Catch someone doing something right

photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/matthewvenn/366986172
photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/matthewvenn/366986172

In my experience, successful organizations do a few things right when it comes to people. Not only do they do a great job attracting, discovering, and retaining people, they do a great job at “catching people doing something right.” What does that mean, exactly? Finding and celebrating individual effort is something more than rewarding someone for pulling an all-nighter when you needed them. It means more than naming someone the employee of the month and giving them a preferred parking spot. And it means more than just naming all of the people on a successful project team. But what else should you be doing? Continue reading “Catch someone doing something right”

A Modest Proposal to Measure the Voice of the Customer

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

When talking to people about customer service, I often hear them discuss the idea of the “Voice of the Customer.” Ideally, this might mean “knowing exactly what this customer wants and needs and can tell us about their service experience.” Because you can either know the exact wants and needs of a single customer or the aggregated wants and needs of a group or cohort, the idea of the Voice of the Customer is a bit fluffy without specific measurements that you and your organization agree are good metrics to show a happy (or dreadful) customer experience. Many people in the industry agree that the Net Promoter Score is a good customer satisfaction metric (percentage of people who would promote your brand minus the percentage of people who would not recommend your brand) and I believe that the Net Promoter Score doesn’t measure the real service delivery that influences these promoters or detractors.

How do you measure Service Delivery?

If you’ve read How to Measure Anything by Douglas Hubbard, you’ll also know that simply saying “Service Delivery Experience or The Voice of the Customer cannot be measured beyond ‘verbatims'” is downright silly. Hubbard states that to measure intangibles in an organization, you have to name the business drivers that matter to the company and attach some relationship to that business driver for the quantity or quality you are measuring. Will you have great measurements? Probably not at first. But you will be measuring something.

A Modest Proposal

I have a modest proposal for measuring and sharing the “Voice of the Customer” in the real Customer Experience of an organization by looking at three metrics. The first of these metrics should quantify how fast a case moves from stage to stage in the customer lifecycle, and how many times it must repeat this cycle. The second metric is the number of positive and negative custom comments accumulated in a stage per case. And the third idea involves empowerment and ownership – the organization should measure the percentage of cases that the original case owner resolves (along with the average number of transfers per case and per agent.)

Hubbard might think these are just starting points for measurement, and I agree that I don’t have 90% confidence in what the ranges are for these values. I do know that to carry out this plan, I’ll start by making my best guess at a 90% confidence interval for each of these metrics, show some tactics to improve (or measure) the items, and then track the changes over time to see if the overall customer experience is improving. How will I know whether the experience is improving? My hypothesis is that a good customer experience overall – across multiple touch points, devices, and methods of communication – will improve overall business drivers. If I can do a better job of tracking the customer experience inputs I will be better able to create a customer experience funnel that ends with a great review, a buying experience, or a positive comment that’s not related to a product.

Using the Delivery Experience as a Measure of Customer Happiness

The first item in this list is to name the stages of the customer lifecycle and show (by cohort if possible) how long it takes for the customer to move from one stage to the next. You might start with a simple list like “searching,” “ready to buy,” “purchased,” “implemented,” “post-installation” and see if there are easy ways to find this data. You can usually find information like this from your sales team – it’s a clever hack to use it for customer service as well and see if the experience can aid or hinder a customer’s movement from stage to stage.

Do you know all the stages in the customer lifecycle? Probably not. And you know them better than anyone who comes from outside your company and doesn’t deal with the same issues you do and handle your customers. So your guess is better than most.

Takeaway: name the stages of the customer lifecycle (or borrow them from sales) and apply them to the customer cases you handle.

How many people contact this hypothetical customer in your company? If it’s more than one contact from Sales and one contact from Customer Service, you might have a problem. It’s true – there are lots of contact centers and small teams that happily disperse customer contacts to an account team or to whomever picks up the phone or answers the email – and as a customer, you know how that feels. It’s really frustrating when you find someone who understands your problem and then not be able to contact that resource directly the next time you need help. Why not follow the lead of CDW, who has a large organization yet lets you know the direct dial number of your contact team. With phone routing, this is not a hard problem – the bigger problem involves the scripting and handling of the situation when that agent is not available. So maybe there’s a compromise.

Takeaway: have a goal that one Agent owns the customer’s case throughout the lifetime of that case.

So if you try this modest proposal and find some customer lifecycle stages and help the customer by limiting their contacts to a person or an account team, how do you tell the rest of your company about what you learned? You’ll need to create a report that’s shared widely within the company at an interval that makes sense to you. Weekly is a great cadence to hit if you can manage it, and if you can automate at least some of the data collection from customers at different stages of the lifecycle their comments will make even more sense. A new customer who can’t finish a basic task in your software is a different kind of risk than a long-term customer who can’t do the same basic task. They both might need hand-holding but you might use different resources to help them.

Share your insights in Bite-Sized Pieces

When you share this information with the rest of the company, you’ll need to keep your message executive style. Other people want to know how the customer experience is improving, holding steady, or getting worse. They also may want to know about specific interesting comments people make and whether these eye openers lead to bugs that your development team can fix. And once you hear about a bug more than a few times, well then you have a stack-ranked priority.

Takeaway: share what you learn, and please, keep it to a single-page presentation.

The “voice of the customer” is really more than just a single statistic – it’s a holistic process to bring customer input into your company, quantify it, and to take this measured data as an input into the way you do business. By better understanding your customers and where they are in the process.

You can find 47 other ways to improve the customer experience here.

Content Marketing is really Product Love

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

You’ve probably been to your competitor’s web site recently and reviewed the content they are sharing for first-time and seasoned customers. And have you been to your own Support Site recently to do the same? There are a few things that you can do to make that support experience better for customers, starting with making the content they read better. You can also did a little deeper and seek to understand the searches they make that currently get no results. And you can also think more purposefully about what it means to make a product that people really love (not a product that people like and tolerate.)

Start By Making the Content Better

Ok, so you’ve heard this part before. Find the top ten articles that people actually use (Google Analytics is a great way to find this out, or the stats over the last 90-180 days on your blog if you don’t have a more advanced option) and make a list out of them. Now, read them with a new eye while asking yourself some of the following questions:

  • Why would someone use this article?
  • What would they hope to learn after they had finished reading the article?
  • Are there any statements here that are out of date or just plain wrong?

Now that you’ve read the top ten articles that people are using, you should rewrite them. Consider this a freshening of your content calendar and something you should strive to do quarterly. More frequent updates are probably not relevant, and if you’re not checking what people are reading in your content every quarter, you should be checking more often.

What if I don’t want to rewrite content that’s already there?

It’s a fair point to say that you’d rather not reinvent the wheel. When you wrote this content, it seemed like it made sense, and now it’s still mostly right. Fine – now write the content that your visitors are searching for and can’t find. Again, Google Analytics can help with this, or a simple review of the search traffic against your site.

Imagine that you can write content that beautifully answers the question your customer (or visitor) is asking even before they arrive at your destination. Wouldn’t that be … awesome? If you can make the unwritten article that answers your question one of your top ten most visited pieces of content, you probably plugged a major hole in your content, marketing, or sales funnel. So what’s not there (yet) that people are looking to learn from your product or service (or from you)?

photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/90155419@N00/
photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/90155419@N00/

All you need is love.

Well, not the Lennon and McCartney kind – though that is pretty catchy – rather, the kind of instant realization and definition of what it means to love your product. Whatever that is, you should do more of that. You can write this definition by answering more questions like:

  • What do people like to do with your product or service?
  • What are the things that make them say, “Wow, that’s perfect”?
  • And how can you do more of that?

If no one says awesome things about your product, maybe you should rethink your product. The core of creating an amazing experience for a customer is providing a solution for the problem they don’t even know they have yet, and nailing the pain points that solve the problems they already know that they have. If you can do that in a way that also is friendly, concise, and accurate, you might have a home run.

You can find 47 other ways to improve the customer experience here.

Please, fix all the broken things.

FAIL stamp
photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/phobia/

You should fix all the broken things in your product. You avoided some decisions in the past or made some decisions you might now choose to change, and now these broken things are still there. Your customers see this accumulated flotsam and jetsam and don’t think “you made the best decision you could have made at the time,” they just think “why is that thing so broken?” Don’t they care enough to fix it?

When your customers ask you to fix things, you can’t always fix them. There might be a very good reason you can’t fix that thing now, or to explain to your customer why it’s complicated. And I’d like to remind you that the longer those things are out there the more chances your customers have to get fed up and stop trying themselves. So here’s a simple set of ideas that can help regain customer goodwill (or make it bigger.)

Fix. All. The. Things.

Here’s one thing you can do today: make a list of the top 10 “cringe items” to fix. You know what they are – your customers tell you about them often. You might have a rubric internally for when they become truly important, and there is another way to measure whether something is truly a “cringe item.”  Ask a new customer if they think it’s weird. If they think that part of your product is weird or confusing, it probably is weird or confusing and you should make it better.

True “cringe items” emerge from this list of merely weird or confusing items. These are items that cause significant customer pain. If these items are difficult (technically) to fix, then build different ways to hold the customer’s hand and get them through the problem. You can write a blog post; you can have a call with the customer where you share your screen; and you can configure the product for them. Any solution that gets a customer through a cringe item might save a customer. You know what your cringe items are – and if you don’t know, you should ask all the people in your business who talk to customers – they can tell you.

After you know what the pain points are, make them go away.

Pain points are exactly that: things that customers find difficult. Sometimes, pain points of a product feel so bad for a customer that the customer goes away, especially when another company determines a way to make that pain point 10x easier to deal with and helps you get there. So make the pain go away.

This is an expanded version of “make it easy for the customer” because really what you are doing is making it so no customer ever again will have this problem. Ok, it’s not always easy. But fixing a cringe item offers the most return on your customer investment possible. Fixing a cringe item makes your customers believe again if they have temporarily lost faith. And fixing a cringe item brings hope to customers who’ve been waiting for you to resolve your decision debt and to do better.

Remember Pareto and the 80/20 rule.

Fixing the cringe items to improve the customer experience is a natural outcome of following the Pareto Principle. When you find the small number of cases that cause customer discontent, you should fix them if you want to maximize the investment benefit of fixing that things. Why not start with the things customers hate most? One reason is that customers famously don’t know what they want. But if enough of them are complaining about the same things, that should signal that it’s a great thing to spend more time on, even if you can’t fix it right away. So fix all the broken things. If you can’t fix them, invent a better way to help customers cope with them without getting really upset at you every time they try to do the thing they’d like to do.

You can find 47 other ways to improve the customer experience here.

Be More Awesome By Following Up

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

The single most important thing you can do to increase customer value is to follow up on the things you said you would you do the last time you talked to the customer. In the eyes of the customer, it’s the only thing that matters. As Woody Allen famously said, “80% of life is showing up.” You can show up for the customer by solving their problem on the first try, and if you can’t do that, let them know when they’ll hear from you again … and make sure to follow-up. You can Be More Awesome by delivering amazing service when you follow up and making sure that the customer knows exactly what happened.

A familiar scenario

Imagine you’re handling the first email of the day. You’re finishing your coffee and you get an urgent call on your cell phone from one of your most important customers. She says, “how can I learn more about what your team is doing to help me solve the problem I brought up with you last week?” If you have a great feedback system in place, it takes you 15-30 seconds to find the status, thank her for calling, give her a status update, set a time for the next contact, and take some quick notes to find out information for her so that you can contact her even before that appointment to confirm that you’ve handled the issue. Even if you don’t know how to solve the problem, you’ve built the foundation for a great experience.

How to Make an Awesome Follow Up

And what are the basics of this experience? The first step to follow up is to offer the follow up – this may seem like a minor detail, but if you don’t have a system to make sure this happens, you can use some of the basic systems you have all the time (like using the reminder feature on your phone) – and to set a time and deliverable when you do contact the customer again. This could be in the form of a call or an email, and it’s important to ask the customer how and when they’d like to hear from you. A great follow up sets the stage for a great result.

Adding Extra Value

When you follow up (and before), it is a great time to commit a random act of kindness for the customer. If they asked you to solve a specific problem, solve that one and offer some other thing that might be able to help them. If they asked you to contact them on a specific date, let them know even before that date how things are going. If you deliver Customer Wow – an above and beyond experience – you will amaze the customer with the extra effort and care you invested to make their experience a great one. Completing a random act of kindness also lets your staff be creative and to do more of what they love to help customers.

And what really makes a great experience in a follow up? When the people who make direct contact to the customer, the process that ensures that they make this connection, and the tools that enable them to follow this process and make the customer experience great are part of the follow up and any other action you take on behalf of the customer. Don’t just show up. Be More Awesome. You can find 47 other ways to improve the customer experience here.

(this post originally ran on Wordofmouth.org)

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