Friday, February 27, 2009

Is Your Service “Wow” or “Ow”? Here’s How You Can Tell…

Today's Blog is written by Barbara Hughes, ICC's Co-Founder
How would you describe the customer experience you provide – in just a few words? More importantly, what would your employees or customers say about your service? Perhaps they would say “completely taken care of” or maybe, “taken for granted”.

We use a lot of words to describe what we want from our customer efforts: committed, loyal, engaged, or satisfied. But, what are we reflecting back to our customers and how do we know whether our service strategy is working? Here are four signs that you may need to re-think your service climate:

• What do your employees say about your service? Employees, especially the customer-facing ones, are incredibly accurate about the good, bad and just plain ugly about their companies’ service climate. If you aren’t asking them, you’re missing out on a golden opportunity to engage them and get invaluable feedback about your service.

• What are your customers saying about you to others? Try typing your company’s name and ‘customer service’ in a search engine; you may be surprised and not always pleasantly so. Don’t expect your customers to tell you what they think on your corporate blog; they are chatting on other social media outlets and they are very blunt. One video I’ve seen on YouTube of a cable technician who fell asleep on a customer’s couch because he had been on hold with his own technical support for 45 minutes has had 5 million hits and several million other twitters, blogs and online community comments. Not the best way to build positive word-of-mouth.

• Do you have conversations with customers or just interactions? The experts say that ‘conversation’ is replacing ‘communication’ and ‘community’ has overtaken ‘customer service’. All evidence points to the need for trust and, dare I say it? – transparency -- when dealing with customers. If you fake it, your best promoters (employees and customers) become your worst detractors and they will tell 5 million others in a nanosecond. There is an ad on TV where the CEO of a telecommunications company speaks of a transformation in his company and actually has his email address in the ad. Try using it and you’ll find an automated response from a ‘service team’ that says nothing and does nothing to dispel the fact that the whole message is smoke and mirrors. We can’t “fake it ‘til we make it” any longer.

• Are you anticipating the small things that can make the customer experience memorable? A bucket of ice in a hotel room for a weary traveler who doesn’t want to trudge down the hall after a long journey. An intuitive web site designed with the customer in mind. Giving your employees at the front line the ability to make it right if a problem arises. These service moments of truth don’t have to break the budget to be effective and in order to be a competitive advantage for your company should be different, unexpected and delightful.

Call to Action:

• Replace Communication with Conversation with customers and employees. Listen and use the feedback to course correct your service strategy.

• Learn from and don’t ignore the criticisms you will read on blogs, twitters and other chat forums. Find out what they are saying about your competitors as well. Never has market intelligence been so prolific, available and immediate.

• Anticipate the small things that are big paybacks in terms of making a customer feel completely taken care of and not taken for granted.

We’d like to hear your Wow or Ow experiences!
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