Category Archives: Customer Service

What Kind Of Communicating Generates An Uplifting Customer Experience?

The Interplay Between Communicating & Relating

The relating that occurs between human beings is a function of the communicating that is occurring between these human beings; the communicating that is occurring between human beings is function of the relating that is occurring.  Which is to say that the communicating and relating are essentially in a dynamic dance with one another.

Which is primary? It occurs to me that communicating is primary: as linguistic beings we cannot help but communicate and this communicating influences/shapes relating. It is through your communicating with me that I get access to your relating to me: how you see me, how you are positioning yourself in relation to me, how you are likely to treat me, whether I can trust you or not, whether you are ‘giver’, a ‘matcher’, or a ‘taker’.

If you get this then you get the critical importance of the communicating that occurs between the people in an organisation and the customers of the organisation. How the people in your organisation communicate with customers will impact the customer experience – sometime dramatically. Let’s take a look at two examples and listen to their impact.

The Marketer’s Way Of Communicating With Customers

Take a look at this email from ILX . Pretty graphics aside, this is what the email says:

Let us pay your exam fee!

WE’VE MISSED YOU

As a previous ILX customer we just wanted to touch base with you and see how your training went and more importantly find out if your career has benefited from gaining new qualifications with us!

We have included a free Best practice map PDF for you which may help you work out what your next step could be. Download PDF >

Is there anything we can help you with in furthering your qualifications? We are here and ready to give you any assistance that you may require.

Maybe you’re considering another course with ILX?

We are constantly developing our e-learning to ensure it’s the best in the industry so you get the highest quality learning that we can provide.

We hope to hear from you soon!
Quote MISSYOUEMAIL when contacting us

If you have more than five people who wants to take part in our e-learning please contact one of our dedicated team for the best offers at sales@ilxgroup.com or call us on +44 (0)1270 611 600
http://www.ilxgroup.com

What was my experience on opening-reading this email communication? This communication showed for me as inauthentic: false.  How can ILX miss me? The people in this organisation do not know me!  And if they genuinely wanted to touch base with me and find out how my training went then why did they not call me a year ago when I actually took the training? And what do they mean by “Is there anything we can help you with in furthering your qualifications?”  They certainly don’t mean help as in help of the everyday human kind. What they mean is, what can we persuade you to buy from us in the guise of helping you.

So how am I left feeling about ILX? I am left feeling that ILX is just another ‘taker’ organisation looking to extract as much money as they can from me. Especially now that summer is here and people will be taking holidays rather than taking courses.  So their offer to pay my exam fee is no act of generosity.

The Human Way To Communicate With Your Customers

Take a look at the following email and ask yourselves how you would be left feeling on opening-receiving this email:

maz,

Thank you!

We just received your order and will process it within 48 hours.

Your order # 204-0742925-4073103 shows the following items:

Love and Profit: The Art of Caring Leadership

If you have any questions or issues with this order please email us by replying to this message or email us at [email removed].

If you have any concerns at any time about this order, please email us right away with your Order ID#.

Thank you!

 

Sincerely,

Melissa

Supervisor

Customer Service

I found myself surprised and delighted. Why? Because this email speaks to me as I wish to be spoken with: it is everyday communication between two human beings.  It oozes the kind of humanity that speaks to me: friendliness, warmth, caring. I find myself wanting to know more about this organisation (Slategrey Books UK) and about Melissa.

Why Have I Shared This With You?

If you are serious about showing up and competing on the basis of the Customer Experience then you need to pay attention to the quality of your communicating with your customers.  Take a good look at your communications across the customer journey ask yourself if your communications are generating the kind of customer experience that builds connection. If they are not then you are likely to be better off using the services of good copywriters than spending a fortune on marketing automation systems that ultimately will enable you to deliver ‘junk’ to your customers at scale.  And in the process annoy customers like me who then end up sharing their experience on social media – just like I am doing now.

Can You Improve The Customer Experience Without Spending A Fortune On Information Technology?

Does Customer Experience require information technology?  Allow me to rephrase this question, is it necessary to purchase-configure-operate an arsenal of information technologies to improve the Customer Experience?  Which is my way of asking, if it is necessary to turn Customer Experience as a business philosophy and/or value proposition into CRM: an information technology?

It occurs to me that it is mistake to collapse information technology and Customer Experience together – to make the kind of mistake that was made with CRM.  I say that your organisation can impact-improve the Customer Experience in many ways that do not require information technology.   Where is my proof? Let’s start with my recent experience.

Why Didn’t I Buy From Two Well Known Retail Brands?

I needed more trousers; my preference, some would call it addiction, is for Chinos. So my nephew drove me to a shopping centre outside of town. On his advice, I went to the first shop, found what I was looking for. And in the process I came across summer shorts. So with a handful of trousers and shorts I headed to the fitting rooms. Long queue. No movement for three minutes. No staff around to help out.  I put the goods back on the racks and left.

Onwards to the second retail brand, which just happened to be next to the first store. Within five minutes or less, I found myself exiting this story empty handed. Why?  One, they just didn’t stock trousers that fit me. Just about every trouser that caught my attention was regular length and regular is too short for me as I am tall and have long legs. Second, no staff members around to ask for help in finding longer length trousers. Third, the prices showed up as being too high; I remembered what I had paid for the Chinos I was wearing.

Why Did I Buy From The Gap Store?

Having had enough, I headed directly for the Gap store. Why? Because this is where I had purchased, some years ago, the Chinos I was wearing and happy with.  The store showed up as friendlier-easier as it was much smaller in size, I could clearly see two sales assistants, and they looked happy.  I spent over £150 pounds and walked out of the store with several Chino trousers and shorts.  Why did I end up buying from Gap?

  • They stocked the products that I was looking for – Chino trousers and a range of summer shorts;
  • I found the particular style I was looking for – Classic;
  • Each range of trousers came in a range of sizes including the size (34, 34) I was looking for;
  • I found it easy-quick to try on the trousers (and shorts) as there was no queue for the fitting rooms; and
  • The ‘checkout’ experience of paying for these items was quick-easy and delivered by a friendly sales assistant.

And there was a moment of delight. What delight? Upon checkout I found that I had been charged 30% less than I had expected to pay. Why so? Because Gap had a sales promotion that day and I had not noticed it as it had not been well signposted.

I draw your attention to this: no information technology was needed other than the POS till.  Gap ended up the winner simply because it did the basics of clothes retailing right: store design (size-layout-signposting), the right product, ability to trial the product, good customer service, and pricing that is in tune with product quality and customer expectations.

I also notice, that I have a stronger bond to Gap and Gap did not have to engage in any customer loyalty or outbound marketing programme to generate that bond. How has this strengthening of the bond come about? By stocking the kind of products that I am looking for, by asking the kind of price I am willing to pay, and by making it easy-pleasant to buy from them: not just once, but every time I have bought from them.

If Gap does want to do something other than get the basics right then here is my advice. Gap should consider storing my preferences in terms of the products that I have bought from them. And allow me to order those products from them. Why do I say that? Whilst I like their latest Chino trousers (the ones I brought from them recently) I prefer the ones that I bought several years ago.  The fact that those trousers are no longer available makes them that much more attractive to me. I wonder how many others are like me. If there are enough of us then there might be a market for listening to and catering to our needs. Back in the days when I was a consultant with Peppers & Rogers, we would put this idea into the mass customisation bucket.  This is where information technology would be useful, even essential, for improving the Customer Experience.

I wish you a great week, thanks for listening – your listening calls forth my speaking.  And if you have thoughts that which you wish to share then please engage in a conversation with me by commenting.

 

What Is The Price Of Customer Loyalty And Who Pays It?

I say that there is a ‘price’ attached to everything and it is always paid. What is open to influence is ‘who’ pays the ‘price’.  The question I wish to address in this conversation is this one: what is the price of customer loyalty and who pays it?

Let’s leave aside theory for those that specialise in it: the professors, the authors, the ‘gurus’. And look it this question in the concrete – through my lived experience.  In particular, let’s look at two recent events and experiences.

Churchill: The Price of Customer Loyalty is a 70% Mark Up

Recently, I got a renewal reminder through from Churchill regarding the car insurance policy I have with this organisation. The price was was around £320. And I was assured that I was taken care of, needed to do nothing, was in safe hands and this insurance would be renewed automatically.

In the early part of my business life I got a good look inside the insurance industry. What struck me was how the folks in the insurance industry did everything in their power to not pay customer claims including legitimate claims. Where paying out could not be stopped, the focus was on delaying payment as long as possible (money in the bank earns interest for the insurance company) and making an effort to get the customer to agree to a smaller amount than the customer was due.

With this in mind, and a niggle at the back of my mind suggesting that the previous year the premium had been less than £200, I started my due diligence on the insurance comparison websites. Guess who showed up among the most competitive insurance providers? Churchill.  Guess what the premium was? £187

Let’s take a good look at this from a loyalty perspective. The price of loyalty was to be paid by me as follows: increase in premium of £133 which amounts to a markup (on the £187) of 71%.

What did Churchill offer me in return for this extra premium? Nothing. The only difference between the £187 (on website) and the £320 (renewal) was that I got less cover! The £187 premium included free car breakdown insurance, the £320 premium did not.

What did I do? I took out a new policy for £187 and then rang to cancel the renewal. How did the call-centre agent respond? She asked me to allow her to match the best quote I had got elsewhere. I told her that Churchill had already done that. When I explained that I had taken out a new policy via the website she told me that it was normal for new customers to get a better deal especially if they sign-up online.

What else did she do? She told me off. For what? For taking out a new policy and messing up the internal system. What would she have liked me to do? Ring up Churchill, ask them to match the quote, get the renewal premium amended and continue with the existing policy.  It occurs to me that Churchill is true outside-in organisation which understand the customer and focuses on the customer experience. How else does one come up with this radical approach to doing business? Joking!  And sadly, the orientation is the default one despite all the talk.

Lesson for Customers: Never trust a commercial organisation to have your interests at heart. The standard practice is to sell you what makes most revenue-profit for the organisation this year.

Lesson for Enterprises: Given the radical transparency and ease of shopping facilitated by the internet it is necessary to pay attention to your pricing policies; not all customers are lazy, ignorant, or wealthy especially in the current economic climate.

 RAC: The Price Of Customer Loyalty Is A 12% Mark Up

We received a renewal reminder from the RAC. Like Churchill, the RAC assured me that I was in safe hands, had to do nothing, the renewal would take place automatically.  Given the comprehensive cover I have (UK, Europe, Number of People, Services) the sum of £342 did not seem too much.  As I was doing the Churchill search on the net, I did the same for car breakdown cover.

I chose only to look at two organisations: RAC and the AA.  RAC turned out to be just as competitive as the AA. Given my positive experiences with both organisations, I did not mind which ended up providing the cover.  When I plugged in my cover requirements from the renewal reminder into the RAC website, I found the same cover for £322. No big difference.

Seeing myself as a Customer Experience investigator, I chose to call the RAC. I selected the ‘going elsewhere option’ on the IVR. The agent answered the call, I told him the situation. He has helpful and investigated. What renewal premium did he offer me? Better than I was looking at on the RAC website. He offered me a renewal premium of £307. I took up the offer.

So let’s do the maths. The price of customer loyalty is still paid by the customer. It is just that in the case of the RAC the price is much lower: £35 representing a mark up (on £307) of 12%.

Lesson for Customers: Not all enterprises are out to get you to pay every penny. Some like the RAC settle for charging you modest amounts (mark up) in exchange for the convenience of doing nothing – saving you time and effort.

Lesson for Enterprises: Charging modest premiums in exchange for convenience is likely to be better received-experienced by your customers; I view RAC rather differently to Churchill – the latter shows up for me as greedy, the RAC shows up as fundamentally ok. If you do get caught like the RAC did then consider being gracious and generous like the RAC agent. Why? Because, it left me with the experience of gratitude to RAC rather than the experience of getting satisfaction at besting greedy Churchill.

Final Thoughts

It occurs to me that companies have made a mess of customer loyalty as they have viewed this in a selfish (transactional) manner. They have viewed loyalty in terms of getting more money from customers.  And by necessity the cost of customer loyalty falls on the customer: the customer pays to be loyal, stick with existing supplier.

So the opening for those who are up for a radical approach to doing business arises with grappling with this question: how can we create superior value for the customer such that s/he stays with us and is happy to pay a premium?  It occurs to me that Apple has been doing a great job of answering this question through its hardware, software, and ecosystem.  Which may explain why it’s value has rocketed over the last ten years. And why the market in used Apple hardware in eBay is more than all the other PC companies combined.

 

If You Can’t Prove The ROI Of Your Customer Experience Effort Then Consider This Option

Where is Customer Experience Management At?

What are the highlights of the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services study: Lessons from the Leading Edge of Customer Experience Management?  It occurs to me that there are many. And for the purposes of this post I want to concentrate on a subset.

According to the study: Less than half of the companies view customer experience management as a strategic priority.  Most are struggling to develop clear and consistent customer experience strategies, support, processes, and metrics across the organisation. 

Put differently, even the 50% who see customer experience management as a strategic priority are finding it hard.

What are the biggest obstacles-hurdles on the path of Customer Experience?

The authors of the study point out three challenges that making the going hard:

  1. Proving ROI – folks are finding it difficult to prove ROI as they are not able to link business outcomes to customer experience effort.

  2. Data & Integration – single customer view turns out to be a lot like enlightenment only a select few have realised it (after years of effort) the rest are having a difficult time knitting together their data and systems.

  3. Customer-focused culture - it turns out that speaking-writing-evangelising about customer focus turns out to be easy, creating an organisation which is genuinely customer focussed is ‘a bridge too far’ for most (if not almost all) organisations.

If you want to access the authors prescription for addressing these challenges then I suggest you read the study. For my part, I find their recommendations rather unsatisfactory. Why?  Their six lessons in Customer Experience Management start with ‘Lesson One: Create A Customer-Centric Culture’!  What genius!  And how do they recommend that you do that?  Rewards and punishments!  Our stupidity never ceases to amaze me.

What Option Is Open To You If You Cannot Prove ROI? 

Three options show up me for me when I consider this question. First, stop flogging a dead horse and do something else in the organisation that you find interesting or which holds the promise of success that you aspire to.  Second, move to another organisation – one which seems to you to be more receptive to the Customer Experience thing.

What is the third option?  Allow me to introduce this option by sharing the following quote:

Under-think your life’s purpose

Finding your ‘purpose’ in life is an attractive ambition, and I’m sure there are plenty of people who’ve simply said “This is what I was born to do,” but not everyone is as lucky as that.  The simple alternative for the rest of us is to ask “What is the next useful action I can take?” Keep it simple – if you notice a problem that needs solving, solve it, and if you meet a person who needs help, help them.

- David Turnball

Looking at this pragmatic advice through a Customer Experience lens, it occurs to the that the third option is as follows:

  • If you meet a customer who needs help, then help that customer;
  • If you notice a problem (that impacts the Customer Experience negatively) and have the capacity to solve that problem, then solve that problem; and
  • If you have an opportunity to do something unexpected-special for a customer then go ahead and do that something special.

Your small actions may get noticed, they may infect your colleagues and through them feed into the larger organisation.  At the very minimum, you have the satisfaction of lived true to your values and made a difference in the lives of some of your customers.

 

 

 

 

 

Hall Of Shame: Bitdefender

What Does It Take To Be Given A Position In The Hall Of Shame?

What does it take to be given a position in my Hall Of Shame?  It takes more than averageness, indifference and/or mediocrity.  For those that show up this way, for me, I have created the Hall Of Mediocrity.  And I shall be inducting CapitalOne into the Hall of Mediocrity in a follow up post.

To be accorded a place in my Hall Of Shame, you have to show up as a ‘taker’: one focussed on furthering one’s interest at the expense of the customer without any consideration for ethics or just plain decency.  It occurs to me that a great exemplar of this way of showing up and travelling in the world is Bitdefender, the antivirus firm.

What has Bitdefender done to earn it’s place on the Hall of Shame?

On 20th February I got the latest email informing that my antivirus subscription was due for renewal. Noticing that the renewal date was in the next 10 days, I logged onto my account (via the website) in order to cancel the renewal of the two subscriptions.  Whilst I could see the details of both of my subscriptions, I was not able to cancel the renewal. Why not?  Clearly, to stop me (and other customers) from cancelling renewals easily thus ensuring that some subscriptions would be renewed automatically as some customers would not go to the trouble of calling Customer Services.

Looking around the Internet I managed to find the telephone number and called Bitdefender’s Customer Services team. I provided the details that allowed the call-centre agent (let’s call him Mathus) to log into my account and see my subscriptions. Then I told him about the renewal emails, my failed attempt to cancel renewal online, and asked him to cancel the renewals.  Mathus went into sales mode. I responded by saying that I was not interested in renewing and asked him to cancel the renewals.

Mathus asked me to hold on whilst he cancelled the renewals.  I kept hanging on for at least ten minutes (I was counting them) despite being tempted to hang up. Why? I got that this was a deliberate ploy: keeping customers hanging up long enough and some of them will hang up thus limiting the number of renewals that get cancelled.

When Mathus came back on the line and apologised for taking so long I called him on it. Like a naughty boy who is proud of what he is doing and gets caught cheating, Mathus laughed immediately.  Noticing some humanity present, I asked Mathus to do the decent thing, stop running me around, and just cancel the renewals.

Mathus told me that only the Sales team had the authorisation to cancel the automated renewals. So I asked to be put through to the Sales team. Mathus told me that he couldn’t do that and that he would raise a ticket to ensure that the Sales team would cancel the automated renewals. I asked Mathus to create the ticket there and then. He told me he had done it, so I asked him to email me the ticket number, when I got that email I hung up the phone.

What I wish to convey her is this: if I had been dealing with Amazon, I would have logged on to my account and cancelled my order within 1 to 3 minutes.  With Bitdefender I had spent at least 20 minutes only to get an email with a ticket number.  And that only because I had persisted and insisted.  Was this the end of the story? No.

On the 24th February I got an email from Bitdefender’s Support Team informing that I had an open ticket with them, that they had not heard back from me for a while, and that I should contact them in order for them to resolve my issue.

On the 25th February, I emailed the Bitdefender Support Team with the following message: “Please confirm that you have cancelled the automated renewal of the annual subscription. That is what I rang you about and asked you to do. The agent told me that could not do it as he did not have the rights. He told me that only Sales could do it. And he told me that he would set up a ticket to ensure that the cancellation took place.”

What happened?  Did the folks at Bitdefender cancel my automated renewal?

A few days later I got an email from Bitdefender informing me that my antivirus subscriptions had been renewed.

This automated email was followed, the next day, by an email from Mathus informing me that the automated renewals had been cancelled.

When I got my credit card statement I noticed that I had been billed two sums of £43.96 – double the amount if I had been allowed to cancel the automated renewals and buy the same product, online, from Bitdefender or another antivirus vendor.

 Summing Up

If Bitdefender had played fair and offered to renew the subscription at the market rate of £24 I would have renewed. And as such Bitdefender would have earned £48 (2 x £24) at zero marginal cost.

If Bitdefender had played fair and made it easy for me to cancel the automated renewal of the subscription via my account on the net, they would have not incurred any costs.

Clearly Bitdefender has some kind of CRM system in place. And yet this system has not forged a closer relationship between myself and Bitdefender.  That is the limit of all systems. A tool is merely a tool.  The effect that any tool has in the world is who uses it, how it is used, and most importantly why it is used.

What was once a sound business practice from a rational actor/value maximisation perspective is no longer such a sound practice. The transparency enabled by the internet and social media allows customers like me to point out ‘takers’ as ‘takers’ and thus enable those who do not wish to be taken, to stay well clear of ‘takers’. So unless you have a killer (must have) product and/or deep pockets, it is time to wake up and act decently towards all stakeholders – especially customers.

By acting purely in their selfish interests with no consideration for decency or ethics, Bitdefender have earned themselves this post.  In dealing with CapitalOne (credit card company that I use) I found myself writing this of Bitdefender:

“I am clear that Bitdefender is dishonest, manipulative, organisation intent on doing everything possible to stop it’s customers from exercising their right to cancel the renewal of subscription.”

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