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Great customer service: an oxymoron?

April 24, 2015

jessonline

Is your customer service an oxymoron? Is it geared towards helping your customers, or avoiding them? Here’s what great customer experience looks like to me:

1. Customer calls company “A” and wants to speak to a customer service agent.

2. Customer is able reach a human agent within 30-60 seconds (and without a gauntlet of CG voice options and having to punch in excessive numbers). 

3. Agent actually has the information the customer has punched in (account number, issue type, etc) and greets customer by name.

4. Agent resolves problem fairly and quickly, and life is good.

This seems like a very simple interaction. But recently, when I had one like this, I found myself overflowing with gratitude. I steel myself for these calls- expecting the worst, because I’ve been conditioned to expect the worst, through endless frustrating calls that went more like this:

 1. Customer calls company- get electronic message asking customer to select one of 5 choices. Customer doesn’t want any of these choices- customer wants to talk to a human.

2. Electronic voice says that she understands that I’d like to speak to an agent, but to help, she’ll need the following information entered.

3. Customer enters information, gets a new menu of options. None apply. Customer wants a human. Customer presses “0”. Machine says “this is not a valid response”. Customer says, “I WANT A HUMAN”. Machine says, “that is not a valid response. To repeat the menu, press 1.” Menu repeats. There’s no option for a human.

4. Customer implodes.

5. Customer starts over, process begins anew. Eventually reaches human. By this time, customer is hostile, frustrated and exhausted. Agent asks for all of the same account information customer has already entered.

6. Customer implodes.

You get the idea.

It shouldn’t have to be like this.

I really wonder how much actual revenue it costs companies in the long term- do companies actually quantify the time wasted dealing with hostile customers, and look at how that could be prevented? What’s the lost revenue by attrition when the customer decides not to deal with them anymore? If they really did the math, they would see that it’s much less expensive in the long run to provide good, or even great service. Think retention, appreciation, brand loyalty. That’s revenue. Many retailers get it. Especially online retailers. And granted, that process is simpler- and faster. But when it comes to customer support for longer term products like computers, or printers, health insurance or banks- not so much.

Why do CEO’s allow this kind of experience to persist?

Almost certainly because they don’t experience it for themselves. This is the advice I’d give- and it’s same advice I give top leaders and CEO’s for their websites: experience it for yourself. Frequently.

Give yourself a scenario (my product arrived damaged, never arrived, stopped working, or I’m calling to understand why my claim was denied, and so on). Call your own Customer Service number and see you how feel when you’re done. And then ask yourself, “Is our customer service an oxymoron?” Answer the question.

You’ll know what you need to do.

Give me the text

April 18, 2015

jessonline

There is such a thing as overdoing your video content. When there’s a message I could just as easily (or more easily) scan via text- just give me the text. I can’t even count how many times I’ve clicked on an interesting link from Facebook, Linkedin or news media sites only to find that it’s a video link, and I can’t get to the content of the message unless I’m willing to wait through the ad, then sit through the video.

Video has it’s place- for entertainment, or education. But for news or content, give me text. I don’t want to have to go through it at a video’s pace- I want to see what it’s about and quickly move on.

What’s the best practice?

First, your link or image should clearly show that it’s a video- or you’re misleading me.

Second- provide the text transcript as an option.

Let the user have control over the experience.

Google’s big move on mobile

April 18, 2015

jessonline

Starting April 21, retailers are going to see a major change in their Google rankings. Some are calling it “Mobilegeddon”. A bit dramatic, but the drama isn’t entirely unfounded. If your site is not mobile friendly, you’ll get punished in the rankings. And it’s not just about having a mobile site anymore- it’s about having truly mobile friendly pages, where you can read the text and navigate & transact without zooming in. This has been a long time coming.

The new Google algorithm "Mobilegeddon" or "shopper heaven?"

The new Google algorithm “Mobilegeddon” or “shopper heaven?”

Mobile has been heading towards this tipping point for years. Google says they’re just responding to the data: more people are shopping with mobile devices than ever before. Over half of the shoppers interacting with retailers are now doing it on their tablets or phones- for research, browsing and transacting. Google says they want to be able to deliver results that will be more relevant.

What this means for sites that aren’t yet responsive or mobile friendly is that organic traffic could take a significant dive- as Google sinks them in the rankings.

Is this going to make it better for shoppers? Or just harder for shoppers to find the sites they want? Time will tell.  Larry Dignan, Editor In Chief of Zdnet, says that this move could have major blowback for Google, in his post:

Google’s mobile friendly algorithm change on deck: The case for blowback

Dignan makes the case that if businesses are not mobile ready, Google’s results may not be as relevant to the shopper, and could backfire on Google as the search results become less compelling, or simply- not what the customer wants.

Time will tell. “Mobilegeddon” or not, you’ll want to take a look at how Google sees your site. Take the Mobile Friendly test on Google to see how your site shapes up.

Mobile Friendly Test

Whether Google sticks with the new algorithm or not, you’ll want to get working on a responsive site. It’s how your customers are shopping now, and ultimately it will serve them- and you, much better.

Amazon’s New “Exclusives” Shop Showcases Up-And-Coming Brands And “Shark Tank” Products

March 11, 2015

jessonline

Featured Image -- 962

jessonline:

Interesting to see Amazon getting in on the Etsy/Quirky/kickstarter creative, individualist, inventor scene. It’s good to see the increased opportunity for entrepreneurs to get the exposure.

Originally posted on TechCrunch:

Amazon this morning rolled out a new store called Amazon Exclusives which will introduce “up-and-coming” brands and other new inventions across a variety of categories, including products that have been previously featured on the TV show Shark Tank. The idea here is that Amazon wants to capitalize on the attention these new products receive when they hit the market (or the TV airwaves), and then give the online retailer a piece of the action.

The name “Exclusives” refers to the fact that outside of being sold on the creators’ own websites or in their own physical stores, the only other destination where you’ll be able to buy these items is on Amazon.

Some of the products are kind of odd but interesting – like the Zackees LED Turn Signal Gloves that allow cyclists to communicate with others on the road, or the customized Mary Jane shoes with tie dye designs. From

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Trust, but verify

March 8, 2015

jessonline

Googling. How great it is that we can find a recipe, resolve a difference of opinion, or learn the meaning of a word- in two seconds online. It’s immediate gratification. Love it.

But of course, just because it’s out there doesn’t mean it’s true.  I recently tried to find the source for a Wordsworth quote I liked on Pinterest: “To Begin, begin”. It was all over Pinterest, all over Google and Yahoo answers- in chat rooms, images, and inspirational quote sites.

to begin, begin

I thought it was a wonderfully simple philosophy to get past the blocked feeling we sometimes get when embarking on a difficult or challenging project. I was going to start a post with it, but first- I looked for the source. No google reference I found could identify one. I found a poetry site with all of his works, and got a ‘not found’ result when I searched the text. So I asked a professor- a Wordsworth expert, who said not only does it not sound like him- there’s no reference she knew of that he ever said it.

So could he have said it? Who knows. I’m not going to quote if I can’t verify it. Maybe someone distilled something he said down to that- and it became attributed to him over time.  It was a small thing, but surprising. A good reminder that in all things, we should know our sources before we take action on information. Trust- but verify.

Spotless

February 25, 2015

jessonline

If it’s chaotic and messy- no one will focus on the product. They’ll focus on the messy.

Recently I had some work done in my home, and every day, I knew the contractor was finishing up when I heard the vacuum cleaner running. Every day, I’d go inspect the progress, and the area would be spotless. The result was that the focus was always on the work that had been done- the progress made.

It was remarkable.

Partly because it exceeded my expectations, but mostly because the daily clean-up meant I could see and get excited about the product, instead of focusing on the mess of a work in progress. When the opposite holds true- a mess left behind, dust all over everything, debris scattered about- we can’t help but focus on the debris, and that shapes our opinion about the quality of the work.

This is a good way to think about our work- any work, whether it’s customer facing or internal business. If it’s chaotic and messy- no one will focus on the product. They’ll focus on the messy. If there’s too much information or it’s not clearly organized, it won’t be abundantly clear what your message is, or what you want people to DO with it.

This holds true whether you’re planning a website page, a presentation, or a company communication. Edit vigorously. Keep it clean.

If you want to be heard, do the hard work to make it simple.

What story do you want to tell?

February 3, 2015

jessonline

Campaigns are tricky.

People don’t remember your intentions, or your mission. They remember what you said. And how you said it. Communicating what you mean to communicate- telling the story you want to tell, is what matters. Making it powerful. Making it resonate. Retailers use shock value to create a memorable message. But what about when it’s the wrong message?

Nationwide’s Super Bowl commercial is a good example of good intentions gone awry. The “Make Safe Happen” campaign is a great idea. An honorable mission: to raise awareness and reduce the occurrence of ‘preventable accidents’, which are the #1 leading cause of death for children.  But the story they told was awful. Dark. Shockingly grim. They took what could have been an opportunity for hope, inspiration- and tear jerking happiness (think the Budweiser puppy getting saved by the Clydesdales), and they killed the kid.

You can see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKUy-tfrIHY

A good idea- with a bad message. Because in the story they tell, the kid dies. Not inspiring. Not hopeful. Not warm & fuzzy. It ruins the story. They WANT to tell us that preventable accidents are just that- preventable. And together, we can save so many lives. But that’s not the story they told.  The story they told is that if we’re careless, kids die. See what they did there?

In interviews, Nationwide says they were surprised by the level of negative feedback they got- but they meant to be shocking. They wanted to raise awareness for this important issue- not sell insurance (read the interview in the WSL’s CMO Today section, by Nathalie Tadena). From the article:

Nationwide was mentioned more than 238,000 times on social media but only 12% of those conversations were positive, according to data from Amobee Brand Intelligence.

“The intention of the ad was actually not to sell insurance,” Mr. Jauchius said. “It was to raise awareness of a cause that we’ve been championing for decades at Nationwide, which is to keep kids safe from preventable accidental injuries.”

Ok, then. That’s not what we all heard. We heard- the kid dies.

Why did they take that dismal path?  This just makes me, as a viewer, angry, upset and bitter about Nationwide (me and thousands of others in the universe). Why couldn’t they turn that message around and show how working together to prevent these accidents could save thousands of lives, and show how because of our efforts together, this boy lives to achieve his dreams- because at the critical moment- his mom ignored the phone call and stayed with him in the bathtub instead…? Why not turn it around? Let the boy live. Let us cry and choke up with happiness instead of grief.

Let’s take a look at a retailer that took the opposite path. The most inspiring commercial from the Super Bowl was the #likeagirl campaign, from Always.

You can see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3GpXgFwWmk

This, like Nationwide, is a commercial with a message that isn’t about selling a product. Like Nationwide, the product doesn’t make an appearance until the final moment- isn’t even relevant to the story. But after watching it- I want to support the product. Why? Because it’s inspirational. It made me feel good. It’s about empowering children. Empowering our girls. Taking a persistent slur, ‘like a girl’, and turning it around into something GREAT. It’s not the first time this has been used this way- ‘fight like a girl’ has been used to support Breast cancer research. Why? Because it works. It gives us power. It doesn’t threaten to kill our children if we’re dumb.

Thinking about powerful messages in advertising, it’s the ones that give us something that make a lasting impression. Power. Hope. Inspiration.

Which story would you want to tell?

Deliver on it.

August 4, 2014

jessonline

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? If you add functionality to your site, you have to know what the customer expectation will be- and deliver on it. Getting it ALMOST right is the same as getting it wrong.

Here’s an example: one day, I was shopping on one of my favorite flash-sale sites- amazing brands and products at unusually great deals. What’s not to love? But there are so many items, and I have limited time and patience. That’s why I was so glad to see a refine-by-size feature that allows me to sort by just the product that would work for me- good! That’s a best practice, especially for a sale in which quantities are limited.

navigation & refinements

Refine by size feature- a best practice.

 

The rub? When the refine-by-size feature doesn’t deliver real-time information, it’s worse than having no refinements at all- because you’ve set my expectations for a personalized result, but then let me down on the delivery. Advice? Turn the refinements off until you can get it right. It’s not a value-add if it’s only right sometimes (like a faulty clock: it’s right at LEAST twice a day…).

refine by size & navigation

Refine by size gone bad

I realize there are reasons these things happen- someone made a business decision based on a technical limitation or a tradeoff on site speed vs. accuracy…there are always drivers for things like this. But the bottom line is the customer experience you deliver. If you make a promise (showing a refinement by size)- then you have to deliver on it well or there’s no point. A bad experience actually detracts  from the perception of your brand (they don’t deliver!). Customers will bail on your site a lot faster when frustrated with the functionality.

This is just one tiny example of the many decisions brands make every day that impact customer experience. Make sure you understand the impact when you make the business decision. If it’s not worth doing right- it may not be worth doing at all.

If you need me to sign in, remember where I was.

June 14, 2014

jessonline

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s not always the case.

If you want customers to interact with your site, you have to make it really easy. Really, really easy. If you make me sign-in or register to write a review, save to my wish list, or respond to a poll- I get it- you need to make sure I have a stake in what I’m putting on your site, that I’m not anonymous, and may therefore think a little more carefully about what I say or do. So I’ll do it. But do your part: remember where I was, and take me back. 

A good experience: I click ‘submit a review’. The site asks me to sign-in or register. I do it. After I sign-in, the site takes me to the next logical page in the path I was trying to take to begin with: the ‘submit a review’ form for the item I was looking at.

A bad experience: leaving me on the My Account page after I sign-in. Why am I here?

This isn’t one of those things that will give you an instant bump in conversion- but it IS one of the things that will enable your customer to easily connect with you, potentially stay on the site a little longer, and feel better about it, too.

The quickest way to lose a customer’s interest is to make it a chore to get involved. If I’m trying to interact with you, and you leave me on your “My Account” page after I sign in, am I going to go back and navigate to that product again? Maybe. Or maybe not. I would have to be pretty motivated. I can’t see wanting to submit my review that badly.

People don’t necessarily notice when you have a seamless site experience. But they notice when you don’t.

Do now for Holiday

October 23, 2013

jessonline

Free Shipping at Drugstore.com

Free Shipping is still one of the top reasons customers decide to shop on one site vs. another.  Yet most sites mention it in a minimal way, if all all. Why? It’s not a new message. It’s not sexy. Those who offer it know it’s a customer expectation. Many seem to think offering it is enough, but don’t see it as an important message at the start of the shopping process. That would be wrong.

The latest report from Forrester research shows that low prices and delivery costs are still the top 2 reasons consumers will revisit a site. As it turns out, fast shipping is much less important (#14 on the list of consumer priorities).  While many retailers have downplayed free shipping to explore how to compete with Amazon’s popular Prime service, it has not taken taken the place of simple, free shipping in the consumer’s mind.

While over 92% of retailers online offer free shipping, only 78% actually say so on the homepage, and 22% don’t talk about shipping at all. Those that do promote it, for the most part, are not showing it prominently on the homepage. For more details on the data, see the free summary of Forrester’s report on Internet Retailer:  Free Shipping Trumps Fast Shipping For Web Shoppers.

The do-now: Offer Free Shipping. Devote space to it. Make it prominent, persistent and legible on your homepage.

Some good examples:

Zappos has a prominent homepage message with a rotating message for Free Shipping, Free Returns, and First Class Customer Service. Also promoting a special offer above the nav for fast, free shipping on clothing.

Zappos has a rotating message for Free Shipping, Free Returns, and First Class Customer Service, while also promoting an offer above the navigation for Free next day shipping on clothing.

Neiman Marcus- free shipping and free returns

Neiman Marcus now offers Free Shipping and Free Returns, always.

Quidsy sites like Wag.com, Soap.com and more, offer a prominent free shipping offer above the navigation.

Quidsy sites including Wag.com and Soap.com offer a prominent Free 2-day Shipping offer above the navigation.

Macy's has a banner showing Free Shipping every day

Macy’s has a banner showing Free Shipping every day

Drugstore.com everyday Free Shipping

Drugstore.com offers a prominent Everyday Free Shipping message

These are just a few of the best I’ve seen lately. There are a surprising number of major retail brands who don’t show a free shipping offer at all.

The do-now is to make shipping FREE- if it’s not already. Make it prominent. Make it global. It’s an easy “to-do” that will make a difference. With a minimum purchase, you can ensure it’s paying for itself with the volume it drives. And you can test to see where the sweet spot is, for both volume and AOV.  Forrester also recommends that retailers promote it throughout the shopping path- not just on the homepage itself. Doing this gives customers reassurance as they browse thumbnail pages, product pages- and most importantly, the shopping cart. The important thing now is to start with the main message.

Do it now, before the holiday races begin.

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