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Can’t get much customer satisfaction with Facebook

MurrayHill_MS_FacebookFacebook has become a ubiquitous part of our national culture – like it or not. Just this week the American Customer Satisfaction Index partnering with  ForeSeeResults polled 70,000 users of websites and social networks including Facebook, Google, CNN and Wikipedia. Facebook scored a low of 64 out of a 100; an “F” for any high school report card.

Facebook has no subscriptions, and it’s free. Are we expecting to get something for nothing? Complaints about Facebook concentrated on their interface changes, the company’s privacy policies, and their profound increase in commercialization. It’s doubtful that Mark Zuckerberg meant Facebook to be a charity, so marketing is a key factor. Most of us find customer service and customer satisfaction a challenge just in the businesses and organizations we pay to use. It’s a stretch to think that a social media site conjures up the scrutiny of a customer service report card.

I find it hard to believe that Facebook gets so much criticism. Let’s face it; we are all subjected to the customer indignities of airlines, cable companies, print newspapers, and wireless phones. Airlines more or less have monopolies as do television and telephone companies. With those organizations a lack of customer satisfaction and a total lack of customer service are arguable points since we pay for these services, require these services, and don’t receive what we pay for or use.

On June 12, the Facebook monitoring site, Inside Facebook stated the social networking site has been declining throughout North America and parts of Northern Europe. With the launch of Google+ will a new social network cater to the customer service demands of demographics ranging from six-years-old to sixth-six years old, from Alaska to New Zealand, and from every imaginable background and heritage? Zuckerberg claims he is trying to meet the demands of his users. Do you believe?

Now new critics are telling us the launch of Google+ will overturn the world of Facebook. If Google+ promises to carry their customer-centric ethos to this social media site, they might be some serious competition for Zuckerberg. At the very least, it all brings more awareness to the necessity of customer service – no matter which way you cut the pie.

photo credit: The Daring Librarian

The Mercedes Benz customer experience shines

Ahrweiler - Town SquareEven though most of us love new cars, the actual experience of visiting the dealership and dealing with a car salesperson can be closely akin to having a tooth drilled at the dentist. The biggest complaints are waiting for someone to help us, sales personnel with little knowledge of their product, and sales people who are pushy and obnoxious.

Pied Piper PSI, a California-based dealership for sales and marketing sent 3524 secret shoppers to various dealerships across the country from July 2010 to June 2011 to evaluate different dealerships and how they treat car shoppers. The results weren’t really surprising, but it does provide us with some interesting information that lends itself to customer service improvement ideas.

Mercedes-Benz came out on top for customer service followed closely by Jaguar, Lexus, and BMW. In the luxury brands, Lincoln scored at the bottom. The lowest customer satisfaction scores were from Suzuki and Mitsubishi.

The lowest customer satisfaction scores weren’t a result of less expensive cars, although it’s much more likely to find a cappuccino machine at the Lexus dealer than at the Hyundai showroom. Shoppers complained about the reduced staff. The fewer salespeople mean more wait time and a deterioration in customer treatment. Car shoppers also reported salespeople rarely mentioned specific features of the car the buyer was interested in; an indication of not knowing their product or being in a rush and not meeting their customers’ needs.

Let’s face it; good salespeople are hard to keep if they’re  not making money because of low volume. “Not all brands have struggled during this recession,” states Fran O’Hagen, CEO of Pied Piper, “but reduction in dealership staffing has been common. Over the past year the successful salespeople stop thinking like a salesman, and instead think like an owner of a dealership.

So what can we learn from Mercedes-Benz that is universal to all organizations who want to win customers over with their excellent service and product? The basics of great customer service is to think like an owner because an owner thinks if you provide the best for your customers, they will tell their friends or they will be repeat business in the future. People remember how they were treated, and when you present exceptional customer service and concentrate on the consumer’s needs, your organization becomes a leader in that industry.

photo credit: DomSupra

Can your business measure up on customer service?

Lesson 7 Survey 1The 2011 Temkin Experience Ratings surveyed 6,000 different consumers from 143 different companies which included retailers, banks, hotels, and financial institutions. Customers were polled mainly on their opinions regarding customer assistance and problem resolution – whether by Twitter, Facebook, corporate websites, telephones, or in person. Amazon.com, Kohl’s Costco, and Lowe’s scored the highest ratings.

Author Bruce Temkin stated the ratings concentrated on direct interactions, and not necessarily on the product ownership. It was more to do with how a customer’s needs were met, how easy a customer could do what they needed to do, and how that customer felt about their overall experience. In other words, consumers rated the functional aspects of doing business, the accessible elements of interacting with the business and employees, and then finally the emotional results and how the customer felt when all was said and done.

So what makes a company measure up on customer service? Amazon.com boasts of having 130 million active accounts. Their customer service is constantly measured and evaluated by user-generated reviews and software that has been specifically designed to help the company and provide feedback on “better customer experience through price, selection, and convenience.”

Amazon.com has expanded from once just selling books and magazines to  appliances, videos, and even groceries. Where many companies lose something of themselves when they branch out too far on products or geographic areas, Amazon seems to be doing great at all of it.

Kohl’s secret to their expanding success is combining their own thrifty labels with “exclusive” brands. Kohl’s uses great value, savings, and value messages to amp up their customer service promises. In turn, Costco, states it simplifies members lives by helping them to make smart choices.

So what do we learn from the top four scoring companies? They all provide great value, they all provide a great selection, and they care how their customers feel about their businesses. While it is true that Amazon.com rarely does personal interviews with customers about their particular experiences, the bells and whistles that consumers find important and relevant to their particular sales are being fulfilled.

When doing business and doing it well, consumers just want the best products, and the best way you can deliver the product to them with the promise that you will stand behind that product and your word. While PR companies exist to slow down negative PR, bad mistakes can cost a company one of it’s most important aspects, it’s customer’s trust.

photo credit: Adam @ ecadamf

Of car dealerships and customer service

pic48Jaguar of North America has just been recognized as a JD Power 2011 Customer Service Champion which means they have excelled in their own industry by delivering superior service to their US customers. Part of the criteria used to measure customer satisfaction were the “touch points” of people, presentation, process, product, and price.

According to JD Power, Jaguar is noted for standing out by satisfying customers with new-vehicle sales experiences. Doesn’t that make one wonder why every dealership can’t provide a similar kind of customer experience?

I remember reading a statement from the CEO of Hyundai who stated, “Americans would rather go to the dentist than visit a car dealer.” Fortunately the Internet has helped us as customers take control, rate dealerships, and even create our own reviews based upon our personal experiences. Since car dealerships are independently owned franchises, they are not entirely controlled by the automobile manufacturer thus there are going to be different concepts regarding customer service. Surprisingly statistics indicate that only 30 percent of car buyers negotiate online. People seem to feel they need to touch the product and do a face-to-face encounter with a car dealership salesperson. So what are the main complaints when shopping for a new car that brings shivers down our spine when we attempt to relate car dealerships and customer service?

  • Negotiations – Car buyers complain about being bullied and intimidated. Too often the process is meant to wear down buyers by bringing out more salesmen and managers.
  • Inefficiency – There is the wasted time while the salesman has to confer with his manager. There is an extended amount of time in the finance office, the contract preparation office, and finally the vehicle preparation procedures.
  • Transparency – There is nothing more frustrating than to feel you overpaid for a car. Too often the salesperson will present only the monthly payments which is an intentional method to obscure the true price of the automobile. Then someone comes over and begins the add-on expenses of extended warranties, insurance, manufacturing fees, transportation fees; all done with little explanation.

So does it have to be an expensive automobile like Jaguar for consumers to expect exemplary customer service? After all when I sell a house for $100,000 or one for $700,000 the service is the same. Customer satisfaction should be based on the salesperson, the efficiency of the deal, the delivery process, and the dealership’s facility. If in doubt while negotiating for a car, keep in mind the following:

  • Walk away if your first impression of a sales person is not positive.
  • Ask for a new salesperson if you feel at any time you are being bullied or “herded” into an uncomfortable situation in “turnover houses.” (wear down buyers until they purchase a car)
  • Speak to the general manager.
  • Ask to speak to someone over the general manager if you are still not satisfied.
  • Use social media to carry your message.

There have been positive changes, however in the car industry. GM brought in trainers from the Ritz Carlton to help Cadillac dealers treat customers royally. AutoNation shows customers how much they will pay for a car thus avoiding the add-on expenses after the deal is made, and has cut down the transaction time a customer actually spends during the process of buying a car. Maybe someday other car dealerships will realize how customers should be should be treated, and make car shopping a positive experience no matter what your budget.

photo credit: chuckoutrearseats

Inexpensive customer surveys can provide valuable feedback

SurvsAt one time only large organizations could afford the expense of customer surveys. Third party companies would construct and conduct the questionnaire, send them out to customers and clients, and tally up the results. Unfortunately, by the time the results came back, the product or the service was outdated. Surveys need to provide immediate actionable information that can boost performance and build trust and confidence.

Surveys can be objective, informal, and utilize candid methods to help improve a company. It can supply critical information that affects sales, customer loyalty, and profit margins, but they must be designed to be short, target specific areas, and engage the customer’s interest immediately. A survey needs to focus in on one product, one service, one team, or even one agent, and the data collected and responded to immediately.

As an example, Mary Jones has a popular online website devoted to scrap booking crafts. She sells everything from stamps, stickers, albums, tools and inks to ribbons and die cuts and even transfers. A customer can spend anywhere from just a few dollars to hundreds of dollars depending on what they purchase, so how would Mary design a survey?

Survey tools are readily available online, and many are inexpensive and easy to set up. Suppose Mary wants to find out the popularity of her stamps and stickers. An online survey can provide feedback on her product in addition to giving her more detailed written comments since online stores have the disadvantage of not directly communicating with the customer (as in Mary’s type of business). One key to online surveys is not to have too many questions, tell the purpose, how long the survey will take, and always leave room for comments. Here is an example:

  • How likely are you to buy rubber stamps, stickers, and embellishments in the next six months?
  • How much are you likely to spend on these supplies in the next six months?
  • Where else do you buy similar supplies?
  • What other designs for stamps, stickers, and embellishments would you like to see made available for sale here?
  • What would you suggest we do to improve our service to you?

The survey should be left online for no more than a few weeks. Provide an incentive to encourage responses. Offer a discount off the next purchase, or offer all who respond a chance to win a gift certificate. At the end of the survey, make sure you publish the results prominently on your site, and tell your customers how their feedback is the best way to stay informed as to what customers want – both in products and services. If you ask the same questions each year, you can compare answers and compare business numbers; maybe it’s time to add new products or discontinue ones that are not selling. After all, as business owners we all strive to please our customers.

photo credit: Gustavo Pimenta

What surveys can teach us about our customers

New Rockin' ShoesSome critics say that customer satisfaction surveys are merely retailer popularity contests, but I disagree. When the same organizations continue to rise to the top of survey after survey and that special quality sets them apart from their competition, there is most likely something to learn and serious food for thought.

In Australia, Morgan Research surveyed 448 customers who had made purchases in the last four weeks in the non-food category of retailers. Customer service and satisfaction ideals are pretty much universal feelings, so except for the accents and a different currency exchange, there were important customer satisfaction results that give us another practical view of what makes one business step ahead of their competition.

The survey found that price isn’t the only factor that affects a customer’s choice. Some popular bargain stores scored toward the bottom of the list. Although the names of the following stores may not all be familiar to us here in the United States, the concepts are aimed directly toward the customer, the importance of recognizing the customer as valuable, advanced employee training, trust, and that ever developing “stepping out of the box” or “wow” customer service.

The Athlete’s Foot is a specialized store viewed as expensive so therefore can not compete price wise, but their customer service level is renown as their staff is promoted as experts in their field. The store scored 90.9 percent in the satisfaction scale. Here the customer has their feet measured, and the staff makes personal recommendations.

Other stores that scored high were Borders, and even though not the cheapest, their cafes make the store a destination rather than just a store. Customers also liked the layout and user friendliness of the  store. JB HiFi gives the appearance of  a bargain store, and they are popularly known to haggle prices on big-ticket items such as televisions. Their willingness to make a deal has customers responding in positive ways. The Chemist Warehouse uses their personalized service and their specialized product knowledge as their way to a customer’s trust. And the retail specialty garment shop, Bras N Things has been around what seems forever and has built up recognition and trust by assisting in expert fitting and 100 percent guarantees on any ill-fitting garment.

Even in the United States, and one click or one prominently displayed phone number away, Zappos revolutionized shoe buying with a company spirit that considers themselves a customer service organization that sells shoes and other products. Note the trend of customer trust, loyalty, expertly trained employees, accurate fulfillment and that obsession with customer service. Except for the accent and the foreign currency, aren’t we all alike?

photo credit: joebeone

Bank of America tanks for lender customer satisfaction

InmobiliariaAccording to the 2010 US Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Survey by J.D. Power and Associates, Bank of America tanked in their customer satisfaction. The study was fielded in July and August and used 3,401 consumers applying for new mortgages, and on a satisfaction scale of 1000, Bank of America scored 676; best scored Quicken Loans was 150 points more.

While it is most important now for banks to use a more cautious approach when underwriting mortgages, the more requests and the more times consumers are asked to resubmit information, the less satisfied customers get. Right now banks are creating negative feelings throughout the entire lending industry.

Consumers were measured in four different areas:

1. Application and approval
2. Loan officer/Mortgage broker
3. Contact
4. Closing

    The application process is longer and approval time for a loan has  increased to 27 1/2 days; up from 20 days last year. From the beginning of the application, if you started the origination process today, it would now take 52.1 days to close as opposed to 46.9 days in 2009. It now takes longer to get approved despite the latest guidelines affecting the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) guidelines.

    David Lo, Director of Financial Services at J.D. Power stated that although processing times negatively influence a customer’s experience with banks, there are certain factors that make a positive impact on customers.

    So what makes a positive impact on banking customers despite the long wait for approvals? To begin, customers want to know the progress of their loan applications. They want to be informed, and want “proactive updates.”  Consumers want to have their loans acknowledged; they want to receive a “welcome.” Loan officers and mortgage brokers should be able to explain the different products to customers and ensure that customers understand. Reading applications can be a very tedious process, and very few people ever turn to an attorney for advice when applying for a mortgage. Finally, customers want to close on time; delays cause bad feelings, stress, extra moving charges, and more inconveniences.

    On the satisfaction scale, Quicken Loans did the best with a score of 826 followed by MedLife Home Loans, and PNC/National City Mortgage. Wells Fargo ranked eighth with an index of 758.

    photo credit: Daquella manera

    Simple ways to survey customers

    Survs - Asking for YouRarely will our customers confide in us. Instead they just move on to our competition. Of course, that will never do, so periodically we need to assess ourselves, our service, our staff, and our product. So what’s the best way to find out how our customers really feel about us?

    Let’s start out by being specific and using a survey. We want to stay away from general questions. Publix supermarkets sell hundreds of thousands of items, yet this time a survey might concentrate on seafood; freshness, quality, selection, and customer service associated with the seafood department. If we are gathering personal information to go with our survey, whether we are doing the survey in person,on the telephone, or online, we  need to assure our customers they won’t be bothered in the future with spam, junk mail, or unwanted annoying solicitations. Let’s use the least amount of personal information possible so people aren’t put off by having to supply us with information they might feel is none of our business or could be compromising to their privacy. Also, let’s offer our customers a discount or a coupon for their next purchase, so they know we appreciate them taking the time to speak with us.

    If we’re doing a survey for a specialized brick and mortar establishment, here are a few sample survey question ideas that can render interesting and informative feedback:

    • How were you greeted when you entered our store?
    • How was your experience?
    • Did you find what you were looking for?
    • Did our sales representatives make you feel important and welcome?
    • Were you happy with our product?
    • What do you think about the quality of our product?

    If you’re an online store, survey questions need to address your website and the ease of navigation. Here are some example survey questions:

    • Did you have a good experience when you clicked onto our website?
    • Is our website user-friendly and easy to navigate?
    • Was our checkout easy to use and efficient?
    • Did we describe our products well?
    • Were our products delivered to you on time and in good condition?
    • Are you happy with our products?

    There is a large assortment of software available for customer service surveys, and it does depend how much time a company wants to spend, but good customer metrics can positively affect a business. Some businesses prefer to use measurements ranging from “highly unlikely” to “extremely likely.” Other surveys allow customers to write in their opinions. I always like to include the following three questions to my surveys:

    • How likely would you be to recommend my services to a friend, relative, or colleague?
    • How likely would you be to use my services again when you decide to buy or sell real estate?
    • What do you recommend I do to be considered a “10” in customer service?

    These are just some really good tools to help us grow, and which directly affects our bottom line – great service to help us succeed.

    photo credit: Gustavo Pimenta

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