High Expectations

We expect a lot as customers, and maybe even more as online customers. We want free shipping, simple returns, mobile options, automated purchasing, etc. As companies, we need to be aware of these expectations and act on them. Shopping online is so easy and convenient (if you are in the right place), so that is the way that the market is shifting. People want to order things from bed and find them on their doorstep later.

One way to meet the high expectations of online shoppers is to make returns a lot simpler. If you make returning things really difficult, people will learn and take their business elsewhere. You can do this by sending a free return shipping label in every order with decent information about your return policy so that your customer can understand returns and then do so if necessary. If you are a brick and mortar with the option for shopping online, be weary of different policies in store and online. Keeping things consistent keeps them understandable and a lot less confusing.

Making your website user friendly to shopping on a phone has never been more important. People either don’t have the time or don’t want to take it to sit down and order something on a webpage on their computer. By making shopping easy for phone users, you are opening up a world of opportunities. Easy mobile sites mean more money for you and less money for your competitors.

As an online store, you should consider free shipping on certain purchases. I know that I personally get dissuaded from spending 100$ somewhere if they also make me pay 17$ for shipping. By offering free shipping at a specific cart total or just all the time, you make it easy for your customers to understand and manage their shipping expectations.

Your customer service is definitely a very important part of online shopping, too. Your customers didn’t get to interact with you in a store, so they take a little bit more work because they are online. Give your customers the support they need and deserve, and they will return when you can fulfill their needs or wants again. Be their number one choice because you provided them with an extraordinary customer experience!

What needs do you think need to be met during an online shopping experience? Let me know below!

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Oh, Millennials

I’m a millennial… and I am not going to lie that we are a bit harder to please than the average person. We approach situations with a different perspective and different thoughts, but I am pretty sure that every generation does. I’m not sure why we get such a bad reputation. Anyways, some companies believe that they need to start designing their workplaces and customer experiences to fit the needs and beliefs of millennials. But how? You might ask.

We want flexibility! We want flexibility! My age group NEEDS flexibility to thrive. An 8-5 with no flexibility doesn’t bode well here. We like having a good amount of control over our schedule, our location, and the paths we follow. Sounds deep, right? Not really. I think we are just human. We enjoy being able to have the option to do what works best for us personally. This doesn’t just mean that just our employees like flexibility, but our customers do too. Oh, I can only buy your product in store? No thanks, I wanted to buy it online and have it shipped straight to my door. We need to be very aware that giving our customers options increases the chances that they will buy our products and stay a loyal customer. I think this applies not only to millennials though… I think it applies to everyone, we are just more vocal about it.

We want to feel empowered! As an employee in a non-millennial heavy workplace, people in my age group might feel a little misunderstood when it comes to empowerment. Some people want to feel supported both personally and professionally, but we want to feel important. Give us the roles and projects that are important and where we can thrive. We do want to learn, and many of us don’t enjoy being lazy or the perception that we are lazy. Millennials push this and ask for this, but I also think that all people in the workplace should feel empowered in their own way. On the other hand, keeping customers empowered can entail giving them a better understanding of your company, brand, products and services. This builds trust and empowerment to create a sense of belonging that was not there before. Take advantage of this!

We want validation! Okay, this one may seem needy. As employees, we want to be praised and validated for the good that we do. This might be good for everyone else too, but for some reason (and it might be that they handed out trophies for 6th and 7th place when we were growing up), but we seem to need constant feedback and pats on the back. Praises on big accomplishments might seem minor, but as I said in my Vlog about Customer Churn, praising your employees who do great things often encourages them to continue to work hard and contribute positive things to your company. As a customer, we like to feel validated for our journey. This motivates them to continue down their path as a customer at our company.

I don’t personally think these would be bad things to implement throughout your whole company.. Do you? What do you think millennials bring to the workforce and to companies as customers? Please leave a comment below!

Ugh, Another Survey

We often use surveys in healthcare to gauge customer experience, and with the amount of surveys that are used in and out of a lot of different industries, you would think that we would have had it figured out by now… Unfortunately, surveys can lead to dissatisfaction with the company rather than the expected measurement of satisfaction. But why?

As a customer, our survey answers often don’t mean anything because we never receive results. In healthcare, we ask questions about the care, stay, and our team on our surveys in hopes that we can give feedback to our providers to learn and grow. People answer these surveys in hopes that it will make a positive impact on the company or future customers but they often don’t ever hear back. As a customer who doesn’t receive any results, it is frustrating because you spent time answering questions but the company doesn’t seem to have the time to send you results. To fix this, it would be nice if a company could acknowledge any issues or concerns presented in the survey, even in a simple way.

Another frustrating aspect of customer satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) surveys can be the content. Companies ask irrelevant and lazy questions so that they do not have to do any extra work when it comes to receiving answers. In a hospital, when you have a medical record number, you should be able to pull up length of stay, doctor, nurses, etc. Why should a survey ask all of that information when it is already on file? If a company is really interested in feedback, they should be able to present relevant questions, because as a customer we don’t want to feel like just any other customer (especially in a hospital). If you are unable to explain how questions are relevant to a customer, they will not be happy about answering. Surveys should be used to drive improvements and customers need to feel like the questions are valid to them so that they answer honestly and in a way that can lead to that improvement we want.

Also remember that it is important for the continuity of good customer experience to have a survey experience that matches everything else. Keeping the branding consistent might mean not having a survey link that takes you to some weird survey website, but rather ingraining the survey into your actual website. It also means that every part of your company should talk to each other in order to provide the customer with a smooth experience. They should not be receiving three of the same survey from different departments in the company.

I also think that it is important to offer surveys in multiple ways for different kinds of customers. There should be an option on whether you would like to fill out the survey online or in paper. Older generations might not answer the online survey because they aren’t comfortable with their information being online in the first place, let alone answering questions on a computer. On the other hand, younger generations do not want to waste time filling out bubbles with pencil on a piece of paper. Options should be given to allow for preferences to be used. This will increase response rate and satisfaction of those involved.

If we are going to survey, we need to make it a better experience for our customers.

What do you find annoying about customer surveys? Please leave me a comment below!

Churn Baby Churn

Poor customer service is a huge reason why customers leave one company and switch to another. Unfortunately, companies often think that their job is done once a customer has purchased from them but this is the furthest from true you can get. Once we gain a customer, we have to work harder to keep them around (and it costs a ton more to gain new customers than retain them, so why not try a little harder). It might seem common sense, but maybe not.

So let’s talk about some ways that we can stop expensive customer churn by focusing on creating a customer-obsessed culture of service excellence.

Hire service oriented employees: Some people are just cut out to serve others and some people are not! Sometimes, you just can’t teach someone to be customer-centered. It is best to hire people who have customer-common-sense, because they have the natural inclination and desire to serve the customer and treat them right.

Develop employees in service talent: Once you have service oriented employees on board, it is best to coach them and mold them. Even the best athletes have coaches for their sport. Bring people on board who have the talent and then teach them how to be the perfect fit for your customer, brand, promise and company.

Talk about it: We have to walk the talk and talk the talk. If we continue to talk about keeping customers around and keeping the ideas fresh and in the lime-light, we are more likely to keep it at the center of our beliefs and day-to-day activities. If you continue to talk about the importance of customer service to reduce customer churn, it will stay in people’s minds.

Reward your talent: If your employees deserve to be acknowledged, acknowledge them! Celebrate the people who treat your customers right and recognize that they are reducing churn and in turn, costs. You can even link compensation to service excellence in order to keep it important to your employees.

Your customers are worth it! Take the time to reduce churn, and it will pay off. Literally!

I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment below!

Different Kinds of Buyers

Let’s talk about the multiple ways that customers buy. A lot of the following models operate independently, but when you put them all together, you can get a very good overview of how and why customers buy what they do… from something small like a set of paperclips to something huge like a house or a car.

Wants and needs. This occurs when customers are drawn to purchase an item or service because they feel a unfulfilled need, whether it be innately or through the persuasion of a company. Example: I go to the grocery store because I need groceries, but I buy Sun Chips because I want them and because the nice display of them has persuaded me to throw a bag in my shopping cart.

Matching and searching. This occurs when your customer is searching for something. The question becomes: “Do you have what they want?” and do you have it for a better price than your competitor (for those who are matching)? Example: I am looking for a new mattress, but for the best price possible. I will look at a few different stores for the best deal for what I want.

Objections. This occurs when customers are looking to be consoled and told that everything is going to be okay. They want to be convinced that all is good. Example: I become upset that the mattress I want to buy is $200 more than I expected it to be. I want to be told that it is okay and that the extra cost is worth it because of a and b.

Attention. This occurs when customers come to your store or website looking for attention. We must give them the attention they need for their needs to feel fulfilled. Example: I walk into a Sephora to ask a question about a certain makeup. If my question is answered, I am more likely to buy it then and there.

Action. This entails how the customer actually buys your product or service. Example: When I go to the grocery store, I check out at the check stand… If I buy something online, I will check out through the online check-out through entering my credit card and shipping information.

Interest. This occurs when you are selling or offering a service that catches a customer’s eye. Example: I walk into a clothing store to buy a few pairs of socks but find a bathing suit that really catches my eye, so I buy it with my new socks.

Engagement and desire. This occurs when a customer is fully engaged with your company and is truly sold in their heart and mind that your product or service is the one for them, even before they walk in the door or type your website into the search bar. Example: A girl knows that when she gets married, she wants her engagement ring and wedding band to be from a specific company.

Fulfillment. This entails how the customer actually receives your product or service. Example: If I order something from Amazon, I will receive a package in the mail with my order.

Evaluation. This occurs when customers receive their product or service and then can compare what they received with their expectations. Example: When I open up my Amazon order, I check to see if the product is what I thought it would be.

Satisfaction. This goes along with evaluation. This occurs when the customers expectations match (or don’t) what they actually received. Example: What I ordered from Amazon is exactly what I thought it would be. YAY!

Repeat customer. This occurs when a previous customer comes back to you to purchase with your company again. Example: I really like what I ordered from Amazon so when I run out, I will definitely repurchase from the same company through Amazon.

Referral. This occurs when a customer loves your product and feels confident in recommending you to friends or family members. Example: I loved my Amazon order so much that I told my best friend about it and she decided to buy a similar thing through the same company.

It is imperative to understand which kinds of customers you are looking for and which kind of customers you actually have so that you can provide them with what they need so that they can feel fulfilled.

Can you think about a different kind of buyer? I would like to hear about it below! Leave me a comment.

Sabotage

We talk a lot about things that we need to do to improve our customer experience but today we are going to talk about things that we do pretty often that might sabotage the experience our customers have. We don’t intend for these things to happen, but they do. We spend a lot of time behind our computers talking about reports and numbers, when at the end of the day we should be trying to make things happen instead.

First and foremost, we need to be weary of worrying about our competition more than necessary. Yes, it is important for us to remember and pay attention to the market and where our competitors stand in relation to us, because we need to know what they might be doing that could potentially lead our current customers away. BUT with that being said, over-worrying about what a competitor is doing and using them as a benchmark or main driver for innovation in your company can lead to your customers suffering. There’s a reason you have customers who love you… but if you continue to worry about the other company and change your ways to match them, you will most likely lose customers.

Next, as leaders we need to understand that customer praise should be passed on to those who truly earned it. If you keep customer’s positive feedback to yourself, and for yourself, you end up with a team that is beaten down and frustrated. Most likely, the praise that was received has very little to do with you, but has everything to do with the people on the front lines of customer experience and customer service. Give THEM the praise they deserve and you will see your team thrive, because positive feedback can be critical to reinforcing those positive behaviors, and it also allows for a great employee morale.

Next, we must be very weary about encouraging bad behavior in employees. It might be easy, but encouraging staff to do the wrong things to benefit you in the short term will only hurt you and your customers later on down the line. You, as a leader, need to be a great example for your employees because customer-centric cultures must be built from the top so that the bottom can fully immerse themselves and act appropriately towards the customer. If your employees know they can get away with bad behavior with you, they will see nothing wrong with acting the same way with customers.

Another way to sabotage your customers is to… well, never deal with them. We often sit behind our computers and hide behind our websites so that we never actually have to interact with our customers, but really, building those relationships with customers can go a loooong way. So try not to hide, but rather take advantage of the relationships that your customers are offering to build with you.

Last, we focus a lot on what we aren’t, when we should put way more focus on what we really are. Our brand, culture and promise to our customers needs to be front and center for all to see, instead of saying something like “we are so different from our competitors!”. That leaves a lot to be desired for our customers. Figure out what you offer or promise and then deliver!

Please leave a comment below!

Customer-Employee Relationships

We always see stories of awful customer service on the news… A frustrated restaurant worker that leaves an awful message (on accident?) on the receipt… A plus size woman walks into a bridal store and is told she cannot find her size at the store, then spreads the story on social media… And many more. I think that these kinds of customer experience oopsies can be changed by changing the frame of mind of not only our upper management but also the workers that are in contact with the customer on a regular basis. It might even be more important for those front line workers to have a better understanding of what having a customer experience centered mindset really means.

Nearsighted business leaders think about the customer as a means to an end… They believe that their company hires employees who serve the customers who come in and purchase the product or service. Business leaders with this mindset create a company with a culture that will continue to carry this point of view, which in the end hurts the customer.

On the other hand, we have business leaders who are interested in customer experience and improving it. These kinds of leaders believe in a flow in the opposite direction that would go a little something like… The customers will form a relationship with employees and for that reason, they will tend to repeat business with that company. The focal point of this point of view falls directly on the power of relationships between customers and employees. Companies with this kind of belief system tend to focus on hiring and training of great employees then focus on their employee experience. This allows for a sense of empowerment for employees which leads to them acting in the best interest in the customers.

It’s funny how it works both ways. Customers will continue to buy from the company because they enjoy their relationship with the employees… Employees that build great relationships with their customers come to work happy and eager to please those customers. What a wonderful circle. We must treat our customers how we would like to be treated if we were in their position and they will reward us not only by coming back but by creating a relationship that will enrich your employee’s experience as well.

Some of the best customer experience based companies place their customers at the center of just about everything they do. They make it the core part of their business and they help their employees build relationships so that they can thrive as well. Doing this will help our employees steer clear of writing nasty things on receipts and calling beautiful brides “too large”.

I would love to hear about a relationship that you have built with a customer or as a customer, a relationship you have built with an employee in the comments below!