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Too Many Communication Blunders?

Maria Jiang on 13 June, 2018

We've all been in conversations where things get a bit lost in translation. In this blog post and our upcoming webinar, we cover the 7 elements of a successful conversation developed by Bruce Temkin--customer experience transformist and founder of Temkin Group.

Join Bruce Temkin, Managing Partner, Temkin Group and Maria Jiang, Head of Product Marketing, Solvvy in an exclusive webinar ‘Applying The Art of Human Conversations to Digital Interactions’ on July 26 at 10am PDT.

How many times have you had to say, “That’s not really what I meant.” Countless times probably. To your boss, mom and hairdresser, right? Yes, conversations can get complicated. We spend our entire lives conversing, but we’re still not able to get it right everytime. Even though we are speaking the same exact language, often times there is miscommunication.

Touchy to easy conversations

I wish I had known earlier about the human conversational model developed by Bruce Temkin, customer experience transformist and founder of Temkin Group.

According to Bruce, these are the seven elements of a successful conversation:

  1. Self-awareness: Know thyself and what you want to get out of the conversation. Are you trying to convince, inform, inspire someone?
  2. Basic manners: Don’t be an asshole and remember to “treat others how you want to be treated”
  3. Intent decoding: Find something in common and be relatable.
  4. Contextual framing: Read the room. Know who you are talking to and adjust accordingly.
  5. Empathetic agility: Listen up and pay attention. There’s more going on than just words.
  6. Supportive feedback: Indicate that you are actively listening–it takes two to tango.
  7. Emotional reflection: Show that you’re on the same page, or at least the same book.

In our upcoming webinar, Bruce Temkin will take these key elements a step further to talk about how they can be applied to digital conversations from a brand.

Looking to have kick-ass conversations? Join us for this webinar to learn how to be a great communicator with everyone — family, friends, colleagues and customers.

Join Bruce Temkin, Managing Partner, Temkin Group and me for an exclusive webinar ‘Applying The Art of Human Conversations to Digital Interactions’ on July 26 at 10am PDT.

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10 Must-See Sessions at Customer Contact Week 2018!

Maggie Lin on 12 June, 2018

Attending Customer Contact Week (CCW) in a few weeks? Check out our 10 Must-See Sessions to help plan out your week. See you there!

Whether you’re trying to jumpstart a customer experience program from scratch or you’re a CX veteran looking to learn about the latest AI tools and technology, there is no shortage of information out there–the question is how do you harness it to work for you?

Customer Contact Week is where that knowledge and opportunity meets you! With 175+ speakers, there is truly something for everyone. Truth is, you can’t go wrong with any of the incredible sessions in store. To help you plan your week, we’ve picked out our top 10 sessions you can’t miss. Hope to see you there!

1. AI, Bots and Humans – The Future Customer Journey is Here

Tuesday, June 19 — 8:15 AM – 11 AM

Jim Whatton, VP Solutions Consulting, Genesys
Chas Bowman, Senior Technical Sales Consultant, Genesys

We all know that technology is changing the customer experience landscape. What does that mean for leaders navigating the world of humans and bots? Grab your seat at this discussion to learn how both will play a role in shaping and understanding the customer journey.

2. Transform Your Customer Experience into Connected Omnichannel Journeys

Tuesday, June 19 — 11:15 AM – 2 PM

Matthew Clare, Product Marketing Manager, Mitel
George Despinic, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Contact Centers, Mitel

The modern customer journey is more complex and less predictable than ever. New devices, channels, and touchpoints require proactive strategy. Join the Mitel team for a discussion about the evolution of the customer journey and how to manage the omnichannel experience.

3. Today’s Connected Customers: Deliver Personalized Service Across Channels

Tuesday, June 19, 2:15 PM – 5 PM

Stephen Bell, Senior Director of Product Marketing, Service Cloud, Salesforce

Hear from Salesforce on the strategies, tactics, and tools you need to not only manage the service experience but deliver personalized service at scale.

4. Would You Do That to Your Mother? The “Make Mom Proud” Standard for How to Treat your Customers

Wednesday, June 20— 9:05 AM – 9:50 AM

Jeanne Bliss, President, Customer Bliss

Sometimes it’s important to just reflect on the basics. This presentation will highlight a simple and timeless approach to measuring customer service interactions. Join this session for a practical reminder and a coaching strategy for service and support teams.

5. Develop a Scalable, Transformative Support Model

Wednesday, June 20 — 2:10 PM – 2:55 PM

Janelle Sallenave, Head of Customer Support, North America, Uber

Learn how one of the fastest-growing companies in the world is able to build and scale a support model that serves millions of users nationally and internationally. Get takeaways on tactics and strategies that you can apply to your own company.

6. Create a Customer Centric Culture

Wednesday, June 20 / Thursday, June 21 — Multiple Times

Bill Gessert, President, International Customer Service Association

There’s a lot of talk about putting customers at the heart of everything you do. But is your company actually taking steps to make that a reality? Hear firsthand from Bill Gessert how customer service leaders are building a culture and a strategy with customers–and their needs–at the center of it all.

7. Build the Business Case for AI and Automation

Wednesday, June 20 / Thursday, June 21 — Multiple Times

Chris Danson, Chief Technology Officer, Mattersight
Adam Schmitt, Director, Contact Center Strategy, Macy’s

It can be easy to think of the latest automation solutions as just nice-to-haves. But, there is a real and compelling business case for integrating AI and automation into your customer experience strategy. This session will discuss how to save money, increase efficiency, and improve outcomes with better technology.

8. Are you Easy to do Business with?

Wednesday, June 20 / Thursday, June 21 — Multiple Times

Corey Robinson, Operations Director, Cigna
Brian Quigg, Sales Director, Virtual Hold Technology

Customer tolerance for friction is at an all-time low. In order to compete, companies must focus on providing a seamless, pain-free experience for every single customer. This session tackles that topic and how to measure and manage every touchpoint.

9. Deliver Success, Effort and Emotion While Leveraging AI

Thursday, June 21 — 8:20 AM – 9:05 AM

Jason Bradshaw, Chief Customer Officer, Volkswagen Group Australia

Artificial intelligence isn’t just about bits and bytes. With the right technology and a solid strategy, you can use automation to improve service without sacrificing the empathy and understanding of world-class service and support. Learn how Volkswagen is implementing AI successfully to elevate the customer experience.

10. World Class Service Starts with Culture

Thursday, June 21 — 4:15 PM – 5:00 PM

Shep Hyken, Chief Amazement Officer, Shepard Presentations, LLC

Join Shep Hyken, one of the world’s foremost thought leaders on customer experience, for a discussion about culture. This keynote will explain how organizations can build the foundation for world-class service by focusing on the people who provide it.

This list scratches the surface of the packed agenda at CCW, but we hope you find it helpful in planning out your week. We’re looking forward to hearing from industry leaders and all the learnings we’ll walk away with–after all, it’s one of the best CX events of the year.

When you find some time between the incredible sessions in store, don’t forget to swing by and say hello to Solvvy team. We’ll be in the exhibition hall, Booth Number 720.

See you at CCW!

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Lead with Customer Experience, Not Technology

Maggie Lin on 7 June, 2018

Taking a customer experience first approach is critical to Apple's success. How can this help re-think your CX and product strategy?

Apple is probably one of the most divisive companies in modern history. As a consumer, chances are you either 1) use a multitude of Apple products in your daily life or 2) you actively choose not to use any Apple products.

From detractors, Apple has been criticized for not offering the most advanced/innovative technology, yet the company has continued to dominate the consumer electronics market and remains one of the largest companies in the world.

What has made Apple so successful for so long?

One reason, undoubtedly, is their focus–obsession, really–with customer experience.

As a company, they realized early on that being a technology company isn’t just about creating great technology. It was about creating technology with purpose that solves real, human problems.

Famously, Steve Jobs explained that the core strategy at Apple is to understand and shape the customer experience and then work backwards to the technology. Ultimately, this allows you to find how the technology you are developing fits into the larger, cohesive vision that allows a company to sell billions of dollars of product a year.

This should ring true for any technology company, whether it’s hardware or software.

The core of your product may be code, algorithms, or processors. But the part that the customer touches–the part that they care about–is the experience.

Everything from the marketing and messaging to the user interface plays a role in shaping the customer experience. Yes, technology will also be an important part of that. But, it’s one of many factors.

For Apple, they have gone to great lengths to control the entire customer lifecycle. Customers know what to expect when buying the product, they know how to use it to accomplish the tasks they need, and they can receive hands-on support when they have questions or issues online, on the phone, or in person at the Genius Bar.

This entire experience is the embodiment of the vision that Apple has put forth for how they want customers to experience their products and their brand. And they protect that vision ruthlessly in their execution.

So, where do you start with customer experience?

The Customer Experience Vision

While there are many factors that shape the final experience, the core of the process is defining what kind of experience customers should have.

For instance, if you run an on-demand marketplace, then the customer experience should feel seamless and quick. Customers should have all of their immediate questions answered by the application’s interface and buyer or seller profiles. If users have to wait too long for an answer, they are likely to just abandon the process all together.

This is one example of a vision for customer experience. Using this vision as a guide, begin defining a technology strategy that allows you to achieve this experience.

Your vision for the customer experience can also drive the core product strategy.

Artificial intelligence, for instance, is an incredible and powerful technology. But it’s not until we imagine the experience of using AI—digital personal assistants, marketing optimization, or automated customer service—that it’s clear how it can be used to solve real customer problems. So, if you’re an AI company, you need to first develop your vision for how AI can improve people’s lives and then develop a strategy and product that brings this vision to life.

Bringing the vision to life isn’t always easy. And it shouldn’t be.

It’s a big, difficult, and complex problem to solve–that’s what makes it interesting and exciting.

In Summary: Working Backward to Definitive Technology

There’s a famous saying that goes, “when you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

In the technology world, this is especially true. If you begin any project or business by building the solution before you’ve defined the problem, you’ll spend all of your time searching for problems you could solve, but never quite sure which one is right.

As many startups have learned the hard way, it’s a big mistake to build a product and then go around and looking for a way to sell it. This kind of technology-first thinking leads to poor product-market fit and a challenging sales process. You’re literally fighting uphill for every customer, trying to convince them that they have a problem that needs solving before you can convince them that you have the solution.

On the flipside, if you begin by thinking through the lens of the customer experience, then you start with the problem–you understand the pain points.

For example, at Solvvy, one pain point we’ve observed is that customer service teams face a large number of self-serviceable questions that take away time from answering more pressing and complex issues. We’ve approached building our product with this pain point in mind (as well as others) and envisioning what kind of customer experience would solve these problems

Even highly technical customers are rarely persuaded by raw technology alone. They’re looking for solutions–for an experience that is shaped by purchasing the right product or service.

This is why it’s so important to begin with the customer experience.

Cast a vision for how your company can improve lives or solve a real problem. Then work backward through the engineering that it would take to provide that experience to customers.

Strive to build solutions, not just products or tools.

If we’ve learned anything from Apple, it’s that customers will pay a premium for a great product that’s created to meet the needs of the customer. They’ll even line up early to buy it.

That’s the power of an incredible customer experience.

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Win with Effortless Experiences

Kaan Ersun on 30 May, 2018

Join Matthew Dixon, Co-author of The Effortless Experience and Kaan Ersun, SVP of Marketing, Solvvy in a webinar, ‘The Ease Imperative’ on Tue, Jun 12 at 11:00 PDT.

Join Matthew Dixon, Co-author of The Effortless Experience and Kaan Ersun, SVP of Marketing, Solvvy in a webinar, ‘The Ease Imperative’ on Tue, Jun 12 at 11:00 PDT.

In his acclaimed bestseller, The Effortless Experience, Matthew Dixon busts the long-standing and entrenched myth that companies must delight and “wow” customers. While companies devote untold time and resources on dazzling customers, all that really matters is how effortless or easy their overall experience is.

Backed by a 5-year research spanning more than 400 organizations and 97,000 customers by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), Dixon reveals that customer loyalty is based on how companies deliver on their basic promises instead of exceptional service experiences.
Dixon lays out the four pillars of a low-effort service:

  1. Minimize channel switching with a simple, intuitive, and guided self-service experience
  2. Arm agents to avoid subsequent calls and think beyond resolving the current issues
  3. Equip them to manage customer interaction instead of just being “nice”
  4. Empower them to exercise their own personal judgment

In his webinar with Solvvy, Dixon will share insights and examples of companies applying these four principles so you can generate customer loyalty that the “dazzle factor” fails to deliver. As businesses aspire to win more customers and grow the existing ones, the ease imperative can be the game-changer.

Join Matt Dixon, Co-author of ‘The Effortless Experience’ and me in a webinar, ‘The Ease Imperative’ on Tue, Jun 12 at 11:00 PDT. We will discuss the importance of effortless customer experience while sharing practical use cases.

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Solvvy is GDPR Compliant

Kaan Ersun on 30 May, 2018

As the leader in intelligent self-service serving more than 250M end users around the world, Solvvy is fully compliant with the standards of the GDPR. Read more to learn what we've done to become GDPR compliant.

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect on May 25th. The GDPR applies to any business that offers products or services within the European Union or collects personal data of EU citizens. The regulation provides more transparency and control over personal data collected by any organization. It is also designed to ensure that data is stored and transferred responsibly. As the leader in intelligent self-service serving more than 250M end users around the world, Solvvy is fully compliant with the standards of the GDPR.

GDPR compliance

Leading up to May 25th, we have taken the following steps to ensure compliance with GDPR:

1) Personally Identifying Information (PII) is redacted immediately (before any processing or storage) upon receipt of customer queries or when ingesting ticket data.

2) All PII, including IP addresses, has been removed from event data and is no longer captured or stored in event logs.

3) Tickets created through Solvvy in the customer’s CRM are held in an isolated database and will be deleted immediately after ticket creation.

The bottom line is that Solvvy does not collect or process any PII except when handing off tickets to our customer’s CRM. No PII is used for AI training or shared with third parties. We encourage our customers to review our updated privacy policy and contact us with any questions.

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What is Great Customer Service? 9 Industry Leaders to Learn From

Maggie Lin on 22 May, 2018

Wondering how to improve your company's customer experience? Learn from companies who are known for world-class service.

 

It’s no secret that having world-class customer service leads to more revenue, higher margins, and improved customer satisfaction and retention.

According to Harvard Business Review, customers who have the best customer experiences spend 140% more than customers with the worst experiences.

But how does a company transform their customer experience to become a market leader?

The tactics and the strategies that underpin great customer service are often more elusive. It may be simple to identify small issues that can be fixed to drive better service, but transforming the entire support operation is much more difficult and requires both high-level insight about what needs to be fixed and a clear vision for how to move in the right direction.

One way to approach this challenge is to learn from the best.

Year after year, a few companies are consistently lauded for their customer service strategies. Let’s take a closer look at some of these companies and get to the root of what makes them so successful.

1. Amazon’s Customer Service Strategy is Perfectly Aligned with Their Business Strategy

Amazon’s empire is built on selling to anything and everything–and in enormous quantities.

As a result, the company handles a tremendous number of customer service inquiries. Core to their business is the role that support plays in keeping their customers happy and coming back. It’s a volume game.

This aligns directly with Amazon’s overall business strategy:

  1. Focus on volume; issues are resolved quickly without back and forth
  2. Focus on long-term relationships; Amazon assumes fault and delights the customer to keep them coming back, even if it has higher short-term costs

Of course, not every company can remain fixated on the big picture and ignore the short-term costs of a strategy like this. But, your firm can use its overarching business strategy as a compass that guides support operations.

Amazon always gives customers the benefit of the doubt when it comes to interactions with customer service. In fact, Amazon has an automated system that gives customers refunds immediately, no questions asked.

2. Trader Joe’s is Human to the Core

Trader Joe’s is known for being a different kind of grocery store.

Beyond the local products, friendly staff, and relaxed atmosphere, there is a general air of kindness, generosity, and understanding. Shoppers become loyal fans because of the in-store experience.

In a word: They’re human.

And that is reflected in their customer service strategy, which is more about understanding and meeting the specific needs of their customers rather than implementing a rigid system of processes and procedures.

It seems that TJ’s has adopted a customer service strategy that is focused on going the extra mile to make people happy.

Source: http://www.cpgmatters.com/RetailTrends061614.html

There have been countless stories of Trader Joe’s employees and managers going above and beyond for customers. From stocking a specific product at the request of a regular customer to hand-delivering groceries (for free) in the middle of a snow storm, there’s no support playbook that could outline all of these decisions.

They’re driven by individual circumstances and humans empowered to decide what seems right in the moment. That’s the magic of the experience.

For other companies, the takeaway is to give your support operations a human element. While there may be general rules, providing customer service is not always about having a prepared response to every situation–it’s about understanding the circumstances and adapting to meet the needs of the customer.

3. USAA Knows Its Customers Better than Anyone

USAA has reached the top of customer service rankings for many years running. One insurance review aggregator shows that 92% of customers would recommend USAA to a friend.

What’s their secret?

USAA’s entire approach relies on picking a niche–US military members and their families–and focusing entirely on meeting their insurance needs.

Because USAA has built their entire business around this customer segment, they are able to provide service that is custom-tailored to the unique needs and circumstances of military families. While other insurance carriers may not be prepared to handle these situations, USAA doesn’t bat an eye–they’ve seen it all before.

The reason this works is that USAA has been deliberate about identifying their customers and becoming experts on their needs. But that also means that they’re not a fit for other customer segments. They’ve made a choice to pursue a specific strategy.

Remember the old saying: “You can’t please all of the people all of the time.”

While we often think of this as being the mission of customer service, it’s important to be thoughtful about which customer segments might be underserved or how serving certain segments may mean sacrificing the quality of service for others.

You may need to build customer support operations and teams that are focused entirely on serving certain types of customers. Or, in more extreme circumstances, you may adjust your entire business strategy to provide a higher level of service and support to a more narrow band of potential buyers.

4. American Express Understands that Their Role is More Than Just a Financial Institution

We may think of credit cards as just tools that we use.

But they’re also intimately linked to our lives. The way that we use our cards reveals a lot of information about us. What we buy, where we shop, and how we spend our time and money are all told in our billing statement.

In the wrong context, this can be scary. But this data can also be used for good.

American Express proved this in at least one instance when they notified their customers about some contaminated cake purchased from a hotel cafe. After learning about the circumstances, they gave the cardholders a call to let them know about the potential danger.

The crisis was averted.

This entire episode is made possible by the fact that AmEx views their role as extending beyond just the product or service that they’re selling. As a credit card company, they had no real obligation to do anything about this problem. But as a company that’s deeply embedded in the lives and wellbeing of their customers, they saw an opportunity to help protect them from harm.

To provide this kind of support, companies must foster a culture that focuses on the bigger picture and the role that their products or services play in the lives of customers.

5. Marriott Turns Every Employee Into a Customer Advocate

Many companies only train their customer service team on how to handle and resolve customer problems. But Marriott has a different take.

Marriott believes that every employee is customer facing. Everyone from the bellhop to the chef is ready to help a customer, even if the customer needs assistance with something that isn’t traditionally their responsibility.

This means customers never need to wait for the right employee to come by to help them.

Need a new key? Just flag down the nearest employee and get things in motion.

We’ve all heard horror stories where customers have asked for help only to receive a “not my job”response. This kind of respond has a toxic air–it feels dismissive.

Companies looking to improve the overall customer experience should look for ways to train any and all employees on customer service. From front-line staff to corporate executives, no one should be above the task of taking care of a customer.

This kind of ethos can immediately diffuse a tense situation; customers who are upset or distressed get immediate help rather than being passed off. These small gestures go a long way toward overall satisfaction.

6. Alaska Airlines Meets Customers Where They Already Are

Most would assume that the budget airline Alaska Airlines only retains minimal resources devoted to serving customers.

In reality, Alaska Airlines recently ranked as the airline with the lowest rate of customer complaints.

Even if they may not have the resources of the major carriers, they have made scrappy use of their customer service budget by meeting customers where they already are. The service team handles many requests in real time through channels like Twitter and Facebook.

Customers often reach out to their airline via Twitter for information about delays, airplane features, and using their frequent flier miles. By carefully monitoring their Twitter feed, Alaska Airlines responds to customer inquiries within minutes — a critical factor when passengers are scrambling to make their flight.

Alaska Airlines has even won special praise for its extensive Twitter-based customer service.

Other airlines might use their social media to direct customers to the “official” service channels, introducing friction and dissatisfaction. But, Alaska Airlines has realized that it’s easier–and provides a better experience–to answer requests on the channels that customers are already using and meeting customers where they are

For other companies, this means understanding customer habits and building your service strategy to reduce friction for the consumer rather than forcing them to adopt new channels or processes in order to get help.

7. REI is Laser-Focused On Customer Education

Customer service is built into the experience of buying from REI.

As customers may not know much about the vast camping and hiking gear that REI offers, every department in the store is staffed by veteran outdoors enthusiasts who work as personal shopping assistants and product experts.

They answer questions, give advice, and provide genuine product feedback.

By helping customers navigate the world of camping, fishing, and other outdoor activities, REI makes it easier for customers to purchase expensive items like tents and sleeping bags without fear. This also helps customers feel respected. Their questions and concerns are answered in a friendly way and they don’t have to feel silly about asking for help.

This kind of expertise is central to the REI experience and extends to their website and social media. Companies can embrace a similar approach by focusing on hiring subject matter experts and making expertise part of the shopping experience.

8. Valve Takes the Risk and Friction Out of Purchasing

As the creator of the ubiquitous video game distribution platform Steam, Valve is an expert at finding what their customers want and making sure that they get it.

Customers using Steam build a profile of the video games that they like to play, which Valve then uses this information to recommend them new games that are offered at massive discounts.

If users see a game they would like to purchase, it’s only a couple of clicks until they’re playing–in fact, Valve’s simplification of the process is so effective that it even curbed piracy of video games.

That’s right: Valve makes purchasing products so easy that users are willing to do it even if they could find the product for free

But that’s not all.

Valve understand that sometimes their suggestions aren’t on the money. Valve allows users to test a game for up to five hours and still get a refund if it doesn’t meet their expectations. It doesn’t matter if the user paid for the game years ago, they can still return it if they aren’t happy after actually trying it out.

Aspire to make buying your product so easy that customers would do it even if they could get the product for free. And be sure to provide service that’s rooted in reality rather than standard convention.

9. Ikea Has Mastered the Art of Self-Service

The entire Ikea business model is built on helping customers help themselves.

From the self-guided showroom to the self-assembled furniture, customers are in charge of their own buying experience. And front-line customer service at Ikea is also a self-service model.

Ikea is known for ease of assembly and proactive documentation that prevents customers from making mistakes during assembly.

They document the most common user mistakes in the instruction booklet for each piece of furniture at the point where the errors occur.

More companies are adopting self-service options, even for solving complex issues or finding answers to specific and technical questions. Artificial intelligence is leading the way–learning from customer interactions and questions to provide better and more accurate questions.

Source: http://www.accenture.com/SiteCollectionDocuments/PDF/Accenture_Utilities_MultiChannelSelfService.pdf

Companies shouldn’t be afraid of providing self-service support options. In fact, many studies have found that customers would rather find answers themselves (provided that it’s simple) than have to talk to a support representative.

Understanding your customer and providing a self-service option where appropriate can improve the overall customer experience. It allows companies to provide faster, easier, and more consistent service. It also cuts costs on responding to customer service inquiries.

Turning Customer Service Success Into Revenue

Now that you understand the different approaches customer service leaders used to climb to the top of their industries, it’s time to execute them within your company.

As shown by companies like Trader Joe’s and Marriot, taking the initiative to stand out is the first step toward customer service excellence. Likewise, personalizing your customer interactions to create deep collaboration like REI can go a long way towards driving sales.

To tie everything together, you can learn from some of these examples:

  • Align your customer service strategy with your broader business strategy
  • Develop a clear support policies and procedures, but don’t remove the human element and empower your team to use their best judgment
  • Use channel selection and strategic routing to meet your customer’s needs and expectations
  • Focus on developing internal champions for customers–educators that help them make decisions and resolve issues
  • Answer questions and concerns proactively to avoid

Each company has their own approach to customer service, but the general trends are clear. Companies that are providing a world-class experience are riding trends toward proactive support, self-service/automation, and deep personalization that makes customers feel valued and respected.

Some of these trends are driven by new technology, but the core of great service remains the same–making customers feel like they are valued and making it an easy and seamless experience.

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Why Lying is a Bad Idea, Especially to your Customers

Maria Jiang on 14 May, 2018

Where does the customer experience begin? This may seem like a simple question, but it can be deceptively complex. By definition, a customer’s experience would begin only after they become a customer--right?

Where does the customer experience begin?

This may seem like a simple question, but it can be deceptively complex. By definition, a customer’s experience would begin only after they become a customer–right?

While that may be technically correct, it ignores reality.

Customer experience isn’t just shaped by the product or service. It’s shaped by all of your communications—from marketing to sales to support–which means that the customer’s experience with your company begins well before an actual purchase takes place.

From the moment a customer sees an ad or reads your website, they’re beginning to assess their experience with your company.

What you say before the purchase may be just as important as what the customer experiences afterward. Their relationship with your company is a function of both expectations and reality.

If you promise someone a ribeye, they’ll probably be unhappy if you serve them a flank steak.

Too many companies do this (at least, hypothetically). They’re eager to win new customers, so they make promises they can’t deliver. Then they underdeliver when it comes time to eat. Marketing and sales teams get charged with polishing things up to make them look as good as possible. But they end up disconnected from reality—and that’s how poor customer experiences are made.

To fix this mismatch, we need to address the fundamental levers.

1. Overpromise and Overdeliver

Data shows that dissatisfied customers tell 9 to 15 people about a poor experience, on average. Meanwhile, satisfied ones tend to only tell about half as many. This means one negative experience has the potential to negate two positive ones.

An excellent customer experience often becomes its own sales and marketing strategy, driving word-of-mouth referrals and positive online reviews that lead to new customers. But the opposite isn’t true. Sales and marketing can’t fix a broken product or poor service.

Making the customer experience seem better than it is won’t do you any favors. It will backfire and lead to greater mismatch between customer expectations and reality.

The remedy is to overpromise and overdeliver.

Promise a great experience and provide an even better one. Charge sales and marketing teams with communicating the quality of the overall experience. And then empower product, support, or service teams to take it a step further.

  • Amazon provides a free replacement if an item is lost or stolen; even if it’s not their fault
  • Ritz-Carlton proactively returns forgotten items to guests before they even know they’re missing
  • Warby Parker sends you 5 pairs of glasses to try on at home and often lets you extend your trial if you need more time to decide which pair you like best

Each of these examples shows how promising great service is important–but delivering on that service (and more) is even better.

This allows you to top the expectations that you’ve set for your customers and find opportunities to create “wow” moments where it’s clear that your company has gone above and beyond to exceed their expectations.

If you promise your customers a steak, they’ll probably be happy.

But if it turns out to be ribeye, they’ll probably be ecstatic.

2. Align Sales, Marketing, Product, Service, & Success

Even if you strive to be forthcoming, your company could be setting unfair customer expectations.

Many companies have misalignment between sales, marketing, product, and support/success teams. They’re siloed and fragmented–the teams don’t communicate or share insights about customers.

The right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing, and the result is setting customers up for a negative experience.

To remedy this, firms must take a holistic approach to customer experience management.

  • Sales and marketing should share information freely; are customers entering into sales discussions with realistic expectations from web and marketing content?
  • Sales must pass requests or promises to support/success teams to make sure that those expectations are met in implementation
  • Support/success teams should be critical stakeholders in driving product decisions
  • Product teams need to relay clear and accurate information to all teams about functionality and capabilities

Define process and operations that allow this information to flow from one team to the others.

One way to achieve this is to create a cross-functional task force that is charged with shaping the customer experience. This team can take ownership for developing processes and workflows that transfer knowledge between teams and stakeholders.

3. Build a Feedback Loop

Last but not least, you need a feedback loop.

Are the changes in communication and process leading to a better customer experience?

You can only know for sure if you have a clear way to measure and correlate the effects of the changes you’re making. This critical piece of the puzzle allows your company to understand the customer experience and pinpoint specific areas that are showing improvements.

Using technology like AI and machine learning, your support team can analyze issues to gain insight about opportunities for improvement

Then use this data to improve your customer experience or do a better job of setting and meeting customer expectations.

There’s no foolproof strategy for optimizing customer experience or aligning customer expectations with reality. Often times, it just boils down to the fundamentals–understanding your customer.

First, understand what your customers want and expect.

Then craft a customer experience that delivers that and more.

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The Opportunity Cost of Delivering an Average Customer Experience

Maggie Lin on 17 April, 2018

As a company that's growing quickly, what's the trade-off between delivering an excellent customer experience and an average customer experience? How does this impact your business long term?

People naturally tend to initiate conversations about experiences that are either exceptionally good or really let them down. Unhappy customers tell between 9 and 15 people on average about their poor customer experience–and 13% of unhappy customers will complain to more than 20 people.

But excellent customer experience is pricey, and trying to reach excellence can be a long road. So, what is the best way forward for your company’s CX strategy?

Your company has two options: either invest in exceptional customer service, or invest in the bare minimum to retain customers. The choice to deliver exceptional customer service is obviously the better path to take, but the reasoning behind each option is worth understanding.

Companies that deliver an excellent customer experience retain customers more effectively. Individual customers also spend more with a company when they feel like they’re satisfied.

Is It Enough To Do The Minimum?

It’s not that companies strive to do the bare minimum, sometimes it may be the best choice financially–or so it may seem.

It’s appropriate to invest the minimum in customer experience when your company doesn’t have enough room in the budget to implement a customer experience improvement program.

If you can’t reach excellence that will inspire your customers to bring new business or spend more money, retaining the customers you already have is the only choice.

This is typically the rationale for maintaining only a minimum standard of quality for customer experience.

What’s the upside to doing more? According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, delivering stellar customer experience ultimately generates 33% more revenues than poor customer experience does.

Loyal customers are extremely profitable–one report estimates that US companies could gain $62 billion dollars per year if they delivered a better customer experience.

Doing the minimum for your customers is a holding pattern at best and can result in poor customer experiences.    

While you don’t want customers to complain to friends about their experience, you certainly don’t want to lose out on the benefits loyal and satisfied customers bring to your business.

Going beyond customer expectations is a surefire way of building loyalty. Once customers realize that you’re working hard to impress them, they’ll reward your company in kind.

That’s why building excellent customer experience in your company is the best option.

Excellence Is Best

Excellent customer service is the route to loyal customers and repeat business.

Even if it means committing money upfront, McKinsey’s research shows that effective customer experience improvement programs pay for themselves rapidly.

The driving force behind the high ROI of customer experience improvement programs is easy to explain by looking at successful companies with great customer experience; 75% of Zappos’ sales come from repeat customers.

Happy customers keep coming back and spend more when they do.

The Road To Excellent CX

The path to excellent customer experience may be long, but it’s well worth it!

Customer experience improvement programs need time to work before you see revenue increase and business impact.

In fact, according to a Forrester report, customer experience improvement programs improve revenue in three different modalities depending on the industry.

The three modalities are:

  1. Linear: Improvements in CX lead directly to increased revenues immediately
  2. Logistic: Improvements in CX lead to increased revenues until a certain amount of revenue
  3. Exponential: Improvements in CX lead to very small increases in revenue until a certain point at which revenue skyrockets

For example, if your company is in the retail banking business, improvements in customer experience need to accumulate for a long time before you’ll see increased revenue. But when it does, the impact is significant. Customers of retail banks require a long period of trust building before they’re willing to fully commit.

In short, your company needs to view customer experience as a long-term strategy.

Improving customer experience can be simple to start.

To get started with delivering excellent customer experience, your company can:

  • Personalize service for each customer by instructing your support team to use the customer’s name and be sensitive to their needs and let them know they are being listened to
  • Under promise and over-deliver so that exceeding expectations is the norm
  • Train your support team to be consistent with each other so customers don’t get conflicting information
  • Rectify serious customer issues immediately and follow-up to repair the damaged customer relationship

Once your customer experience has incorporated the basics, your company can move on to more complex solutions like customer rewards programs and building a dialogue with customers even if they don’t need customer service. Building a dialogue with customers forges strong and long-term relationships.

If you’re not sure how to start improving your customer experience, there are a number of customer service metrics you may want to look into.

Invest in customer experience excellence today, so your business can reap the benefits for the long term!

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Solvvy Spring Release is Here!

Jennifer Li on 6 April, 2018

We are very excited to announce our spring release. This release includes a lot of new features and functionality and brings us closer to our long standing mission of applying the promise of artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide the best customer experience for consumers and end users around the world.

We are very excited to announce our spring release. This release includes a lot of new features and functionality and brings us closer to our long standing mission of applying the promise of artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide the best customer experience for consumers and end users around the world. We’ve been hard at work building new features and are especially excited to share our completely redesigned experience and dashboard with you.

Here are the big improvements in our spring release:

New Customer Facing UI

Our new and improved consumer/end-user facing UI was redesigned to allow and encourage a conversational exchange to understand the issue of the user and, in response, to provide an immediate resolution effortlessly.

You can see the new simple and clean UI that allows the customer ask their question and then displays potential solutions. If the solutions don’t help the user, Solvvy can route the user to the appropriate support channel to provide a frictionless experience.

 

Solvvy as your first line of defense: Solvvy’s new UI can be launched wherever and whenever your customers need help. The Solvvy interface can be called from your home page, help center, mobile pages or from the support form. You get to decide how to design the best workflow for your customers and empower them with intelligent self-service. With Solvvy, your users can ask quick questions and receive immediate responses without agent interaction.

Multiple personas: Our customers can provide persona choices to end users before Solvvy tries resolving their issue. This helps provide more accurate answers for end user questions.

Custom fields and dropdowns: Solvvy now supports customers who have custom fields and nested dropdowns in their support form. 

New Dashboard

Our Dashboard was redesigned to allow our customers (leaders of customer experience and customer service teams) gain strategic business insights while continuously monitoring their team’s vital KPIs.

 

 

New Dashboard UI showing KPIs/metrics

In 2017, we heard from our customers the impact Solvvy has had on decreasing contact volume, resolution time, and cost and we wanted to ensure our dashboard shows the comprehensive data to make it easy for our customers to measure and report on these results. If self-service is a 2018 priority, here are a few highlights from our dashboard and how we report on your KPIs:

  • Self-Service Rate: Measure the impact of your self-service strategy on Day 1 with Solvvy. Our customers see self-service rates between 15-30% that continue to grow over time.
  • Cost Savings: See our impact on your bottom line with our cost savings graph. Customers find this helpful to compare seasonality and peak times as well as an overall view of self-service and its impact to the business.
  • Average Resolution Time: Report on Solvvy’s significant time savings–your customers can find instant resolutions and your support team can focus on answering more complex questions faster. 
  • Data Download: Export and build custom reports that make sense for your team.
  • Ticket Training: Use our interactive training tool to deliver expert feedback, identify knowledge gaps, and improve Solvvy’s accuracy over time.

User Management

With new user management features available, the whole customer support/customer experience team can benefit from insights in the the Solvvy dashboard. Admins can add and remove users and easily reset passwords.

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Next Generation Customer Experience (NGCX) Recap

Maggie Lin on 5 April, 2018

At NGCX (Next Generation Customer Experience) last week, we heard CX leaders discuss trends and best practices in tackling these trends.

We wanted to share highlights from the best sessions in case you missed this event! We’ll be following this summary with a series of posts on the key trends and topics.

Just Have Fun With It! Surprising and Engaging Customers With Your Brand’s Unique Voice (Panel)

Our CEO, Mahesh Ram, spoke on this panel along with customer experience leaders from  Marriott, MeUndies, Tuft & Needle, and Authentic CX. What all of these companies had in common was the belief  that customer experience and effective brand storytelling are key differentiators in building customer loyalty. In this session, they addressed the question of how to  build emotional connections and how to maintain genuine relationships with your customers at scale.

The panelists touched on shifting demands of customers and the rising customer expectations that go beyond  the products or services. Customers want to know and understand the brand’s unique voice and what the brand stands for. In a digital-first world where costs of switching are low, experience is where companies have the ability to build brand advocacy, passion, and loyalty. For example, REI is known for its focus on outdoor adventure and conservation efforts. On Black Friday, REI shuts down its stores to encourage people to #optoutside and spend the day outdoors. REI also donates millions of dollars to support conservation efforts globally. REI customers are passionate about REI’s mission and strong advocates of the company.

Focusing on customers is not just good for customers, but good for business and creates lasting revenue impact with repeat customers who become brand ambassadors.  

Can You Hear Me Now? Strengthening Your VoC Program (Panel)

Creating a direct line of communication with customers informs the team how you’re doing today and where you need to get to tomorrow to keep customers satisfied. This panel covered how changes to your customer experience are only as good as the insights you receive and the importance of listening to all types of feedback.

CX leaders from companies such as Johns Hopkins Hospital, AARP, Cars.com, and Goodyear discussed the importance of having an omnichannel view of customer feedback–are you asking customers how you did at all touchpoints and interactions? Do you have comprehensive business reporting to consolidate all this data and effectively draw insights? One challenge raised from the audience was how to manage the volume of feedback for teams with limited resources. Panelists suggested investing in 3rd party tools that help build category models instead of trying to do it manually.

To get a realistic VoC, Goodyear’s Marketing Innovation Group seeks to understand “what’s beyond the tire?”. They gather data from end users, trend surveys, ethnographic research, and keeping up to date on hot topics in the automotive space (i.e. electric & autonomous vehicles)–creating a holistic view of customer feedback on their business and the industry.

We have no shortage of data, but what’s important is harnessing it in to give us an accurate view of the customer experience to influence our strategies.

Next Gen Customer Service – Implementing AI for Customer Facing Interactions (Roundtable Discussion)

Our CEO, Mahesh Ram, led a roundtable discussion on implementing AI for customer facing interactions and how businesses of any size should consider in their approach to machine learning for customer experience.

A Gartner report states that 59% of organizations are still in the knowledge gathering stage of implementing machine learning. Part of this stage is understanding if you should buy or build. When thinking about implementing machine learning and automation to your customer service flow, there’s surrounding infrastructure that needs to support Data Collection, Feature Extraction, Analysis Tools, Serving Infrastructure that are complex to build and maintain.

Keep in mind that you should build when it helps maintain a competitive advantage. For example, if you’re Quicken Loans and your mortgage bot is proprietary and a differentiator, building makes business sense. Build when no vendors can meet your requirements and you have a team in place for ongoing maintenance. Ask yourself, will this team be up to date on latest breakthroughs in machine learning and be able to maintain our system?

Buy when you have limited resources and the project is not absolutely central to your business mission, so your team can focus on your core business. When evaluating solutions, remember to ask for references so that you aren’t a vendor’s ‘guinea pig.’

We’ll be sharing an in-depth “How-To Guide” based on this session soon!

Let’s Get on the Same Page- How to Match CX Initiatives With Company Wide Goals (Speaker Session)

As a customer experience leader, how do you align your initiatives to company goals and advocate for C-Suite approval for these initiatives? Ernie Garcia, CEO of Carvana, shared his perspective on the importance of customer centricity to his business. Carvana is an online platform that enables users to trade, finance, buy, and sell used cars.

Ernie covered the difficult trade-offs companies make between customer experience and monetization as a company scales and the increased need to be purposeful with CX as the company grows. Start-up companies are out-resourced, and it’s necessary to be focused on customer experience–many start-up ideas begin from a founder’s poor experience with a product or industry . At Carvana, they sought to address why friction exists in car sales and if it’s the product or the experience that can be re-imagined. Carvana was built on the belief that the car purchasing experience can be dramatically improved and has led them to be a successful public company.  

He also emphasized the importance of diversity and the value of different perspectives. Hiring is the key first step and you don’t want to build for people just like you. Diversity is critical to your understanding of your customers and their different  points of view. To acquire more customers, companies need to acquire diverse perspectives internally to truly understand their customers.

Expect Resistance! Successful Product Designers Need to Be Great Influencers (Speaker Session)

Jonathan Mann, Senior Director of User Experience Design at Target, discussed the product designer’s role — not just in the craft of design, but in influencing a variety of stakeholders to get beautifully designed products to customers.

He began with a Zen story about resistance that we’ll share as part of our NGCX series. In all roles, we face resistance and have a choice to 1) go head-to-head with resistance which can be exhausting for all parties, 2) avoid resistance and go around the source of resistance which doesn’t address the underlying issue, or 3) learn to build relationships to overcome resistance as a collective team.

Jonathan also highlighted the role of Logos, Ethos, and Pathos in creating convincing and effective arguments. Logos (data & reasoning) and Ethos (credibility & authenticity) often come more natural in discussions and presentations, but it’s equally, if not more, important to focus on Pathos–the emotional connection and ability to bring out empathy among your stakeholders.

From the Trenches: How to Run a Successful, Pain-Free CX program That Actually Moves The Needle (Speaker Session)

There’s a lot of buzz around customer experience, but how do you design surveys to concretely see what is working and measure your impact on the bottom line?

Christine Rimer, VP of Product Marketing and Voice of Customer at Survey Monkey, shared that people-powered data is what demonstrates your impact. Big Data tells you what, but talking to customers tells you why.

NPS is a leading indicator of retention and loyalty, and Christine stressed the importance of comparing your score over time, comparing to peers, and comparing to competitors. In a Bain report, the NPS leader of a category outgrows their competitor by 2x. Promoters have 3-8x the lifetime value than detractors.

Her tips on designing great NPS Surveys:

  1. Be thoughtful about how you collect information – What’s specific to your business that you need to understand or segment by?
  2. Ask questions that will elect actionable insights – What are the follow-up questions that matter to your business that you need to ask?
  3. Robust analytics takes you from insights to action, faster – Do you have a system in place to make sense of your data quickly?
  4. Amplify – Are you leveraging customer feedback to create authentic customer stories to share?

We’ll be discussing more on the value of NPS surveys and best practices for your business.

Achieving Omnichannel Success (Speaker Session)

Customers are the foundation of your business, and customer experience is becoming as important as your product or service. WIth this shift to customer experience, the role of support is changing. Increasing ticket volume and changes in the technology landscape are putting more pressure on support organizations and customers expect more and value speed and convenience.

Astha Malik, VP of Platform & Product Marketing at Zendesk, discussed customer expecting always-on support where convenient for them. Companies that focus on delivering great experiences are raising the bar since customers want a seamless customer experience across all products. Part of creating a seamless customer experience is, proactive engagement. Proactive engagement ensures that you’re setting your customers up for success before they raise their hand. In the long term, this will translate to increased customer satisfaction, loyalty, and dollar impact on the business.

Why is having an omnichannel support experience important? In Zendesk’s study, 87% of customers think brands need to put more effort into providing a seamless customer experience and 81% of consumers are likely to defect to another brand as a result of poor customer service.  Having a great customer service is no longer a nice-to-have; it’s table stakes to stay competitive and continue to grow.

In Summary:

We consistently heard about the importance of customer service automation, value of customer feedback, understanding the customer journey, measuring the success of CX initiatives, and addressing rising customer expectations. We’ll be diving deeper into these topics in our NGCX Series.

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Customer Service Trends by Forrester Research

This report reveals the top 10 customer service trends for application development and delivery (AD&D) pros supporting customer service. It is a new customer playbook that every customer leader should read to stay competitive!

Read Report

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Learn more about how Solvvy can resolve your greatest customer experience issues. Contact us day or night and we will get back to you right away! Call us at 650-246-9685.

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