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Web Chat – Is Less More?

Web chatting, as an option for customers to utilize for communicating with companies, is on the rise. According to the 2012 Fourth Annual BoldChat Live Chat Effectiveness report, one in five shoppers prefer online chat over any form of communication. In looking to be effective at properly communicating via this channel, one question requires consideration – Is Less More? Is it necessary to have long wordy conversations or are short, straight to the issue chats sufficient for the chat customer?

Studies have shown that most customers choose to experience an organization via their website because of ease, speed and convenience. Forrester Research has predicted that online retail sales will reach $250 billion by 2014. It seems quite natural that customers may want to communicate with your company while shopping online. What type of conversation is the chat customer anticipating? Is it necessary to chat in the same manner that one interacts over the phone? When web chatting with customers, it’s important to do so in short sentences. Get right to the point with your answers as long paragraphs are inappropriate when chatting. Chat agents should possess a high level of product/ service knowledge so that they can communicate in a quick, concise manner. They should be expert navigators of your organization’s website as this will allow for locating and retrieving the proper information for developing responses to customer requests.

Chat customers expect to be serviced quickly, efficiently and thoroughly. Establish chat guidelines for your chat agents. Provide “one touch” capabilities that allow your chat agents to ask repetitive questions and provide common answers with the touch of one key. An FAQ database and cheat sheets are invaluable tools for your chat agents. Avoid information overload when chatting with your customer. Provide only pertinent and relevant information. Stick to the issue at hand! Overwhelming your customer with wordy and lengthy responses may cause frustration, which can certainly create an unhappy customer. Just as it’s critical not to ramble when communicating with your customer via phone or face to face, it’s even more important not to ramble when web chatting your customer. Remember, this is the customer that seeks a quick and timely communication session! Be careful not to lose the personal touch with your customer. While “one touch” usage allows the agent to be efficient, balance that with utilizing the customer’s name during the chat or asking open-ended questions that allow your customer to fully express themselves should they choose to do so. If there is information that every chat customer is required to provide, proactively get them to do so by prompting them to have the information ready prior to their beginning the chat session. This helps your chat agent to be more efficient and possibly may assist in reducing the chat session length.

In the chat world, Less Is More in the quest to provide great chat customer service. The right communication method coupled with the right chat tools and combined with superior product/service knowledge can lead to your customer experiencing a great chat session with your organization!

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The Customer Is Wrong – Now What?

I remember this conversation like it was yesterday. After advising a customer that I would be handling her insurance claim, she stated that she was advised that her policy did not allow for the usage of a rental vehicle. “I have full coverage which means I should be put in a rental car while my vehicle is being repaired!” is what she emphatically repeated. After checking her policy, I advised her that unfortunately, her policy did not include rental coverage. She became extremely irate and accused the company of misleading her in the definition of full coverage. While I was not privy to the initial conversation when she became a policyholder, this was now a situation for me to handle.

The old adage “the customer is always right” is not always true. Whoever created that adage may have meant that even when the customer is wrong , they’re still right if you want to keep them as a customer. Periodically when servicing customers, it becomes apparent that the customer is wrong – “wrong as two left shoes” as my Dad used to say. They may have misread, misinterpreted, misunderstood or perhaps been misinformed by someone else within your organization. Whatever the case, it’s now up to you to navigate through these dangerous waters. Here are a few tips to assist in keeping yourself afloat:

1. Preserve the customer’s dignity – When it’s apparent that the customer is wrong, be careful not to “rub it in”. Refrain from statements such as ” That’s not correct.” or “I don’t know where you got that information.” Put your investigator hat on and ask questions such as “Can you please tell me where you received that information?” or “Would you allow me to verify that for you please?” Doing so has a two-fold effect: 1. It shows the customer that you’ve taken their statement into consideration 2. It gives you an opportunity to develop your plan of action to resolve the issue as well as retain the customer.

2. Apologize – Even though you know the customer is wrong, go ahead and apologize for the misunderstanding. Doing so will assist in removing some of the tension from the situation. Remember that the customer is a feeling, human being. Depending on the situation, the customer may be somewhat embarrassed by the predicament. Mentally place yourself in their shoes for a moment. Your apology creates a pause in the situation, thereby creating space for you to be heard by the customer. I have found that when one attempts to resolve an issue without acknowledging the customer’s frustration via an apology, it can take twice as long to bring the situation to a close.

3. Exhibit Kindness When Delivering Bad News – Where your resolution options allow for you to meet the customer’s request, it’s pretty simple – you just resolve the issue. Often when the customer is wrong, internal boundaries prevents one from resolving the issue in the customer’s favor. In my example with the policyholder, corporate policy did not provide the option for me to place the customer in a rental vehicle when rental coverage does not exist on the policy. It was now up to me to tell her that she was ineligible for a rental vehicle. It’s important to be kind when delivering unpleasant news. Someone within the organization may have provided incorrect information. Your customer will appreciate your willingness to empathize. I stated “I understand how frustrating this can be, especially now. Unfortunately, because the policy does not contain rental coverage, I am unable to place you in a rental vehicle. However I can call the rental car provider and request that you be given a discounted rate for a vehicle. May I do that for you? “While she was not totally pleased with the outcome, she was appreciative of my offer to save her some money on the rental car costs. If other options are available, utilize them. While they may not be exactly what your customer wants, they may assist in resolving the issue and providing some degree of satisfaction to your customer.

4. Educate Your Customer – Cautiously – When a customer is wrong, its important at some point during the interaction that they be provided with the proper information. Proceed with caution here. You must be able to gauge if your customer is receptive to this information. What’s their voice tone like? What is their body language saying. If chatting online with the customer, what words are they choosing to communicate? When I reached this moment with my customer, I asked “May I assist you in getting the rental coverage added to your policy? The cost is very minimal – in fact so minimal that it may surprise you.” She was agreeable to my request so I proceeded to conference her with the proper department in order to get the coverage added to her policy.

5. Apologize – Again – It always good to close this type of interaction with an additional apology. Okay, now I hear someone saying “I already apologized once. Isn’t that enough?” I say go ahead and go that extra mile. Remember, the customer really does not want to be wrong, so you want to reassure them that you want to retain their business. A simple closing statement such as ” I’d like to apologize once again for the misunderstanding” can go a long way in soothing the customer’s ego. Think long-term here!

Sometimes customers are just plain wrong. How you handle the situation will determine if they remain a customer. Remember to: 1. Preserve The Customer’s Dignity. 2 Apologize 3. Exhibit Kindness When Delivering Bad News 4. Educate Your Customer – Cautiously and 5. Apologize – Again.

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Metrics – Friend or Foe?

Metrics are important in any business setting. There’s another old business adage that states “What gets measured gets done.” While I believe this to be true, there are two issues that I feel are important when discussing performance measurement – 1. Determining What To Measure and 2. Properly Establishing the Metric. Defining these two items are critical to the long-term success of any performance measurement system. Let me explain why.

Friend or Foe? – Metrics are primarily utilized to define performance targets – # of orders processed per hour, average handling time (AHT), on time shipments, etc. While these are all important for measuring performance, one must remember that there are real people being held responsible for meeting these targets. These real people are dependent upon the proper setting of performance standards. Believe it or not, your metrics will receive either “friend” or “foe” labels from those whose job it is to perform to the metric. This is the primary reason to properly develop your organizational metrics. The health of your organization and level of service received by your customer are dependent upon your ability to get this right.

Determining What To Measure – Now I’m a big proponent of measuring what’s important to the customer. I like to say I have two sets of metrics – external and internal. External metrics are based upon what the customer says is important. Determine what your customer feels is required for a great customer experience. Spend time asking your customer what’s important. Spend time asking the people who service the customer what’s important to the customer. Check your industry to see what others are measuring. Is anyone measuring what’s important to the customer? Internal metrics are based upon processes and procedures that contribute to the external metrics. If your customer states on-time shipments are important, then look at what processes impact on-time shipments. Create metrics for the processes; perhaps in this case the percentage of error free orders for example. Should your customer state an easy check-in process is important, what internally impacts the check-in process? Remember to ask the customer what’s important and develop metrics accordingly.

Properly Establishing The Metric – Now this is where the people part of your metric system begins. In the old days, I actually witnessed production workers timed via stopwatch to establish a performance standard for their particular production operation. While this may seem at bit antiquated today, this method left no doubt as to the amount of time required for process completion. The production worker was allowed to provide insight as to why the production equipment was operated in a certain manner. The production analyst was provided with the pros and cons of pushing the equipment to the limit versus operating the equipment for long-term output with less down time for maintenance. When developing measurement standards, it’s my opinion that the inclusion of the people who perform the job must be included in the process. Their “up close” perspective provides valuable insights that are crucial to properly establishing the metric. Getting their input goes a long way in preventing the “foe” label being stamped on the metric system. When workers can see that measurement standards are created from real world scenarios, they are more inclined to “believe in the system” which results in a better experience for the external customer. It’s crucial to be able to communicate how the metrics were created. Be open to questions on methods utilized to determine the proper metric number.

It’s important to utilize metrics to determine how well your operation is performing. In order to make sure your metrics are considered as a “friend” by both customers and employees, Determine What To Measure and Properly Establish the Metric.

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3 Reasons To Prep Before Interacting With Your Customers

Here in Houston, Tx , I award my “Now That’s Customer Service!” Award to individuals or companies that provide great customer service. I rate such things as time to acknowledge customer’s presence, demeanor during the service interaction, interaction consistency (if I am a repeat customer), product/service knowledge, exhibited the ability to address customer concerns and transaction speed. Customers service interactions are where the rubber meets the road for your business. These conversations and encounters can create loyal customers when handled efficiently and professionally. Preparation on a daily basis is necessary prior to these interactions. Here are three reasons why:

1. Your customer expects you to be ready to provide a great customer service experience. Most people have expectations regarding how they should be treated during customer service interactions. They expect simple things: a smiling voice on the other end of the phone, a pleasant greeting when they enter your establishment, a pleasant online chat demeanor, a great overall customer service experience. I believe that people who deliver great customer service just naturally have a service mindset. Before interacting with your first customer of the day, prepare by reminding yourself that you are available to serve. Doing so will help you to mentally get deeper into the service mode.

2. Your company deserves your best effort. Whether you’re the business owner or an employee of an organization, your best effort is needed when interacting with your customer. Providing great customer service requires one to maintain a high energy level throughout the day (or night). Your customer’s experience suffers when you’re running low on customer service fuel. It’s obvious to your customer when your energy starts to wane. I know from experience that the customer service industry can be somewhat stressful. Counter this stress by making sure to get the proper amount of rest and by spending time with non-job related activities. Doing so allows your mind to reset in preparation for the next round of customer interactions.

3, You owe it to yourself. It’s important that individual service providers feel good about the level of service they provide to their customers. To end one’s day with a sense of personal fulfillment is critical to one’s long-term well-being. Did I give my best effort today? Was I mentally prepared to provide a quality experience for customers? Taking the time to prepare before servicing your customer will assist you in being able to answer “Yes!” to these questions. Your confidence level zooms when you’re able to successful handle customer interactions. Your willingness to understand all aspects of product/service will enable you to efficiently and effectively handle customer inquiries or provide resolutions for product/service issues. Give yourself an edge by taking the time to prepare before interacting with your customer.

Customer service is best provided from a proactive stance. Be proactive by taking the time to prepare before interacting with your customer. Remember, your customer expects you to be prepared to provide service, your company deserves your best effort and you owe it to yourself. Be prepared!

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