Category Archives: Customer Issue Management

How to Start Building a Successful Customer Experience Program

By the year 2020, customer experience will overtake price and quality as the key brand differentiator. In other words, brands that don’t work on improving their customer experience will be left behind.

Customer experience is more than a trend or buzzword — it will play a pivotal role in the future of marketing and has an insightful ability to predict where a company will be 5-10 years down the line. What should you be doing, if anything to prepare for this change?

First, what is customer experience?

On a basic level, customer experience (CX) refers to how a customer perceives their interactions with your company. How does your customer feel at every touchpoint they have with you, from marketing to sales to support? CX is ultimately defined by the consumer, which means businesses need to actively adapt and set themselves up to exceed expectations.

Should you be investing in this?

Joe Hanousek, Esker’s Customer Experience Manager, believes that every company needs to be tracking their customer touchpoints and working towards continually improving that process. He often says that: “Seventy percent of senior executives in companies believe that CX is important. In my opinion, the other 30 percent shouldn’t be executives.” So much of the B2B focus is on lead generation instead of improving customer experience, although most people are well aware that it is less expensive to keep existing customers than it is to acquire new ones. Companies mistakenly start looking into customer experience as a last resort once they’re suffering, but customer experience is best as a proactive approach, taken when business is growing versus lagging behind. The graph below shows just how valuable an investment in improving customer experience could be.

How do you begin?

If you’re just getting ready to work on improving customer experience, aim for C-level sponsorship. It won’t go very far unless there are people at the top behind it, so do the research you need to convince someone to back you up. Most executives are aware of the importance of CX, but still aren’t taking active steps to improve upon it. If you haven’t already started in a few years, it’ll be too late.

Next, be sure you’re ready to invest a significant amount of time and human resources into building a solid customer experience program. At Esker, the process took a full year to go from conception to having a Customer Experience manager and a team in place. It’s a good idea to have at least one person fully devoted to customer experience and multiple people from different departments committed to being a part of the CX improvement process; otherwise, CX can easily become a task that is swept away on an already busy to-do list. This will also depend on executive buy-in, as far as whether the need to have a customer experience manager or team is understood.

Finally, it is important to communicate the goals of the customer experience program throughout the organizationEveryone should be on board and kept up to date. As Joe puts it: “It’s not C-Level people or managers that make customer experience better — it’s the staff working directly with them.” Educate, train and update all those who interact with customers at any level on what needs to be done to improve those important touchpoints.

The beginning stages of our customer experience journey.

Joe’s biggest recommendation for those starting to work in CX? Change your perspective. “It is not an area for problem customers to go to, but rather a way to prevent customers from ever having the problem in the first place,” he explained. As staff focus on offering solutions to immediate problems, the CX team should be looking into why those problems happened in the first place, and if there is anything that could be done to fix that.

Customer experience goes beyond customer satisfaction or happiness. A successful customer experience program will work to prevent problems before they arise, delighting your clients past the point of mere satisfaction. CX has become more of a trend in the past two years, but it is definitely here to stay for the long haul. If you have any questions about the process we went through to build our customer experience program at Esker, or about customer experience in general, leave a comment below and we will respond to you!

10 Eye-Opening Quotes About the Importance of Customer Service

 

  1. Loyal customers, they don’t just come back, they don’t simply recommend you, they insist that their friends do business with you.
    Chip Bell
  1. In the world of Internet customer service, it’s important to remember your competitor is only one mouse click away.
    Doug Warner
  1. Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.
    Mother Teresa
  1. Customer service represents the heart of a brand in the hearts of its customers.
    Kate Nasser
  1. Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten.
    Dale Carnegie
  1. Customer service shouldn’t just be a department, it should be the entire company.
    Tony Hsieh
  1. There is a big difference between a satisfied customer and a loyal customer. Never settle for ‘satisfied’.
    Shep Hyken
  1. It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.
    Henry Ford
  1. Although your customers won’t love you if you give bad service, your competitors will.
    Kate Zabriskie
  1. Courteous treatment will make a customer a walking advertisement.
    James Cash Penney

[Infographic] A Brief History of Payment Methods

We are excited to share a blog post from SlimPay today. This post features an infographic on the history of payment methods that evolved alongside civilizations.

The Business Case for Automating Stress Out of Your CSRs’ Lives

We all know the feeling. It’s certainly happened to me on more than one occasion.

There you are watching television, flipping through a magazine or checking your online news feed when, suddenly, you come across an urgent message about … [cue loud, menacing music] … THE DANGERS OF STRESS.

Naturally, processing this bit of “helpful” information only makes you more stressed out about how often you’re needlessly stressing out. A slice of deliciously cruel irony if there ever was one.

But let’s be honest: When put in perspective, the stressors of the average person are fairly trivial. Most of us live in general equanimity compared to, say, what a typical Customer Service Representative (CSR) contends with on a daily basis. It’s not a coincidence that the average turnover rate for CSRs in the U.S. is 33% — nearly double what the average turnover rate is among all professions.

These statistics are not lost on today’s forward-thinking companies.

As business leaders shift their focus to more value-added strategies such as customer experience improvement, the link between CSR burnout and business profitability has become painfully clear. After all, it costs a lot of money to find, hire and train new employees. The question is, can anything significant really be done about a department that’s long been synonymous with high-stress and high-turnover rates?

When looking at how order processing automation fits into a customer service environment, the answer appears to be a resounding “Yes.”

Chronic stress & customer service

Although stress can be a positive and motivating force in small doses, the long-term activation of the body’s stress-response system opens the door to some pretty serious health issues: It can alter mood, memory and sleeping patterns; it can contribute to headaches, heart disease, and musculoskeletal disorders; and, it can even affect how a person’s genes express themselves!

Unfortunately for many CSRs, prolonged exposure to stress is all in a day’s work. When they’re not fielding calls from needy customers, CSRs can be found performing the mind-numbing task of hand-entering order data into their department’s ERP system or hunting down a lost document. And, when a mistake is made and the arrows of blame start to fly, you can bet that the biggest targets hang on the backs of CSRs.

These types of stressors are so prevalent in environments that rely on manual and paper-based processes that they’re often just accepted as “part of the deal.” Thankfully, more businesses are waking up to the fact that this is not a sound strategy.

A stressed-out CSR team ultimately leads to larger issues. The big two being:

  1. Higher turnover rates. Included in this is the cost of:
    • Hiring and onboarding a new person
    • Lost productivity in getting new person up to speed
    • Training over a period of 1-3 years, typically
    • Cultural impacts due to constant staff “cycling”
  2. Lower customer satisfaction. Included in this is the cost of:
    • Increasing resources to quell customer contentions
    • Poor customer experience scores; potential loss of existing customers
    • Damaged reputation preventing new business opportunities

Now, I know what you may be thinking: How can automation — something that’s often feared by CSRs as a job replacer — be the key to reducing their tension and avoiding the subsequent fallout? It’s all about equipping them with the right tools to succeed …

4 stress-busting benefits of order processing automation

Too many managers make life harder for their CSRs by setting them up for failure. If a banana was the only tool a team of carpenters had to pound nails with, it’s fair to say that frustration and cynicism would soon follow. The right tools can make all the difference.

Below are the four biggest stress-busting benefits automation offers CSRs:

  1. It reduces repetitive and emotional encounters with customers.
    All of us can picture a helpless CSR being berated by an angry customer over the phone. As stressful as that is, having to manage routine, repeated requests also plays a big role in CSR burnout. It’s key to remember why these interactions are happening in the first place — a customer’s expectations were not met, or, the customer had no other means of performing the desired action. Automated solutions defuse these potentially combustible situations by allowing companies to offer their customers a self-service portal to place orders, track orders and even log disputes. Should a customer want to clarify an issue or ask a question directly, a built-in chat tool enables real-time communication with a CSR. Bottom line: Customers are far less likely to reach for the phone when they’re afforded transparency and control into their orders. That’s a recipe for happier CSRs, happier customers and a healthier bottom line.
  2. It relieves CSRs of unnecessary blame.
    Whether it’s their manager or a customer doing the finger-pointing, being a magnet for blame is huge stressor for CSRs. But humans make mistakes. If manual data entry is part of processing a customer order, at some point, errors are going to occur. It’s the process — not the person — that’s broken. Once again, automation provides a simple and intuitive fix. Machine learning technology embedded in the solution ensures that all the relevant data on an incoming order is extracted and analyzed, regardless of how the order arrived (e.g., EDI, fax, email, etc.). The data is then automatically processed or presented to the CSR for validation and uploaded in the ERP system. Bottom line: Automation eliminates manual data entry — the main source of order processing errors. This relieves CSRs of their burden of blame while avoiding the inevitable downstream costs of righting any wrongs.
  3. It helps CSRs be more organized and proactive.
    Most CSRs would love to get ahead of potential issues and showcase initiative. However, with no centralized system to view and manage all of the orders coming into and out their company on any given day, their hands are often tied. If order volumes spike unexpectedly or a priority customer’s document needs to be retrieved ASAP, the CSR is left scrambling. Here’s the beauty of automated order processing: Best-in-class solutions are equipped with customizable dashboards that display live, visual analytics to help CSRs strategize their day. Whether it’s seeing how many priority orders to validate or even managing open customer issues, CSRs can finally say goodbye to the endless cycle of backlogs and boondoggles. Bottom line: Dashboards empower CSRs, and empowered CSRs are a very low-stress and high-reward investment for any company.
  4. It creates an environment of purpose, fulfillment and upward mobility.
    Career uncertainty is also a major stressor for CSRs, as they can often feel trapped in the daily minutia of performing thankless, low-value tasks. With no clear path for professional growth in sight, their performance inevitably suffers, as does the overall customer experience. Order processing automation addresses this by relieving CSRs from traditional administrative duties so they can perform tasks that are more critical to the business and have greater potential for career-pathing. What’s more, managers can track KPIs in the dashboard to reward those CSRs who are going above and beyond. Bottom line: CSRs who receive recognition and serve a strategic purpose almost always perform better at their jobs and have a lower rate of turnover.

Workplace stress is a serious health issue that we’ve all experienced in varying degrees. And while measures like exercise, meditation and self-affirmation techniques can be employed at an individual level, in specific cases (i.e., CSRs), a more holistic solution is needed. What sets order processing automation apart is its ability to go beyond simply treating the symptoms of CSR stress and actually address the underlying root causes.

So, to all the businesses stressing out over how to solve their customer service problems, relax. Take a deep breath. It’s nothing a little automation can’t solve.

Are You Sabotaging Your Company’s Customer Service?

 

 

If there’s one business aspect that most organizations understand the importance of but don’t spend enough time improving, it’s customer service.

Since my first home-buying experience last year, I have experienced more poor customer service than I could have ever predicted. From smaller instances of companies not responding to requests for information to extremely frustrating occurrences of workers simply not showing when scheduled. Every time left me wondering “do they really not need the business?”

Many companies seem to believe that a single bad customer experience only impacts business with that company or person. Nothing could be further from the truth. The impact of poor customer service is like an iceberg in that it is far greater than what you see at first. Not only do unhappy customers end up going elsewhere with their business, but most report their mishaps to other potential customers — causing companies greater loss of potential revenue.

Biggest Customer Service Blunders

Taking a pro-active approach to customer service is the best way to ensure customer happiness and business prosperity. If your customer service department displays any of the following behaviors, it’s time to rethink the way you do business and the people you hire to communicate with customers.

  • Failure to follow up
    When a customer is waiting to hear back from you, don’t make them wait or contact you again to get the information they are looking for. Follow up early and often to remain in good standing with customers. They’ll appreciate the effort you are making to communicate with them.
  • Lack of flexibility
    You expect your customers to be understanding and flexible when something adverse happens on your side of business dealings, so you should be the same in your dealings with them. That’s not to say you should cater to outlandish needs, but being flexible shows that you value their business — an important component to great customer service.
  • Unfriendly communications
    One of the worst things a company can do when dealing with customers is to not be friendly. In a time where customer service experiences (both good and bad) quickly go viral, companies should know that the best thing they can do to improve customer service is to treat customers with kindness. There are a lot of other businesses they can choose to go to, so don’t think for a second that they won’t go elsewhere after even one poor experience.
  • “Don’t care” demeanor
    Going hand-in-hand with non-friendly communications is the “don’t care” demeanor. It’s human nature to want to feel accepted and valued — make sure your customers feel that way when working with them. Businesses like Zappos have this concept down-pat and, for that reason, receive huge amounts of one of the most trusted types of marketing: word of mouth. After all, in the words of Peter Shankman, “customer service isn’t about telling people how awesome you are, it’s about creating stories that do the talking for you.”

Don’t let poor customer service sink your company. Begin evaluating your customer service efforts and building a plan for improvement. And remember: “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning” (Bill Gates).

When Customer Service Errors Impact Billing And Collections

 

When there’s an error in order entry, it can wreak havoc on your billing and collections team. If one of your customer service representatives makes a mistake, it can disrupt your supply chain, increase returns and complaints, and delay payment. Although customer service may seem a world away from accounts receivable, your organision needs them to work together like a well-oiled machine. Eliminating manual errors at the order step will eliminate unnecessary complications in getting paid.

A miss-entered order creates a cascade of effects on the supply chain:

  • Incorrect tax
  • Incorrect shipping address
  • Wrong material numbers
  • Validation discrepancies

These problems can snowball if they’re not identified early in the fulfillment process, creating potential conflicts with state revenue and regulatory agencies and weak spots in inventory management.

Incorrect order entry has immediate, unpleasant effects on your customers. Not only will you see an increase in returns, with the associated costs of shipping and re-stocking, but your brand reputation will suffer. Dissatisfied customers will be quick to offer negative feedback and reviews, which may dampen future sales. Goods shipped in error may never sell, creating a backlog of waste that must be stored or disposed of. Re-shipping corrected orders increases your costs and creates delays for your customers.

A mistake in order entry doesn’t just annoy customers and jam up your supply chain, it creates problems with payment. Your invoicing process depends on the validity of billing addresses, contact information and credit card/purchase order/account numbers. If these are entered manually and incorrectly, you may not be able to collect payment on your order.

Even if your accounts receivable team is in a different city than your customer service team, you need an integrated, automated system that prevents manual entry errors and allows you to track the progress of an order from start to finish. Such an Order To Cash (OTC) system has 8 primary components, each of which can be customised to fit your organisation’s needs.

  1. Order Management.
    This module allows customers to place orders through a variety of channels (fax, email, online catalog, etc) into a single queue for processing, eliminating duplicates or order loss.
  2. Credit Management.
    A robust credit-checking protocol allows you to check customers’ credit as orders are placed as well as when they ship, protecting your business against fraud and lost revenue.
  3. Order Processing.
    Once orders are received and queue, your team can rely on automated processes to identify duplicates, flag discrepancies and validate product, quantity, address and payment before shipping.
  4. Shipping/Fulfillment.
    This component validates item numbers against your inventory systems, ensuring agile stocking and logistics and accurate reconciliation.
  5. Invoicing.
    Instead of the time-consuming, error-prone process of manual invoicing, a robust OTC system allows customers to receive invoices on paper or online including electronic signatures and built-in compliance with international payment regulations.
  6. Accounts Receivable.
    Following payment, your OTC system will place an entry automatically in the general ledger.
  7. Collections.
    Detailed order tracking allows you to customise your collections practices on aging accounts depending on your relationship with the customer. You can use different contact strategies for specific groups of accounts and tailor your outreach to individual customers.
  8. Reporting.
    This component gives you the capacity to collect and analyse data from all OTC components using a variety of pre-populated and customised reports.

If manual orders are creating problems across your supply chain and revenue cycles, your organisation may benefit from automating these processes using an OTC system.  Are you ready to learn more about the specifics of these systems and how they can support your business? Let us know, and we’ll work with you to design a customised, flexible solution that meets your organisation’s needs.

Customer Service Department Visibility & Metrics: Our Recent Live Q&A

 

Those of us at Esker continually aim to help others use document process automation and similar tools to make their businesses run more efficiently. We recently held a Live Question and Answer session that focused on your most craved questions regarding customer service department metrics and key performance indicators.

Bill Gessert, President of the International Customer Service Association (ICSA), joined us for this exclusive session. He has years of progressive responsibility within both the Association and Customer Experience industries. Bill also has expertise in business development, strategic planning and execution, customer experience, training and coaching.

Esker’s very own, Howie Hahn, also joined the session as he explained how tracking customer service performance can help you identify other downstream organizational impacts, such as the ability to scale and support business growth.

In our live session we pointed out three particular KPI’s to measure, and ones you’ve perhaps ignored too often.

Top Three KPI’s to Measure in Your Metrics

Key performance indicators tell you everything you need to know about what’s happening in your customer service department. Yet, with so many available, which ones should you pay attention to over others that look important?

Customer Satisfaction Score

This is one of the most important because it gives you a consolidated number telling you whether what you’re doing is truly working. It doesn’t involve just one source either and can range from a Net Promoter Score to group surveys.

In the case of the Net Promoter Score, you’re given a simple 1-10 score that determines how likely your customers are not only to remain loyal but how likely they are to give the ultimate gift of a referral. This ranges from detractors on the low end to promoters on the high end. However, we pondered whether it truly goes deep enough to analyze customer responses.

Gessert pointed out CSAT surveys, focus groups, and survey forms are worth trying in gaining a good idea of what customers want. Surveys are important to do immediately after a transaction. You still need to set a realistic time frame and clearly indicate how many questions you ask.

Setting and Adhering to a Service Level Agreement

With service level agreement metrics, you can determine a lot about how you’re living up to service contract promises. You’ll want to measure your average speed to answer customer requests, and how well you execute first calls and handling time.

Reading these metrics helps you analyze how well your staff performs in their customer service roles.

Availability Metrics

Another aspect discussed in the session was how available your customer service staff is. Here, you need to study the effort level in how your staff resolves customer problems. Studying this helps you examine how you can increase customer loyalty.

Using Customer Effort Scores was also discussed, and Gessert mentions companies need to respond to customers 85% of the time to retain loyalty.

Increasing Visibility

After a discussion on growth and how using metrics helps with future ROI, we went into discussing the visibility side of a business. To empower your employees, Gessert noted three things to uphold more visibility: Send out a newsletter from internal departments with success stories and other highlights; Award and reward your employees to entice them to keep their performance level up. Leveraging awards is a great sales tactic; Place your C-Suite in the role of a secret customer or shopper. They’ll know what day-to-day activities are like with your team.

We invite you to listen to our recorded version of our webinar to help you decide whether your metrics should become tactical or strategic.

Meet Lisa – Customer Service Representative | Esker Order Processing

 

Lisa has a great deal of responsibilities as a customer service rep – she juggles many tasks all while managing the growing and demanding needs of her customers. Yet she still spends hours manually entering orders. These days customers expect more and CSRs should be free to focus on what’s most important – customer service.

 

Meet James – Supply Chain Leader | Esker Order Processing

 

Most supply chain leaders like James are struggling with ways to improve organizational performance and overall customer experience. James understands the ability to process orders faster and more accurately directly effects supply chain.

Order and Issue Management: An Untapped Potential for Improved Productivity and Enhanced Customer Relationships (Part 7)

 

Let’s not confuse ‘issue management’ solution and ‘issue management’ process.

For sure, most companies deal with ‘customer issues’ – mostly via a mix of tools such as email, telephone, CRM, intranet, etc. This means that there is no adequate ‘issue management’ solution in place to effectively and productively drive the prompt resolution of customer issues. Of course, this leads to customer dissatisfaction and erode positive branding. Like the recent quote from the CEO of Telstra who said that customers do not compare their customer experience between vendors but against their last interaction with the same company.

Esker Survey Results 7