Pleasing Customers, Gamification and Why Less Is Better.

Welcome to this week’s Friday Five, where we’ll look at the importance of serving customers with pleasure, the use of gamification for customer satisfaction, how much you curse, which of the five customer personas are calling your call center and how more customer service channels are not necessarily better.

Want Your Customers Pleased? Serve Them “With Pleasure.”

It used to be that when you asked a store clerk for service, they would answer “With pleasure.”

It’s a shame, not only that we don’t hear “with pleasure” much anymore, but that so much customer service is obviously performed without pleasure.

Blake Morgan discusses this issue in a recent post on Forbes titled “Customer Experience and the ‘With Pleasure’ Principle. Morgan’s tired of manicurists talking on their cell phones while tending to customers’ nails, and hearing bad news from doctors – who, as she correctly implies, are just as much in the customer service business as a car mechanic or waiter – in an uncaring, apathetic manner.

Not that receiving bad news from a doctor is ever pleasurable, for the doctor or the recipient, but Morgan’s point is well-taken: The doctor’s job is to deal with humans, to serve them, and to make his customers, also known as “patients,” as comfortable as possible in all situations.

One recommendation Morgan makes to minimize unpleasant service to customers is for companies to “go above and beyond to create a pleasurable environment for their employees.” This, she says, will result in employees being happier at work, and “with happier customer-facing employees, customer retention numbers improve by leaps and bounds. In this day and age customer experience matters.”

She’s correct about the correlation between happy employees and happy customers. Slice and dice the data how you will, there is a strong, clear connection between XYZ Company’s employees’ job satisfaction and XYZ’s customer satisfaction.

A 2014 Forrester study titled “Navigate the Future of Customer Service in 2014” found what came as no surprise to anybody: inconsistent and negative customer experiences matter more and more to customers in their buying decisions. Morgan cites to Walker Information’s recent study, “Customer 2020,” finding that by the year 2020, customer experience will be a higher consideration than price and product as the key brand differentiator.

Morgan offers some suggestions:

  • “Hire for attitude, don’t worry about the most skilled worker. You can’t teach someone to have a can-do attitude. If a person doesn’t have it in them to care about other people, or take pride in their work, it’s best not to hire them.” Customers don’t really care how smart your customer-facing employees are, they care if the employee is competent and serves them with respect and kindness.
  • “Make a concerted effort to create a healthy working environment for customer-facing employees. The employee must have their immediate needs met so they feel their best at work.”
  • Leaders need to “set the standard for service by having a service oriented attitude at work. Do the leaders appear to love their work? Do the employees feel the leaders are genuine?”

Companies Eager to Use Gamification to Increase Customer Satisfaction.

Boston Retail Partners have just released their “2015 Customer Relationship Management (CRM)/Unified Commerce Survey, which finds that businesses are more aware than ever of the pressing need to meet customers’ ever-heightening expectations for “a personalized, seamless experience” when shopping.

To this end, BRP says, almost 90 percent of retailers surveyed are looking for ways to use gamification to increase their customer engagement.

The principle behind gamification, as used to increase customer satisfaction, is that if your employees are having a good time serving customers, if they’re motivated in a fun way, that will be somewhat contagious – they’ll do a better job serving customers, and the customers will notice, and presto – you’ve achieved brand differentiation.

One way gamification could be used to that end is to award customer service representatives points for how quickly a customer’s issue can be resolved, for reported levels of customer satisfaction, and other meaningful measurements – points can even be awarded for contributing articles to an online knowledge base, or for incentivizing other tasks that are generally given low priority by employees.

“Unified commerce and customer experiences that transcend channels are the new model,” the survey finds, adding that “retailers understand that customer relationship management (CRM) is an essential enabler and key to influencing customer behavior.”

Gamification is already used heavily by such organizations as Samsung, Verizon, The World Bank and the U.S. Army to attract and retain customers (recruits, in the Army’s case).

Some of the key priorities identified by companies surveyed for the BRP study:

  • Identify The Customer. Within five years, 83% more retailers plan to be able to identify customers when they walk in the store.
  • Engage The Customer. BPR found that 87% of retailers plan to use gamification to engage the customer within five years.
  • Analyze The Customer. All – yes, 100% – of the retailers surveyed reported plans over the next two years to use analytics/dashboard to understand customers’ shopping behavior.
  • Retain The Customer. Just under half, 46%, of retailers think that having a structured loyalty program is a “top CRM priority.”

More Customer Channels Are Not Always Better.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review highlights a dirty little secret too many companies have: They’re great at using social media and newer customer contact channels, such as chat or mobile, for customer awareness and engagement – but not for customer care.

Cynthia J. Grimm, vice president of client development at CX Act, which provides customer experience improvement research and solutions, gives a real-life example of what is becoming, unfortunately, a more common occurrence:

Somebody with a broken microwave oven went to the maker’s website to see if it was still under warranty, but couldn’t find out, so called the toll-free number. The rep said sure, we can schedule a service visit in two weeks for $75.

The customer told the rep that the company’s site said a service visit was available the next day for $90. The rep couldn’t explain the discrepancy, so the dissatisfied customer bought a new microwave – from a different company.

Omnichannel, the idea that all touch points function as one in all stages of the path-to-purchase and customer service cycle, is an elusive goal. Few companies get it right, but they know it – over 60% of the companies surveyed, Grimm writes, say they can’t handle customers issues “in one contact via self-service, mobile and social media.”

A second contact is usually needed, which costs the company not only money and time, but customer goodwill, as well as the risk of being badmouthed on social media.

Customers know it too. Over half of them say they don’t expect to be able to resolve their issues with one contact, so over 75% of them – of all ages – default to “traditional customer care channels, primarily telephone, when they need to make contact.”

The answer, for many companies, is not to simply try to do better with all channels, but to actually cut back on how many avenues they offer customers.
The good news is that your customers will appreciate it. “Our survey reveals that customers are actually very flexible; few care about the means they use to engage companies,” Grimm notes. “Most choose to make contact through whatever channel they perceive to best meet their needs for the specific task.”

Close to 85% of all customers don’t care what means they have to use to get satisfaction, they just want one to work the first time – Netflix doesn’t offer email customer issue resolution, focusing on improvements to online self-service and chat instead.

Other takeaways from CX Act’s research:

  • It’s better not to offer a customer care channel than to offer one with low satisfaction.
  • Prioritize the channels your customers use the most.
  • Prioritize having customer accounts and past contacts available at point of contact.
  • Three out of four customers will consider self-service online in the future.
  • Younger consumers are more open to self-serve online in the future.
  • Companies today should focus on excelling in telephone resolution.

You Know, You Curse A Lot.

Writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education this week, Anne Curzan (yes, that’s her real name) remarked on a recent piece she saw in The New York Times Magazine, showing that of 3,244 New York Times subscribers, the majority, 61 percent, estimated that they “occasionally” swear or curse in conversation. Eleven percent said “never,” 26 percent said “frequently.” 

Curzon observed that 61 percent seemed “a fairly safe response for many of us who have been known to let a curse word fly…”

Well, it’s all how one defines “occasionally.” Curzan cites to research performed by Timothy Jay at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, who concluded that on average, “swear words are 0.3 percent to 0.5 percent of the speech people use every day,” or about once every 200 or 300 words.

If that seems like a lot (imagine about ten curse words in this edition of Friday Five), Curzan said, that’s because, well, “it is. Jay cites studies that show that first-person pronouns make up about 1 percent of our speech.”

Some people, it is true – we hear – don’t swear at all. Some swear a whole lot, up to about 3.4 percent, according to Jay, or once every thirty or so words.

And of course, it’s all about how one defines “swearing.” Does typing “OMG” count as swearing? How about “Oh my God” itself? Curzan was once told not to say “crap” on a radio show. And the time was, if you said “fizzle” or “old hat” that was swearing.

Most people would consider using “Jesus” as an interjection as swearing, and rightfully so, but its derivative “Gee?” Does that count? “Gosh darn?” Probably not.
One thing’s for sure: Hit your thumb with a hammer and whatever you say will be most appropriate for the occasion.

The Five Customer Personas Who Will Be Calling You.

Writing in Business 2 Community, Luke Rees spells out the customer service dilemma: “Customers today demand a more personalized experience when it comes to brand interaction, and yet the majority of customers prefer not to part with their personal data.”

So what can customer representatives do to provide the best service possible while keeping the customer in the comfort zone? Rees suggests understanding the concept of “customer personas.”

Citing research from ResponseTap, he identifies five basic profiles, or personality groups in your customer base, and says you should be able to make “targeted judgments” about what kind of service each might be after.

The goal, Rees says, is to have a pretty good idea of what kind of customer is calling your center in the first place, so your rep can tailor the experience from the outset:

  • “Socialites.” This is the majority of shoppers – 38 percent self-identify with this group, according to surveys. They want to compare and get recommendations from online groups before making purchase decisions. They get emotionally involved in shopping, and poor customer service is a major problem for them.
  • “Perfectionists.” These shoppers know what they want – exactly what they want. They expect the brand to deliver exactly what should be delivered at every step of the purchase journey. They’re easy to lose with poor customer service.
  • “Ain’t Got Timers.” They don’t want to buy products now, they want to have them yesterday. They’re organized and use the contact center to check shipping details.
  • “Panic Buyers.” These are the last-minute shoppers buying online because it’s fast. They call to get information NOW.
  • “Impulsives.” Just as the name might imply, they make purchasing decisions rapidly, and will order by phone or online, whichever is faster and easier. This group is largely women who like trendy products, and being the first in their circle of friends to buy them.

Your customer base will usually fall largely within one or two of these personas. If you’re selling trendy items, you’ll get a lot of impulse buyers, and your customer service reps just need to get them to the product fast. If you’re selling stock replenishment items, such as soap refills or restaurant supply, you’ll talk to a lot of ain’t got timers.

And if you’re selling high-end luxury items, well, you’ll be talking to a lot of perfectionists and socialites, and will have to be much more knowledgeable and pleasant during the customer interaction.

Have a great weekend.




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