All posts by Connie Harrington

HBR Study on Employee Engagement

A recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) survey revealed many companies view employee engagement as a key success factor. But less than half of firms tie engagement metrics to customer satisfaction or financial results. Even more disturbing: just 24 percent believed their workforce is highly engaged.

This research underscores what many business leaders know. Many organizations have work to do move from vision to action in the realm of employee engagement.

Another key finding: organizations that make employee engagement a top priority do a better job at measuring its impacts. Those “high prioritizers” comprised 48 percent of the study total. Thirty-eight percent (38%) of respondents were “moderate prioritizers” with 14 as “low prioritizers.”

What Employee Engagement Leaders Do Differently

As the figure below notes, high prioritizers see a stronger relationship between employee engagement and customer satisfaction compared to moderate or low prioritizers. And high prioritizers take concrete action steps to operationalize that knowledge.

Employee engagement links to customer satisfaction

Source:  “The Impact of Employee Engagement on Performance,” Harvard Business Review

According to the study, brands that prioritize employee engagement showed some similar characteristics. Those include:

  • Precise internal surveys: Engagement leaders go beyond generic approaches to measuring employee satisfaction. They craft internal surveys that include direct questions about employee experiences. Detailed survey analysis is another hallmark of high engagement companies. They sift through the results to identify latent employee dissatisfaction. Then, senior leadership uses survey results to shape business directions.
  • Aligned operational goals: Leaders do not take a “set it and forget it” approach to strategy. Instead, they use strategy as a foundation for operational and individual goals—at every organizational layer. Top leaders establish core goals. Middle managers create specific, tangible objectives for employees to tie their performance to business objectives. Employees receive the resources they need to success and remain accountable for their personal goals.

Engagement leaders also link employee engagement to customer feedback and satisfaction surveys. They also have strong recognition programs, which link employee performance to customer happiness and business results.

Creating an Engagement Culture

As the HBR study reveals, effective internal and external surveys are keys to fostering an engagement culture. Within the company, engagement leaders avoid packaged surveys and tailor data collection to specific needs within their environment. In addition, they look for meaning behind the metrics and identify latent pockets of employee dissatisfaction. They also craft external surveys to collect valid insight on customer perceptions and link results to individual performance.

Firms seeking to excel at employee engagement need to heighten focus in these areas:

  • Surveys: Leaders need to move beyond annual customer and employee surveys. They also need rapid results analysis to make solid business decisions based on feedback. Survey tools that empower both closed-ended and free-form input, along with real-time results analysis, are vital.
  • Employee experience compliance: Survey results can also provide a clear picture of how well employees perform against brand standards. Advanced experience compliance solutions offer real-time insight on each customer interaction with front-employees. These tools allow brands to take immediate action when customer dissatisfaction arises and provide employees resources and knowledge they need to portray the brand.

Engaged employees are far better brand ambassadors—and this has a major impact on customer perceptions. As a recent Forbes article explained, “employees must not only be plausible representatives of your brand’s key attributes, but they must exude the company brand.” Top-to-bottom engagement and authentically listening to external and internal feedback are paths to brand alignment.

The Engagement Imperative

Business leaders now know that having an engaged workforce isn’t a good idea–it’s a strategic imperative. Enterprises must keep a pulse on customer and employee sentiment and have real-time insight into brand expression to thrive in today’s customer-driven world.

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Authoritative research has validated that employee engagement affects customer satisfaction and financial performance. Is your brand taking steps to operationalize this truth? We would love to learn from your experience:

  • Do you have an advanced process for collecting, measuring, and acting on employee feedback?
  • How do you tie customer post-interaction survey results to employee performance?
  • What performance metrics do you use to empower your employees to align with brand mandates?

Add a comment or ask a question in the space below. We welcome your input and insights.

10 Top Trends in Field Service

Emerging technologies—mobile, advanced analytics, and more—are making their mark on field service operations. Without a doubt, today’s field organizations have unprecedented opportunities to transform how they do business and deliver better service to customers.

As we move full steam ahead into 2015, what topics are most pressing to field service leaders? A recent survey of 180 organizations from The Service Council’s (TSC) provided essential insight.

Here are ten top-of-mind issues for today’s field service organizations:

  1. Field activity is on the rise: TSC’s survey found that more than half (55%) of respondents noted growing numbers of field visits.
  2. Customers hold equipment longer: A big reason for the jump in field service activity is that customers keep equipment for longer periods. Forty percent (40%) said they saw increased customer service needs tied to this factor.
  3. Many field ops are adequately staffed: About two-thirds of organizations say they can have enough resources meet current rise field service demands. Still, nearly half (47%) had open positions at the close of 2014.
  4. Talent loss is an imminent threat: Although field service workforces are currently stable, many firms expect to lose personnel and ramp up hiring in the next three to five years.
  5. Field service revenue is growing: More than two-thirds (68%) of businesses saw more revenue from field service activity last year. Nearly half (47%) said field service grew more than 10 percent in 2014.
  6. Mobile adoption keeps rising: Not everyone is mobile—yet. In fact, 52 percent of respondents said implementing mobile apps to reduce paperwork is a 2015 priority.
  7. Self-service needs improvement: Forty-seven percent said their customers have no self-service options. That means those customers can schedule or cancel appointments or check on technician status. This is key opportunity for investment.
  8. Real-time video is emerging: Fifty-six percent (56%) are exploring options for real-time video to improve efficiency. One-third of that group expects to adopt video in the near-term
  9. Service costs concern customers: Thirty-one percent (31%) of respondents said customers complain about costs for any services not under contract.
  10. Inventory management is gaining focus: Respondents highlighted parts and inventory management as top execution challenges.

These findings show that field service is in transition. While many see revenues up and staffing as adequate, the coming years will bring inevitable shifts. Field services need to lay the groundwork now for a successful tomorrow.

2015 Focus Areas

In addition to summarizing trends, TSC has also identified key 2015 priorities. Those include: process control and review, talent, execution, IT infrastructure, and call management, dispatch and scheduling.

According to TSC, process control is a consistent priority, but the focus has shifted. Today, more field service organizations are looking for ways to improve customer satisfaction and increase revenues.

Many organizations are looking at processes—such as appointment reservations, dispatches, and post-appointment follow-up—within the field service operation.

Field service organizations are also strategizing now to address impending resource shifts as older workers move into retirement. They are also looking at ways to improve automation to reduce paperwork, support knowledge transfer, and provide customer information and training to field service representatives. Mobility and wearable are two other hot button topics for many field service organizations.

Importantly, many service organizations are recognizing that low-quality call management has negative effects on dispatch and delivered service levels. Organization are realizing that poor contact processes can cause unnecessary or ineffective dispatches. They are looking for ways to improve scheduling—including making it easier for customers to schedule visits and tightening appointment windows.

Better Service, More Profit

The recent TSC survey reinforce findings from a Worldwide Business Research (WBR) study last year. That study of 125 executives found that 70 percent said their companies’ profit from service was equal to or greater than sales. Seventy-nine percent also noted that they have metrics to measure and track customer satisfaction. That is vital since the link between customer experience and revenue is well known.

It is clear that advanced contact management is a key priority for field service ops in 2015. By making appointment scheduling easy, tracking technician status, and shortening appointment windows field service leaders can make dramatic improvements in customer experiences and gain higher profits.

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Do TSC’s findings ring true for you? Let us know what you see as your top areas of focus for 2015.

  • Are your revitalizing your processes and operations to deliver better customer experiences?
  • How solid are your appointment and contact management functions?
  • Are you gaining more revenues from service visits?

Share your thoughts in the space below. We welcome your insights.

great customer experience

What Makes a Great Customer Experience?

Today’s customers have unprecedented access to information. This empowers customers to make choices and shift loyalties rapidly. Business leaders are responding by intensifying their focus on delivering superior customer experiences.

However, many brands are still in catch-up mode. Customers often encounter frustrating situations—such as being routed from agent to agent when they contact a call center. Many companies do not achieve the goal of first call resolution (FCR). However, 54 percent of U.S. call centers now track this metric, according to studies from Saddletree Research.

The takeaway: the desire for improved experiences—by customers and brand leaders alike—is not a universal reality.

As brands make strides to improve customer engagement, they need to know qualities of a great customer experience. They also need to know how to measure the customer experiences their front-line team delivers. With the right analytic approach, brands can cultivate a continuous improvement culture, which adapts to shifting customer trends.

What Makes a Great Customer Experience

Consumer research from several sources has revealed a very distinct trend. Today’s customers want low-effort experiences.

  • A survey of 97,000 customer revealed that exceeding customer expectations is not always enough to retain customers. Instead, customers are more likely to remain loyal to brands that require minimal effort when engaging with them. Yet many brands are not delivering the low-effort, multichannel experiences customers desire. (Corporate Executive Board).
  • A U.S. study of 27,000 customers across 14 industries validated that high-quality, low-effort experiences deliver positive business results. Positive experiences correlated to increases in revenue growth and customer satisfaction. (McKinsey)
  • A consumer study showed that brands who make purchase decision journeys easier for customers were 86 percent more likely to motivate consumers to buy. Moreover, these brands earned higher repurchase rates and were more than 115 percent more likely to be recommended by consumers than brands with more complex purchase journeys. (Customer Experience Board)

Top performers make sure they are accessible on the channels customers prefer. Often, consumers use multiple channels in their buying journey—from research, through down select, and purchase.

Companies need to eliminate information silos so that every front-line representative—from the contact center to a branch location—has up-to-date detail on customer interactions. Streamlining systems can also eliminate the common problem of asking customers to repeat or reenter information multiple times—a major source of customer irritation.

How to Know if You are Delivering Quality Customer Experiences

The best way to know if you are making your customers happy is to ask them. You need to adopt a real-time survey approach to capture customer feedback when it matters most—immediately after a customer interacts with your brand. This practice gives you fresh, honest insight on how your team is performing.

Here are few things to consider when upgrading your survey program:

Multichannel delivery

You can administer your survey program across multiple channels for the widest possible customer reach. By offering a mix of contact by phone, text, email, and web, you can also demonstrate to your accessibility to your customers.

Survey Design

Today, customers may encounter multiple surveys per week—as many websites ask for feedback from every visitor. That means you are likely to get more responses to a shorter survey.

If you use closed-ended questions—such as multiple choice—you must take care not to influences the questions with your response set. Also, if you offer more positive options than negative, you may force customers to respond positively—even if the response doesn’t match their true feelings. You must also include a neutral or not applicable choice with most questions.

Open-ended feedback:

Many companies today have recognized the limitations of closed-ended surveys. They are migrating to open-ended formats, including collection of customer verbatims. The benefit: open-ended questions provide a more accurate gauge of customer sentiment.

Companies can gain even deeper insights by employing human sentiment analysis. With this approach, you can evaluate these subtle communications nuances that reveal customers’ true feelings and perceptions.

You also need capabilities for on-the-spot analysis of customer feedback. Gone are the days when reviewing survey data at periodic intervals is enough to feel confident that your organization is delivering quality customer experiences.

Delivering Next-Generation Customer Experiences–Today

Today’s brands are realizing that customer experience is not a wish list item for the future. It is a here-and-now imperative that requires focus and investment. Streamlining operations to provide the simplicity is key, along with capturing ongoing customer feedback to benchmark improvements.

Optimizing customer experiences is fast becoming a clear differentiator in an intensely competitive landscape. This is making advanced survey collection technology a business necessity for 2015 and beyond.

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We always welcome reader comments and insights. Please share your thoughts on these questions, or add your own ideas:

  • Do you agree that low-effort experiences are a key driver of customer satisfaction?
  • Has your organization taken steps to allow customers to engage with you across multiple channels?
  • Are you one of the many organizations focused on upgrading survey approaches in 2015?

We look forward to your input.

 

 

 

proactive customer contact

Forrester: Proactive Customer Contact is Essential

Forrester has highlighted proactive customer contact on their list of top 2015 customer service trends. However, this isn’t the first year that the analyst firm has focused attention on this important issue.

In 2014, Forrester also emphasized that more customers expect to receive proactive outbound notifications. Yet, the firm’s research  revealed that just 29 percent of brands expected to invest in outbound technologies last year.

Another Forrester report from 2009 explained that brands can save money by implementing proactive outbound contact. The research notes that using multiple channels—including email and text—lets customers receive important messages on their preferred device.

Forrester highlighted three benefits of this approach:

  • Reaching Customers Quickly: Customers can promptly access messages from their device of choice.
  • Providing Proactive Contacts on Issues of Interest: Companies can use known customer preferences to provide messages on topics customers value.
  • Anticipating Customer Requirements: Brands can cut inbound support calls by proactively communicating relevant information to customers.

Brands who do use proactive outbound contact demonstrate that care about customers’ needs. This leads to greater customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Proactive outbound contact offers many opportunities to brands. Here are three benefits companies can gain by implementing preemptive service notifications:

#1: Eliminate Costly Order Errors

Order issues can be high-visibility trouble spots for any brand. Why? Today’s customers have ready access to competitive purchase and pricing options. When customers do make a buying decision, customers have often done their homework. They expect to receive what they ordered when they want it. Any slowdowns can cause customers intense frustration and motivate them to cancel transactions and buy from a competitor.

They good news is companies can use proactive outbound contact to mitigate these issues. Quality order systems can detect when something is amiss with any order—which may be due to a customer input error or internal issues. These systems can alert skilled follow-up representatives and arm them with information to reach out to the customer to resolve the problem—right away.

Advanced outbound contact solutions give brands the power to fix order fallout when it happens. This can promote customer satisfaction. Another benefit: proactive contact can prevent wrong order data from leaking into other operational systems—which can cause costly downstream billing or inventory problems.

#2: Alert Customers to Service-Affecting Issues

Gone are the days of after-the-fact management of service issues. In the past, many brands responded to outages, down times or other service disruptions by staffing up their contact centers to field an influx of inbound calls.

Today, companies can rely on proactive, multichannel notifications to alert customers to known issues before they occur. Moreover, brands can respond promptly when unplanned issues arise by targeting informative alerts to the affected portion of their customer base.

#3: Cut Inbound Support Costs

Proactive notifications can reach people wherever they are, before they even know about a service-affecting issue. That means customers don’t need to make contact with a call center with questions or frustrations. As Forrester explains, “Outbound notifications deflect inbound calls, which reduce costs and boost consumer satisfaction and revenue.”

Forrester also predicts the continued proliferation of connected devices—with an estimated 50 billion in use by 2020. This will give companies even more opportunities to reach customers with information.

The Service and Revenue Opportunity

Cutting costs is always valuable. But Forrester, like many other thought leaders, advocate improving customer satisfaction for a healthy bottom line. In fact, Forrester claims that mere 10 percent uplift in a company’s customer experience CX score can add $1 billion in revenues for a company, in some scenarios.

Today’s brands know they must engage more deeply with and offer personalized interactions to their customers. Anticipating customer needs via proactive outbound contact is a logical next step. This empowers brands to move beyond traditional one-way outbound communications to an approach which lets customers feel the company has their best interests at heart.

Clearly, proactive outbound contact is key to  delivering exceptional quality service in the era of the empowered customer.

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We welcome your commentary and real-world stories about engaging customers via outbound contact.

  • Does your company deliver proactive notifications to customers?
  • Do you have any tangible or anecdotal insights on the success of proactive outbound contact?
  • What impact do preemptive service notifications have on your inbound support volumes?

Thank you for sharing your insights with us and our community.

employee engagement

Why Brands Need Strong Employee Enagement

The start of every new year unleashes a flood of lists and predictions for the 12 months ahead. And as 2015 gets underway, many brands are well aware that the time to take action to improve customer experiences is now.

While buzz about big data and customer journeys abounds, some thought leaders are calling attention to another much-needed area of focus: employee engagement.

In fact, customer experience industry expert Bruce Temkin, CEO of the Temkin Group has dubbed 2015 “The Year of the Employee.” Temkin believes companies will recognize a need for internal changes as they intensify attention on customer experience. That recognition will heighten focus on employees. In his 2015 trends list, he predicts that companies will launch culture shifts, accelerate customer experience training to employees, and involve HR to reach out to employees.

If customer experience is a priority for your brand, you need to boost employee engagement as well. 2015 can be the year when your brand cultivates stronger internal engagement.

Key Employee Engagement Trends

In the past, some management teams relied on attrition and retention statistics alone to gauge employee satisfaction. However, those metrics may not tell a full story. They can tell you which employees may have been dissatisfied or needed growth opportunities—after the fact.

Ultimately, you need to get a pulse on employee perceptions within your own environment. But here is the surprising big picture: just 30 percent of American workers are engaged at work, according to research from Gallup. That suggests many brands have work ahead to fortify employee engagement.

There’s a strong potential upside to tackling this task. Analysis from the Workplace Research Foundation reveals that successful employee engagement programs can grow profits by $2,400 per employee—annually.

Studies also provide insight on what fosters high engagement:

  • Clear values: Employees who work for organizations with “known and understood” values are 51 percent more likely to be fully engaged at work than those who feel their organization does not have clear values (Modern Survey)
  • Effective leadership: In organizations with leaders are perceived as effective, 72 percent of employees say they are highly engaged (Towers Watson)

Here’s another need-to-know metric: organizations which motivate employees through a shared mission and set of values are nine times more likely to earn high satisfaction ratings from customers, according to research from LRN.

How Can Your Brand Strengthen Employee Engagement?

After understanding large-scale trends, you need to take relevant actions in your own environment. You need to know how your organization sizes up against the norm. Another must-do: you need to pay special attention to your front-line team, since their performance and knowledge has a direct impact on customer perceptions.

Here are three key steps to create an engagement culture:

#1: Capture Employee Sentiment

A survey tool for capturing customer sentiment can also collect data internally. You can secure both structured and open-ended employee feedback for analysis. With this data, you can assess organization-wide trends and drill down to operational levels—by region, branch, or manager. This can quickly highly where any trouble spots are in your environment. You can then prioritize targeted initiatives to foster culture shifts or deliver training wherever needed.

#2: Assess Employee Performance Routinely

In today’s customer-centric world, annual performance evaluation cycles can’t keep pace with continual shifts in customer sentiment. Instead, you need technologies for real-time insight into employee performance. This is especially critical for your front-line teams.

Your survey technology is the best resource for tracking how well employees manage customer interactions. If an customer leaves a low score, that rating indicates that your front-line representative may not have delivered the best possible experience and met your brand mandates. You can set up alerts to let you know immediately when customers register poor survey responses. That insight empowers you to address any employee-related issues on the spot, so that they do not blossom into larger problems.

#3: Provide Ongoing Training and Coaching

Another benefit of real-time survey alerts is that they allow you to deliver training directly to those employees and teams which require it. You can have prepared, automated training available to address typical customer scenarios—and provide them to your employee if a customer survey indicates a need. Alternatively, you can let a manager know that he or she should give focused coaching to and employee.

Moreover, you can identify if a specific team is facing a similar set of customer interaction challenges and provide group training to address those issues. With a focus on continuous learning, you can create a environment that fosters employee growth and helps employees feel more valued.

Meeting the Employee Engagement Mandate

Are improving customer experiences and employee engagement on your 2015 priority list? If so, you need to get an early start on implementing the programs and technologies to develop an engagement culture—which can translate directly into happier customers and stronger financial returns.

You need to have advanced approaches to survey employees, monitor their performance, and provide training to create the necessary culture shifts. Heightened focus on your internal environment can filter out into the world beyond your organization—and have positive effects on customers and your brand reputation.

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We welcome you to share your thoughts on this important topic:

  • Do you believe employee engagement is a key area of focus for 2015?
  • How does your brand keep a pulse on employee sentiment?
  • Do you routinely assess the performance of your front-line team against brand experience standards?

Join the conversation by adding a comment below.

Front-line team

Is Your Front-Line Team Embodying Your Brand?

According to Deloitte research, more than 60 percent of enterprises view the customer experience their contact centers deliver as a competitive differentiator. Yet many companies still must take steps to operationalize this truth—or risk losing customers.

Today, a single sub-par contact center interaction can result in an immediate customer defection. However, consumers are increasingly apt to do much more than just shift brand preferences when their expectations remain unmet. Consumer research reveals that nearly 50% of those who are unhappy with service they receive talk about poor experiences on social media.

The hard reality is that every call that comes into your contact center is a potential gateway to a social media firestorm. Fortunately, you can mitigate this risk and boost customer perceptions of your organization.

Many companies have deployed post-interaction customer surveys. This is a solid step in the right direction. To compete in today’s service-driven environment, brands must move beyond periodic survey reviews. They need up-to-the-minute details on how every front-line team member is performing.

Applying the following four best practices can empower your team  to personify your brand standards:

#1: Track customer-facing team performance against brand experience goals

Although companies have customer experience targets, they do not always track whether their front-line teams achieve those goals. Case in point: a field service operation may expect a representative to make post-visit contact with a customer to ensure his or her expectations were met. To affirm that this contact happened—and to evaluate its effectiveness—companies must pair contact technologies with post-interaction survey solutions.

However, these solutions empower your company to do much more. You can also identify unhappy customers and engage your team’s dissatisfied customer experts and practices to address concerns right away. Prompt action to address customer complaints can prevent viral spread of negative sentiment on social networks.

#2: Measure and respond to individual customer interactions

Service leaders know they cannot rely on periodic reviews of aggregate post-interaction survey data. Instead, you need insight into every interaction by every customer-facing team member—in real time. This empowers you to track every employee’s compliance with your brands customer experience standards.

You can also identify low-quality interactions when they happen. That way, you can remedy the situation promptly. You can deliver automated coaching to employees responsible for sub-par interactions. Also, you can readily detect top performers, determine what they are doing right, and share this knowledge organization-wide.

 #3: Increase brand experience accountability for front-line employees

When you link post-interaction surveys to individual team members, you can determine how well your customer-facing employees uphold your brand experience standards. You can design the right mix of structured and free-form survey questions to learn whether customer experiences reflect your brand promise. As an added benefit, your management team can use customer feedback to determine areas for improvement and assess ongoing survey results to measure performance improvements.

#4: Manage brand experience across the entire organization

Since many organizations have widely-distributed front-line functions, performing multiple levels of analysis is very important. Brands must be able to slice-and-dice survey data to view team performance from multiple perspectives.

The biggest benefit comes when you drill-down and roll-up survey results to assess them from various angles. You can see how each office or branch is performing, along with each region or sub-brand. Moreover, you can assess customers’ reactions to specific products or promotions. This approach empowers you to view the current state of customer experience throughout your customer-facing footprint—no matter the scale or distribution of your enterprise.

In addition, this approach lets you spotlight successful practices in one corner of your organization and disseminate them into other areas of your business. This can foster greater connectedness among your team members and cultivate a true single company sentiment. Inevitably, this will filter out through your customer-facing representatives to your customers—and give your customers the consistent experiences they desire.

Today’s brands must rise to the challenge of delivering brand-affirming interactions at every touch point. The path to achieving this goal is through strategic application of contact management and survey technologies. Together, those powerful tools offer you actionable insight into your front-line team’s performance so that you can empower those employees to embody your brand standards.

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If you have thoughts on how to empower your team to align with your brand standards, we would love to hear from you:

  • Do you routinely survey customers to gain insights on whether their experiences match your brand promise?
  • Do you know how well each front-line employee performs your against brand experience mandates?
  • Can you assess brand experience performance and multiple operational levels?

Feel free to answer one of our questions or offer your own ideas. We look forward to you comments.

Multichannel customer contact

Every Brand Needs Multichannel Customer Contact

The latest statistics reveal that nearly 90 percent of the population of North America uses the Internet. In addition, consumer research indicates an estimated 64 percent of North Americans accessed the Internet via a smart phone in 2014.

The message behind these numbers is clear. Companies must embrace multichannel customer contact today—or risk losing customers’ attention and loyalty.

As brands strive to improve customer experiences in 2015, upgrading multichannel outreach should be an area of focus.

Here are three practices your organization can adopt to put yourself at the head of the multichannel pack this year:

#1: Know Which Contact Channels Your Customers Prefer

Chances are, your customers communicate via multiple channels everyday. Some customer prefer to connect via email, while others prefer text, and still others like traditional voice. How do you know what your customers prefer?

The easiest way to get this data is to ask for it. If your customer makes contact with a service representative, you can use that interaction to collect or reaffirm channel preferences. You can also add a channel preference question to transaction screens.

Preference centers are other proven tools to collect customer data. You can include preference centers in your customer on-boarding processes. These tools empower customers to self-select how they wish to receive contact. As an added benefit, you can also collect high-value insight on product and service interests, demographic data, and much more.

Once you have collected contact channel data—use it. Adhering to your customers’ preferences lets them know that you listen and value their input. This cultivates positive sentiment and helps reinforce customer brand loyalty.

#2: Centralize Customer Contact Management Details

You must anticipate that your customers can and do shift channels rapidly. For example, a customer may start a self-service transaction on your website, but realize he needs more information. He may follow up with a customer service call or email—or even decide to visit a brick-and-mortar location.

Or, you may detect a need to reach-out to a customer—to confirm purchase details or validate a service need. That means you must provide up-to-date information on every customer interaction to your front-line employees.

Achieving this requires you to eliminate information silos that hamper exchange of information by your entire customer-facing team. You also need to take a close look at your processes and eliminate repetitive steps. That way you can avoid asking your customers for information multiple times, which is a common source of frustration.

A centralized approach gives you a clear advantages. You can provide the seamless, personalized experience your customer expects across multiple channels. This can be a solid differentiator in today’s service-drive competitive landscape.

#3: Deploy Proactive Multichannel Contact

Handing inbound contact is just one piece of the puzzle. According to Forrester, outbound contact has been a top-of-mind issue for customers and companies alike in recent years.

Brands should adopt proactive contact approaches to anticipate customer needs. They can combine recent customer contact data with insights from other solutions to deliver the right messages—such as an offer or link to an online tutorial—at the right time. This can eliminate steps in purchase processes and prevent inbound contact to support teams.

Another way to cut down on costly inbound contact is to notify customers of service-disrupting issues in advance. If you have a known downtime, letting customers know ahead of time can eliminate frustrating error messages.

Plus, you can respond immediately when the unexpected arises—such as network outages due to weather events. You can target relevant communications to affected segments of your customer population.

At the start of 2014, Forrester reported that just 29 percent of companies planned to invest in proactive contact solutions. That suggests that proactive notifications is a worthy area of focus for companies wishing to get ahead of an emerging trend.

Embracing the Multichannel Imperative

No doubt about it: 2015 is the year when brands must embrace multichannel customer contact. A recent Ovum study of over 8,000 global consumers affirmed this imperative.

The firm reported that 74 percent of consumers use a minimum of three channels when engaging with a company for customer service. Twenty-two percent (22%) of customers use five or more channels, while 52 percent use three or more.

Today’s brands need to know that the traditional voice channel is not going away. They need to strategize for an optimum mix of live voice, IVR, email, text, chat, mobile contact, and more—and deliver consistent experiences across all these touch points.

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We would love to hear your thoughts on this important topic.

  • Is your organization delivering multichannel contact to customers?
  • Do you have a capability to centralize up-to-date customer contact data for use by your entire front-line service team?
  • Have you adopted proactive outbound notifications and alerts to anticipate customer needs?

Please share your ideas in the space below. We look forward to hearing from you.

Appointment reminders can cut patient no-shows

Reversing the Patient No-Show Trend

Healthcare is an expensive business. One preventable factor that often drives up costs for physicians and patients alike is appointment no-shows.

According to the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), the average practice experiences a 5-7% patient no-show rate. This can translate to thousands to millions of dollars of lost annual revenue—depending on the size of the practice.

If you manage a medical practice, you need to take steps to cut your no-show rate and stop unnecessary revenue drain. There are several proven ways you can reverse your missed appointment trend.

1. Automate Appointment Reminders

A key study published in the American Journal of Medicine (AJOM) validated that automated appointment reminder phone calls can sharply cut a practice’s patient no-show rate. In the study, the no-show rate for patients who received no pre-appointment reminder was 23.1%. Placing an automated reminder call three days before the scheduled visit dropped the patient no-show rate to 17.3%.

2. Use Same-Day Appointment Reminders

Although the AJOM study confirmed the benefit of automated reminders, the resulting patient no-show rate was still extremely high. That could be because the three-day pre-apointment notification was too far in advance. One way to shrink your no-show rate even further is to institute same-day reminders to connect with patients on the day of their appointments. You can choose to confirm with everyone on the day’s schedule or just reach out to those with whom you have not made contact.

3. Institute a Confirm or Auto-Reschedule Policy

Some practices may find benefit in requiring appointment confirmations from customers. If you go this route, you may also implement an automatic reschedule policy if you have not heard from patients within a specified time window before the appointment. While this may not work for every appointment, this approach may have value for appointments for certain lengthy procedures which can book up significant time on a physician’s schedule.

4. Adopt a Multi-Channel Approach

Reaching out to patients via phone has long been an industry standard practice. However, the proliferation of new communications options has motivated many practices to explore a multi-channel approach. This aligns well with emerging patient preferences. In one patient poll, 65% of respondents indicated that they would like to receive appointment reminders via email. That study also revealed that patients would appreciate proactive notifications via email and text to schedule preventative care appointments.

Other studies have validated that using text can benefit more than just your daily appointment schedule. Using texts can improve appointment adherence. They can also can help patients with chronic conditions—such as HIV/AIDS or diabetes—keep up with medication and treatment regimens.

5. Collect and Use Patient Communications Preferences

If you adopt multi-channel contact, you should ask patients their preferred method to receive communications from your practice—phone, text, or email. You also be sure to follow their preferences as often as possible. This shows that you value their time and input. However, if you are facing a potential missed appointment or have another critical need to contact a patient, you can use other channels to make contact in an effective way—especially if prior contact attempts via preferred channels have failed.

6. Know Your Patients’ Contact History and Patterns

The right technology can do more than just send out generic appointment reminders to patients. It can also keep track of contact attempts and whether or not they were successful in engaging patients. Building on this data, smart technology solutions can understand best times to reach out to increase the likelihood of contact.

7. Understand Which Patients are More Likely to Miss Appointments

Studies conducted across multiple medical specialties have revealed that certain categories of patients are more likely to miss appointments. Those groups include:

  • Patients who are younger than 35 years of age
  • Patients with an outstanding account balance with your practice
  • Patients who have a scheduled routine, annual exam, or non-urgent visit
  • Patients of low socioeconomic status

In addition, studies have also revealed that patient no-show rates tend to spike during the first and last weeks of each month. Patient cash-flow issues could be the root cause of this issue.

By knowing which types of patients have the greatest no-show risk, you can tailor communications and reminder practices to reach these patients.

Lowering Patient No-Shows with Appointment Reminders

Adopting a proactive, multi-channel appointment reminder strategy is an imperative for any medical practice wishing to cut costs and improve its bottom line. While other alternatives—such as patient no-show fees, double booking, or terminating patients from the practice—do exist, these can be cumbersome to administer and decrease your practice’s positive perception and goodwill in your community.

Smart medical practitioners are recognizing the strategic and economic value of high-quality appointment reminders.

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If you are in the business of healthcare, we would value your thoughts on this important industry topic. Respond to one of our questions or offer your own thoughts in the space below:

  • Does your practice experience a higher or lower no-show rate than the 5-7% industry standard noted by MGMA?
  • What approaches do you use to handle patient no-shows?
  • How do you issue pre-appointment reminders to patients?

We look forward to your input.

4 Reasons Why NPS Isn’t a Silver Bullet

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) earned widespread acclaim as an essential measure of customer satisfaction. In fact, some companies use NPS as the one and only barometer of customer experience.

Part of the appeal of NPS is its simplicity. It aims to measure customer loyalty based on a single question: “how likely is it that you will recommend this product to a friend or colleague?” Responses range from 0 for (not likely) to 10 (extremely likely).  NPS scoring groups respondents into three categories:

  • Those giving a score of 0 to 6 are “detractors”
  • Those giving a score of 7 to 8 are “passives”
  • Those giving a score of 9 to 10 are “promoters”

While NPS has some merit, it does not tell a full story about customer experiences.

NPS can provide an aggregate picture of how well a company is relating to its customers. However, the NPS approach does nothing to address the “detractors”—a potentially volatile group of unhappy customers who can quickly take their negative impressions online. Moreover, NPS does not help a company distinguish which detractors are at the greatest risk of churning.

Smart brands need to understand the limitations of NPS and look for additional ways to collect actionable customer insight.

#1: The NPS Question Doesn’t Always Apply

Although billed as a “one size fits all” solution, NPS doesn’t work for every market product, or situation. In fact, in his 2003 Harvard Business Review article, NPS creator Frederick Reichheld affirms the “would recommend” question isn’t effective in every industry.

In some cases, asking a customer if he or she would refer a product or service to another person is simply not relevant. For example, in B2B purchase situations, the individual who completes the transaction may not have buying authority. Moreover, the “would recommend” question has little merit in monopolies, where customers have very limited choice.

Other consumer research valiates that the NPS “willingness to recommend” (WTR) metric is a valid predictor of customer behavior in some industries, but one of the worst measures in other industries.

In one study, WTR had little relevance to predicting future retail customer behavior. Asking customers a different question—what share of their next 10 shopping visits they expected to dedicate to a specific brand—was a better predictor of future customer visits and purchases. This underscores that NPS does not apply across all customers, products, and markets.

#2: NPS Lacks Precision

Although NPS respondents have 11 possible answer choices, scoring lumps them into three broad categories—promoters, passives, and detractors. Companies have no way of distinguishing meaning within these segments. They have no tools to predict whether a detractor who gives a score of “0” will behave differently from a detractor who answers “6.”

Often, companies who use NPS tie aggregate NPS scores to organization-wide business results, such as revenue, sales volume, and market share. Such macro-level analysis can have value. However, in today’s economy, paying close attention to individual customer’s feedback, loyalty, and behavior is growing in importance.

#3: NPS Can Yield the Same Score in Varied Scenarios

To calculate NPS, companies can subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters. This approach, while simple, can lead to calculating the same NPS score in multiple scenarios.

For example, a company with 50% promoters and 40% detractors would have an NPS of 10. However, that score would also occur when a company had 10% of its customers as promoters and 0% detractors. Despite achieving the same score, the brand should respond very differently to those case scenarios to bolster customer loyalty.

#4: NPS May Not Capture the Full Expression of Customer Experience

Consumer research suggests that many companies who use NPS may experience inflated scores. The reason: satisfied customers are traditionally more likely to respond to surveys.

Moreover, the NPS question is worded in a positive and leading way. The phrasing assumes that respondents are at least somewhat likely to recommend a product or service to others. Also, analysts note that the 0-10 scale may not have relevance in all cultures, which makes NPS less useful for multinational organizations.

Another limitation to NPS: it is, by nature, a closed-ended survey. This approaches forces respondents to fit their perceptions into a specific category, when their feelings may be more open-ended. This suggests NPS could fade in importance as companies turn to collection of Voice of the Customer (VoC) input.

Moving Beyond NPS

Ultimately, NPS can provide a snapshot of a company’s performance with its customers. Having a high NPS score can create a perception among management teams that a company is delivering good quality customer service. However, NPS provides no insight beyond a raw score.

Today’s brands must angle to retain customers in an economy where switching loyalties is the norm. That means they need to expand their approaches to customer feedback collection and analysis—and pay careful attention to the difficult “detractor” customer segment.

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If you have experience with NPS, we would love to hear from you. Answer one of our questions or add your own insights in the space below:

  • Does your organization use NPS scoring to measure customer satisfaction and loyalty?
  • What do you perceive as the benefits and limitations of NPS?
    What other techniques do you use to collect actionable customer feedback?

We appreciate your input and look forward to your ideas.

Addressing Latent Customer Dissatisfaction

Every time you handle a customer concern, you should know that many of your customers are harboring negative feelings—but not saying a word.

In fact, data from the White House Office of Consumer Affairs validated that there are 26 unhappy customers for each one who registers a formal concern. That means you likely hear from less than 5% of your dissatisfied customers.

Your brand has a significant amount of hidden negative sentiment that needs your attention. If you don’t focus on your the most volatile and vulnerable segment of your customer base—your slightly to moderately dissatisfied customers—the consequences can cause far-reaching damage.

This group of customers can share negative feelings via word-of-mouth and dissuade others from trying out your products or services. Or, one vocal complainer can incite an online groundswell of negative feedback and motivate other unhappy customers to lend their voices.

All it takes is one poor customer experience to put your brand at risk for large-scale defections and a loss of public reputation. As today’s brands angle to provide better customer experiences, focusing on latent customer dissatisfaction is a clear imperative.

Here are four things you need to know to address hidden negative sentiment:

1. Understand that Traditional Feedback Channels May Not Identify All Dissatisfied Customers

How do you know when a customer is unhappy? One obvious way is when a customer posts a concern on a social network or logs an online review. You can also glean insights from real-time analysis of post-interaction surveys.

But all of those scenarios fit into the small minority of complaints you do hear about.

Ironically, research suggests that many latently dissatisfied customers indicate that they are at least somewhat satisfied on quantitative customer surveys. That implies that closed-ended survey formats—with their yes/no and multiple choice response sets—may not tell you all you need to know.

2. Listen to What Your Customers Do Say

A good way to detect more dissatisfied customers is to include open-ended survey questions. Specifically, capturing customer spoken verbatims gives you potential for much deeper insight into perceptions and feelings about your brand.

Many companies are starting to realize the potential power of open-ended survey questions. In a recent study, the Temkin Group determined that brands will be ceasing their over-reliance on multiple choice survey questions and increasing collection of customer verbatims over the next three years..

Of course, collecting data is just a first step. Only analysis can reveal all-important customer insights. And only human sentiment analysis can assess the many nuances of of human communication.

Any customer can leave feedback on an experience or suggestion for improvement that seems positive on the surface. However, listening to their tone, voice volume, and other subtleties can let you know that a customer who speaks good words truly falls into the latent dissatisfaction category.

3. Know the Risks of Customer Defections

Customer sentiment insights can help you clarify which latently dissatisfied customers are at the greatest risk of defection. You can combine sentiment analysis with other customer data—such as spending trends, and engagement metrics—to define characteristics of likely to defect customers.

Using this data, you can construct a unique dissatisfaction-to-defection model for your brand. You can then define customized treatment and resolution strategies for varied customer segments. This approach can help you prioritize actions to mitigate risks of customer churn.

4. Use Customer Insights to Refine Operations and Strategies

Once you can identify latent negative sentiment, you must make good use of this high-value information. You may need to reach out to individual customers with reassuring messages, promotions, and other engagement opportunities to bolster their loyalty.

Alternatively, you may discern larger-scale trends that require your attention. Maybe you’ll find that specific product messages are not aligned with actual customer purchase and use experiences. Maybe you’ll find certain teams or regions are not delivering the best quality customer experiences. You can apply what you learn from your sentiment analysis to define opportunities for improvement or target training and coaching to your front-line teams.

Advancing Your Customer Dissatisfaction Management Practices

2015 promises to be a big year for companies who want to be leaders in the era of the empowered customer. Most brands know they need to deliver better customer experiences or risk losing customers to competitors.

However, you need to take fast action to move beyond generic data collection techniques. You must adopt advanced analytical approaches to identify and manage dissatisfied customers—especially the ones below the radar.

The potential payoff is huge. Organizations who effectively handle customer concerns are more likely to retain and inspire goodwill those customers. And happy customers are always the best advocates for your brand.

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Engage with Us

Have insights to share on this topic? We would love to hear from you. Feel free to answer one of our questions or offer your own ideas:

  • Is your brand embracing the trend towards open-ended survey questions?
  • What do you do with the freeform comments and customer verbatims you do collect?
  • How do you apply customer learnings to refine front-line contact approaches?

We look forward to your input.