I am not one to suffer poor customer service in silence. Regrettably, the last week has provided me with the opportunity to be unusually prolific. I’ve written an email to the furniture retailer who didn’t deliver on time, sent several tweets while on hold with an airline, and followed up with an email to that airline about the multiple errors in my bookings. Last week’s restaurant with the wonderful chef was noted on Yelp, as well as the interminably slow service. The florist who sent me near-dead lilies was also called out on Yelp. And I’ve responded to two online surveys, offering both companies what I hope was constructive advice on how they could improve their service for future customers — of whom I am unlikely to be among.
I am not alone. According to Forrester’s North American Technographics Customer Experience Online Survey, Q4 2009 (US), 68% of North American consumers say that they've had unsatisfactory service interactions in the past 12 months. And many of us are not suffering in silence: 71% of these consumers have provided feedback directly to the company through surveys, phone calls, emails, or letters. Further, 16% of these consumers who have had bad service experiences have vented through social channels, such as online customer reviews, Facebook status updates, or blog posts.
Microsoft was kind enough to invite me to Microsoft's Dynamics Fall Analyst Event — a two-day event packed with product, strategy, customer, and partner information. The focus was clearly on Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. This product and the go-to-market strategy are clear and focused. Here are my thoughts:
The Dynamics CRM 2011 product is good. Today, Microsoft Dynamics CRM is used by 23,000 customers, 1.4 million end users in 80 countries and 40+ languages. That in itself is impressive. However, Microsoft wants to do better. It has focused on the user experience and UI in the 2011 product in hopes of driving increased adoption. Dynamics CRM 2011 is deeply integrated with Outlook, Office Communicator, SharePoint, Office 365, and Bing. It can be easily personalized. A business user, without the help of IT, can set up a dashboard. It has rich reporting analytics. It works on mobile devices, including the iPhone. Microsoft realizes that this product still has limitations, especially around Web self-service customer service capabilities. Its near-term plans are to address this, as well as adding capabilities around support for the phone channel and for social customer service. However, right now, these holes offer a chance for specialty customer service vendors to make inroads.
Consumers generally hate email for customer service - so much so that some analysts have said that email is dead, and has been replaced by the live assist channels like chat or SMS/MMS. Or in the new world, there is Twitter and customer service from Facebook.
Why does email get such a bad rap? It's because we don’t trust this channel – we have all had the experience of emailing a company’s customer service department and not getting an answer back. Or getting an answer that addressed only half of our question.
Email’s poor performance as a customer service channel is typically a result of the tool’s history. These systems were typically deployed years ago and have had little care and feeding to maximize their productivity, or align operations to best practices.
Yet, customer service managers want you to use email. It’s a cheaper alternative than live-assist channels. And the automation features built into modern tools make email processing quick and reliable.
So, even with history working against you, if you are offering email to your customers, make sure it works. Follow these these basic steps to restore your customers' faith in this communication channel.
Make email part of your multichannel strategy - Don’t think of email as a siloed channel. Provide escalation pathways between your web self-service site and email, and be sure to have a single source of knowledge that is used across all your communication channels. That means that your customers will get the same answer across all touchpoints.
In customer service, we talk about “delighting” customers, providing an experience that is personalized to an individual's preferences and needs. The quest to delight goal is the goal of CRM and one-to-one marketing strategies. It is not easy to achieve and can have compelling results for a business.
But it makes me wonder — do your customers want to be delighted in customer service, or do they just want a hassle-free resolution?
Recently, my suitcase handle broke. I pride myself on my Ryan Bingham-like airport efficiency. Struggling with the broken handle forced me to slow every queue from security to boarding in a recurring tug-of-war with an uncooperative roller bag.
I contacted the company on the telephone and had a strikingly unmemorable conversation with the only meaningful takeaway being that I needed to go to the Web site to complete a warranty form. The form did not offer me the option to print before submitting nor send an acknowledgement email, raising my suspicions that this could require following up.
I was mistaken. A mere eight days later, a new suitcase arrived at my door.
It would have been nice if there was a note accompanying the new roller bag: something to acknowledge my inconvenience, to express regret that the product didn’t perform, to at least address me by name. I didn’t receive any of these — just an anonymous box containing a new suitcase. And I was delighted.