1-on-1 with Dan Gingiss on Customer Service Strategy to Provide Great Customer Experience
The Service Spotlight series collects tips, advice, and ideas from some of the most experienced experts in customer service. Our last spotlight featured author, speaker, and employee training expert Jeff Toister.
By Honni Marks
One of the clearest and most present dangers for companies in the digital age is commoditization. The ease with which a company’s product or service can now be substituted with that of a competitor has pushed many of the traditional key differentiators — physical location, unique qualities of your solution, the ready availability of stock — into irrelevancy.
To avoid becoming a commodity, companies need to tap into “The last great differentiator”: excellent customer service. Our customer service research found that 81% of consumers would patronize a business again after a positive service experience, 72% would tell friends and family, and 70% would recommend the business’ products to others.
How your customers experience your brand can inspire loyalty, turn fans into ambassadors, and give your business an edge the competition can’t touch.
For our latest service spotlight, we are thrilled to present an interview with customer experience expert Dan Gingiss. Dan is the author of Winning at Social Customer Care: How Top Brands Create Engaging Experiences on Social Media and the host of the Focus on Customer Service podcast, named one of the “50 Best Customer Retention Podcasts” by NGDATA. In his spare time, Dan is a sought-after conference speaker, helping attendees empower employees to provide exceptional customer service.
Read on for Dan’s thoughts on customer experience on social media, the challenges that necessitate good customer service strategy, how to hire and train your customer service team, and more.
The Challenges Impeding Great Customer Experience
You recently wrote that customer experience may be the “last great differentiator” for companies. What are the biggest challenges that keep businesses from offering that great customer experience?
Many companies, especially large ones, are organizationally siloed in a way that results in no one owning the entire experience. Each individual group owns a piece of the experience, and rarely do they focus on what happens before or after that particular event. That’s why we have such inconsistent experiences with brands even on a single website or mobile app.
The other challenge is that many companies haven’t yet realized the importance of customer experience vs. other big-ticket items like sales and marketing. The spending on sales is so out of proportion to the spending on customer retention, yet even a small improvement in the latter would mean that sales goals could be drastically reduced.
Create an Environment that Nurtures Good Customer Service
Ultimately, customer-facing employees will be the ones responsible for providing a great customer experience. What steps can employers take to create an environment that nurtures good customer service?
There are three critical steps:
Companies must hire the right people at the outset. Customer-facing employees must be customer obsessed; they must want to help people who are having trouble. They must be able to show empathy, solve problems, and stay calm even in the case of an angry customer. These are hard skills to teach, so identifying people who have an innate sense of service is really important.
Then companies must adequately train their new employees. This seems basic, but all too often we see customer service agents who don’t have knowledge of a particular product or service, or who don’t know how to solve a problem.
Finally, front-line employees must be empowered to make it right for the customer. They can’t hide behind archaic policies and rules that are meant to save a few dollars for the company; they must be able to creatively solve issues and turn disappointed customers into happy ones. The return on investment is well worth the cost.
Empower Employees to Be Brand Ambassadors on Social Media
How can companies use social media to engage and empower employees?
Employee advocacy programs, when used correctly, are a great way to do this. Here are some keys:
- Train employees on the various social channels and help them get started.
- Remind them that even if they think they aren’t “on social media,” they probably have a LinkedIn account that can be very valuable to them and the company.
- Teach employees about your company’s Social Media Policy, including what is encouraged to be shared and what shouldn’t be shared. Many employees are confused by the policy so they resort to sharing nothing just to be safe.
- Give them lots of great non-branded content to share so they can build followers and credibility.
- Insert branded content to share approximately 20% of the time. No one is interested in hearing from a company shill, but once there is credibility built then the audience will listen.
- Make sure employees feel “in the know” about what’s going on at the company.
Fill Gaps in Your Customer Service Strategy
In your interview for our customer service eBook, you talked about bridging the offline and online customer experience. How can companies train employees to fill that gap?
Encourage employees to take note of (and responsibility for) every interaction the customer has with the company. A great way to do this is to ensure that employees are also customers (where appropriate).
Social media and customer service employees in particular often end up handling issues that occur in other channels – offline and online – so it’s critical that these people understand the entire customer experience, including who is responsible for what in the company.
Measure the Success of Your Customer Service Strategy
What metrics would you recommend that companies use to gauge the success of their customer experience efforts?
The first way to measure customer experience (CX) is to simply ask your customers. Whether this is through traditional customer research like surveys or focus groups, or through user testing of specific experiences, ask and you shall receive feedback.
Another way to measure CX is essentially the converse of the first way: let customers come to you, and measure their sentiment. This is also called Voice of the Customer. It can take the form of direct feedback through existing customer service channels, ratings and reviews, third-party discussion boards, social media listening, etc.
Finally, brands can turn to third-party evaluators to measure CX. Companies like Forrester and J.D. Power have different proprietary methods for measuring satisfaction, which usually provide objective, quantifiable and actionable results, as well as valuable competitive data. Keep in mind, though, that a brand’s goal should not be to win an award or “beat” a survey. The goal should be to provide a best-in-class customer experience, which will in turn lead to positive results in third-party evaluations.
Choose the Right Social Media Channels
What new, overlooked, or up-and-coming channels should companies look at for providing customer service?
You may not like this answer, but my advice is to follow your customer. It is not necessary for brands to be on every single new social media channel; most of the new ones don’t last long anyway. But if your customers are there, and they are talking about your brand, then it is necessary for the company to be there too.
Recently, there has been a trend toward direct messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger, Twitter DM, WhatsApp, WeChat, and others. This trend is actually a win-win for the customer and the company – the customer likes the simplicity and persistence of direct messaging, and companies like that customer service complaints are kept to a private channel instead of a public one.
Wear the “Customer Hat”
What’s one key piece of advice for promoting a better customer experience?
Always be the person wearing the Customer hat. If you are in a meeting and you are talking about a new product or service, or a change to an existing one, make sure you consider how the customer will feel about it. If you are always considering the customer’s point of view, you will rarely go wrong.
About Dan Gingiss. Dan’s 20-year career has consistently focused on delighting customers, spanning multiple disciplines including social media, customer service, marketing, and digital customer experience. Dan has hands-on experience as an executive at multiple Fortune 300 companies.
Dan is the author of the new book, “Winning at Social Customer Care: How Top Brands Create Engaging Experiences on Social Media”. He also hosts the “Focus on Customer Service” podcast, where he interviews brands which are renowned for outstanding customer service in social media, garnering tips and best practices. The podcast was recently named one of “The 50 Best Customer Retention Podcasts to Help You Attract, Engage and Retain Customers” by NGDATA.
Dan holds a B.A. in psychology and communications from the University of Pennsylvania, and an M.B.A. in marketing and strategy from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He resides in Chicago with his family and is an avid Cubs fan. You can find him on Twitter at @dgingiss.
For more expert customer service advice, check out our previous Service Spotlight with Shep Hyken.