10/14 update: Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) calls for more scrutiny of stretches nationwide.
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — Could we finally take the “wow” out of customer service? It may be a relief, given the seemingly impossible benchmark of making clients go wow every time. After all, delivering one wow after another is a lot of pressure.
Summit speaker Shep Hyken, a customer experience expert and bestselling author (hyken.com), debunked some myths about customer service while layout out a strategy for gaining business in these impatient, tech-driven, cost-conscious times. He spoke May 1 during the Summit for a session titled, “AI and the Customer Service Revolution.”
Before hitting the high-tech outlook, Hyken offered a solid overview of lasting service principles.
“Do you have to blow people away over the top, every time, and wow them?” Hyken asked a Summit audience. “The answer is absolutely not. Those opportunities will come when there’s some type of emergency where somebody ends up delayed and the flight lands at 3 a.m, and there is that driver waiting for them as if they were supposed to at 8 p.m. You think, ‘Wow. Those guys are actually here. They were paying attention.’ That’s a wow-type experience. But day-in and day-out, what you must do is you must be a little bit better than average, but all the time.”
Customer experiences are now based on the best ones they ever had with any company they did business with, he said. “They expect you are going to provide as good of an experience as your favorite company, whether it’s Amazon, Nordstrom, or Ritz-Carlton.”
He gave the example of a sales clerk who sells you a pair of shoes after spending 15 minutes with you finding the perfect pair and then a coupon to ensure you got the best price. “And you think, ‘Why can’t the people I do business with be as helpful, supportive, and knowledgeable as this guy who’s probably making about $15 an hour selling shoes at a shoe store?’”
The key to good service is to recognize excellence doesn’t come from being excellent, Hyken said. It comes from being good all of the time. That means a predictable and a consistent experience.
“Fine is not fine,” Hyken said. “Fine is like satisfactory. Fine means not fine. Fine is the F-bomb of customer service. So, if you want to be better than fine, better than average or satisfactory, being a bit better than average consistently and predictably is where you want to be.”
One sign of success is when a customer describes your company as “always” doing something positive: “You know what? They’re always there on time. They always answer the phone for me. They always send me timely messages. They’re always knowledgeable when I talk to them. They’re always so helpful. Even when there’s something wrong, I know I can always count on them to make sure things turn out right.”
Hyken contrasted three key moments: Moment of magic, also called the moment of truth; bad experiences as moments of misery; and average ones as moments of mediocrity. Any customer interaction with your service will form an impression.
“Our goal is to stay away from mediocrity, to stay away from negligence. You will get complaints, and sometimes there will be problems. The best companies in the world have problems too, but they have a system in place to make sure they manage it in a way that becomes a positive experience. You turn a negative into a positive not just by fixing them, but restoring the confidence of that customer.”
Using an example from his boyhood of doing magic shows for money, Hyken learned from his parents three vital customer service lessons: 1) Write a thank you note to show appreciation; 2) Call one week later to get their feedback on what magic tricks they liked or did not; 3) Replace the ones they didn’t like.
“That’s process improvement, which is exactly what we do. We need to execute on that feedback because it makes me better overall.”
Providers should map out customers based on their journeys through your service, and then look for ways to improve their experiences. Find out “the friction points that would erode the experience, and what’s happening behind the scenes driving that. Make sure all employees understand their place and how they impact the user experience.”
No. 1: Customers want a membership life experience. Such a status is about inclusion, about making you feel like a part of something. Membership goes beyond customer experience. “Is there really much difference between a MasterCard customer and an American Express member? No. But by using the right word, we try to say, ‘This is what our culture is about. We want to create a membership experience.’ Can you take the experience you have in an upscale private club, even if you don’t have it, and incorporate that into the experience that your customers have? Because when you start to think of customers as members, it goes from transactions as customers to interactions as members.”
No. 2: Knowledge. Customers today expect us to have information about what we do and know about our industry, Hyken said. But they also expect you to know them. He cited Amazon’s use of technology to track customer habits as an example. They expect us to know if they’ve worked with us before, their preferences, and habits, he said.
No. 3: Consistency. “If you want to create loyalty, make sure you deliver an experience they know they can count on every time. The consistent and predictable experience that’s above average moves somebody from average to excellent, average to amazing.”
No. 4: Convenience should cost a little bit more. After referring to the higher cost of milk at a 7-Eleven, Hyken cited the hotel room minibar soda that costs $6 versus the $1.50 for one in a vending machine in the hotel. “You’re willing to pay for value, and value is a form of convenience. Find a way to incorporate convenience into what you do at every level, and you will see your customers come to you more often, and actually be willing to pay more.”
No. 1: Personalization. This comes from knowing your customer. How do you personalize their experience? Aside from standard CRM, you can build it into the way you talk to and sell to your people, especially on the sales side. Organize different types of customers into buckets, or personas, and market specifically to each based on their language and needs.
No. 2: Customer service / social care. Interact with social media and comment sites, whether feedback is positive or negative. Respond immediately to negative comments because it’s a spectator sport, and customers can end up impressed with how well you turn it around. “Social care is really powerful today.”
No. 3: Self-service. “If you want to create a good self-service solution, you have to train your customers to use it the right way,” Hyken said, citing some of the challenges with grocery store checkout kiosks. Like the airlines, teach customers to use the system, take advantage of it, and reap a better experience. Rewards and incentives can help. “Where can you incorporate self-service at the right place that doesn’t erode the human-to-human connection? There needs to be a balance between technology and the human interaction.”
No. 4: Artificial Intelligence. “Every day we have experiences with artificial intelligence (AI), and don’t think that it’s artificial intelligence,” he said, citing junk mail automatically going into spam folders. A good system will allow you to interact quickly and efficiently. If the answer is taken care of at a low level, and if the chat bot and machine recognizes a bigger problem, it will seamlessly connect you to a human.”
Chatbots also can help get better results with live, interactive customer response surveys, Hyken said. “The survey is being prompted by AI. Based on your answers, it’s taking you to different questions you might have. It gives you more than just your standard survey.”
The costs of AI applications have fallen to the point that even the smallest companies can find some ways to do it, Hyken said. “The key is don’t [take on] the technology unless it’s something your customers will get excited about, and you want to get excited about as well.”
AI can actually look at all your customers and start to segment them and then predict their behaviors, such as their next moves, purchases, and spending amounts.
“People always ask me, is AI going to replace people? And the answer is not in the foreseeable future. Did ATMs take away bank teller jobs? No. Did video kill the radio star? No.”
These steps are simple, but not necessarily easy, depending on the size of a company.
No. 1: If you plan to be customer-focused, you need to define your vision for customer experience. The best example, he cited, is from Ritz-Carlton: “We're ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” He also mentioned Ace Hardware’s, “Helpful hardware place.”
“That's the first thing you learn, and then everything they teach you in training about hospitality and creating a great experience is driving that mantra, that credo. Consider, what's your credo or what's your mantra? I don't want it to be more than one sentence long. There's a sentence or two about experience, but you want to make it so simple that everybody can remember it.”
No. 2: Once you define it, communicate it. “There's lots of ways to do it, and you want it everywhere.”
No. 3: Train it. Training isn't something you did, it's something you do. So, when you train somebody to drive up your service vision, do it on a regular basis. “Everybody needs to be reminded, over and over, that we're in the service business, and how to execute.”
No. 4: Become role models as business leaders. “We need to really showcase what we want our people to be like.”
No. 5: Defend the culture. “If somebody's not doing what they're supposed to, you need to coach them back into alignment, or unfortunately, they have to go find another place to be out of alignment.
No. 6: Celebrate it when it's all working.
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