how to make sure your customer service is the best, and your customers remain yours

First, the acknowledgment… I wrote this for a presentation I am doing next week at the DestinationCRM conference.  Yes, it is my original material but it is not just for this blog… then again, we’ll see if I get more readers here or people at the conference next week.

As I started getting my presentation ready for the conference, I got to the same point where creativity begins: reading the abstract that was submitted, trying to understand what possessed me to write that, and wondering how am I going to deliver on that promise.  Then I started thinking… I promised to talk about service experiences – how breaking down customer experience management projects into “chunks” makes it more manageable.  Since I am not sure I can cover an entire presentation on that yet, I decided to instead focus on service experiences… but come to it from a Top-10 approach.  Yes, I have taken tons of poetic license from David Letterman’s approach to the Top-10 – not even close.  So, without much further – here are my “ten killer ways to make sure you service experiences are the best and your customers remain yours” (the official title):

1. right channel, right time – always ensure you are offering to your customers all channels they want to use, how they want to use them, and when they want to use them

2. right person, right time – use workforce management to manage your people, their skills, their training, and their careers – ensuring that each inquiry is answered by the best person to do it

3. right answer, right time (yes, there is a pattern) – optimize your knowledge management and repositories to ensure that each agent, client, and system interacting with clients automatically always have the right, and similar, answer

4. right experience, right? – implement an efm initiative to manage feedback from customers and agents, geared to improving and presenting the right experience, all the time to all customers

5. improve, reduce, discard – use analytics across all interactions, to make sure your processes are working properly, optimize them by improving poor performance, reducing unnecessary steps, and discarding non-working ones

6. constant monitoring, continuous improvement – manage by KPI – no, not Key Performance Indicators.  Instead focus on Knowledge, People, and Inquiries – focus on them and your experiences will be superb

7. metrics, choose wisely – don’t use old and tired efficiency metrics (satisfaction, loyalty, handle time, hold time, total calls, response time, etc) instead use the new effectiveness-based metrics to ensure great experiences (did you get what you needed? did we do a good job delivering?)

8. evaluate new, don’t implement… yet – unless you are in an industry where competitive advantage is a mandate (not many), implementing brand new technologies will only cost you money and resources.  Implement in the second wave and you will reap more benefits (this has a killer graph to go with it, email me for a copy of the slides)

9. know expectations, surpass expectations – use feedback tools and events to capture and understand your customer expectations; modify your processes to accommodate them; write SLAs to make sure you surpass them

10. MAKE MONEY – sales is a dish best served piping hot — you are in the hottest moment to recommend, offer, and sell to your customers… right when they need it!  Leverage it.  You’ll be surprised to see how many other problems disappear when you make money for the organization.

So, what do you think?  Did I miss any?  Do you agree or disagree?  What do you think of Service Experiences? let me know… and remember to email me if you want a copy of the slides…

Mind the Gap, Would you?

Continuing my one-man crusade to end the use of customer satisfaction as a metric in corporations, I want to bring attention today to one more problem: The Gap.

What gap you ask?  Well, the gap that exists between customer satisfaction and customer churn – that gap.

There are two  KPI (key performance indicators) for organizations dealing with customers.  One is customer satisfaction (are you satisfied, did we meet your expectations, etc.).  The other is customer churn – or the rate at which customers leave you and go to the competition.  Customer churn is trickier to measure (after all, a customer could have no need for your product or service, or they could be passive users and not interact for quite some time) but it is measured usually as a percentage of closed accounts.

As the logic goes, an increase in customer satisfaction should mean a decrease in customer churn – and the other way around should be also true.  After all, a satisfied customer is not likely to leave – right?

Well, this is the part where customer satisfaction (the metric) does not reflect reality. According to lots and lots of recent research – although customers say that customer service is their number one reason for changing providers, further analysis details that price is a more important driver than satisfaction.  Actually, satisfaction comes up between fifth and tenth in the different studies. I wrote a blog about this not too long ago, you can read it here.  If you insist in using customer satisfaction as a metric, fine – but please do it together with customer churn and… mind the gap.

Let’s look at an example.  Let’s say your customer satisfaction is 80%, and your customer churn is 30% (that means you loose 30% of your customer base every year).  That leaves a ratio of 10 – 80% satisfaction, 70% of “satisfied” customers per the churn metric – deduct satisfaction from churn and you get the ratio.

if you have a negative ratio it means your churn is greater than your dissatisfied customers and there are more people leaving you that telling you they are not happy.  Implement better feedback management tools, ensure that all complaints are handled effectively, and advertise (heavily) your commitment to customer care and to make customers happy.  Look at your prices, products, features and functions and make sure they are aligned with your competitors.  Advertise that as well. Find out, via surveys, why customers left recently and use that to improve your processes, offerings and services. If you are honest and good about it, you shall see more customers trusting you to solve their issues and wanting to stay – thus decreasing your churn and turning the ratio positive.

If you have a positive ratio it means either you are doing things well, or you are not measuring properly.  The larger the ratio, the more likely one of your metrics is not accurate.  Ideally your churn and your dissatisfied number will be the same — but very unlikely.  You want them to be within one or two points to account for all errors in computing and measuring. So if you have a large positive ratio either your customer satisfaction metric is too high, or your customer churn too low.  You should revise the metrics, what they measure, how the data is captured and the methodology behind each.  You are more likely to find problems measuring customer churn than satisfaction – but both are possible.  Fix your measuring problems and then try again.

What do you think?  Interesting enough to try? Let me know whaty you think… and please, mind the gap – would you.