There is no such thing as bad publicity – except when it’s your customer experience

Oscar Wilde famously once said: “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” The implication was that being in the spotlight is always a good thing, no matter what the context. People take note, start to talk about you and raise your profile with potential benefits to be realised in the future.

This idea is supported by a long list of individuals who despite never making any contribution to science, philanthropy, history or the arts, have thrust greatness upon themselves and remain front and centre in the media. It is this relentless media obsession that gives value to their very existence and apparently makes them desirable in some quarters of business and society.

Wilde’s aphorism may have been true for the circles in which he moved, but in the modern business era of customer experience management ‘being talked about’ demands the sentiment of the dialogue to be positive if it is going to be beneficial to the organisation concerned.

I was struck this week to read that a US retailer had tried to back out of a rather embarrassing Twitter gaffe by explaining the abrupt and sarcastic reply posted by one of its employees as a stunt to gain publicity.

This thinly veiled explanation followed a customer complaint, which was handled without compassion, empathy or common sense. The retailers post was soon taken down in an attempt to avoid bad publicity but before that could happen a screen shot was taken by another Twitter user who had seen the earlier rude response and subsequently shared the conversation; of course it soon went viral. Nothing can ever be deleted on the social networks today.

The benefits of first-rate customer service are clear  and include a loyal customer base who will recommend your business to others in their peer network, perpetuating new opportunities to broaden the products your existing customers hold, driving revenue, increasing market share and differentiating you from the competition.

The first of those benefits is powerful and evidence shows that recommendation is a proven model to increase customer acquisition with very little associated cost.  However, it is important to recognise a particular aspect to the human/customer psyche, which is that we tell more than twice the number of people about a bad experience compared to a good experience.  Your business therefore has to work twice as hard to give good experiences if you want the net effect to be positive for your organisation.

Therefore the careful handling and empathy needed to recognise and respond appropriately to the sentiment surrounding customer complaints is critical. Remedial action that falls short of your customer’s expectations today will see them defect while telling double the amount of people about their experience than yesterday’s happy customer will about theirs.

For business there is certainly one thing in life that is much worse than not being talked about and that is when your organisation has failed to respond appropriately to an individual whose customer experience has been found lacking.

Remediation activity is not the arena to test new customer interaction strategies, as loosely claimed by the US retailer – hardly a shock. But what may shock you is that without first-rate customer experience and in particular the right platforms, processes and people supporting your social media customer care programme, you may also become the victim of the power of the channel to highlight those businesses that fall short of the mark.

complaint dept

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Crossing the chasm – from small to global

The path to global domination has changed. Small companies can grow to become medium just by doing a bit more of whatever they do – selling products or services and scaling up to increase the size of the operation.

But to jump from being a mid-size player to global was always difficult. Business academics call it ‘crossing the chasm’ because the penalty for failure was often the demise of the entire company. Jumping from that mid-level to becoming a giant always required a laser-like focus on the expansion of your company globally – one of the most critical areas of failure is how to support customers when scaling up from local (probably) single-language service to multiple countries, multiple languages, and across multiple channels.

But technology has enabled a change in the way services are delivered. The default for many new companies is now global because the Internet does not respect national borders. Two specific technologies are fundamentally changing how new companies are launching their products and how mature companies have to change:

Cloud computing; offering services in the cloud allows customers to pay only for what they use and to access services without requiring any special systems or software. Products we think of as normal now – such as email on a browser – previously involved far more complexity and thousands of software licenses.

App stores; allowing services to be packaged up and offered as bolt-on apps was really the genius of Apple, but has become a way of offering tools and services that works within governments and large corporations now – not just on phones.

These business paradigms allow for services to be switched on and off, scaled up or down, and integrated into existing business plans. They also allow companies to offer their products and services globally using various tools that can be easily bolted together.

Customer service is another matter. Now that customers expect support across borders and time zones, it has become almost impossible for any single organisation to deliver a satisfactory service just using an in-house team.

But Teleperformance is not only know for innovation and staying ahead of customer service trends, we operate in 62 countries so it is possible for us to work on local or global solutions.

The way business is conducted has changed beyond recognition in the past decade and this is also true of the way customers are serviced. What are your own views on the biggest changes that have taken place and where most attention needs to be focused?

Leave a comment here or tweet me on @matt_sims1.

App Store

 

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Analytics: the key to unlocking the retail omnichannel?

For the past couple of years I have been exploring both omnichannel and multichannel solutions for customer service as the adoption of social media channels have become more accepted.

It’s important to distinguish between the two terms though, as many commentators use them synonymously and that’s not quite right. Offering a multichannel service simply means expanding the number of ways in which customers can interact with a company. It used to be just by phone, then email, then chat, now you can add Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, blogs, forums, review sites… there are a lot of channels in common use now.

Offering an omnichannel solution means tying all this together. The customer that sends an email and tweets a message and later calls for help wants to see that all their various communications have been tied together somehow – the person answering the phone knows about the email for example. As you might expect, pulling all those channels together is a lot more difficult than just expanding the range of channels on offer.

An interesting feature recently in Essential Retail takes this idea even further (for the retail industry at least), extending the benefits of tying together the various channels into the overall supply chain.

Retailers are especially affected by the omnichannel concept because it is not just about a contact channel, they are also seeing shopping channels and behaviour change too. Customers may buy online with postal delivery, they buy instore, they buy online and request collection instore, they order more items than they need and return what they don’t want.

The communication channels have become more complex for everyone, but in retail the operational channels have also changed making the supply chain more complex than ever.

The answer is clearly improved analytics. All this data about customer behaviour and needs is there, but it has to be analysed quickly. I’ll blog next time about some of the analytics our team is exploring, but in the meantime please leave a comment with your thoughts on how the multichannel customer environment is changing your business – or tweet me on @matt_sims1.

Kanyon Mall Istanbul 14

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The future of customer service is already with us today

The social media analysis company Hootsuite has just released a new white paper focused on the future of customer service. You can download a copy here.

As you might expect, it’s packed full of statistics, but I want to pull out three for discussion:

  1. Customers who engage with companies over social media spend an average of 30% more with those companies than other customers
  2. Only 39% of companies bother to answer questions from customers using social channels
  3. Customers almost always share a customer experience where it took place over social media – if it’s a good experience they tell on average 42 friends, if it’s bad then they tell 53.

This is not really about the future of customer service, it’s the here and now. We are seeing the effect of these preferences on a daily basis.

It cannot be denied that voice calls are still the most important channel for customer service interactions, but social media is growing fast.

If the customers that use social media when asking questions are more likely to spend more then it seems obvious that companies should engage – it’s just good business sense. In addition, these customers are likely to tell more friends about a bad experience than a good experience.

With statistics like this it seems that planning for a multichannel social media customer service strategy is something that is urgently needed now and with only 39% of companies regularly answering online questions there is still a lot of room for improvement.

What do you think about the need for a multichannel customer strategy? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

Iced tea at Georgia's, version 2

 

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Telcos are focusing on content

I have often talked about the future for telcos being more focused on the content they provide rather than the number of free texts they offer to customers and a recent move by EE appears to be moving down this exact path.

EE has announced a TV service for all broadband subscribers, but they have decided to just offer content that is freely available in the UK rather than any premium content. I am not sure how attractive this service will be to customers.

There is a reason that people are prepared to pay up to £100 per month for a subscription TV service. It’s because the content is great and services such as live sport or catch-up for US TV channels are not going to be replicated in the very basic plan that EE is offering.

In contrast, Vodafone has already signed a deal with Netflix for their TV service so the free channels option from EE doesn’t appear to match up to others even at the time of launch.

I believe that the direction of travel is correct, even if the execution appears to be lacking here. If EE can evolve this strategy so additional premium channels and services are available – and also available on mobile devices rather than just in the home – then they will have a much stronger proposition.

The battle over content is only just beginning, but it’s already clear that offering a few free-to-air channels is not good enough. What’s your view on the network providers moving to a content strategy? Leave a comment here or tweet me on @simondillsworth.

Forgotten television

 

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Customer loyalty is changing

I read a news item on TechRadar recently titled ‘customer loyalty is changing and your marketing plan should be too’ and I was interested in the idea that customer service commentators are now explicitly defining ‘customer loyalty’ and linking this to marketing and key messages.

This idea is not new and I have echoed similar sentiments on this blog before, but it’s my belief that there are still not enough people from the customer service industry reminding business leaders across all sectors how far-reaching this evolution in customer behaviour and the nature of what is defined as ‘loyalty’  are going to be.

Because it’s not just that customer service has changed. Anyone can see that. The introduction of social media and the explosion of new channels over the past few years has changed the way that customers communicate with brands, but customer service has never been the only place that brands interacted with their existing and potential customers.

Teams such as marketing, advertising, and public relations have always planned how messages should be communicated from a brand to customers, but the way customers behave and interact with service channels has changed. While these functions of business remain largely concerned with one-way dialogue and annual awards for creativity, customers expect two-way communications that test the credibility of the marketing message, product claim or service guarantee, and therefore in so doing, their ‘loyalty’ antennae is already tingling.

Moreover and as an extension of this customer behaviour, far more pre-purchase research is now undertaken. There is an ongoing debate about products with reviews posted by customers, and forums allow questions to be asked and to turn into ongoing debates.

All this information, often created by customers, has become an extension to the ‘official’ marketing plan for any company today, yet if the company does not create and control this material then how can it ensure the information is correct? Through improved direct engagement and debate.

Customers need to know that companies will interact and engage before, during, and after purchases. And every channel from voice to chat to social media needs to be integrated referencing one version of the truth. This engagement can ensure that online information is fair and correct and interacting in this way will stimulate more customer loyalty than any loyalty points offers ever could.

I wonder have you any examples of how your own customer behaviour and interaction with a customer service team is changing? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

Stock Market

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Celebrating Customer Service Week

Last week was International Customer Service Week, an event started by the International Customer Service Association back in 1984 – thirty years ago! This week was originally created as a way to recognise and reward the people and companies that are focused on great customer service.

Unfortunately I was too busy working with customers last week to blog about it until the week was officially over, however as far as I am concerned every week is customer service week. So even though the international celebration was last week, what can we do on the blog to mark this once a year focus on customer service?

I think that with teams in 62 countries the Teleperformance team will have some great stories of customer service from recent weeks. What I would like to do is to collect together some examples of great service and to publish a collection of them here on the blog.

I think the best way to arrange this is not to ask people to self-nominate, but rather for people who have seen or heard a colleague go far beyond the level of service a customer might usually expect, to nominate these examples. Let’s hear about the best examples you have witnessed recently where team members have really helped the customer.

And there is no need for the examples to come only from Teleperformance. Just leave a comment here on the blog or tweet me on @matt_sims1 with your own examples of great service and I’ll plan to collect some together soon.

Customer Service

 

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