jump to navigation

Walking In The Customer’s Shoes February 20, 2008

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Experience, Customer Experience Hall of Fame -- and Shame, Marketing.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
4 comments

In 2004, a Forrester colleague (John Ragsdale) and I published a report which we notoriously titled, “Why Marketing Should Own The Contact Center.” Our chosen title was not aimed at changing reporting relationships. Rather, the emphasis and urgency we sought to establish was recognition of the fact that, for many companies, employees play an absolutely central and crucial role in establishing the customer’s perception of the business and the brand. Our position in the report (which is still absolutely valid today) was that the purely operational metrics – e.g., # calls handled, average call duration, etc. – by which many companies measure the performance on contact center personnel run counter to the objectives that many companies have established around improving customer experiences.

The report was focused on the contact center, but the concept extends easily to all employees that interact with a customer at any level. While books can (and have) been written on this subject, I want to focus on one element that I believe continues to be overlooked and underemphasized as the industry attempts to develop processes and technologies to facilitate customer interactions and improve customer experience. That is: empathy – specifically, encouraging and empowering employees to engage and relate with customers as people and fellow human beings.

Encourage Employees To Relate With Customers As Fellow Humans

While I firmly believe that no company can make every customer happy 100% of the time, the companies that have really made strides towards delivering differentiated customer experiences are taking steps to help employees better understand and relate to their customers. Some examples:

  • USAA makes customers personal for its employees. USAA, well known for its customer service leadership, caters to military families. To ensure employees empathize with its members, the company hires a high percentage of former military personnel, encourages employees to read personal letters from deployed service men and women, and incorporates aspects of military life into its new employee training program.
  • Cabela’s doesn’t draw a line between employees and customers. Cabela’s, a top direct marketer of specialty outdoor merchandise views it employees as be valued customers. The company encourages employees to take gear home and give it a try as long as they submit a review.
  • HP rewards employees that put customers first. In her recent article on CustomerThink, Liz Roche how HP encourages employees to participate in HP’s in store Demo Days. In addition, HP does a number of other things to help employees to better relate and empathize with customers. The company has established a formal customer experience training program to help employees experience interactions with HP from the customer perspective, it includes customer metrics in employee evaluations, it encourages employees to surface feedback from customers and provides tools to facilitate employee efforts to do so, and it awards employees that go above and beyond “customer hero” awards.
  • Four Seasons gives all employees a firsthand customer experience. Four Seasons, the luxury hotel and resort chain, provides all new employees – from chamber maid, to maintenance engineer, to kitchen staff – with an opportunity to stay at a property with a guest. This helps employees understand the customer experience from the customer’s point of view.
  • Fidelity Investments encourages all employees to interact with customers. My husband is a technology guy with Fidelity. All Fidelity employees are also customers. In addition, the company encourages employees, regardless of their role, to interact directly with customers. So, several times a year, my husband volunteers in the call center to take customer calls. These experiences help my husband take the customer into account when he and his team are designing products and interfaces that will eventually land in the customer’s hands.

Allocate Marketing Budget To Build Customer Empathy

Consider the billions of dollars that companies spend on marketing and advertising each year. Consider the number of scenarios when companies that you interact with as a customer don’t live up to the promise that the brand makes in its external messaging. If your company is not investing to help employees better relate to the customer, perhaps you should consider allocating some marketing budget to do so, eh?

Advertisements

It is URGENT that you give us a call… February 8, 2008

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Analytics, Customer Experience, Customer Experience Hall of Fame -- and Shame, Database Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Technology.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
6 comments

Have you noticed an uptick in the number of robot marketing messages that you are getting? I have and it’s making me crazy! For the last several years I have worked from my home office 2-4 days a week. In recent months, the number of calls that I am getting with robot marketing messages has increased dramatically.

Some of the messages are “transactional.” For instance, we get calls from Blockbuster reminding us that we have an overdue movie. But most of the messages are pure marketing. Yes, my phone number is on the DNC list, but these calls are coming from firms with whom I have a “preexisting relationship.” The company I bought my car from, financial services firms I deal with, etc. The most egregious, from my perspective, are the messages that come from my credit card company which go something like this:

Hello, this is Amy from your credit card company! Now, nothing is wrong with your card, but it is URGENT that you contact us immediately to discuss how you can lower your monthly interest rate….

The first of these messages came just after my wallet was stolen last spring (see my post on that descent into customer experience hell). What did I hear? “URGENT that you contact us!” I like to think that I’m a reasonably intelligent person but I must admit that it took me a second to realize I was listening to a pitch, not a customer service call.

It may be legal, but it’s the worst kind of spam

As a marketer, perhaps you’re wondering what’s wrong with this. I’ll tell you. For me as an individual, these messages are highly interruptive, irrelevant, and unwanted — not to mention misleading. If this came to me as an email, I could delete it without a second thought. It would be a little annoying but not annoying enough to write this post. These calls require that I pick up the phone and listen. They take more of my time and attention and they make me mad! 

I am not debating that these calls reach some people that probably consider a lower interest rate to be a very good thing. But, if my credit company bothered to do a very easy query against its customer databsae before teeing up these calls, it would see that I pay off my bill every month and don’t pay finance charges. Therefore, the interest rate is totally meaningless to me. For a company that I know employs fleets of statisticians and has very sophisticated customer analysis, I find this absolutely inexcusable!

Be responsible with this technology

I’m not suggesting that you never use this tactic to reach your customers. I am suggesting that you recognize that the phone channel is one of the most interruptive of channels (just shy of door-to-door sales) and if you choose to implement these automated phone campaigns you need to make sure that you are properly targeting your calls. Some suggestions:

  • Don’t use “preexisting relationship” as carte blanche to call. While it may be legal, there are customers out there that just don’t want the calls, period. I recommend filtering contacts that have registered for the DNC list out of the call list particularly if your list isn’t well targeted to customers for whom the message is clearly relevant.
  • Use data to target the campaign. If you have good customer analysis and response modeling capabilities then, by all means, use them. Even if you don’t, use basic queries to filter the list in order to screen out those customers for whom the message is obviously irrelevant. If you don’t have this capability, then you should not be running these campaigns.
  • Be more genuine in the communication. If you are properly targeting the message, then you can make a more genuine appeal to your customer. Rather than, “it’s urgent that you contact us!” empathize with the customer by saying something like, “we notice that you have been paying high finance charges over the last few months and we want to offer you the opportunity to lower your rate for the next three months…” If I ever do get in a situation in which I am carrying a monthly balance, then this kind of offer would come in handy and I would feel like my credit card company was on my side.
  • Be transparent with Caller ID. I failed to mention above that the calls don’t even have proper Caller ID (most say “unidentified number”). Although the FTC requires that telemarketing calls have proper Caller ID, apparently the rule does not extend to marketing phone calls where a “prior relationship” exists. I believe marketers should take the high road nonetheless and give customers the opportunity to screen the calls.