* You are viewing the archive for the ‘Exercises/Resources’ Category. View the rest of the archives.

Track Satisfaction by Segment

If your company is like most companies, you most likely track customer satisfaction by sending out a survey to a random group of customers. This is definitely better than nothing and certainly worth doing, but it’s still a bit lacking.

The next step is customer satisfaction tracking is to track customer satisfaction among different segments. Segments worth considering include:

  • Geographic regions (North America, EMEA, Asia, etc.)
  • Demographic data (gender, age, etc.)
  • Length of time with company (for services)
  • Loyalty / rewards program membership
  • Different products / services they utilize
  • Customer value (customers who you actually make money off of)

And any number of other characteristics or information that you might be interested in segmenting. The point is to track where and for whom your customer service might be doing exceptionally well and where and for whom it might be failing.

Examples: If new customers are responding with very poor opinions of your company, chances are the getting started process is a bit rough around the edges. If members of loyalty / rewards programs are responding poorly, they probably don’t feel as valued as they are expecting and need some extra attention.

Segmenting makes what could otherwise be a boring blur of customer satisfaction data a lot more interesting and a lot more useful. It is a perfect thing for companies who identity their service as “pretty good” to invest some time into. When your service is doing well overall, segmenting will reveal what needs to be improved in much more specific terms.

Improving a Department in 4 Steps

Over the last week or so, I have been working with a company on improving the service experience within a small department of theirs. The department has about 5 employees and a relatively simple, but also important job within the company’s broader customer service department. The department was in need of attention, so I took a simple and straight forward approach to improving it. Here is what I did:

  1. Met with the employees. My personal style is to talk to employees about what the problems and opportunities are before I talk to managers about the same thing. Some people do it in the opposite order, but I prefer to talk to the employees first. One of the first things I like to do when I’m given a broad assignment (e. g. “Make this department better.”) is sit down with the employees in the particular  department and ask them what they think they do well, what they think needs to be improved upon, and what their ideas are in a very casual, pressure-free way. Before I go into meetings, I do my own research into the questions and come prepared with my thoughts and opinions as well (going in completely blind is a waste of time).
  2. Took their ideas back to the drawing board. After I met with the employees, I took their ideas and feedback back the drawing board. I did more research on my own and used their feedback and thoughts to come up with a flow chart of how I envisioned the revised process working. I then went through the department’s operating procedures and revised those in accordance with the flow chart I had just come up with. Even though many people hate them, I like flow charts. They’re great at visually showing how something (should) work and what needs to happen when something else happens.
  3. Went to the manager(s). At this point, I went to manager in chart of the department and showed him what I had come up with. In this particular situation, the manager was on board. In other situations, some back and forth between you and the manager/boss/co-worker might be necessary.
  4. Went back to the employees (with the manager). After the manager and I had come to an agreement about how everything should work and solidified some more details, we went back to the employees and pitched/introduced our ideas and what would be happening. This meeting was a lot more formal than the last one. There was an agenda, handouts, etc. There were a few minor suggestions / comments from the employees, which we took into consideration and used to update the procedures accordingly.

This process was highly effective and relatively painless. The time from first meeting to implementation was about a week and we’ve continued to follow up since then to tweak things further, but overall, this schedule and general procedure for making changes tends to be effective within support organizations. When you involve the people who do the work on a day-to-day bas in the decision making process, getting changes made and implemented will be a lot easier.

Call Your Competitors

Here is something you can do to make your company more competitive in about 10 minutes. Call your competitors and test their service.

An entrepreneur I met with recently  told me that his company regularly calls and emails its competitors to see how good they are. They measure objective things like how long it takes to get a human on the phone, how long it takes to get a product, how long it takes to get an email response, etc. These are all metrics the company tracks internally and can easily compare to how they’re doing.

They will also order products from the competitor to see what the experience is like — packaging, updates during the shipping process, product quality, etc. The company does this so they can see how they’re doing relative to the rest of their industry. If someone else is doing something better or cooler, the company can adapt accordingly and make changes. 

A lot of companies are in fiercely competitive industries. Some will buy a competitor’s product or service to try it out and see how it relates, but very few actually do that on a somewhat regular basis. They’ll do it once and forget about it. This results in a short term benefit, but no real long term benefit.

If your company isn’t doing this already, you should start. In the long run, it’ll save a lot of time and aggravation. Guessing how your competitors are doing is not nearly as valuable as having the actual data.

Get Engineers Involved

This post idea came from reader and fellow-blogger Alan Hart. His question is “how do you get engineering groups to think abotu service while they are designing products?”

Communication between engineers and customer service people is essential and is something I have written about in the past (see here and here), but there is always more to talk about regarding this topic.

  • The best way to make engineering groups aware of the challenges involved with customer service is to ask them to do customer service. Even if it isn’t that frequent (have each engineer answer support email one day a month). 
  • Some companies require that all employees (engineers included) talk to customers or respond to customer feedback on a daily basis. 
  • Another simple solution is to submit copies of customer feedback to engineers at the company. Let them review what customers are saying and call those customers if they have questions. 
  • A less common, but still very feasible solution is to “embed” a member of the customer service team in the engineering team. Have the customer service representative participate in the product design meetings and provide feedback from a different perspective. 

All of these methods will provide an often needed “reality check” to people who might not talk to customers very often. The methods help engineers a feel for what customers are thinking and what the challenges are. Getting engineers involved means letting them know what’s going on.

The Hiring Push Checklist

Given the economy, this is an oddly timed post for a lot of companies, but believe it or not, there are still many companies that are growing quickly and that still need to hire people. These companies need to know how to hire the right people and to do so quickly. Rapid growth is not an easy thing to deal with, so the more prepared companies are, the better. Here are some quick tips on how to prepare for a big hiring push:

Train other employees on how to interview.
During periods of normal growth in most companies, human resources handles a majority of the interviewing and of the hiring. When they need to hire more people, more people need to be trained on how to do the interviews. Human resources should work with supervisors, senior employees, and other managers on how to interview potential employees and then begin using them to do the actual interviews.

Hire an administrative assistant to take care of the busywork.
Scheduling interviews, responding to applications, following up on paperwork, etc. is an annoying, but essential part of the hiring process. The HR department should hire an assistant or someone similar to take care of this. That way, the actual interviewer can focus on the real work of reviewing applications and hiring.

Have checklists for the entire hiring process.
The entire hiring process should be completely laid out before any hiring push. Everything from application submission to the candidate’s first day of work should be outlined on some sort of chart or document or checklist. With a system in place, there is less guesswork, which makes it much easier for a busy HR department to get its job done correctly and efficiently. Each candidate should have a paper and/or digital file and each part of the process should be kept together, so it can be easily referenced and addressed.

Formalize processes.
Again, with the goal of making it easy for additional people to help, formalize existing processes to make sure people will be able to step in and help.  No more ad hoc interviews, no more informal scheduling, etc. Write the processes down so other people can help out. 

Continue to refine.
As the hiring push continues, the person in charge of HR should be focusing on how to refine the existing processes and to make them more efficient.  If they can come up with something that saves 10 people 20 minutes a day in one hour, it is a lot more efficient than them spending an hour interviewing a candidate. Think about the long term and the scale of the operation and keep that in mind. Doing so will make the hiring push a lot easier in the long run.

Do you talk to your customers?

When you read the title of this post (and my last post of 2008), I’m sure you instantly said to yourself, “of course.” But what if I qualify the question and instead ask, “do you talk to your customers with no intention of selling them anything and without them asking for you to call them?” Chances are, you’ll need to think about that question in more detail.

Interacting with customers in an informal way is an essential part of customer service. Great companies talk to their customers frequently. They ask how they’re doing, what they think of the company, and if they have any feedback to share. More often than not, interesting and useful feedback comes about from calls like this. If useful feedback doesn’t come about, that’s okay, too (you’re still making a positive impression on the customer).

You generally get the most out of these calls when you get on them with a few things at hand:

An informal agenda. These calls or meetings should not be ultra-formal “get things done” meetings with a notetaker and a stop watch (complete overkill). However, you should have an idea of what you want to talk about and what you think the customer will want to talk about. The idea is to let the customer talk and for you to respond when necessary. Be sure to have an agenda that reflects that.

Some information about the customer. Don’t go into the call with just a name and a phone number. Check how long the customer has been with your company, what type of services they use, their support history, and so on. See if they have referred any of their friends or colleagues to your company. Check out what they’ve purchased, how many account managers they’ve had, etc. The more you know about the customer, the better. If you know something about them, you can tweak the content and direction of the call accordingly.

Do a couple of these calls a week and make sure different people do them. The CEO can do one, the VP of Engineering can do another, and so on. If these people don’t regularly work with customers (and even if they do), they’ll get a lot out of these calls. Make it a New Year’s resolution to have ten senior managers / executives call at least two customers a week. That’s over 1,000 customers a year and it will make a difference.

Happy New Year!

Teach your customers with online classes.

Photo1HP announced a series of changes to their online support offerings earlier today and one of those updates was the expansion of the free online classes they offer.

HP’s offering is interesting because they don’t limit the classes to HP products exclusively, but instead offer instructor-led classes on a variety of subjects, ranging from digital photography to creating business cards. The instructors are experts in their particular subject areas and the “students” can ask the instructor questions as the classes are going on.

I like what HP has done with these classes. A lot of companies will offer webinars that teach customers about their products specifically, but very few expand the scope beyond that. HP is smart for offering to teach its customers how to get the most out of their PCs and technology in general. If customers know how to get the most out of their PCs, they are going to be a lot more interested in upgrades for their existing PCs or in the mood to buy more powerful PCs (hopefully from HP) when they are looking for a new computer.

There are lots of companies that could benefit from similar views. Web hosting companies could have classes on web design, clothing retailers could have classes on fashion, supermarkets could hold cooking classes, and so on. All of these classes complement the core product or service and still help to improve the company’s brand (assuming the classes are good, of course).

Setting this up for your own company would not be overly complicated. You likely have someone with the expertise (and hopefully, the attitude) to design and run such a class in your support team. After that, it is matter of getting the technology in place and promoting it among your customers. Try it with one or two classes and survey your customers to see how much they like it.

HP has had good luck with their classes to date; 93% of students surveyed responded saying they would take another class and 92% of students surveyed said they would recommend the class to a friend. Hopefully your implementation will have similar (or even better) results.

Show off your positive feedback.

I’ve written about testimonials before, but I did want to add to that discussion and point out a great page that shows off some testimonials and quick feedback. That page is the support page at 37signals and it is very well done. Just look at the screenshot below:

They have a broad mission statement (great customer service is a promise we keep every day), list some critical information (URLs, support hours, etc.) and then have a series of testimonials and quotes from what I imagine are customer emails. The testimonials are simple: they are short quotes from emails / tickets and the header is just emphasizing one or two words from the actual body of the email. The person who submits the email is credited with their first name and initial of their last name.

A simple testimonials and support overview page like this is well worth the time it takes to create. It can instill customer confidence and can be a morale booster to your support department. Chances are, a well run support department could get 10-20 comments like this in a day or two and adding them to a page would be simple. It’s easy, efficient, and effective. With customer service and business in general, it’s hard to ask for anything better than that.

« Previous Page  Next Page »