Posts tagged ‘customer experience’
Beware shiny things
October 15, 2022
After a round of meeting great new vendors, exploring cool new tools & tech, I always think about how much room my clients have in my budget for these fun, experimental things. We’re all attracted to fun, shiny things. But as business leaders, are these always the panacea we want them to be? When we’re thinking about how to allocate precious budget $ to improving our websites, there’s push-and-pull between the foundational and the fun.
There are always new tools that promise better engagement, conversion or order value. Innovations that will increase brand value and improve the customer experience. Some of these are truly a value add.
But what good is a fun or beautiful front-end, if the underlying experience is bad?
The same is true in our personal lives. That shiny new buy isn’t going to change your life, though it may make you feel great in the moment. When the excitement wears off, you still have the same issues to deal with.
Last summer, I was planning a few home renovation projects. Not my favorite thing to do, but I love the result. It’s so much work: the planning, the product, color, and materials. The contractors. The coordination and disruption. Whenever we’ve talked about these bigger projects, I joke that I’d rather buy a new house that someone else already fixed up.
After two years of work-from-home, and daily visibility to the deficiencies of our laundry room, the main entry to the house from the garage, I was ready. Picture old, low-quality cabinets peeling at the edges, no longer flush, unpleasantly aged beige particleboard- yuck. It was dated, ugly and in disrepair. Our downstairs bathroom also needed an upgrade- tiles that keep pushing out the caulk, ugly striped wall-paper, and out-of-date everything.
But then while gardening out back, we noticed a deep foundation crack. One that used to be a hairline. The crack extended 15 feet, and was big enough that you could see sunlight from inside our furnace room, and feel outside air if you put your hand up to it.
For context, we live on a hill that descends into a creek. To protect the house, it’s a constant fight to keep erosion at bay. And after 25 years, the house was showing the wear.
We had to deal with it.
So we fixed the wall. It took 4 weeks of back-hoes, concrete destruction and reconstruction, leaving deep trenches through our back-yard and dust everywhere. During the tear-down, they told us that moving our old A/C units was a risk. Since they were ancient, decrepit, and inefficient, they recommended we buy new. They couldn’t guarantee that they would work if disconnected, moved and reconnected. But in light of the fortune we were investing in the foundation, we had little appetite for replacing those NOW. Let them hang on for one more summer.
When the work was finished, neither of the A/C units could be saved. One had been dropped. The other needed repairs so expensive, it wasn’t worth doing. So now, two days before the first 95 degree weekend of the year, we needed new A/C units. That was fun.
All in, we spent $20K on the foundation, then another $12K or so on the A/C’s. My renovation budget was gone- and then some. I really wanted that updated entry for the house. We were going to tear out a closet and make a more modern mud-room with a bench. And nicer downstairs bathroom.
But what good is a beautiful entryway to the house, if the house might slide into the creek? When we try to sell the house, what’s going to drive more value? A solid foundation, or a nicer mud-room? Shoppers might love what they see walking through and make the offer, but when the inspection is done- the foundational issues come to light, and many shoppers opt to simply back-out.
The same thing happens on your website.
Consider this as you plan your commerce & technology budgets. If you keep investing primarily on the superficial- the entry-ways, the cosmetic and feel-good moments, your technical debt gets bigger and bigger over time. Eventually, you’ll feel the pain. Conversion will stay flat or down. Only your most loyal or sale-conscious customers will persist.
We all love a little bit of fun. Branding matters. But customer experience is everything, from the beginning to the end. If a shopper loves shopping your product, but has trouble signing-in or checking out, your brand value takes a negative turn.
If your underlying foundation is cracked, all that good will just opts out.
Customer Centricity: how to make it count.
March 20, 2022
Is your brand as customer-centric as you think it is? Most leaders will say that the customer is at the core of everything they do. Yet, so many websites fall short on creating exceptional customer experiences. Creating a culture of customer-centricity involves every aspect of the customer journey: before, during, and after the sale.
Is your brand as customer-centric as you think it is? Take the quiz and see where you stack up:
- Is it easy to shop the site? Shop on the device most of your customers use, and score yourself against your most aspirational competitors. Is the site mobile optimized? Is it easy to contact customer support? Do you take mobile payments? Are returns easy? Hint: all those annoying things you haven’t had time to fix? They are friction points for your shopper. Friction=lower conversion. Removing friction points=opportunity to “wow” the customer. Getting the basics right matters more than the shiny new things.
- Is customer service empowered to make your customer happy? Can they solve the problem in one interaction? Can they make exceptions to policy without management approval? Your customer’s experience with the contact center will make or break her perception of the brand. Lose her trust here, and she’ll buy from a competitor next time. Delight her here, and you might create a customer for life. Empower your teams to do what’s right for the customer. Every time.
- Do you recognize and reward your best customers? Does everyone get the same treatment, or do you personalize based on shopping history, interests and activity? Do you have a loyalty program? Do you create value beyond promotions to inspire loyalty? Do you meaningfully support the causes she cares about? Do you recognize VIP customers when they call, chat or email?
- Do your customers shop with you again? What’s the average lifecycle of a customer? How many times does she buy per year, and what’s your LTV? How healthy is your email, SMS and organic traffic growth? If you’re buying new traffic without cultivating existing customers, you’ll be running on a very expensive (and unsustainable) hamster wheel.
- Do you listen to your customers? Do you ask your customers what they think? Are Voice of the Customer learnings shared regularly? Consider creating a customer panel comprised of your most loyal shoppers. Do you analyze the shopping funnel to understand drop-off points, and use both VOC and funnel metrics to drive your roadmap?
If you can’t say yes to all of these questions, it’s time to think about how you’ll begin to level-up. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Rule #1: Everyone in senior leadership needs to be shopping the brand as a customer regularly.
Rule #2: Create a customer-centricity report card and make sure you know where you stand.
Rule #3: Create a customer experience manifesto and make sure everyone across the organization exemplifies it at every touchpoint.
Rule #3: Don’t chase the shiny things at the expense of getting the basics right. The ratio should be basics: 80%, shiny things: 20% or less.
Customers have more choices than ever. Give them a reason to choose you.
Rating online grocers
September 23, 2017
Grocery delivery services are an absolute lifesaver when you just don’t have the time to get to the store. It is amazing what you can get delivered to your door: prepared foods that are actually good, meal kits, fresh produce, and anything you need for the pantry.
Early this year, I was living in a different city during the week, and coming home just for the weekend. I was beyond exhausted, from the driving, the working, trying to keep two places in order and living out of a suitcase. During these months, I tried all the online grocery options available to me: Amazon Fresh, Fresh Direct, and Shoprite. They all have their pros and cons, but overall, the state of online grocery shopping is not where it needs to be to make it my go-to during normal times. Not yet.
On the positive side, I no longer have to lug heavy water bottles, dog food or mega packs of paper towels and toilet paper from the grocery store. It’s Amazon Prime, all the way. I am very happy not to have had to visit a pet store in over a year.
Below are my ratings for Amazon Prime, Fresh Direct and Shoprite, across 6 key areas.
The waste factor
Amazon gets the F in this category. My last delivery came in huge insulated totes that were ridiculously under packed, and filled with excessive amounts of padding, cold packs, and dry ice (which burns if you touch it, as I found). It took me over 40 minutes to break the totes down- they are filled with hard sided padded panels to keep them sturdy, as well as bags and bags of dry ice and ice packs, all of which have to go in the sink to melt before you can empty them. When I had completely emptied the bags- my sink was full to the top with these packets. It was a ludicrous amount of waste. And worse, they’d sent an excessive number of totes. Three of them had only a product or two inside- with all that padding and cold packs on top. One had a single bag of frozen peas in it. Another had a bunch of asparagus. In another tote, they’d packed heavy 12 packs of drinks on top of cereal boxes, crushing them. When I called in about this, Amazon said that machines pack the bags, so sometimes the logic is a bit off. I’ll say. Below, a few images of the debris.
After this debacle, I actually called to ask Amazon to cancel my Fresh membership.
Fresh Direct uses cardboard boxes- bulky, but easy enough to break down and recycle. Shoprite gets the A for using regular grocery bags without any excess packaging.
Time slot availability
This is one of my pet peeves with all of them. I learned the hard way to check for delivery slots before spending the time to fill my cart. To achieve true convenience, these services need to make quicker delivery available, and more time slots available in general in the near term. The true convenience would be to realize on Friday or Saturday that I don’t have time to shop, and to be able to get a slot for the next day. In reality- the best case scenario on a Friday is to get a Sunday 8-10pm delivery slot. You really have to think ahead, which isn’t always possible- and if you’re out of food for the weekend, it doesn’t help. On the upside, if you do plan ahead- you can set a time slot by putting anything in your cart ahead of time, and then you’re given until a certain time the night before (11pm with Fresh Direct) to modify the order. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to anticipate running out of time to get to the store. If these services could do same day or next day delivery on demand, that would be the A+.
Fresh Direct was the best on this. I never had to throw anything out. Sometimes I would get something a bit unripe, but it was never too far gone. With both Amazon and Shoprite, I’d actually have to throw things away or call them to get credited for bad produce. Not terrible, most of the time, but not consistently great, either.
Aside from produce and meat, for the most part, they’re all good here. Fresh Direct is the one I’m most comfortable ordering meat from, and they have by far the best prepared food options. I wasn’t impressed with Amazon’s- and the options weren’t great- often, the meat wouldn’t be available for the delivery slot. Shoprite’s was consistently ok. I find if I ask for the organic, it’s always best, vs. leaving the choice to them.
Ease of use
Fresh Direct is the clear winner for ease of shopping. The navigation is clear and easy to use, the search is great, and best yet- I can fill my cart with the items from my last order and edit from there. Amazon’s navigation and search were good, but it always took me longer. Shoprite’s was terrible- every time I went to the site, I’d have to work at just finding my local Shoprite location to order from- it never remembered me. And they don’t deliver in my area-they shop, but you have to pick it up.
When something goes wrong- they are all responsive and customer centric- quick to credit you if something wasn’t good or right. Amazon went the extra mile, and put $ in my account as an appeasement when I called to complain about the ridiculous packaging and crushed groceries. The agents were always quick to answer, friendly, and accommodating.
So what’s next?
Ideally, online grocers will scale to accept orders on a shorter delivery window- this is what they need to do to make it a true convenience, and what’s needed to make customers like me return again and again. I don’t trust them to be there for me when I need them, because I can never get the time slot I want. This is the key reason I don’t use them except when I absolutely can’t get to the store. With Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods, I’m hopeful they will find a way to deliver locally more easily, directly from Whole Foods- competing with Fresh Direct on quality, and beating them on speed to home. I would also like to see them get more efficient with the packaging. To become my go-to, it can’t be a project to unpack and break down packaging and recycling. I don’t want to create that much waste, and hopefully they don’t either. Online grocery shopping is one of the most amazing conveniences of online retail, but there’s work to be done to get it right.
How Gilt is making ‘easy’ even easier.
July 25, 2015
Gilt has made shopping online even easier.
Online retailers are always looking for ways to make shopping online faster, easier and more streamlined. The best practices are just that, because they work- customers like to shop in an expected way, in an expected order, leading up to the cart and checkout, where the decision is really made. Customers like consistency. Except when there’s something even better.
Quick View is one of those things- it enables shoppers to browse lots of products without bouncing back and forth to the product page. Most retailers have implemented Quick View and have found it successfully increased engagement and even the customer’s propensity to buy.
Now, Gilt is making shopping even easier at the category level by building Quick View directly into the rollover. No need to click to see a ‘Quick View’. No window opening up with item details. Instead, on rollover- they show available size and color info, and an Add to Cart button. Beautiful!
This isn’t for everyone. Some customers may need more info- and they can still easily click through to get it. But for power shoppers- in particular, Gilt Groupe’s shopper, this is ideal. Now they can shop in a flash and be on their way. This is a perfect example of a retailer understanding their customer and finding ways to make the experience better.
The car industry just doesn’t get it.
May 26, 2015
The car industry hasn’t progressed much online in the past 10 years. In the web-centric universe we live in, there’s a surprisingly high level of disfunction and disconnect in how car dealerships deal with web shoppers.
In a recent car search, I found that dealers treat online inquiries as an exception- the kind of exception that gets lost in the shuffle- with a generic, templated email response that doesn’t answer or acknowledge a very specific request, with follow ups from the general manager saying, “by now, I hope you’ve received the information you’ve requested, and here’s why you should shop at our world-class dealership” (when no info has been sent), and an almost complete inability to get specific questions answered via online or email.
They haven’t figured out how to accommodate the way shoppers want to interact. They’re sharing info with sites like Edmunds, but they’re not able to follow through on requests for information. They desperately need to. It would be so much easier for them to sell cars. And we’d all feel so much better about the experience.
I know I’ll do just about anything to avoid the painful haggling and eviscerating experience of negotiating to buy a car in the dealership. In fact, I won’t even step foot in a dealership without knowing exactly what their prices are & negotiating my deal in advance. By the time I go in to test drive and buy- I already know what I will pay, and who I’ll buy the car from.
Cars.com and Edmunds.com make it relatively easy to research pricing, availability and dealerships within a user-defined area. You can then select the dealers you want quotes from, and can add specific text to specify what you want. The process breaks down at the national and local dealer level. The generic form letters begin. Here’s an example, missing image and all:
You can see how helpful this was. My inquiry was for a specific make and model with specific lease terms and questions about availability. I got an ad for Mazda.
On a national dealer site, there was a click-to-chat window, branded with a specific person’s name who was ready to help me right now. When I clicked it…I got an error message that ‘ended’ the conversation.
The conversations went equally well on the phone. Here, I was a directed shopper- ready to buy. Most dealerships I contacted lost the sale by losing track of the conversation- they all had an ‘internet specialist’, who typically returned the call a day or two later, when I’d already heard from someone else, or pursued and received the info I needed. It’s disappointing that it had to be so hard. On the flip side, It’s an amazing opportunity for dealerships to transform the business model and make this a stellar experience. They’d stand out.
In the end- one dealer stood out- they had what I wanted, and they didn’t waste my time. I wasn’t able to do it fully online- it did take a few calls. But the online screening did finally get me to the right dealer, the right price, and the right car. Painfully.
The point of all of this is- when it comes to having an online presence- don’t do it if you’re not going to do it right. A website is not a set it and forget it. It’s a living, breathing thing- and it will break if you don’t nurture it. You have to be all in. In this case, it looks like the car industry set it about 10 years ago, and hasn’t dealt with it since.
Great customer service: an oxymoron?
April 24, 2015
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.
February 25, 2015
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.
XM radio wins, then fails
February 22, 2012
Sirius XM radio is not my friend anymore.
I broke up with them- a result of economizing and lack of usage. It wasn’t a friendly break-up.
It started out nicely. They kept me going for almost 6 months with incentives to continue the service. I thought it was a great customer retention strategy. When I first tried to cancel, they offered a discounted price for 3 months of service. I said no, thanks. They offered a better price. I said no again. They offered 3 months free. I said yes- why not? This happened twice- each time when I tried to cancel.
At the end of the second 3 months, they billed me about $80 for the following quarter. I sent back the bill asking for the account to be cancelled instead. They started calling my cell phone. The first time they called, they said, “are you aware that there’s a remaining balance of $12.99 on your account?” I cleared that up by telling them I was cancelling my service, and owed nothing. They said I’d have to call a different department to deal with that. So I thought, that’s ok- they’ll see my cancel request in the mail, and sort this all out.
They started calling my cellphone a few times a day. Then 4-8 times of day. Sometimes as late as 9 or 10pm. Each time, with the same, “are you aware…” Over, and over, and over. This happened over a period of several weeks. Every time I’d get home from work and try to call, they would be closed. Finally, I got through- and told them, the calls need to stop. I owe you nothing. You are harassing me. They said, so sorry- we’ll put you on the ‘do not call’ list, take the charges off your account-but it may take a few days.
Several more weeks of stalking followed. The 888 number popping up on my cell phone at all hours of the day- until in frustration, I’d pick up and say, ‘stop stalking me!’.
Eventually, it did stop.
But it was harassment- seriously so.
Clearly, they are desperate to keep subscribers. Early on, the great offers were a wonderful way to surprise and delight, and keep me going- it actually kept me on the service for 6 months longer than I intended. The endless calls with telemarketers that had no idea that I’d already been called a zillion times, were just about the most abhorrent telemarketing onslaught I’ve ever encountered. When I asked one of them why they kept calling, he said, “I’m sorry- a number just pops up on my screen and I have to call it”. They have no idea of the history, of the customer, of the situation. A number just pops up.
This is the antithesis of everything we stand for when we talk about customer service. It’s not going to win anyone back. You have to wonder what XM’s marketing department thought they were going to accomplish in the long-term, by bilking people out of $12.95 as final hurrah, as they sever the relationship. I can picture a bunch of marketing folks in a room, trying to come up with creative ways to make the quarter’s sales goals.
Not a good way to go, Sirius XM, not a good way to go.
Deliver great service. It’s that simple. And it’s that hard.
November 6, 2011
Is great service a part of your brand?
Every contact counts.
Ever found yourself standing in line at a bank or store watching the people behind the counter chatting to each other about their social lives, previous customers, or completing a task…while you stand there waiting to be acknowledged? Ever have a problem with an account, and have the person on the phone tell you you must have done something wrong? Ever spend what seems like endless minutes working through a voice-response-unit trying to find the option to speak to a human?
Could your brand have any of these moments for your customers? Better find out. Undercover boss has the right idea- go in, and experience what’s really happening. Do it often. You’ll learn not only what is going wrong for your customers, but what obstacles may exist for the staff. Talk to your sales staff and customer service people. Listen in on the phones and observe experiences. Beyond that, you should actually be asking your customers- do the Net Promoter Survey and see if you’re where you want to be. Do some quick user testing and see what customers say about your site experience- you can do it in just a few minutes on Usertesting.com, and have results within hours.
It’s about making every moment count- top to bottom. If your brand and executives believe in great service, but your front-line customer service or sales people do not enthusiastically support and believe in it, it will not happen consistently and brilliantly. Customers need to feel acknowledged, heard, and understood. Your staff also wants to feel acknowledged, heard and understood. It takes empathy, engagement, and sensitivity, to deliver this in both directions. In his book, Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business, Danny Meyer sums it up nicely: “Business, like life, is all about how you make people feel. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard”.