Wednesday Sep 02, 2015

Bringing Brand Ambassadorship to the Front Lines - A Tale of Past Interactions

This is a follow up to my first post on customer success.

One of my first jobs was as a bus boy at a New York Deli Restaurant. I was 14 years old and the gentleman who hired me made it very clear that my job was to make sure that customers had a great time—more than just good food, people were buying the whole experience of eating in a deli (like the Stage or Carnegie in New York). Greeting guests, bringing them sour pickles, answering questions about what I liked to eat and offering up some free cookies towards the end of the meal didn’t seem like much in the grand scheme of things but in the context of this restaurant, it drove their business with hour long wait times.

In hindsight, the general manager of this restaurant clearly understood what many businesses are still figuring out today—that people buy experiences, be it in restaurants, online, brick & mortar stores, etc. Even more so, he understood that the people on the front line needed to represent the brand and needed to be enabled to deliver on it. So even as a 14 year old (I actually looked older), I had eaten just about everything on the menu and could speak to it with confidence. Management actually encouraged me to run to the counter and grab some cookies for people to try.

Fast forward many years later and I come across blog posts such as this (Seth Godin, “Learning from the State Department”) 

We invented ambassadors because nothing can replace face-to-face interaction, particularly when messages travel sometimes quite slowly through complex organizations. Just like now.

This seems obvious, and it is, until you realize that organizations make two huge mistakes:

A. They don't hire brand ambassadors, they hire clerks and bureaucrats, and treat them and pay them accordingly.

and

B. They don't manage and lead brand ambassadors, don't measure and reward and create a cadre of people who can listen for the brand and speak for the brand.

Would you send the clerk on aisle 7 to speak to a head of state or vital partner on behalf of your company? Because that's what he's doing right now.

After reading this, I have adopted this phrase of ‘brand ambassador’ and judge most of my experiences in terms of whether or not businesses are enabling their staff to act as these brand ambassadors. On a regular basis I come across businesses where it appears to me that management has enabled their front line staff to be true ambassadors. In my opinion, companies like Zappos and Starbucks have really nailed it. Their staff has both the customer-centric mindset and the tools at their disposal to drive positive customer experiences. On the flip side, I have plenty of experiences online and in stores where the end result is that I either leave the store or cancel my order. Customers shouldn’t be confronted with confusing online order flows that seem particularly spammy. Simple questions about product availability and new shipments shouldn’t be answered with the shrug of the shoulders or an IDK.

Here are a few things to think about as you evaluate your own businesses in terms of bringing brand ambassadorship to the front lines, be it in call centers or physical stores. Each business is unique so there is not necessarily one prescriptive solution. If you are just getting started with a transactional online site, here are a few other good articles about storytelling through visual commerce and branded manufacturers extending their identity in the direct to consumer channel.

Brand and company philosophy: Does your staff know what your brand stands for and the company philosophy and expectations towards customer loyalty and customer service? How do managers and leadership reinforce and demonstrate these philosophies and expectations? Leading by example truly helps fuel the creation of a staff of brand advocates.

Product & Process Knowledge: Does your staff know the product line? Do they have insights into what products are coming, what is in inventory, what has been discontinued, when the sales are going to happen? What training programs have you developed to help new employees learn about the products and procedures as well as continually update all employees on a regular basis? Can your staff effectively manage the “buy online, pick up in store” process? Front line staff need to have superior knowledge to level the playing field against the highly educated customer of today.

Decision Making: Have you evaluated if your staff is enabled to make the day-to-day and on-the-fly decisions to impact both profitable sales and customer loyalty? Are the guidelines clear and are the internal channels there to educate? The inability to act efficiently and effectively in any of the channels (online chat, phone, in store) is a deal killer on so many levels.

Technology: Are you empowering your staff with the right tools and technology to drive customer loyalty and superior customer service? Do you have agent / assisted selling applications that can not only provide insights into inventory, order history, customer profiles but also transact? Much like the need for product knowledge, the right technology tools are needed to enable sales staff to be seen as a consultant and a brand ambassador, not just the order taker.

Measuring Results and Rewards:  How do you measure the success of your front line staff? Can you identify your peak sales performers? Can you measure how effective your staff is with customer service/brand advocacy? Can you measure your staff’s knowledge of products? Do you offer any incentives on an individual level for sales, successful customer interactions? Measuring results and providing rewards can be difficult to implement but this is counterbalanced by the fact that we are currently experiencing a transformational shift in expectations towards customer experience.

I would love to hear about your experiences in creating brand ambassadors within your organizations. What is and isn’t working, obstacles you have had to overcome, tools and technologies that are helping you?


Wednesday Jul 22, 2015

(De)Constructing Customer Success for Consumer Brands – Is it More Than a Buzzword and does it Really Apply to Us?

Customer Success…is this just another buzzword, the new must have, a simple checkbox, or does it actually mean something?   I think we all know that big buzzwords (big data anyone?) can lose their impact and meaning but I am here to tell you that when you strip everything away, ‘customer success’ is really at the cornerstone of creating successful consumer businesses. 

Let’s look at the two words separately. Customers—every business wants to maximize the number of customers they have to grow revenues and spread out revenue risk. Success—achieving or exceeding ones goals, can be measured in revenues and metrics around growth, retention and adoption.

It’s interesting that when we put the words together, they take on a variety of meanings:

Customer Success = Superior Customer Experience = Part Process / Part Relationship = Doing whatever it takes to make the customer successful/happy. A few well-known examples: Zappos, Nordstroms, Chick-fil-A.

Customer Success = Helping the Customer Achieve their Goals = Driving their Success = Pro-active Engagement. A few examples: free nutrition classes at Whole Foods, the Genius Bar inside Apple Stores, pool maintenance courses at my local pool store, coffee shops offering lessons on coffee and brewing techniques, outdoor retailers such as Rock Creek utilizing ambassadors to introduce people to particular sports.

These two definitions are very distinct and have varying levels of adoption. The interesting part is that when one combines them, something really magical starts to occur. From the eyes of the business, they clearly want their customers to have a great experience and feel like they receive superior service, be it when they walk into a store, order something online or when they call. The reality is that, unless you are a monopoly, if your customer is not happy because of how they are treated, at some point they will leave you (about 68% of customers leave for this reason). On top of that, Forrester Research has conducted studies across 13 different industries and has shown that perceptions of customer experience are highly correlated to considerations of future purchases, willingness to recommend to a friend and defection rates to competitors (“The Business Impact Of Customer Experience, 2014, Forrester Research, March 2014”). For some businesses, shifts in customer perception equates to multiple, sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars, gained or lost.

But rather than just delighting them with great experiences, what if all businesses also started to say to their customers—we recognize that the experience doesn’t stop when you buy our product, we want to help you achieve your goals, help you succeed. The reality is, up until recently, few and far between would ever say such a thing to a consumer. At a very high level, telling someone is much easier than showing and helping someone. As an example, a health food store might say that eating xyz food will make you feel healthier but not everyone would show their customers how to make a food plan to actually make you healthier.

When one thinks about it, superior customer experiences + engagement is really a double whammy, a value proposition that is nearly impossible to beat. Let me put it this way—how many consumer businesses can you think of that focus both on delivering superior customer experiences and proactively help the customer achieve their goals? Those that do clearly know that underneath this catchall phrase of customer success is the pathway to creating successful businesses. Going back to the individual definition of each word, businesses obtain and keep servicing their customers to ensure their own long-term success.

So, where does this leave all of us? Great question. As you can guess, I am a big believer in customer success, from both an experience and engagement perspective. I also recognize that saying you have a consumer focused customer success program and actually implementing one (hint: sometimes simple actions go a long way) are two very different things. A first step forward is the recognition that customer success is not just a checklist item but also a way to grow your business, perhaps even developing into a viable competitive differentiator.

I plan to write more about the topic, using my professional and personal experiences to highlight ways to bring the various components of customer success to consumer businesses. Next up: A Tale of Two Interactions, Enabling the Customer Experience.

Monday Jun 22, 2015

LinkedIn Wins Gartner & 1to1 Media Customer Service Excellence Award by Stephen Fioretti

LinkedIn was named a Gold winner in the Customer Service Excellence category for the 2015 Gartner & 1to1 Media Customer Experience Excellence Awards. For over a decade, Gartner and 1to1 Media have used this joint awards program to honor select, customer-centric organizations that have achieved outstanding business performance by implementing enterprise-wide, service-focused strategies. LinkedIn will be presented with this innovation in service excellence award at the Gartner 360 Summit September 9-11 in San Diego.

What helps LinkedIn bring people, processes, and technologies together to provide a superior customer experience? Andy Yasutake, Director of Tech Solutions and Operations, outlines several principles LinkedIn follows to increase business efficiency and member satisfaction.

Focus on ‘Member First’ in all you do.

LinkedIn’s mission is to connect its users and make them more productive and successful. Thus, the company implemented a ‘Members First’ initiative, and started making changes based on the Voice of the Customer. For example, when LinkedIn learned that its members placed high value on rapid response time, it encouraged agents to respond more quickly to inquiries. With the help of Oracle Service Cloud, LinkedIn achieved an 85% decrease in average initial response time, a 68% decrease in resolution time, and a 23% increase in customer satisfaction!

Your customers don’t care about organizational boundaries.
Break them down.

LinkedIn recognized that its members interacted with the brand as a whole, not just exclusively with sales, marketing, or service. As a result, the company broke down information silos between these departments and encouraged employees to step outside their given expertise to resolve issues quickly and/or prevent them from escalating. Leveraging all its assets, rapidly responding to member feedback, and rethinking roles allows the company to maximize the value of every touch and bring added value to the member journey.

Help your customers help themselves.
With over 350 million worldwide users, and more than two new members joining per second, LinkedIn expected to employ around 5,000-10,000 service representatives. However, with Oracle Service Cloud, LinkedIn was able to achieve a 97% self-service rate, thereby reducing the company’s potential need for support staff. The result? Instead of employing 5,000-10,000 reps, LinkedIn has been able to maintain agents at 750-800, easing costs and boosting efficiency, all while growing 40% year-over-year.

On the digital front, LinkedIn noticed that 50% of its web traffic came through mobile devices, and that 21% of users accessing its knowledge center were not there to solve a specific issue, but instead to learn about the product and develop their career. Therefore, the company placed emphasis on creating knowledge base articles and a mobile Help Center, enabling users to enjoy this content easily from any device.

Optimizing its support processes and empowering members to self-serve has allowed LinkedIn to efficiently provide top-tier service.

Congratulations to LinkedIn for your outstanding achievement. Oracle is honored to have partnered with you to deliver your award-winning customer experience! 

Wednesday May 07, 2014

The Next 7,000 Days – How we will shop will change. Again. And Again…

Internet of Things & Commerce Series: Part 1 (of 3)

Do you regularly watch TED talks? If not, you’re missing out on learning all sorts of amazing things about our shared reality. Here are a few things I’ve learned in the last few months watching TED talks that might wet your appetite. 

·    Low IQ gotcha down? Don’t worry, it’s not a 100% predictor of success; “grit” is actually a better indicator.
·    Feel bad about those 2nd (or 3rd) pair of shoes you ordered online last night?
     Don’t. Primates make the same mistakes with money.
·    Food for thought while you’re snorkeling next time. Up to 90% of sea creatures light up.
·    Bag of cords got you all tangled up? Imagine a time when electric sockets were the shape of light
     bulbs … because they were the only 
things we plugged in.

And just over 2,000 days ago Kevin Kelly (one of the founders of Wired Magazine) gave a fantastic talk about “The Next 5,000 Days of the Web”. That was 2007. In the roughly 2,000 days since then unfathomable things have appeared in our ever-changing, every-accelerating world: smartphones, social media, wearable tech… Angry Birds, Candy Crush… And though we are only 7,000 or so days in to the reality of the internet, it has already grown to a size the defies imagination. Some stats to ponder on the dimensions of the world wide web as of 2013:

·      14.3 trillion web pages
·      672 exabytes of accessible data
·      43,000 petabytes of total traffic
·      1 yotta byte of total data stored (that’s as big as 180 billion, BILLION libraries of Congress)
·      Yet, less than 1 % of things in the physical world are connected today…

And this is set to double. Every year. We have become embedded in a digital architecture – of things, of data, of content. And this is only just the beginning.

[Read More]

Tuesday Mar 11, 2014

B2B Leaders Weather the Storm for Oracle B2B Commerce Summit

Guest Post by Justin King, B2B Commerce Evangelist 

Despite the approach of (yet another) winter storm on the East Coast, and freezing temperatures in the Chicago area, Oracle hosted theB2B Commerce Summit at the Chicago Fairmont Millennial Park on February 13. Joined by more than 150 attendees—most of whom hold Director-level titles at B2B organizations—the event focused on how B2B professionals can better use eCommerce to engage their customers.

With the Summit theme, "The Balance between Customer Experience and Complexity," the conference content centered around providing exceptional customer experiences amidst complex commerce requirements. Although B2B companies have complex customers, products, internal processes and internal systems, delivering unique and engaging customer experience is of utmost importance—and continues to be a critical competitive differentiator. Some key themes at the event included: 

[Read More]

Thursday Jan 16, 2014

T-Commerce Has Joined the Omni-Channel Experience!

Television viewing is an emotional experience. As we watch our favorite shows, we laugh, we become enamored with our favorite characters, and we are sometimes moved to tears. If you are like me, you even scream at the TV during football games. On February 2, 2014, during Super Bowl XLVIII, you’ll also start to do something that was not possible until now - buy what you see advertised on one of those infamous Super Bowl ads. Shopping is also an emotional experience, so it is a shrewd move to combine these experiences. [Read More]

Wednesday Oct 16, 2013

The Evolution of an Era: Customer Experience in Retail

Two New Studies Point to the Direction Retailers are Taking in their CX Initiatives. Is it the Right Direction?

The sheer velocity of change in retailing and customer behavior is forcing retailers to reinvigorate, expand and sharpen their vital Customer Experience (CX) strategies. Customers are becoming increasingly dynamic as they race to embrace the newest digital channels; shop in new ways on mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, on the Web and in the store; share experiences socially; and interact with their preferred brands in new ways. Retailers are stepping up to their customers as they and their competitors create new modes of customer interaction. Underpinning these changes are vast quantities of customer data as customers flood digital channels and the social sphere.

The informed retailer must now understand what their priorities are and what they should be for the future. To better understand this, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Oracle independently launched CX-focused surveys to uncover what retailing leadership found important today. By comparing the results of these two studies together, we can further discover new insights about the industry. Click here to download this informative white paper.

Friday Sep 13, 2013

Four Ways to Deliver Better Customer Service with Integrated Knowledge Management and CRM By JP Saunders

CRM solutions without integrated knowledge management suffer from a number of limitations. They don’t enable customers to become more self-sufficient or foster a community that can generate its own answers. They lack the centralized intelligence needed to deliver innovation and consumer-driven interactions, so support agents can’t learn, serve, or collaborate as effectively as their jobs require. And, they lack the analytical insights customer service organizations require to truly understand customer needs, making it difficult to optimize answers and, ultimately, the customer experience.

Here are 4 ways that integrated knowledge management and CRM can deliver better customer experiences:

  1. Increase first call resolutionThe most important aspect of a satisfying customer experience with a contact center is getting a representative who can meet all the customer’s needs—without having to forward inquiries to other representatives. Integrated knowledge management pulls answers from across organizational silos and puts it at the agent’s fingertips--without having to leave their CRM application.
  2. Increase self-serviceMany customers prefer to serve themselves. They want to find the answer quickly and easily without requiring escalation to the contact center. With integrated knowledge management, you can empower your customers to easily help themselves. But, you can also seamlessly transfer to assisted service with the context of their self-service interaction, if it becomes necessary. 
  3. Build your knowledgebase – The foundation of providing quick and easy answers is to build out a robust knowledge base. However, cumbersome navigation to create solutions can be a barrier to building your knowledge base. When knowledge is integrated with CRM, you can easily create knowledge solutions directly from service cases so that it’s available for the next customer or agent to use. 
  4. Learn and improve your serviceIntegrated knowledge allows you to understand customer usage and service issues – most common searches, percentage of cases resolved with knowledge, solutions used the most, etc. in order to improve your customer experience. Armed with this understanding, you can identify actions that will increase search accuracy or, better yet, address root causes that eliminate the need to search at all. 

The World’s leading Knowledge Management solution, Oracle Knowledge, now enhances the Oracle RightNow Cloud Service capabilities with expanded search capabilities, deeper language understanding, business intelligent analytics, support for more content types, languages, and much more. Now available in the Oracle RightNow Agent Desktop and Customer Portal, this integration provides agents with the ability to accurately assist customers with finding the right answer at the right time. 

For more information on these high-value features, please watch the Oracle RightNow Cloud Service – August 2013 Release Overview or read the Oracle RightNow Cloud Service – August 2013 Capabilities and Benefits. You can also attend the Integrating Knowledge Management into CRM Applications session at OpenWorld. 

Thursday Aug 29, 2013

Oracle RightNow Cloud Service August 2013 Release - Leveraging the Power of Oracle’s Best-of-Breed CX Suite! By JP Saunders

The August 2013 release of Oracle RightNow Cloud Service gets super charged by Oracle’s CX portfolio with best-of-breed commerce, automated entitlement management  and enterprise knowledge capabilities to empower people across all channels of interaction throughout the lifecycle journey with the brand.

Streamline Online Sales

Oracle RightNow Cloud Service seamlessly blends the power of commerce into its Agent Desktop to help contact center staff deliver relevant, proactive cross- and upsell offer in real time during successful customer service engagements. This powerful combination of Oracle RightNow Service Cloud and Oracle ATG Web Commerce empowers customer service professionals to rapidly identify and resolve issues within the buying and supporting lifecycle, across all channels of interactions. Customers can now get timely, relevant and consistent assistance with completing an order, adding related items to their shopping carts, upgrading or renewing services, as well as effective support with what they purchase--all from a single agent interaction in chat, social, phone, mobile or Web.

Make Complex Decisions Instantly and Consistently

This release extends the power of automating entitlement management to the Agent Desktop. With Oracle Policy Automation tools now available to service agents, they’re able to instantly get assistance with complex decisions leveraging existing contextual case data. And, those decisions will be consistent with the guidance that a customer receives through self-service on the Web. So regardless of channel or interaction choice, your customers’ service experience is not only efficient but also consistent, personalized and intuitive.

Choose the Knowledge Management Solution That Best Meets Your Customer Needs

Now any business can do what some of the World largest online brands are doing! Businesses that require the ability to connect content silos or to consistently and accurately federate knowledge across their enterprise can now power up their Oracle RightNow solution by leveraging the Oracle Knowledge adapter. The World’s leading Knowledge Management solution, Oracle Knowledge, augments Oracle RightNow Cloud Service knowledge capabilities with deeper language technologies, business intelligence analytics, more support content types, languages and more… Now available in the Oracle RightNow Agent Desktop, this integration provides agents with the ability to accurately assist customers with finding the right answer at the right time.

For more information on these high-value features, please watch the Oracle RightNow Cloud Service – August 2013 Release Overview or read the Oracle RightNow Cloud Service – August 2013 Capabilities and Benefits.

Tuesday Aug 27, 2013

The Social Customer Service Maze

Your Customers Are Already Talking – It’s Time to Join the Conversation

While social media has become a standard function in most marketing departments, customer service and contact centers are just beginning to become actively involved in social media. When I talk to executives that run service/support or contact centers, I tend to get the same reaction when social media comes upHELP!

[Read More]
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