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Wikis for business.

Lots of people are talking about wikis for their use in business and in general.

Do I think they’re useful for business? I certainly do. I think every company should have some sort of wiki. Companies are spending hundreds of thousands to tens of millions on complex intranets and a wiki can do many of the same things. There are some very cool wiki programs out there (e.g., Socialtext and JotSpot as well as MediaWiki) that are extremely powerful (and not too expensive) that are being used by some big companies (Nokia, Kodak, Whole Foods, etc.).

So, what is a wiki useful for? A lot:

  • An intranet to store files, policies, etc.
  • A way to exchange knowledge and know-how.
  • A way to track software bugs, changes, etc.
  • An excellent way to collaborate and manage projects.

There are many more uses, but I’ve found the top uses to be: the ability to store files, policies, etc. as well as a way to exchange knowledge and know-how. Wikis are incredibly useful for staff members putting down what they know for other staff members to see, and vice versa.

Install a wiki and get your staff to start using it. Tell them that if they add information, in the long run, it’ll help everyone (including themselves). Encourage staff members to read the wiki frequently and see if there’s anything they can learn. You can also sort of make your staff read it by putting important company policies and announcements in it. Or if you want to get really mean, maybe a location of the hidden paycheck page?

Regardless of how you get your employees to actually use your wiki, it should eventually become part of your company’s culture. Ensure that they check it when they’re unsure of something or have just learned something new, read it often, and value it as an important source of information.

It’s obvious that wikis are very capable of storing lots of information effectively (look at Wikipedia) and you should work hard to try and make one part of your business. There’s a great article about wikis for business here.
P.S. On an unrelated (to wikis) note, have your customer service staff members read this article on ZDNet.

Quality over quantity?

Yesterday I took the day off I said I would take, but there’s a new post for today.

Today’s post is about the classic debate of quality over quantity. More specifically, is it better to get through a lot of problems (and not do such a great job) or get through a less amount (but do a better job)?

The answer: ask your customers! To answer this question, you should take a poll of your customers. Ask them something like:

If we changed the way we did support, would you rather have:

  • Response times be slower, but responses be more detailed and more accurate.
  • Respond times be quicker, but responses be less detailed and less accurate.

Most customers will probably say that it depends on the situation. Generally, it does. Ideally, that’s what priorities are for, but almost no one listens to priorities. Customers are fearful if they mark the priority “Low,” they won’t get a response for a month. Therefore, every little thing is “High” or “Critical” priority. The solution?

  • Have a page in your support center that outlines the average responses to issues marked as different priorities.

For example:

Emergency – 5 minutes
Critical – 20 minutes
High – 30 minutes
Medium – 1 hour
Low – 2 hours

If a customer saw that they don’t need this issue fixed for three or four hours, they could mark it as a low priority. Staff could then concentrate on things marked as “Emergency” priority and get through the more important issues before the less important ones.

So, now that you have an idea of how to allow some quality instead of quantity, how do you find a happy medium between quality and quantity? The easiest solution I’ve found is something like below:

Measurements should be based on tickets/issues/cases responded to that had the fewest:

  • Amount of replies
  • Total time for a ticket/issue/case to be resolved/closed (without it being re-opened by the customer)
  • Highest satisfaction rating

So, the ticket with the fewest replies and a high satisfaction rating that was resolved quickly will ensure that everyone is happy. It allows for staff to resolve (instead of just getting through or responding to) more issues/cases/tickets/etc. and for the customer to be happy.

You may have to put the various metrics that your system produces in an Excel sheet to calculate all of this. Measuring these things is tough when you don’t do something very simple and very objective (i. e. amount of replies sent). It’ll take some creativity on your part. Try asking your staff how they think they should be measured (a measurement that would promote the best customer service with the fastest response times possible) and see what they say.

There’s going to be more about this in the future, but it won’t get too detailed. Quality over quantity or vice versa is very much an item of a company’s culture. Some just want to get through the tickets – others want to provide great customer service. It’s an extremely important topic and thus has many specialists who talk only about measuring satisfaction (such as this great blog).

Magic Customer Service

A few days ago I was out to eat and the restaurant had a magician that went from table to table doing some pretty cool tricks – card tricks, simple illusions, etc. These magicians make a meal entertaining and are especially popular at family restaurants like the one I was at.

Can you think of some questions that magicians are likely asked?

  • How did you learn to do this?
  • How long have you been doing it?
  • (And hopefully) Do you give lessons and/or do private shows?

But probably the most popular question asked (especially by younger spectators):

  • Could you show me how to do that?

I know I asked that question quite a bit when I was younger, and no one really told me anything. The magicians always told a part of a trick, and then used that explanation to lead into another trick. Good showmanship, but bad customer service. In the end, there was no trick revealed and I was somewhat disappointed.

However, the magician a few days ago had a different and far better solution. A boy about 9 or 10 asked the magician “How did you do that?” Instead of the canned response “It’s magic.” the magician said: “I can’t tell you how I did this trick – it’s a secret, but I can show you another trick.” The magician then showed the boy a simple, but nonetheless cool, card trick.

In the end, everyone was happy. The boy’s parents gave the magician a tip (which I would assume was larger than the average tip he gets for just doing the tricks), the boy learned a card trick, and everyone was entertained. I’m sure by the end of the night, quite a few other children (and adults) learned that trick and were equally happy.

That’s the power of having creative solutions to common problems/questions. The magician mastered that and ended up not only having more satisfied and entertained spectators, but likely, making more money. You should try and do that with your company.

For example, many companies have to manually process orders. Some prefer to manually check for fraud, others have to check inventory, pack items, charge chards over a different method, manually setup accounts, etc. Do most of these companies have creative ways to make that step of the service experience better? Doubtfully.
Some things these companies could do, depending on the timeframe (I’m assuming setup time is one hour or less):

  • Ask customers to visit the company’s forum in the meantime. This way the customer can register, poke around, read a few things, meet some other customers, etc. A half hour or so is enough time for a customer to tell whether they like the forums or not and whether or not they want to continue visiting.
  • Ask customers to visit the company blog. An alternative to the method above – ask customers to view the company’s blog, or most recent newsletter. Have an incentive for the customer to actually visit (aka add value) such as getting some usage tips, how-tos, coupons that can be used later, etc.
  • (Video) tutorials. Have some sort of visual way a customer can learn how to use their new product or service. Something that’ll get them excited about their new product or service and is actually useful. Demos, tutorials, helpful and engaging documentation, etc.
  • Check order status. Everyone wants to be able to check order status. Have a way for your customers to check and see what’s going on (i. e. Step 1: Fraud Verification. Step 2: Payment Received. etc.). Have it so the status is updated every few minutes and the customer can follow along in real time.
  • Play a game. Some may find it tacky, others may find it entertaining. I’ve seen a company or two that has an option to play some classic arcade games (such as Pac-Man, Sonic, etc.) online after ordering and before setup. It’s definitely unique. You may want to consider having someone make a Flash game that has to do with your business (be creative!).
  • Be creative. The key is to be creative. Have something engaging, interesting, educational, etc. for your customers to do in the mean time.

See the point? If you’re creative, use a bit of logic, and really focus on how to make the experience better, your customer service will be magical.

Sample Phone Survey (Part 2)

This is posted quite a bit later than usual, but I’ve been busy almost all day and haven’t gotten a chance to write a post.

So yesterday there was a sample phone survey posted. It’s an interesting way to gather customer feedback, and phone surveys are one of the best ways, since you can hear the customer’s tone of voice, how long they have to think about the answers, etc. Though it’s probably the most expensive way to survey customer satisfaction, it’s probably one of the most effective ways.

There are lots of blogs, books, companies, and entire industries that are dedicated to measuring customer satisfaction. It’s an enormous part of customer service and the customer service experience, but besides posting and commenting about a survey every now and then, Service Untitled won’t be focusing too much on exactly how to measure customer satisfaction. Service Untitled, however, is going to (continue to) tell you how to improve your customer satisfaction levels.

Scoring.
This survey uses a 5-point scale. There’s something to keep in mind about these scales though. Most research shows that customers who say they are “Satisfied”, or just “Agree” or are as likely to switch to a competitor as those who say “Neutral.” You have to strive for great, just not acceptable. When presenting results, you should present them like:

  • 25% of our customers are highly satisfied and are likely to be with us for quite a while if we keep doing what we’re doing (they rated strongly agree).
  • 50% may switch to a competitor (they rated agree or neutral).
  • 25% are probably as good as gone (they rated disagree, or strongly disagree).

Remember, satisfied or agree doesn’t cut it. Strive for great (strongly agree).

Short and simple.
Please save your customers from long and boring surveys. A phone survey should only take about 5 or 10 minutes and an online survey should always an option to “Save and come back.” or just “Submit answers.” (instead of customers just going to another page and losing everything – might as well get something). Online surveys also shouldn’t take more than 5 or 10 minutes. Don’t use complicated language and try have different surveys for different things (you should have at least one “overall customer satisfaction survey,” but you should try to have one for say, sales, and another for billing.)

Read these posts.
Before surveying, you should read these two posts: this one about gathering feedback and this one about keeping your enemies closer. They’ll provide you with some additional information on who you should survey and different types of surveys you can issue.

Have some open-ended questions.
You’ll notice that almost every question of the sample phone survey has a “Why?” portion. It’s important to ask customers for some more information than just a rating. Ratings are great and easy to average, but the real value of the survey will be in the “Why?” answers.

Important Questions.
Questions 5 (How likely are you to refer us?), Question 4 (How likely are you to continue doing business with us?), and Question 1 (Your overall satisfaction) are probably the most important questions on the survey. These are the answers you should concentrate on as they represent the most information and will also be most valuable to the financial section of your “three-legged stool.”

Consider hiring a professional.

Consider hiring a professional to administer these surveys. Like I mentioned previously, there are many many companies that do things like administer surveys and work on measuring customer satisfaction all day. They’re experts at it, and if you wish to do customer satisfaction measuring on a large scale, may be worth considering.

On an unrelated note.
I’ve been informed that the Trackback system for Service Untitled isn’t working properly. I’m not quite sure what caused it to break or how to fix it, but rest assured, I’m going to try and fix it. If I can’t fix it, I’ll ask someone I know who probably can fix it. It should be fixed soon. If you do link to Service Untitled, please do let me know (email address is on the bottom of this page). I’ve found a lot of blogs that way and would like to keep finding some new ones.

Have a nice weekend!

Sample Phone Survey

There’s another new category at Service Untitled. It’s called “Exercises/Resources.” First up, is a sample customer satisfaction phone survey:

Key:

  • 5 = Strongly Agree
  • 4 = Agree
  • 3 = Neutral
  • 2 = Disagree
  • 1 = Strongly Disagree

Questions:

1. How would you rate your overall relationship with -company-?
5  4   3   2   1

(If the answer is anything other than a 5, ask more questions to find out how the relationship could be improved. Ask why if the answer is a 5.)
2. What is the main reason you use -company- instead of a competitor?

(Try and get as many details as possible. If the answer doesn’t fit in with what you’re looking for (i. e. if customer service is your main selling point, but they say price), ask a few more questions.)

3. Have you stopped doing business with a similar company recently? If yes, why?

(You may be curious, but don’t ask what company.)

4. How likely are you to continue doing business with us over the next 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 3 years, etc.?

(Different companies have different lengths of time for an average customer. If you’re an Internet company, and ask 5 years, the customer will think you’re nuts. A better timeframe would be 6 months to 1 year.)

5. How likely are you to recommend us to other people such as friends, family, co-workers, etc.? What would you tell them?
5    4    3    2    1

(This is probably the most important question.)

6.  Have you ever had a negative experience with -company-?
Yes   No

(If the customer says yes, ask for some more details, and look into the issue. If the issue has not already been resolved, ask if it was resovled to their satisfaction (1-5 scale), and if anything besides a 5, what could you have done better?)

7. Are we helpful and available when you need us?
5   4   3   2   1
(If they say anything besides 5, ask what could be done better?)

8.  What else would you like to tell us about -company- and/or the quality of our customer service?

—————————————————-

Here’s an example of an exercise/resource. I’m going to try and do one of these about once every other week, and maybe once a week. Comment or email with your feedback. There’s going to be an explanation tomorrow, along with tips to get the most out of this survey.

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