A couple of days ago, I saw a video from the Dallas Marathon. Some of you may have seen it. In the video, it showed the runner who was in first- place in the women’s division, an accomplished marathoner, collapse just feet from the finish line, her legs just not able to carry her that last few feet. That in and of itself isn’t that spectacular. I mean we have seen that on Sports Center. While I have not ever and will probably never run a marathon (a half marathon was enough), I would guess that happens all the time. People hit a wall and can’t go any further. What happened next was the amazing thing. Another runner stopped, helped the runner up, and helped her across the finish line. When they reached the finish line which was just a few feet away, the 2nd runner made sure that the first runner went across first.
When I saw this, I immediately started thinking about the application in the workplace. What great lessons does this teach us about teamwork and co-worker relationships? Below are my thoughts:
While useful, sports analogies are probably overused. However, some very good books have been written on the value of teamwork. One of the best is probably The Five Disfunctions of a Team- A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni. In the book, Lencioni has the following quote:
“Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.”
Chandler Self won the Dallas Marathon because she and Ariana Luterman worked as a team, the last 2 miles. If all workplace teams worked as efficiently as theirs, what could we accomplish. If you want to check out the video, I have included a link to it below:
"In determining the right people, the good-to-great companies placed greater weight on character attributes than on specific educational background, practical skills, specialized knowledge, or work experience" Jim Collins
We all watched in horror as a United Airlines customer was pulled out of a seat that he had paid for and dragged down the aisle and out of the plane he was on. This has been all over social media and television since it happened but in case you have been vacationing on a deserted tropical island for the last few weeks, here is the scenario: United overbooks (this is commonplace practice in the airline industry ), the flight is full with seated passengers but United needs to get flight crew to the destination , United representatives ask for volunteers, only 2 people volunteer, a gentleman is selected somehow to be the one to lose his seat, he is asked to get out of his seat and take a later flight, he refuses, and is dragged off plane.
Ok, I probably left out a few details but I am not here to denounce United for doing this. There have been many other people that have done that. I think we would all agree that it was a pretty stupid thing to do especially when there is a smartphone with a camera attached to the hand of pretty much every other passenger on the plane. What I am here to talk about is the customer experience that United provided and how that has and will impact their bottom line.
Since this incident, United Airlines stock has gone down in value by 4.4%. While this may not seem like a lot, this represents almost a billion dollars in lost value. This is a lot. The reality is; the customer experience that an organization provides can have a dramatic impact on revenue both positive and negative. In a recent study done by Oracle, they surveyed 1342 global executives. The study had many findings as it relates to customer experience. One of the most eye-opening findings was that the executives surveyed estimated that their potential revenue loss for not offering a positive, consistent, and brand relevant customer experience is 20% of their annual revenue, or $400M for a $2B firm.
If the impact is so large, why doesn’t every organization in the world put processes in place to provide this kind of world-class client experience? There are probably multiple reasons but if you laid them all out on a table, you could probably group them into just a few:
1. They don’t know how – While it is not rocket science, this type of change may require new systems and/or new people. This kind of wholesale change takes a lot of planning and a very good implementation plan or it can fail miserably.
2. They don’t want to – This mentality happens a lot in organizations where they may have the majority of the market share or have no competitors. The organization is perfectly fine with the experience they are providing to their clients and while the organization would never admit it, in the back of the head, they are probably thinking that if the clients don’t like it, they can go somewhere else.
3. They don’t like change – The they that we are talking about here can be the organization as a whole or it can be employees pushing back. Change is incredibly hard for some people.
4. It is perceived as being too expensive – Many organizations see Customer Service as a cost center. They want to keep their clients but not if they have to implement pricey systems and add people to do it.
We all get comfortable and sometimes it takes a situation like United had to lull us out of our false perception about the kind of customer experience we are providing. Why wait until something like that happens? If Customer Experience is important to you and you perceive that the experience that your organization is providing is not ideal, bring an outside voice in that can see it like your clients see it. Avoid that 20% loss in revenue.
Just do something.
Have you ever tried to call your cell-phone provider’s customer support line? Most of us cringe when we even think about doing that. Let’s face it. Cell phone providers are not typically known for their customer service skills. However, I had such a positive experience last month, I just had to write about it. I know many of you are out there either shaking your head or raising your eyebrows in doubt but stick with me here.
The problem that led to the call to my provider was I had been locked out of their website. Normally this would not have been any big deal. I really don’t access the website all that often. This time, however I really needed to do something on our account and the only way that I could get it done was through the website. I called the 800 number and went through their decision tree that most call centers of any size have to determine who the call should be routed to and was thinking, “I just want to talk to someone” (This was not the good part). Finally a gentleman named Andre came on the line. This is where the awesome client experience starts.
Andre had a very pleasant voice and I got the sense that he really liked doing his job. He might even have been smiling on the other end. Granted, Andre might have hated every minute of the job that he was doing but he made me think he loved it. I’m sure we have all had the experience of where the opposite was the case. He also made me think that I was the most important person in the world at that moment. He called me by my name right from the beginning of the call. How can I help you Mr. Crain? Most of the time I look for my dad when someone says that but this time it felt good. It made me feel like Andre really cared about my problem. Andre quickly resolved my problem and stayed on the line to make sure that I was able to get into the website based on the reset that he did. Then it happened; the question. The question that we all dread. The upsell question. After all, most call center reps have some element of their compensation based on upsells.
However, Andre’s upsell question wasn’t your typical upsell question. He asked, “I see that you had data overages the last couple of months” and waited for me to respond. Maybe it wasn’t even a question but it definitely got me talking to him. I told him that I have 2 teenagers. 1 of them likes playing games and the other one likes watching TV shows on Netflix. Thus the reasons for the data overages. The question that Andre asked was only possible because he knew my account. You see, while he was working with me to get my problem resolved, he was looking at my account and the history on his screen. Most customer service representative representatives have that information in front of them but don’t always use it to help you. However, Andre did. He then then went on to ask another question “Did you know that we have a new plan that would give you unlimited data usage?”. Of course, I didn’t. He then went on to describe the plan and explain that the new plan that offers unlimited data usage would be cheaper than the plan I am on currently even if I didn’t have overages and asked me if I would like to switch to the new plan. We switched to the new plan and am happy with it. In the process, he also told me about a service where I could monitor in real time how my kids were using data etc. (Yet another service that would help me resolve the issue that Andre surfaced for me,)
At the end of the call Andre had made 2 upsells and saved me money in the process but he didn’t do that until he had solved my initial problem. But, he did so much more than that.
1. Made me think as a client that he genuinely wanted to talk to me and help me – People want to work with people that want to work with them.
2. Called me by name – Calling a client by their name makes them feel more at ease and more open to share, creating additional opportunities.
3. Solved my initial problem first – This is big. If Andre had tried to upsell me on something before solving my initial problem, there was no way that I would have even listened.
4. Knew my account enough to ask a discovery question that was not off a script – This may be the most important element of offering a great customer experience. If you know a client’s account, you know what their needs may be or at least what questions to ask to find out.
5. Solved a secondary problem that was a pain point for me. – He asked questions and found an additional pain point. Discovery is a wonderful thing but he would never have been able to do that if not for knowing my account.
6. Made steps toward cementing my loyalty for his brand. – Anytime you can solve a client’s initial problem and an additional pain point for them and still lower their bill, it is a win-win.
So, Kudos Andre on providing a world-class client experience. I just wish there were more like you.
It is that time again. The beginning of the year. This is the time of the year when everybody sets those dreaded New Year’s resolutions. We resolve to lose weight, to start exercising, to stop smoking etc. Most of the things that we resolve to do will be good for us, if we follow through. The problem is that very few of us carry through on those resolutions and have gone back to our old ways within the first couple of months.
The beginning of the year is also the time for organizations, both big and small, across the country to set corporate goals. Hopefully, we follow through more effectively on those. The most common goals that we hear about are typically revenue/profit related and very often are set within the sales department. Other departments set goals, as well. However, when it comes to the customer service department, the goals typically are less defined. The most common metric that customer service department goals are based on is client retention. It only makes sense we want to keep our clients. The problem with this strategy is that many organizations are only being reactive in their customer service efforts. How much can they really impact client retention? The alternative and a way to really make an impact on client retention and ultimately revenue is proactive customer service.
Proactive customer service is all about understanding your client and anticipating their needs, before they need them. A study completed by Enkata shows that in companies that are providing proactive customer service, the call volume of incoming calls goes down by 30% and client retention goes up by 3%-5%. Think about it.
Being proactive with your customers helps develop relationships, which leads to your customers to cease being customers and start being clients. In a recent study completed by inContact, 87% of the customers surveyed said that they wanted to be contacted proactively by a company, when it came to customer service issues. That same study also found that 73% of those who had been contacted proactively and had a positive experience, said that it led to a positive change in their perception of the business that contacted them proactively.
Providing proactive customer service is not difficult. You just have to take the first step. The first step is understanding your client. Everything else revolves around gaining the understanding.
Some people would say I can’t afford to start providing proactive customer service. Based on the studies that have been conducted, my question would be “Can you afford not to?”.
Together, let’s set a goal this year to become more proactive in our customer service efforts and carry through with it.
Its Friday night in Texas and if you know anything about Friday nights in Texas in the fall, you know that means “Friday Night Lights”, the weekly ritual of High School boys battling it out on the football gridiron. After all, football is a religion in Texas. Last Friday my family and I had just left our son’s game (we won70-0 by the way) and of course from the backseat we hear “I am hungry”. We drove to our first restaurant choice and realized that it was closed. At 10:30 on a Friday night, options are kind of limited, so we drove across the street and got in the drive-thru line at a certain fast food chain (that shall remain nameless to protect the innocent). We drove up to the speaker and placed our order that probably could have fed our son’s football team but was only for our teen-rich family. One of the kids wanted an iced coffee…so with eyes rolling, my husband ordered the coffee.
The response from the speaker was “We are out of diet coffee”. I don’t know about you, but there are times where I just can’t resist putting on my consultant hat and this is one of those times.
My husband and I looked at each other in disbelief (thinking that we may have missed some technological advancement of taking the calories out of coffee) and proceeded to the window. We chatted about the game, excited about clinching our spot in the playoffs. In fact, we were so engrossed in the conversation that we did not notice that we had not moved for 15 minutes with only one car ahead of us.
Once we finally got to the window, two teens looked at us with pleading eyes and say “what did you order?”. My husband shook his head and said we ordered a lot! The young man said “ohhhh you are the big order!”
I took this opportunity to ask about the iced coffee again thinking they just did not hear us correctly. The young lady looked at me and said “we don’t know how to make it and our manager is not here” and shut the window.
I looked at my husband and before I could say anything the young lady came back, opened the window, leaned out, and said “Do you know what goes on the chicken sandwich you ordered? I know it has chicken, lettuce, and tomatoes from the picture but I just don’t know what sauce goes on the sandwich.”
It was at this point that I began looking for the hidden cameras…I just knew we were on a prank show!
At that time, I noticed a woman walking up beside my car. Yes!, the missing manager. Within a few minutes we had our food…well we had someone’s food, (not exactly what we ordered).
My husband made a comment to the manager about how the young lady talked to us and how inappropriate it was.
As we drove off, I said to my husband; “I don’t blame her…I blame the person who failed her”. Someone failed to train her adequately before leaving her alone and in so doing, set her up for failure. She should never have been left alone. You could tell this young lady was trying but as things escalated, you could see the stress start to crush her. As soon as the manager appeared, you could see the young lady’s eyes shooting daggers.
Customer Service training is critical and should prepare an individual for all situations they might encounter. Unfortunately, many organizations, for a multitude of reasons, take a very limited approach to customer service training covering only the basics and leaving out how to handle it when things don’t fall into the nice little neat bundle (or when someone orders iced coffee). Those organizations are looking past what the research says. 95% of dissatisfied customers tell others about their bad experience. (Dimensional Research 2013) and news about a bad customer experience spreads fast. (Thank you social media) One of an organization’s most valuable assets are their customers and the goodwill that comes from them. Sometimes we treat our customers as if there is an infinite supply and we’ll just go make more but if a company provides enough bad customer experiences, that supply starts shrinking fast. Let’s sufficiently train our folks so that they are treating customers like gold. Every time we think about going to that restaurant, my family and I will think about our experience, and may choose somewhere else. You can bet that I have told people about my experience. What might the result have been if they provided an excellent customer experience. Are you setting your employees up for failure?
Welcome to the first edition of The Client Experience Blog.
In this space, we will be highlighting the good, bad, and ugly of client experience (and possibly some other stuff if we’re feeling brave). We’ll call some people out (both good and bad), we’ll have some fun, and hopefully learn some things along the way. If you polled every great business leader, I think they would all tell you how important customer service is to continued growth of their organization. I mean let’s face it, there are only so many new clients that you can acquire. If you are not doing the things you need to do to keep existing customers, you will very quickly become irrelevant in the marketplace. In fact, many of these business leaders have notable quotes about the customer experience. Some of the most notable ones are below:
Heck, even Gandhi wrote about customer service in a quote which I love:
Unfortunately, in our effort to do things cheaper and more efficiently, many organizations lose their direction and the customer experience goes out the window.
In a study done by American Express Services in 2013; 1,620 consumers were tested under laboratory conditions, 63% said they felt their heart rate increase when they thought about receiving great customer service. For 53% of those tested, receiving great service triggered the same cerebral reactions as feeling loved. Their takeaway from this was that customer service is more than what customers think, it is about feelings. Great customer service is more than drone delivery. It is what it has always been. Customers want to be recognized, listened to, and valued and cared for.
As the Righteous Brother’s would say; “We’ve Lost that Loving Feeling”. Let’s bring back that “Loving Feeling” by offering our customers great customer service. At Eleserv, our mission is to do just that. Hopefully I didn’t run you off and you will come back and we can learn together by seeing what is working and what is not.