A Guide to Becoming a WOW-Maker

Photo by Daniel Y. Go.

It’s really great to open your email and get a compliment or hear something nice that a customer posted about you or your company on social media. I call that “Customer Wow” and believe that building Wow is a difference-maker and provides a sustainable critical advantage for your company. If you practice this skill every day, good things will happen, and you will build positive word-of-mouth reviews.

What is Customer WOW?

It’s not enough to simply follow an axiom, like “the customer is always right” (as sometimes they are more right than others), and it’s also too rigid to build policies and procedures for every situation. How many times have you looked at a complicated solution and thought, “there must be something simpler that can solve most of this problem, if I could only think of it?”

So, how do you build Customer WOW?

You have to start with a few key elements: understanding the customer and providing empathy; quickly identifying and solving their problem expertly; and ultimately, trying to “do the right thing” and treating that customer the right way for the right situation while maintaining your existing policy guardrails and proper procedures.

Becoming a WOW-Maker (and enabling WOW) depends upon the people, process, and tools in your organization:

  • By people, I literally mean the people involved, because finding the right people who are capable of delivering great service is much easier than training people who don’t want to deliver above-and-beyond service. So, find the “above-and-beyond” skills your people have and make sure that the thing they do best is the thing they’re doing more often.
  • By process, I mean the way your company does business: ask around and you should be able to find the parts of it people dislike.
  • And by tools, I mean the products and services people in your team use to get stuff done.

There’s no special recipe, but the following tips can help:

  • Your people are the first contact with your customers — so make sure that they know both the common procedures of your organizations — but also ask them to think of “one more thing” that would make a customer really happy. Tip: When I email a customer, I try to solve the next question they might ask, in addition to what they already have asked.
  • Process is key for establishing efficiency and effectiveness, and if it’s too detailed, it can really get burdensome fast. Ask your team members if there are any items on the “cringe list” and see what you can do to remove those obstacles. Tip: One great process you might think about adding is “Always Thank the Customer for Writing.”
  • Be open to the idea of new tools. Often the team member who delivers the most WOW is someone who has discovered a way to automate their everyday tasks so that they can focus on the end goal of delighting customers. Tip: Find out what high-performing team members are doing and ask them to teach that idea to the rest of the team.

How will you know when you are delivering WOW?

When your customers let you know that they are really happy with your speed, efficiency, and excellence. And when you manage to do all these things — and do them with your own style (and a bit of panache) — you’ve become a WOW-maker. I’d love to hear your story — share it with me in the comments below or at @grmeyer.

This post originally appeared on WordOfMouth.org.

But how do you build Customer Wow Every Day?

I had the opportunity to present at @PIEPDX yesterday (thanks, Rick Turoczy and team!)

We talked about the Concept of Customer Wow and especially how businesses that are just starting out can think about the People, Processes, and Tools that they need to build sustainable, interesting, and valuable customer relationships. These slides are meant to be a jumping off point into discussion, and I thought they might provide insight into the journey an early-stage startup takes when thinking about customer development broadly (who’s my customer and how might I meet their needs?) and specifically (now that I know who my customer is, how do I keep that customer and make them happy?)

Thanks for taking a look at the slides!  (And a shout out to @grahammurphy for being the co-pilot and to @sukhjit for the great videography and pacing tips.)

What the heck is Customer Wow?

photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/bluebike/

Customer Wow is a concept that gets shared a lot, and creates smiles whenever it’s shared. But what is Customer Wow, really? You could say that it’s “the ability to deliver above and beyond customer experiences” and I also think it’s a bit more.

Towards a definition of Customer Wow

We can think of Customer Wow as a combination of empathy – the ability to understand and place yourself in another person’s shoes; functional excellence – the identification of key steps to solve a problem and the ability and execution to complete those steps; and the overarching idea of “doing the right thing” and treating the customer the way you would like to be treated in a given situation. Note: the customer is not always right. And the customer always should be treated with respect, given as much transparency as possible, and communicated with as a customer you’d like to keep.

Empathy – A Positive, Emotive Response

Let’s unpack these ideas, starting with empathy. Empathy provides a positive, emotional response that helps the customer to know that you are on their side and are willing and able to solve their problem. You can do more for the customer in the following ways:

  • Saying Thank You – starting your conversations by thanking the customer for the opportunity to serve them is a great way to gain their attention and to signal that you value their time;
  • Really understanding the issue – start with the end in mind and try to visualize the issue from the customer’s point of view, not just in the most expedient way possible;
  • And meeting the customer where they are – you might know several ways to solve the problem, and you need to find the options that best match the customer’s ability to take that information and actually solve their problem.

Get it done right – the first time

Functional excellence is a key component of Customer Wow. To really create an “above-and-beyond” experience, you have to understand and do the work correctly. But that’s not all – it’s really the start, as getting the right answer is necessary but not sufficient to deliver Customer Wow.

You can do a better job demonstrating to the customer that you really know what you’re doing if you start with these ideas:

  • You know what’s wrong, and you know how to fix it;
  • If you don’t know what’s wrong, you have a good method of managing the customer, the internal process, and the information that makes up the customer’s issue
  • You are able to escalate with style (and not be a jerk)
  • And/or for any of these, you are able to learn.

Learning is Everything – Make Different Mistakes

Part of learning is understanding that idea of “doing the right thing” often requires continuous improvement into the business on behalf of the customer. Ok, fine, so how do you determine the right continuous improvement to suggest to the business, and on behalf of which customers?

This rubric works pretty well, I think. If you can quantify the pain the customer is experiencing, teach what you learn both to the customer and to the organization, and create content that you can use again, you’re more likely to suggest incremental changes, measure them on behalf of the customer, and identify weak areas in your product or service.

How do you know when you’re delivering Customer WOW?

You may not know when you’re delivering customer wow until it happens. It looks like unaided, positive word of mouth from the customer. (And sometimes, if you’re lucky, it results in spontaneous happiness and joy.)

The real wow happens when you combine empathy and understanding for the challenge the customer is facing, identify and resolve the issue with skill (and bonus points for style), and drive and scale that learning back into the organization. How do you measure this success? You can look at unaided positive media; you can look at customer success; and you can look at traditional statistics like Daily Active Users and Monthly Active Users. And perhaps the most telling way that Customer Wow can benefit your company or team is to provide great positives for your next unexpected negative. If your customers are excited about interacting with you and your team, they’ll be more understanding.

What’s the takeaway? Empathy and functional excellence are necessary but not sufficient for WOW.

They found me through Quora? An Unexpected Job Opportunity

Quora is a great place to post questions to knowledgeable folks and to answer questions that are interesting to you. So when I wrote an answer to Twitter: Is Twitter an effective customer service tool? (by the way—it’s awesome for that) I had no idea that a post I wrote in March about customer care evolution would end up in an amazing new job opportunity.

Matthew G Trifiro, SVP of Marketing at Assistly in San Francisco, contacted me on Quora to let me know he really liked the piece and wondered if I would meet him for dinner the next time I was in San Francisco. I was totally flattered, and of course I said yes to this kind offer. And it started some amazing things in motion that never would have happened had I not shared my thoughts on Quora in the spirit of learning and growing by interacting freely (something that my friend Eric Koester calls “karma networking.”) The way Matt reached out to me, the interaction that we had both over Skype and in person when we met in San Francisco, and the trust and openness that he demonstrated paved the way for great things.

I had heard about Assistly’s product before, and thought about adopting it for my responsibilities at Gist. Like many startup companies, at Gist we adopted a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model for our Customer Support, and I was one of the administrators of our Zendesk solution. I’ve used Help Desk software from larger companies like RightNow and BMC’s Remedy, and understood the value of having a inexpensive solution that delivered many of the features of these enterprise systems, without the big price tag and personnel requirements.

I immediately saw that Assistly had customer service and social channels in its DNA (See http://www.assistly.com/why-assi… for more info) The ability to respond easily to customer issues in Facebook, Twitter, and email and also to create custom data structures for an installation was really powerful. These were two of the things I had really wanted to do in Zendesk and had never been able to complete successfully.

But product functionality wasn’t really the point here.

The way Matt acted spoke volumes about the way his company engaged. He found me in a social channel; engaged me in that channel; and then we met in person in San Francisco and shared a meal. Guess what? We got along – and it’s not just because we both appreciate good food. Matt and I connected because we share a passion to provide great customer service (he calls it Customer Wow) not just in our jobs, but everywhere, because engage = win.

So I had met an interesting executive at an interesting company in a field where I had good experience (cool!) Assistly was a great potential fit for me, but I wasn’t really looking for a job—Gist was acquired by Research In Motion (company) in February, and we still had work to do to reach BlackBerry scale. And then Matt unleashed his Ninja recruiting move—which was really just an opportunity to collaborate. Would I add my thoughts to an e-book Assistly was finishing up—Customer Service at the Speed of Twitter—a sort of primer of best practices for delivering Customer Wow via the Twitter channel. Working on this project was a great fit for me because it allowed me to learn more about how Matt and his team interacted on a real project.

What happened next? Some great things. I met more of the teamDan Stern, VP of Customer Wow; Mark Briggs, the VP of Sales; and Alex Bard, CEO of Assistly. I was impressed by all of them, particularly because one thing kept coming up over and over again: being great to customers. It’s easy to find bad service—in fact, it’s all around you—and any company that provides (and demonstrates) service as a core value is one to watch.

One month later, I am the Director of Customer Wow at Assistly. I’m excited at the amazing opportunity to interact with our customers at powerful brands (and at the brands you’ve never heard of and might never hear about.) The passion I bring to Customer Wow is the same emotion I want to instill in everyone who uses Assistly or who contacts us—customer love and the expectation of being treated well as an everyday experience—I think it’s going to be fun. I’ve already been writing about exceeding customer expectations on my personal blog (http://gregmeyer.com) and on a companion blog where I chronicle those who Deliver the Awesome (http://delivertheawesome.com) and now I look forward to meeting you! (And thanks, Matt, for believing in and participating in new social technologies where great conversations can happen.)

p.s. Thanks Quora!

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