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Interview with Doria Camaraza from American Express – Part 2 of 4

This is part two of a four part interview with Doria Camaraza, the Senior Vice President and General Manager of Fort Lauderdale Service Center for American Express.

This part of the interview includes information on how American Express decides to hire new employees versus promote them from within, more information on the compensation and motivation methods the company is using, how they use Net Promoter, information on the company’s “Relationship Care” program, and more.

To read this part of the interview, click “read more” below. If you want to read part one of the interview, click here.

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Interview with Doria Camaraza from American Express – Part 1 of 4

About two weeks ago, I interviewed Doria Camaraza, who is is the Senior Vice President and General Manager of Fort Lauderdale Service Center for American Express. This was an interview I was excited a lot about because I’ve written about American Express a number of times and in pretty much any customer satisfaction or customer service ranking, American Express makes the list. As an American Express cardmember myself, the workings behind the 160 year old company were also personally interesting to me.

This is a pretty lengthy interview, so I’ve divided it into four parts. Part one includes an introduction to Doria and her background with American Express, a quick overview of the different service centers that American Express has around the country, and some information on how American Express hires and trains its customer service representatives (called Customer Care Professionals).

You can see part one of the interview by clicking “read more.” A preview of part two is also included at the end of this part.

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Feedback Survey from Skype

Not that long ago, I wrote about how I received a terrific auto-response from Skype. It took them a lot longer than 72 hours to reply (the reply was useful when it finally did come, though) and now I am writing about their feedback process.

Firstly, they sent a very nice looking email less than 24 hours after the issue was resolved (click for full size):

Not only was the email nice looking, but the message was well written – it was both personal and professional:

You recently contacted Skype Customer Support and we’d love to get your feedback on the support you received – good, bad or indifferent. By answering a few questions about your experience you can really help us improve Skype.

When you click on the big Get Started button, you are led to a third party survey web site that asks the following questions in a survey that was divided into two parts:

Skype Survey Part One

  1. Overall, how would you rate the experience you had with Skype Customer Support? (multiple choice)
  2. To help Skype continue to provide a high standard of service, would you please tell us what we did to earn your satisfaction? (open ended)
  3. Was your question to Skype Customer Support resolved? (yes or no)
  4. How would you rate the ease of contacting Skype Customer Support? (multiple choice)
  5. How satisfied were you with the speed in which Skype Customer Support responded to your question(s)? (multiple choice)
  6. How many times have you contacted Skype Customer Support regarding this issue?

Skype Part Two

  1. Overall, how satisfied were you with this specific Skype representative’s service? (multiple choice)
  2. Did our Skype representative treat you like a valued Skype customer? (yes or no)
  3. How would you rate your Skype representative’s email response? (matrix, see below, click for full size)
  4. How quickly do you expect a response from Skype when you send an email? (multiple choice)
  5. How likely are you to use Skype in the next three months? (multiple choice)
  6. How likely is it that you will recommend Skype to a friend or colleague? (Net Promoter scale)
  7. What is your main use of Skype? (multiple choice)
  8. If you were given the choice, how would you prefer to contact Skype Customer Support?
Overall, a fairly lengthy, but very thorough survey. It is one of the better written and most relevant surveys I have seen. It asked a lot of great questions that support organizations could learn a lot from. The questions cover the actual issue handled as well as the broader product and support focus at Skype.

Book Review: The Ultimate Question

Uq SmThe business world is filled with an overwhelming number of questions and uncertainties. As statisticians analyze the uncertainties, the number of questions they ask seems to grow exponentially.

Business consultant and author Fred Reichheld thinks he has found the question that all companies need to ask in order to determine just how loyal their customers are – and he has humbly called it the ultimate question.

Reichheld talks about this ultimate question and what it should mean to you and your business in in his 200 page book entitled The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth. The book, first published in 2006 by Harvard Business School Press, primarily focuses on three key areas: the “ultimate question,” a scoring method called “Net Promoter,” and the importance of “good profits.”

The “ultimate question” is the simple and common question of “How likely are you to recommend Company X to a friend or colleague?”. Net Promoter is a scoring method that subtracts the proportion of detractors from the proportion of promoters. Good profits are simply profits that come from people that actually want to use your products and services (as opposed to those who might be locked into contractors or dissatisfied for one reason or another).

Like many things in customer service, the premise behind the book and the Net Promoter concept is laughably simple: if you deliver an experience that makes people genuinely want to recommend your company to their friends, family, or colleagues, you’re going to grow. Just like many business books, The Ultimate Question takes this relatively simple concept and adds strategically placed healthy servings of jargon, buzzwords, and acronyms to help justify the three hours and $20 that the book will cost. After the first 50 pages, the book starts to drag on and get redundant, but there are plenty of examples and tidbits to make it worth reading until the end.

With that said, I’d still recommend reading the book because it clearly articulates some very important aspects of business and customer service. Recihheld’s core points make sense and the examples he provides are interesting. After reading the book, any competent customer service manager or executive can easily conduct a Net Promoter survey and make use of the results. He clearly explains what Net Promoter is, why it should matter to your business, and how to make it work. Even though I don’t agree with Recihheld’s view that the “would you recommend” question is the only question that needs to be asked (I think you need more information than that), I still think that the “would you recommend” question is a great question to ask and that Net Promoter has its merits.

Net Promoter isn’t exactly new to the business world and that may very well be one of its biggest strengths. A whole host of companies in a variety of industries make use of Net Promoter and many of them are fairly transparent about their scores. It’s interesting to see what your Net Promoter score is and then compare that to some of the big companies in your industry. The average Net Promoter score is around 10 and it’s possible to have a score anywhere between -100 and 100.

I’ve conducted Net Promoter surveys for several companies and have always found the results to be useful when they are coupled with other questions. Net Promoter doesn’t tell you everything, but there is really very little to lose in asking your customers how likely they are to recommend your company to a friend or colleague. You might be in for a rude awakening, but you’ll almost certainly come out of the process knowing more than you did before. Once you have the results from your first Net Promoter survey, you’ll be faced with the true ultimate question, the question of how to improve.

Bottomline: Despite being slightly redundant, The Ultimate Question clearly articulates the importance of and how to measure customer loyalty. You may not agree with all of Reichheld’s points, but a majority of them make sense and are applicable to almost any business.

Pros: The book fully explains Net Promoter and why it matters. It provides a plethora of advice and action items that managers and executives can use to start tracking customer loyalty.

Cons: Some of them Reichheld’s methods are more academic than they are practical and the second half of book gets annoyingly redundant.

Interested? You can purchase the book on Amazon.com for about $20. You can also see some of my other posts about Net Promoter here.

Measuring Customer Satisfaction for Less than $250

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I work with a small technology company that has a reputation for being a great customer service company. The company is growing fairly quickly, and as a result of that, they’re hiring more and more people. Their growth is great (their rate of growth is manageable, so they don’t really have many growing pains), but as they hire more people, it becomes harder for the company’s founders to watch the level of customer service. As the company grows, all the employees aren’t as knowledgeable as the first couple of employees and the founders.

To help see how they’re doing, the company decided to start surveying their customers. They started with a simple quarterly satisfaction (using Net Promoter) survey and are starting to do a ticket survey that is sent out after each ticket is marked as resolved in their help desk. The company managed to do it all for less than $250, too. Here is how they did it (with my help, but they could have done it themselves without any problems):

1) I already had a copy, but most people will need to buy The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth by Fred Reichheld. It is a pretty good, 200 page book about measuring customer loyalty and satisfaction using the idea of Net Promoter. Total cost: $20

2) Purchased and installed the Lite Version of iSalient (survey software). The software is pretty user friendly – it only took me (a fairly non-technical person) about an hour to fully install and customize. Total cost: $197

The best part of this? It is only a one time cost. They can run this survey any number of times and can setup several other surveys to run as well. They already have the software and the knowledge. There is cheaper survey software (even free software) out there, but this company had already used and liked iSalient. A lot of the software is leasable or setup where you only have to pay by the number of respondents. This makes things pretty cost effective as well. $250 isn’t that much for any company with a couple of employees. Having a good idea about the level of service you’re providing and how happy your customers are is well worth the time and the financial investment involved with setting up some basic survey software and processes.

Take an hour, your credit card, and start measuring your customer satisfaction. You’ll learn a lot about your customer service, your customers, and your company.

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How to Measure Satisfaction at Every Step

Survey-Writen
I constantly preach about the importance of surveying customers constantly and consistently. Companies that don’t survey their customers often find themselves making the wrong decisions about what they should do next and what needs improvement. The executive’s perspective is very different than the customer’s perspective. This difference is the reason that companies should survey customers. A challenge that many companies run into is when and how frequently to survey customers.
There are different schools of thought about when and how frequently to survey customers. Some companies believe in doing a big survey once per quarter while others believe in doing little surveys at every single step of the customer experience. There has to be a balancing act because a survey once per quarter may not be enough whereas a survey once a day for every customer is probably overkill. If you have a ten step customer experience and send a survey for each step, customers will become overwhelmed and annoyed.

My personal preference is to send a brief (as in: no more than 2-3 question) survey after every customer service interaction (phone call, email, etc.). This way companies can get an accurate idea about the quality of the service they are providing across all mediums. If it is emailed to the customer immediately after the interaction, it should still be fairly fresh in their mind. Simple surveys with a Net Promoter question usually provide companies with a good idea of the quality of service they are providing.

Having surveys freely available to interested customers is always a good idea, too. If you own a retail store, make sure there are surveys at the counter, near the bathrooms, etc. Include them occasionally in shopping bags or a link to a survey at the bottom of a welcome email- that sort of thing. Make it easy for customers to provide their feedback and make it useful to your company. It is a terrible waste to have a customer fill out a survey that is useless to the company because it’s flawed or doesn’t address the important issues. Invest time and effort into ensuring the surveys you’re making available to customers are worthwhile.

Except for the random quarterly survey, try to keep surveys short (just a couple of questions). Make them as straight forward as possible and as always, make it easy. Surveys that are complicated, long, etc. don’t help your response rates and certainly don’t make your customers like the surveys (or by extension, your company) any more.

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What defines success?

One of the people who attended my session asked a very interesting question that I had never really stepped back to think about: what defines success? They were curious about what metric should be used to actually define the success of their department, of their agents, and of the service they are providing. The question is really interesting because it isn’t one that people ask that often. Companies are always concerned about making their service better, but it is very rare that they actually step back to think about what will define the success of their service changes.

Don’t try to count everything.
One of my favorite quotes is “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” The quote (which is falsely attributed to Albert Einstein) sums the idea up pretty well — there are both quantitive and qualitative aspects to most complex things in world, especially in customer service. It’s pretty ignorant to dismiss one and not the other. Keep in mind that there are things which you simply cannot measure objectively or consistently and there are things that can be measured that don’t really matter.

Concentrate on bottom-line numbers.
I consider a bottom-line number to be something like customer satisfaction. If customer satisfaction is high, the other numbers (call time, hold time, etc.) don’t really matter. The idea is that good numbers for the secondary numbers (things like call time, hold time, etc.) bring up the bottom-line numbers, but that isn’t always the case. For example, a company can have super high customer satisfaction scores and still have an average hold time around 10 minutes. What that data set suggests is that the hold time is worth it — customers are getting great service once they get connected. The data set also says the customer base is fairly patient and willing to wait extra time for better service. Other bottom-line numbers can be a mix of employee and customer satisfaction, Net Promoter (see this post), percentage of repeat purchases, etc. Which number you decide to use is a fairly individual decision based on your company, customers, and product / service.

Collect lots of data.
Statistics experts say 10% is the magic number and everything over that is basically unnecessary. That’s great for them and I am sure the theory is well supported, but I personally disagree. Even if you aren’t counting the data or agonizing over it, I think customers appreciate it when their opinion is asked and hopefully, considered. It shows the company is trying and is actively asking for feedback. Even if you don’t survey a sample that is more than 10% of your total customer base, collect data about satisfaction and success at every step (post-order, post-phone call, etc.).

Feel free to change.
Perhaps the most important part is not to feel restricted once you make a decision. You’re allowed to change your mind and measure your success on another metric that might be more representative of or more appropriate for your business. There is no one size fits all solution and that’s fine.

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The One Question Survey

A company called Mailtrust (formerly Webmail.us) hosts a majority of my email. I’ve been using them for several months and have been quite happy. I found a recent survey they sent me fairly interesting and wanted to write about it for today.

On Monday, the company sent me an email with the subject “Mailtrust: 1-Question Survey”. The text of the email was pretty simple and straight forward:

Hi -name-,

We are currently asking our customers to take a one-question survey so that we can rate their level of satisfaction with our company. If you have a few seconds, we would appreciate it if you would answer our one-question survey found by clicking the link below:

https://admin.mailtrust.com/include/netpromoter/email-survey.asp?id=#####&email=email

Thank you for your continued support

Pat Matthews
CEO, Mailtrust, LLC.

This is really dead simple, but also very effective. It is classic Net Promoter, which is extremely popular among a lot of companies (for good reason).  I like how they included a box for any additional comments instead of choosing to do a longer survey. The actual survey, the one you saw once you clicked on the link, looked like the image below.

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Like all surveys run by almost all companies, though, this survey has room for improvement:

1. Utilize the technology further. Mailtrust knows if I have HTML email or not and could easily do a form where I can do the rating right from the email. Making it more convenient will make customers happier and produce a higher response rate.

2. On the survey, show my email address. Customers may not feel like their comments are going into a blackhole (a common concern) if an email address was clearly shown under the comments box. I know the company has my email address because it is in the URL of the link I clicked on, but a lot of customers (especially non-technical ones) won’t notice this or put the two together.

3. Offer some sort of award (or possibility of an award) for participating.
Inc. Magazine sends me regular surveys and when it sends surveys, it says I have a chance at winning an American Express Gift Card or a signed book or something whenever I participate. I actually won a book once, so I believe in the possibility of it actually happening. If Mailtrust gave away something, it would increase the response rate and encourage even more people to participate in the survey.

4. Include a support / help link.
In the email and/or on the actual survey, there should be a link to contact the company directly or at least an email address to contact support. The logo links to their homepage, which subsequently has a link to support, but that isn’t direct enough.

Overall, this was a well done survey. It wins a lot of points for simplicity. The next step (one that perhaps Mailtrust can clue us in on) is how they will use the data and what they can do to increase their response rates (and of course, the ratings) next time around.

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