Are You Taking Advantage of Every Opportunity to Satisfy, Impress, or Even Amaze Your Customers?
Despite his t-shirt which warns friends and family, “No. I won’t fix your computer,” Pekka Lehtinen is more than happy to help. And it’s a good thing. Pekka is our Global Customer Care Manager, responsible for teams that onboard new clients, provide training and assistance, and engage them on a regular basis. The same can be said for his colleagues, Sanna Vaittinen, Director, Customer Success and Mirka Sillanpää, Customer Communication Developer. Sanna believes in “retaining customers one relationship at a time.” Mirka, who says CX is not a project, but an eternal mission, prepares practical materials to onboard customers. Pekka, Mirka and Sanna all endeavor to make sure customers get the most out of HappyOrNot.
‘Each time a customer deals with your company – whether it’s with your people or your systems – it affects their experience and their impression of you.’
TOM: Good afternoon, Pekka, Sanna and Mirka. Thanks for taking the time to share your insights about customer experience. I like to start off these interviews by seeing how you define CX. What can you tell me? Pekka, you first.
PEKKA: To me, CX is something that is formed by every contact a customer has with your company, from your marketing messages, to what it’s like to engage with sales people, to how your company brings customers onboard and then supports their needs. It also includes their interaction with your technology and your interfaces. Your online tools have to work and they have to be easy to use. Each time a customer deals with your company – whether it’s with your people or your systems – it affects their experience and their impression of you. It’s more than the level of service you provide.
MIRKA: That’s right. CX is affected by everything an organization does. And it’s not just when your team comes into contact with the customer. It’s everything. From the look of the logo to the words you use in a brochure. It’s from the smile of a cashier to the customer’s experience navigating product deliveries. Absolutely everything can have an impact on the customer experience.
SANNA: I agree. It’s also feeling the customer associates with your company. It’s more than just the value they get. It’s the feeling that you value them throughout their journey with your company.
MIRKA: Even internal processes like HR are part of customer experience, because happy employees are more effective at creating happy customers and keeping them that way.
‘Most of the bad experiences I’ve had have been because I’m not being listened to.’
TOM: A lot of us experience CX every day. Do any instances come to mind that represent good CX?
PEKKA: Absolutely. There is a men’s store in my hometown and the guys there are phenomenal. The minute you walk in there they know your suit size. If you’re there to buy shirts they take one look at you and they already know. Then it’s just a matter of what color you want. That comes from experience.
SANNA: It’s also nice not to feel pressure, like when I pop into a children’s clothing store just to browse. I may not intend to make a purchase, but the staff talks to me, not to get me to buy something, but about my day or about our kids. Then they might make a suggestion for an item, but it feels natural.
TOM: Do you have any examples of poor CX?
PEKKA: Recently I went to a large local store to buy a pair of jeans. I’m not a complicated guy when it comes to clothes and I always go to the same place, and I know where everything is. But on my last visit they reorganized the store completely, setting up everything according to brand names, and I was lost. How does that serve someone like me who goes to one store but has to look in five different places for a pair of jeans in the right size?
TOM: Did you find what you wanted?
PEKKA: No. Eventually I just left and went to another place. That was a CX failure. They lost a sale because they were more loyal to the brands than to the customer.
TOM: Mirka, what about you?
MIRKA: Most of the bad experiences I’ve had have been because I’m not being listened to. Like when I’ve gone to a shop to buy a specific item and instead of helping me buy that, the staff has tried to sell me something else that I don’t want or need. Some of the best experiences, on the other hand, I’ve had with my bank, where the customer service staff often seems to know what I need before I even know it myself.
TOM: It helps to have sales people who understand what you are there for.Bad customer experience is often rooted in a company not listening to the customer.Click To Tweet
CX AT AND FOR LARGE ORGANIZATIONS
‘You don’t want to encounter someone who sees helping you as a chore.’
TOM: Customer relationships are much easier for small shops. What about large companies? How can you take the attention and expertise of a small shop to a big team?
SANNA: With organizations in the B2B space, the approach may not always be as straightforward as with smaller consumer enterprises, especially when your client is a large, sprawling organization. There, you will encounter many people each of whom has different objectives, ambitions and thoughts about how we can best serve them. If you have 3,000 accounts and you’re dealing with two or three people at each, you’re dealing with a lot of different personalities and roles.
TOM: That’s a lot of variables.
SANNA: Yes, so you have to recognize the different types of customers and adjust your approach for each type. Developing personas is important.
TOM: That’s where you create an internal profile for different categories of customers, and you share these personas or profiles with your teams.
SANNA: Right. Then you shape your training around those different customer types. This is a key facet of getting this right. We do this when assisting our customers in serving their customers. For large enterprises we tailor the training and take it to the organization. We take one approach for airports and another for retail chains and another for sports stadiums.
TOM: If you were running an electronics chain, would your personas include consumers who are tech savvy and those who just want a TV that works?
PEKKA: Absolutely. Just because I am buying a new TV doesn’t mean I am current on all the latest technology and features. When I go to the store I like to have someone there who can explain the product to me. That means the store manager has to make sure they not only have enough people on the floor, but people who have the right skills and demonstrate enthusiasm for the product — and towards the customer. You don’t want to encounter someone who sees helping you as a chore.
TOM: And what about working across a number of countries?
SANNA: Being aware of cultural differences is important and must be reflected in our personas. Customers in France and Germany, for example, generally prefer face-to-face contact and personalized training, not self-enablement solutions or web video conversations. We take this into account when we develop our sales organizations and support teams.
MIRKA: One underrated point when you can deliver memorable customer service is when something goes wrong. These situations require good communication and employee empowerment, because these are what people are most likely to remember. If you get this right, they will come out of the experience feeling even more positive about your service than they did before.
TOM: Can you share an example?
MIRKA: I was at the railway station when trains were stuck for several hours. My lasting memory of that situation is the woman at the ticket counter who kindly suggested that she could change my ticket to a different train so that I could wait inside a train instead of the station waiting hall. It was a small gesture but it mattered to me. She could have just let me wait in the hall.
TOM: And here you are telling me about it and spreading the word.
SANNA: Mirka’s experience illustrates shows how CX is in the DNA of that operation. It’s essential to emphasize that from the moment employees are brought on board. Customer-centric thinking means not just teaching employees how to work, but how they can actively make their work better.
WHY SHOULD A COMPANY CARE ABOUT CX?
“CX is the last bastion of competition… People will even use more expensive services if they are happy with the interactions they’ve had with you.”
TOM: Why does CX matter? Why should a company care?
MIRKA: Because, if for no other reason, it’s good for business. If your customers are happy, they will come back and buy more, they will recommend you to their friends and on social media, and they will need less support. If they’re unhappy, they will need more support, which means more resources are needed, they will tell their everyone to avoid your service, and ultimately leave for your competitor instead.
PEKKA: I agree. Someone once said that CX is the last bastion of competition. And it’s true. Competitors can compete on price and cost but for a lot of companies those things very tight already. So where you can differentiate is the quality of your service. People will even use more expensive services if they are happy with the interactions they have had with you. Studies have shown this. It’s a way for organizations to stand apart from competitors.
TOM: So CEOs would be wise to pay attention to CX at every level in their organization.
SANNA: Yes, but some companies make the mistake of seeing the effort to improve customer experience as a one-time project – that after they make some adjustments, put some policies in place, and measure the satisfaction of their customers, their work is done. But to be effective, the focus on CX has to be a long-term commitment and an ongoing part of your operation. You can’t optimize customer relationships without continually measuring their satisfaction.Customer experience the last bastion of competition. It can be more of a differentiator than price.Click To Tweet
TECHNOLOGY DRIVEN CX
“You really have to have a far superior product if you’re going to get by with poor CX.”
TOM: Leaving the world of brick-and-mortar, do you have examples of how technology can provide good or poor CX?
PEKKA: I prefer Netflix over HBO because Netflix makes everything easy, but HBO has Game of Thrones. Each time I go back to Netflix it remembers where I left off, but with HBO I have to search all over again. You really have to have a far superior product if you’re going to get by with poor CX! If it’s a chore to use your product I’m going to look for better options.
TOM: What about customer service technology or serving people from a distance? Customers and customer service people are often hundreds or thousands of miles apart.
PEKKA: Social media support and chat support gets a lot of attention these days, but telephone support is still big with customers. We want to focus on how to make that experience better. While the traditional method is the automated menu of options, these days customers demand more personalized support in which the support staff, and the system, knows them based on their phone number. Connecting this to a CRM system not only helps Support know their name, but also more about their relationship with the product and which product they have. Customers can see that someone is already working on their case and whether someone is available right now who can best assist.
TOM: It’s frustrating to get someone on the phone who can’t really help you, or you have to explain your problem all over again. And quick replies seem rare with big companies.
PEKKA: We handle a lot of customer questions by email. While our standard is to respond within five hours, I encourage the team to closely monitor the queue for opportunities to resolve an issue within a matter of minutes. We want to take those opportunities to WOW our customers.
TOM: That’s very fast.
PEKKA: Customers are shocked when we do this. It seems like a small thing but things like that really surprise the customer, and that’s what you want. You just have to look for opportunities to surprise them and then do it.
MIRKA: Plus, there are opportunities for technology to not just serve as a replacement for human interaction, but as a way to deliver service people cannot. For example, there is this brilliant app for a hospital, which guides the patients who are having an operation through their whole journey, from booking the operation to aftercare. This is ideally how all digital services should work, like a virtual assistant that can offer information and help to the customer when they need it, wherever they are, in a way that could not be done in face-to-face encounters.Memorable customer experiences can be created. Seize opportunities to WOW your customers.Click To Tweet
“Uncovering the pain points in your customer service and knowing where you need to improve is an important part of what the HappyOrNot service delivers.”
TOM: What would you say is the biggest payoff for customers who use the HappyOrNot service?
PEKKA: It helps you identify the highs and lows of your customer service. You get a much better idea of where to improve rather than relying solely on testing things yourself or getting a comment here and there.
TOM: You’re a customer service manager for a customer experience company, and you get feedback about the HappyOrNot service levels you provide. Does your team know when they are doing well?
PEKKA: Yes. Sharing feedback with the team is important. In the Finnish culture, people don’t like to make a fuss about themselves. I’m trying to change that here. I want to recognize and share the achievements we’ve made – we are proud to be good at what we do. I also like to show the teams that their work is appreciated.
TOM: How do you know when you are adding value?
SANNA: I try to learn how our service is helping our customers in different situations, and how deeply CX is ingrained in their organization. Is CX the responsibility of a single product manager, or is the whole enterprise engaged? It’s more effective when we see HappyOrNot is part of the customer’s daily routine or management processes, and this delights me. It means they are committed.
TOM: What best practices would you suggest in measuring CX effectiveness?
MIRKA: First, think about what you want to measure. Is it just some specific aspect of your service, or the overall picture? What you need to ask your customers depends on what you want to know. Second, look for patterns, rather than singular opinions. If one person is dissatisfied with your service, it might be just that they’re having a bad day, but if 20 people leave unhappy, you should investigate what might have happened to make it so. Third, don’t assume that the first solution to an issue is the correct one. Follow up on the effects of your improvement actions to see if customer satisfaction improves. If not, try something else until you see results. As Sanna said earlier, measuring customer satisfaction isn’t just a one-off project, it should be a central part of your business.Customer experience is not a project. It must be an ongoing mission for your organization.Click To Tweet
Pekka has been with HappyOrNot for five years. Before that he worked in technical support at IBM in Ireland and Xerox in Finland. Sanna has 10 years of experience in the fields of marketing, sales and operations, both with large enterprise companies like Nokia Mobile Phones, Valio and Kone as well as with smaller agencies. Mirka joined the company one year ago, and has more than 10 years of experience in content creation and information design, focusing on different forms of customer communication on various platforms with expertise in content for international audiences.
Tom Hagy is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer and business owner.