for example, expansive postures) or powerless (constricted postures) poses and found the former behaved more powerfully than the latter, by taking action more often and thinking more abstractly, two well-known consequences of power. So, behaving in a powerful way is not only important for how interviewers perceive candidates, it is also a key driver of how candidates will behave!

History is full of examples showing that what really counts for the recipient of a message is the communicator’s mindset, not their actual resources or power. During the early days of the Second World War, Charles de Gaulle, today recognised as one of the great wartime leaders, was an isolated general with a following of a few hundred soldiers who refused to recognise the legitimacy of the Vichy government and fled to London after the German invasion to set up a government-in-exile. During a famous negotiation with Churchill, the British prime minister abruptly reminded de Gaulle of his powerless position, noting that his organisation was only surviving thanks to the goodwill and financial help of the allied forces: “Anyway, who are you to represent France? You don’t even have an army!” But de Gaulle, standing tall, straight, and direct, calmly retorted, “If I am not France, then why are you talking to me?” Churchill was forced to sit down and continue the negotiation. Interviewees, adopt the “de Gaulle” mindset!

How to Sell with Confidence


Barry Farber |Inc |Jun  4, 2013

The key to sales success is belief in yourself and what you have to offer. Here’s how to cultivate it.

Closing deal with customer

Shutterstock

You might know everything about your product, your industry, and your competition. But sales success comes down to belief in yourself and what you have to offer your clients. How can you create a deep-seated belief that propels you over obstacles? How can you cultivate a quiet confidence that comes across during sales meetings? Here are some ways to build and maintain an internal belief system that keeps your sales energy strong.

Live to serve Each time I research a prospect, I start to think about all of ways I can add value to the account, which helps build my confidence. I get another confidence boost when I see the positive effects I’m having on the clients. Even if I’m unable to serve prospects with my current product or service, there are other ways to earn their trust. On many occasions, one of my contacts, prospects, or customers needed help or had a challenging situation that had nothing to do with what I could sell them. In those cases, I always make an effort to help. Helping other people without expecting anything back can build a tremendous amount of self-confidence and internal satisfaction. As the management expert Peter Drucker once said, “It is the willingness of people to give of themselves over and above the demands of the job that distinguishes the great from the merely adequate organization.”

Don’t fake it  Some people believe in the old “fake it til you make it” strategy. But when a prospect asks you why you’re the right person or company for a job, something powerful must happen when you respond. When you know deep in your soul that what you can offer is unique and full of value for the client, you won’t hesitate to say so. If you’re not so sure, you’ll hesitate, maybe just for a second. Most prospects will pick up on that hesitation. A “fake it til you make it” mentality operates from a flawed and shallow foundation. It will not support you under pressure.

If it’s to be, it’s up to me Confidence just doesn’t show up one day at the door. You have to work on it. If you maintain tenacity, focus, and a proactive approach to getting things done, you’ll have the confidence to endure the tough times. In the end, you are the one who determines your success or failure.