research

Are you the Output or the Input? - 6/25/19


You’re the output and the input. Sorry to put it into such technical/industrial engineering terminology. But in a service system, we all have some role as a part of the process. First, we receive the output. Somebody has a customer that they direct to us, so that handoff is from Read more

Hear Them, and Tell Them What You Heard - 6/18/19


CSS has conducted close to 1000 research projects over the years, many of which were web-based surveys. And oftentimes, in addition to or instead of completing the online survey, respondents e-mail us directly with questions or comments – and we respond personally to every message on behalf of our Read more

It’s Decision Time. What are you going to do? - 6/11/19


Serving others is tough. Whether it’s dealing with an irate customer, having to field the same question from the 100th different customer this month, or keeping 10 plates spinning while still smiling in front of the client, it’s hard. You want to do a great job, and you’re constantly put Read more

You Do Know Jack - 6/4/19


Have you ever had a co-worker who causes more problems than they solve? Simple things they do are often, from a procedure standpoint, correct. But the way they handle situations makes them come off as indifferent. Let’s call this co-worker “Jack.” Even though certain actions by Jack may seem innocent Read more

How to Give the Right Kind of “No” - 5/28/19


In a perfect world, you never need to say “No” to the customer. But as we all know, this is not a perfect world. There are a lot of issues in the world, and there are a lot of issues in customer service. Our companies are not perfect, our Read more

Make it Crystal Clear - 5/21/19


Sometimes we communicate so well, and sometimes we don’t communicate as well as we think we do. When you’re trying to set or manage another person’s expectations, what you say may be very clear to you, but the reality is it may not be clear to the other person. Read more

Harvey Wrote the Book on Focus...and Golf - 5/14/19


In Harvey Penick's Little Red Book, the famous golf instructor provides many key tips about golf that just as well could apply to life in general. One such tip is the following: Once you address the golf ball, hitting it has got to be the most important thing in Read more

Stop Rolling Your Eyes - 5/7/19


Most of our customer service tips offer advice and guidance. But advice and guidance is useless if the individual receiving it is not willing to listen, learn the theory behind it, and try to apply what they’ve heard or learned. I’ve personally facilitated hundreds of training sessions with clients over Read more

Should you tell the customer? The Employee’s Dilemma - 4/30/19


Last week we looked at the dilemma that many companies face – When there is an issue that is going to happen, should they tell the customer? This week, let’s address that same question from the employee’s perspective. I personally experience employees struggling with this question when I’m in Read more

Should you tell the customer? The Company’s Dilemma - 4/23/19


I have a lot of clients that struggle with this question, both at a company/strategic level as well as an individual representative level. When there is an issue that is going to happen, should you tell the customer? This week we’re going to address the question at the Read more

Use Customer Comments to Continuously Improve – 11/27/18

Posted on in Customer Service Tip of the Week Please leave a comment


It’s that time of year when all good Americans due their duty – to purchase holiday gifts online. Okay, maybe it’s not as much a duty as it is a joy or chore, depending on your point-of-view.

Before I purchase anything online, I seek out reviews. This may involve a review from some reputable online publication. More often, I seek out reviews from fellow customers, and I put a TON of weight into their opinions. Even though the seller may offer specs on the product and glowing descriptions, the words of customers who purchased the item mean more.

They tend to tell you about the ordering and shipping experiences. They tell you how the assembly went, what they like and dislike, what works and what doesn’t, and what type of support they receive if there’s a question/issue/return involved. It helps me to make an informed decision.

Now, what it should also do is to help the seller improve the product or the buying process or the support process.

Think about seeing the buying experience, the “setup-for-use” experience, the product benefits/drawbacks, and the support experience all through the customer’s eyes! It’s like mystery shopping without having to mystery shop. It’s real-time information from real people about real experiences.

If you want to know how to improve yourself, your service, your organization, or your product, look for sources of customer input that already exist (and create those that don’t). Review the input; determine the common threads; find opportunities to recognize others, and find opportunities to get better.

Use customer comments to continuously improve.

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Play Ball with Your Customers – 9/4/18

Posted on in Customer Service Tip of the Week Please leave a comment


We typically conduct 35-40 surveys a year for the sports industry. And while you may work in a different industry, there are lessons to be learned by the types of research that sports organizations seek and why they seek that information.

First, we design and deliver many pre-event surveys. This is especially important when you’re trying to understand who is going to be attending the event, and which of those are first-time customers. Think about your own business. How much would you benefit from knowing your customers’ expectations before they ever walked in the door? How much more tailored could your information be if you knew what was of greatest interest to them? How much more effective could you be in creating a comfortable experience if you understood what their awareness level was of your operations, facilities, products, and services? How much easier would it be to get a return visit if you understood the reason they chose your organization or your event in the first place? Think about learning from your customer before they ever walk in the door.

Second, we do a lot of surveys based on the experience itself. These are almost immediate surveys that enable us to understand exactly how the different steps in the customer journey were perceived by the customer. You can immediately learn the customer’s likes and dislikes. You can strategically think about what aspects of the customer journey need to be improved and why. You get raw, real information about those aspects of the experience that can make or break the customer’s relationship with you.

Third, we provide post-event research with clients, and this not only includes some input we’re seeking on the experience itself, but it also includes gauging their interests, their priorities, their retention drivers, their willingness to return, and their interest in additional products and services. Too many organizations view existing customers the same way they view prospects. But if you view your customer as a unique individual that you need to develop a relationship with, then you realize that you need to know a lot about them – why they would stay with you or go to a competitor. Identify what you need to know about your customer to create a great relationship with your customer.

A fourth common research approach we use is Exit Interviews. This is when we go to clients that have not renewed or have cancelled their tickets or ended their relationship with the organization. The primary purposes of this research are twofold: First, we are trying to understand why they left so that we can look at fans of a similar profile and develop strategies to better retain those who we still do have. Second, we are looking for opportunities to win back these fans by truly understanding their retention drivers and their willingness to give us a second chance.

Although these are only 4 different research vehicles within the sports industry, they’ll give you a feel for the core approach we use with many of our clients. Think about your individual customers and the impact they have on your company as a whole. Devise a research strategy that will help you learn from them throughout their customer journey and even after they’ve left so that you can best keep and grow with your customers.

Learn how to play ball with your customers.

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Let the Customer Decide Where to Share – 6/5/18

Posted on in Customer Service Tip of the Week Please leave a comment


When we work with clients on their Voice of the Customer strategy, there’s obviously a proactive research component included. And while many companies immediately consider a web survey as the sole source of customer feedback, when designing your Voice of the Customer strategy, first think about how your customers would prefer to share their feedback with you.

Some people prefer the face-to-face focus group because they can dialogue with others, and they prefer that personal interaction. Others prefer the web survey that is clickable and quantifiable, and it can be done any time of the day-of-week or time-of-day.

Some prefer the telephone, and not necessarily your calling them – which is becoming more and more rare – it’s also providing opportunity for them to dial into an anonymous conference call or to leave a voicemail for someone with their thoughts and opinions. Consider social media, where many are digitally engaged customers who spend a lot of their time and effort engaging companies through those more new-age methods.

Another benefit of gathering the Voice of the Customer using methods the customer would prefer to share information, is that your results can be biased if you don’t take that approach. What if 50% of your clientele who experience the organization onsite prefer to give the feedback onsite, but all you request is a web survey?

What if you prefer to use focus groups, but the majority of your customers don’t have the time nor inclination to drive somewhere, park, sit in a focus group, and then drive home? What if you preferred to get feedback via social media, but 80% of your clients are rarely on social media except as an observer of others?

To truly and accurately get the voice of your customer, develop a strategy that taps into the communication methods that your clients prefer most.

Let the customer decide where to share.

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