Tag Archives: Customer Care

How sales professionals can use social networks to best serve the customer

When we think of putting the customer first we should think about the initial, and most consistent, contact they have for their purchase:  the sales person.  Today’s sales professional must use his or her social network to be successful.  And that success will come from using their social network to take a ‘customer-centric’ approach.  Certainly the marketing department is hip deep in the social media milieu…It’s not to be ignored.  But, I’m speaking to the sales professional in this thesis.
A Sales Professional Is Many Things
The best sales people must follow a disciplined process.  Customers have gained power and gone global, channels have proliferated, more product companies are selling services, and customers expect a single point of contact.  The sales person has to play a number of roles in this relationship:

  •  Company leader. The best sales people actively help formulate and execute a territory strategy, and they collaborate with all functions of the business to deliver value to customers.
  • Customer champion. Customers want senior level relationships with their supplier.  Customers expect an inside peek at their offering to be sure their buying decision is sustainable over time.  They need to understand product strategy, see future offerings in advance, and participate in decisions made about future products.
  • Process guru. Although sales professionals must look beyond the sales and customer processes they have honed over time, they can’t abandon them. The focus on process has become more important because buying decisions are being thrust on some users without buying experience. 
  • Organization architect. Good sales leaders spend a lot of timeevaluating and occasionally redesigning the sales organization’s structure to ensure that it supports corporate strategy.
  • Course corrector. Sales leaders must pay attention to what’s coming, because the business world changes constantly.  On the other hand they have to pay attention to the situation on the ground right now; to thrive in ambiguous environments and to respond when quick adjustments in priorities are needed.

The Best Sales Pros Have Powerful Social Networks
Social networks are critical.   It’s an oversimplification to say the more contacts you have, the more leads you’ll generate, and, ultimately, the more sales you’ll make. Different configurations of networks produce different results, and a nuanced understanding of social networks will help the best sales people outshine competitors.

 Different social networking abilities are required in each stage of the sale:
  • When we’re identifying prospects, we need our networks to help us acquire precise and timely information about opportunities from contacts in the marketplace
  • As we meet many people in the prospect’s organization our network helps us gain buy-in from all levels, titles, locations & disciplines
  • As we create solutions we need specialists with knowledge outside of our purview so we can bring value to the table
  • And when we’re closing the deal we need to mobilize our contacts from prior sales to act as references

A sales professional’s network often pays off most handsomely through all of these social, and sometimes indirect, contacts.   But we have to ask ourselves do our contacts know all the same people, or are their associates widely dispersed?
What Is The ‘Right’ Social Network For A Sales Executive?
The right social network can have a huge impact on the sales professional’s success. It’s misguided to believe the key is having a large circle filled with high-powered contacts.   It’s better to cultivate a different kind of network: select but diverse, made up of high-quality relationships with people who come from varying spheres and from up and down the corporate ladder. This diverse crowd can help those in sales learn, make decisions with less bias, and grow personally.
Six critical kinds of social network connections:
People who provide information, ideas, or expertise;
Formally and informally powerful people, who offer mentoring and political support;
People who give developmental feedback;
People who lend personal support;
People who increase your sense of purpose or worth;
People who promote work/life balance.
The best kinds of connections are “energizers”–positive, trustworthy individuals who enjoy other people and always see opportunities, even in challenging situations.
Four Simple Steps To Keep A Sales Professional’s Social Network On Track
If you’re a salesperson and you want to improve your social network, here is a four-step process you might want to consider to improve it.

  1. Identify who your connections are and what they offer you,
  2. Back away from redundant and energy-draining connections,
  3. Fill holes in your network with the right kind of people,
  4. Work to make the most of your contacts.

Today’s world of sales is all about the customer.  Today’s social network is a gift to sales people, allowing us to best serve our customers with the best information, the best relationships and the best thinking.  A sales person’s social network allows them to keep their fingers on the pulse of the marketplace, readying them to make course corrections on an ongoing basis in an ever changing buying environment.  

And, of course, the very best use of social networks for a sales professional is to use them to listen to their customers.

Harvard Bus Rev. 2011 Jul-Aug;89(7-8):149-53, 167., A smarter way to network. Cross R, Thomas R.
Harvard Bus Rev. 2006 Jul-Aug;84(7-8):102-12, 188., Better sales networks. Ust??ner T, Godes D.
Ron Shulkin blogs researches and writes about enterprise technology focused on social media, innovation, voice of the customer, marketing automation and enterprise feedback management.  You can learn more about Ron at his biography web site:www.shulkin.net. You can follow him Twitter. You can follow his blogs at this Facebook group.  You can connect with Ron on LinkedIn.  
Ron Shulkin is Vice President of the Americas for CogniStreamer??, an innovation ecosystem. CogniStreamer serves as a Knowledge Management System, Idea Management System and Social Network for Innovation. You can learn more about CogniStreamer here http://bit.ly/ac3x60 . Ron manages The Idea Management Group on LinkedIn (JoinHere).

We’re all Twittering (Everyone’s Doing It)

In July, we posted about the role of ‘digital care manager,’ a position Mr. Eliason from Comcast Cable filled in order to proactively search for complaints and problems in twitter. Since that time, several other companies have joined the bandwagon and are now doing the same. The brightkit blog has posted a huge list of all the companies that now use twitter to track what their customers are saying about them in real time. Here are companies that already have their own twitter pages Southwest Airlines, Dell Computers, Comcast, Starbucks, Jet Blue, Home Depot, Whole Foods, H&R Block, Zappos, Kodak, General Motors, Pandora. And the list goes on for companies that have also responded to problems and complaints on twitter.

Has your company joined the revolution?

A Key to Next Generation Quality: Speech Analytics

Erika Van Noort of Bell Canada walked us through the evolution of customer care at Bell Canada and provided a deep dive on the power of Speech Analytics.

Bell is moving from a more fragmented business, built through acquisition, towards a more integrated , optimized environment for the customer. One way to optimize is through mining existing data, including call data.

Here was Bell’s wish list of what they wanted to learn from their call data:
– Root causes to why customers call
– What value add vs. non value add
– Get at the true Voice of the Customer
– Reduce what Price called earlier dumb contacts and increase time for value adding contacts
– Customer intelligence (preferences, drivers of behaviors, etc.)

In response to these and other questions, one approach to data mining is speech analytics.

“Speech Analytics, Erika explained, ” does not mean you never have to listen to customer call again. Only if you don’t care about your customers.” But through speech analytics Bell has learned a lot about process, products and service, more than they could have learned from traditional call monitoring, including:

Benefits of speech analytics?
– Root cause analysis
– Real time feedback
– Positive impact on FCR
– Reduced low value calls
– Opportunities for cross selling

And this is using the superset of all calls, not a sample, something you just can’t do with traditional call monitoring.

An analytics tree – how Bell looks at each call
– a call we want?
– routed correctly?
– resolved well?
– a church opportunity?

Speech Analytics: What Bell does

– take all calls
– break them down by reasons why customers call
– look at trends and outliers
– get at root causes
– identify real time call back opportunities

Results were great: FCR up, Sat. up, escalations down, productivity up, revenue way up

And employee feedback was very positive. “At last you have realized a dish that goes at 2Am is not my fault.”

Making the wins real:

– 1 customer event took 3 and 1/2 months.
– 6 customer calls and transfers
– 1 hour and a half of call time
– Cost? $400

Now multiply that by all the repeat calls and you are talking real money!

Understanding length of call by call type enables Bell to set thresholds for talk time based on what is really needed to get the customer’s work done right the first time.

Finally, this information drives changes to process, product and service design based on a systematic analysis of true voice of the customer. And this VOC is used at the highest levels of the company.

Walk Like A Dancer

This post is cross posted on JoAnna Brandi’s blog.

I was schlepping myself and my luggage through the airport this week feeling tired and old when I heard my friend and teacher Scotty’s voice in my head. ‘Walk like a dancer JoAnna, walk like a dancer.’ I have to tell you that at that very moment I felt myself grow taller, I felt my gaze rise from the moving sidewalk to what passes for a horizon in an airport, I took a deeper breath, I lifted my head and heart and then exhaled. I thought of how a dancer might move her body through an airport pulling luggage. I figured it had to be different than the way I’d been doing it. So I made up, in my mind, a vision of how I thought a trained and graceful dancer would be moving herself through the tunnel between terminals A and B ‘ a mighty distance. Scotty, tries to teach me to dance, and once in a while succeeds. (That is, if I’m in town when he’s in town and there’s space in our schedules.) I’m a tough student. And if I never learn to dance that’s okay. Scotty taught me how to walk ‘ forward and backward ‘ across a stage, down the aisle forwards and backwards with confidence, poise and grace. I’m not sure of the score he would give me if he actually saw me work with an audience, but I know that I can continue to improve if I allow myself to keep hearing Scott’s voice in my head. ‘Walk like a dancer, JoAnna, walk like a dancer.’ What a beautiful reminder for me of a principle I teach (and sometimes forget to practice myself) Act ‘As if.’ I wrote about it in my first book ‘Winning at Customer Retention, 101 Ways to Keep ‘em Happy, Keep ‘em Loyal and Keep ‘em Coming Back’ Here’s an excerpt on that wonderful practice. ‘Service providers can’t be expected to be nice all the time, to be polite all the time, to care all the time, can they? No ‘not human ones, anyway. However, there’s a skill that’s easy to apply that can bridge the gap between the times you feel genuinely, positively involved in your interactions and those you don’t. I call it acting ‘as if.’ What if you’ve had a tough day? Can you act ‘as if’ you haven’t? Or, if you feel confused about solving a customer’s problem, ask yourself how you’d act if you weren’t confused. Suppose you’ve just heard some not-so-encouraging words from a supervisor about the status of your big project, and now you have to get on the phone with a customer. Can you act ‘as if’ the interaction with your supervisor didn’t take place, muster faith in your ability to overcome adversity, and go on to help the customer? You have a headache; can you act ‘as if’ you don’t? As a performer, [and you ARE] you’ll be called on to perform when you simply don’t feel like it. Skilled performers ‘ actors, speakers, service reps, and salespeople ‘ have developed great confidence in their ability to ‘do what they have to do.’ Many know the act ‘as if’ secret. As a performer and frequent traveler, I can assure you there are many times when a delayed flight, a night of fitful sleep in a hotel room, overwork, or a cold threatens my ability to do my best in front of an audience. But what are my options? Cancel the perfor??mance? Resign myself to giving a bad show? Beg the audience for forgiveness? I’ve never considered any of these acceptable alternatives. With faith in my ability to rise to the occasion, I act ‘as if’ ‘ as if I had a good night’s sleep, as if I were feeling terrific. Very often, I find myself starting to feel just that way. When I’m nervous, I remind myself how it feels to be at ease ‘how my voice sounds, how my face looks, how I stand. I try whatever I can to affect that other feeling. Very often, by changing something in my body, by acting ‘as if,’ my mood changes and then my attitude and state of mind follow suit. Begin right now to act ‘as if’ you have faith in your ability to succeed as a performance specialist and relationship expert. (Of course, this includes taking action, not just harboring positive thoughts.) Remember, if you act helpless, you’ll be helpless. If you act creatively, on the other hand, you’ll be creative. Acting resourcefully can make you resourceful. Cultivate the habit of acting like a first-rate, best-in-your-class customer-care expert, and it will be so.’ Well said, even if I say so myself. So there I was standing tall, breathing deeply, pulling my luggage through the strangely psychedelic underground tunnel in the Detroit airport, acting ‘as if’ I was one of those people on ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ The experience was fun. It gave me energy, It stretched the muscles in my body and it put a smile on my face. It simply had to be healthier then schlepping through the airport with my head down and my shoulders bend. . ‘Act as if,’ is a simple and powerful concept used by people in all walks of life. When Billy Joel is struggling with writers block he puts on a particular set of clothing ‘ relaxed and easy ‘ goes down to the coffee shop where he has successfully written things before, buys the same kind of beverage, and takes out his old familiar notebook and pen. He puts himself in the same spot ‘ ‘as if’ the words and music were flowing from his fingertips. Because the body and the mind are so connected, he knows that when he puts his body in the same place, his mind will follow. Where will you find the opportunity this week to ‘Walk like a Dancer’ and act ‘As if’? May you have many opportunities to excel!

Visit JoAnna Brandi’s blog and website.
This post is cross posted on JoAnna Brandi’s

Customer Service Week — Day One

For Customer Service Week, NACCM Conference Chair JoAnna Brandi will be sending out a daily message. Here’s the message for day one:

Let ‘em Feel the Love The Customer Experience is all about emotion – loyalty is an emotional attachment. The ‘Experience’ is the sum total of the feelings a customer has as a result of interacting with any part of your organization. It’s based on THEIR PERCEPTION.

Podcast Series: A Conversation with Michael Cubric

The NACCM team has released a new segment to the Customers 1st Podcast Series in anticipation for this year’s NACCM Customers 1st Conference. In this podcast, JoAnna Brandi speaks to Michael Cubric of Firstline Mortgages who gives a taste about what his speech, ‘Being customer-centric is not cheap; are you ready to put your money where your mouth is’? is going to be about. Don’t miss Michael’s track session at NACCM on Wednesday, November 19th at 10:55 AM at Disneyland Hotel Anaheim in California this year.

Listen to the podcast here.

Use What You Have

Today we have a guest post from NACCM Speaker Trace Belcher. Trace Belcher is Talent Manager and Technology Training Administrator at Jewelry Television?? in Knoxville, TN. He manages the eLearning function for over 2000 employees as well as implements advanced Customer Care (Sales and Service) training for in-house employees and 3rd party vendors. Trace will be speaking on ‘Climb That Sandwich! Capturing the Passion and Productivity of Your Team.’ on November 18th at the NACCM conference in Anaheim, CA.

Hello all, Trace Belcher here. I am looking forward to speaking at the NACCM in November. My topic will be “Climb that Sandwich” (strange title I know, but you will have to check out my session for the complete explanation). I wanted to introduce myself to the group and tell an old story (well, not THAT old, I’m only 40) about the main reason I went into consulting in the first place. My dad, up until he retired this year, has been a brick (and block and stone) mason for years. When I was about 12, I saw him one day loading up his truck to go to a job site. I saw among his equipment an instrument called a “transome” (basically a “sighting” scope used to measure the grade of land). To me, though, it was just a really cool telescope. I asked my dad if I could play with this really neat telescope (please, dad, please, please, please?). His response stays with me to this day. He replied, “No, you don’t know how to use it; and having a tool you don’t know how to use is the same as not having that tool.” Disappointed that day, yes, but I’ve taken that wisdom across America: Use the tools you have! Why spend the money, time and effort to build or buy extra utilities when you haven’t discovered all of the scope and power of what you have? What pay 3rd-party vendors to do what the talent in your own organization can do? Use what you have, after all, it’s better than “not having that tool.” See you in November, Trace

Banks Still Need a Lot of Work in Customer Service

Aaron Baar mentions in this latest post on Marketing Daily that although retail banks have spent a lot of time and energy investing in the look of its retail locations, it is still lacking when it comes to customer service according to new research from J.D. Power and Associates. In some examples where mystery shoppers visited different branches, many representatives lacked basic customer service skills like smiling, shaking hands, and cleanliness. According to the survey, half of 475 customer service respresentatives shopped did not smile when greeting a prospective customer and 1/3 of those reps did not shake hands. Rockwell Clancy, executive director of financial services at J.D. Power mentions: “Overlooking these simple gestures conveys a lack of respect for the customer or disinterest in their business, and can destroy the foundation of a relationship before it’s even started. Where is the retail in retail banking?” Are banks too focused on the appearance of its branches and neglecting the simple customer service essentials that improve the overall customer experience?

Importance of Retaining Customers During Recessions

In this article from Customer Think, Phil Dourado provides tips on how to keep customers when times are tough. When the economy is experiencing problems, it becomes imperative for organizations to retain their customer base and foster loyalty. Dourado mentions 6 main points on why this is so important that he has collected from a variety of sources. 1. Cutting service problems increases profit – “1% cut in customer service problems could generate an extra ??16m in profits for a medium size company over five years.” 2. Keep the ones you’ve got – “It can cost six times more to buy new customers than retain existing ones.” 3. Service leaders are more resilient in a downturn
4. Your bills get paid

5. Reducing customer defections improves profits

6. What did we say in Number 5? Here it is again – Points 1, 2, 5 and this one are all about keeping the customers you have and not losing them. Also bear in mind that in an economic downturn it’s far easier to win market share from the competition, so becoming defensive-minded is not always a sensible strategy.

Two Customer Service Approaches Your Company Should Avoid

Whether you’re talking to a company’s representative on the phone or online, there are two quick ways to alienate a customer. Laura Bergells details these two approaches that your company’s reps should watch out for when they communicate with customers in her latest post on Internet Marketing in the Midwest. Laura gives an example of two companies that she has had a long customer relationship with which she will soon break off. One company apologizes constantly in person, on the phone, and in ‘canned letters’. The apologies seem scripted, and thus can frustrate customers even more when their problems are not being solved. The next example involves a company who apologizes for none of its faults, and makes the customer feel like an idiot. The representatives for Company B treated Laura with absolutely no respect, and made no effort to go out of there way to provide superior service. Not only was the rep rude, but they did hold Laura’s scheduled appointment. These are two examples of customer service approaches that your company should never follow. As Laura mentions, customer service is a huge part of marketing, and frustrated bloggers can spread word fast all over social media. Businesses should empower its representatives to use social skills and reasoning to solve problems and communicate effectively with customers, instead of following a script or being unapologetic.