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Make a Difference on a Special Day

Some CRM applications have fields for client birthdays, anniversaries, spouse and children’s birthday, etc. These have more of a purpose than to have a little line in the training manual that says “Leave them blank.” They can be used to make a customer experience more personable and make customers feel special.

Depending on what products and services you offer, you should send birthday cards to your clients, and maybe their family. If you are a retail store that serves the entire family, send cards to everyone as you learn their birthdays. If you are a consulting firm, a client birthday card is probably appropriate.

What you actually include in the birthday card is important. Here is a sample text:

“Dear name,

We at Company XYZ are sending this card to wish you a very Happy Birthday! – nice greeting card text –. Should you need anything from us to make your birthday more enjoyable or convenient, feel free to give us a call.

Again, have a very Happy Birthday!

Best regards,

Sales Representative
Company XYZ”

Nice greeting card text is something like “We hope you have many more happy years.” or something like that. Some companies like to include a gift certificate for future products/services while others do not. The card should be handwritten, but that isn’t required. The name and address on the front of card should probably be handwritten and should be addressed to whoever is having a birthday (not whoever is the client).

Anniversaries are another great time to send a nice card and make a little difference. Again, what you send depends on your company and what you do, but an anniversary card is usually a nice thing to send.

You can include text like:

“Dear Mr. and Mrs. Name,

We at Company XYZ are sending this card to wish you a very Happy Anniversary! – nice greeting card text – Should you need anything from us to make your anniversary more enjoyable or convenient, feel free to give us a call.

Again, have a very Happy Anniversary.

Best regards,

Sales Representative
Company XYZ”

Again, try to handwrite them, include a nice greeting card-ish line or two, etc. Address the card and the even lope to the couple. See a pattern? Yes, there is one. It doesn’t take that long to write these cards out and when you do, it can make a difference.

Keep records up to date.
You should be careful about keeping your records up to date. When a client comes in ask, “How is your wife?” and if the client says “We’re getting a divorce.” – don’t forget to update your records to indicate that. If someone mentions someone’s birthday is next week (and you don’t already know that), add that to the records and send a card.

You can also send condolence cards if you hear about a death, get well cards if you hear about someone this is ill, etc. These also take the personalization a step further and let people know that you care. It is probably not tasteful to include a sales pitch of any sort in such a card, but you can offer to help. “If there is anything we can do to help you in this tough time, please do not hesitate to let us know.” is a good line.

A big part of Little Things, Big Differences is simply paying attention and thinking about how you can make a positive difference in both the customer service and overall customer experience by paying attention to the little things.

A Little Thing That Made A Difference

Yesterday I was made aware of a company through an email that was sent to me. I’m not going to name the company, but the story is interesting none the less. The company’s web site had a live chat on it and I was curious to see if anyone answered and if so, how quickly. I clicked the chat button (the icon indicated that there was someone online), waited a minute or so, but there was no answer. No big deal, I continued to explore the site, and found it interesting.

However, what made the difference was the next day, I received an email from someone at the company saying that they had a technical error, apologized about not being able to answer my chat, offered to answer any questions I may have had, and promised to what the online chat status more carefully and work on improving it to avoid future issues.

The company did an excellent job of 1) addressing my immediate concern (my question – if I had one), and 2) giving me some faith in the company. An abandoned live chat doesn’t give existing or potential customers faith, but a friendly and informative follow-up really makes it seem (rightfully so) as if the company is on top of things.

Companies that offer features that allow for customer interaction have to monitor them constantly. If you don’t monitor what is going on in your helpdesk or live chat, you’ll run into problems.

Watch the logs.
This company knew that I requested a chat, but it wasn’t answered. They had my name and email address from before I started the chat and decided to follow up. E-commerce stores pay attention to their abandonment rates for checkout – so why shouldn’t you pay attention to your abandonment rate for support options?
Some companies do, but they are looking to increase abandonment rates instead of lower them. You have to look at each support experience as an opportunity to “wow” a customer and give them faith in your brand and service.

Don’t look at it an abandoned chat or help request as a lost cause – look at it as an opportunity. Email people and say “Hi, I saw you tried to initiate a chat request earlier today. Did everything work okay? Is there anything else I can help you with?” If the customer deletes the email or says no, no big deal. If they reply with a question, great.

Make your email good.
When you do decide to email a customer, make it good. Include a nice greeting (address by name if possible), state who you are (Bob from Company XYZ), the purpose (I saw you initiated a chat request yesterday evening), the apology (I’m sorry your chat wasn’t answered or that you encountered any problems), the offer (Is there anything else I can help you with?), the thank you (We appreciate your interest in Company XYZ), and the closing (Sincerely, Bob). This is an email that covers key information and is quite effective.

Do it often.
Don’t just do it some of the time – do it all of the time. If you notice customers are giving up before they talk to someone, start finding out why. If you don’t keep on top of things like this, your customer satisfaction ratings, sales, etc. may go down.

HP Survey

A day or so ago I was sent a survey from HP and was asked to rate my chat experience. I was about a third of a way through it before I realized – this would make a good post for Service Untitled. Hopefully, HP won’t sue me for posting this survey on Service Untitled – maybe they’ll even resend the first third of the survey to me. Who knows? The survey is actually very good – it covers a lot of material and can really show HP what they have to improve upon.

I was asked to say if I Disagree Completely or Agree Completely (a 10 poinst scale).

  1. The information provided during the real-time chat session was complete and had all of the necessary steps.
  2. The information provided during the real-time chat session was easy to understand.
  3. The information provided during the real-time chat session was relevant to my problem.
  4. The HP agent who assisted me understood my issue.
  5. The information provided during the real-time chat session was detailed.
  6. I did not have to wait long for the real-time chat session to begin.
  7. The HP agent who assisted me took ownership in resolving my problem or inquiry.
  8. The HP agent who assisted me cared about my problem.
  9. The HP agent who assisted me had enough knowledge to answer my question.
  10. The link for real-time chat support worked without any problems.
  11. The HP agent who assisted me efficiently gathered information to diagnose my problem.
  12. It was easy to enter my personal information (i.e. name, email, product) before the real-time chat session began.

Yes or No

  1. Is HP Chat the only means of assistance you tried?

Select One

  1. What operating system are you using?
  2. How long have you owned your -product-?

Yes or No

  1. Is your -product- currently under warranty?


  1. Do you currently access the Internet using…
  2. Please indicate your country of residence.


  1. Are you a dealer or reseller of computer products?

Yes or No

  1. To offer valued customers, such as yourself, better service and support, HP may have the need to ask you further questions. May Hewlett-Packard have permission to contact you to clarify responses you have given on this survey if the need arises?

Total Questions: 20

HP Live Chat Experience – Part 2 of 2

Yesterday I talked about my experience using the HP Live Chat. Overall, it was an acceptable experience. I wouldn’t consider it great, but it certainly wasn’t bad.

Here is what I think HP could have done better:

Warn me about popups.
I probably should have expected this, but after I put in my name and email address, I got two popup windows, which were blocked by my browser. I had to go back and disable my popup browser and then try again.

Make it work with Macs.
I don’t use a Mac computer, but I know a lot of people who do. In terms of market share, they are getting more popular and more and more people are starting to use Macs. There are live chat systems that work with Macs and I’m sure HP has the resources to develop one if necessary. On a related note, HP should strive to get their live chat system (as well as the rest of their web site) to work with Linux, less known browsers, etc.

Verify first.
If they ask me for my phone number during the chat, why not ask for it when I put in my name and email address? That way, HP’s system can automatically verify it. If it doesn’t match, then the system can let the representative know.

Explain why we are doing something.
I still have no idea what unplugging and plugging my printer in three times did. I can’t see how it would fix a carriage error, but I went along with it anyways. He could have said “[instructions]. This will help [reason].” That way I would have gone “Oh! That makes sense!” Since I’m assuming 80%+ of the messages I was sent were pre-defined – it wouldn’t be that much extra work for the agent.

Make the serial number easy to find.
Make the serial number easy to find. In the back is not a good place to put it and on the bottom is even worse. Try putting it on the side or in an easy to find place (but still somewhat concealed) on the front. Consider putting it under the paper tray – somewhere? Product designers can find a good place to put it where it still functional and easy to access. Product designers should also make the serial number in larger, easy to see, print.

Don’t sell me.
Trying to sell a customer on a repair or a new product after a few steps of seemingly worthless troubleshooting steps is not a good way to make the customer happy. You should troubleshoot the printer to death.

The representative should have told me something like: “This appears to be a hardware problem. The printer will probably require repair. However, if you would like to try to forcibly move the carriage along the track and see if that helps, you can do that.” Most customers will understand they probably don’t have much to lose and go ahead and try it.

There are a few tips for HP. Hopefully they’ll keep them in mind with future revisions to their live chat systems and procedures. Hopefully you will keep them in mind when designing and supporting products as well.

HP Live Chat Experience – Part 1 of 2

I talked about the live chat experience I had with Dell not too long ago. It was an overall good experience and Dell did a good job. Now, it’s time to compare Dell’s live chat experience to that of their rival, HP.

Not even three hours after I posted the second part of the interview with HP executive Janice Liu, my HP all-in-one printer thing died. The carriage (the thing that holds the ink cartridges) got stuck and nothing really worked.

I went to HP’s web site and found the live chat section pretty quickly. I found my product fairly quickly and clicked on the button to enter a chat with a representative. At this time, the only problem I had was the chat page didn’t tell me to disable my popup blocker and I had to figure that out for myself and go back a few pages, and then refresh. I was connected to a representative named James within a minute or so.

I described my problem, got my information verified, and we proceeded to the troubleshooting. I was told to unplug the printer, wait 30 seconds, and then plug it in again – and then repeat that three times. I did that and nothing happened. I was then asked to remove the ink cartridges (which I couldn’t). The representative then said it seemed like a hardware problem. I was asked to find the serial number (which is of course in the back and not easy to read or access) and give it to the representative.

Then, it happened – I was hit with a sales pitch. I could send the printer for repair or get a new one. I was surprised that the representative gave up so quickly. I was not in the mood to have to pay for a new printer or not have mine for a few weeks while my existing one got repaired.

I asked for more troubleshooting steps. He told me to try moving the carriage “to and fro”. I interpreted that as “You have nothing to lose. Might as well try and force it.” I did and I got it to move over. The printer electronics then started to mess up and I had to go through a step to reset the printer.

In the end, I got my printer working. A critique of the customer service experience (as well as suggestions for what HP can do to improve it) is coming tomorrow.

Janice Liu of HP – Part 2 of 2

This is the second part of the interview with Janice Liu of HP. Click More to read the questions and answers.

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Interview: Janice Liu of HP – Part 1 of 2

This is the first of two parts of an interview with Janice Liu, an executive at HP. Her official bio is below:

Janice Liu has been with HP for more than 13 years and currently manages the Consumer Services Marketing group in the Americas. Prior to her current position, she was the business lead responsible for creating online merger business plan for pre-merger HP and Compaq online support assets. She graduated with a Master’s in Business Administration from University of California, Irvine.

Janice has a lot to do with HP’s customer service efforts and answered my questions about HP and customer service. Click read more to read the entire interview.

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Five W’s of Success Through Customer Service

I have an interview ready to get posted – just waiting for a few clarifications from the company before I post it. I’m doing a few more interviews over the next week, so there will be a few interviews posted here in the upcoming few weeks.

Today’s post is about the Five W’s of having a successful company by utilizing customer service. Basically, it’s a way to achieve success like Headsets.com and Printing For Less (ordinary product/service made extraordinary company through customer service).

The management and employees. A commitment to customer service has to start at the top and go all the way down. If the management team isn’t fully committed to customer service, the company won’t be able to succeed using customer service. Furthermore, the management team has to recruit employees who are as committed to customer service and customer satisfaction as they are.

What: Customer service (in case you didn’t know) is technically defined as providing product or service support to potential or existing customers. In non-technical terms, it’s making customers happy, encouraging customers to refer you to their friends, family, and colleagues because they have had a pleasant experience with your company, making customers happy (customer satisfaction), and more.

You’ll see increased customer referrals, increased customer satisfaction, fewer complaints, have higher employee productivity (not proven, but companies with good customer service generally have happier employees. Happy employees general are more productive than unhappy employees), you can charge a little bit more for the extra service you are providing, etc.

You need to provide excellent customer service through any medium that you use to interact with customers. This includes, but certainly isn’t limited to: in person, telephone, email, live chat, company forums, company blog, and anywhere else you happen to interact, talk with, etc. customers.

A commitment to customer service should be a permanent one. It isn’t a phase, a monthly project, or anything like that – it is a full fledged and permanent commitment. Whenever you interact with customers, you need to be ready to provide great customer service.

How: Through however you can provide great customer service. Read articles, read blogs, read books, hire consultants, hire people with experience in customer service, practice, ask around, etc. That’s the best way. It’ll come naturally if you think “How can I make this part of the customer experience better?” and pay attention to companies that provide great customer service.

The key to seeing success through customer service is to be committed to it all the time. Every person in the company has to be committed to it and always work to make the customer experience better (including the customer service experience better). There are literally thousands (and likely many many more) ways to do this and it all depends on what works best for your company.

Whatever you do, don’t treat customer service as a company theme of the month, the quarter, or even the year. Make it an ongoing commitment and something you are always working on doing.

You will see positive results in your customer and employee satisfaction scores, customer and employee retention, business results, and so many other ares.

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