Tag Archives: customer service

Another Nail in the Post Office Coffin

Even before the Post Office’s current problems, stemming from a requirement for prepayment into retirement programs, it hadn’t been a place you wanted to business with. It has been the butt of jokes for years about their service record:

  • Slow service at the counter
  • Lack of technology for payment
  • Package and letter handling disasters
  • Attitude of workers toward the public

The USPS was pretty much a monopoly for years. As such, it engendered all the bad habits of a monopoly; the attitude that since you couldn’t get the same service elsewhere they knew you were stuck with the system. Granted, the United States has had the privilege of low costs for mailings for over a century. And it does still turn a profit.

But changes came fast and furious. Private enterprise had trouble keeping up. Could anyone actually expect a bureaucratic behemoth like the postal service to be any better? Or even as good as? Now revenues are dropping as more the post office’s work goes online. Talk about a new sense of convenience and efficiency…just what we humans like – everything made easy. Why go somewhere that went out of its way to make it hard to do business?

Even now, when I can see some workers trying to make a better effort at customer service, too often the post office doesn’t seem to be able to convince all their workers that the post offices future lies in being of great service. Now the USPS has another trouble of private enterprise: not enough revenue to pay for more workers, training, and technology to pull itself back to the top.

Customer Service in a WIIFM World

HubSpot CMS graphic

Bruce Temkin released a paper in 2008 called The 6 Laws of Customer Experience. Law #2 said:

People are instinctively self-centered.

We have all been told about the “radio station” WIIFM – What’s In It For Me? So it should come as no surprise that your customer’s first thoughts are not about your product but about how they felt while dealing with your company. Thus giving rise to the “customer experience” and “voice of the customer” programs.

The thing is, even though people have definite opinions about how they were treated it can be like pulling teeth to get them to tell you about it. At least directly.

On Facebook and Twitter, sure….but not directly to you. And really, the percentage of people who even go to the trouble of putting their reactions out there on the social media is pretty low. Let’s face it, it takes effort to walk over to the computer, log on, and write even 140 characters unless we are extremely motivated. At which point your business has been thrown out the window…to late for fixing anything.

Just like you need to make it as simple as possible for customers to find you, shop your company, and buy from you, it has to be just as simple or even more so to get them to give you feedback.

“How?” you say.

It depends. I know, I hate that answer too because it usually means more work for me. But in this case, the work is an investment. Just like you determined what channel your customers preferred to use to interact with your company, you need to find the ways your customers are most comfortable telling you what it is really like to be your customer.

There will always be a few who are willing to tell you to your face but most of us would rather be polite, say something non-committal, and scoot out the door. Same for the phone. Many places have a website they direct people to where they can answer “How are we doing?” and there have always been email surveys.

But we’re dealing with WIIFM here. This means customers don’t care that what they tell you can help “improve our service to you”. That’s too nebulous and far away. They need an incentive.

Many incentives are freebies or coupons for one thing or another. Some are contests: “Fill out our survey for a chance to tin this iPad!”. But your customers may not need or want those things.

You know what can get people going? Some of the craziest things that won’t cost you a cent.

  • Many people will be happy to get a badge for their facebook page for filling out your survey.
  • Others would love being tagged as an expert in your online community.
  • Find a way for them to earn complimentary titles and who knows how much you can get from them.

An example is HubSpot. They have a very active online community and probably people would participate regardless. But HubSpot keeps track of how many times you answer questions or interact and gives you a successively higher title. You might start as a HubSpotter Newbie but then go on up through HubSpot Guru.

You know your customers, or you should. Think about what makes them react and offer them an incentive geared toward making that reaction. If the first thing doesn’t work, tweak it and try again. Don’t just forget about it.

It’s your business, your company. This is a WIIFM for you and what’s in it for you is a successful organization. So get out there and get feedback and give something in the process.

The Second Element of Great Customer Service: Quality of Information

Pellerin Portfolio

We are continuing our look into each element of great customer support from our popular November blog entry: The Three Basic Elements of Customer Support. Next element: Quality of Information.

[Q]uality answers and information can make or break a customer’s level of trust in the company as a whole. The sole customer support representative interacting with a customer will shape their opinion of your company, so customer support representatives giving quality information is key.  If a customer is given bad information, then their opinion of the company will be bad.  Bad news spreads quickly.  However if they are given quality answers, their opinion will be positive and they will give your company glowing reviews.

Your customer support agents need to sound like they know what they are talking about. They also need to convey the same information regardless of channel, product, or service. If your company or customer support is siloed this will be an issue.

If your company or support department have grown and added products, services, or channels over time, it is possible that each area has cobbled together their own way of doing things and their own knowledge bases. With separate repositories of information and training/support practices, your company will begin to sound fragmented to your customers, particularly if they use more than one of your offerings.

Nothing is more frustrating than to be told different things by different people from the same company. Even when the products are different. It is time to consolidate those knowledge bases and training practices so everyone is on the same message. A particular question should receive the same answer by web customer portal, live chat, phone, or other interactive method.

Additionally, to make things easier for everyone, information should be presented in the knowledge base using the same conventions. Whether someone is looking up answers about widget A or sprocket B, the information should be presented in the same way. One way to accomplish this is by using templates for knowledge base article entry. With specific fields to fill out, articles become easier to reference.

Make all channels access the same knowledgebase and the siloes of inforamation disappear. With good editing, the article quality and completeness will improve. And creating a way to automatically check for same or similar information keeps duplication of effort down.

Agents will feel more confident if they know the answers are there, correct, and easily accessed. Customers will feel more confident of the answers they get to their problems. And your company will receive stellar reviews on its quality of customer service.

Who doesn’t want that?

Give Your Customers the Gift of Chat

This white paper goes over some of the pros and cons of using live chat in customer service and support. Again, this was written for thought leadership and education of our customer base.

Give Customers the Gift of Chat: Implementing Live Chat into Customer Service Channels

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad White Paper World!

I write content for a software company that specializes in customer service and support software, so I have had to become an expert on this topic. The trend these days is toward offering customers multiple channels to interact with the company from Twitter to chat to web based customer portals.

I wrote this white paper for thought leadership, marketing, and educational purposes as sales collateral and a method of collecting prospect information for this software company.

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad Multichannel World

This paper is meant to help prospective customers understand some of the tools that their customers are looking for on the company website, especially when it comes to learning and troubleshooting.