Business Advice | Customer Service Solutions, Inc.

G.A.B. – The Survey Guiding Principles - 3/28/23


You’re excited!  The company has okayed your conducting a survey, and you immediately think of a half dozen questions you want to ask every customer.  You document your questions, get input from others, and all of a sudden you have a Word document with 36 questions instead of 6.  Read more

Build Your Shield - 3/21/23


When the customer complains or the boss gets upset, when the negativity gets too personal or you get that unprofessional e-mail from the angry client - those are the times when we can feel hurt.  Those are the times when we in customer service roles can feel that physical Read more

Avoid the Aggravation; Confirm the Key Point - 3/14/23


In this age of instant information and auto-completion of texts or e-mails, we are quick to get one thing done and move on to the next thing.  Technology often helps us to complete our work more quickly.  Yes, there’s even AI technology that’s starting to wreak havoc on the Read more

Frame the Ways to Get Back Your Customer - 3/7/23


Every organization that gains customers is in a position to lose customers.  For the sports organization, it’s the lost account holder.  For the healthcare provider, it’s the member who enrolls with the competitor at the end of the year.  The retailer, the software provider, the financial services firm – Read more

RELATE to Your Customers - 2/28/23


One of the more interesting processes we go through with some clients is the development of Customer Service Standards.  One might think that the expectations that organizations have of their staff are pretty consistent when it comes to customer service and relationship-building.  However, the Standards are often unique because Read more

Show Progress to the Customer - 2/21/23


When I enter the Chick-fil-A drive-thru lines, there are typically 10-15 cars ahead of me.  The cars move slowly but surely.  Employees take your order.  Others confirm your order.  Others provide the food.  In a study conducted a couple years ago, Chick-fil-A was noted as having the longest drive-thru Read more

Provide the Promise of Patience and Kindness - 2/14/23


Patience and kindness go a long way in life, and they go a really long way in customer service, as well.  These are two of the harder qualities to exemplify in customer service, particularly when you are spinning multiple plates, have a backlog of work or calls or contacts Read more

When You Can’t Say “Yes to the Address” - 2/7/23


I was interviewing a frontline staff person for one of our local government clients recently as part of our CSS Training Development Process.  They described their customers and the difficult situations that they face, their tougher conversations with customers. This individual supports local events, so there’s a lot of planning involved.  Read more

How to Fix Other People’s Problems - 1/31/23


I was helping a friend navigate some healthcare processes recently, so I conducted a 3-way call with my friend and the physician practice to try to get things cleared up.  The employee I spoke with on the phone - let’s call her Katie. There had been poor communication between different Read more

What to do When You’re in the Middle - 1/24/23


Bob and Sarah are arguing, and you’re in the middle.  Bob’s an employee, and Sarah is a customer, and they have a difference of opinion.  Somehow you’re involved even though you didn’t have anything to do with the interaction in question, the complaint being addressed.  You find yourself being Read more

Lessons Learned for COVID Era Sporting Events

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Since the sports world has begun inviting fans back to their events on a limited basis, CSS has been fortunate to work on multiple events with our sports clients.  Much of our work is fan research-oriented, where before or after events, we are engaging fans to identify expectations, potential concerns, and overall experiences.  Needless to say, we’ve had a ton of lessons learned that we’re sharing with you today.

Find the Customer’s Sweet Spot

Every event is going to have precautionary measures – protocols to utilize in order to keep staff and fans comfortable and safe.  Realize that you are striving to provide a great fan experience, but part of that great experience involves the fans being comfortable enough to have a good time.  So before events, conduct research with fans so you have a sense for what are the most important characteristics or potential protocols that you could put in place, from the fan’s perspective.  Understand what their expectations are and their needs are to have the comfort and confidence to have a great experience.  Before trying to do too much or too little from a sanitization perspective, make sure you have an understanding of those key perception drivers from the fan’s perspective so you have a better chance of hitting their sweet spot for protocols.

Educate New AND Old Customers

Most sports organizations, if they do any pre-event education with fans, tend to tailor those communications to the first-time fans.  This is being done for obvious reasons – first-time fans are the least experienced in how to navigate the fan journey and how to do their part to have the best experience possible.  But in this COVID world, keep in mind that even long-term fans and season ticket holders have never experienced an event of any kind – particularly a major sports event – within a COVID environment.

Make sure that the educational path you take is geared toward these two distinct groups – the first-time fans and the long-term fans about to have their first COVID event experience.  Remember in these times, in order for the customer to be comfortable and confident, you need to become an educator to the fans of what the experience will be like and what THEIR part is in helping to create that safe environment.

Post-event: Research, Refine, Reinforce

Finally, we’re going to discuss post-event activities from 3 perspectives:  Post-event Research, Refinement of plans, and Reinforcement.

First, make sure that you’re conducting Post-event Research on the fan experiences and future expectations.  You want to know what you did great so you can recognize staff. You want to know what was most appreciated by fans, so you can replicate that action.  And you want to know what needs to most be improved upon, because just like the COVID findings and recommendations seem to change every day or every week, the approach for events is going to slightly change every day or every week.

Also make sure that you understand their future expectations.  Identify whether their likelihood to return will go up or down based on whether the number of protocols go up or down.  Gauge their likelihood to return and their likelihood to bring more people to the next event.  Gauge their likelihood to be a repeat COVID Era customer.

Refinement relates to operations and communications.  Based on the feedback from the fans, make those adjustments in your operations.  If you were successful enough to find the sweet spot in your protocols, then you’re just tweaking your operations event-to-event.  In terms of communications, if you do a good job proactively engaging and educating fans and asking how they want to be communicated with, if you do a great job after the fact in your post-event research of asking them what communications were most useful, most used, and most effective, then refine your communication strategy with fans so that you can – again – continuously improve.

Reinforcement relates to changing perceptions.  Fans have the experience that they have, and down the road when they’re making their decisions about recommending your event to others, coming back themselves, spending more money with you, the memories that they have and the perceptions they have days weeks and months down the road are going to help them make those decisions.  You can impact those down-the-road perceptions.  Send them communications about their experience, reinforcing what a great experience that they had, what success that the event had in mitigating negative outcomes from a health perspective, sharing visuals of people having a great time, and highlighting fan comments from post-event surveys about how much they enjoyed their experience and how much the protocols oftentimes enhanced that overall experience.

Take these lessons learned that we’ve gleaned from our client work, and make sure that your COVID Era sporting events deliver a great experience your fans as well.


COVID-19 Demand Management Strategies for Customer Service Channels

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We all want demand for our products or services.  This helps us to generate revenue and to provide something of value to our customers and communities.  But customer demand does not strictly relate to products and services.  Demand also relates to communications, information, issue resolution, education, and other aspects of the customer experience that surround the product or service itself.

In today’s COVID-19 world, organizations need to think more strategically about Demand Management, particularly for those types of demand – those reflected in the utilization of various customer channels.  Customers can engage an organization via the web, the telephone, e-mail, social media, or onsite visits. But to think strategically, we have to ask some very basic questions first:

  • What mix of demand for customer channels does the organization want?
  • What mix does the customer want?
  • How does your organization create consistency regardless of which channel is selected?

 
In working with our clients, especially those in the COVID-19 world that are trying to be effective despite having largely remote employees and having financial concerns, a key question that clients ask us is:  How can we manage or reduce costs and still deliver a great customer experience…remotely?

While there is no one answer for any organization since each organization’s customer base, services, environment, mission, and goals may all be different, there are some Key Imperatives that any organization can use when crafting a strategy, and these Imperatives have a strong relationship to Demand Management:

  • Know Channel Customer Costs: Understand key financial metrics such as cost per transaction, or cost per customer (per year or per lifecycle).  By understanding these metrics, you can understand which customer engagement channels could drive up (or down) your short-term and long-term costs.
  • Gauge Current Demand and Outcomes: Be clear on current demand levels and their relative customer success.  Believe it or not, very few organizations can quickly and clearly tell you how many customer engagements they have via the web v. via phone. How many engagements do they have via e-mail versus onsite visits?  And even if they can provide numbers such as those, they cannot provide you with good data on the outcomes of those engagements.
  • Assess Consistency of Quality: Finally, understand the quality and depth of response to the same customer question when it is addressed across all the different channels.  In order to manage demand, we need to ensure that there is consistent quality regardless of to which channel the demand may be shifted.

 
To be strategic about shifting customer demand in your customer service and experience channels during COVID-19, start with a clear understanding of these three Key Imperatives.


Reach Out More for COVID-19 Customer Retention

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Ever since the Coronavirus pandemic became a reality for individuals, their communities, and their countries, it became clear that people were going to be hurting…that lives were going to be changing…that the realities of the past were going to be very different from the current and near-term future realities.

When Our Customers Can’t…

Oftentimes when individuals are going through change or they’re hurting, they have a limited reservoir to pull from for others.  Our customers have less energy or resources or money or time to give, so energy and resources and money and time are part of what they need.

When customers can’t give enough, it’s frustrating for them to be asked to give more.  So, from a customer service and retention perspective, or even a marketing perspective, move to view today through the eyes of your customer even more.

They don’t want the sales pitches as often.  They don’t want the target marketing as frequently.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t have touch points with customers.  That doesn’t mean you cannot reach out to customers.

In fact, we think you should reach out to them even a little bit more because your customers have needs beyond your product or your service.  They have more personal needs for their health or their well-being or their experience of enjoying life simply as a human being.

…What We Can

Consider reaching out to customers a little bit more, but – much more importantly – reach out to them a little bit differently.  Understand their world – their issues, needs, and goals – and determine what you could provide to them to help address those issues, needs, and goals.

For example, is there some information they don’t have access to that you could provide?  Are there some complex issues that you could address for them with simplicity?  Is there information or knowledge that is difficult to acquire, and you can create a 1-pager or a graphic or a simple link that they could click on to easily get the information they need?

Is there something they need in the near-term that you can provide in the near-term?  Keep in mind that customer retention is based on the business premise that we want to maximize lifetime value of each client to our organization.  So, these short-term and highly customer-focused touch points are being done to maintain and deepen the relationship for the long-term.

In other words, to maximize customer retention, you need to have a long-term focus.

The trees that live longest generally can weather the storms better if they have deeper roots.  Plant the seeds of customer retention today by reaching out a little bit more with a lot of extra value in the information you provide to your customers.


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