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Providing Superior Customer Service [Case Studies]

breaking the rules for customer serviceSuperior customer service can help businesses retain customers, avoid those nasty online complaints, and differentiate themselves from their competitors. Sounds good, right?

So why is customer service consistently so bad at so many companies? 

Superior customer service isn’t about long-winded policies addressing every possible reason why you can’t help. It’s also not about scripted responses to frequently asked questions or making your customers navigate a voicemail system for 20 minutes with the hopes of speaking to an actual human being.

Thanks to the story about the Comcast customer service call from hell that has been making the rounds recently, we all know what can happen when your policies and training are focused on the wrong things.

Not a way to win hearts, minds, or cable customers. Or anything else for that matter.

Which leads me to this example of superior customer service involving Capital One, some spilled orange juice, and a broken keyboard. If you haven’t heard the story, I definitely encourage you to check it out. It’s guaranteed to make you rethink your views on customer service and how you handle customer issues.

According to the article, a Capital One customer complained on Reddit about not being able to pay his bills on time because he spilled orange juice on his keyboard.

Instead of focusing on hitting him with late fees, sending him nasty notices, or arguing over why he couldn’t use a different computer--they sent him a new keyboard along with a personalized handwritten note.

The keyboard retails for around $69. The handwritten note probably took a few minutes. Add a few dollars for shipping and you just created a remarkable customer service experience and a ton of free buzz that’s led to a lot of really positive articles and blog posts—including this one.

It’s easy to assume the worst when it comes to customer service and spend all of your time anticipating every possible negative scenario and to come up with reasons why you can’t accommodate a request and at the very least--let them know they’ve been heard. But that leads to a lot of wasted calories and a lot of frustrated customers.

Companies known for superior customer service like Zappos, Nordstrom, or thanks to the keyboard story—Capital One, focus on empowering their employees to use their judgment to identify opportunities for random acts of kindness. It doesn’t have to be a keyboard—it can be a handwritten note, a follow up phone call, or giving extra effort to find a solution to their problem.

I think we’d all agree random acts of customer service kindness are always better than being associated with a customer service call from hell (complete with an audio transcript).

What companies do you think of when it comes to providing superior customer service and why? Share your thoughts and comments below.

[Image: Flickr user me and the sysop]

August 4, 2014

Categories:

Converting Website Visitors Into Customers

converting visitors into paying customers, cash registerYour business website is only as good as its ability to get visitors to click around and ultimately make a purchase. Period.

There are hundreds of millions of websites out there with millions more being added every year. You can’t just dial it in and assume that having a responsive design, slick graphics, and some quality content is going to be enough to get your phone to ring or your ecommerce shopping cart to fill up.

It all starts with traffic. The right traffic.

If your website isn’t being seen by your target audience, your website is useless. Take the time (make the time) to review your web analytics once a month.

Look at your pageviews, average time on site, and bounce rate (if you’re using Google Analytics) to see if there are any surprises (good or bad). Look at the number of visitors over a 90 day period and what percentage actually fill out your contact form—this will give you a sense of how much traffic you need month-to-month to hit your targeted number of leads or inquiries from your site.

If you're not getting targeted traffic to your business website, then it’s time to revisit your SEO strategy including your target keywords, your page titles, your meta descriptions, and your on-page content.

The key throughout this entire process really is to think like your customers. What types of questions do they have? What information would they search for? What content would be the most helpful? What can you bring to the table to make your perspectives, content, and website unique? Critical insights both in terms of search visibility, and also once visitors get to your site.

I like to start by looking at top-level navigation. Assume first-time readers are going to look at your site from top to bottom and left to right. That means you want to start with informational content first—your about page (who are you), your products and services (what do you have to offer), faqs (if relevant based on your business and your offerings), resources (your blog, documentation, support) and finally your contact page and/or shopping cart.

By prioritizing items in your navigation, you can lead them down a path where they are able to gather more information and get comfortable with your offerings before jumping right into making a purchase.

Think about the purpose of every individual page on your website.

What would you like visitors to do on that particular page? Contact your sales team? Learn more about product features? Sign up for your newsletter? Something else?

Just like with the navigation, not everyone is going to be ready to buy right out of the gate. That means you want to prioritize your calls to action on each page based on where they are in their customer journey. For some, that will mean signing up for your newsletter. For others, it will mean reading a few blog posts. The key is understanding the customer journey and where and how to engage with them based on where they are in that journey.

67.45% of online shopping carts are abandoned before the customer completes a sale.

Think about that for a second. More than 2 out of 3 online shopping carts are abandoned before completing a sale. Staggering. That means you can’t assume you’ve closed the sale just because customers add items to their carts.

The good news is there are some really creative and effective apps out there to help you salvage the sale. I’ve spoken with a number of businesses that are having great success using abandoned cart emails to recover lost sales, collect customer feedback as to why they abandoned their order.

Hiring a designer to create a business website is only one step out of many. Converting website visitors into customers requires think about how all of your content, images, calls to action, and navigation fit together to create a unique (yet functional) experience.

It’s okay to be unique and different—but you also need to be practical. In other words if you try to be too cute with your design and/or content, your visitors might not understand how to sign up for your newsletter or find your contact information.

Looking for ideas on how to convert more website visitors into customers? Request a complimentary website checkup.

[Image: Flickr user You As A Machine]

July 30, 2014

Categories: Customer Engagement, Ecommerce, Sales Prospecting

3 Excellent Email Marketing Examples

email newsletter examples, don't delay

You’ve grown your email marketing list. Great!

Now you just need to make sure your newsletter actually gets opened, read, and that your content helps you generate more brand awareness and helps you drive sales.

Here’s the challenge--a lot of businesses (and I mean a lot) are jumping onto the email marketing bandwagon.

That means you’re going to have to bring your “A game” if you’re going to stand out. 

Highly effective newsletters are ones that immediately add value by providing educational content and other helpful information that’s relevant to your target audience. They’re visually interesting, easy to navigate, and in the case of the example from Burgatory that follows—can sometimes make you salivate like Pavlov’s dog.

In this post, we’ll look at 3 of my favorite business-to-business and business-to-consumer email newsletters including what I think really sets them apart.

1. Burgatory

I was going to tease the Burgatory example until later but I just couldn’t help myself. Right out of the gate, they grab your attention with a catchy subject line. In this case the email was a word play tied to a broader 4th of July theme.

Sample holiday email marketing subject line

When you open the email, you’re greeted by an image of a woman holding a giant firecracker. The “Don’t Blow Your Fingers Off cuz how are you going to hold your burger?” messaging immediately draws your attention while also having a little fun.

The big payoff is letting patrons know they’ll be open on July 4th so you can “Declare Your Independence from Grilling.” They wrap things up with another holiday themed message.

Visually interesting. Informative. And fun. And since it’s about burgers, I know I was super excited to see it land in my inbox.

sample email newsletter for a restaurant, Burgatory

 

2. ExactTarget

Similar to Burgatory, this ExactTarget email newsletter caught my attention starting with the subject line “10 Podcasts You Should Listen To.” 

Their design is crisp and clean. Great visuals to complement their newsletter copy and enough white space to make it incredibly easy to scan.

They cluster their content into a few different buckets which increases the likelihood that you’ll engage with additional content beyond just checking out the lead story—a key outcome for any effective email marketing strategy.

Sample B2B email marketing newsletter, ExactTarget

 

3. Grainger

For all of you business-to-business companies out there that are struggling to find a way to generate content, you should definitely take a look at Grainger. They could just use their newsletter as an electronic flyer but they don’t. They always do a great job of figuring out how to provide helpful information first, and then tie that information back to their products.

In this example, they lead with an update on the second phase of the Department of Energy’s Lighting Legislation which could have a huge impact on businesses as they transition to more energy efficient bulbs. They also mention their strategic partnerhship with GE to help make the switchover more seamless.

After the lead article/update, they included a quick highlight of a new sharing feature on their ecommerce site (which helps raise awareness of the new feature and also increases the likelihood that people will click through to their site to check it out).

As you think about your email marketing strategy, always start by asking yourself what you want your customers to do. From there, you can map out your design and content strategy and look for ways to get your readers excited to see your messages in their inbox.

Which email newsletters are you excited to see in your inbox? Share some of your favorites in the comments below.

[Image: Flickr user JOHN LLOYD]

July 10, 2014

Categories: Email Marketing

Customer Experience Strategy Best Practices

customer experience strategy best practices, customerCustomer experience. It’s what separates the great businesses from the hacks. The happy customers from the angry and frustrated. It’s the moment of truth.  

The second a prospective customer decides to interact with, and potentially buy from, your business, you’re officially on the clock. 

Every interaction and touch point matters. You want (need) to create an experience they’ll not only remember, but one that will ultimately lead to a sale and their repeat business. That’s the obvious part. But to get there, you need a plan—a strategy built around customer experience best practices.

Recently I had a chance to speak with Lynda Smith, chief marketing officer of San Francisco-based Twilio, a software and cloud communications platform company, about the customer journey during their “Engineering The Customer Experience Roadshow.” Here are the top customer experience strategy best practices.

Map customer experiences from end-to-end

What should that very first interaction look like? What about what happens after they make the purchase? Do they have a smartphone? Answers to those questions will go a long way in helping you craft your strategy. “You work hard to draw visitors to your store, get people in the door, and make a purchase,” said Smith. “Mapping the customer experience from end to end helps make their buying experience one they’ll remember,” she added.

Don’t overlook the small things—including how (and who) answers the phone. Anticipate potential questions and requests and develop a plan to make sure your staff has the right resources, training, and technology to help.

Focus on every customer interaction

I’ll never forget the time I called a local pizza shop and asked for any recommendations from the person who answered the phone. “I’m not sure. I have a flour allergy.” 

Read More >> Setting Customer Expectations (Without Totally Blowing It)

Besides her questionable career choice of deciding to work at a pizza shop with a flour allergy, she totally blew it. Instead of focusing on a negative, she could have just as easily shared recommendations based on customer feedback. She was on the front lines. Our only interaction with that business. And not surprisingly, we haven’t been back. 

Provide exceptional customer support

Customers are going to have questions. They’re going to need support. Support that’s personalized, friendly, and professional. 

Zappos built an empire on it. 

Think back to the customer experience mapping mentioned above. Do you make it easy for someone to get in touch with your business if they have questions? Or do you bury your phone number in the footer of your website or way down on your contact page? Do you acknowledge receipt of their inquiry? Do you follow up in a timely fashion (within 24 hours at the absolute latest). 

Finally, don’t assume the customer experience ends once someone makes a purchase. Depending on your product or service, that could be the beginning of their journey. 

Maximizing the customer experience “moment of truth”

How do you interact with your customers? Where can you create a better experience? “It’s all about the moments of truth. Once you’ve got their attention, what are you going to do with them?” A parting question from Smith that all businesses need to answer. 

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

[Image: Flickr 10ch]

June 26, 2014

Categories: Customer Engagement, Marketing Strategy

Sales Prospecting: It’s Not All About You

sales prospecting, phoneSales prospecting isn’t about you. It isn’t about your company, your products and services, or sharing links to your website.

At least not right away. That comes later. Once you’ve established initial contact, developed a rapport, and spent some time learning more about their business, their challenges, and their most pressing needs.

You’ve got limited time to try to establish a connection and get your message across with a prospective client.

But that doesn't mean you should start off with a generic, one-sided pitch as soon as someone picks up the phone or opens an email and you’re pretty much going to sound like lyrics from this Toby Keith song. Come on and sing it with me…

“I wanna talk about me
Wanna talk about I
Wanna talk about number one
Oh my, me, mine
What I think, what I like, what I know, what I want, what I see
I like talking about you, you, you, you, usually but occasionally
I wanna talk about me”

What? No?

I have to say this is the first time I’ve ever referenced a Toby Keith song in a blog post. And I’m not quite sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing?

Be mindful of a sales prospect’s time

After you introduce yourself (a quick snapshot of who you are and why you’re calling—not a 5 minute elevator pitch about the company), ask if you’ve caught them at a bad time.

Read more >> Setting Realistic Sales Goals

As much as we’d like to think people are just sitting around waiting for us to call, that’s almost never the case. You want to give them a chance to shift gears from whatever they were working on prior to your call.

If you sense a slight hesitation, offer to call back at a time that’s more convenient for them (ideally you can pin something down before you let them go).

Ask questions

The single best way to start a dialogue and gain insights you can use to tailor your proposal based specifically on the unique challenges they’re facing at that particular moment—something that’s totally impossible with those generic, one-sided pitches referenced earlier.

Assuming they have a few minutes to chat, ask a few open ended questions such as: 

“May I ask you how you are handling XYZ?” 
“What are some of the most pressing issues you’re facing?” 
“What does success look like?” 
“Who is typically involved in the decision making process when evaluating an outside vendor?”, etc.

Read More >> 8 Steps to a Successful Sales Call

Based on their responses, look for opportunities to ask follow up questions while also being mindful of their time. In other words, if you asked for 5 minutes at the beginning of the call, don’t try to string them along for a half an hour.

Tailor each sales proposal

It’s impossible to create an effective sales proposal if you don’t know what problem you’re trying to solve.

Use each interaction and touch point with prospective customers to gather firsthand insights so you can better understand their most pressing needs. When you do, you’ll find they’re much more receptive than if you go into straight Toby Keith mode.

[Image: Phil Roeder]

June 12, 2014

Categories: Sales Prospecting

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