All posts by Connie Harrington

Field service

Field Service Customers Have High Expectations

Field service has tremendous power to make or break customer experiences. Organizations with field service components need insight on large-scale trends and shifts in customer needs and perceptions.

Emerging information from The Service Council (TSC) field service research study is a must-read for any service-centric brand interested in improving customer experiences. As of this writing, TSC is still taking survey input from organizations with in-house or outsourced field service groups.

Top Areas of Complaint by Field Service Customers

As customer demands for higher levels of service grows, field service teams must take heed of their customers’ top pain points. A significant number of customers—up to 90% in one recent year—switch brand loyalties after a poor service experience. That means field service operations need strategies to address emerging customer dissatisfaction issues.

1.  First Visit Issue Resolution

Traditionally, first-time fix has been a chief interest and area of complaint for field service customers. This is consistent with cross-industry research from Accenture. The consulting firm’s 2013 Global Consumer Pulse Research Study revealed that 72% of consumers who switched brand preferences would stay loyal to a brand who resolved their concerns on the first attempt.

Failure to resolve issues on the first visit is emerging as the #1 source of complaint in TSC’s 2014 survey. However, in prior years’ research, lack of first time fix has outpaced other customer dissatisfaction causes by a wide margin. Not so in 2014.

Does this mean service providers are getting better at first-visit issue resolution? No. This year’s first-time fix rate is consistent with last years. However, more customers are seeing success via self-service channels, which eliminates needs for on-site technician dispatches.

2. Service Visit Experience

Today’s customers desire more control over their experiences when a field service rep visits. This is reflected in several of their other top areas of concern. TSC’s findings show that nearly 1/3 of respondents said their customer complaints tie to concerns that the wait for an appointment was too long. Another 25% of respondents indicated that complaints arise from customers’ perceptions that they lack visibility into agent status. The length of appointment windows is another area provoking concern—with 22% of respondents noting complaints tied to this factor.

3. Service Costs

As TSC reports, the cost of service is becoming a key area of concern for customers. Approximately 30% of survey respondents noted that customers had registered cost complaints. According to TSC, many customer complaints arise from non-contract service and repair charges. Customers may perceive that they are not receiving value above and beyond standard service visits, yet are being asked to pay more. They may also question why their service provider is instituting cost-saving practices and not passing savings along to the customer.

Taking Charge of the Field Service Experience

Today’s field service operations have an unprecedented opportunity to use technology to take control of the customer experience. Effective, integrated customer contact strategies can empower your company to achieve shortening appointment windows and give customers greater insight into appointment statuses.

A key first step to tightening appointment windows is tying your contact management solution to your workforce management system. This allows you to provide real-time updates on customer statuses to your technicians in the field. If you can’t reach a customer or if a customer needs to cancel at the last minute, you can convey this information to your field service rep and allow him or her to move to the next pending appointment.

Another effective practice field service leaders employ is day-of-job customer contact. One-way appointment reminders 24 to 48 hours in advance are often not adequate for organizations which need to make dynamic adjustments to their daily dispatch schedule. You can institute day-of-job contacts to connect with every customer or just those who have not yet confirmed their appointments.

Service leaders also often implement automatic cancellations for unconfirmed customers. With this approach, you can issue a series of communications alerting your customers that their appointments will automatically cancel if they do not contact you to confirm. In addition, you can give your customers flexibility to self-cancel and reschedule. This lets you cut back on wasted trips an eliminate visits to customers who do not require service.

Opportunities for Innovation

As your customers rely on mobile devices as their key information portals, you can innovate communications approaches with your customers on-the-go. You can send them day-of-job confirmation notices and alerts about their pending appointments to give them the empowered customer experiences they expect. As an added benefit, you can manage your field service techs more effectively an dispatch with precision.

With the right technologies and smart contact strategies, you can address some of the chief sources of customer dissatisfaction and emerge as a field service leader in your industry.

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If your organization has a field service component, we would love to learn more about your experiences

  • Are your customer concerns consistent with the current TSC findings?
  • What steps have you taking to address customer experiences?
  • What emerging innovations do you see as game-changers in field service?

We look forward to hearing from you. Share your thoughts below.

Sentiment Analysis Can Reveal Silent Complaints

Today’s brands grapple with an ever-increasing proliferation of customer comments online. However, customer experience leaders know that feedback customers provide is only the proverbial “tip of the iceberg” in a sea of customer sentiment.

In a 2014 research study, CX Act revealed that more than half of people do tell others about customer contact experiences. However, the vast majority—85%—share their customer service stories in person. By contrast, just 22% of people post information about customer experiences on social media.

These findings suggest that many dissatisfied customers may not alert your organization about their concerns. Instead, those individuals make silent complaints to friends and family.

What does this mean for your brand?

Your company must anticipate that silent pockets of negative sentiment likely exist in your customer base. You need tools to identify and remedy those hidden concerns before they surface. Customer sentiment surveys are key resources in your quest to identify and manage silent complaints.

Collecting Customer Feedback

Many companies use surveys to collect and measure customer perceptions. Some companies still rely primarily on large-scale annual satisfaction surveys. However, post-interaction surveys—which allow companies to gauge individual customer experiences—are enjoying wide adoption.

Many post-interaction surveys rely heavily on closed-ended questions. These questions—which can solicit “yes/no” or numerical scale responses—certainly have value. However, the do very little to reveal customers’ true feelings about a specific experience or overall brand impression.

For a more well-rounded approach, your brand should include opportunities for customers to leave open-ended feedback. This can take the form of free-form text comments on a written survey. If you use a voice-response survey, you can let your customers leave thoughts in their own words. More and more organizations are recognizing the value of such Voice of the Customer (VoC) input.

Surveys aren’t the only way to receive VoC data. Other VoC sources include focus groups, inbound calls, and social media. However, surveys are highly valued by senior managers. In fact, a study from Maritz Research revealed that executives are far most likely to review VoC data from customers surveys—including transactional, relationship, and benchmarking surveys—than other sources.

VoC data sources used by senior management
Source: Maritz Research, October 2012

 

Recent research from the Temkin Group validates that brands are primed to make investments in VoC. More than 45% of firms plan to increase VoC program spending in the near-term, while just 5% expect to cut VoC spending. In addition, the Temkin study revealed that the vast majority of enterprises see positive results from their VoC efforts. However, most firms are not taking action or making business changes based on the insights they gain from VoC.

Discerning Meaning behind the Metrics

At present, many enterprises are lagging in moving from VoC data collection to action. One reason for this trend may be that companies lack the analysis approaches they need to gain high-value insight from their VoC data.

As companies look for ways to assess volumes of VoC input, computer-based analysis seems like a logical choice. However, service leaders know that raw analysis of words provided in free-form comments has its limitations.

Those companies who use voice surveys have a rich opportunity to gain deep understanding into the minds and feelings of their customers. The only way to achieve these insights is to use human-rated sentiment analysis. Technology tools can evaluate words, but only human beings can discern the true meaning behind customers’ statements.

With human-rated sentiment analysis, you may find that customers who give you good scores or speak good words about your brand may harbor negative feelings. A skilled sentiment analyst has in-depth knowledge of the subtleties of human communication and can evaluate nuances—such as word choice, tone, voice volume, and more—to uncover a speakers’ true feelings.

This approach can help single out individuals who may not overtly complain, but may be inclined to share negative word-of-mouth perceptions about your brand. Once you’ve identified that a person may be making “silent complaints,” you can identify remediation strategies. You may need to reach out to that customer to gain input about their perceptions, offer personalized discounts or incentives, or use other tactics to shift their feelings.

Moving from Collection to Action

If you are one of the many firms who needs to do more with the customer survey data you collect, you are not alone. As brands prioritize their 2015 VoC spending, they need to recognize that a reliance on machine-based analysis of VoC input may not yield the results they need.

Adding human-rated sentiment analysis is essential to gain true insight into customer perceptions. Human sentiment analysts can identify those customers who are likely to make “silent complaints” and empower you to keep those negative feelings out of the public eye. This is a must-do to protect your brand in today’s era of the social, vocal, empowered customer.

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We know that customer experience is a top-of-mind issue for every company today. Share your insights on these and other topics in the space below:

  • Do you have a process for spotting customers who may be harboring hidden negative sentiment about your brand?
  • Are you one of the many companies planning to increase VoC spending in the coming years?
  • How do you plan to move from collecting VoC input to using this high-value data to drive improved customer experiences?

We look forward to hearing from you.

Happy Customers Stay Loyal, Spend More

Most of us intuitively recognize when we receive a great customer experience—or a poor one. But a recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) article tackled the question on every business leaders mind. How does the intangible feeling of customer experience affect revenue?

In the HBR-published study investigators analyzed data from transactional and subscription-based businesses. These two business models have different revenue-generation focuses. A transactional business relies on repeat customers, frequent returns, and amount spent per visit. By contrast, subscription-based businesses count on renewals, cross-selling and up-selling.

Despite their varied approaches to generating revenue, researchers found a direct link between past customer experience and future spend.

  • Transaction-Based Businesses: Research revealed that customers who gave the best experience scores spent 140% more than those who had the poorest experiences.
  • Subscription-Based Businesses: Results demonstrated that those with the poorest experiences were only 43% likely to renew, while those with the best experiences were 74% of remaining members.

Clearly, delivering good customer experiences delivers measurable financial returns.

The Cost of Poor Customer Experience

In the past, some firms argued that customer experience management was an expensive proposition. After all, unhappy customers tend to require more support and return more goods then others. Untangling these difficult situations seems like a waste of energy.

However, dissatisfied customers can damage your ability to retain existing customers and attract new ones. According to the White House office of Consumer Affairs, a single unhappy customer tells an average of nine to 15 people about their poor experience. Also, 13% tell more than 20 people about their dissatisfaction.

Today, your customers are more likely to use the Internet to voice their concerns. According to analysis from Dimensional Research, 45% share negative experiences on social media and 35% post negative online reviews. Moreover, 86% of respondents in the same study said negative online feedback influenced their buying decisions.

The bottom line: a single unhappy customer can drive away tens to hundreds of prospective customers. Multiple that one dissatisfied customer by one hundred or one thousand. Think of all the potential lost revenue.

Do You Know Who Your Unhappy Customers Are?

One way to discern who has had poor customer experiences is to see which customers post negative thoughts on social media or leave bad reviews online. However, by then, the damage is done and salvaging the relationship may be difficult. And others’ impressions have likely been tainted by this negative sentiment.

There is a better way.

Implementing a post-interaction survey program is an imperative for today’s businesses. You can capture immediate feedback to learn if your front-line representative interacted effectively with your customer. If your customer registers a negative feedback score, you can take immediate corrective action. This can include reaching out to the affected customer and providing corrective training or feedback to the front-line employee who delivered the poor experience.

The key is moving from large-scale customer satisfaction trend analysis to real-time alerting of negative survey responses.

Moving from Data Collection to Action

A lot of companies are collecting customer survey data—including free-form text comments. However, many have work to do to move from collection to action.

According to Voice of the Customer (VoC) maturity analysis from the Temkin Group, 41% of surveyed companies merely collect data and 39% perform some analysis. Only 11% have achieved the highest two levels of VoC maturity—and those companies do more with their customer insights, have stronger executive support for customer experience programs, and achieve better business performance overall.

Those aiming to deliver best-in-class customer experiences need to focus on robust, real-time survey analytics.

Putting it All Together

Dated thinking that limited spending on customer experience management is shifting. Now, business leaders know they need systems and processes to help them deliver the levels of service excellence customers expect.

Those that make smart moves sooner—by taking prompt, strategic action to address customer feedback—have an unprecedented opportunity to get ahead of the competition. The rewards will be tangible and financial.

It’s a proven fact: Happier customers = loyal customers = more revenue.

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Please contribute your thoughts on this high-value topic. Answer one of the questions below or add your own ideas:

  • Do you have any evidence—anecdotal or quantifiable—to show how customer experience and financial performance tie together in your company?
  • Are you prepared to move from collecting survey data to in-depth analysis?
  • How do you help mitigate negative customer perceptions before they hit social networks or online review sites?

We look forward to your insights.

Service Outage Alert

Why You Need Service Outage Alerts

Many service providers experience both planned and unplanned service outages. Some companies can plan and schedule needed down times to minimize services disruptions. Still, other disruptions happen unexpectedly.

Companies—such as utilities or communications providers—who deliver vital services to other businesses and consumers need robust customer contact solutions. With the right technologies, service providers can give customers advance notice of known service-impacting issues. Plus, these firms can also implement rapid customer outreach when unexpected down times occur.

How Service Disruptions Can Affect Your Customers

Service outages can have wide-reaching effects on other companies—and on their customers. For example, a power disruption can shut down other companies service providers’ information networks—and inhibit their ability to meet their customer demands. Recent research revealed that 80% of companies lose revenue when a network goes down. On average, those companies lost $140,000 per network incident, with financial firms losing an average of $540,000.

Other data from global consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) stated that more than one-third of companies take more than one day to recover from a significant outage. One in ten companies require more than a week to recover from an outage scenario.

The takeaways:

  • A single disruption of vital services—such as electricity or communications connectivity—can create a negative ripple effect which damages other businesses and affects their customers.
  • Advanced notification of service-affecting issues is an imperative for any provider serving a business community.

Handling Outages: The Old Way vs. The Better Way

In the past, most companies took an “after-the-fact” approach to managing unexpected service issues. The typical response was adding more front-line support representatives to respond to a flood of inbound calls from customers.

Obviously, this approach caused a spike in personnel costs, which added to the expense of managing an unplanned outage. Moreover, this practice created the potential of customers perceiving the company as reactive and inattentive to their concerns.

However, your customers have huge service demands. They expect to be able to get what they want when they want it. For that reason, you have to keep your customers informed of any service-affecting outage—including something as simple as a brief website downtime.

Today’s service providers have an unprecedented opportunity to handle difficult outage scenarios much more effectively.  Here are a few steps you can take to improve customer communications about service-affecting issues:

  • Use Customers’ Communications Preferences to Alert them to Known Issues: The ideal way to reach out to customers is to use the communications channel they prefer. Ask your customers how they want to be contacted—whether by email, SMS, and/or IVR. Use those channels to let them know of any issues which could affect services in advance. This approach demonstrates to customers that you listen to their preferences and value their time.
  • Communicate Promptly When the Unexpected Happens: With a robust and scalable contact management approach, you can deliver messages to all or part of your customer base very quickly. You can employ channel preferences and past customer contact history to maximize reach rates and keep your customers informed. Moreover, you can use advanced voice mail detection solutions to ensure delivery of complete messages so that your customers receive the vital information they need.
  • Reroute Service Outage Questions Automatically: The right approach can help you minimize inbound call volumes and cut the burden on your front-line teams. You can automatically route any calls related to a service outage to IVR so that your customers get the information they need without having to speak to a service representative.

Without question, service-centric businesses need to plan for the unexpected. A solid communications approach coupled with knowledge of customer preferences and advanced contact technologies is key to managing service outages effectively.

Anticipating The Customer of the Future—Today

If you think customers have expectations today—just wait a few years. The Customers 2020 study by Walker revealed that customer experience is fast overtaking product and service quality as the #1 brand differentiator. In addition, the customer of the future will expect brands to anticipate their needs and deliver personalized information and experiences.

All these factors underscore why proactive service notifications are essential. The brands who heighten their focus on customer experiences will be tomorrow’s winners—and the rest risk falling by the wayside.

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If you have questions or thoughts about how businesses can accelerate their customer contact and service notification strategies, please share them with us. You can address these questions or offer your own insights:

  • How does your brand handle service-affecting issues?
  • Do you have a strategy for both known and unknown service-affecting issues?
  • Can you segment your customer contacts to send targeted messages to specific audiences to mitigate outage consequences?

We look forward to hearing from you.

Dissatisfied Customers Can Spawn a Media Crisis

In today’s connected world, social media has made every brand vulnerable to a media crisis. A single negative comment by a customer or detractor can quickly go viral and cause deep and lasting reputation damage.

In fact, a recent study indicated that 50% of companies have experienced some type of media crisis, and 80% of companies do see the potential risk of a social media crisis. Moreover, research from Alitmeter has shown that 75% of social media crises could have been diminished or averted if companies had been better prepared to handle them.

What does this mean?

Your company must mitigate the risks of social media disaster by having a plan to combat negative customer sentiment when it surfaces. You need to understand the big picture about how an online crisis can damage your brand and the benefits of strong negative sentiment management. You also need a plan in place to avoid social media disaster due to poor customer sentiment.

An Online Media Crisis Can Damage Your Brand

Avoiding or managing a social sentiment crisis is an imperative for today’s brands. Recent research from Burson-Marsteller shows that companies that experienced a crisis experienced negative impacts across many dimensions. For example:

  • 32% experienced a revenue drop
  • 24% experienced cutbacks or layoffs
  • 18% experienced a reputation damage
  • 12% experienced heightened social media scrutiny

Moreover, academic research underscores that a brand’s response to a crisis has a measurable impact on financial results. A Stanford graduate school study revealed that companies that take responsibility for negative issues outperform those who do not by 15% to 19%.

These statistics reinforce that addressing negative sentiment isn’t just a nice idea. It’s a strategic imperative.

The good news is that managing a negative situation well can create reputation uplift. If negative sentiment surfaces, your brand can work to fortify relationships with affected customers. You can take targeted steps to reach out to your customers behind-the-scenes—via the communications channels they use to reach you—and help transform a negative experience into a positive one. By responding with authenticity and compassion online, you can demonstrate a commitment to positive customer experiences and potentially grow your engaged audience.

Keeping Negative Sentiment Out of the Public Eye

It’s a well-known fact that customers are more likely to share poor experiences than positive ones. However, you can mitigate the dissemination of word-of-mouth negative sentiment by making better use of the tools you likely already have—customer surveys.

Many brands have a sentiment survey mechanism in place for customer feedback capture after every interaction. Today’s customers can provide immediate feedback via phone, text, web, or email. However, far too many brands are still aggregating sentiment data at periodic levels for management review. By the time those reviews happen, brand damage may have already occurred and global customer sentiment may have shifted in a new direction.

The only way to get an accurate read on customer perceptions is via real-time customer survey analysis. Advanced technology tools can give you an up-to-the minute pulse on customer sentiment trends. Moreover, you can also get alerts to notify you when a customer has left a poor survey response as soon as it occurs. That gives you a much better chance of taking corrective steps to prevent negative perceptions from leaking out on to the social web.

Although every scenario is different, your negative sentiment resolution plan should include an expectation that you will need to reach out to dissatisfied customers several times to restore their trust. Results from the Edelman Trust Barometer study shows that 64% of  people need to receive a reassuring message three to five times to overcome skepticism.

This means that you need technology that lets you keep data on centralized customer interactions with your at-risk customers. That way, every front line employee—from the contact center to a physical location—can have the latest information on customer interactions.

Preparing for the Inevitable

It’s easy to avoid thinking about dissatisfied customers and potential media crises. But smart companies know that dealing with this difficult territory is vital to brand protection. In the past, nearly all business communications were one way, which gave brands more message control. Today’s customers and social influencers can participate in shaping, reinforcing, or even undermining your messages.

Research from Burson-Marsteller shows that the most crisis-ready companies have a rock-solid planning approach. Fifty-nine percent evaluate multiple scenarios that could trigger a crisis, while 57% have pre-established mitigation steps and 53% percent conduct proactive issue monitoring. By taking a strategic approach to evaluating and acting on negative customer sentiment, you can be one of the winners in this difficult terrain.

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If you have experience or insight in dissatisfied customer and social negative sentiment management we would love to hear from you:

  • Has your brand experienced any threats or crises due to online sharing of negative customer sentiment?
  • Do you have a plan to handle negative customer perceptions when they surface?
  • How do you deliver multiple follow-up messages to customers to help rebuild their confidence in your brand after a poor experience?

Share your thoughts in the space below. We look forward to connecting with you.

Order Verification: A Strategic Imperative

Order management is a complex process, which has a major impact on customer perceptions. Today’s brands must embrace automated order management capabilities to receive customer orders. However, to be a true service leader, you must move beyond generic order collection solutions to implement technologies to support customer order verification and confirmation steps. With these tools, you can catch order errors before bad order data feeds downstream billing and inventory systems—and before the wrong product or service is delivered to your end customer.

No doubt about it: in today’s hyper-competitive, customer-centric world, rock-solid order management is essential for success. Read on to learn about what separates today’s order management leaders from followers, get insights on essential features of next-generation ordering solutions, and understand how order verification can promote customer happiness.

Improving the Order-to-Cash Cycle

According to analyst firm, The Aberdeen Group, streamlining the “Order-to-Cash” (OTC) cycle is an important operational goal. If upfront order management is faulty, the impacts on the other steps in the OTC cycle—which include order fulfillment, payments/collection, and account reconciliation—are far reaching. By contrast, a solid order management approach allows brands to deliver products and services more quickly and fortifies customer relationships.

In their 2012 OTC Study, Aberdeen assessed self-reported order management performance across a range of brands. They grouped respondents into two categories: “Leaders,” or the top 30% based on performance and “Followers,” or the remaining 70%. Aberdeen’s research points out several key differences between these two groupings:

  • Order Exception Processing: On average Leaders report that 11.7% of their orders require some form of manual intervention to complete processing. For followers, this number jumps to 30.1%.
  • Order Exception Visibility: Sixty-eight percent (68%) of leaders have tools, which provide them real-time insight into order exceptions via problem type, customer, and other factors. Just 21% of Followers possess this capability.
  • Automated Order Workflows: Leaders are 39% more likely to have automated order workflows than followers. In addition, 63% of organizations still convert quotes to orders manually.

Together, these findings reveal that brands have significant opportunities to upgrade their order management capabilities. If you are still heavily reliant on manual intervention for order verification, you are not alone—but you have essential work to do.

Elements of Leading Order Management Solutions

According to research firm, Forrester, effective order management is fast becoming a strategic imperative to support today’s agile commerce expectations. Increasing globalization and customer expectations means that businesses of all sizes need multiple ordering channels and fulfillment centers. Forrester analyst Brian Walker detailed five essential capabilities of next-generation order management solutions:

  • Multiple Touch Points: Many companies take orders via the Internet. However, today’s brands must contend with an ever-widening array of ordering venues, including: smartphones, mobile apps, contact centers, mobile point-of-sale (POS) solutions, self-service kiosks, and more. Companies must have technologies to create a single order pipeline—and to evaluate the validity of customer orders—from data drawn from several channels.
  • Multiple Fulfillment Centers: Gone are the days of a single fulfillment node to handle all incoming customer orders. Smart brands need multiple sources for order fulfillment, including drop-shippers and stores. This reality underscores the need for accurate data for each order to keep the complex web of fulfillment sources operating effectively.
  • Inventory Visibility: Today’s tech-savvy customers often seek insight into product availability when placing orders. As a result, brands should look to make their inventories transparent to give customer the option of seeking out a product via a store or other location or choosing delivery.
  • Multiple Payment Options: As business globalizes, brands must accept multiple payment types and currencies.
  • Customer Self-Service: Order-related contacts are some of the most common types of customer communication. With the right technologies, brands can empower customers to place, track, edit, and cancel orders without any direct intervention by a customer service representative. This boosts customer satisfaction and facilitates greater contact center efficiency.

In addition, service leaders are not only letting customers place and manage orders, but also using technology for order verifications and confirmations. Today’s leaders employ tools to identify potential discrepancies in customer orders—such as a product number that does not synchronize to a product price—to trigger order verification routines.

Post-order outreach to a customer to validate their intent can prevent personal follow-up by your customer-facing employees. Moreover, this approach catches order errors before they spread into your downstream systems and create more complicated issues with billing, inventory, and other operational solutions.

Proactive Order Verification is an Essential to Customer Happiness

Today’s customers have high service expectations—and are apt to switch brand loyalty if those expectations go unmet. When customers place orders, they expect that they will get what they want in a timely and efficient way. A misstep in the process—even when due to a customer mistake—can lead to intense customer frustrations, abandoned transactions, and lingering negative sentiment.

By using today’s advanced contact management solutions to upgrade order verification processes, brands can mitigate these issues. Effective order verifications can help companies retain customers and contain costs stemming from manual follow-up and corrections to ordering and other downstream solutions.

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If you have insights or questions on order verification, please share your thoughts in the space below:

  • How have multichannel communications affected your ordering processes?
  • Are you seeing heightened customer demands for more streamlined ordering and fulfillment?
  • What steps have you taken to implement next-generation order management and verification capabilities in your operations?

We look forward to engaging with you on this important topic.

What Makes Customers Happy?

Retaining Customers in Today’s “Switching Economy”

Recent consumer research from Accenture revealed that customers are increasingly frustrated by the perceived poor levels of service they receive.

In 2013, the consulting firm’s annual Global Consumer Pulse Survey revealed that 51 percent of U.S. consumers switched service providers due to poor customer service experiences. That number jumped 5 percent from 2012. These compelling numbers motivated Accenture to label the current consumer environment “The Switching Economy.”

This research study affirmed that B2C companies must take action to improve customer experiences and stop churn—right now. Many consumer brands have taken a good first step and implemented post-interaction surveys. However, to maximize the value of these surveys, brands must accelerate analysis and have routines in place to respond to dips in customer satisfaction as soon as they occur.

Six Things that Make Customers Unhappy

As the Accenture study reports, there are several things, which consistently upset customers and trigger defections. Specifically, consumers get frustrated by:

  1. Contacting a company multiple times to address the same issue (91%)
  2. Being put on hold for lengthy periods (90%)
  3. Needing to repeat their questions or concerns to more than one representative (89%)
  4. Perceiving that a company does not make it easy to do business with them (85%)
  5. Noticing a difference between a company’s marketing promises and delivered products, services, or experiences (84%)
  6. Having inconsistent experiences across various channels (58%)

Moreover, 81 percent of respondents did report that companies could have done something different to retain their loyalty. Understanding these unwelcome behaviors and taking steps to remedy them can put you on a good path to improving customer experiences and keeping customers loyal.

However, best-in-class service providers know that customer satisfaction trends are in constant flux. You also need to survey customers regularly and act on their responses to keep tabs on the current state of the customer experiences your brand is delivering. Post-interaction surveys are the path to deeper insight.

Customer Surveys: Beyond the Fabled NPS Score

In recent years, the “Net Promoter Score,” widely known as NPS, has earned widespread hype as the ultimate customer satisfaction metric. NPS asks respondents use a one to 10 scale to answer a single question: “”How likely is it that you will recommend our company to a friend or colleague?”

However, analyst firm, Forrester has noted that there are several issues with relying on NPS alone:

  • Cultural Variances: The use of a one to 10 scale does not translate across all cultures. This makes NPS scoring less valid for firms with international or diverse customer bases.
  • Limited Motivator: Companies may find it challenging to motivate employees to raise NPS scores.
  • Questionable Correlation: Although NPS is supposed to tie to customer referrals or renewals, limited quantitative evidence exists to support this fact.

Despite its shortcomings, NPS can be a valid customer satisfaction measure, when coupled with other customer feedback. Forrester recommends adding Voice of the Customer (VoC) sentiment input to NPS data collection for robust, actionable insights into customers’ perceptions.

Adding Open-Ended Feedback for Honest Customer Insights

Today’s customer experience leaders know that quantitative surveys and metrics are just one source of information about customers. To understand customer’s true feeling about your business, you need to use open-ended sentiment survey questions to solicit high-value VoC feedback. With open-ended questions, you gain customers spoken-word perceptions, which give you context beyond customer satisfaction statistics.

However, you need to recognize the immense worth of customer’s open-ended comments. While some companies rely on computer-based analysis to review customer comments, this approach is shortsighted. Machine-based solutions can only analyze the words your customers speak—but leave a wealth of information unevaluated.

Speech analysis experts know you need to study communication nuances—including tone, word choice, volume, inflections, and more—to gain complete understanding of customers’ true sentiment. Sometimes, you may find that customers who speak affirming words about your company may be harboring hidden negative sentiment. The only way to uncover customers’ true feelings is through human sentiment that goes beyond machine-based survey evaluations.

Achieving Coordinated Following Up

As Accenture’s research proves, having a bad experience can prompt your customers to defect to competitors. Today, however, customers are also likely to share their perceptions on social media—and take their bad feelings public. In fact, consumer research revealed that 95 percent of customers who have had a poor experience tell someone about it, and are 45 percent share negative customer experiences on social media.

What does that mean? You need to move beyond aggregate reviews of NPS data and institute real-time reviews of post-interaction survey data. You also need plans and resources for coordinated follow up with unhappy customers before they defect or spread the word about their poor perceptions on social networks.

As a result, you need a centralized system that provides up-to-date statuses on all customer contacts to front-line employees across the enterprise. With the right tools, you can address customer questions and issues promptly and tackle some of the six things that often prompt customer concerns.

Scoring a “Thumbs Up” from Your Customers

In today’s customer-driven world, listening to customers and taking proactive steps to address customer feedback is an imperative. Focusing on customer satisfaction can help retain customers and solidify your revenues.

Those who don’t are primed to lose—and lose big. Accenture estimates that a potential $1.3 billion dollars in revenue will be in play due to customer’s shifting loyalties.

The time to implement tools and processes to capture, analyze, and act on customer feedback is now. You need to move beyond the comfort zone of periodic review of aggregate customer satisfaction scores and jump into the new world of real-time customer survey analysis.

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If you are a service provider, we would love to learn more about your real-world experiences:

  • What do you see as the biggest challenges to keeping customers loyal in today’s switching economy?
  • How has your company’s approach to customer survey dissemination and analysis changed?
  • What are you doing to protect your brand in the era of the social customer?

We look forward to hearing from you.

Don’t Let Field Dispatch Be Your Weakest Link

Companies, such as telecom service providers, cable operators, and utilities often have large field service teams. These go out to job sites or customer homes to complete necessary service and repairs.

Historically, field service units have been a giant source of waste and cost for many businesses. In addition, waiting at home for appointments is also costly to the economy on a large scale. In a single year, the cost of time spent waiting for appointments at home was $37.7 billion dollars, with the average wait for an in-home appointment topping out at four and a half hours. Clearly, businesses can do more to cut their own costs and improve customer service by improving appointment timing.

The good news: today’s advanced automation capabilities give companies better ability to manage highly-variable field dispatch functions with precision.

Many organizations with large field service operations have taken the first step of implementing appointment reminder capabilities. Some of the most advanced appointment reminder solutions offer multichannel customer outreach via phone, text, and email to remind customers of an upcoming visit by a field service technician.

For even greater results, companies need advanced pre-dispatch confirmation and cancellation solutions. These powerful technologies can provide up-to-the-minute customer appointment statuses for real-time schedule adjustments that can prevent costly no-show and no-access appointments. Pre-dispatch confirm and cancel technologies can offer breakthrough performance, trim 100 to 1000s dispatch routes a day and radically cut costs.

  • Are you a service provider with a large-scale dispatch operation?
  • Do you know how much wasted dispatches cost you and how much you can save with improved technologies?

Read on to learn more and join the discussion in the space below.

Field Service is Often a Company’s Weakest Link

Field service is a major expense for many companies. If the function is mismanaged, diminished customer satisfaction and increased costs are common results.

There are several reasons why field dispatch may be company’s weakest link:

  • Decentralization – Field service divisions may operate a distinct business in their local geography, with limited input and oversight from headquarters. Consequently, field service departments may not have access to the latest company best practices. In addition, companies may find it difficult to collect and analyze data on field service teams’ performance, thus limiting ability to recommend improvements.
  • Increasing Workloads – As companies have answered customers’ demands for broader offerings and more personalized service, they have increased the workload for field service teams. Many field service units face pressures to do more without adding to their headcount.
  • Resistance to Change – Some companies’ field service teams may be skeptical of process improvements or new technologies originating at a corporate office. In some cases, the complexity of new technology may be a barrier for some workers, who may need to overcome skill gaps to adopt new technologies.

A Mindset Shift: From Independence to Service

Another reason that field service divisions may be inefficient is that they have traditionally been very autonomous. Many field service workers are attracted to their roles because they provide more freedom of movement than a desk job. Field service workers may have the perception that they can manage their own daily schedules, as long as they meet a minimum quota of appointments, repairs, or other activities.

In fact, one study of field technicians revealed that 92 percent claimed that independence was the best aspect of their position. However, in that same survey, 91 percent of surveyed field technicians said that they supported the goal of improving customer service. For companies to achieve measurable customer service improvements, they will need to shift the mindsets of their field service forces to help them accept limitations on their personal autonomy and to channel their focus in to providing better service to customers.

A Huge Cost Burden

Sending a technician out to a site can be very expensive. General estimates suggest that a single truck roll can cost from $200 to $2,000 – with variations by industry and type of business. Every time a company dispatches a technician to a site where he or she cannot gain access to required areas to perform their required work is an unnecessary expense.

Wasted or duplicate truck rolls can add up quickly across large-scale field service operations and do damage to a company’s bottom line.

Optimizing Field Service with Pre-Dispatch Confirmation and Cancellation Technologies

Today’s service providers have opportunities to instill dramatic field dispatch improvements. These organizations must go beyond generic appointment reminder capabilities, which may place a single phone call the day before a scheduled field service visit. Implementing robust pre-dispatch cancellation and confirmation technologies is a key to precise dispatch accuracy, lower costs, and happier customers.

Modern appointment reminder technologies may have built-in confirm, cancel, and transfer functions. However, even with  upgraded appointment reminder functionalities, companies often only achieve 60% dispatch accuracy. That translates to 40% of avoidable wasted truck rolls and thousands of dollars in unnecessary costs.

Advanced pre-dispatch cancellation and confirmation technologies go beyond a single reminder call to provide multiple strategies to reach customer before a truck roll. They offer flexibility to contact customers across multiple channels and can dynamically adjust the timing and sequence of communications to gain accurate appointment statuses from customers. In addition, powerful confirm and cancel solutions can adapt messages based on individual customer profiles to factor in their current confirmation status and any history of missed appointments.

The best solutions take pre-dispatch confirm and cancel processes even further by integrating with workforce management solutions. That way, field service operations can achieve dynamic dispatch adjustments using up-to-the-minute customer appointment statuses to get the right technician to the right location at the right time.

Getting it Right with Sky Creek

At SkyCreek, we have 20+ of exclusive focus in innovating customer contact technologies to improve front-line customer service. Our solutions are in place at some of the largest companies in North America.

We manage more than 1.5 million dispatches each month for major North American service providers with national-footprint field service operations.

With our pre-dispatch confirmation and cancel technologies, many service companies can eliminate a minimum of 100 routes per day from their field service operations. We have delivered proven results for companies, including:

  • Helping one service provider eliminate 1,000 routes per day at a regional level and tens of thousands at a national level
  • Empowering an electric and gas utility to achieve a 20X return on can’t get in (CGI) field service access situations while maintaining a 93% customer contact rate

Our pre-dispatch cancellation and confirmation technologies go far beyond out-of-the-box solutions to offer fully-customizable solutions that can adapt to every businesses’ unique needs.

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    Engage with Us

    We are always grateful to learn from the real-world experiences of field service experts:

  • What do you see as the biggest challenges in optimizing field dispatch operations?
  • Have you seen customer loyalty benefits from improving field service functions?

Share your thoughts with us in the space below. We look forward to hearing from you.

Welcome to the SkyCreek Blog

At SkyCreek, improving the customer experience has been our core business for more than two decades. We have the innovative technologies and expert team to design, implement, and support an automated customer communication and experience management program of any scope or scale for the many companies who need to have brand-affirming customer touch points on a daily basis.

SkyCreek is a multi-channel (IVR, Email, SMS) customer communications service provider specializing in high-volume, high-quality, professionally-managed automated customer contact and experience management solutions.

With dedicated account managers averaging over 15 years of experience, we help national-footprint service providers optimize their front-line customer interactions by engineering more precise, higher-quality, and more dynamic customer contact processes to:

  • Prevent customer support costs and service dissatisfaction issues
  • Suppress waste and the cost of underutilized and underperforming field and support resources
  • Provide more consistent, brand-affirming customer interaction experiences across product-lines, operations and support processes, and geographic markets

Much of our technology works behind the scenes: making pre-appointment reminder calls to your customers, alerting customers to potential service disruptions, gaining customer experience insights via post-interaction surveys, and much more. However, the work we do and the technologies we provide make the all-important responsibility of delivering true customer service excellence so much easier. We can help your front-line employees do their jobs better, which translates to happier and more loyal customers—and greater profitability too.

We know the work that we do is important. Consider these compelling statistics:

We have the technologies and know-how you need to build a next-generation customer experience management program. We can help you grow a base of loyal customers who receive the proactive, consistent treatment and prompt issue resolution they expect and deserve. If you want to provide the quality front-line contact experiences that set you apart from the competition, SkyCreek is your partner of choice.

As a company, we’ve earned an exceptional reputation as a flexible corporate partner who keeps customer needs at the forefront. We are one of the only companies in our industry who maintains a dedicated account management model. With that approach, our customer have a single SkyCreek point of contact to call on when it’s time to define process improvements, revise contact policies, or troubleshoot communications roadblocks.

That person is more than just someone who answers the phone. He or she is a contact management expert with industry-specific experience, backed up by a team of innovators and thought leaders.

We know our own customer communications are top-notch, but we know we can improve our outreach practices too. That’s why we decided to launch a blog. It is time for us to share our expertise not only with those who know us, but with anyone seeking advanced front-line contact management insights to improve customer experience practices.

In this space, we are creating a forum to deliver our best practices expertise in front-line contact programs and customer experience management. We will give you insights on the most compelling customer experience challenges today’s companies face—and share stories about how SkyCreek solutions are solving those exact problems.

Watch this space for updates, news, and insights from pioneers and innovators in customer contact management. Engage in dialog with our team and your peers to create a community of practitioners focused on taking front-line customer experience excellence to new heights.

We look forward to sharing our knowledge with you and gaining ideas from you. Welcome to our blog and our community.