Customer Experience with the “Wow” Factor
A question, a story, then another question…in a recent Service Roundtable Digest, Saturday Rabbit Hole, Dave Rothacker asked an interesting question: “How does a company like Amazon still continue to WOW its customers?” I think we may all have a story about ordering from Amazon and the ease of doing business with them. Here is an experience that Dave related in that Saturday Rabbit Hole:
“We ordered a $150.00 item that was never delivered, yet their records indicated it had been. I found the area on Amazon’s site to rectify the problem. There were a handful of options. I checked the box that was labeled “Did not receive order”. The next screen gave me two options: A refund or replacement. I chose replacement. Boom! Done. I had the item the next day. Talk about taking the friction out of your business!” Then another question from Dave: “Do you look for ways to take the friction out of your business?”
Great question, Dave! Now granted, running a contracting business is a lot different than buying something from Amazon, but there are still ways of making it easier for consumers to do business with us and take the friction out of the transactions. With internet research and online reviews, today’s consumer is well informed and very savvy. So, once you get a customer on board, you must meet, or better yet, exceed their expectations. Mediocre customer service, in many cases, is still the norm. That’s just doing enough to get by and finish the transaction. Good customer service may reach a customer’s expectations, but it’s not the unexpected WOW factor. That rare, yet welcomed, over-the-top customer service that blows away your expectations of mediocre or just good. The WOW factor is a warm, friendly feeling that makes it a joy to do business with.
The WOW factor starts with a basic understanding of the role of customer service. Contrary to some of the customer service experiences that I have had, the customer is not the enemy! They should be considered partners in a transaction where everyone wins. Customer service is the activity that we engage in to help our customers succeed in the process. The in-person interaction with our field people, over the phone with our call takers, office staff, and online activity should all be involved in delivering great customer service. Some companies focus on providing service after an initial transaction is made, while others believe that customer service is an essential element of the entire customer experience. Internal opinions aside, what’s more important is understanding how the people you serve define “customer service.” Just because you think your company provides great service is no guarantee that customers agree.
Making great customer service a top priority will help accelerate new business through referrals and guarantee repeat customers as well. After all, people don’t wake up in the morning thinking they would like to spend their hard-earned dollars on our product and services. But when that need arises, the WOW factor companies will win the business over the mediocre competition almost every time. Customer service then plays a key role in filling the gap between your services solutions and the consumer’s expectations. Customer satisfaction and the WOW factor lead to customer retention, more leads, more transactions, and awesome online and word-of-mouth referrals for your company. In short, excellent customer service gives customers that warm and happy feeling. Happy customers will get you more happy customers. It’s a cycle of happiness!
I’d like to distinguish customer service from customer support. Although they may be closely related, they’re not the same. Customer support is more operational in nature to address customer concerns and answer questions. Customer support team members spend their time responding to customer emails, answering phone calls, and resolving issues. The WOW factor here involves empathy and a sense of urgency. Customer support will influence the overall customer experience in a positive or negative way, where customer service goes well beyond the customer’s issues and concerns of the moment. Everyone on your team, installers, service technicians, office staff, and even back-office departments like accounting need to be trained on and have a firm grasp of excellence in customer service. Otherwise, unsatisfied customers may look to your competition for a more enjoyable customer experience.
Creating that customer service WOW factor is the responsibility of the entire company. It’s a culture and a big picture thing rather than a set process. It should not be overcomplicated. Don’t accept the mediocre as the status quo. Set the expectation with your team to always go above and beyond, even with the difficult customer. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. If you were on the receiving end of your company’s transaction, issue, or concern, how would you like to be treated, and what would WOW you? As long as it is ethical and legal, do that! Study what your customer complaints are, address them promptly, and continue to identify gaps in service that need attention and require training.
It’s also important to have open communication with your employees in a way they all understand that this is a team effort. It shouldn’t be one department against another. Team members should be comfortable reporting mistakes or issues that they have noticed without the feeling that they are getting another team member in trouble with the boss. This is dependent on how management handles these reported issues. If there is always a knee-jerk reaction to a problem with immediate disciplinary action, team members may be reluctant to report incidents. Or if management ignores reported issues hoping that they will go away or correct themselves, team members will feel that action is never taken, so why bother? Management should handle each reported incident as constructive criticism with empathy and take corrective measures to benefit that team member and the business. This is not to say that disciplinary action is never warranted, but as they say, it starts from the top. Management should be setting the example to exceed the team’s expectations as well, and they will follow suit when dealing with customers.
The foundation of WOWing your team and the customer starts with a smile. Smiling really can make people feel happier, according to a new paper published in Psychological Bulletin. Coauthored by researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Texas A&M, the paper looked at nearly 50 years of data testing whether facial expressions can lead people to feel the emotions related to those expressions.
“Conventional wisdom tells us that we can feel a little happier if we simply smile. Or that we can get ourselves in a more serious mood if we scowl,” said Nicholas Coles, UT Ph.D. student in social psychology and lead researcher on the paper. Some studies have not found evidence that facial expressions can influence emotional feelings,” Coles said.” But we can’t focus on the results of any one study. Psychologists have been testing this idea since the early 1970s, so we wanted to look at all the evidence.”
Coles and his team combined data from 138 studies testing more than 11,000 participants from all around the world. According to the results, facial expressions have an impact on feelings. For example, smiling makes people feel happier, scowling makes them feel angrier, and frowning makes them feel sadder. “We don’t think that people can smile their way to happiness,” Coles said. “But these findings are exciting because they provide a clue about how the mind and the body interact to shape our conscious experience of emotion.”
In a recent article on smiling and happiness, KinderBrothers International posted, “If you want to be welcome everywhere, give every living soul you meet a smile, an honest-to-goodness smile, from down deep inside.” Research showed that smiling makes you feel better and is infectious to those around you, even those you are talking to over the phone. In this article, KinderBrothers sums it up this way:
As you begin to develop a voice with a smile, consider the following:
- Research indicates that feelings follow action. Put this theory to the test: Practice smiling and see what follows.
- Studies have been conducted for years by telephone, and advertising companies that show the voice with a smile wins. Even in our high-tech culture, it still matters greatly about the voice on the other end of the line. Companies spend millions to have just the right voice on their automated systems.
- Smiling can be the start to cultivating happiness. We begin to expect good things to happen, and most of the time, they do. The voice with a smile almost always wins.
Work with your team to create that WOW factor for your customers and do it with a smile!
Steve Mores is the Vice President of Training and Sales at Dynamic Air Quality Solutions.
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