Thursday, 1 December 2011

Managing Customer Experience

Customer Experience Management

The ability to build business by gaining and retaining customers - consumers, end users, retailers, distributors or wholesalers - is often the greatest challenge for both new and established companies. Successful businesses understand that every time there is an opportunity to interact with a customer there is a chance to win new business and build better relationships.

Customer Experience Management (CEM) is the process of understanding and managing customers’ interactions with, and perceptions about, the supplier company. The most successful companies analyse every possible contact point and interaction, putting in place processes and promoting attitudes to deliver excellent “Customer Experience” constantly and consistently.

CEM is being used increasingly by businesses from all sectors whose objectives include:
  • Improving PROFIT
  • Gaining new customers
  • Boosting sales through existing customers
  • Building outstanding customer relationships
  • Increasing customer retention rates
  • Improving supplier service levels & loyalty
  • Raising Brand image and awareness
  • Strengthening internal team cohesion and motivation
  • Staying ahead of the competition
What is Customer Experience?
A customer experience occurs every time a customer interacts with a supplier. “Customer Experience” is the sum total of the interactions a customer has with the supplier business or brand and can be a one off contact or multiple contacts. The result is the perception that a customer has of a supplier’s business and will influence and ultimately determine the business relationship between the customer and supplier.

What is an Interaction?
An Interaction could be by telephone, letter, email, promotional literature, instructions for use,  website, social media, face-2-face etc, singly or a mixture.

When does an Interaction Occur?
Interactions come in many formats from contact with any department or methodology from Sales to Accounts and IT Departments to telephone answering systems to engineers and delivery drivers, to name a few.

Customer Experience Management (CEM)

CEM is NOT Customer Resource Management (CRM) which is data driven, emphasising and requiring regular contact, human and systems, to increase sales.

CEM is NOT Customer Service Management (CSM) which concentrates on raising customer service levels from the supplying company’s perspective.

CEM focuses and redefines your business from your customers’ perspective and involves all aspects of the business. The objective of CEM is to create sustained customer loyalty and to optimise the derived benefits:

·         Happy Customers
·         More profitable business from existing customers
·         Ambassadorial customers
·         Extra Referral business
·         Less selling costs
·         Reduced customer complaints
·         Less stressed employees
·         Highly motivated workforce
·         Reduced staff turnover
·         More PROFIT

Implementation to a full CEM system can mean a re-think of how internal departments interact & communicate with customers as well as each other. It is not a quick fix and needs continual appraisal of processes and communications.

Contact the Author - Paul Clayton for more details of implementation of CEM into your organisation 

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Winter Contingency Planning - Part of the Customer Experience

Where has 2011 gone? Do you remember December 2010? The country almost ground to a halt with snow covering most of the UK.
A YouGov Omnibus SME survey, which found that 37 per cent of small businesses said they had experienced "weather-related problems of some sort" and that 34 per cent of staff had difficulties getting to work.
Among the recommendations were ensuring that adequate insurance is up-to-date, winter-proofing the premises and devising a contingency plan - in case staff are unable to reach the workplace.
From what I remember the 1st week of January was as bad as December and things never really got going until mid January at the earliest, meaning that UK PLC was shut down for nearly 7 weeks. Can your business survive those conditions again? No wonder most businesses have been playing catch up time through 2011 and hasn’t time just flown by?

So what will you differently do this year? Why should it be any different this winter? Regardless of the weather and regardless of the size of your business putting in place contingency plans to mitigate the impact of severe weather makes economic sense.

All businesses are different and it is impossible in this short article to answer the question, indeed the options may be limited but that is no reason not to plan. Take 3 possible scenarios.

1.       Manufacturing grinds to a halt due to lack of raw materials. If you are in manufacturing or supply goods to manufactures is it possible to arrange for consignment stocking to ensure that once deliveries can start there is sufficient finished stock to cope with back orders?
2.       If your business is seriously affected when power supplies fail (and whose business isn’t) think about hiring/buying a stand by generator and make sure that oil supplies are topped up before the onset of winter.
3.       YouGov figures also showed during winter 2010 that 34% of workers experienced ‘significant problems' getting to work, with 10% unable to get in at all at some point. Communication systems, IT & Telephones, can be diverted for home use in many instances which can mean that essential workers can operate effectively.

Many businesses are highly vulnerable to the steep drop in turnover which often follows bad weather as customer records can be lost in flooding, phone calls and emails go unanswered and clients take their custom elsewhere.

Be prepared! Haven’t I heard that before? Let your customers know in advance about the contingency plans that you are preparing to keep their businesses running during the winter of 2011 and ask for their comments & suggestions

Along with protecting your business what actions are you taking to develop it? Before winter sets in put a contingency plan in place to gain & retain business for 2012. Develop your customer facing people’s skills in sales, communication, negotiation, customer service and the use of the telephone at a venue near to you in November.

Have a great winter 2011
Paul Clayton

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Telephone Contact - The Real 1st Impression

Many great articles have appeared over the years dealing with telesales and customer service and we all know that new sales and customer retention is essential for companies to survive and prosper in today’s competitive market.  

Today I want to explore the use of the telephone in business and how its use in your business can have a beneficial or negative outcome on your business.  

The telephone is an essential and, allegedly, the most widely used communication tool in all businesses and organizations to communicate on a personal basis with existing and potential customers, suppliers, consumers, media and other organizations & individuals to improve business.

Improving communication at all contact points with customers and suppliers will boost sales, build customer & supplier loyalty, enhance Brand value and increase profitability

The majority of potential customers looking for a new supplier will make the 1st personal contact by phone! So no matter how brilliant your initial marketing initiatives – e-mail, brochures, mailers, advertising or social networking - how that first call is handled can have a huge impact on the outcome for your business.

In a recent seminar to a group of business owners on ‘How the use of the telephone can improve Business’. Prior to the event I was given a list of the companies sending delegates which we rang to see how they performed in answering their phones  
45% Answered within 3 rings
75% Answered within 5 rings
65% of All calls answered by a Person
15 Companies Could Lose 20% of Sales (more than 5 rings)
14 Companies Could Lose 70% of Sales (answer phones)

How do you compare and are you confident that every telephone contact point in your organization is 'on message' with your core values and objectives?

  1. Customer Experience: Test the customer experience yourself by calling your company as a potential customer or as an existing customer with a query - don’t use your own phone which may be recognised by your telephone system or get a third party to do this and record the calls – then take action.
  2. How Inbound Calls are Answered
    1. Time Before Call Is Picked Up: Aim to answer calls within 3 rings and no more than 5.  The time between standard BT rings is approximately 3 seconds. 20% of all callers to businesses hang up after just 5 rings!*Source Onetel business  Survey.  (15 seconds)
    2. Answer Phone: 79% of people will not leave a message on Voicemail/Answerphone if they are calling to place an order for a product or service * Source Call Centre Helper.  Customers will use Voicemail and Answerphones if they are confident that messages will be picked up and actioned.  Change the message on a daily basis with the message including the day and date and when the messages will be actioned
    3. Answered by Automatic System: Automatic systems will usually be set to answer within 1 ring, however the average time that an automatic system will direct you to a real person is 32 seconds (>10 rings). If you have to use and Automatic System keep the number of options on any menu to 3.
    4. Answered by Person: The majority of people prefer to talk directly to a real person. Larger businesses usually direct all inbound calls to a dedicated reception which should have sufficient trained personnel manning the phones at peak times to achieve a) above.
Where there is no dedicated reception area it is essential that whoever takes answers the phone takes ownership of the call and understands the caller’s requirement before forwarding to another department. Ownership means retrieving the call if it is not answered by the intended recipient and taking a message – name, nature of the call and contact number – and giving the caller a time that he/she will be called back and then ensuring that this happens.
Many customers will need to deal directly with contacts in your business other than those in Sales or Customer Services such as IT, Credit Control, Distribution etc. It is these contact points which also need to be Customer friendly.
    1. Greeting - is it the same every time? Everybody answering in the same style will strengthen the Brand and professional image of the Business.
    2. On hold - silence/music/update/information etc. One of the most frustrating experiences encountered by customers is being put into a queue or on hold. It is not good enough for callers to be put on hold and then told that at number 35 in the queue that the Company values their business. If the customer is valued then either the business should have enough operators so that waiting time is less than a minute or the caller should be given the opportunity to leave a message and that is acted on within the hour with a return call.
It is expensive to gain new Customers, make sure that the use of the telephone in your business helps to keep them.

Paul Clayton