It doesn’t matter how good your product or service is. At some point, things will go wrong. But that is not a problem. We all know nothing is infallible.
The problem lies in the way you respond to that situation, the effort you put into it, how you resolve it, as well as the way you treat customers in that process.
The typical and most frustrating response customers get has four main issues:
- reactive – problems come as a surprise
- insincere – apologies are not heartfelt
- disclaim – it’s never anyone’s fault
- giveaway – freebies to shut customer up
The above shows that your company lacks professionalism, empathy, accountability and customer-centricity. This hurts customer’s trust and loyalty, impacting your bottom line.
To fix issue number 1, you need to become Proactive. This doesn’t mean that you must know every single issue that could crop-up. But you must be Vigilant and Action as soon as you notice something could go wrong. I would encourage you to think about James Dodkins PXR (Proactive Experience Recovery) framework.
PXR is the practice of fixing a problem during the crisis or before it happens (…) four-step framework is: identify, monitor, communicate, compensate (…) Identify the problem, monitor the problem during the experience, communicate to the customers that you know something is wrong even if they aren’t aware, and compensate for errorsJames Dodkins on Kustomer Podcast 9 Jul 2020 (link here)
To fix issue number 2, you should make sure that your staff shows Empathy towards the customer, and offers Earnest apologies. Following up by fixing the issue, ensuring that it was an one-time-only apology! In a recent chat on Twitter (ICMI chat) Stephanie Thum put it very well.
Apologies mean little, really, when they’re consistently the “go-to” for fixing the systemic problems customers face. Fix the systemic problems! That is the best compensation.Stephanie Thum on Twitter 25 Aug 2020 (link here)
To fix issue number 3, you need to ensure your organisation has a customer-focused culture that puts emphasis on Accountability, where employees feel Empowered to resolve customer issues, and are rewarded for fixing or actioning, rather than deflecting. Supported by Technology that is easy-to-use and flexible enough to make staff efficient, and problem-solving effective.
To fix number 4, focus on Resolution rather than hesitation, idleness, lethargy. As Stephanie Thum said, fixing the problem “is the best compensation”. Customers are not looking for freebies, but for an easy and effortless experience. And if you feel you want to make up for your mistake, make sure it is seen as a gesture of Goodwill.
Now, more than ever, companies need to (re)define their purpose – a clearly defined non-financial purpose. And then, ensure that leadership, culture, processes, policies, communications always take that purpose into account.
As Jeanne Bliss says: “Clarity of purpose gives people’s work meaning. It is the glue that unites a team and enables everyone to look beyond their individual tasks, so they can deliver a one-company experience that customers want to have again”
Companies need to make an effort to clarify why they exist (and it’s not just to make money!). Then, link that purpose to who they hire, how they conduct themselves, and what they will do (as well as not do) to grow.
This enables the delivery of great employee and customer experiences, and will make successes mean much more and, as consequence generate much more satisfaction. It will also be the perfect environment for collaboration, a key ingredient for innovation, which in turn brings differentiation.
Customers will want everyone to know they are associated with those companies, and shout to the world about joint successes. And employees will be proud to be part of such companies, share with others and attract more talent.
On “Consultancy lesson from Winston Wolfe” I talked about how consultants are not, and should not try to be “must-know-it-all encyclopedias with a solution for everything” that “are available within the hour” and “make problems go away in no time“.
Another crucial principle that consultants should always follow is that technical mastery of their specialist discipline is not enough to come across competent, and deliver good service and/or advice to a client. You need to earn their trust and confidence.
To do that, consultants must value the relationship with the client, more than the transaction in hand. However big it may be, it could be the only one you get, in case you are not able to create a long-standing and trusted relationship with your client.
Consultants invest in improving specialist technical skills, focus on acquiring experience, and work hard on building a network of contacts. But rarely spare enough time creating and nurturing trust relationships with clients. Majority don’t even know how to do it.
Here are a number of things you should follow if you want to build trust and confidence:
- Focus more on the client (and the problem), less on yourself (and your skills)
- See your client as a person (John Smith), and not just a role (Head of Operations)
- Listen more (understand challenge and concerns), talk less (don’t assume)
- Do the right thing (for your customer), not what’s best for you
- Personalise your delivery, don’t give “blanket” answers or on-size-fits-all solutions
- Be honest and transparent (even if truth is hard), don’t hide issues or say it’s all easy
- Make yourself always available, accessible and reachable
Customer-centricity, humanity, integrity, reliability, dependability, responsiveness (among other characteristics) are, more often than not, more important than technical mastery, when it comes to deliver outstanding service and successful outcomes to clients, creating long-standing win-win trust relationships.
The COVID-19 outbreak in Europe continues to spread, and it seems some countries have not seen the worst of it yet. However, businesses are already being impacted massively.
Some of the biggest impacts have happened in the Customer Service or Customer Care area, with many people trying to contact companies to ask for help – making contact centres very busy and stretched.
More than adding people to their contact centres (I heard some companies are adding thousands of agents) the challenge is to ensure they have all they need to work efficiently from their homes (no one is even remotely thinking of having hundreds of agents in an open-space now!)
What do companies need to provide agents, so they can work from home, without impacting the service delivery and customer experience?
- Laptop – most contact centres still equip agents with desktops, and it is critical that all agents have a laptop they can take home.
- Headset – a good headset (noise-cancelling, etc.) to ensure the kids screaming or the dog barking in the background doesn’t impact the call quality.
- Connection – not all agents will live in an area with fibre, so might as well cater for the faults of a wi-fi connection, with an Ethernet cable.
- Security – the majority of companies will have their systems (even if cloud) behind firewalls and only accessible from outside via VPN, so configure those.
- Collaboration – agents will no longer be able to turn to their colleagues, or tap them in the back for help. So ensure they can have “offline” conversations.
Of course this all assumes you have a SaaS platform (cloud and web-based), that your agents can access, to manage and log customer interactions – what we would call a customer/service/ticketing management system.
If you don’t… then I would strongly recommend you look into Zendesk. I partner with them, and have helped many companies enable it. It is probably the quickest to subscribe, switch on and start using. And the easiest to adopt, as it is easy-to-use and user-friendly. Apart from that, it brings the necessary features to collaborate, take calls, etc. all in one app.
The COVID-19 outbreak is hitting our communities hard, and people’s health and well-being is paramount. But more than our present, this crisis is also affecting our future, because it is impacting businesses, putting the safety of our jobs at risk.
Companies are looking at income and costs very closely, trying to avoid unnecessary spend, in an effort to avoid lay-offs, salary cuts or letting people go. Doing so risks customers and employees’ trust and belief in the company, going forward.
When trying to find, and assess, unnecessary spend, should I consider “putting the breaks” on my Experience Management (CX or EX) programs and initiatives?
I don’t think so, and here are some reasons why you shouldn’t.
1. When it comes to Employee Experience (EX) and if you are a Commercial business, you cannot shut down completely, so you will have employees working from home. Remote work can be tricky due to many variables, so best practice recommends that you check-in frequently, feeling the pulse of your staff and ensuring they have all they need to work effectively. A similar approach could apply to Education organisations, accompanying students.
2. When it comes to Employee Experience (EX) and if you are a Healthcare organisation, your employees will be overwhelmed with work and increasingly stretched. These challenging working conditions can affect staff’s physical and mental well-being, impacting judgement and ability to deliver. Staying connected and understand their pains and needs is crucial. A similar approach could apply to Manufacturing organisations, which will have higher demand.
3. When it comes to Customer Experience (CX) and if you are a Commercial business, you will be compelled (this time not advised, but forced!) to adapt to customers’ different needs and expectations. What products or services are considered essential, what challenges or options for payment or delivery/collection. And the only way you can understand those, is by reaching out and listening to them.
4. When it comes to Customer Experience (CX) and if you are a Healthcare organisation, your patients (as well as their families and friends) will now, more than ever, need your attention. You will need to ensure they not only understand the restrictions and limitations of these challenging situation, but also empathise and contribute to their mental health balance.
However, it is not recommended that you continue to do what you have been doing so far. You should definitely make an effort to readjust your CX or EX program to the current situation.
So what changes should I do to my CX or EX program, what kind of initiatives could I deploy, and how can I make that happen?
I’m delighted to work for a company, Capventis, that partners with Qualtrics – more than just a technology vendor, they work with leaders and subject matter experts to bring their customers the best insight and advice around the XM category.
I’m not only proud to be part of that network, but also extremely proud of what our teams have been doing to allow businesses and organisations to improve and deliver better experiences to their employees and customers.
So some of the answers to the above question can be found in their website, in this URL: https://www.qualtrics.com/here-to-help/
- Remote Work Pulse
- COVID-19 Pre-screen & Routing
- COVID-19 Customer Confidence Pulse
- Healthcare Workforce Pulse
- Remote Educator Pulse
As consultants, we are led to believe that we are must-know-it-all encyclopedias with a solution for everything. Indeed most consulting companies tend to sell our services as if it was magic – you hire us, we are available within the hour, and we will make your problems go away in no time.
The issue is, that type of consultancy doesn’t exist, and can’t even be delivered by the likes of Winston Wolfe – the infamous character created by Quentin Tarantino in Pulp Fiction. Truth is, consultants don’t have an answer for everything, and can’t turnaround businesses with a snap-of-a-finger.
And to be honest we shouldn’t. Any business is a complex entity, and our job is a labored one. It requires investigation, assessment, consideration, creativity and thinking. The other day I read “thinking is one of the hardest human occupations, which probably explains the fact that so few of us like doing it too often”. So true!
I see so many consultants rely on instinct. Others shout the first thing that springs to mind. Only on the basis of what they already know, or have done once before. This is halfway to a solution that will not have the positive impact or results businesses are looking for. Consultants like us need to stop and think.
I have witnessed some of my peers in the consulting world being afraid to tell their clients they need time. When in reality, letting people know we are thinking about their business and challenges, not only indicates that our response will be measured and thorough, but it also lets them feel that they are taken seriously and deserve respect.
Furthermore, we need to understand, and make clear to our clients, that our job cannot be done by one person. Even Winston Wolfe needed “associates” to clean up the mess (played by John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson) and support from his “client” (played by Quentin Tarantino).
They helped Winston Wolfe gather information, assess the problem, understand the timeline, create a plan, as well as find tools and means (blankets, soap, old clothes) to sort out the issue. And notice how even Wolfe takes its time, and needs a coffee to think and consider the situation.
If we do our job properly, making sure we don’t skip any steps and don’t rush into any half-baked solution, our clients will not only appreciate our services, but also respect us as much as Winston Wolfe was respected by his clients and the public in general.
The definition of a consultant is: someone who advises people on a particular subject, on which he is considered a specialist. As consultants our job is to work alongside our clients and our teams, to jointly find answers, a way, a solution, an alternative, a workaround, to reach a desired outcome.
We’re not magicians!
I have been reading quite a bit about Employee Experience (EX) and Engagement (EE) and this has triggered a lot of thinking about my own position as a manager, a team leader, and a colleague.
As a manager, my efforts should be put towards building “A Team” – yes… “one team” and ideally the “A-Team”. It is a journey in itself, with various steps, some of them (but not all) are below.
1. Hire the right people
It all starts by whom I hire. If I hire smart and talented people, and provide them with the tools they need to do their job, they will certainly perform well, and I don’t need to worry about delivery, or coming in to cover for them.
2. Communicate clearly
Making sure I have a steady and clear cadence of communication is also extremely important. One that never lets the team forget about “why” they are doing what they are doing, “how” they are contributing to our success, and “what” they need to do to ensure continuous improvement.
It is crucial that I keep reminding them (and myself) of our many successes, which should be celebrated; our gaps, which should be filled; our constant challenges, which we should face with no fear and great determination; and the fantastic opportunities in front and ahead of us.
It is also very important to give them the company’s perspective – “why“ we are in business and offer our customers a particular set of products and services, “how” we can contribute to the success and growth of our customers, and “what” we can and need to do to help them achieve that.
3. Instill a feedback culture
Being able to implement a two-way feedback culture is one of my most important tasks. On one hand having a team of “Yes-man” is one of the biggest dangers for the business. They allow people to win arguments due to power or position, rather than the merits of opinion. And ultimately we will all be impacted by bad decisions.
On the other hand, if as a manager, I hold off giving tough feedback to one of my team members, I’m putting unnecessary pressure on myself, and the rest of the team, to cover for the poor-performing member, and I’m also cheating that person of a chance to actually improve.
Almost every week I see people who work in the Experience Management industry talking about Customer Experience (CX) Programs as if it was a standardised, mass-produced, product that you can just go and buy off a shelf.
I believe this is due to the fact that human beings have a natural incline to being lazy – i.e. if there is a way to accomplish something with a small amount of work or less effort, then that is the preferred option. Unfortunately that doesn’t apply to CX programs.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all CX program! In order to design, build, deploy and manage one, you have to put some work and effort into it. And with this, I don’t mean it is hard or that it takes a long time. Just that it is something you must create (make new).
And you cannot do it on your own! Or even think that someone with a job title of CX Consultant will do it for you. You have to work collaboratively and involve all areas of the company (customer-facing and otherwise), and drive, co-ordinate, orchestrate (or hire a CX Consultant to do that).
What made sense for a particular company may not suit yours. Even if you are in the same sector, industry, or country. Even if you have the same size, revenue or organisational structure. It is extremely likely that you will need a CX program that is specific to you.
More often than not, those who look for an out-of-the-box CX program are the ones who focus only on numbers, and forget that in the foundations of a CX program is the need to listen to customers, and then act on that Voice-of-Customer (VoC).
Don’t measure CX for the sake of it! You must be able to focus on what is really important – the voice of your customers and their feedback – and be able to derive insights and actions that will inform your product or service enhancements, as well as experience improvements.
Don’t obsess with the numbers! It’s so typical to find companies that are fixated in increasing their NPS or CSAT scores, as if that was the ultimate goal. They forget the purpose of a CX program, and the meaning of “C” in the acronym “CX” – it stands for Customer, not Company!
When it comes to CX, each and every company will be at a different level of maturity (if at any level at all), and the first thing you should do is assess that, and understand the readiness of your company to start a CX program.
Each and every company will also have its own business strategy – vision, mission, execution plan, etc. – and you should align the CX strategy with that, so that the board of directors and stakeholders understand how a CX program will improve financial performance.
And so on… and so on… everything in a CX program should be considered, thought trough, in context. And not copied from some other company or program.