Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Excellent Customer Service and the Power of Brand Advocates

It’s a widely held belief that in many industries it costs five-to-ten times more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing customer, which is why looking after your customers with exceptional service is a priority for any business.

Looking at the customer service experience from the customer’s point of view is essential in keeping customers and building relationships with new and existing ones, but it goes deeper than that. It’s long been established that the average satisfied customer will tell two-three people about their experience with a company and a dissatisfied customer will share their lament with eight-ten people to avoid the company responsible for the dissatisfaction (and that was before the days of social media). But what if those customers have a positive customer experience? Is this not just as powerful an emotion to share with their friends, colleagues and social media connections?

The simple answer is, of course customers that have a positive experience will share their thoughts and opinions... enter the brand advocate.

Brand advocates are a hugely valuable tool for businesses, providing a marketing asset and genuine opportunity for engagement with a well defined peer audience, contributing to the growth and profitability of the company. But as a business, how do you create brand advocates? Here are two recent examples I have experienced.

Providing Great Service

I have been using a certain shop for some time and they have offered value as well as reliable delivery. To my surprise, the shop was one of the biggest distributors in the UK, although I had no idea how big they were as each time I called to place an order they would always treat me like I was their only customer. They also seem to listen to their customers, are adept at finding a solution for any complaint and ultimately, make me feel like they know me better than any of their competitors.

This exceptional level of service leaves me satisfied, ensures I recognise their brand and is enough for me to choose them over their competitors. Going further, I will happily recommend this particular retailer to people I know, which is a huge step in trust and loyalty.

Investing in Customers

Another example is a close friend that is a passionate follower of a particular technology brand. Because of his support for their products on social media, he has picked up a wealth of free products and tickets to showbiz events. This is a “win win” for everybody involved; the technology company is able to turn someone who already follows their brand into a vocal advocate across the social media landscape, whilst the customer who receives free gifts, is made to feel valued and part of something bigger.

Understandably this won’t work for every business, but both examples have a common feature – the delivery of an outstanding customer experience. All businesses can learn that giving a WOW experience to customers is key to building loyalty, trust and advocacy. Whether it’s providing fast, convenient and reliable service, or being responsive to your customers’ needs and investing in them, customer experiences are now the key differentiator and can provide a competitive edge.

Friday, 22 March 2013

The Value of CRM to the Customer Life Cycle

Whatever your business, whatever its size and whatever its proposition, your customers are fundamental to its success. This is why it is so essential to provide great customer service, to ensure that customers are happy with each interaction and are more likely to return in the future. Part of delivering exceptional service is building relationships with customers and managing them effectively.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is an approach to managing these interactions, either with existing or potential customers. Typically this is achieved with software that tracks, monitors and analyses each step in the relationship, enabling you to understand and nurture your customers’ life cycle.

The Five Stages of Customer Life Cycle

Speaking broadly, the customer life cycle is the different stages of a customer’s relationship with your business. The stages are:

• Reach
• Acquisition
• Conversion
• Retention
• Loyalty

On a simplistic level, the value of CRM to a business is being able to manage each stage, so that you can first grab their attention, teach them what you have to offer, convert them into a paying customer and finally keep them as a loyal (and profitable) customer.

Customer life cycles depend heavily on the type of service or products you offer and as such the way you approach CRM needs to take this into account. For example, you may have a long customer life cycle, like a child who sets up a bank account, grows up with the same bank, uses them for their mortgage and pension right up until the end of their life. In contrast not all customer life cycles are that long, if you are a book retailer it may simply be a case of advertising a new release, converting the sale and then following up with marketing around similar books over the space of three months.

It’s important to realise that CRM systems can be relevant to any customer life cycle, helping you to track the progress of sales deals, record particular customers and track the action in relation to the deal, using this data to then build on customer relationships. Customer insight of previous customer data can also help you map out exactly the next steps your customer will take, such as the products they are more likely to choose over other products and how long their relationship with you might last. By having such an understanding of your customers’ life cycle, CRM systems can also allow you to plan ahead, using data gained to forecast the number of new customers required if your business is to remain sustainable.

Ultimately, CRM solutions are crucial in managing each step of the customer lifestyle cycle but are also fundamental in ensuring customer relationships progress smoothly as part of your wider customer service objectives. Blended with effective marketing messages CRM has the potential to nurture customers throughout their life cycle, maximising the profitability of each and every relationship.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Contact Centres Metrics – Are You Measuring What Matters Most?

In the past the success of a contact centre operation has been measured with metrics based on efficiency, call duration being just one example. Today however, there has been a significant change in approach, contact centres are now measured by how effectively they serve customers, not just the speed at which they can do so.

In an age where customers expect a level of service that is personal, professional and delivers on what it promises, it is now about measuring ‘what matters most’ – the metrics that can give insight into customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction has always been a primary focus, but the explosion of social media has added a new dimension to word of mouth, making it more important than ever to ensure customers leave any interaction satisfied with the service.

That is not to say that metrics such as average call handling time should be discounted, they still have a place in optimising contact centres at an operational level, but their value in understanding how customers are being served is limited. With customer experiences being paramount to running a successful contact centre, metrics, like the four below, provide a far more qualitative view.

1. Service Level

The accessibility of your contact centre sets the tone of every customer interaction. Poor response times leads to an increase in bad conversations with customers, negatively affecting morale and ultimately the service provided. As such service level is the ideal accessibility metric for understanding the percentage of calls answered within the appropriate amount of time.

2. Contact Quality and Customer Satisfaction

To truly understand the quality of service being provided it’s vital that the customer’s point of view is utilised. C-Sat surveys following interactions are a frequently used method of gaining this understanding, and can be utilised to calculate on an individual level, a particular agent’s quality score and more widely, an appreciation of the overall service being delivered.

3. First Call Resolution (FCR)

FCR is a critical metric for contact centres because it has a significant impact upon customer satisfaction and costs. It should be a priority for all contact centres to equip agents with techniques and tools necessary to resolve calls in the first instance in the most appropriate way possible. Rapid, effective resolution leaves customers satisfied, which is why increasing FCR is a target for all good contact centres.

4. Employee Satisfaction

Probably the most overlooked metric in measuring customer satisfaction as it requires contact centres to look inwardly, but valuable nonetheless. The happiness of your employees correlates strongly with the service being delivered as unmotivated, unhappy agents will soon pass this negativity on through each interaction. The best way to grasp this metric is to undertake independent, anonymous satisfaction surveys, the findings of which can be used to shape future initiatives to improve employee satisfaction.

These four metrics are just a snapshot of how it is possible to measure ‘what matters most’ and ultimately provide the insight required to enable consistent improvement of customer satisfaction and experiences.